Friday September 4, 2015 @ 8:20am
Any professional organization or society uses specific terminology to provide particular meanings to words and terms used by its members.
The Roman alphabet is the norm for writing Western European and North American Languages while the Chinese Language used ideographic symbols. A person unfamiliar with these symbols but who wishes to write down the Chinese sounds according to the way they are heard has to use a phonetic tool commonly termed Romanization.
Throughout the lineages of Ving Tsun no standard system of Romanization has been used for Cantonese terms. In addition, due to the complexities of translating Chinese terminological subtleties into English being dependant on an instructor's understanding of both Chinese and English language and culture, students are often given inaccurate or misleading translations of Ving Tsun terminology.
In an effort to establish higher standards in communication throughout the martial art community, the Ving Tsun Museum has adopted an organized, researched system for Romanizing all Cantonese terms. This system is known as the Yale system, developed by Yale-In-China Language Center, University of Hong Kong.
This webpage serves as an aid to students and teachers of the art of Ving Tsun. Below is a link to an introduction on the pronunciation of Cantonese. It is meant as a reference and acts only as an aid to a formal language program from a native speaker or professional teacher.
In addition to the pronunciation guide are a majority of terms and characters used in the Yip Man lineage. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list but contains the most common terms.
If your lineage uses specific Chinese terminology and you would like to see it included in future revisions of this website, please contact Jeremy Roadruck at SifuJeremy@vtmuseum.org.
Also included is a dictionary containing each character, pronunciation and literal meaning. Many terms used in Chinese Martial Arts utilize specialized meanings or intents for common words. A phrase that might seem simple and straight-forward to one lineage might be a secret code phrase symbolizing advanced thinking in another lineage. Also, many terms cannot be directly translated into English without losing much symbolism and intent in the translating.
Take the term tàan (tän) as an example. Tàan (tän) means "1) to spread; to open 2) to divide equally; to apportion." Often it is translated with a short definition of "disperse" but this does not convey much meaning. Tàan can be described through the use of analogy: imaging you are going to put peanut butter on a piece of toast. You toast the bread and put a big gob of peanut butter on the toast. Then you take a knife and spread the peanut butter out to make it evenly distributed on the toast. That act of spreading the peanut butter describes the motion of tàan physically while the desire to make the peanut butter evenly distributed on the toast describes the intent of tàan. Having this understanding of tàan leads to discussion of the application of tàan physically with intent consistent to both the Chinese term of tàan and the principles and concepts of the Ving Tsun System.
To further improve this reference as a research tool, Pinyin Mandarin has also been included. Mandarin is the official language of the Peoples' Republic of China and Pinyin is the official rendering of Mandarin into Roman letters. Ving Tsun is a Chinese art in origins - by understanding the original terminology it is hoped that insight is provided into the nature and application of the techniques.