Embracing the Tiger
Li Ya-xuanís commentary on Cheng Man-chingís recording of Yang Cheng-fuís oral transmission.
Translated by David Chen. October, 2002.
Proofread by Andy Unger.

Following is my translation on the posture of "Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain" from Yang Chen-Fu's "Taijiquan Ti-Yung Quan Shu" (Complete principles and applications of Taijiquan), published in 1934, written by Professor Cheng Man-ching under Yang Cheng-fu's oral transmission.

Posture 19th: Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain-----

"From the previous movement (Cross Hands), presume the opponent approaching me from behind at the right corner, at the moment I could not tell whether he is attacking with the arm or the leg, I immediately turn my waist and separate my arms, step my right foot towards him, then sink my weight into the front leg and keep my back leg straight; at the same time, my right arm followed the waist turn brushing towards the opponent's waist, then embrace him, followed by a forward push with my left hand; this is the reason for brushing (the opponent's waist) with the right wrist facing down first, then turn the wrist to embrace, as it called "Embrace Tiger".

"If the opponent reacted quickly and escaped from my embracing but get brushed off or pushed away, and returning with his left hand blow, I then use the Roll-back to deflect his attack. The following 3 movements (of Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain) from Grasp The Sparrow's Tail-Roll-back, Press and Push---are the same as in the previous pages."


Li Ya-xuanís private commentary regarding Cheng Man-chingís recording of the application of Embrace Tiger.
(Li Ya-xuan of Sichuan province, China. 1893-1976)

In 1949, when Li Ya Xuan was in Hong Kong he visited his teacher's first son - Yang Zhenming. Zhenming gave Li a copy of the book---"Complete principles and applications of Taijiquan." Later in his spare time Li read and critiqued the book. He wrote his comments in the upper margins. They appeared like "eyebrows" of the page, hence, they came to be known as Li's eyebrow comments.

Following is David Chen's translation on Li's "eyebrow comments" regarding Professor Cheng's original text on the application of "Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain." (See above for the translation of original text)

Li's commentary:
"He (Cheng Man-ching) said to embrace the opponent, then said if embracing doesn't work, then to push, then to roll-back, where was his mind at? It is nonsense!
It was supposed to be "Leopard and Tiger Return to Mountain" (Note by David: "Leopard" and "Embrace" are sharing the same pronunciation in Chinese.), where was this "Embrace Tiger" come from?
This movement is to depict the turning head and step action, which was similar to leopard and tiger returning to mountain.
Its application is identical to Xingyiquan's Tiger Pounce, only in Taijiquan we practice it in a slow manner in order to describe its inner meaning; now people misinterpreted "Leopard" with "Embrace", it is a big mistake, plus, the beast such as tiger how can anyone "embrace" it?
He (Cheng Man-ching) said the embrace followed by 3 movements from Grasp The Sparrow's Tail-Rollback, Press and Push, but where's Ward-off?
Obviously he doesn't know what the Ward-off is."
(End of Liís commentary for this posture)


There were 18 commentaries from Li regarding Professor's interpretation; Li's son-in-law Chen Long-xian published these notes to Yongnian Taijiquan magazine in China ( Yongnian County is Yang family's hometown). When I met the editor of the magazine in 2003 at the summit of Yang style lineage holders, he said he didnít publish the second part of Liís 18 commentaries due to many different opinions and responses from the readers towards the first part.

I was told that Li had no intention to publicize his personal notes; as many readers have a habit of jotting down thoughts in the margins but that doesn't represent their final viewpoints. I was told that because Cheng Man-ching was only a junior student when studying with Yang Chen-fu during the recording, Cheng would not dare to change a word of his teacher's oral transmission, plus, Yang would have to approve them by asking Cheng read back to him. (Note: Yang Cheng-fu was a simple man, while Cheng Man-ching was already a professor in a college.)

I think, there are many posture names and descriptions in Yang style Taijiquan that have long lost of their original meanings due to generations of "oral transmission" through different dialects and accents. If we look at from the practical point of "Grasp Spiralís Tail," "Repulse Monkey," "Snake Creeps Down," and "Step-back Ride the Tiger," I think "Leopard and Tiger Return to Mountain (together?)" is as impractical as "Embrace Tiger;" not to mention these animals in Chinese kongfu were only meant to be poetic metaphor of martial applications.

David Chen