To enter the gate ...

To enter the gate ...

Postby Phocion » Mon Jul 31, 2006 11:28 pm

I've become interested in two lines from the "Thirteen Postures Song" (or "Song of the Thirteen Postures"). After reading a couple of translations (Barbara Davis and Lo, Inn, et. al), I began to wonder what the original said; but not reading Chinese, I was reduced to plugging English candidates into Zhongwen.com and hoping the proper character came up (Davis gives the Chinese text so I could compare). I would then try to make sense of the line given the definitions of the Chinese graphs.

The first line is pretty clear, but I can't make out the second line, except in a general way, even with two translations to help me. So I'm appealing to the Chinese readers on this board for help.

Davis (The Taijiquan Classics, p. 147/p. 163) renders the lines as:

To enter into study (ru men) one must have the oral teachings (kou shou);
to labor without rest is the method of cultivating oneself.

Lo/Inn (The Essence of T'ai Chi Ch'uan, p. 65) render the lines as:

To enter the door and be shown the way,
you must be orally taught.
The practice is uninterrupted,
and the technique (achieved) by self study.

From what I can tell, Lo/Inn stay closer to the imagery of the first line. And the sense of the whole is pretty clear (Another must show you the way, but you must do the work). But what, exactly, does the second line say?

Dave
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue Aug 01, 2006 2:39 am

入门引路须口授, 功夫无息法自修.

"Entering the gate and tracing the route requires oral instruction,
with ceaseless work, the method becomes refined by itself." *

Note: Davis' rendering of the second line is syntactically impossible. Lo loses the cause and effect quality of the second line.

* The force of the second line is that ceaseless gongfu causes the method to be refined automatically, literally 'the method refines itself', or alternatively 'the method becomes refined naturally'.




[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 07-31-2006).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Aug 01, 2006 4:20 am

Greetings Dave,

The lines you mention are a rhymed couplet:

Ru men yin lu xu kou shou,
Gong fu wu xi fa zi xiu.

Rumen, as you’ve discovered, means to “enter the gate,” but this phrase has a long history of being used analogically for “crossing the threshold” into training, or becoming privy to important knowledge or wisdom. In the Confucian Analects, for example, Zigong, in reference to Kongzi’s teachings, remarks, “Unless one is able to enter the gate, one cannot see the beauty of the ancestral temple or the richness of the estate.” The following phrase, yinlu, means “to lead the way” or to be led the way on a path. The graph xu means “must” or “requires.” The final compound, koushou, means “oral instruction.” So, I render the line:
“Entering the gate and being led to the path, this must come from oral guidance.”

The next line begins with gongfu—“effort” that leads to accomplishment. Wuxi means “without pause.” Fa means “method,” or “to model.” The final compound, zixiu, means “self training,” or “self cultivation.” I render the line: “To ceaselessly exert oneself in the method is self-cultivation,” or “is the method of self-cultivation.” This second line is difficult to translate, as it can be interpreted differently depending upon how you parse it. For example, T. T. Liang rendered it, “If one practices constantly and studies carefully, one’s skill will take care of itself.” Yang Jwing-ming, on the other hand, translates: “practice without ceasing, the way is through self-study.” But in general the couplet refers to the necessity of being accepted by a teacher and receiving direct instruction, and the further necessity of pursuing individual training.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Phocion » Tue Aug 01, 2006 5:42 pm

Jerry & Louis,

Thanks very much for your replies. It was the self-referential quality of the second line that eluded me. Practice refines itself and also refines the practician. Very nice!

Thanks again.

Dave
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Aug 01, 2006 6:08 pm

Greetings Dave,

It’s been quite a while since I’ve looked carefully at this document, but I find Jerry’s interpretation very persuasive. There seems to be a theme in the document as a whole that unrelenting effort is required, but that the result seems as though it is obtained effortlessly. A good while back, I encountered a chengyu (proverbial saying) with wording very similar to an earlier couplet in the “Song of the Thirteen Postures” that evokes this “effort endeavor/effortless result” idea. The chengyu is roughly “Wear out iron shoes in a fruitless search, [yet] when you’ve attained it [it seems you’ve] expended no effort.” It’s kind of like the old joke, “Why is it that my keys are always in the last place I look?” (Ans.: because once you’ve found them you stop searching!) It’s one of those perennial paradoxes that unrelenting effort will eventually pay dividends of effortless accomplishment. In any case, the message is clearly that one must expend effort in training.

By the way, I asked Yang Jun a few years ago about this similarity of wording between the chengyu and the Song of 13 couple in the ‘Ask Yang Jun’ forum: http://www.yangfamilytaichi.com/ubb/Forum16/HTML/000001.html

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Aug 02, 2006 7:52 pm

Greetings Jerry,

Another wild idea occurred to me regarding to the second line in the couplet: "Gongfu wuxi fa zi xiu." It seems to me one difficulty lies in whether to read “fa” as a noun or as a verb, and in turn, whether to read “xiu” as a verb, or as part of a noun phrase: “zixiu,” which is an established term for “self-cultivation” or “self-training.” I was looking at one of Yang Jwing-ming’s books that includes the Chinese for the “Song of the Thirteen Postures,” and there was an apparent misprint—the last compound reads “ziran” instead of “zixiu,” hence “nature” or “spontaneity.” I’m fairly certain this was a misprint, because I haven’t seen this variant in any other printed version of the “Thirteen.” Moreover, it does not jibe with YJM’s own translation: “practice without ceasing, the way is through self-study.”

In any case, seeing that ending—“fa ziran”—immediately made me think of the famous ending lines of Chapter 25 in the Daodejing: “ren fa di, di fa tian, tian fa dao, dao fa ziran.” As you know, there are many translations of the Daodejing, and many ways of rendering these lines. A few years ago, I came to the conclusion that a good translation for “fa” in these lines is a verbal “models,” as in “to give shape to, according to a pattern or standard.” That is “models” can mean “to emulate,” as in “to take as a model, follow the example of, pattern oneself after,” etc. So I would render the DDJ lines: “Humans model earth, earth models heaven, heaven models Dao, Dao models what is so-of-itself.” There is a sort of productive ambiguity in the English verb that I think is evident in the verbal “fa” as well, at least as it is used in these DDJ lines. That is, “to model” is to follow a pattern, but it is also to give shape to something—it is a productive result.

So, a possible reading of the “Song of Thirteen” line might be: “Practicing without ceasing models self-cultivation.” I know it’s awkward, but it seems plausible.

What do you think?

Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Aug 02, 2006 11:56 pm

Yes, that's the other syntactic possibility. However when I read it I see a kind of cause and effect relationship of gongfu wu xi <---> fa zi xiu which makes so much sense that I find the other approach - 'work on it ceaselessly, take self-refinement as model' weak and easily rejected. There is a sense here that good instruction, though a prerequisite, can only take you so far, after which there is a self correcting effect which results from continuous training. My take on it, anyway.
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Aug 03, 2006 12:07 am

From my own practice I have come to the conclusion that once you really 'get' the 10 essentials, you don't really need a teacher any more, because you can correct yourself via application of the principles. I will admit, however, that I do seem to get a little boost every time I watch a very good practitioner.
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Postby Gu Rou Chen » Fri Aug 04, 2006 4:21 am

I guess this is basically what you guys are saying:


R¨´m¨¦n y¨«n-l¨´ x¨± k¨¯u-sh¨¯u
G¨­ngfu w¨²x¨© f¨£ z¨¬xi¨±


Starting out and getting on the right track you must learn directly from a teacher.
Your Kung-fu skill has to be developed with the regular practice of modeling after the teacher and self-correction.


You have to have direct contact with your teacher and then work hard at it yourself.

Jeff

[This message has been edited by Gu Rou Chen (edited 08-03-2006).]
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Postby Richard Man » Tue Aug 15, 2006 1:42 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JerryKarin:
[B]入门引路须口授, 功夫无息法自修.

"Entering the gate and tracing the route requires oral instruction,
with ceaseless work, the method becomes refined by itself." *

...
* The force of the second line is that ceaseless gongfu causes the method to be refined automatically, literally 'the method refines itself', or alternatively 'the method becomes refined naturally' </font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Jerry, I think your translation is brilliant. "The method refines itself" is a consistent theme, IMHO, of Internal Martial Arts. e.g. if you practice the "right" ways, you will improve just by practicing.
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue Aug 15, 2006 4:41 am

Heh heh, well it may not be so brilliant. I was talking to Yang Jun at the seminar in Connecticut about this passage and his take on it indicated to me that he was taking fa zixiu as a topic-comment sentence: 'as for method, (you must) cultivate yourself'. I think however you parse those three words there is broad agreement that the passage is talking about two things: the need for good instruction to begin, followed by never ending work on your own.
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Postby Richard Man » Tue Aug 15, 2006 7:43 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JerryKarin:
Heh heh, well it may not be so brilliant. I was talking to Yang Jun at the seminar in Connecticut about this passage and his take on it indicated to me that he was taking fa zixiu as a topic-comment sentence: 'as for method, (you must) cultivate yourself'. I think however you parse those three words there is broad agreement that the passage is talking about two things: the need for good instruction to begin, followed by never ending work on your own.</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

:-)

Perhaps too brilliant even for master Yang :-) (only kidding of course)
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Postby Audi » Wed Aug 16, 2006 2:08 am

Hi all,

One of things I also understood from Yang Jun's lectures at the seminar in Connecticutt was that a teacher can take you only so far. Beyond that, you must develop your own method, depending on your own body shape and natural endowment. Ž©C (Zi4 xiu1) can mean not only "study of oneself," but also "study by oneself."
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Postby fol » Mon Aug 28, 2006 5:53 pm

Yang Jun has been thinking about this verse; here's his translation and gloss from the Michigan seminar:

"Gongfu never ends;
the method--you have to find it for yourself."

That is, he explained, as you face different opponents in push hands.

Or, further, there's the saying "the teacher opens the door." Then it's up to you to choose what to see on your tour--how much detail you want to focus on [while practicing for martial or health reasons. I was getting the visual image here of a door to a museum or art gallery, for what it's worth.]
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Postby Kalamondin » Tue Aug 29, 2006 5:39 am

In one of Yang Jun's lessons, he said that a teacher can open the gate but cannot force the student to enter. That more practice is the only way in.
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