What is a “Jin Gang”?

Some Chen postures have names such as “Jin Gang Dao Dui”, which is sometimes translated as “Buddha’s Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar”. It may help your practice to keep this image of a “Jin Gang” in mind;

However, I did come across an alternative translation in a post on Facebook, in the Chen Style Taijiquan (Tai Chi) group;

Quoting from the link Dan Docherty says

“Oh yes, this amazing Taoist martial art with techniques such as ‘Buddha’s Warrior Attendant Pounding Mortar’! basically it’s Shaolin Boxing with a bit of Tai Chi thrown in”

I wonder if he has any ability to understand Chinese. The “Buddha Warrior” in Jin Gang Dao Dui is not a correct translation. a “Jin Gang(金强)” is an adjective meaning “very adamant” not a noun meaning “Buddha Warrior.” Jin Gang Shi(金强石) means Jin Gang(indestructable) Stone or Diamond. Jin Gang Bu Huai(金剛不壞) refers to a state in Shaolin Gong Fu where the practitioners skin cannot be harmed by weapon.

Jin Gang SOMETIMES refer to very adamant guardian in Buddhism but not neccessarily always.

So Jin Gang Dao Dui just means very solid pound on a mortar or a Jin Gang Guardian pounding on a mortar. Not “Buddha Warrior”

Edit: see the comments for further discussion.

5 Responses to “What is a “Jin Gang”?”

  1. 1 Zac 12/10/2010 at 10:53 pm

    Hi, just passing through while searching for ‘jingang’ references.
    I think the facebook guy has it wrong.

    He says:
    But the second character is ‘qiang’ not ‘gang’.

    I’ve seen lots of “金刚” in martial arts…I did a quick google search for “金强捣碓” that is ‘jin qiang dao dui’ but no results. Then I searched for “金刚捣碓” ‘jin gang dao dui’ and found 239,000 results. So it must be gang not qiang.

    Now, 金 jin means ‘gold’ or ‘metal’ and 刚 gang means ‘hard’, ‘strong’ or ‘tough’. Together they can mean ‘diamond’ or ‘hard metal’.

    But in Buddhism the word ‘diamond’ has a lot of significance. It is ‘vajra’ in sanksrit. So you end up with things like the ‘diamond sutra’ called in sandskrit Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra or in Chinese 金剛經 jin gang jing. (thanks wikipedia)
    You also have saints/buddhas with ‘diamond’ in their name, for example Vajrapani, which means ‘diamond hand’ and in chinese is 金剛手 jin gang shou. Jin gang shou is the guy who protects the buddha, symbolising his might and power.

    At least one of my dictionaries tells me that the Chinese happily abbreviate jingangshou down to jingang. So when you see ‘金剛’ it can indeed mean either diamond, or vajrapani, or the buddha’s guards in general. Incidentally, it can also mean ‘King Kong’ apparently because when the movie came out, the idea of an awesomely strong being was best captured in chinese by allusion to the buddha’s guardians. It probably sounds better in chinese than ‘really big monkey’. Sounds strange, but then again he isn’t actually a King either, and Kong doesn’t really mean anything.

    You could still argue that it means something like “diamond-hard pound mortar”…a lot of chinese stuff seems to be open to interpretation. Or maybe in a chinese context it doesn’t really make much difference? ie. the buddha’s guardians are the embodiment of toughness, like a diamond. Besides, we’re dealing in the realm of metaphor anyway…so you can either pound that mortar really hard (hard as diamond) or you can…pound it really hard (hard as a buddhist guardian).

    Besides, trying to determine whether the art is taoist or buddhist based on one name in its form will not give a conclusive answer. If that’s all we’ve got to go on, what does it really matter whether it is taoist or buddhist? Maybe the ‘taiji’ name isn’t meant in reference to the taoist philosophical concept; maybe they really just meant to say that their kung fu was the ultimate?

  2. 3 Rory Hunter 13/10/2010 at 6:45 am

    Thanks for your comments. Not being able to read Chinese, I would never have spotted that!

    I’m pretty familiar with Buddhist terminology and the references to diamonds, but without the cultural background and a dictionary, it’s difficult for me to link posture names to their references. I always thought that it would be a fascinating topic for a book, to discuss where the names of the postures came from and what they allude to. Sometimes I think that non-Chinese speakers are missing out of some (most?) of the meaning!

    If you have any more posture explanations, please do share!

  3. 4 Zac 15/10/2010 at 6:18 am

    My pleasure.

    I’m actually not a taiji guy, but many arts have a similar mix of prosaic and poetic names for their movements/postures. However, the few Chinese people I’ve spoken with on this subject have not understood where I’m coming from.

    I agree that it would be a fascinating topic for a book. There are many commonalities within the names of different arts…a systematic study might unravel how they are connected, or what motivates people to give interesting names to some moves but not others.

    I think there must be a bit of information already available about taiji, including the names. But it is good to be able to get at the original term in the original language. Even then, you could do more research to get a deeper understanding. For example, I’ve heard of ‘lazily tying coat’ but I have no idea what kind of coat or clothes they would be referring to. Something like that would really bug me if I was learning taiji 🙂

    Sorry I don’t have any more to offer!

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