Montag, 26. Februar 2018

The Intention (yi)

by Martin Boedicker

One of the central requirements in Tai Chi Chuan is:

Use the intention (yi) and not muscular strength.

(Foto of Ma Jiangbao by Manos Meisen)

This sentence explains us one of the highest ideals of Tai Chi Chuan and it emphasizes the importance of yi. Yi is already in the classical Chinese philosophy a technical term, which covers a wide range of meaning. One can say e.g. that yi is everything, which one has in mind, what one is thinking. Zhuangzi points out:

What can be verbalized is the coarse of the things.
What can be in the mind (yi) is the fine of the things.

Yi In the epistemology of Xunzi is best translated as imagination. But yi can also be mood, inclination or intention, like the intention of a painter preceding his brushwork. This is called bi-yi the intention of the brush. This 'intention' is also often attributed to nature, e.g. when one feels the end of the summer, with a chill in the air. In Chinese this is called chu-yi, the intention of the autumn.

There term yi is often found in the Classics of Tai Chi Chuan, e.g. in the Song of 13 Basic Movements:

Yi and qi as the ruler - bones and flesh as the servants.

In some translations of this sentence one finds often the word spirit or mind for yi. Even though yi is close to spirit (shen) and the heart-mind (xin) one should know, that the spirit and the heart-mind are not identical with yi. One says:

When the heart-mind moves, the yi is also moving.
The heart-mind orders, the yi implements.

To place yi below the spirit and the heard-mind and to take the special meaning of yi in Tai Chi Chuan in account, it is best to translate yi as intention.

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