Sung

Sung

Postby gryknght » Thu Feb 15, 2001 6:43 pm

One of the most basic states in Taiji practice is that of "sung", yet there seems to be many different interpretations of the exact meaning of the word.

I have started this subject with the aim of reaching a concensus on the meaning of "sung" as well as, hopefully, some exercises to help develop this state.

The following is a summation of my experience to date.

Definition:
Sung is a state in which muscles are relaxed, not limp, but not tense. There is sufficient muscular activity to maintain posture.
There is also a slight extension of each joint in the body so as to open the joint, almost as though separating the bones. (This may be a perception rather than reality - as in nei gung exercises.) This creates a "connectivity" essential in establishing peng jin.
When done correctly there will be an increased flow of blood throughout the body, particularly noticeable in extremities such as the fingertips. This will lead to a feeling of heat, perhaps tingling and occasionally a light sweating.

[This message has been edited by gryknght (edited 02-15-2001).]

[This message has been edited by gryknght (edited 03-01-2001).]

[This message has been edited by gryknght (edited 03-30-2001).]
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Postby Mike » Thu Feb 22, 2001 4:59 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by gryknght:
<B>The following is a summation of my experience to date.

Definition:</B>
Sung is a state in which muscles are relaxed, not limp, but not tense. There is sufficient muscular activity to maintain posture.
There is also a slight extension of each joint in the body so as to open the joint, almost as though separating the bones. This creates a "connectivity" essential in establishing jins such as peng jin.
</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


Hi David:

There is really only one jin from which all the others come... peng jin. Because the original translators thought that "wardoff, rollback, press, and push" were the focus of Taiji, they missed the idea of the core jin, peng jin, and thought that the references were to "wardoff". It is peng jin that is paramount and the reason that the Yang family speaks so much of "peng jin". Peng jin is the core power behind reeling silk motion, also.

As I get more experienced in Taiji, I realize that the "differences" so many westerners and other unknowledgeables (including MANY Chinese, too)talk about between the styles.... those differences are not really there. I read the Yangs as saying that they don't *focus* on reeling silk, but on the peng jin.... they know full well what it is and they MUST use some of it, or they could not use peng jin correctly. Chen Xiao Wang says that reeling silk MUST be in the other styles, but his implication is that many of them who "don't use reeling silk" are simply doing Taiji wrongly.

To use correct peng jin requires the mind to lead the path of the jin, BUT, if you do not practice in a relaxed fashion, your normal stiffnesses will take over and stop you from re-coordinating the body to use the mind-directed peng jin. It is this type of relaxation, along with the jin, that is referred to by "sung". Of course, correct body posture helps also. But the main point is that you are doing Taiji slowly and relaxedly to allow the body to re-coordinate... this is why so much emphasis is placed on "sung".

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Feb 22, 2001 8:06 pm

I published a short excerpt from Yang Zhenduo's book today in a new third rep column which relates somewhat to this topic. In it he is mainly talking about fang song as a method rather than a goal.



[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 10-01-2002).]
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Postby Mike » Fri Feb 23, 2001 12:06 am

[QUOTE]Originally posted by JerryKarin:
[B]I published a short excerpt from Yang Zhenduo's book today in a new third rep column which relates somewhat to this topic. In it he is mainly talking about fang song as a method rather than a goal.

This will probably be the last excerpt from the book which we will publish on the web. If I publish any more the Yangs will be after me for giving away the store! I hope to have my translation of the book done and published by the end of this year. IMHO it is easily the finest general work now available on the subject, in any language. Now if I can ever drag myself away from the bulletin board and get on with the translation... Image

[QUOTE]


Hi Jerry:

I liked your translation, but once again I have to state that I don't care for translating "jin" as "energy". I think a more appropriate translation, given what jin actually is, would be "trained skill".

Now granted, there are many "jins" in Chinese martial arts, just as there are many connotations of the word "Strength" ("li")... and the jin in Taiji is indeed special. But to me it is misleading to say "energy". That's where all the New Age people go off on their tangent and deal in intangible "energies", thereby diluting what Taiji and its components really are.

I think I can show this to you fairly easily if we get a chance to meet. As I said, I will try to come to Seattle in the near future for the opportunity to meet with you and with Yang Jun.

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Feb 23, 2001 12:58 am

Mike,

Thanks for your comments. I have been thinking a lot about the best way to translate jing. Although it is something of a technical term in taiji, the word does have considerable currency in modern Chinese with a meaning very similar to 'strength'. Whatever we use also has to make sense in compounds like fa1 jing4 ('emit jing') Since Yang Zhenduo is contrasting jing with li I settled upon 'energy'. I have also been toying with the idea of 'refined strength' and other renderings. I don't think that 'trained skill' fits well in the context of the essay I have translated in this week's third rep. Refining the translations of these terms is an ongoing process and that is why I have taken some pains to also use the Chinese terminology. I'm going to think more about your rendering.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 02-22-2001).]
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Postby gryknght » Fri Feb 23, 2001 3:23 am

Mike and Jerry,

Many thanks for posting guys - I was beginning to wonder how far out on a limb I had gone with this, or how foolish I was looking !!!

I hear Mike's statements about the jins, in particular peng jin,and I accept them implicitly. I have very little experience in this field, and no exposure to lineage masters. Having said this there are a few observations I have made through my practice to date.

Being relaxed often requires a "warm down" period before practice - at least in the beginning. Perhaps as I get better I will be able to maintain this state even when I am not practicing...Without getting into the metaphysical, I am also asthmatic, so instead of "meditating" I use Buteyko Breathing which is very effective for relaxing.

I was originally taught a series of arm swinging routines which have the effect of opening the joints as well as warming up the dantien area similar to dantien rotation exercises. Once relaxed, I find these contribute to "sung". The addition of warming up the dantien helps with the jins too.

B.K Frantzis' book, "Opening the Energy Gates of your Body", contains an interesting series of exercises involving "qi disolving" and opening up all joints in the body. This is very similar to "Fang Song Gong" referenced in Keneth Cohen's book "The Way of Qigong". These exercises work very well at developing the "connected" state that I associate with "sung", though I have found that with frequent practice I don't need to go through the whole process to trigger the state.

Am I moving in the right direction here, or am I paying too much attention to "baby steps"?
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Feb 23, 2001 3:58 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by gryknght:
<B>
Am I moving in the right direction here, or am I paying too much attention to "baby steps"?</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

No, no, on the contrary you interest me. I'm thinking of trying some of the stuff you do. So far the only way I have found to get loose is to do many reps, regarding the first two as warm-up. I would like to find some good techniques to shorten the time it takes me to get into the zone.

Jerry



[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 02-22-2001).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Feb 23, 2001 11:36 pm

Greetings Jerry and Mike,

Jerry, thank you for the great translation of Yang Zhenduo’s passage on fangsong. I recall reading that section of the book, and gained a good deal on insight from it. I will make one observation about Master Yang’s following comment regarding the character for jin: “Coincidentally, the current graph used in Chinese for 'energy' (jing) includes 'strength' (li) with 'work' (gong) added to it. I am not sure if this was really the intent of those who designed this graph, but looking at this graph can surely help serve to explain the relationship of the two.”

I’d just like to point out that the “current graph” referred to here is the simplified version of the character. The complex form of the character appearing in traditional taijiquan documents also includes the phonetic element “jing” which means underground streams or flowing water. In the Han dynasty dictionary, Shuowen Jiezi, it is explained with a number of characters connoting “running through,” or “linking together.” I think this carries important entailments for the concept of jin-as-strength when encountered in taijiquan theory. That is, jin implies an application of strength that is characterized by continuity and an even, coordinated flow. One can see these entailments in some other Chinese characters that use the same jing phonetic: when the water side element is added, it means “to flow straight through;” when the “walking” or “footstep” side element is added it means “pathway,” “direct,” or “straight,” and occurs in various compounds meaning “straightforward,” “the direct route,” and is used in the Chinese geometry terms for “radius” and “diameter;” when the silk side element is added, it carries a number of meanings, including “to pass through,” “to manage, organize, arrange;” “the warp of a fabric, things running lengthwise, as meridians,” “constant, recurring,” and of course, “a classic or cannonical text,” as in Taiji Jing (Taiji Classic). Interestingly, this silk-radical jing is the word used by early Chinese to translate the term for Buddhist “sutra,” which like jing is etymologically based on “thread,” and can be seen in later Indo-European words like “suture” (a uniting of parts) or “sew.” So, one can see entailments of something collected or threaded together.

I’ve noted elsewhere that an early occurrence of the jin character is in the Zhanguoce (Intrigues of the Warring States, compliled 1st cent. B.C.), where it has the meaning of “the collective strength of troups.” An even earlier occurrence is in Sunzi’s Art of War, from the Spring and Autumn period. The use there is quite similar, again referring to military troups, as for example in Ch. 7 where it means “strongest” (jin zhe): “. . . . its strongest men (jin zhe) would be out in front.” (Ames, p. 128, 129). Warfare in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods was characterized by great advancements in theory and strategy, including great stress upon collectivization and organization of effort. Historian Mark Edward Lewis documents and writes lucidly about this development in his book, _Sanctioned Violence in Early China_ (Suny, 1990) He states: “The transformation of the army into an artificial body guided by the mind of the commander presupposed the forging of the multitude of individuals who composed the army into a seamless unity. (pp. 104-105) And elsewhere, “In this new ideal of battle all combatants were to be absorbed through training and regulations into the ‘collective body’ at the disposal of the commander. . . .” (p. 116) I think, therefore, when we think of jin, we should keep in mind this sense of the organization and arrangement/configuration of strength or energy, as reflected in Li Yiyu’s famous words from his “Five Character Formula”: “Jin zheng. Yi shen zhi jin lian cheng yi jia” (“Jin is integrated. The jin of the whole body is trained to become one family.”)

Mike, your wariness of “energy” as a rendering of jin is well-founded, but I would point out that energy is precisely one of the meanings of the Chinese word. While the word energy may have vague and imprecise meanings as used by new-agers, this should not distract us old-agers from using what is a perfectly acceptable word. I like to clarify this by referring to jin as kinetic energy. Webster’s entry for kinetic: “of or relating to the motion of material bodies and the forces and energy associated therewith.” And for kinetic energy: “energy associated with motion.” I sympathize with Jerry’s efforts to accurately account for this important taijiquan usage of the term jin, and I think he would probably agree with me that its usage in many traditional taijiquan writings would not be well-served by the rendering “skill” or “trained skill”—that just won’t work in most cases. I think you are correct that skill is an important connotation here, but it’s really more accurate to think of jin as the product of skill, rather than the skill itself. It appears to me that the Yang Zhenduo piece Jerry translated makes that point fairly explicit. His referrences to “the process of production,” and “the process of refinement” are evocative. The analogy to the refinement of steel is interesting in itself. The word I translated above in the Li Yiyu quote as “trained” (lian) is closely related to the character for forging or refining metal, and is pronounced exactly the same. “Train” has the silk radical, “refine” has the fire radical. Both are sometimes used interchangeably, or with another “lian” character having the metal radical. There are therefore networks of associations in the source language that make Yang Zhenduo’s discussion even more comprehensible to someone who is grounded in these native correspondences.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Audi » Wed Feb 28, 2001 7:52 am

My sixth grade teacher used to say: "Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread." Not being one to always heed good advice, I would like to rush in and make a few comments about "song," "fangsong," "relaxation," and "jin."

I like Mike's definition of song, but I think it can be incomplete as a guide to practice. I used a similar working definition for many years and reached a level of frustration trying to find the right balance between "limpness" and "tension" in an effort to achieve true "relaxation."

At my first of two seminars with the Yangs, I was frankly shocked to hear that what I had always understood as "relaxation" was translated as "fangsong." My understanding of this term has always been very different from the common connotations of "relaxation." (Let me clarify that I know a fair amount of Chinese vocabulary, grammar, and linguistic theory, but my fluency and practical knowledge is almost nill.) To my understanding, although "fangsong" can indeed be translated "relaxation," its core meaning is "looseness," whereas the core meaning of "relaxation" in English has become "minimal exertion."

Watching Yang Zhen Duo at the seminar demonstrate what he meant by "fangsong" further made me feel that I had fundamentally misjudged much of what I had read in the T'ai Chi literature in English about "relaxation." Whenever I now encounter references to "relaxation," I mentally substitute words like "loosening up." For linguistic reasons, I also pay close attention as to whether the term might have an implied object and what the object is, since I believe that fangsong could also be fairly translated as "loosen it or them up." Furthermore, I think that loosening (or relaxing) muscles is not necessarily the same thing as loosening (or relaxing) joints and sinews.

I believe that my confusion was deepened by the fact that "relaxation" in the English sense of the word (and one of the possible meanings of "fangsong") is a central characteristic of Cheng Manching's teachings, which is the foundation of much of the literature available in English in the U.S. Before I receive any hate mail, I do not mean to imply that this understanding of "relaxation" is an incorrect interpretation of T'ai Chi principles, merely that it is only one of several possible interpretations of the term "fangsong."

I do not believe that I am completely "out there" on this issue, for I note that Louis Swaim talks about translating "fangsong" as "loosened" or "loose," rather than as "relaxed," in his introduction to Fu Zhongwen's book.

Another important aspect of this nuance is that in my opinion, Yang Zhen Duo talks a lot about the effort and intention required to "fangsong," which implies doing something active and does not have any of the connotations of minimal exertion that "relaxation" implies.

Somewhere on this site (where exactly eludes me at this moment) I recall reading a description of palm technique that I found particulary illustrative of this issue in two aspects. First, Yang Zhen Duo warns against insufficiently seating the wrist, rather than against overdoing it. Second, Jerry comments on the value and simplicity of the action. Though much can be said about this, I believe the description is very different from an injunction to cultivate minimal exertion or to spend years learning how to begin to relax. Again, I do not say that the latter is wrong, only that it is not the only interpretation of what it means to "fangsong."

I apologize for belaboring this issue, but I feel this discovery had a major effect on my practice. In trying to improve my performance of Yang Zhen Duo's form, I have basically abandoned thoughts of "relaxation," embraced thoughts of loosening and extension, and feel I have discovered an entire world of T'ai Chi that used to be inaccessable to me. I recall with sympathy statements I heard from Jou Tsung Hwa about wasting decades trying to improve his practice merely be "relaxing" more.

As for the discussion of "jin," I have two thoughts. First, why not consider translating some of the usages as "power"? This is certainly the word English speaking martial artists often use when talking about storing, generating, cultivating, and emitting force. In these contexts, it is certainly distinct from innate muscular strength and implies the application of skill and experience, while not excluding a connection with physical strength. The term "power" might be awkward in phrases like "listening power" or "understanding power," but seems okay to me in other contexts.

By the way, one interpretation of the right side of the traditional character for "jin"/"jing" that I have read is a loom showing the lengthwise (warp) threads, rather than a picture of underground stream. The apparent interpretation of the elements of the character might then be "the intergrated strength shown by well woven cloth." I like this image, because it meshes with the image of the resilient strength imparted by the looseness of a tennis net.

Another point I would like to make for those unfamiliar with Chinese is that although much of the T'ai Chi vocabulary can indeed have specialized meanings, its origin is simultaneously very basic, often using terms whose core meanings would be familiar to five-year olds. Translating "jin" as "instrinsic strength," for example, obscures the essential simplicity of the term. Similarly, I would think that Chinese children learn the term "qi" (tianqi?, sheng qi?)long before English-speaking children learn the word "energy."

I have greatly enjoyed this discussion of "jin" and am wondering whether others would be interested in exploring the linguisting meanings and origins of other T'ai Chi terms, including "qi," "hua," "na," "an," "ji," and "Taiji." I have repeatedly read translations or discussions of these terms that I have found very misleading on linguistic or cultural grounds. Any thoughts?

On a similar note, I would be interested in exploring (as a questioner and contributer) the origin of many of the posture names from the hand and weapons forms. I have seen some references to mistranslations or dialect confusions on this site, but my Chinese is too weak to follow the linguistic references without tones or more details. I also think that, although we all owe a debt to the initial pioneers in translating Chinese into English, settling for linguistic monstrosities such as "Apparent Closure" is a crime against nature at this late date of T'ai Chi development in the English-speaking world. I also found such names singularly unhelpful in acquiring the flavor of such postures, until I explored the Chinese behind the translations.

If there are any takers, I would be happy to start off a new thread, since I have questions or heard stories about most of the postures from the hand form that might be of general interest.

Audi

[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 02-28-2001).]
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Postby bob h » Wed Feb 28, 2001 6:29 pm

hi all
i was a student of master jou's and i remember him always telling us to be more loose and relaxed but not enough relaxation to lose the feeling of being connected thru the entire body
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Postby Mike » Wed Feb 28, 2001 8:33 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JerryKarin:
<B>Mike,

Thanks for your comments. I have been thinking a lot about the best way to translate jing. Although it is something of a technical term in taiji, the word does have considerable currency in modern Chinese with a meaning very similar to 'strength'. Whatever we use also has to make sense in compounds like fa1 jing4 ('emit jing') Since Yang Zhenduo is contrasting jing with li I settled upon 'energy'. I have also been toying with the idea of 'refined strength' and other renderings. I don't think that 'trained skill' fits well in the context of the essay I have translated in this week's third rep. Refining the translations of these terms is an ongoing process and that is why I have taken some pains to also use the Chinese terminology. I'm going to think more about your rendering.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 02-22-2001).]</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hi Jerry:

I missed this post last week. "Fa Jin" and "Fa Li" are often used interchangeably, even in Taiji circles. I think "trained skill" is still the best translate for "Jin". "Fa Jin" and "Fa Li" both refer to a sudden release of power, as in "attack power", "attack jin", "attack strength", etc.

Regards,

Mike
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Postby Mike » Wed Feb 28, 2001 8:43 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
<B>Mike, your wariness of “energy” as a rendering of jin is well-founded, but I would point out that energy is precisely one of the meanings of the Chinese word. While the word energy may have vague and imprecise meanings as used by new-agers, this should not distract us old-agers from using what is a perfectly acceptable word. I like to clarify this by referring to jin as kinetic energy. Webster’s entry for kinetic: “of or relating to the motion of material bodies and the forces and energy associated therewith.” And for kinetic energy: “energy associated with motion.” I sympathize with Jerry’s efforts to accurately account for this important taijiquan usage of the term jin, and I think he would probably agree with me that its usage in many traditional taijiquan writings would not be well-served by the rendering “skill” or “trained skill”—that just won’t work in most cases. I think you are correct that skill is an important connotation here, but it’s really more accurate to think of jin as the product of skill, rather than the skill itself. It appears to me that the Yang Zhenduo piece Jerry translated makes that point fairly explicit. His referrences to “the process of production,” and “the process of refinement” are evocative. The analogy to the refinement of steel is interesting in itself. The word I translated above in the Li Yiyu quote as “trained” (lian) is closely related to the character for forging or refining metal, and is pronounced exactly the same. “Train” has the silk radical, “refine” has the fire radical. Both are sometimes used interchangeably, or with another “lian” character having the metal radical. There are therefore networks of associations in the source language that make Yang Zhenduo’s discussion even more comprehensible to someone who is grounded in these native correspondences.

Take care,
Louis</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hi Louis:

Academically, I can see your etymology for "jin", but in the real world I think that "trained skill" may be as close as we can come to what "jin" means practically. When I was first successfully duplicating some jin skills and trying to formulate what was going on, I ignored all the "language" and stuck to functional results (at that time, I had been single-mindedly chasing jin results for about 10 years, starting in Aikido, so this was nothing sudden. Some good friends of mine from Taiwan who had done Taiji extensively and who spoke good idiomatic English listened to some of my questions about the word "jin" and told me that the way the word is used in Taiji, the best translation is really almost "force vector". That opened a lot of insights for me.

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Feb 28, 2001 9:22 pm

Gee, pretty big quake here in Seattle about an hour and a half ago!

The thing about jing is, it is actually a very common word in spoken Chinese, which is, after all, what we are talking about. This is not ancient Chinese, much less some kind of code. For example, the Yangs sometimes use the expression, bu4 de2 jingr4' to mean 'not have strength (in a movement)' or 'feel (that a movement is) weak'. When talking about a kind of chewy elasticity in noodles, somewhat akin to the Italian 'al dente', they say that the noodles do or do not have jing. That is the noodle is 'strong' as opposed to 'limp'.

Audi mentioned the misunderstandings caused by using 'relax' for fang song. I agree with that and am thinking about some techniques for translating it in its various contexts, maybe using 'loosen' or 'extend'. In translations in the seminars I have been saying 'relax and extend'. It's a problem!
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Postby Mike » Wed Feb 28, 2001 10:00 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JerryKarin:
<B>
The thing about jing is, it is actually a very common word in spoken Chinese, which is, after all, what we are talking about. </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hi Jerry:

My personal feeling is that we should not translate so much *correctly* in terms of definition, but *functionally* in terms of what is/are the skills of Taiji, in this particular case.

The problem arises because the qi paradigm does not have one-to-one correlations with western definitions and science. For instance "qi" can refer to nervous-system functions of the body, energetic functions, blood-sugar functions, breath functions, etc., etc.

In the particular case of the special skills (i.e., the "jins") of Taiji, the odd strength which is controlled by the mind, directed by the waist, etc., constrains the use of qi/jin to one special set of skills, not ALL things that would normally fall under the domain of "qi" or "jin".

So the special "concealed strength" of Taiji which is another word for the mind-led jin is what we should probably bear in mind during any and all translations. Translations which are etymologically correct often do not convey any sensible meaning when used in relation to the special jin skills of Taiji.

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Feb 28, 2001 10:21 pm

Hey Mike!

I think we are all pretty much on the same page here. As Louis mentioned, words like jing are part of a constellation of associated concepts in Chinese and any translation has a way of losing some of the associations. We do the best we can and have to accept that inevitably whatever we do with jing ends up as a convention or conventions for dealing with it and you do need some background and explanation to make sense of it. Having said that, I do still tend to the view that 'power' 'strength' 'force' 'energy' etc are closer to the real meaning of jing than 'skill'. Admittedly there are some instances, like dong jing 'understanding jing' where I will sometimes use 'skill'.
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