As I mentioned, my time has been limited in recent days, and I’m also constrained by scant access to sources on this Song family material, but what I have been able to look at has not helped me to gain any level of comfort about the origins and meanings of those texts. Here are some random observations and questions:
I cannot find much biographical material on Song Shuming or Yu Huaxing. Chen Yanlin included a few of the Song Shuming texts with no attribution and no commentary. The two texts including the “houtou” term are with the “throat” reading rather than “monkey head.” That’s also the way the term appears in Gu Liuxin’s/Tang Hao’s _Taijiquan Yanjiu_. When you say, “I for one was taught the same thing wrt 'monkey head'.”, it’s not clear to me what you mean. Do you mean that you were taught the “monkey head” meaning, or the “throat” meaning?
Shen Shou includes ten texts from the Song manual, with commentary, in his _Taijiquan pu_ (Renmin tiyu chubanshe, 1995). Shen seems to cast doubt on the provenance of these texts, writing that they were “presented as being the secret record of Song Shuming’s remote ancestor, Song Yuanqiao.” (Taijiquan pu, p. 228) But based on evidential research, “the taijiquan history recorded in Song’s book barely accords with historical facts. Moreover, its language is wild and nonsensical.” (ibid.) He notes that Song Shuming’s taijiquan and tuishou methodology and theory are widely acknowledged to resemble the Yang style that was current in Beijing at the time, and that the wording in his songs and formulae does not comport with the language of the Tang, Song, Yuan, or Ming eras. Shen doesn’t come right out and say the Song texts are forgeries, but he writes, “It wouldn’t be hard to judge that these writings were passed off in someone else’s name, but were most probably composed by Song Shuming himself.” (ibid.)
To revisit the terminology in the text we began this discussion with, the “monkey head” term is not clarified for me in the other text that you reference—the “Zhou shen da yong lun.” That is, the phrase, “houtou, yong bu pao” gives no clue as to whether it refers to “head” or “throat.” What would it mean? —“Never expose?/abandon? the monkey head?/throat?” The only English translations I’ve seen of these texts are Yang Jwing-ming’s, in his book, _Tai Chi Secrets of the Ancient Masters_ (YMMA, 1999). Yang presents these texts as “anonymous,” and yet translates and comments on them as though he thoroughly understands them. He translates the “Xin hui yaojue” as “The thesis of the mind comprehending,” and follows the “throat” reading of the “houtou” term. As for the “Zhou shen da yong lun,” he again reads it as “throat,” but extrapolates it as “voice”: “(You) don’t ever want to give up your throat (voice); question every talented person in heaven and earth.” I’m just lost as to how he arrived at this, or what it could possibly mean. The “xin di” term in the first text he simply translates as “mind.”: “The heart (mind) is the third master.” In my opinion, that rendering would be flawed since it does not account for the “di” in the compound “xindi.” More importantly, it would be a flawed hierarchy, with “mind” coming in third after “waist/spine” and “throat.” That would not seem to comport with taijiquan theory as I’m familiar with it.
Again, I want to make clear that my knowledge and sources are limited about this material, and you likely have access to recent findings I’ve not encountered. So far, however, I’m hard pressed to find a way to comprehend these Song documents, or how to see what bearing they have on taijiquan.
[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 10-07-2007).]