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  Book review - Taijiquan & Qigong Journal (Volume 2/2001, No. 4)

This book by Jürgen Licht the well-known translator of Taiji literature is not a special one, but it is a unique one...
However, the uniqueness lies in the combination of contents and form. This work is bound in the rarely seen leporello binding, which is not a "normal" binding with a spine but one long strip of stable paper, printed on one side and fan-folded together to form 63 pages with each end of the strip joined to a hard cover. Reading becomes a sensory experience. It begins with taking the book out of its slip-case and opening it carefully with both hands. Turning the pages, where you can draw the book out like a piano accordion, is also an event with a quality of its own. The choice of paper, the setting and the type-face used are evidence of the great deal of care Jürgen Licht has taken in producing this book.

The translation of the classical writing is based essentially on the version which was published as an appendix to Cheng Man-ch'ing: Ausgewaehlte Schriften zu T'ai Chi Ch'uan (German version of Douglas Wile: Advanced T'ai-Chi Form Instructions", 1985) in 1988. On the basis of his present state of practice and experience as a Taiji teacher, he now reads a number of things differently. Jürgen Licht thereby tried to stay as close as possible to the Chinese original, the version of the Taiji Classics as it appears in Chen Yanlin's Collection on Taijiquan, Saber, Sword, Staff and Sanshou (Shanghai 1943).

In his preface he admits that even the present version "cannot be completely free of interpretation", something which really applies to all translations. I find the translations to be simple and clear and they leave me room for my own understanding. This work reflects in its whole appearance the love and care with which the publisher approaches Taijiquan. It is something unique to browse in this book. The classical writing of Taijiquan is a treasure for all who are seriously practicing this art. Jürgen Licht has succeeded in providing a worthy receptacle for this treasure.

(Taijiquan & Qigong Journal - Helmut Oberlack)

 

 

Book review - Tai Chi Chuan & Internal Arts (No. 16, Winter 2002)

This book was published by the editor, Mr. Licht, as a limited edition (1000 copies in English and the same in German) in 2001. The "Seven Treasures" of the title are the five major Tai Chi Chuan Classics, a work by Cheng Man-ching and a Taoistic parable on the concept of Wu Wei. All the works are presented in Chineses with an English translation and Mr. Licht was aided in his task by an unnamed sinologist.

Firstly, let me say that the production is excellent, in classical Chinese style; the book folds like a concertina and is protected by a hardback sleeve. For ease of reference, the Chinese text and the English translation complement one another exactly on facing pages. A short preface from Mr. Licht and an introduction from Mr. Wolfe Lowenthal are followed by the text without any background information about the five Tai chi Chuan Classics, although Mr.Licht states he selected more or less standardised versions there being some variation in these texts from book to book.

[There is a unambiguous reference in my preface: "The Chinese version of the Classics I used is to be found in Chen Yanlin's Collection on Taijiquan, Saber, Sword, Staff and Sanshou. - Chen Yanlin), Taijiquan dao jian gan sanshou hebian, first edition, Shanghai 1943 - J.L.]

The Da Shou Ge for once is correctly translated as the "Song of Striking Hands" instead of the uncorrect, but more common "Song of Pushing Hands", though it is one of the shortest versions I have seen and misses out Mian (cotton/soft) as one of the five strategies to be employed.

The Tai Chi Chuan Jing (Classic) is a fairly standard version also though it missed out the phrase (Tai Chi)... "produces movement and stillness", which is strange since the passage in question is a direct quote from Zhou Dunyi's Tai Chi Diagram. Against this, the explanation of double weightedness is better than the usual piffle. Again there is the dreadful concept of "yielding" for "zou" which just means appropriate movement and so can be in any direction not just back.

The Tai Chi Chuan Lun (Treatise) is pretty well ok as is curiously translated "Extension of The Role of The Mind When Performing The 13 Postures" and the "Song of 13 Postures" though "without effort" should be "without wasting effort"; but this is a matter of nuance.
[I translated: "Explanation to the role of the mind... " - J.L.]

Something of particular interest to Cheng Man-ching stylists is his Song of Foundation and Application which also appears in Cheng's book on the 13 postures ["13 Chapters" or "13 Treatises" - J.L.]. The translation is all right except for the strange failure to recognise the Taoistic term "Bao Yi" (Embrace the One) from Lao Zi and also much used in the writtings of the Complete Reality School of Taoism.

The seventh and final "Treasure" is Licht's own parable in Chinese style on the concept of Wu Wei, which is both reasonably amusing and conveys the essence well. The book concludes with a brief glossary explaining some of the key terms.

While Licht's work is by no means definitive, he has done a good work here and the book is sure to strike a chord with practitioners of the Cheng Man-ching method in particular and the beautiful production and limited availability make it also a collector's item.

(Tai Chi Chuan & Internal Arts - Dan Docherty)

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