Teachings: Five-Word Verse Concepts

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Poem of Farewell to Liu Man, Song dynasty 9601279
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Heilbrunn Timeline

Poem of Farewell  to Liu Man, Song dynasty (960–1279), 12th century

Yelü Chucai (Chinese, 1190–1244)  Handscroll; ink on paper, 21 columns in regular script; (1989.363.17), Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History,   The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Yelü Chucai, a descendant of the ruling family of the Khitan Liao dynasty (907–1125), was a prominent statesman under the Mongol khans. This poem, his only extant autograph, shows boldly angular characters written in a simple yet imposing style. The blunt monumental calligraphy recalls that of another eminent statesman, Yan Zhenqing (709–785), who wrote as though "inscribing stone with a stylus."

This poem is a plea for humanitarian rule. It ends with the admonition:

"Despotic officials and shyster underofficials, may they feel ashamed!"

Five Word -Verses :  五字訣 [ 五字 歌, 訣] 

Pugalistic Knowledge :   拳學

Li Dong Feng :  李東風 [Li,  East Wind ], Note: East-wind is currently a very common Chinese name, there is evidence that it first appeared in the Ming dynasty. (CE. 1368-1644) as personal name.

Disambiguous :
Identity : 粗成五字訣; 拳學 (Five Characters, Boxing Knowledge )
Alleged Author : Li Dong-feng (
李東風 ) 先師寫於鹿邑
Source : 隱山 hidden mountain; Yin Shan (李東風先師寫於鹿邑 隱山) Some
sources say 'yun shan' which would be 雲山
yun men shan zhi, would be a Buddhist temple ], yun means 'cloud'. 

[ Note : Nearly all of the Chinese martial or health exercises when claiming a lineage history, tend to choose iconic beginnings [ famous man, famous mountain, famous dynasty-period ], and tend to mingle, whole or in part,  prior archaic events [ which are not completely known ] with later Renaissance 'romantic' history  [ the giant, Chang San-feng was a hero against the Mongol government and he 'created' Tai-chi-] and embellish it with serendipitous events [ knowledge found in a cave, found in a tomb, or inspired by watching a bird and a snake fight ;  Note also, that Yun-shan is also deemed honorific enough that children may be named with it, ie. Yun-shen Li, Li being the family name ].

Commentary :
     "The Daozang ( 道藏, Treasury of Tao) is sometimes referred to as the Taoist canon. It was originally compiled during the Jin, Tang, and Song dynasties. The version surviving today was published during the Ming dynasty. The Ming Daozang includes almost 1500 texts.
     Following the example of the Buddhist Tripitaka,
it is divided into three dong  ( , "caves", "grottoes" ). 

> They are arranged from "highest" to "lowest":
> The Zhen ("real" or "truth" 眞) grotto. Includes the Shangqing texts.
> The Xuan ("mystery" 玄) grotto. Includes the Lingbao scriptures.
The Shen ("divine" 神) grotto. Includes texts predating the Maoshan (茅山) revelations.
     Daoshi generally do not consult published versions of the Daozang, but individually choose, or inherit, texts included in the Daozang. These texts have been passed down for generations from teacher to student.
The Shangqing school has a tradition of approaching Taoism through scriptural study. It is believed that by reciting certain texts often enough one will be rewarded with immortality.[65]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoism

    The Five Word Verses, also called the 'Five Characters Secret', is classified as part of the quan2 xue2, 'boxing knowledge' ( 拳學 ) associated with the 'usual given' documentary history of LHBF heritage; this in itself does not validate it. The document is called 五字 訣, both word, zi4 and farewell jue2 and song-secret ge2 each has been used to name the verses; the context usage implies, sometimes, the idea of 'parting' 'secrets' as a 'farewell'; this is two-sided: imparting knowledge to a 'student' who is leaving, or the last words of a teacher, who is 'departing', dieing. The expression: zi4 jue2  字訣 words at parting 'farewell' is somewhat better.
[ This duality of meaning is also conveyed in the mythic legend that sage
Lao Tze as he 'departed' to the 'West' he 'gifted the gatekeeper with a book.]

The Five Word Verses ( 五字訣, 五字歌) are typically said to have been 'written by Li Tung-feng ( 東風 ) sometime after the First Song Dynasty, at about 'the year 1100' [ and possibly 500 years  later ]. 

As often as this is recorded, there is no convincing evidence of the story in real history. [ A search of archaic martial and or taoist literature for 'notables' returns nothing for Li Tung -feng; nor for this poem. 'East-wind' Li is a person of unknown origins and unknown abilities, and of an imprecise historical time. The name east-wind may be symbolic due to earlier Chinese history.]   An analysis by a foremost authority on Chinese language and music also concludes it is 'unknown' in itself. [ John Thompson, http://silkqin.com ]

It can be said however, that 'poem' verse..of variable character number [3,4,5..] is an established and studied part of Chinese dynastic history; the Song Dynasty was noted for its' 'song' verses.

The usual location given is:
於鹿邑隱山 in, at, LU (deer) District-city, YIN ( hidden-concealed )

SHAN (mountain) 先師寫

'Master Li took refuge at Yun () [cloud] Mountain and / or Yin 隱 [hidden] Shan mountain (東南= ) Southeast, from the Lok [Lu] 鹿邑 District. '+ Yun Shan, cloud mountain, there are many, 'cloud' is used to describe a 'secret place'      + Lok District, ????unknown, unclear.

'” While living on Mt. Yun, he authored the famous Five Word Song, which serves today as the only extant treatise explaining the principles of the “original” Lop Hop Pak Fat.”

An approach to understanding this history, is that as current writers are using Cantonese,

Mt. Yun could likely be Yuan, and S.E. Lok, maybe, Luo. Most modern Chinese hotels also like to be called Yun, 'cloud hotel', to improve marketing. [ HuaShan is also popular, being equivalent to 'best'.]

A balanced choice may be: yun [yin] shan, ,cloud-hidden 隱 mountain :

Bai yun Mountain 白雲山 [Note: as for legend making, accrediting the exercise or verses to Mt.Hua Shan would be simple due to its' notoriety; accrediting it to often confused source of Jiu-Hua-Shan could have been done with less success; accrediting it to 'cloudy' mountain adds a mystic aspect to the history.]

    The Five-word Verses, in themselves, lack the terseness and depth in comparison with the core LiuHe BaFa verses.  Common taoist concepts as wu-wei, innate 'non-thinking' intuition and similar does exit.  There is also numerous repeations and warnings to 'study' the verses for success. This, to me, implies some non-taoist editing.


Five-Character  ( 五字訣 ) 'Verses' of  boxing knowledge,

...Wu Zi Jue ( 拳學 )

心意本無法,包羅小天地,要學心意功,無象亦無意,視不能如能 01-05

乘勢擊與顧,步步占先機,剛柔互參就,虛靈含有物,原來自我始, 06-10
兩腿似弓彎,彷彿臨大敵,形動如浴水,有法是虛無,釋家為圓覺, 11-15

先從八法起,收放勿露形,生疏莫臨敵,剛在他力前,時時要留意, 16-20
調息坎離交,窈窈溟溟趣,雙單可分明,伸縮腰著力,目光如流電, 21-25

若履雲霧霽,虛無得自然,道家說無為,養我浩然氣,鬆緊要自主, 26-30
動時把得固,柔乘他力後,蓄力如弓圓,上下中和氣,忽隱又忽現, 31-35

陰陽見虛實,臂脊須圓抱,精神顧四隅,飄飄乎欲仙,無法不容恕, 36-40
有象求無象,遍身皆彈力,策應宜守默,一發未深入,彼忙我靜待, 41-45

發勁似箭直,守默如卧禪,息息任自然,虛引敵落空,内外混元氣, 46-50
前四後佔六,浩浩乎清虛,放之彌六合,不期自然至,見首不見尾, 51-55

不偏亦不倚,審機得其勢,攻守任君鬥,悟透陰陽理,動似蟄龍起, 56-60
避免敵重力,欲收放更急,息念要集神,掌握三與七,意動似懼虎, 61-65

氣靜如處子,顯隱無與有,道理極微細,元根築基法,世間無難事, 66-70
神意要集中,欲緊未著力,見形尋破綻,處處無乘隙,法術二而一, 71-75

形似游龍戲,舒筋活血脈,水火得相見,奇正得相生,犯者敵即仆, 76-80
凝神尋真諦,欲動似非動,蘊藏皆珠玉,欲學果有誠,推動轉輪器,  81-85

運使求均衡,絲毫不相讓,呼吸細綿綿,缺一不能立,縱橫與起伏, 86-90
榮衛得適宜,精研内外功,動靜隨心欲,五總九節力,妙法有和合, 91-95

靜中還有意,說難亦非難,久恒與智慧,一觸力即發,螺旋循環氣, 96-100



轉移有曲折,關節含蓄力,一提氣便咽,首尾不相離。           131-134

Assessments and Comments :
   There are general presentations which offer up the 5-word verses; there are much less that consider their origin and validity.
  "I don't think "5 Character Secrets" is really a good translation for the title.
Firstly, I don't think that 訣 necessarily means secret, but rather "高明的方法".  
It can also mean:   用事物的主要内容编成的顺口的便于记忆的词句,
which seems quite appropriate for the context too.
Secondly, the '5 Character' part only makes sense for Chinese, as each line/ segment is made up of 5 characters.  This will almost certainly not be true of the English translation and so translating it for the title is IMO quite meaningless.

In the context of Liu He Ba Fa, you could think of the title as meaning something like: A series of short segments that distill the core principles of Liu He Ba Fa in an easy to remember way.
Which is far too wordy for an English title, but in my mind any English title should try to convey the essence of that meaning, rather than just being a literal translation of the Chinese.

Publications :
It appears in Chinese in publications by Wu YiHui and Chen YikYan; also in newer web-sources such as Anhui, Foshan, PRC, zh.wikipedia.org, and Hong Kong sites of Kam Tung and Ziboce.
#BOOK; the poem; LiuHe BaFa-Six Combinations through Eights Methods, Khan Foxx
(1)...John Chung Li translated the Five Word Song ..with the assistance of Stanley Rosenberg in Boston Massachusetts and added his commentary to each of the 134 verses to help students understand the meaning.

(2)...Mark McGee, Master Li translated The Chinese Five Word Song and added his commentary to each of the 134 verses to help students, edited Mark McGee

(3)..Paul Dillon, a trained Chinese linguist for the U.S. Military and also a student of Li Chung, offered his translation with extended annotation. Website closed. ...Paul Dillon translation with extended annotation Liuhe Bafa Five Character Secrets: Chinese Classics, Translations, Commentary (Paperback)

(4)...Robert Xavier and Mark McGee published a compilation with Master Li's commentary...Internet-website: ...Robert Xavier and Mark McGee plan to publish a compilation with Grand Master Li's commentary.

(5)...Glenn Newth, Hwa Yu T'ai Chi Ch'uan: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Five-Word Song (Paperback)

(6)...Online Site, Li Chung's translations  available to all of his students, these have been absorbed in to website http://5word.waterboxing.com  [ this translation was made available via my prior Thai student Dr. Sunny Rangsit. ]

"  An important book of translation forming the basis of LiuHe BaFa Five Character Secrets Internal Style BaGua Xing Yi Six 6 Harmonies Eight 8 Methods. ...http://plumpub.com/sales/bagua/bk_lhbf.htm

"  Liuhebafa Five Character Secrets (book) Secrets of Liuhebafa The... Liuhebafa was the last of the internal methods to be taught outside China. http://shop.store.yahoo.com/ymaa/liuhfivchars.html

Amazon.co.uk:  Liuhebafa Five Character Secrets ...Chinese Classics, Translations, Commentary Paul Dillon Reviews, recommendations,