Hi Louis and Jerry,
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">...of the language and the quaint conventions of the writing system versus very down-to-earth explanations based on everyday language. – Jerry </font>
It is hard for Chinese to see that distinction as well. As far as I know until the last couple of decades or so there was not such a thing as everyday (verbal) language that was written in Chinese. Whatever was spoken when put on the paper was modified in some way and became written or reading material instead of the original spoken language. I had refused to watch Chinese movie for many years because I could not stand watching/hearing movie characters carrying on a conversation by reciting written script.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
... I don’t expect anyone to accept my interests or share my curiousity, but I don’t see any harm in expressing my views. </font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
But holding a view on something you don’t quite understand does carry some risk of harm to your practice. One can only practice what he knows. If what he knows or what he thinks he knows is off the mark, so will be what he practices. This is why the admonition that deviation of a little bit will result in an error miles apart from the real thing. The masters that I know of all emphasize that understanding of the principle is centrally important in learning the art of Taichi and some of them even go so far as to say that understanding is more important than practice.
I am not really interested in what “qi yi gudang” means since it is not part of the principle. It is a commentary describing how the author felt of his practice. It is about the outcome, not the principle and, therefore, I don’t believe it contains any ‘how to’ information that helps us in practice. It certainly contains the author’s understanding and misunderstanding of what’s going on and how things work. It may have been right or worked for the author but unless you understand what’s going on and how things work the same way as the author, you are not going to understand the same phrase in the way that worked for the author. So what is right for the author is likely not right for the reader.
That “qi yi gudang” is not part of the principle is further evidenced by its language. For simplicity sake let’s use “move” to stand for ‘gudang”. “qi yi gudang” essentially means “it is good that qi moves” or, almost equally possible, “it is good that qi is moved”. What is principle or is understood as principle by the author would have been expressed with a straight forward statement if not an imperative. It would have been ‘do this’ or ‘this must be so’ instead of ‘it is good that…’. When it comes to principle there is no room for choice.
To make things worse, exactitude in the use of language had never been high on the priority list for Chinese. So even though the most likely meaning for ‘qi yi gudang’ is ‘it is good that qi moves’, it could be easily taken as ‘it is good that qi is moved’ which is then understood by practitioners as an encouragement that they should move whatever is called qi in their practice. The latter finds an example in Chen Wei-Ming’s writing you have cited. But these two meanings are diametrically different and both cannot be correct.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">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. </font>
I heard this quote, perhaps from Dostoyevski, ‘First art imitates life, then life imitates art.’ After a few iterations life is as fake as it can be. Same could be said of language and the reality which language can only represent less than exactly. Here ‘gudang’ is, at the beginning, only a description or a label of something and end up as if it were something real (it somehow became, in Chen Weiming’s hands, “Jin of gudang” which can be used or mechanistically responsible to achieve some result) and in deciphering what it may mean we miss the real thing it tries to stand for. I tend to think that basic human nature/frailty is involved here - the inability to simply say ‘I don’t know’, blame it all on Adam and Eve.
The way I read it, Yang Luchan’s commentary is not really trying to interpret ‘qi yi gudang’, rather, it is simply his take on the same or similar experience. Be careful who you take to be authority. I have come to the conclusion through studying Taichi that those who are in the know tell what reality is or is like, those who are not often try to interpret what is told and those who are even less fortunate would mistake interpretation for the real thing. Since language can only imitate reality at best, interpretation of language can rarely get the interpreter to knowing the reality. Knowing comes through experiencing the reality. Perhaps this is why Taichi masters do not teach the classics and yet insist that the classics are very important and students should study them.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">... or why an early 20th century term for “transversal wave” was coined as “hengdang bolang.” </font>
“Transversal wave” now has an exact counter part in Chinese “heng bo”, which is the same as “hengdang bo” or “hengdang bolang”. “Heng” is transverse and “bo” is wave. What is transversal in transversal wave is the direction of the oscillation being perpendicular to the direction the wave travels. “Hengdang” expressed openly the “oscillation” part that is by definition implied in “transversal wave”. “Bo” is meant here to be a specific terminology for a general or abstract idea of wave. “Bolang”, which can be substituted by ‘bo’ alone, is the tangible and readily observable wave of water and the experiment to demonstrate basic properties of wave is usually done using water waves. So its use in the early days is understandable. “Dang” is the short hand for “tsendang”, vibration/oscillation, of which the motion of a swinging pendulum is a ready example.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">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? </font>
Let’s look at an example that often shows up at some point in the discussion of martial arts – one should move with the opponent like a piece of cork in the water moving with water. That piece of cork moves up and down, to and fro, as water moves without the apparent need for sensing/perceiving. Granted I am not that piece of cork and have no way to know absolutely that cork does not posses the ability of sensing/perceiving but suffice it to say that this phenomenon can be explained satisfactorily without invoking a proposition that sensing/perceiving on the part of the cork is necessary.
I am not trying to say that some cognitive function or our central nervous system is not involved but that the sensing/perceiving as we commonly know it is not part of and does not explain Taichi interaction. Besides, there is really no need for the understanding how our mind works in learning Taichi just like musicians don’t need to understand how mind works to learn and gain marvelous skills of playing their instruments.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">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? </font>
Bias is deviation from the truth or reality, irrespective of when the truth or reality becomes known to human beings. Indeed humans have known and made use of a great deal of their senses which are theirs to experience and experiment. But the same is not true for the media through which our senses come to being, such as light and sound, until the development of modern science. Humans achieve great feats in using their senses without knowing anything about the nervous systems so can Taichi practitioners without the need of knowing anything about intention/sensing/perceiving or how our mind works.
But it is not about senses anyway. The commonality between Taichi listening and aural listening is not in the sensing part or neural physiology, rather, it lies in the mechanical aspect of listening. Taichi is about interaction that is carried out with movement and so movement is central to what Taichi is about. If aural listening is relevant to Taichi listening it is the mechanical movement in the process of aural listening that is responsible for the correlation and is not known to the ancient. In our aural listening system the ears transform the vibration of the air into neuronal electrical pulses and our brain turns this signal into aural perception of sound. Conversely we may say that brain listens to the neural signal from the cochlea, cochlea listens to stapes, stapes listens to incus, incus to malleus, malleus to tympanic membrane and tympanic membrane to the movement of the air. Tympanic membrane listens to the movement of air by moving in synch with the air, malleus listens to tympanic membrane by moving in synch with tympanic membrane, incus listens to malleus by moving in synch with malleus and so on. The listening that goes on in the middle ear is essentially nothing but movement, without our intention or cognition being involved. Each part moves in synch, without butting or disengagement, with the source of movement that is in contact with the part. This listening that goes on in the middle ear could serve as an ideal model of Taichi listening, albeit in a very limited scope. Since the hearing apparatus in the middle ear are passive devices – they don’t move on their own, what actually happens is that the vibrating air moves the tympanic membrane, which then moves malleus, which then moves incus and so on. Similarly in Taichi listening, the other person pushes, say, your wrist and moves your forearm, the upper arm then let itself be moved by the forearm and in the process moves the shoulder, the shoulder in the same fashion is moved and moves the upper torso and so on until the movement is transmitted all the way down to the feet. Perfect listening is when this chain of movements occur in synch and transmit efficiently without butting or disengagement, i.e., in the fashion of zhijue yundong as characterized by Prof. Cheng Man-Ching. This is another way of seeing how zhijue yundong relates to ting – both zhijue yundong and ting manifest in “nian lian tie swei” and “bu diou bu ding” which is essentially moving in synch with the source of movement, without excess or insufficiency. But what is this zhijue when sensing/perceiving is not in the picture? This ‘zhijue’ in ‘zhijue yundong’ is what Wu Cheng-Ching called ‘knowing with the body’, in contrast to ‘knowing with the mind’. ‘Knowing with the mind’ is the sensing/perceiving as we commonly know and not only is it inferior to ‘knowing with the body’ neither is it appropriate nor sufficient for Taichi as pointed out by Wu Cheng-Ching. Wu also equates ‘knowing with the body’ to ‘dong jin’ – that body moves in the fashion of ‘zhijue yundong’ as if it knows how to move without thinking of the brain is what ‘dong jin’ is about.
[This message has been edited by ShowHong (edited 06-23-2006).]
[This message has been edited by ShowHong (edited 06-23-2006).]