By: Yin Qianhe
By Yin Qianhe
(Not formally published, written circa 1958. Brennan Translations, December 2015. 57 pages.)
Review by Christopher Dow
Notes prefacing this book by translator Paul Brennan state: “There was obviously a serious initial intention to publish, since the trouble was taken to produce photos, though it is not clear that it was ever completed as a manuscript, and we have been left with only a ‘chapter fourteen.’”
Brennan goes on to speculate that the thirteen chapters that would precede chapter fourteen would have contained prefatory material, a section on Tai Chi history, discussions of Tai Chi principles and theory, and a section on push hands and possibly one on the Tai Chi Classics. But there is none of that.
Chapter fourteen is the form instruction section, and the form depicted is rather arcane, not obviously conforming to any style I know, though some of the movements make it appear to be a variant of Northern Wu. But maybe that’s my imagination. Each posture is described with verbal iinstructions, including a simple explanation of one possible application, accompanied by photos, and that’s it.
End of book, end of review.
By Yin Qianhe
(Originally published by Pole Star Press, 1958. Brennan Translations, December 2015. 66 pages.)
Review by Christopher Dow
Here I go again, reviewing a book on Tai Chi sword when I do not know much about Tai Chi sword, though I practiced a saber set for a brief time. But while I can’t say much about the sword form depicted, I can make observations about the prefatory material. I also can say that Yin Qianhe was a notable martial artist and author of several martial arts books, some of which are reviewed here.
Taiji Sword is prefaced by Shen Honglie, who is described thus by the author in his own preface: “When armies were raised in resistance against Japan [during the Second Sino-Japanese War, July 7, 1937, to September 2, 1945], I followed Shen Honglie, chairman of my home province of Shandong, by serving in the army. Shen was a long-standing advocate for martial arts, so he made martial arts the major training regimen for the military, and since it is my hobby, I pursued this with extra sincerity. For fighting the enemy and smiting the invaders, it proved to be very helpful.”
From this statement, we can gather that Yin’s swordplay is not only sincere but actually was utilized in battle, making it deadly serious.
The second preface is by Chen Family Tai Chi stylist Chen Panling, who served as president of Henan Province Martial Arts Academy. Yin describes Chen by saying he received “frequent guidance from my martial arts superior, Chen Panling,” among others.
To his credit, Yin provides more prefatory material for this book than Wu Tunan did for his book on Tai Chi sword. The author gives a succinct background on the development of the sword, coming to the conclusion, as have many other martial arts historians, that the background of specific martial arts—not to mention martial arts as a whole—are too hazy and steeped in myth and legend to ascertain any sort of accurate historical picture of their development.
Next is a basic introduction to Tai Chi sword. This includes differentiating the methodology of Tai Chi sword from the sword arts of external styles, distinguishing movement and stillness, coordinating the upper and lower parts of the body, and encouraging continuity of movement, which also takes into account the principles of sticking, connecting, adhering, and following.
The sixteen sword techniques of Yin’s sword form are the subject of the next, very short chapter. They are presented as a list, each technique accompanied by a brief description of the action of the sword.
The next chapter delineates eight moral attitudes to adhere to in martial arts training. These, the author says, apply to open-hand as well as to weapons forms. As should be obvious, they all are in accord with general moral principles by which we all wish the rest of us would abide. I’ll give you only the topics, though Yin provides a sentence or two of explanation: maintain seriousness, look upon others with respect, receive others harmoniously, maintain a sense of justice, practice with diligence, conduct yourself with honor, cherish compassion, and give yourself with loyalty.
The final chapter before the instruction section lays out four pointers for practicing Tai Chi sword. The first is perhaps the most important: “If you wish to practice Taiji Sword, the best thing to do is start practicing Taiji Boxing.”
After that, the form instruction section takes up the remainder of the book. As noted above, I’m not qualified to critique sword forms, but I will remind the reader that Yin apparently actually used a sword in combat, so that should lend some weight to the form depicted. And as a final note, the sword Yin wields in the photos is quite long—much larger in relation to his body than is usually seen.
Ridding Illness without Medicine
by Yin Qianhe
(Pole Star Press & Joined in Harmony Press, 1961. Brennan Translations, 2015. 202 pages.)
Review by Christopher Dow
In Prolonging Life: Ridding Illness without Medicine, Yin Qianhe has assembled a thorough manual on health and self-healing based on traditional Chinese medicine. With the exceptions of a few chapters, this is not a book to be read for insights or understandings. Instead, it is a catalog of techniques and methods to combat illness, whether transitory or chronic. The opening sentence of the book says it all: “My aim with this book is a hope that you will keep fit by way of internal exercises, using psychology, physiology, and natural principles to treat and cure illness, as well as [by] methods of first aid, and the expressing of human willpower, to dispel illness invisibly.”
The emphasis here is, first, on prevention of illness and, second, on curing it. Yin begins the treatise with several introductory sections that lay out his basic background in the martial arts and meditation and how those led him to a deeper understanding of health and well-being. The purpose of his book, he writes, is to share his knowledge for the benefit of his fellow human beings. You could call this a mid-20th century Chinese version of contemporary self-help and self-healing literature.
Over the course of twenty-nine chapters, each containing several sections, Yin discusses a great number of health-related exercises, practices, and dietary suggestions. The first three chapters are those that most probably would interest the general reader. In chapter one, he defines the basic parameters of internal energy and discusses the idea of cultivating it through specific exercises and practices. Along the way, he gives reasons to take up these exercises and practices as well as warning against certain pitfalls. Chapter two, while still remaining philosophical, discusses health and illness in more specific terms, still with a concentration on internal energy. Chapter three comprises four somewhat lengthy passages from previous Chinese elixirist literature, all of which are intrinsically interesting.
The focus of chapters four and five is massage techniques. The reason to use each technique is explained, and the descriptions of the technique’s methods are adequate, but each one is accompanied by only a single photo of poor quality. Meditation is the subject of chapter six. Three methods are discussed—standing, sitting, and lying—and each has a photo. This is a pretty basic gloss of a very deep subject.
Chi kung takes up chapter seven, and in it, Yin gives a general explanation of chi kung exercises as well as discussions of the psychology of chi kung and breathing techniques, including abdominal breathing. Chapter eight goes back to the subject of massage, and chapter nine is a brief discussion of how to practice chi kung. I’d have put chapter eight alongside chapter six, which would have combined all the massage material in one section and all the chi kung material in another, instead of leap-frogging back and forth between them, which was confusing. Chapter ten, which contains various saying from authors other than Yin about health and nourishing life and internal energy, also will interest the general reader.
With the exception of the final chapter, the entire remainder of the book—about 75 percent of the total—is given over to discussions of a vast number of illnesses and conditions, ranging from digestive issues to problems of the eyes, ears, nose, and throat, to athlete’s foot and acne, and on and on. Each is furnished with a set of cures or palliatives, though some are old-fashioned in the light of modern medicines. I’d call this a sort of home-cure manual since none of the cures involve doctors, and all of them can be accomplished through physical actions, such as exercise or the spreading of balms, or through dietary supplements that one can make at home if you have access to the right ingredients. That might be difficult, since you’d have to have access to a Chinese herbalist to concoct some of these remedies. Also, quite a few of these cures do not sound palatable, and the reader should take all of them with a proverbial grain of salt—or maybe the real thing. Yin also discusses a vast range of food stuffs and delineates their benefits and side effects.
In the final chapter, titled, “Some Further Thoughts,” Yin presents a number of maxims on life in general and on ethics and moral purpose more specifically, again by other authors. This chapter also would be of interest to the general reader.
As I implied earlier, Prolonging Life is not a book to be read through in its entirety, though a number of chapters do lend themselves to that purpose. For the most part, it would primarily appeal either to readers who already have an interest in self-help literature and self-healing techniques or to those who want to research cures for practical reasons.