Yi Jian Mei: Names

From the instructional video on Yi Jian Mei I have gleaned the names of the movements. It wasn’t easy! I took screen shots of the captions, but of course I couldn’t paste the characters into a dictionary because they were images. So I drew them one by one into the MDBG dictionary.

For all but the very simplest characters, the dictionary will not recognize a character unless the brush strokes are entered in (at least approximately) correct order. So from the lovely book shown below, Chinese Calligraphy Made Easy by Rebecca Yue, I learned (more or less) the proper order of brushstrokes. Altogether, this list took hours!


Of course, I could have just asked my friend Pan Huai to translate, but doing it myself the hard way was fun and I learned a lot. Pan Huai did tweak my translations of the movement names, many of which, like traditional names of other forms, are poetic, folkloric, and idiomatic.

Yi Jian Mei was the title of both a 1931 silent movie and a 1984 Taiwanese TV show. The plots are completely different, so I assume the two dramas are unrelated. The song written and recorded by Taiwanese singer-songwriter Fei Yu Qing was the theme for the TV show.

The sword form, which is based on the song, must therefore be less than thirty years old and might be a lot more recent: New versions of the 1984 TV show were made in China in 2000 and 2009. I’ve been told that the sword form was created by a master who is no longer living, but I haven’t been able to find out his name.

The list of 20 movements is divided into stanzas of the song, and I’ve included the lyrics that go with them. Love the song, the lyrics, and the sword form!

Yi Jian Mei Taiji Jian

Yi Jian Mei (One Plum Blossom) is a lovely sword form about which I have been able to glean very little information. I’m told it was created by a master who has passed away–I don’t know his name. The name of the form is the title of a very popular song as well as a drama. I haven’t found out much about them, either.

Yi Jian Mei: song and lyrics

But I have managed to learned the form, and I have done quite a few posts on it along the way. I have just discovered two very helpful videos that I am using to correct my form. The first is an instructional video; if the name of the performer is given, it’s in Chinese. The setting is beautiful, wherever it is.

The second is a performance by the same man with the music. This video even offers an inset showing him from a different angle.

To see all of my posts on this subject, including more video links, stills of key positions, etc, read this page from the bottom up (it’s just the tag Yi Jian Mei in most-recent-first order).

Finishing Yi Jian Mei

All that’s left are the four instrumental lines in the middle of the song and the closing. That middle section begins from this position.


Line 1: Step with the left foot around to face stage right, then step out toward the front with the right to face front again. The arms close and cross. Swing the sword backhand out to the right.

Line 2: Turn the sword over and draws a big backward C as if winding up for zuo gong bu lan. Facing stage right, step right and strike the odd pose shown below. The hands are positioned as if to push the blade—but you would cut yourself! So don’t actually touch the blade with the left hand.


Line 3: Turns around to the left while straightening, and set the left foot down facing the opposite way. Stab forward, left hand touching the upper arm, gong bu, as shown.


Then step forward on the right while wheeling the sword in front (hilt circles clockwise) to point the sword, and look, to the back, left arm extended as shown.


Step forward on the left, closing the arms so the wrists cross. Left foot is turned out to face left near corner. Step around so the right foot also points to the left front corner and lifts the left foot from the knee. Collapse the sword as shown below.


Line 4: Step left, cross step right, left (travelling to stage right), then walk in a circle right-left-right. Pivot the left foot and xie bu to prepare to resume at verse 3 in this position:


While traveling left, draw big clockwise circles with the sword. At the start of the walking-in-a-circle part, circle the sword to go palm up and lead with the hilt. Swing it around for finish in xie bu.

On the very first step left, Long Feng rises to make a little hop onto the right cross-step. The lift coincides with the lift of the sword. It’s a cute little step.

Shou Shi begins from the position shown at the top of this post (after the long repeat). Close the arms and take the hilt in the left hand. Extend the left arm and set the sword fingers at the hip.

Swing the left across in front while twisting the wrist as if to hold a tray. At the same time, lift the left knee and pulse up with the right. Looks like this:


Then take four steps, LRLR in a circle to face front, left xu bu. Spiral the sword down on the left on the last two steps..

Step back with the left, bring the right back to the left, knees bent, feet shoulder width. Make another circle with the right hand at the same time. Lower the right hand and straighten the knees. Feet together. That’s it!

Yi Jian Mei Chorus

I left off in this position, at the end of line 3, verse 3:


From here she pulls the sword up and over to the left, hopping onto the left foot. The sword circles down and up as she steps onto the right and touches the left. This move is a little like zuo xu bu liao in 32-sword.


Next she steps left, stabbing the sword down to the left, and then steps right, stabbing the sword right–this is somewhat like the optional flourish in Wudang sword. Then she hops onto the left, circling the sword overhead (from palm-up to palm-down). Then she steps back with the right, the sword turns palm-up, and she extends the sword to the right, left hand extended. Xie bu:


That’s the end of verse three. Now there is a two-line chorus. She does (more or less) you gong bu lan (no pause, keep going), but on the other side she skips on the left, then swings the sword all the way to the left as she steps out with the right. Then she swings the sword right while cross-stepping behind with the left into Xie bu:


Unwind all the way around (sword following overhead) and step out to the left. Fully spread-eagled here, facing front. The sword keeps swinging, lift the right knee facing stage left. Then step out to the right, stabbing up (facing back). Cross-step behind left, still facing back, left arm pointing to stage right:


Finally, unwind and step back with the right. Meanwhile, arc the sword down, leading with the point, across on the left, then circle it in front of the face (go from palm-up to palm-down, to palm-up, step back onto right, pulling the sword back with both hands. Step up on left and open to position shown.


The good news is, there is just one more instrumental verse, and then the form repeats to the end. Closing form is a little complicated, but the end is in sight.

Yin Yang Sword

I left off after the first line of verse three of Yi Jian Mei. Line 2: walk in a circle to the left, leading the sword (held high) by the hilt. Footwork is left-right-left-right. On that last right step, circle the sword as if drawing a big heart in the air with both hands like so:


Swing both arms closed while stepping forward on the left:


Then withdraw the sword, shifting back on the right, sword held palm-up and left hand palm-down, as shown below. That’s line two, verse three.


Yin Yang Sword is a stabbing movement with a shift forward and back. The hands turn so that either palms or backs of hands are facing each other. On the stab forward, sword palm is down, left hand palm-up. Then withdraw palm-up and turn the left hand palm-down. You could picture using your sword-fingers (left hand) to push shish-kabobs off a skewer (!).


After two such stabs, step up with the right foot, draw another big heart in the air and stamp the right foot once in cross-hands (left hand on top):


Swing both arms to the left, twisting at the waist:


Swing the sword to the right, stepping out to the right, and then cross-step left behind like so:


That’s line three, verse three. I have caught up with myself! The last line of verse three, which had me stumped anyway, is completely different the way Long Feng does it. It looks a bit like a part of Wudang sword (between the sits). I’ll tackle that next time.

Yi Jian Mei Corrections

I studied the first three verses of the Meng Fok video until I thought I could do them, then fell into a state of complete confusion when I tried to follow Long Feng. Took me a while to figure out what all the differences were between her form and Meng Fok’s.

When Meng Fok takes the sword, she steps right and left, pivots, and then steps left to stab overhead. Long Feng steps right, left, right, shifts left and stabs up, like so:


They are oriented differently. Meng Fok stabs to the back right corner, Long Feng to the front left corner.  I’m going to do this form Long Feng’s way.

The last line of verse two is also different, even though they start and finish in similar positions. In line 4, Meng Fok takes four steps, Long Feng takes only three (RLR). Somehow, they both unwind to this position (except Long Feng is in a deeper xie bu):


The first line of verse three is different. Both swing the sword right, but then Meng Fok lifts the hilt (standing on her left), where Long Feng stabs up (standing on her right):


They both wheel the sword and finish in the same position, like so:


That’s as far as I’ve gotten, so I’m not even quite as far along as I thought I was a couple of weeks ago. To be continued!

Yi Jian Mei Verse 3

Correcting a couple of details: the opening circle (verse 1, line 1) is clockwise (I’ve updated my earlier post); and in line 2, when she steps across with the left, she swings the sword left, too.


I’m halfway through verse three, in the position shown above, at 1:20 in the Meng Fok video. To recap verse 3 (see Aug 8):

  1. Xue hua piao piao bei feng xiao xiao: Step R, lift hilt, wheel sword, step R.
  2. Tian di yi pian cang mang: step around L/R/L, gong bu xia ci, withdraw.
  3. Yi jian han mei au li xue zhong: Now see below.
  4. Zhi wei yi ren piao xiang

From the position shown above: Stab once, then bing bu xia ci, wheel the sword the other way (counterclockwise) while stepping across in back with the left foot. Swing the sword first back, then out to this position:


That was line 3. This is line 4 (tres complique!): The right foot is nailed to the ground until the very last beat. From the position above, step out to the left, as in the first frame on the left below. Circle the sword up, left and down (ie, big counterclockwise circle).

Then step left around to the right to face backwards (180 degree turn on the right foot, which has not moved, frame 2). The sword, still making a big counterclockwise circle, has reached the high point when you’re facing the back.

The right foot does not move as she steps around left, left, left.

The right foot (circled) does not move, except to swivel, as she steps around left, left, left.

Keep going! Step around with the left again to face front (frame 3), shift left and make a small counterclockwise circle with the sword. Then the right foot will cross behind. So footwork for this line is left, left, left, right.

The sword emerges from the small circle leading with the point rather than the hilt. It then spirals through a figure eight on the right side. This whole thing takes 6 seconds, between 1:26 and 1:32, and ends like this:



This is the hardest move in the whole form if you ask me. That last bit with the sword is tricky; I can only suggest using the gear tool to slow the video way down. After this, there are just two more lines of lyrics. Then four lines of instrumentals. And from there, it’s all repeats! And close form.