Kung Fu character

Discussions on the Cantonese language.

Kung Fu character

Postby Kobo-Daishi » Thu Mar 28, 2002 10:47 am

Dear readers,

Is “kung fu”, the colloquial term for “martial art”which is usually written 奶� (Mand: gong1 fu1, Cant: gung1 fu1) ever written as 工夫 (Mand: gong1 fu1, Cant: gung1 fu1)?

In the dictionary at <www.zhongwen.com>, they have the second way of writing it to mean the "martial art" too.

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.

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Re: Kung Fu character

Postby sheik » Sat Mar 30, 2002 2:48 pm

Someone on here must know more about this surely, it must be a fairly common word?

Please post if you know!


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Re: Kung Fu character

Postby Elvis » Wed Apr 03, 2002 3:58 pm

I am not sure if I can answer your question, I just try to give you some feedback.

Martial Art (English)=奶�(Chinese)
工夫 is wrong as it actually means "work".
"I've done some 工夫" means "I've done some work" or "I've made the effort".
奶� is pronunce as "Kung-fu". As time goes on, people start to become more familiar with the chinese pronounciation of 奶�, so they start to use "Kung-fu" instead of "martial art".

I cannot find the word at <www.zhongwen.com>, so I cannot comment on that!


Re: Kung Fu character

Postby Kobo-Daishi » Thu Apr 04, 2002 11:14 pm

Dear Elvis,

This is the web page at www.zhongwen.com that has 工夫 (Mand: gong1 fu1, Cant: gung1 fu1) to mean kung-fu:

<a href="http://www. zhongwen.com/d/164/x117.htm ">http://www. zhongwen.com/d/164/x117.htm </a></font><p>

And, this is the web page that has 奶� (Mand: gong1 fu1, Cant: gung1 fu1) meaning kung-fu:

<a href=" http://www.zhongwen.com/d/165/x92.htm "> http://www.zhongwen.com/d/165/x92.htm </a></font><p>

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.


Re: Kung Fu character

Postby 忠仔 » Sat Apr 06, 2002 8:14 am

Hi everybody,

This is Michael. I looked this word up in the following dictionary (北京外國語大學英語係)《漢英詞典》. First of all I discovered that according to the dictionary 功夫 and 工夫 are the same, because under the word 功夫 it said: refer to 工夫. The word 工伕 has the following meanings.

1.) time: 他三天工夫就學會了滑冰。It took him only three days to learn to skate. / 她去了沒剁大工夫就回來了。 She didn't take long to get there and back. / 明天有工夫在來吧。 Come again tomorrow if you have time.

2.)dial. at the time: 我當閨女那工夫,連大門都不敢出。 When I was a girl, I didn't even dare to go outdoors.

3.)workmanship; skill; art (kung fu would come under this definition):
練工夫(of actors, athletes, etc.) practise. / 這位雜技演員可有工夫!/
The acrobat's skill is really suberb!

4.)effort; work: 花了好大工夫 put in a lot of work

Note that the dictionary I refered to is from Mainland China. It's quite possible that Dictionaries in Taiwan and Hong Kong use 功夫 written this way when defining the third defintion of the word and 工夫 when defining the forth defintion. If I remember right 功夫first got it's definition as Kung Fu from the Cantonese. So when refering to Martial Arts it's actually more a Cantonese word. In Northern China they like to say 武術,武藝,武功等.

Here are some examples of words that were at one time two different words and are still two different words but are now written with the same character in Mainland China. For example the word 鬆 and 松。鬆 usually refers to like 輕鬆,鬆弛,放鬆 etc. and 松 to 松樹,松鼠,松香etc. Now 輕鬆 is written as 轻松 and 松鼠 is still written as 松鼠。 Sometimes this causes problems for me (only in Mainland China,Guang Dong) when pronouncing a persons name with word 松 in it. Because the word 松 has two different pronunciations in Cantonese, one is (sung 1) when refering to loose or slack etc. and (tsung 4) refering to pine trees. I've meet people with names that were pronunced as (sung1) and people with namees that were pronunced as (tsung4). Because Hong Kong still uses the traditional characters so they saved themselves all this trouble.

Here's another word that's more similar to 工夫/功夫。 侷促 can.guk6/9 tsuk1/7 man. ju2cu4. (cramped or narrow). 侷促/跼促 is the way it was originally written, now however it has become 局促。侷 and 局 used to be two seperate words, but no they are the same character, but have two different meanings.

Here's some other words. 捨/舍=舍 發/髮=发 表(biu2)/錶(biu1)=表
沖/衝=沖 丑/醜=丑 出/齣=出 鬭,鬦,鬥/斗=斗 復/複=复
and many more.

I don't know if I was able to answer your question. Hope I was of help.我自己都係學緊呢啲嘢。希望我能援一臂之力。



Terence Lee

Re: Kung Fu character

Postby Terence Lee » Sun Apr 14, 2002 11:14 am

This is a very interesting question. I often come across these terms but never made deep thinking about their differences. For this, I have done some brief researches and would like to have them posted here.

工夫and 奶� are the same terms in modern Chinese as many Mandarin dictionaries have taken them as one single term. According to Xiandai Hanyu Cidian and Xinhua Zidian, the following meanings are induced: 1. Time taken to do …, 2. Leisure time, 3. At the time …, 4. Effort, 5. Great attainment. People can use either word to express the above meanings, but customarily, for 1, 2and 3 more people like using 工夫 whilst for 4 and 5, they tend to use 奶�.

� Gong1 (pinyin) 1‧is a task or something requiring strength to complete.2‧fastness, sturdiness of tools(Dictionary of notyet explained words)

武 Wu3 (pinyin) is a character appeared as early as in Jiaguwen, it was a pictogram showing a person who is standing guard for a city with a weapon 戈. It meant things related to ‘Defense’. Thus, it extends to mean ‘half step’半步(derived from patrol with discreet) when combined with other characters, it means related things such as武器 weapons,武士 soldiers/guards,武力 armed force/ military force,and武術 martial art,and武�/工 which bears meanings of 1‧martial attainment and the effort to achieve that attainment. 2‧skill in acrobatic in Chinese opera.

The following is made just according to my own understanding about武

For vigorous battle and intensified warfare, the ancient Chinese wise men put forth training to soldiers both in combat tactics and personal physical training. The physical training was some kind a drill or exercise for upgrading defense and kill skill of soldiers. It was called練武,演武which are操兵、練兵in modern sense. In ancient time, soldiers were also civilians when there was no war, the martial exercises were thus brought to the living of ordinary people. Some wise men improved the forms of exercises and it became popular in civilians and not just served the army. 武alone is a word including military training and personal fight training. The latter in the civilians was called 擊劍 (fight using sword),擊拳 etc. According to Zhonghua Wu Jing, the term擊劍appeared as early as in Eastern Zhou Dynasty. Most of the assassins recorded in Shi Ji were skillful in擊劍which had obviously been developed to become a systematic training as it could be followed and practiced by someone. (Noted that 擊劍did not solely mean fight using sword but other kinds of weapons and fists punching etc).
擊劍 was a term also being included in武even in Han Dynasty because practicing擊劍at that time was sometimes called練武. 習武. The ways of擊劍 had once been divided to fighting skill and swordplay舞劍(which was later comprehended as dance with sword. 劍舞). In later centuries, the swordplay had become acrobats’ means of earning living. The acrobats called the exercises they received for demonstrating swordplay were練�. The attainment from 練另ogether with the art the acrobats showed in an opera were called武�/工 Apart from this, 武alone was still a word which continued to mean all martial terms. Those having received martial training were called武夫,武人(martial men),the society particularly for武者,武人 was called武林. The attainment that martial men had achieved from martial training was called武藝.

There was probably not a term as奶� until Tang. 奶浾t first has nothing to do with武 (see the above definition of工/奶�) but because of the meaning of effort and attainment, it applied to mean how good is a martial man. e.g. 好奶� (actually it meant the process to complete martial courses and achieve attainment) was somewhat equivalent to好武藝. This application was found in some fictions in Ming and Qing Dynasty.

Up till now, I did not find the term of武術 (martial art) appearing in any ancient writings but dictionary has its entry and explained as skill of playing fist-punching and weapons.

For the ambiguities of奶牷A武術,武藝,武仟nd武,I have personally interviewed two elderly martial masters/artists (not know the right English term but I feel they are a bit not exactly the same between them) in Hong Kong. The first one is uncle Cheung who is 93 and his faction is tai3 gik6 tong4 long4太極螳蜋. He does not publicly take disciples but teach his family this kind of Kung Fu. He claimed that when he was a boy, his father did not use the term Kung Fu but addressed it as拳.or 拳術(fist/fist-punching(may be like boxing)) or � ,such as練拳or練� and when introducing himself, he used to say ‘我是教拳的 (I am teaching fist-punching)’ By saying this, everyone knew that he was a master in武, but he never spoke武singularly. He also did not speak武術 but say 拳術which was not a collective term serving to include weapons because there were terms saying劍術(skill in swordfight),棍術etc. He did also not speak武半ut say叨r sometimes奶O. He advised that there is an old saying ‘練拳不練央A到老一場空,(if you only practice fist-punching but neglecting�, it will be useless/nothing left when you get old’. He explained that可s an inner power created through incessantly practices of playing拳with special gestures and special breathing, The inner power is sometimes called ‘latent air’ which could be accumulated and condensed inside the human body and it can strengthen the body and prevent it from being hurt by outside impact. Uncle Cheung further revealed that at the time he was receiving training of 拳術(80 years before) he had heard some 拳師(master in fist-punching) from northern China (outside Guangdong) used to say 武術instead of 拳術 where he deemed that they were the same. Uncle Cheung has taken the term Kung Fu for拳術 only in recent decades since the public like to say練奶牷A玩奶� instead of練拳,玩拳。For this, he attributed to Bruce Lee’s great influences.

Another Kung Fu master, Pak who is at about 60, is from a long generation Kung Fu family. He has more than thirty years experiences of teaching coi3 lei5 fat6蔡李佛 publicly. When he talked about his faction of Kung Fu, he like to call it as國術(national skill). He claimed that he personally had never used the term武術 but accepts Kung Fu is a kind of國術. He also accepts others saying that 蔡李佛is a kind of Kung Fu. He revealed that the term 武術had once faded out for a time and was changed to be named as 國術 for distinguishing between those martial art from outside in early 20th century, i.e. Karate from Japan, but the name 武術has restored again because people in mainly China have tried to promote 國術 as a kind of world sports so that they reused the term of武術since it sounded big and has no boundary. However, he indicated that the present 武術 is not like it was before, as it particularly stresses in the displaying performance of fistplay, weaponplay but not 拳術. He explained that 武術is an art solely for display and just like those acrobats did in ancient time and simply武術cannot fight..

For the explanation of武, Pak has made some calls to his friends of the martial field in China and learnt the following. 1. 武is a collective term still being used to name self-defense, i.e. no change since the character was firstly created. 2. 武 is going to fade out as terms like自衛術 (skill of self-defense), 武央A武術,奶� have been widely used to substitute the term. 3. Some of Pak’s friends tended to define the terms according to publicly recognition as that武is a collective term for武�, 武術and奶�, in which武� is a name replacing� (the way of achieving inner power), 武術 (probably equivalent to martial art in English term) is a display of武in forms of elegant gestures; and Kung Fu is a practical skill of fighting, which is also known as 博擊in Hong Kong and散打 in mainly China. Certainly, the above definition is awaiting the public to accept.

As a matter of fact that there was no already recognized definition for Kung Fu and martial art, Hong Kong has used different names to represent martial art especially in categorizing movies However, there was some customary addressing. For martial art movies with an historic background, Hong Kong like to call them as 武俠片(most of them have scenes of weaponfight), for those with modern background (particularly background of early 20th century), it will be called武打片(most of them have scenes of fistfight),for a time after Bruce Lee and shortly before Jacky Chan, 武打片 was began to be called as奶狺�. At present, it is probably influenced by the English term, action movie, some Hong Kong people tend to call all the movies having fight scenes as動作片。Nowadays, most people of Hongkong will take Kung Fu replacing all terms for martial art.

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Re: Kung Fu character

Postby kingstone » Sun Feb 13, 2011 2:45 am

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