View Single Post
Old 07-03-2007, 07:46 PM   #1203
Thomas Campbell
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 407
Re: Baseline skillset

This post is offered for those on the forum unfamiliar with Chinese martial arts terminology, particularly taijiquan terms.

Louis Swaim is an accomplished translator as well as a long-time practitioner of Yang style taijiquan. He writes that "chousi" means the pulling or drawing of silk. Swaim translates some passages of taiji theory, particularly from Wu Tunan, that imply that "chousi" perhaps shouldn't be considered a specific type of jin, but refers more to the way in which the jin is trained, that is, slowly, evenly, maintaining a sense of internal connnection. In this view, there would not be a specific "chousijin"; instead, all jins (peng jin, etc.) could be trained in a "chousi" manner--internally connected, without a break.

"Chansi" is more commonly used in connection with "jin," referring to the coordination of the winding and twisting movements of the body in martial practice--and particularly noted in Chen style taijiquan, where chansijin is first described in the book written by Chen Xin in the 1910s (and published posthumously in the 1930s).

You can have chansijin practiced in a chousi-like manner. On the other hand, I can pick my nose with chousi . . . but it might not be advisable to perform the same action with chansijin.

Chousi (drawing or pulling of silk) is a term referring more to the quality of internal continuity of movement (of any kind), and chansi(jin) refers more to a specific type of movement.

Here are some remarks Louis Swaim offered on the topic of chansijin and chousi:

chansi (reeling silk) [and] chousi (drawing silk). Some taiji authorities claim that these are both the same thing, but some say that they are not. Wu Tunan was one authority who argued that chansi and chansijin were part of the Chen tradition, but that these terms have no early textual support in the Yang tradition. Wu pointed out that the conspicuous mention of "drawing silk" in the Yang corpus is the line in the Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Shi: "mobilize jin as though drawing silk" (yun jin ru chousi), and that it is clearly a metaphor. The terms chansi and chansijin, on the other hand, have to do with specific practices in the Chen tradition, and likely made their first textual appearance in Chen Xin's book written in the early 1900s.


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.)


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.

Maybe this just muddies things, but the intent was to offer some clarification for the discussion.
  Reply With Quote