ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (PRIVATE NOTES): Tĭ and yòng 體•用 substance and function


In plain Chinese “tĭ (體)” and “yòng (用)” are translated like “body, form, style, system” and “to use, to employ, to apply” and in the terms of Encyclopedia of Taoism Isabelle Robinet sais: “The terms ti and yong are variously rendered as “substance” or “essence”, and “function” or “application” or “activity,” respectively. Together they constitute a paradigm that has played an important role in Chinese thought.” And this is the first reason of three I had chosen the article Tĭ and yòng (體•用) for my blog.

“In Western terms, the relation between ti and yong parallels that between being and becoming, potentiality and actuality, subject and predicate, or language and discourse (although the terms do not have the same meaning, the relation itself is comparable).”—I. Robinet, and this is the second reason to put ‘substance and function’ in my blog: I am a trained philologist, for God’s sake 🙂

“Ti is said to be the “ancestor” (zŭ 祖) or the “ruler” (zhŭ 主), but an ancestor does not exist without descendants and a ruler does not exist without subjects. The distinction between ti and yong pertains to the domain “subsequent to form” (or: “below the form,” xíng ér xià 形而下), i.e., the phenomenal world of thought and language; only within the phenomenal world can there be a distinction between noumenon and phenomenon, which are one and the same.”— I.R., (by the way, I don’t see any reason why it should be in my blog except the fact that ‘noumenon and phenomenon’ sounds so chilly great)!

“The dialectic relation between ti and yong is the same as that between Non-being and Being (wú and yŏu, 無•有). For instance, if one takes the Dao as fundamental Non-being and ti, then its name and workings are Being and yong, respectively, and everything is subsumed by Non-being. But one can take Being as ti and Non-being as yong to make Non-being operate.”—I.R., and this is a perfectly great reason to join this quote to my blog and end the note.

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