Animals and Heroes

Continuing the study of Taijiese (Chinese for Tai Chi): Names of many animals and folkloric heroes occur in the traditional names for the movements in Tai Chi moving forms.

The animals most often encountered:

  • 虎     Hǔ         Tiger
  • 蛇     Shé        Snake
  • 马     Mǎ         Horse
  • 鹤     Hè         Crane
  • 金鸡   Jīn jī     Golden rooster
  • 猿     Yuán      Ape
  • 猴     Hóu       Monkey

[Painting of a tiger is by Zhang Shanzi (張善孖, 1882-1940) http://www.chinaonlinemuseum.com/ ]

The poor Tiger is embraced but also ridden, hit, subdued, and shot:

  • 抱虎      Bào hǔ Embrace the Tiger (Embrace tiger return to mountain)
  • 跨 虎     Kuà hǔ Ride the Tiger
  • 打虎      Dǎ hǔ   Hit the Tiger
  • 伏虎      Fú hǔ   Subdue (or tame) the Tiger
  • 射虎      Shè hǔ Shoot the Tiger (Bend bow shoot tiger)

The snake creeps down and spits out its tongue. Add 野 yě (wild) to 马 mǎ (horse) to get ye ma: the wild horse, whose mane is parted (ye ma fen zong). The wild horse also jumps across the stream in the sword forms. The crane spreads his wings and the golden rooster stands on one leg. The ape presents fruit, the monkey is repulsed.

Painting “Running Horse” is by Xu BeiHong (1895-1953).

More birds:

  • 雀     Què       Sparrow (Grasp the bird’s tail)
  • 燕子  Yànzi     Swallow
  • 雁      Yàn       Wild goose
  • 雕      Diāo      Bird of prey (hawk, eagle)

Mythical animals abound, most especially dragons, but also the phoenix and roc.

  • 龙     Lóng      Dragon
  • 鳯     Fèng      Phoenix
  • 鹏     Péng      Fabulous bird (Roc)

The animals come in colors:

  • 白      Bái         White
  • 乌      Wū        Black
  • 黄      Huáng   Yellow
  • 红      Hóng     Red
  • 丹      Dān       Red

There’s a white crane (spreads wings), white ape (presents fruit), white snake (spits tongue), and white tiger (swings his tail). Dragons are black, blue-green, and yellow:

  • 乌龙   Wūlóng  Black dragon  (also oolong tea!)
  • 青龙   Qīnglóng  Blue-green (or azure) dragon
  • 黄龙   Huánglóng Yellow dragon

More animals, less common, less important to know, though they do occur in names of movements:

  • 蟒       Mǎng    Python
  • 狮子   Shīzi      Lion (shakes his head)
  • 黃蜂   Huángfēng    Yellow wasp, bee (returns to the cave)
  • 蜻蜓   Qīngtíng        Dragonfly (touches water)
  • 蝴蝶   Húdié    Butterfly
  • 犀牛   Xīniú      Rhinoceros (gazes at the moon)
  • 豹     Bào        Leopard

Bonus: 五禽戏        Wǔ qín xì            Five Animal Frolics

Heroes

  • 武松    Wǔ Song   Outlaw folk hero (who breaks the handcuffs)
  • 鍾馗   Zhong Kui    Ghost King (vanquisher of ghosts, he wields the sword)
  • 罗汉  Luóhàn     Arhat, enlightened person in Buddhism, has reached nirvana
  • 夜叉   Yèchā    Malevolent spirt (returns to the sea)
  • 哪吒   Nézha   Protection deity (searches the sea)
  • 韦驼  Wéi Tuó (aka Skanda) is one of eight divine protectors in Chinese Buddhism
  • 苏秦   Sū Qín   Historical political figure (380-284 BC)
  • 覇王   Bà Wáng   A warlord whose actual name was Xiang Yu (202-232 BC)

魁星   Kuíxīng  is the legendary scholar for whom the constellation we call the Dipper is named. In the sword forms, we find both the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper (Ursa Major and Minor):

  • 大     Dà          Big (Dà Kuíxīng)
  • 小     Xiǎo       Small (Xiǎo Kuíxīng)

Picture of Wu Song is by Utagawa Kuniyoshi – http://www.britishmuseum.org 

Read about Wu Song: http://www.kungfumagazine.com/magazine/article.php?article=237

Read about Su Qin: http://kongming.net/encyclopedia/Su-Qin

This startling quote is attributed to Ba Wang (Xiang Yu): “Live with a man forty years. Share his house, his meals, speak on every subject. Then tie him up and hold him over the volcano’s edge, and on that day, you will finally meet the man.”

Read more about Ba Wang: https://artsandculture.google.com/entity/xiang-yu/m03f26z

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