Play the Pipa

Making fun of the traditional names of various Taijiquan movements is pretty common. Many of the names sound weird to an English speaking ear. The poetry and metaphors are mostly obscure.
scapula Recently a Taiwanese student of mine suggested a really great explanation for the name playing the Pipa (sometimes translated as playing the guitar). The pipa, as everyone knows, is a stringed instrument but pipa also means scapula. Breaking the scapula was a traditional punishment for fighting. The official administering the punishment would restrain the "fighter" and then slip one of his hands behind the scapula and use the other to chop, breaking it in half. This is just how the movement is done in Yang style taijiquan. Two broken scapulas would damage any fighting career for sometime, possibly forever.
Chinese law or jurisprudence, differs from jurisprudence in English speaking countries. An important difference is that they use different underlying metaphors for what constitutes a violation. In English speaking countries our metaphor is a line or a wall. If you cross this line, you have broken the law. The Chinese metaphor is more like a downward slope. For instance, if you have young children under you care and you are dueling, the punishment is likely to be much worse, because you are really risking other peoples lives. Fighting in this context can be more or less legal, depending on what the longer term outcomes could be. It is, of course, traditional to punish ones whole family because it is assumed that they must have seen you acting badly, bit by bit over time and done nothing to stop it.