Greetings Michael and everyone:
I also like the T’ai Chi Boxing Chronicle, but have a tough time with it. I have yet to figure out many of the terms used in the book, but I think I can help with some.
As you know, Chinese has many homonyms. Without indications of tone, it is extremely rare that a word can be understood with certainty out of context. Even with tones, ambiguity is still quite common in spoken usage if there is no context. Words can only be distinguished easily if used with appropriate context or if written down in characters.
The word “chieh” uses a system of transliteration (Wade-Giles) that used to be the norm in the U.S. up until after Nixon went to China and people switched from using such spellings as “Mao Tse Tung” and “Peking” to the spellings “Mao Zedong” and “Beijing.” The system is no longer used by contemporary scholars, but has residual uses. In Pinyin, the official system of the government in mainland China and the system used in just about all new works in the U.S., “chieh” is rendered as “jie.” This is pronounced roughly like “gee + YEH,” smashed together in one syllable. The “e” of “YEH” has the value of the “e” in “yes” and would be the most prominent vowel sound.
Many non-linguists use the Wade-Giles system unevenly, and so it is also possible that “chieh” corresponds to what really should have been spelled as “ch’ieh.” This corresponds to “qie” in Pinyin and is pronounced roughly like “chee + Yeh.”
If I assume that what the T’ai Chi Boxing Chronicle spells as “chieh” corresponds to “jie” in Pinyin, I can lay forth the following possibilities. I will use only Pinyin spellings, since they are more common on this board.
“Jie” pronounced in the fourth tone can correspond to a character that means “borrow” or “lend.” Borrowing Jin means to make use of the opponent’s force to achieve a certain result. Some use it to mean simply adding one’s own force to the opponent’s. Others use it to mean something like trapping the opponent in a certain position so that he or she is forced to use his or her own power to uproot his or herself. As others have indicated, this is a common term in the literature. I believe this is what the book discusses on page 95 and translates as “borrowing strength.” I do not, however, believe it is the same word used in the discussion quoted above in this thread.
“Jie” pronounced in the second tone can correspond to a character that means “intercept” or “cut off.” It is one of the primary 13 sword and saber techniques, but also refers to a similar kind of hand technique. Essentially, it means cutting of the opponent’s power at its root before it can really manifest itself. This word is also common in the literature, but I do not recall it being discussed in Kuo Lien-Ying’s book.
There is also a character that corresponds to “jie1” in the first tone that has several related meanings. It can mean “approach,” “touch,” and “connect with,” among other meanings. I think this is the word that is often rendered in English as “connect,” when one is talking about the initial contact with the opponent. Perhaps others can confirm this, since I am not sure of my facts.
Alva Olson’s book might discuss this technique, but I have loaned the book out and so cannot confirm this. If you have a copy, you can look for it there. As I recall, Olson shows characters for each of the “Jins” included in his translation. This particular “jie” character has the frequent hand radical at the left (like a “t” with an additional up-sloping crossing stroke lower down). The character also has the “stand” radical at the top of the right half (a short vertical line on top of a short horizontal line on top of two leg-like short vertical lines on top of a short horizontal line) and the “woman” radical at the bottom of the right half (this is hard to describe, but is roughly like an X with a diamond in the center and with a horizontal stroke crossing through the top third). My guess is that this is the word that Kuo is referring to in his discussion and that he is using it in the meaning of connecting with the opponent’s energy.
By the way, the words used to translate “connecting” (“lian”) in zhan-nian-lian-sui and in the four Wu3 nodal states of postures (“cheng”) are both different from what I have described above (“jie”) and have somewhat different connotations. In other words, they are not synonyms in Chinese. We are dealing with three different Chinese words that capture three different shades of meaning of what we could render in English as “connect.”
I find explaining the translation of “jie” as “binding” to be somewhat problematic. I wonder whether this means that I have gotten something completely wrong. One possibility is that the “jie” I have proposed above can refer to uniting the ends of two threads (jie1 xian4 tou2) and thus might be translated as “bind” in this context. To my understanding, this character has no connotation of interlocking of gears or restriction of movement, only of joining and connecting things by bringing them into contact or close proximity.
There is also a “jie” character that is sometimes pronounced in the first tone and sometimes in the second (depending on dialect?) that means to “tie.” It is used in the compound “jiehun,” which means to “tie the ‘knot’” or “get married.” Despite the fact that this would seem a good conduct for the translation “binding,” I do not recall this word being used in the context of Taijiquan. Again, perhaps others can bring more knowledge to bear on this than I can offer.
There are many other characters in various tones that could be written as “jie”; however, I do not think they are likely candidates in this context. I also discount the possibility that “qie” is really the pronunciation at issue, because the characters corresponding to this pronunciation also do not seem to fit the context.
One interesting thing about Kuo’s discussion is that he seems to flirt with a slightly different take on zhan-nian-lian-sui (adhering, sticking, linking, following) than what I am used to. We have discussed some of these techniques at length in past threads.
Kuo describes the four techniques differently than I understand them, although I can follow his descriptions. His descriptions of the four corresponding defects, however, seem in one place to follow quite closely what I understand from the classics (i.e., the Yang 40’s discussion of “ding3” (“butting”), “pian3” (“being flat”), “diu1” (“losing contact”), and “kang4” (“resisting”). I get confused, however, because rather than using these terms, he talks about “leaning forward,” “leaning backward,” “breaking off,” and “receiving straight.” This may be a translation issue, but my understanding of the Chinese terms is different from what these English words imply. The overall philosophy, however, seems to be fairly similar.
Kuo also discusses four “remedies” for these defects that again deviate somewhat from what I have understood. He also uses four terms that I have not heard in this context: k’ung/kung, chieh/jie, tso/?, and jou/rou.
“Kung” (“empty”) has at least two uses in the literature that I have read. One of them seems fairly close to the idea that Kuo discusses. Basically, it involves letting the opponent feel as if something is there, even though there is really only “emptiness.” This does indeed seem to be the opposite of the idea of “butting.” It also strikes me as an interesting view of what Zhan (“adhering”?) is supposed to accomplish.
I have already discussed “Chieh” above. Kuo describes it as “adding strength,” which again seems like a good cure for being too “flat” or “under-inflated.” I would not, however, translate this as “jie1.”
I cannot figure out what “tso” refers to, perhaps because of the spelling. My best guess is that this is the same as the Pinyin “zou3,” which can mean to “yield.” Some of the details Kuo discusses, however, to not seem to fit. The “Zou” I know of is a very general term, rather than something dealing specifically with the defect of “losing contact.”
“Rou2” means to be “softly resilient” and might be a quality one would attribute to “sui” (“following”), but the characteristics he ascribes to this technique are much narrower than what I understand for “sui.” His description, however, does seem to correspond to some of the mechanics one would typically use.