Nowadays, hardness and softness are always the two topics mentioned in the statements about Kung-fu and in the discussions held by several Kung-fu successors. Actually, practicing any kind of Quan in hardness or softness is a typical phenomenon of how Taoist ideology penetrates and affects Chinese Kung-fu.
Lie Zi’s works firstly presented the dialectical relation-ship in normal cases between hardness and softness and their connection with the nature and the universe.
Lie Zi (450-375 B.C.), Lie Yu Kou by name, was one of the founders of Taoism theory during Warring States Period. In his famous Taoist book Chong Xu Zhi De Zhen Jing, he stated his opinions about dialectical relationship among characteristics of all things of creature in nature. Hardness and softness with human beings in nature can change them selves into their opposites respectively experienced by people in their lives with the development of history.
The importance and mutual transformation of hardness and softness are embodied in the main body of Chinese traditional Kung-fu, including practicing, practical combat, caring for human lives and fitness. But first hardness and softness should be clearly understood as using them in consciousness and body. Take softness for example. It's necessary to master all the ways of softness and when or how to keep any or all soft. Of course, hardness should be mastered to the same extent.
Besides, Quan articles and manuals frequently refer to related statements such as coupling hardness with softness, hardness following softness, softness following hardness, hardness appearing in softness and, softness appearing in hardness, etc. The two are not mutually exclusive when they can change into the reverse. Successors and researchers normally practice Kung-fu with hardness and softness in general cases after comprehending Taoist ideology. Therefore, Lie Zi's Taoist theory on hardness and softness Is accepted by later generations, it demonstrates the direction on scientific and objective development of Chinese society.
Many Kung-fu masters and predecessors have written books on how to do actons or movements soft and hard in practicing Chinese traditional Kung-fu, so it is no need to say more. Now we put down Lie Zi's original article and one version of translation for readers.
Appendix: The Explanation of Hardness & Softness in the book of Lie Zi
The book of Lie Zi says that “nothing in the world, even created by Heaven or other sages, would have possessed a universal function and all the usages. Once the most proper purpose and advantage one is set up according to its relevant characteristic, it shouldn’t be used for other unsuitable purposes. Why all things on earth are soft or hard depends on things’ innate nature. As a result there should be something giving birth to life, objects, voice, color and taste. Creators will exist without being felt even if creatures die or things vanish. We name such creators as Wu Wei (doing nothing). Things as Wu Wei can be of any shape or quality, all-purpose or useless. What we can do is to let them take their own course by non-action. This is a basic concept of Taoism."
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