jin thread

Postby tai1chi » Thu Apr 10, 2003 6:48 pm

Hi Audi, Louis,

thanks for the info. You mentioned cinnabar. Mercury sulfide is red in color and might also be used to represent blood. Anyway, I guess my main point was about relationships that might not be grammatical. For ex., the connection between the "m" sounds (milk, mama and mammary) are related. I was just wondering about the connections that occurred with the "j" words. I do agree with David that these types of words occur very early in any language; that's why I used the term "mythology". Anyway, it's not a big issue, just some over-speculation on my part.

Cheers,
Steve James
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Apr 12, 2003 11:58 pm

Greetings All,

I want to try to flesh out what I touched on in my earlier post about a significant interplay of imagery in Yang Chengfu’s item number six in his “Ten Essentials” document. Recall that in that item, headed “use conciousness, not strength,” Yang Chengfu draws an analogy between the body’s meridians and the watercourses of the earth. He remarks: “Now, the human body has meridians—as with the Earth’s watercourses, when the watercourses are unblocked, the water flows. When the meridians are unblocked, then the qi passes through.” Further, he states that “If the qi and the blood flow fully, daily threading and flowing through the entire body, there will be no time when there are blockages. After long practice, one then attains genuine internal strength (jin).” It seems to me in these lines, Yang Chengfu exposes and summarizes some of the very issues we have been discussing in this “jin thread.”

Yang Chengfu makes reference to blood vessels and to meridians in item six. The term he uses for blood vessels is xuemai, and the term he uses for meridians is jinluo, which Jerry neatly translates as the “net of acupuncture meridians and channels.” The character luo in fact means a net or network. Both of the characters in the jingluo compound have the silk radical, the jing character being the same “warp” character discussed earlier, so this technical term from traditional Chinese medicine refers to the network of energy conduits in the body. The “mai” character used for blood vessels is also used in another traditional term for meridians: jingmai. It’s this mai character I want to highlight now.

In his important book, -_Early Chinese Medical Literature: The Mawangdui Medical Manuscripts_(Kegan Paul, 1998), Donald Harper discusses in depth the term mai, which he says originally referred specifically to blood vessels, but later was generalized to include the theoretical meridians or energy conduits within the body “connecting” the accupunture points (which were ascertained by empirical methods). Harper details the early definition and etymology of mai, translating the Han dynasty Shuowen dictionary gloss: “The distribution network for blood which angles through the body.” (p. 83) Etymologically, the signific/phonetic is “pai4,” which is identified “as the reverse image of the pictograph yong: the gloss of the former is ‘water angling and flowing separately’; the latter is ‘water which is long; it depicts the long extension of the network of subterranean water-channels [jing*]. The SW gloss of jing (subterranean channel) is necessary to round out the etymological evidence: “Water vessels [shui mai). (The graph) is composed of [chuan] (stream) underneath [yi, one], and [yi] signifies earth. . . .” (p. 83)

Harper remarks, “Evidence from the SW must be weighed carefully—its etymologies do not invariably yield the original meaning of a word. However, even cautious evaluation of the evidence for mai would lead one to surmise that when the word was first adopted there already existed a conceptual correlation between the body and earth, and between blood vessels and streams.” (p. 83)

Others have noted this correlation in the early text, the Guanzi. Edward Slingerland quotes this line from Book 39 of the Guanzi: “Water is the blood and qi of the earth, like the stuff that penetrates and flows [tongliu] through the muscles and vessels of the body.” (Slingerland, _Effortless Action: Wu-Wei as Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China_, p. 124)

So you see, when Yang Chengfu made this analogy between the the body’s meridians and the earth’s watercourses, he was expressing an enduring conception. Moreover, the notion that the meridians should be free of blockage so as to enable a beneficial flow of energy endures from the physiological insights at least as early as the Warring States period. The Mencius passage I quoted in the post above, with its referrence to water flowing from an “ample spring” (yuanquan), refers as much to psycho-physiological processes as to moral or ethical disposition. The same term for a spring, yuanquan, appears in the “Nei Ye” (Inner Training) chapter of the Guanzi, with what could be called a much more explicit reference to psycho-physiological processes, where qi is said to accumulate in the adept “floodlike” (haoran, another term shared by Mengzi). Interestingly, Manfred Porkert, in describing the conception of the accupuncture points in traditional medicine, says that “Their detection by connecting the points is analogous to the way a subterranean watercourse reveals itself by springs sent up through ‘punctures’ in the earth’s crust. The sensitive points provide the positive empirical and historically primary data on which the theory is based; the conduits, on the other hand, are the result of systematic speculations.” (Porkert, _The Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine: Systems of Correspondence_, pp. 197-198)

While these materials may seem obscure and arcane, I bring them to this discussion in the hope of showing how powerful these early images of water flowing can be, and how they endure in practices like taijiquan.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Audi » Tue Apr 15, 2003 12:41 am

Hi Louis,

Water coursing through the earth like blood and Qi through the veins is really a powerful, Jing-filled image for practice. Thanks for the contributions. I have to say, however, that I still also like the image of the soft tissues of the body being the connective fibers that make up and “thread” through a piece of fabric. In either case, the ideas of continuity and integration are very penetrating.

Since my last post, I also had the opportunity to look up some of the meanings of the Jin/Jing character (meaning “strength”/“strong”) that are associated with the pronunciation “jing.” I was somewhat surprised by the number of compounds where “jing” seems to lend a meaning of “firm,” “robust,” or even “unbending.”

One compound caught my eye in particular: “jing4 cao3.” In English, this word was translated as “sturdy grass.” In Chinese it was explained as: “Jing1 jian1ren4 de cao3” or “grass with a firm and tenacious stem.” Interestingly the “jing” meaning stalk shows up in this explanation. As I chased down what exactly was meant by “ren4” (“tenacious”), I ran into my old friends “rou2” and “ruan3.” “Ren” was explained as: “Soft yet firm. When affected by an outside force, although it deforms, it is not easily broken off. (“Rou2ruan3 er2 jie2shi2. Shou4 wai4li4 zuo4yong4 shi2 sui2 bian4 xing2 bu2 yi4 zhe2duan4.”). The opposite of this is “brittle.”

A second meaning of “jing4 cao3” was also listed, which was “unyielding man.” This was explained as: “By analogy, a staunch and unbending/unyielding person. The ‘sturdy grass’ does not snap because of a strong wind.” (“Bi3yu4 jian1qiang3 bu4 qu1 de ren2. Jing4cao3 bu2 wei4 jing4feng1 er2 zhe2.”) Interestingly, “jing” appears again in the expression “’strong’ wind” or “gale.”

What I have set forth in the preceding two paragraphs again reminds me of the apparent Taiji nature of the term “Jin/Jing.” For something to be firm, it can be neither stiff nor mushy. There must be some softness in the hardness. (“Rou2 zhong1 you3 gang1”). “Tenacious,” “tough,” and “resilient” are also associated ideas. In both of these compounds, the idea of strength is not associated either with stiffness or hardness, but with things we think of as being soft and/or weak, i.e., wind and grass. The ideas of unbending or unyielding come in not at the moment of contact, but at the moment when the outside force would seem to reach a destructive potential.

I also found a short quote in my dictionary from someone named Huainanzi. It cites a use of the word “jing” that brings in the bow imagery I like. I am not sure I am translating it correctly, but I think it goes: “First adjust the bow, then seek its strength.” (Gong1 xian1 tiao2/diao4 hou4 qiu2 jing4.) For me, this again illustrates the importance of getting strength in Taijiquan indirectly. The idea would be: “First adjust your posture correctly and then you will find its strength.” Neither the bow nor the body is very “jing” or ”strong” by itself. They need to be adjusted with a mind to their potential.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Apr 18, 2003 2:52 am

Hi Audi,

The Huainanzi is the title of a compendium of writings commissioned by Liu An, prince of Huai Nan during the former Han, probably around 140 B.C. It’s a syncretic work, drawing upon Confucianist, Daoist, and Legalist themes. I found the quote you mentioned in chapter seventeen, “shuo lin” (discussing the forests). It’s part of a three-phrase sentence, and the context to me suggests that plural quantities are being discussed. My rough translation would go, “With bows, one should first draw them, then afterward seek the strongest; with horses, one should first train them, then afterward seek the finest; with men one should first ascertain their trustworthiness, then afterward seek the ablest.” The wording is very sparse, so my rendering is tentative. I’m betting it’s a military expression of some kind, with a typical oral formula pattern: three sets of seven characters.

The word tiao2 means, as you say, “adjust.” But I think here the diao4 reading may be correct. There is a compound, “diao4 gong” with the same meaning as to “zhang1 gong1”: to draw a bow. The overall connotation of the verb in each of the three phrases, I think, is “to test.” Tiao and diao (same character, different pronunciation) have many shared nuances. Tiao is a word that is used technically in Chinese medicine, in physical self-cultivation routines, and in taijiquan, with connotations of “regulate,” “moderate,” “monitor,” or to “tune,” as in tuning an instrument, or tuning up machinery.

Thanks for your great findings on jin/strength. I did a search for jin/strength in an on-line text of the Huainanzi and found 11 instances. I’ll have look at them closely to see what they yield. Much more prevelant in the text is the character “li” for strength. There is a great deal of discussion in the Huainanzi of the folly of relying on strength, and of the necessity for collaborative or concerted strength. But as with the Sunzi, the Huainanzi finds even concerted strength to be limited. Real advantage is found not in strength, but in “shi”—strategic advantage, or optimal disposition, taking into account a full range of environmental, physical, and psychological factors. The Huainanzi consists of 21 chapters, but only a handfull of them have been translated. Roger Ames translated ch. 9 in his study, _The Art of Rulership_, which has an excellent investigation into the meaning of shi.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Apr 22, 2003 4:43 am

Greetings All,

Not being completely satisfied with my rendering of the Huainanzi lines above, I emailed Stephen Selby, author of _Chinese Archery_(Hong Kong Univ. Press, 2000), and asked his opinion about the use of the verb “tiao” with regard to the bow. Selby’s book is a wonderful work of scholarship, very readable, and of interest to anyone caring to learn more about the history of archery in China from the very earliest records into the early twentieth century. His book includes many of his own excellent translations of archery manuals and other important documents, including writings by some of the Ming military figures thought to have laid some of the theoretical groundwork for taijiquan. So I value his input on this little question.

Here is Selby's reply:

~~~
I would suggest 'adjust' for 'tiao'. In particular, I think that here it means "balancing it after it has been strung".

You might consider the meaning of 'qiu' in this context. I find that in these constructions, it often means 'you can expect...'. So that the sentence would read: "You can't expect to get power out of a bow unless you have balanced it. You can't expect to get a good ride out of a horse unless you have trained it; you can't expect to get good performance from a man unless he has first learned to be reliable." 'xin' in the last clause must be causative: 'to cause to become reliable'.
~~~

Although I might quibble about a few things, I like Selby’s rendering very much, and it avoids the pluralization of the subjects I had inferred in the passage. It also obtains the sense of what Audi was getting at, making it quite relevant to taiji practice!

Take care,
Louis



[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 04-21-2003).]
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Postby Audi » Sun Apr 27, 2003 11:01 pm

Hi Louis:

Great stuff! You really do have a wealth of knowledge, linguistic sensitivity, and good resources to boot. As I foolishly attempt my brief and tentative forays into classical Chinese, it never ceases to amaze me how dense the texts can be, assuming I can figure anything out in the first place.

Take care,
Audi
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