Conscious Movement

Postby Louis Swaim » Tue May 16, 2006 7:30 pm

Hi Jerry,

Re: “Gu does not mean drum here. There is another word written with this graph which means things like pluck or strike.”

If you mean gu does not literally mean “a drum” or “to drum” in the specific compound gudang, that may be true. The character gu is rooted in drum imagery, however, and is used in any number of ways having to do with drums, beating of drums, and extended meanings rooted in drumming, such as “rouse” (minggu), “encourage” (guqi, or guqi yongqi), “inspire” (guwu), “advocate” (guchui), and so forth. Even in English, we say “drum up courage,” and not by accident.

Am I riffing? Maybe I’m just following the beat of a different drummer.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue May 16, 2006 7:40 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
<B> The character gu is rooted in drum imagery, however, and is used in any number of ways having to do with drums, beating of drums, and extended meanings rooted in drumming, such as “rouse” (minggu), “encourage” (guqi, or guqi yongqi), “inspire” (guwu), “advocate” (guchui), and so forth. Even in English, we say “drum up courage,” and not by accident.

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

The characters are graphs used to represent syllables of sound. The thing that conveys meaning is the word, not the character. I think it is confused to say things like 'the character gu is rooted in drum imagery'. You would be better served to forget the character and concentrate on the usage of the word in real spoken or written language. This habit of explaining things by the graphs used, and even worse, by parts of the graphs, is an old pitfall that early sinologists fell into.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 05-16-2006).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue May 16, 2006 7:46 pm

Taken to its extreme, this type of analysis leads to saying things like 'Rin tin tin' is a very strong dog, his name indicates he is like metal.'
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue May 16, 2006 7:58 pm

The phrase is frequently written this way: ¹Äµ´.
Should we change our explanation from 'water over a basin' to 'hot water under a plant'? The hot water part is actually the phonetic for dang. Can't emphasize enough how mistaken this approach is.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue May 16, 2006 8:08 pm

Greetings Jerry,

Re: “I am also very uncomfortable with the graphic explanation of dang. This really is not the right way to explain Chinese words. When people say a phrase like gudang they really don't refer to parts of the characters as picture 'entailments'.”

People? Which people? My Mandarin teachers and professors did it all the time. Lots of people do it for didactic purposes.

For example,

“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.”
—Yang Zhenduo on fangsong, translated by Jerry Karin

We've been down this road before, and you didn't change my thinking then either.


Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue May 16, 2006 8:10 pm

Use as a mnemonic crib is not the same as scholarship.
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue May 16, 2006 8:12 pm

And how about your large pan filled with liquid? It's completely wrong.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue May 16, 2006 8:34 pm

Hi Jerry,

Re: “Use as a mnemonic crib is not the same as scholarship”.

What I said was “didactic.” That means “intended to convey instruction and information as well as pleasure and entertainment.”

The example I posted above from Cheng Yi, and his *graphic* explanation of “yi” was instructive and entertaining for me! I’m sorry you’re not amused.

Let me know what’s wrong with my dang explanation. (Dang! That sounds funny!) How do you explain gudang in the taijiquan jing?

Take care,
Louis
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Postby chris » Tue May 16, 2006 8:52 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JerryKarin:
Taken to its extreme, this type of analysis leads to saying things like 'Rin tin tin' is a very strong dog, his name indicates he is like metal.'</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Image Chinese is the language of Chinese people, not the Da Vinci Code of wushu.
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Postby Anderzander » Fri May 26, 2006 11:46 pm

A google search turned this up:

http://www.consciousmovement.org

note: not much help to us though I think...

[This message has been edited by Anderzander (edited 05-27-2006).]
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Postby ShowHong » Sun Jun 04, 2006 8:25 am

Hi Louis,

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
So, it may be that the li in zhuoli is a figurative sense similar to its use in the phrase zhuolidian (focal point or gripping point of endeavor or effort). It would then have more to do with focus and concentration than with exertion of physical strength in the arms.
--Louis</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Zhoulidian functionally means the same thing as zhoushoudian - any point you can put your hands on or have a grip of, so you can exert force, physically not figuratively, to, or control/handle it. Since it is any point or a point of happens chance, it is quite inappropriate to call it focal point. Again, zhou here means simply 'get it' with either your hand or your force.

Concerning metaphor being your main interest I have this to say. Since I have little interest in this subject I tend to regard my opinion as more objective.

Whether a phrase is a metaphor is by and large determined by the user/writer of the phrase since many phrases are so commonly used that they carry the meaning by themselves and no longer necessarily serve as a pointer to some metaphoric image or phenomenon. For example, when I used the words 'mold' and 'tool' nothing metaphoric popped up in my mind. I used them for their simple and straight forward meaning that readers in general would get directly from seeing the words without correlation to anything else. Extreme examples can more clearly demonstrate that it is the user of a phrase determines if the phrase is a metaphor, if we really wants to know what the writer wanted to say, like the phrase '4 oz deflects 1000 lbs' that we are all so familiar with. I have been educated in Chinese to above the average level and never had doubt about what '4oz deflects 1000 lbs' means when I used it or heard it but had absolutely no clue that a piece of rope and an oxen were involved in it until I read Prof. Cheng's writing. So how can it be a metaphor if the user of the phrase knows nothing metaphoric about it? If a reader wants to know the meaning of the phrase according to the intend of the writer then reader has to follow what the phrase is intended to be according to the author.

The way you are dealing with this linguistic issue reminds me of the first three great lessons that I have picked up shortly after I came to the States for graduate school. Not from the books though. But they beat, in their timelessness and usefulness, almost all of the Chinese wisdom that I had learnt during my years of schooling. The first two are 'The path to hell is paved with good intentions' and the Murphy's law 'When a beaker drops it lands where it¡'s going to make maximal damage.' The third and the most pertinent is 'If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.' If you are so fond of that pair of glasses with colored lenses and wear them all the time then what you see is of course going to be colored accordingly. Be very careful about bias - human's perception and thought processes are inherently biased unless checked or calibrated to be true according to truth standard. For example, when talking about language use by people, here we mean public at large, language professor and language teachers are not counted among them. Language professor and teachers are by definition biased by their special knowledge and/or interested and are poor representation of the people. If you ask an average Chinese about the character 'dang' they are much more likely to say it is about what monkeys do hanging on a branch going from tree to tree or what children play on a swing set rather than water in a basin. When the water in a basin' thing is brought up in language class it is more for raising interest through curiosity than anything else.

Further, on the approach of pursuing the metaphorical or philosophical meaning in the writings of the Taichi classics to understanding of Taichi principle I have no hesitation to say that that is but a fool's chase. I would give you my apologies if you are interested.

Now back to the passage in Wu Ruqing's writing.

至舆人交手,手先著力,只聽人勁,務要由人,不# 201;由己;務要知人,不要使人知己。

I am with you on the verse 'shou xian zhuoli' as you first translated it. And your observation of the qualification from the next verse is appropriate although it is not strictly necessary. This passage uses essentially all common/literal expressions so interpretation needs not be clouded by considerations of metaphors or some other people's opinion. The other two translations skirted around the phrase 'zhouli' probably out of concern for contradicting the doctrine of 'do not use strength'. In my view, the translators did not understand what 'li' here, in Taichi, means and also that they mistook the doctrin/notion 'use intent, not strength' (yong yi, bu yong li) to be the principle rather than commentary, as it actually is, expressing the writer's experience. With proper qualification 'bu yon li' is a necessary condition, characteristics, or requisite for successful execution of Taihci principle. Professor Cheng Man-Ching had an excellent explanation on 'bu yong li' that it means do not resist the other person's force neither use force/strength against the other person's resistance. This 'bu yong li' concerns direct interaction with other person but our bodies need to be supported or configured properly, as you have pointed out with examples of using force/strength, in order to carry out the interaction properly. This later kind of using force/strength falls into the category of what Peter Ralston calls intrinsic strength. Use of intrinsic strength and 'bu yong li' are two sides of the coin of how to conduct our body being in interaction with other in the Taichi way. So learning how to 'bu yon li' is essentially to learn how to use intrinsic strength (this is no Mike Sigman's internal whatever). Therefore, there is nothing wrong with 'zhouli' or applying strength provided that what is exercised is intrinsic strength. The phrases themselves do not carry any Taichi-specific information. To understand what they mean in Taichi you either have to know how Taichi works or what the authors meant to say using those phrases.

This Wu Ruqing's line is essentially a gross, straight forward, simple yet complete description of what he did or one should do interacting with another person in the Taichi way. Since the writing of commentaries usually is meant primarily for the students or practitioners of similar interest so it is reasonable to assume the interaction takes place in a training/practicing setting. Words used are descriptive and I don't believe that Wu had some preconceived definition of 'ting' when he used it. Since for that to happen Wu would have to know the mechanics of how Taichi works but this is not the case since the last verse of his line gives him away. I'd say most Chinese college students can read this line without any problem and think that they understand it very well except that when pressed for details they cannot tell the specifics like what 'ting' really means or what there is to know in knowing the other, because they wouldn't know what was going on that Wu was describing. Therefore, in order to understand these commentaries, it is imperative to know or to reconstruct the scenario of the processes that are commented on. Knowing the words alone is far from sufficient.

With the above context in mind this line reads like the following.

"When it comes to interact with other person, (you) first apply strength on your hand (so the other person could react, assuming the other person is not moving and you initiate the interaction) and (do nothing but) only listen to the other person's movement, must follow the other person ('s movement) but do not (move) on your own, and must know the other person but don't let him know you."

Chi in Taichi can be considered as what we feel about our bodies when we are in a proper state and jin in this verse would be what we feel about the other person's movement. Since Taichi is about physical interaction with other person and the interaction is carried out with/through movement as the medium, therefore, movement is the rightful subject in all Taichi discussion. In this line, Wu stated the process that started the interaction and the purpose or end result of what a Taichi practitioner is supposed to do in the interaction, i.e., to know the other, as specified in Wang Tzong-Yue's treatise. In between, instead of detailed how's and what's, only a gross description of what is supposed to happen is provided. Listen to other person's movement is a subjective description of what's happening in his experience while the next verse "follow the other person¡'s movement instead of moving on your own¡" is an objective and imperative statement of what's supposed to happen in Taichi interaction. Successful execution of interaction adhering to the principle of "following the other but not move on your own" would have the result of "without butting and without disconnecting" and that is what Zhijue Yundong is about. So zhijue yundong is the characteristic of movement in Taichi interaction, ting or listening is our subjective view of our movement or what we 'do' in the interaction, and dong or know/understanding is the state of our movement, analogous to the intellectual cognition, in interaction. When we fail to follow the other person, there will be butting or disconnection during the interaction, our movement would not qualify for zhijue yundong and we would not be listening and would fail to dong/understand the other. So qualitatively, listening is simply a subjective, experiential way of naming "follow the other's movement". From this perspective, Taichi ting/listening has nothing to do with sensing/perceiving yet, nevertheless, this distinction of ting/listen is, by coincidence, intricately correlated with the listening of our acoustic sense since both share the same physical mechanism that had been unknown until modern science came around.

Sincerely,
Show-Hong


[This message has been edited by ShowHong (edited 06-04-2006).]

[This message has been edited by ShowHong (edited 06-04-2006).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Sun Jun 04, 2006 6:47 pm

Interesting post, Show Hong. I agree with you about the meaning of dang. Louis gets carried away sometimes in the execution but I don't think he is wrong in principle in exploring the metaphorical and philosophical implications of Taiji literature. In interpreting sources in Chinese for a western audience it is often difficult to strike a suitable balance between exploring the richness and imagery of the language and the quaint conventions of the writing system versus very down-to-earth explanations based on everyday language.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Jun 05, 2006 4:43 am

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.”

Swing on!

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Anderzander » Mon Jun 05, 2006 10:00 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by ShowHong:
So learning how to 'bu yon li' is essentially to learn how to use intrinsic strength (this is no Mike Sigman's internal whatever). </font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

If this was in relation to Jerry's post about going all Mike SIgman on us - I think it wasn't to do with what he used to say - more how he said it :-)
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Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Jun 05, 2006 6:51 pm

Greetings Show-Hong,

I’m particularly intrigued by your closing remarks:

‘So qualitatively, listening is simply a subjective, experiential way of naming "follow the other's movement". From this perspective, Taichi ting/listening has nothing to do with sensing/perceiving yet, nevertheless, this distinction of ting/listen is, by coincidence, intricately correlated with the listening of our acoustic sense since both share the same physical mechanism that had been unknown until modern science came around.’

It’s probably that I just don’t understand your meaning, but I can’t see how anything involving movement, especially interactive movement with another, would have “nothing to do with sensing/perceiving.” In order to follow the other’s movement, wouldn’t sensing/perceiving be a prerequisite?

In your remark, “this distinction of ting/listen is, by coincidence, intricately correlated with the listening of our acoustic sense since both share the same physical mechanism that had been unknown until modern science came around,” I’m not sure who is doing the correlating. By that do you mean the early taijiquan authorities, who sort of accidentally correlated the acoustic sense with the sense of touch? I’m not clear if that’s what you mean. I wonder, though, if to say that the “physical mechanism” was unknown prior to scientific discoveries about the workings of the nervous system might reflect a modernist bias. For thousands of years humans used their senses, achieving great feats of understanding, engineering, architecture, music, movement arts, etc., but without the benefit of knowing anything about neurons, neurotransmitters, dendrites, or axons. Does this mean that they didn’t “know” how their senses worked? Certainly when we look at some pre-scientific explanations of the senses, the explanations are wrong as to the actual mechanism, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility of real empirical insights into the workings of the senses.

Consider this exchange between the 11th century thinker Zhu Xi with his students:

~~~
Question: Does "spirit" refer to the mysterious? Reply: Yes. There is also the line, "That which 'penetrates when stimulated' is spirit." Hengqu [Zhang Zai] explained spirit in another way, referring to that which is in two places [at once] and therefore cannot be fathomed, indicating [the processes of] creative transformation. He said, "Suddenly here, suddenly there: it is spirit." Question: How do you speak of it within human beings? Reply: Consciousness (zhijue) is certainly spirit. If you cut your hand then your hand perceives pain. If you cut your foot then your foot perceives pain. This is certainly spirit. "Spirit is responsive, and therefore mysterious."
—quoted and translated by Joseph A. Alder, in http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Fac/Adler/Writings/Spirituality.htm

Absent an understanding of the mechanism of the nervous system, this exchange seems to lack a great deal by way of explaining consciousness and the senses (although to say that shen is mysterious or unfathomable strikes me as sensibly agnostic). Yet it shows a keen attention to the process of sensing and responding to stimuli. So it may not be all that coincidental that someone in earlier times would correlate the sense of hearing with the sense of touch.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 06-05-2006).]
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