Greetings Show-Hong and Jerry,
Show-Hong, I appreciate your remarks, and I will certainly give them my full consideration. Jerry is right that I get carried away, but I don’t think there’s any harm done. “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” I know that this is so, but no one has ever been able to tell me precisely what “swing” means. Like rock and roll, I suspect it has something to do with getting carried away. I don’t expect anyone to accept my interests or share my curiousity, but I don’t see any harm in expressing my views.
I also haven’t yet seen anyone provide any evidence demonstrating what is wrong with my comments on the concept “gudang,” nor has anyone here provided an alternative explanation of what “qi yi gudang” means in the Taijiquan Classic. I suspect that is because it doesn’t refer to an easily identifiable operation or practice, but is a more general injunction about an objective of practice. I know what it means, but that doesn’t mean that I can explain it well. That may just be my personal failing. In an interview, Feng Zhiqiang said that “Gudang has a very subtle meaning. Here it is used to describe the outward expansion/movement/vibration of yi and qi.” He didn’t go on to explain some operation to achieve this objective, but he indicated that it is important.
Jerry said, “I think it is confused to say things like 'the character gu is rooted in drum imagery'. Jerry advocates an ahistorical functional linguistic view, while I tend to think words have histories, and that includes their orthography. Maybe we should just ignore any suggestion of drumming in gudang, and just read it as “arouse, excite, stimulate.” Yang Jwing-ming, in a commentary to the Taijiquan Classic, wrote, “In Chinese, Gu Dang means a drum that is full and resounding (due to vibration). The Qi that is generated and stored in the Lower Dan Tian should be full, like an air-filled drum which can produce powerful vibrations.” (Yang Jwing-ming, Tai Chi Secrets of the Ancient Masters, p. 2). I don’t know how he arrived at this explanation; he seems to be going further out on a limb (swinging?) than I did—I never said that gudang ‘means’ a drum. In any case, I can’t place blame on him for influencing my explanation, since I arrived at mine independently, before ever reading his. Jerry also said, “And how about your large pan filled with liquid? It's completely wrong.” I’m still not sure how it’s wrong. The shuowen definition for dang is “a wash basin.” If Jerry means that it doesn’t by itself explain the meaning of gudang, that’s true. He agrees with your explanation of dang, which is fine. So, should we make our qi swing on limbs like monkeys? That doesn’t seem helpful.
In Yang Chengfu’s book, Taijiquan Shiyongfa, there is a version of the Taijiquan Classic bearing the heading, “Luchan Shi Yuanwen” (Master [Yang] Luchan’s original text). Does that mean it’s from a manuscript that Yang Luchan wrote and passed along, one that he wrote a commentary to, or did someone record and preserve his comments? I don’t know. In any case, his commentary following the phrase, “qi yi gudang” was “Qi bu zhi, ze ru haifeng chui lang.” As Barbara Davis translates, “If the qi is not stagnant, then it is like the sea wind which blows the waves.” (Davis, The Taijiquan Classics, p. 90.) I don’t know how Yang Luchan arrived at this image, but Dong Yingjie used similar imagery: “It is like a slight wind stirring the water of a lake, which successively rises and falls.” (ibid.)
Davis goes on and translates a passage of Chen Weiming’s in which he tries to explain gudang. He gets pretty involved. For example, he writes, “Movement and stillness, emptiness and fullness, inhaling and exhaling, opening and closing, hard and soft, slow and fast; all of the above combined are gudang. For this reason, use the xin (heart-mind) to move the yi (mind-intent), use the yi to move the qi, and use the qi to move the body; this then gives rise to the jin of gudang. (Davis, p. 91). He continues with a raft of images having to do with wind, water and waves: “like the frightening waves of a hurricane” “clouds moving and water flowing” He even quotes the Shijing line that later figured in the Zhongyong about “hawks flying and fish leaping.” He gets pretty worked up about gudang, using arcane imagery of “the spray of breaking waves,” and then remarks, “This is done entirely by means of the jin of gudang. You gudang your opponent, and cause him to be like a boat meeting the wind going in and out of the billows. He is dizzy and has no control. He lists and joggles about, losing control, and is not even able to fathom his own center of gravity. This is the application of gudang.” (ibid.)
So, I don’t know where any of these authorities got their drum-like or wave-like imagery for gudang, or why they didn’t just ignore all that stuff and just speak plainly. For that matter, I don’t know why someone in the 19th century would come up with a neologism for the phenomenon of “production of sound by friction and oscillation” that sounds like something straight out of the Xici commentary to the Book of Changes: “modang shengyin,” or why an early 20th century term for “transversal wave” was coined as “hengdang bolang.”