[i]Chansijin[/i] (Silk Reeling Energy)

Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Feb 28, 2006 7:54 pm

Greetings Yuri,

I think that the terms chansi and chousi can certainly be seen to describe attributes that are common to all styles of taijiquan, including the threading of jin from joint to joint; generation of power that is based on spiral movement (explicit or implicit); tactile sensitivity and continuity, and so forth. Gu seems to be saying that because these attribute are all present in all taijiquan, therefore chansijin and chousijin are essentially the same thing. On the face of it, I think that this is a valid proposition.

The case that Wu Tunan is making addresses a very different set of issues. He seems to be arguing against muddying the waters of taiji theory and language. Wu is making a case that the terms “chansi,” “chansijin,” and “chousi” are proprietary language, and not strictly portable from one tradition to the other. The terms may do a fine job of describing recognizable attributes, but using them only as descriptive terms may mean that we ignore how and where they apply from the standpoint of history and tradition.

In this context, we need to ask:

Is the *term* chansijin proprietary to Chen martial arts tradition?

Do we have evidence of the term being used before its appearance in Chen Xin’s book, written in the early 1900s? It could well be that Chen was passing along terminology that was well established in oral tradition, but how can that be corroborated?

Is there any evidence of the terms chansi, chansijin, or chousijin being used in early Yang tradition? The written record seems to indicate a negative answer on all three. There is a text in the Wu Jianquan tradition, in Wu Gongzao’s book, that specifically elucidates the concept chansijin, but it was likely written after Chen Xin wrote his book, and may have been influenced by his writings.

In the earlier texts claimed as part of the Yang classical corpus, there is indeed the phrase “chousi”—used in a metaphorical way to describe a quality of movement. (As I have indicated in another post, “chousi” appears to be a well-established metaphor in usage beyond the realm of taijiquan.) But to assert that there is some such thing as “chousijin” may just be an extrapolation from the term “chansijin.” I think that may be sloppy thinking.

Gu sites a couple of texts handed down by Yang Banhou that include language about spiral movement. Well, just because he prescribes spiral movement, and Chen Xin used the terms chansi and chansijin to describe spiral movement, does not make a clear case for applying those terms to Yang tradition.

These are just a few questions I have; there are plenty more to be asked. I look forward to more discussion on this issue.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Mar 01, 2006 6:24 am

Here's a rough translation of the beginning of the essay. I will add to it as I get time

Taking up the question of silk reeling energy

by Gu Liuxin (posthumous)
edited by Yuan Chuang

Editors note: This article was written by Professor Gu Liuxin for Tiyubao (magazine) and was originally intended as the conclusion to some related arguments about taijiquan, but later, for various reasons was never published. Reading this now, not only does it contain historical value, but it also can serve to clarify a lot of seemingly correct but actually confused ideas. Although 40 years have passed, this proves to have quite a bit of value.


After Xu Zhiyi published his article "A sketch of the issue of Silk Reeling energy in taijiquan" in the June 1st, 1964 edition of Tiyubao a good deal of controversy was generated. The climate of research on Chinese martial arts had hitherto fallen behind other areas, and so this controversy was a good starting point.

The crux of the discussion has been whether or not silk reeling (chansijing) and silk pulling (chousijing) are the same. The different schools of thought with regard to this question break down into two categories: the first contends that silk reeling is unique to Chen style taiji and that silk reeling and silk pulling are two different things. The second school of thought holds that silk reeling is a common quality of all styles of taijiquan and that silk reeling and silk pulling are identical.

The first school of thought, aside from its basic view (silk reeling is unique to Chen style) is divided on the question of the differences between silk reeling and silk pulling. Aside from Chen style, do other styles have pulling silk energy? Xu Zhiyi's article is somewhat confused on this point. "Silk pulling is the most generalized taiji energy", "Silk reeling is merely one of the manifestations of pulling silk", this is Zhao Renqing's viewpoint. "Among the various energies of taijiquan, pulling silk energy, spiraling energy, and silk reeling energy are all different", "Pulling silk energy is not an energy used to gain ascendance over an opponent", "Spiralling energy and silk reeling energy are used to gain ascendance over an opponent", this is Li Jingwu's viewpoint. Meng Hongji, Hong Junsheng, and Long Fengwu have written some analysis and criticism of the the differences within the agreement of the advocates of this school of thought, the contradictions among them, the internal contradictions of the viewpoint of each, as well as the conceptual and logical contradictions of this group. In the interest of brevity, this essay will mainly take up Mr. Xu's position.

We advocate the second position. My own view of this problem is: Silk reeling and silk pulling are synonomous, both using an image to express the winding and turning forward and backward esoteric movement characteristic of taijiquan, and are the special characteristic of taijiquan which distinguishes it from other martial arts (hard and soft, fast and slow, movement and quiescence, extraordinary strength or skill are common requirements of all martial arts). Without this main characteristic one cannot totally exhibit the uniqueness of this Chinese art of taijiquan. Ordinarily when we say this person's performance seems like real taijiquan, there is something in what he is doing, our judgement is always primarily in accordance with this special characteristic. Silk reeling (silk pulling) infused throughout the process of performing taijiquan is the commonality (common character - silk reeling) existing within the particular quality (individual quality - each style of taijiquan). If you depart from the particular specialty then the commonality won't exist and likewise, if you depart from the commonality (silk reeling) then the particular specialty ceases to exist (each style of taiji).

The method of practicing silk reeling and it's unique use

The method of practicing silk reeling is actually extremely ordinary and simple. Within the requirements of "use the mind to move the qi, use the qi to move the body" and so if one part moves all parts move with inner and outer matching up, one continuously rotates waist and turns backbone, above rotating upper arm and forearm, turning the palms, below rotating ankle and knee, changing the energy at the crotch, forming a fused body into a whole system endlessly extending in space making up a spiralling movement.
Silk reeling technique can be divided into two types: one is forward reeling where the palm turns from facing inward to facing outward, and the other is reverse reeling where the palm turns from facing outward to facing inward.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 03-01-2006).]

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 03-01-2006).]
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Postby Yuri Snisarenko » Wed Mar 01, 2006 8:47 am

Greetings All,

Louis,
I completely share your point about the other questions following this one. Undoubtedly spiral movements more or less are present in various branches of yang style. I think that method of spiraling movement somehow affects the amount of producing power. What I am trying to figure out at the moment – are there different approaches and what is essential in them.

Wu Tunan's view on taiji theory was indeed somewhat out of norm and common viewpoint. But he was a disciple of Yang Shouhou and witnessed his ability and skills. So his point of view regarding taiji theory was probably influenced by that. It's hard to discuss Wu Tunan's ideas about what taiji is and what is not without producing provocations. One thing he liked to talk about - taiji doesn't need a much effort (shijin) in the movments. Probably it somehow relates to the way he seen chousi jin.

Take care,
Yuri



[This message has been edited by Yuri Snisarenko (edited 03-01-2006).]
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Postby Yuri Snisarenko » Wed Mar 01, 2006 12:23 pm

//

[This message has been edited by Yuri Snisarenko (edited 05-07-2006).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Mar 01, 2006 5:06 pm

I think the problem is not only a textual one: does the term chansijin appear in Yang texts. If Yang style uses the same technique or method (and this is something we can learn from living practitioners), just 'less evident' as Gu puts it, and they got their art from the Chen family, who call this technique chansijing, and the Yangs have a similar image of 'drawing silk' (compared to Chen 'unreeling silk'), a rose by any other name...

So far I have yet to see a satisfying explanation of how chousi would be different from chansi.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Mar 01, 2006 5:53 pm

Greetings Jerry,

Re: “So far I have yet to see a satisfying explanation of how chousi would be different from chansi.”

Perhaps chousi would not be different from chansi, but “chousijin” as a term of designation would be different *in usage* from “chousi” in its appearance in the Mental Elucidation of the 13 Shi: “yun jin ru chousi.” One is nominal designation; one is a metaphor.

Perhaps Wu was trying to stem the tide of Jinflation.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Mar 01, 2006 6:00 pm

Interesting that Hao Weizhen calls it mahuajing. Mahua is a kind of confection and the name, according to Gu, apparently comes from the way it is stirred with a stick.


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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Mar 01, 2006 6:15 pm

Hi Jerry,

Mahua, besides the pastry, also means "hemp flower," doesn't it? Hmmmm, interesting.

By the way, have you encountered this chengyu?: ²¡À´Èçɽµ¹£¬²¡È¥Èç³éË¿. "Illness comes like an avalanche, but goes like pulling silk." That is, an illness arrives out of the blue, unexpectedly, but it goes away slowly and incrementally. Again, the metaphor of drawing silk is well-established, and has important overtones regarding slow, methodical processes that involve patience and attention to detail. (This one is from the Hong Lou Meng, I gather.) So a case could be made that chousi has entailments that do not apply in chansi.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Mar 01, 2006 6:17 pm

I think the ma in this case is zhima, sesame.
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Mar 01, 2006 6:20 pm

I hadn't heard that chengyu. I do think that in taiji contexts the silk metaphor refers to the winding, as opposed to the slowness which appears elsewhere.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Mar 01, 2006 6:39 pm

Hi Jerry,

Re: “I do think that in taiji contexts the silk metaphor refers to the winding, as opposed to the slowness which appears elsewhere.”

Well, just to repeat Wu Tunan’s comments:

‘If you pull the silk abruptly it will break, when you pull it improperly, the silk won’t come out. This is a metaphor for training the energy (jin) of taijiquan. It cannot be excessively forceful, nor excessively fragile; it has to be just right. These kinds of metaphors are numerous, such as: “mobilize jin that is like well-tempered steel,” “as though drawing a bow,” and “issue jin as though releasing an arrow.” There are some people, then, who have illogically contrived to make the words chou si be regarded as a designation for a kind of jin, even mistakenly giving explanations of some sort of “chousijin.” We should ask, then, if it were possible to also have some sort of “releasing arrow jin,” or “well tempered steel jin”—wouldn’t that be laughable?’

I’ve seen other commentaries that use very similar explanations of the meaning of drawing silk, so I don’t think Wu was alone on that point.

Proprietary language can capture important differences. For example, the car I drive is a gasoline-electric hybrid. In almost all respects, its operation and behavior in terms of getting from point A to point B are the same as for a conventional gasoline powered car. Steering is steering. Accelerating is accelerating, etc. However, when it comes to braking, there is a proprietary term for its operation on a hybrid—regenerative braking—that refers to the fact that as you brake, the energy of deceleration is recaptured and stored in the batteries for use in the electrical component of the power plant. To refer to the braking system of a conventional gas or diesel car as regenerative braking would be using proprietary language in an inappropriate way.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Mar 01, 2006 7:54 pm

heh heh, well therein lies the controversy! I tend to come down on the other side, with Gu Liuxin, because it seems to me that I detect the same type of turning, winding movement that the Chens call chansijing in what the Yangs do, though they don't use that phrase. On the other hand I have never heard them talk about anything like Wu Tunan is discussing there. In fact, reading Wu Tunan's comments above, I can't really see what I am supposed to take away from Ô˶¯Èç³éË¿ 'movement like drawing silk'.

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Postby laopei » Thu Mar 02, 2006 12:28 am

I don't know any chinese. I remember what Teacher Yang Zhenduo has repeated more than often since I first met him in 1990.
Some of what he said has been printed and is available:

3 quotes from tai chi Magazine:

An Interview with Yang Zhenduo (1990):
T'AI CHI: Is there chan ssu jing (silk reeling energy)in the Yang style?
Yang Zhenduo: The Yang style does not have such a word as chan ssu jing. Chen style is unique to have that. But in the Yang style what we have is twisting and continuous motion. It has the chan ssu jing element, but we do not call it chan ssu jing.

1995 Yang Zhenduo on: Yang Style’s Growing Potentials.

Chan Si jing (silk coiling energy) in the Yang style involves changing of the hand positions, Yang said. He cited the example of the movement Wave Hands Like Clouds where there is emphasis on the rotation of the arms and hands.
"In the Yang style, it (chan Si jing) is not as apparent as in the Chen style. But that content is incorporated in the Yang style," he said. "It is done subtly in the change of the hand position.
"In the Yang style," he said," most energy has the nature of peng jing (ward off) energy. In T'ai Chi's development, each style has its own characteristics and specialties, and in the Yang style peng jing is No. 1. Everything is based on peng jing and compared to chan Si jing it is totally different. If emphasis was all on chan Si jing, then Yang style would be the same as the Chen style.

1997, Yang Zhenduo on: Cultivating A Calm Mind:
Similarly, he said the Yang style does not talk about dantian rotations internally. "The Yang style doesn't concentrate on the internal rotation of the dantian. We just sink the qi to the dan-ti an. This is also part of the gradual development of the Yang style so it can be practiced by everybody.
"As long as you settle the qi in the dantian and your heart is calm, then your practice is natural and calm. That is enough. This is easier to learn and easier to practice for everyone. You loosen the entire body, coordinate all the movements in the joints so that your four limbs are dependent on the movement of the waist, and you use the waist like the universal joint of a car. When the waist leads the movement, the waist will engage the movement of the abdomen.
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Postby laopei » Thu Mar 02, 2006 12:38 am

Hi Jerry:
you posted on 02-26-2006 11:19 PM (quote)
When you begin the form you rotate arms moving from palms facing hips to facing backwards. This is forward silk reeling.
Did Teacher Yang actually ever said that or is it just your understanding?
I am curious because people like me who don't understand chinese are dependent in translators to get the full meaning of what the teacher said. I have never hear Teacher Yang ever said that the opening move was "forward silk reeling"
It is difficult to translate: I remember once YZD used what sounded to me as 6 words. The translator said "relax the waist". I asked the translator to clarify. He asked YZD and YZD said: sung you, sung kua, kai tung. (I apologized with my transliteration of sounds).
The point: he said much more than what was translated in the instance I am relating.
Did he ever described the opening movement as "This is forward silk reeling" or again, is this just "your" understanding.
Horacio
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Postby laopei » Thu Mar 02, 2006 12:39 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by laopei:
<B>Hi Jerry:
you posted on 02-26-2006 11:19 PM (quote)
"When you begin the form you rotate arms moving from palms facing hips to facing backwards. This is forward silk reeling."
Did Teacher Yang actually ever said that or is it just your understanding?
I am curious because people like me who don't understand chinese are dependent in translators to get the full meaning of what the teacher said. I have never hear Teacher Yang ever said that the opening move was "forward silk reeling"
It is difficult to translate: I remember once YZD used what sounded to me as 6 words. The translator said "relax the waist". I asked the translator to clarify. He asked YZD and YZD said: sung you, sung kua, kai tung. (I apologized with my transliteration of sounds). He had said sink/loose/relax waist; sink/loose relax the kua and open the tung (round the crotch)
The point: he said much more than what was translated in the instance I am relating.
Did he ever described the opening movement as "This is forward silk reeling" and it did not get translated that way or again, is this just "your" understanding.
Horacio</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>



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