Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

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 ~

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cheng Man Ching

Cheng Man Ching, the Master of Five Excellences (Taiji, painting, poetry, traditional Chinese medicine, and chess) was one of the most important figures in bringing the art of Taijiquan to the United States. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a blog I've found that is dedicated specifically to CMC.

The owner of this blog, Mark Hennessey, has translated several of Prof. Cheng's non-taiji writings into English. A link is also found over to the right. Please pay him a visit.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pushing Hands

Pushing hands is the name of a film by Ang Lee. It is also a main exercise in the practice of internal martial arts. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the Answer Pages article on the movie, Pushing Hands. Below is an excerpt.

Pushing Hands (Chinese: 推手; pinyin: Tuī Shǒu) is a film directed by Ang Lee. Released in 1992, it was his first feature film. It was one of the first of Lee's films to feature Sihung Lung in a major role.

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

The story is about an elderly Chinese T'ai Chi Ch'uan teacher and grandfather (played by Sihung Lung) who emigrates from China to live with his son, his American daughter-in-law and his grandson in a New York City suburb. The grandfather is increasingly distanced from the family as he is a "fish out of water" in Western culture and he does not care to participate in the materialistic life style prevalent in the West. The film shows the contrast between traditional Chinese ideas of Confucian relationships within a family and the much more informal Western emphasis on the individual. The friction in the family caused by these differing expectations eventually leads to the grandfather moving out of the family home (something very alien to traditional expectations), and in the process he learns lessons (some comical, some poignant) about how he must adapt to his new surroundings before he comes to terms with his new life.

The title of the film refers to the pushing hands training that is part of the grandfather's T'ai Chi routine. Pushing hands is a two person training which teaches T'ai Chi students to yield in the face of brute force. T'ai Chi Ch'uan teachers were persecuted in China during the Cultural Revolution, and his family was broken up as a result. The grandfather sent his son to the West several years earlier and when he could he came to live with his family with the expectation of picking up where they left off, but he was unprepared for the very different atmosphere of the West. "Pushing Hands" thereby alludes to the process of adaptation to culture shock felt by a traditional teacher in moving to the United States.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Flying Tigers

Nothing says "prepare to get your ass kicked" like the shark's mouth painted on the aircraft of the famous Flying Tigers. Below is an except from the article on the Flying Tigers. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the entire article.

The photo was taken by one of the Flying Tigers, R.T. Smith. It is copyrighted and used by permission. The story about the photo itself is pretty interesting:

Flying Tigers (Traditional Chinese: 飛虎隊, Simplified Chinese: 飞虎队; pinyin: Fēi Hǔ Duì) was the nickname of the American Volunteer Group, a fighter unit that fought in Burma and China, against Japanese forces during the year prior to the United States participation in World War II. After the dissolution of the AVG in mid-1942, the name was applied to its successor military unit, the 23rd Fighter Group, and more broadly to the China Air Task Force and the U.S. 14th Air Force. The shark faced fighters remain among the most recognizable of any individual combat unit of WWII, and they demonstrated innovative tactical victories when the news was filled with nothing but defeat after defeat by the Japanese at the start of WWII before American involvement.

The Flying Tigers had their first combat on December 20 1941, when they shot down three Japanese bombers near Kunming and damaged a fourth sufficiently that it crashed before returning to its airfield in northern Vietnam. The 3rd Squadron — 18 planes strong — defended Rangoon in December 23-25 and claimed approximately 90 planes, most of them heavy bombers. Other squadrons were rotated through Rangoon in January and February 1942. After the fall of Rangoon to the Japanese in March, the AVG was redeployed to bases in northern Burma and finally in China. Not surprisingly, later research has shown Japanese losses to have been smaller than believed at the time. The AVG was officially credited with 297 enemy aircraft destroyed, including 229 in the air (some popular accounts inflate the total to 500 or even 1,000 planes), but author Daniel Ford calculated that the AVG actually destroyed about 115 enemy aircraft in the air and on the ground.

Thirteen pilots were killed in action, captured, or disappeared on combat missions; two were killed in ground accidents; and eight were killed in flying accidents during the Flying Tigers' existence. One of the more famous pilots was Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, who was dishonorably discharged in April 1942. He went on to command the Black Sheep Squadron, with many similarities to the Flying Tigers, and was one of two AVG veterans (the other being James Howard of the USAAF) to be awarded the Medal of Honor in combat. Other notable AVG veterans were David Lee "Tex" Hill, later commander of the USAAF 23rd Fighter Group; Charles Older, who postwar earned a law degree, became a California Superior Court judge, and presided at the murder trial of Charles Manson; and Kenneth Jernstedt, long-time Oregon legislator and mayor of his home town of Hood River.

Many in China have not forgotten the Flying Tigers. Many model aircraft bear the slogan "Ding Hao", which means "very good" or "hot stuff" in Chinese, and there are pictures and movies of Chinese making a thumbs up gesture at American pilots. Some Chinese fathers who lived from the period told ther sons that it was actually the American pilots who picked the Chinese gesture for "you are number one", and people from China today can confirm the meaning of this gesture. This gesture appeared about the same time as the AVG deployment.
Thumbs up remains a common signal among US and other combat pilots. The blood chit on the back of leather flying jacket complete with Chinese writing and flag is still a common fashion statement even to those who have never heard of the Flying Tigers. Toy and hobby stores still stock model and toys of shark mouthed Tomahawk, some with the Chinese nationalist insignia. One 1960s magazine even featured a flying tiger shooting peas in a food magazine. The tactics used in combat to maximize the effectiveness and minimize the weakness of your own planes would be relearned over Korea and Vietnam with creation of specialized air combat schools such as TOPGUN and designing fighters specifically for combat agility after America had entered every war with fighters deficient in maneuverability.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


The Tang Dynasty was a high point of culture in the history of China. All forms of art were esteemed, especially poetry. No occasion; no homecoming or leaving taking, no celebration, no event of any consequence was complete without a poem to accompany it.

Some of the best poems of that era has been compiled into a well known anthology, The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of this classic work of art. Poem #20 follows.

Meng Haoran

Now that the sun has set beyond the western range,
Valley after valley is shadowy and dim....
And now through pine-trees come the moon and the chill of evening,
And my ears feel pure with the sound of wind and water
Nearly all the woodsmen have reached home,
Birds have settled on their perches in the quiet mist....

And still -- because you promised -- I am waiting for you, waiting,
Playing lute under a wayside vine.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Autumn Leaves

Raking the leaves.
Imposing an order,
Leaves or me?

- Pinetree (松)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fudoshin and Zanshin

Fudoshin 不動心, and Zanshin 残心 are to key concepts in understanding Budo. Below is an excerpt from an article linked to If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

The presence of combat integrity develops fudoshin, or "immovable mind." Fudoshin is one of the major tenets of budo and refers to a state of mind that is impenetrable and immovable. In this case, immovable requires some explanation since it is being used in a Japanese philosophical context and therefore has a more elevated meaning than we would normally expect or associate in English.

Fudoshin does not indicate a state of mind that is inflexible, but rather, it points to a condition that is not easily upset by internal thoughts or external factors. "This mind that remains unruffled and calm is imperturbable, unattached and unfettered mind... It is the ultimate mind of mastery, achievable only through rigorous training, and equally rigorous soul-searching and spirit forging (seishin tanren, in Japanese) through the confrontation and overcoming of our own fears and weaknesses" (Fabian).

Fudoshin is directly related to another Japanese concept known as zanshin, or "continuing mind." Zanshin refers to a state of constant and continuous awareness or alertness. Zanshin applies to your awareness of the world around you. You notice the people around you how they stand, how they carry themselves, what is in their eyes because you need to be prepared to interact with them. You are present in the moment. Much of the reigi, or "methods of respect" in budo, particularly bowing (standing and seated) and other forms of etiquette are design with zanshin in mind.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The 36 Strategies: #19 Take Firewood Out From Under the Pot

We've covered half of the 36 strategies, before moving ahead, let's review.

The First Group of Six: Stratagems When Commanding Superiority

Strategy 1 - Cross the sea by fooling the sky (Man tian guo hai)
A familiar sight provokes no attention - Chinese Proverb

Secrets Often hide in the open. In fact, the more obvious a situation seems, the more profound the secrets it may hide.

People tend to ignore the familiar. This is the principle behind the stratagem of crossing the sea by fooling the sky.

Strategy 2 -Besiege the kingdom of Wei to save the kingdom of Zhao (Wei wei jiu zhao)
He who knows the art of the direct and indirect approach will b victorious.
Such is the art of maneuvering. - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Strategy 3 -Kill with a borrowed Kife (Jie dao sha ren)
If you want to do something, make your opponent do it for you. - Chinese Military Principle

Strategy 4 -Relax while the enemy exhausts himself (Yiyi dai lao)
The female overcomes the male with stillness. - Lao Zi, The Way of Power

Strategy 5 -Loot a burning house (Chen huo da jie)
An enemy with troubles at home is ripe for the conquest - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Strategy 6 -Make a feint to the east while attacking in the west (Sheng dong ji xi)
The commander who knows how to attack makes his enemy not know where to defend - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The Second Group of Six: Stratagems For Confrontation

Strategy 7 -Create something out of nothing (Wu zhong sheng you)
Everything in the universe is created from something, which in turn is created from nothing - Lao Zi, The Way of Power

Strategy 8 -Pretend to take one path while sneaking down another (An du chen cang)
Attack succeeds where the enemy neglects defense - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Strategy 9 -Watch the fires burning across the river (Gean guan huo)
A clam was sunbathing with its shell open when a crane came along and pecked at its flesh. The clam snapped shut, catching the crane's long beak. Neither would yeild to the other. Finally a fisherman came by and cought both of them - Chinese Fable

Strategy 10 -Conceal a dagger in a smile (Xiao lo cang dao)
The man with honey on his lips hides murder in his heart - Chinese Saying

Strategy 11 -Sacrifice the plum tree for the peach tree (Li dai tao jiang)
A Peach tree grows beside the well; A plum tree takes root by it side. When worms invade the peach tree's base,
The plum tree is sacrificed - Chinese Folk Song

Strategy 12 -Take the opportunity to pilfer a goat (Shun shou qian yang)
Many grains of sand piled up a pagoda make - Chinese Saying

The Third Group of Six: Stratagems For Attack

Strategy 13 - Beat the grass to startle the snake (Da cao jing she)
One can win without a fight - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Strategy 14 -Raise a corpse from the dead (Jei shi huan hun)
If you lack the proper title, people won't listen to you; and if they don't isten , your orders won't be carried out - Confucius

Strategy 15 -Lure the tiger out of the mountain (Diao hu li shan)
Good opportunitie are not as important as favorable terrain - Mencius

Strategy 16 -Snag the enemy by letting him off the hook (Yu qin gu zong)
To seize something, one must first thoroughly endow it - Lao Zi, The Way of Power

Strategy 17 -Cast a brick to attract jade (Pao zhuan yin yu)
The kingdom of Jin wanted to attack the kingdom of Chouyou, but there was no direct route. So Jin cast a great bronze bell as a gift for Chouyou. Chouyou biult a road to transport the gift from Jin, and then Jin troops came down the road and conquered Chouyou. - Chinese Tale

Strategy 18 -Catch the ringleader to nab the bandits (Qin Zei qin wang)
Choose a strong one when using bows, Take the long ones when choosing arrows; To shoot people, first fell their steeds, To nab bandits, catch the one who leads - Tang dynasty poet Du Fu

Now we begin the Fourth Group of Six with #19, Steal the firewood from under the cualdron (Fu di chou xin)

To get rid of weeds, dig up the roots; To stop a pot from boiling, withdraw the fuel - Chinese Proverb

When you cannot handle an adversary in a head on confrontation, you can still win by undermining the enemy's resources and morale. The is really a key concept in the theory of strategy.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Poet Ryokan

Ryōkan (良寛, Ryōkan?) was a Zen Buddhist monk who lived in Niigata Japan 1758-1831. He soon left the monastery, where practice was frequently quite lax, and lived as a hermit until he was very old and had to move into the house of one of his supporters.

My legacy --
What will it be?
Flowers in spring,
The cuckoo in summer,
And the crimson maples
Of autumn...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Just being a kid

My youngest daughter is growing up so fast. I look back to when she was a little girl, and I miss it. There is so much pressure on kids to grow up so fast. You don't gain something, but you lose something.

Tomorrow, being Election Day, school is out. She's going over to a friend's house, after stopping at the store to pick up some Oreos and ice cream; and their going to watch Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen movies all night. They're going to be kids. I love it.

These episodes will come along more and more infrequently, and I hold them all the more dear.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Huang Po

A click on the title of this post will take you to the original page...

This pure mind, which is the source of all things, shines forever with the radiance of its own perfection. But most people are not aware of it, and think that mind is just the faculty that sees, hears, feels, and knows. Blinded by their own sight, hearing, feeling, and knowing, they don't perceive the radiance of the source. If they could eliminate all conceptual thinking, this source would appear, like the sun rising through the empty sky and illuminating the whole universe. Therefore, you students of the Tao who seek to understand through seeing, hearing, feeling, and knowing, when your perceptions are cut off, your way to mind will be cut off and you will find nowhere to enter. Just realize that although mind is manifested in these perceptions, it is neither part of them nor separate from them. You shouldn't try to analyze these perceptions, or think about them at all; but you shouldn't seek the one mind apart from them. Don't hold on to them or leave them behind or dwell in them or reject them. Above, below, and all around you, all things spontaneously exist, because there is nowhere outside the Buddha mind.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Temple of the Diamond Mountain

Kongobuji (Temple of the Diamond Mountain). Kobo Daishi gave this name to the whole collection of temples at Koya, but today the name refers to this specific temple, the "mother temple" and headquarters of the Shingon Sect. Kongobuji is 30 by 35 ken, about 210 feet in length. The curves of the temple roof are very fine and the entire building is an excellent model of Buddhist Architecture. The chief statue on the altar is that of Kobo Daishi and around him are the tablets of Emperors and distinguished persons. The numerous wall screens in the temple rooms are prime examples of the Kano school

In front of the Kongobuji is a large bell, given by Fukushima Masanori in memory of his parents. Upon the bell was written: "To ring this bell, all evil existences will be destroyed; to hear its sound one thousand holy ones will be benefited." This bell is not one in which the bell itself is struck from the inside, but is struck from the outside with a huge wooden beam. These type of bells are called kane whereas bells struck by an inner tong are called rin.