Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Translating Wing Chun

What do these characters actually mean?  For many Wing Chun Kung Fu practitioners they are emblazoned on their uniforms, T-shirts or school banners.   Pure meanings are often obscured in translation due to culture and contemporary understandings.  However, the popular western translation of Wing Chun (in Cantonese) is "Praise Springtime".  

Would it make any difference if they were written this way?

Above reads:  Weng Chun, meaning "Eternal Springtime"  and is often confused with or even substituted for Wing Chun as seen above.  These characters are usually associated with Wing Chun's likely Shaolin ancestor, Weng Chun.  

Romanized "Wing" written as:  
 has the  radicals to the left meaning to speak out or chant.  Due to the circumstances that these Kung Fu systems were developed, its inheritors passed down the history orally in order to protect the practitioners of the system as they might have been connected with Chinese revolutionary groups or Triads.

While  Romanized "Weng"
   does not have the radicals to the left like "Wing and has the meaning, "eternal.".  This likely has closer roots to the original purpose of these systems:  bringing life back to the Han people of China from the oppressive Manchu dynasty.  Which poetically would restore an "eternal springtime".  

Though Chinese characters have become a fixation of popular western culture,  westerners do not have the advantage of learning the basic radicals upon which Chinese characters are based,  much less know how to always accurately read or write them.  As we martial artists invest so much time physically training ourselves, it would do us good to occasionally take a minute to know and understand more the meanings behind the names of the systems we practice every now and then.

"A man should know the source of the water from which he drinks."   - Grandmaster Yip Man

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