Thursday, September 03, 2015

Naming Taiijiquan Postures

Dear Michael:

"A friend of mine asked me to help translate Tai Chi 24 Forms into Cantonese dialect. Your web page of 24 Forms was introduced to me for reference. I am amazed at the number of translations for each movement.

I have come to realize the difficult task of getting to the real essence of translation. Inappropriate or incompetent translation makes the concepts ambiguous or misleading (with all the funny Chinese phrases of naming things.) Though in all honesty, each source tries to fit the bill, rarely do they come across the original design/intent of the moves in a comprehensive way.

Usually most Western sources just cannot read the Chinese words, lesser still the Chinese way of thinking. The Chinese side usually don’t know English well enough to get the essence across with poor diction.

But I must say that I am no expert. Only that I have observed some errors, and thought I should mention it to contribute to common understanding. I only do so as you welcome suggestions from others. (I am a native Chinese speaker.)

Here are the examples:

#3   亮翅 Word to word: White| Goose| Flash| Wing

Most Tai Chi schools use White Crane Spreads Its Wings. If this is the case, then the Chinese phrase should be亮翅. = Crane.

亮翅  Bai He Liang Chi  [Mandarin]


# 8   雀尾右 : Lan Que Wei You : Grasp the Bird's Tail Right

means ‘To block’, not ‘grasp’. This I believe is a typo, as it has the same sound as .

So is should be揽雀尾[Lan Que Wei (You) [Mandarin] (Notice I put a bracket around the word,RIGHT; for better illustration.)


#16   下势 : Xia Shi : Snake (?) Creeps Down

下势  Word to word:  Low| Inertia, dynamic force, or tendency, etc.

There is no mentioning of any animal’s name. I would be interested to know how this translation came about. Or, it is taken as an English slang?

Ok, that is all. I am struggling with my own thinking on this tough translation project. I admire your zest of life reflected in your web pages.
All the best."



I have often been perplexed about the translations or interpolations of the "names" of the movements in various Taijiquan forms.  The reference sources I have studied vary somewhat.  

I'm sure that a Cantonese vs a Mandarin starting point would reveal different results.  Then, again, an English, Spanish, or French version would provide additional interesting interpolations. 

As for my qualifications, I am fluent in only in the English language.  The only other language I use in my daily life is Spanish. 

Considering the worldwide popularity of the Standard Simplified 24 T'ai Chi Ch'uan 1956 form, I thought that some effort should be made to show the range of given names for each of the movement forms in the 24 Form, and I tried to do so on my Taijiquan 24 Form webpage. 

I welcome your comments and suggestions.  I would be willing to integrate them into my webpage if you send them to me, link to your webpage on the subject, or publish your final document as a separate webpage.     

Best Wishes,

Mike Garofalo 

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