This essay, written long ago, is attributed to the legendary daoist (taoist) immortal, Zhang Sanfeng. (Chang San Feng). While it is highly unlikely that such person even existed, the writings that have been attributed to him contain a great deal of distilled wisdom. (It is possible that many writings attributed to legendary personalities were actually handed down for generations before someone decided that they needed to be attributed to someone. The most logical source might have been the original one, mythical or not.)
Here I present my own translation of this famous text. I do so in order that I may expand upon it in later entries using my own personal take on the art and this text. Each line is presented first in the original Chinese, then in the Chinese pinyin romanization, then with transliteration, and finally, with an English translation.
A note about the translation:
I am not a linguist. I depend on my (albeit limited) understanding of taijiquan (tai chi) to compensate for my abysmal understanding of the Chinese language. I have heard the classics discussed many times over the past thirty years. I also have a few good Chinese – English dictionaries.
In the near future I will be presenting essays that will dissect each line in the hope of exposing the comprehensive wisdom of this material to tai chi students.
Zhāng Sānfēng zǔshī yízhù – Tàijíquán Jīng
Zhang Sanfeng founder posthumous writing
– Tai Chi Chuan Classic Scripture written by Zhang Sanfeng
yījǔ dòng zhōushēn jù yào qīnglíng.
One stroke movement whole body completely want light and quick.
As soon as there is movement, the whole body should be fluid, agile, and light
especially need penetrate connect.
having all parts connected like a string of pearls (coins).
qì yí gǔ dàng
Vapour suitable arouse [pot of boiling water]
The energy is arousing, pure, and full.
shén yí nèi liǎn.
spirit suitable inside restrain
The spirit is gathered and refined.
wú shǐ yǒu quēxiàn chù.
Nothing enable exist shortcoming dwell.
No place for gaps or deficiencies.
wú shǐ yǒu āotū chù.
Nothing enable exist convex concave dwell.
No place for unevenness.
wú shǐ yǒu duànxù dwell.
Nothing enable exist interrupted dwell
No place for disconnection.
qí gēn zài jiǎo.
such root at foot.
The feet are the root.
fā yú tuǐ.
emit from leg.
coming from the legs
zhǔzǎi yū yāo.
sovereign from waist.
directed by the waist.
xíng yū from shǒuzhǐ.
go by finger.
Expressed by the hands.
yóu jiǎo ér tuǐ ér yāo.
from foot add leg add waist.
From the foot to the leg to the waist
zǒng xū wánzhěng yīqì.
asseble must integrated one energy.
must become one indistinguishable energy
whether advancing and retreating
nǎi néng dé jī déshì
only then able proper crucial point ideal position.
so that you can seize the opportunities keep the position of power.
yǒu bù dé jī déshì chù.
have not must crucial point position of power dwell.
If you do not have the upper hand
shēn biàn sànluàn
body then disordered.
your body is disconnected
qí bìng bì yú yāo-tuǐ qiú zhī.
such defect certainly from waist-leg demand’s.
and you should look for the problem in the waist, hips and legs.
shàng xià qiánhòu-zuǒyòu jiārán.
up down before after left right all correct.
It is thus in all directions.
fán cǐ jiēshì yì.
all this all be intention.
Everything comes from the mind (will)
bù zài wài miàn
No exist outside surface.
Internally, not superficially.
yǒu shàng jí yǒu shàng
have top assume have bottom
If there is up there is down.
yǒu qián jí yǒu hòu
have front assume have after
If there is forward there is backward.
yǒu zuǒ jí yǒu hòu
have left assume have right
If there is left there is right
rúyì yào xiàngshàng
thus intent want strive up
So, wishing to go up,
Jí yù xià yì.
undertake imply under intent.
includes going down.
ruò jiāng wù xiāngqǐ ér jiāyǐ cuòzhé zhi zhi lì
as if future matter surge yet add using subdue __ strength.
If you wish to cause something to move
sī qí gēn zì duàn.
therefore its roots self sever.
you must break its root
nǎi rǎng ‘s sù ér wúyí
thence resisting fast and nothing doubt
only then can you attack without hesitation.
xū-shí yí fēng qīng chu
insubstantial substantial separate distinct
The actual situation must be clearly distinguished without any ambiguity.
yī chù yǒu yī chù xū-shí.
one place have one place empty-full.
Every situation contains substantial and insubstantial.
chùchù zǒng cǐ yī xū-shí.
place place comprehensive this one empty-full
Every part can be determined to be substantial or insubstantial.
zhōushēn jiéjié guànchuàn
Whole body successively penetrate
Every part of the body must be connected
wú lìng sīháo jiànduàn ěr.
nothing slightest discontinuous ear.
without conceding any break.
cháng quán zhě
Regarding Long Fist
The taijiquan routine
rú chángjiāng dàhǎi
similar Yangtze River open sea
is like a long river and a big ocean
gushing gushing no absolute by-and-large.
flowing freely and unceasingly.
Péng, lǚ, jǐ, àn, cǎi, liè, zhǒu, kǎo. Cǐ bāguà yě.
“Boing”, “roll”, “cram”, “suppress”, “pluck”, “rend”, “elbow”,”against,” this eight trigram by-and-large
Ward-off, roll back, squeeze, push, pluck, split, elbow strike, and shoulder strike, correspond to the eight trigrams.
Jìnbù, tuìbù, zuǒgù, yòupàn, zhōng dìng, cǐ wǔ-xíng yě.
forward step, backward step, left look, right gaze, middle stable, this five elements as-it-were.
Advance, retreat, look to the left, gaze to the right, and central equilibrium all correspond to the five elements.
Péng, lǚ, jǐ, àn, jí qián, kūn, kǎn, lí, sì, zhèngfāng, yě.
“Boing”, “roll”, “cram”, “suppress”, namely “The Creative (Heaven)”, “The Receptive (Earth)”, “The Abysmal (Water)”, “The
Clinging (Fire)”, four square as-it-were.
Ward off, roll back, squeeze, and push, corresponding as they do to the trigrams of the four directions, are the square (true) methods;
cǎi, liè, zhǒu, kǎo, jí xùn, zhèn, duì, gèn, sì xiéjiǎo yě
“pluck”, “rend”, “elbow”, “against,” namely “The Penetrating”, “The Arousing”, “The Joyous”, “Keeping Still”, four oblique
Pluck, split, elbow strike, and shoulder strike, corresponding as they do to the trigrams of the four corners, are the obtuse* methods;
Jìn-tuì gùpàn dìng
Advance, retreat, look, gaze, stable
Advance, retreat, look left, gaze right, and central equilibrium
jí jīn-mù-shuǐ-huǒ-tǔ ye
namely: metal, wood, water, fire, earth as-it-were.
correspond to the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth.
hé zhī zé wèi shísān shì yě
join with make become thirteen power even.
Combined together, these all make up the thirteen compositional forces.
Original notes say.
Addendum (attributed to Yang Lu-Chan (1799-1872)
Cǐ xì Wǔ dāng Shān Zhāng Sānfēng zǔshī yí lùn.
This be Wudang Mountain Zhang Sanfeng founder give theory.
This treatise was left to us by the founder, Zhang Sanfeng.
yù tiānxià háojié yán nián yì shòu
desire heaven under demigod year increase life
offering the promise of longevity to the whole world,
bù tú zuò jìyì zhī mò yě.
not purposeless make technical skill it triviality also
It is not just for trivial martial skill