Lian Gongfu

chainIn Chinese it's not correct to say "I am studying Taiji (or Tai Chi)." First of all Taiji is a cosmological principle, so it is like saying, "I'm studying the ocean." Yeah but what part of the ocean? The correct term is Taijiquan, which refers to the art, which is itself a type of gongfu (or kungfu). But the Chinese word for study xue, is not used when referring to types of gongfu. The correct term is liàn.

Gongfu, as I have said before, means meritorious action, or acts or merit. Liàn is often translated "practice or train," as in "I practice gongfu." The character for liàn is made up of the characters for "silk floss" and "card," implying a sorting out process. If we look at the homonyms for lian we see that it means to link together, chain, to connect, a continuous flow, ripples, to refine (and thus "lotus" because these flowers are purity that rises up from the muck), and to smelt ore.

Lian actually means is "to link together in one continuously unending process." "liàn gongfu" means to continuously link together acts of merit. The word liàn is used for all types of gongfu.

So next time someone says they are learning or studying Taijiquan, say: "You mean you are linking, sorting out, refining and smelting together acts of merit into one continuous flow?"

"Yo, that's fresh!"