The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Monday, June 10, 2019

The Taijiquan Sword Form

Below is an excerpt from a post at The Tai Chi Chuan Pedagogic Center regarding the myths and legends of the Taijiquan Sword Form. The full post may be read here.

Each of the Yang Family forms embodies the core principles of Taijiquan, yet each has a different flavor. In practicing the Sword Form, or Taijijian, we are told to show light and flowing movement.
The need for such lightness can be seen in the distinct nature of the names of the postures. Of the 67 named postures, more than 40 of them refer to flying creatures, wind, or sky. While the hand form calls for measured steps and sharp distinctions between empty and full, the Sword Form invites us to fly and flow more with our outward movements. Judging by the names of the sword form postures, we must wield our sword as if following the movements of wasps, swallows, geese, and falling leaves. At other times, we must “Embrace the Moon” or chase it like a shooting star or comet.
In order to enrich our practice, we must engage body, mind and spirit. Giving thought to the images the posture names can help guide our movements in the proper way. Many of the names are easy to understand, but others are not so familiar to those with limited familiarity with Chinese culture. The purpose of this article is to explore some of these images and their possible relevance to our practice.

STARS


Early in the Sword Form, we meet two star postures, Da Kui Xing and Xiao Kui Xing. For want of precise equivalents, these can be translated as the Big and Little Dipper. It turns out that “Kui Xing” can be seen as a reference to the four stars that form the bowl of the Big Dipper and particularly to the star at its tip. “Kui Xing” could also be understood literally to mean the “Chief Star.”
This “Chief Star” is associated with the God of Literature, who is often depicted as standing on one leg, waiving a brush over his head with one hand and holding an inkwell before his body with the other.
The reason he stands on one leg is unclear, but it could be because his persona has merged with that of a legendary one-legged mountain monster of old. This monster’s name is spelled with a different character, but has the same pronunciation, “kui.” In this meaning, the sounds of the name “Kui Xing” would evoke the sense of the “the Star of the One-Legged Monster.”
One tale about Kui Xing is as follows. One year, a scholar came in first during the civil service exams that were the road to fame, fortune, and respect for the elite in traditional China’s imperial society. Unfortunately, this scholar was so ugly that the emperor shied away and failed to accord him the customary honors. Humiliated, the scholar tried to drown himself in a river, but was saved by a sea beast that carried him up into the heavens. There, he became the god of the star at the tip of the big dipper and the patron god of literature and scholarship.
The next time you perform these postures, make sure to copy Kui Xing’s pose and show enough spirit to scare off an emperor.

DRAGONS

One flying animal that is named again and again among the postures is the dragon, but the Chinese dragon is not quite like the dragons described in European tradition. Dragons in the west are often conceived of as evil dinosaurs with bat-like wings. They breathe fire as they fly around, devastating the countryside. The Chinese Dragon, however, is usually considered an auspicious being. Most types do not have wings, but often fly by virtue of their magic power. This power is sometimes represented by a pearl that the dragon clutches in its claws. Unlike the Dragons sometimes depicted in the west, Chinese dragons have snake-like bodies and use coiling motions familiar to anyone that has witnessed a dragon-dance performed for the Chinese New Year.
After the posture Casting the Fishing Rod or Waiting for the Fish (Deng Yu Shi), there is a posture that has two alternate names. One is Poking the Grass to Seek the Snake, and the other could be translated as Dragon Walk Posture. While the first name seems self explanatory, “dragon walk” might seem to present a puzzle. The answer becomes clear if we remember the zigzagging coiling motion of the dragon dance. Rather than advance head-on against our opponent and violate the principles of Taijiquan, we advance with a sinuous motion, alternately flowing right and left as we parry and thrust with the sword.
Later in the form, we meet some specific dragons of myth and legend. First there is the “Black Dragon [that] Sways its Tail.” Later on, a “Black Dragon Twists Around the Pole/Pillar.”


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