Yang Sword Names

I’ve compiled a list of names for the traditional Yang-style sword form, sticking pretty close to the version that I’m learning. I made reference to several lists that I found online, and chose what seemed to me the best English translations (sometimes using my own).

A few comments on the names:

Kui_Xing_bronze_statue_(late_Ming_Dynasty)It might seem odd that the movement called the Big Dipper is also called the Major Literary Star, but in Chinese, they are the same name: Kuíxīng [phonetically, kway-shing].  In English, Orion is both the mythical hunter and the constellation; in Chinese, Kuixing is like that.

[Photo of bronze Kuixing by Pratyeka – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45370878]

Kuixing was a great scholar (hence, literary star) who was so repulsively ugly that the emperor wouldn’t give him the honors he deserved. He was so dejected that he threw himself into the ocean. A sea dragon rescued him and took him to live in the heavens. Visit the excellent Cloud Hands blog for an entertaining description of Kuixing, Yèchā the evil or malevolent spirit, and other mythical figures.

大Dà  is big or great; Da Kuixing is the Big Dipper (Major Literary Star). 小Xiǎo is small;  Xiao Kuixing is the Little Dipper (Minor Literary Star).

A couple of minor notes on translation: Língmāo, which is sometimes translated as alert cat, is an arboreal cat called a civet. Shǔ can be either a mouse or a rat. So Lingmau shu is sometimes translated as Civet Catches Rat in English.

Also, the list makes reference to both 大鹏 Dà Péng and 凤凰 Fèng Huáng. The former refers to a giant legendary bird, while the latter usually refers to the Phoenix. Sometimes one or the other is translated as Roc. I’ve translated both as Phoenix.

Often the poetic names of the sword movements turn out to be idiomatic or figurative expressions in Chinese. Qīng tíng diǎn shuǐ (Dragonfly Touches Water), for example, is an idiom for superficial contact.

Xuán yá lè mǎ (often just lè mǎ, Stop the Horse) has the sense of reining in a horse at the edge of the precipice; it is an idiom for acting in the nick of time.  I particularly like this one, because the move is an about-face, which suggests turning to face an opponent just in time to defend oneself.

Shùn shuǐ tuī zhōu (Push boat with Current) is an expression for taking advantage of a situation for one’s own benefit. Sort of like catching and riding a wave.

Liú Xīng gǎn yuè (Shooting star catches the moon), literally a meteor catching up with the moon, is an idiom for swift, decisive action.

Tiān mǎ xíng kōng (Heavenly Steed Crosses the Sky) is an idiom for bold, imaginative action. In writing and calligraphy, this expression describes an unconstrained, expressive style. Some words for sword techniques, most notably dian, ti, and hua, are also names of pen or brush strokes in calligraphy and painting.

My favorite name is Hǎi dǐ lāo yuè (Scoop the Moon from the Bottom of the Sea).  The image is that of trying to get hold of the moon by grasping at its reflection in water—an idiom for the hopeless pursuit of an illusion. What we might call a wild goose chase.

Incidentally (on the subject of names that are idioms in Chinese), 海底针 Hǎi dǐ zhēn, Needle at Sea Bottom (which is not in this form but in many others) is like our expression, needle in a haystack, for trying to find a tiny thing lost in a huge mass.

Yang Sword Videos

I am returning to Yang sword after first learning (most of) it about four years ago. Since then, I have learned several modern sword forms, which makes for some interesting comparisons. More on that in the future.

There are many variations on this traditional form; I haven’t found a video yet (outside of those made at Master Gohring’s school) that is exactly like what we do. None of the many versions are exactly like each other, either. Here is a very old video of Cheng Man Ching:


I notice that many, if not most, versions move a little more quickly than we do, with distinct jabs and stabs. An exception is this excellent Yang-style Tai Chi Sword with Chinese  names of movements on the screen:

I also particularly like the video by Peter Tam Hoy doing a version that is pretty close to ours, first on the list below. The clip by Jesse Tsao is part of a longer instructional video available on his website, taichihealthways.com.

Videos of Yang-style Tai Chi Sword:

In Chinese the form is called Yáng-shì tàijíjiàn (Yang-style Tai Chi sword). 杨 is the character for the surname Yang. It may be followed by either this character: 式 (which means style) or this one: 氏 (which means clan or family). The Pinyin (shì) is the same.

Huawu Fan Last Moves

The movements in the last section of Zhongji Huawu Fan are listed below, and I’ve made a PDF of the whole thing. Meanwhile, I have come across a video of Amin Wu doing a beautiful short (9-step) fan form (in an exceptionally beautiful Tai Chi uniform!). The form doesn’t start until about the one-minute mark, and it lasts only a minute.


The proper name of Huawu fan is 中級華武四十二式太極扇:  Zhōngjí huá wǔ sìshí èr shì tàijí shàn (Mid-level Huawu 42-style Tai Chi Fan). Huá means flowery or magnificent; Wǔ means martial. Here’s a great article about Grandmaster Zeng (who created Huawu Fan) from KungFuMagazine.com

By the way, I have found a great way to type Pinyin–visit Pinyintones.com. It’s a keyboard input feature that is easily turned off and on by toggling the language band icon on the task bar. When it’s turned on, you can type (for example) zhu1 for the long accent (zhū), Ye2 for the rising accent (Yé), shou3 for the down-up accent (shǒu), and fen4 for the falling accent (fèn).

Huawu fan section four:

  1. 野马跳涧 Yé mǎ tiào jiàn: Wild Horse Leaps the Ravine
  2. 狮子托珠 Shīzi tuō zhū: Lion Holds a Pearl
  3. 骏马奋蹄 Jùnmǎ fèn tí: Noble Steed Raises its Hoof
  4. 金鸡抖翎 Jīn jī dǒu líng: Golden Rooster Shakes its Tail Feathers
  5. 太公钓鱼 Tàigōng diào yú: Great Grandfather Goes Fishing
  6. 雄鹰展翅 Xióngyīng zhǎn chì: Eagle Spreads Wings
  7. 飞凤回首 Fēi fèng huíshǒu: Flying Phoenix Turns Head
  8. 游龙戏水 Yóu lóng xì shuǐ: Wandering Dragon Plays in the Water
  9. 仙女指路 Xiānnǚ zhǐlù: Spirit Woman Shows the Way
  10. 收势 Shōu shì: Closing Form

And here is the printable list of all 42 movements: huawufan (PDF).