The Ugly Step-Daughter Step

A big, blog welcome to Delta College SICL students who are participating in my Yuanji class there.  I hope many of you will also be stopping by the Mall to dance with us in front of Dillards.

The purpose of this post is to correct some misinformation about the meaning of some Chinese words.  Both the mistakes, and this correction, are my best efforts to understand a difficult but beautiful language.  Some of the difficulty comes from the Chinese use of analogies, which are powerful but depend on a deep understanding of the comparison being made.

Here’s an example.  The “Yuan” in yuanji dance is written :

emphasis rises

This symbol means dollar (i.e. the Chinese “yen”), first or head.  “Uan” with rising emphasis is a more accurate Mandarin pronunciation.  In Cantonese, I don’t know how to pronounce this word.  I also told my Delta class that this word means “gold”.  However, I’ve discovered that there is a completely different Chinese word for the metal gold.  I now think that the “gold” translation that was suggested to me was more of an analogy, where “gold” is used to indicate a very high standard (golden).

Even more interesting are the words “chi” and “ji” or “key” or “qi” or even “xi” — all of these sounds seem to be used, somewhat interchangeably, for two separate Chinese words:

abrupt cutoff
emphasis rises

To the left, in red, is a word meaning “extreme, furthest, final”.  This is the word used in the names Tai Chi and Yuanji.

To the right, in black, is the word meaning “spirit” which is closer to the meaning most of us attribute to the second syllable of Tai Chi and Yuanji.  Interestingly, “spirit” is the word used in the name of the philosophy underlying both exercise systems:  Qi Gong.

SO, Tai Chi is the “ultimate/final extreme” while Yuanji is the “golden/first extreme” and both are based in Qi Gong, or “spiritual achievement”.

Now, about that Ugly Step-Daughter Step, it’s wonderful and funny analogy that anyone who has ever danced or tried Tai Chi will be able to understand.  It goes like this:  When your son brings home an ugly step-daughter, your family will pay for that for 3 generations.  Equally, as a dancer, when you make one wrong step, that’s going to throw off your next 3 steps.  Ah, so sadly true.  Avoid the Ugly Step-Daughter Step whenever possible.  🙂

More practice!  Join us at the mall.



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