Gong Fu vs. Kung fu.


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Gong Fu vs. Kung fu.

Postby futurebird » Feb 14th, '13, 20:45

Westerners think of Kung fu as martial arts, skilled fighting where as gong fu is a quiet peaceful way of brewing tea.

Yet both are things that anyone who is good at it must study for a long time it takes training and patience. So, maybe it's not a coincidence they have such similar names.

Are the words related in Mandarin? (I ask about Mandarin because my husband has been studying it for a few years, he can't drink tea because caffeine makes him way too hyper, but he's curious about what I'm doing and sometimes tries to translates the tea packages I have lying around.)

My husband would like to know how would you write:

gong fu tea

and

kung fu fighting

in traditional characters.

neither of us knows very much but we'd like to know more about the history of the words?
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Re: Gong Fu vs. Kung fu.

Postby edkrueger » Feb 14th, '13, 22:09

功夫 and 功夫
Its the same since its the same phrase.
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Re: Gong Fu vs. Kung fu.

Postby wyardley » Feb 14th, '13, 22:23

Well in terms of the representation, "kung fu" is just a non-standard romanization, or a romanization of the sound in a different Chinese language. So "kung fu" and "gōng fū" represent the same terms (congou is also sometimes used, which I believe is a transliteration of the term in one of the Min languages, probably the Xiamen dialect, which is the port that a lot of Chinese teas were shipped out of back in the day). This is the same reason we have words in the vernacular which differ from the current standard system (tao vs. dào, oolong vs. wūlóng, tofu vs. dòufǔ, etc.). Some come from older romanization systems like Wade-Giles, and others come from less standardized transliteration.

I am neither a linguist nor a native speaker of Chinese in any way shape or form, but my understanding is that 工夫 is slightly more correct in the context of tea, though you will see both 工夫 and 功夫 used (whereas 功夫 is almost always used, AFAICT, for the martial arts usage). The phonetic sound and the tones are the same in Mandarin, and, I believe, Cantonese (not sure if 工 and 功 sound the same in Chaozhou and Fujian dialect). Both (compound) words also have multiple possible meanings, including some overlapping ones.

Some more detail in this Language Log post (make sure to read the comments as well as the article itself) as well as here.

Just based on a straight Google fight, "功夫茶" (in quotes) seems to have 4,000,000 results vs. 694,000 for "工夫茶". So it seems like the former may be more common in contemporary usage. However, the scholarly publications and books I've seen seem to lean towards the latter.

As best I understand, the meaning has to do with the effort, skill, and attention involved (which, presumably, on some level, is also the root of the use of the term in reference to martial arts), but doesn't imply that tea-making is literally a martial art, as much as some people might like to make that connection.

There is also some speculation on the Wikipedia page, which expands a bit on the subject of how the term came to be associated with martial arts in Western countries (the Language Log post also spends some time on this subject). Most Chinese folks I know who practice or refer to any kind of martial art would be more likely to say 'wushu', or refer to a specific disciplines, vs. calling it 'gong fu'.

Also, to answer your question, I think that whichever variant of the word you choose, the characters are the same in either simplified or traditional characters (功夫茶, 工夫茶), and I believe 功夫武術 (gongfuwushu) is also the same.

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Re: Gong Fu vs. Kung fu.

Postby Poohblah » Feb 15th, '13, 01:48

To answer your question succinctly, both words (in Chinese, "gongfu" is a word, not a phrase) are the same; they are just a different romanization of the same thing. The word means "with effort, skill, or time".

My (Chinese) undergrad thesis advisor insisted that gongfu tea almost exclusively referred to the fact that gongfu tea takes a relatively long amount of time to make. Other sources, mostly Western, that I have found indicate that the phrase may refer to the amount of skill it takes for a master tea maker to dry, shape, and roast tea.

Read the link to the Language Log post that WYardley provided. It's a good, informative read about the etymology of the word "gongfu", especially as it relates to tea, from renowned Sinologist Victor Mair.

Also look at the dictionary entries for "gongfu" to get a sense of what the word means (first and third entries): http://www.mdbg.net/chindict/chindict.p ... dqb=gongfu

(Ps. If your husband is studying Mandarin, he should realize that "kung" is not valid Pinyin for any Mandarin syllable.)
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Re: Gong Fu vs. Kung fu.

Postby the_economist » Feb 15th, '13, 16:08

First, 工,功,and 夫 are all characters/single words, that is, 字. 功夫 and 工夫 are kind of like words, but made up of two characters, that is, 词.

Now onto the etymology. The language article from Will is good, but as he exhorted, be sure to read to the end. My own understanding (and I'm not entirely sure this is correct) is that the phrase 工夫茶 is of Teochew/Swatow/Chaozhou origin. Indeed, Teochew folk seem to think that 工夫 is not a phrase often used by Chinese people outside of the region, they generally use 功夫 instead to praise great skill as well as to refer to martial arts in general (a quick survey of my Chinese friends from the mainland seems to confirm this). In particular 工夫茶 is a phrase quite specific to the region until more recently.

In that sense, I would believe that the original phrase as espoused by the Teochew people and surrounding regions was 工夫茶, and that because of the close similarity between both meaning and pronunciation of the words 工 and 功, the phrase was often rewritten as 功夫茶.

Regardless of the original form, the Western conception that 功夫 necessarily refers to martial arts is sadly mistaken. One can have 功夫 in any art, including drawing, writing, etc., whether it is 'peaceful' and 'quiet' or 'noisy'.

So then what does 工夫 mean? Poohblah's undergrad thesis advisor is not too far off in emphasizing the element of time, but I think the emphasis is not on length. The phrase 工夫 often refers to labor, as is pointed out by the Language Log post, and interestingly, also refers to leisure time (see http://www.5dhz.com/hanziliushu/shuowenjiezi/2009-09-04/1088.html --- in Chinese). I interpret 工夫茶 to therefore encompass elements of labor and skill, as mentioned by Will and Poohblah, and also a leisurely time. It might not be a long time, indeed it isn't generally a very time consuming process to brew 工夫茶. Traditionally one often extracts just 3-4 brews and is done with it.

P.S.: As a side note, this is a completely understandable confusion of words. Even in terms of mandarin usage, there are significant differences in the way southern Chinese and South East Asian Chinese use words and phrases versus northern Chinese.
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Re: Gong Fu vs. Kung fu.

Postby Poohblah » Feb 15th, '13, 17:04

Thanks for the additional insight, the_economist!

Here is my rough translation of the link that you posted. Everybody is free to suggest revisions, as my Chinese is poor.
功夫 and 工夫 are frequently used homophones - the pronunciations are the same - but the meanings have differences, so it is necessary to clearly distinguish the meanings and differentiate the usages.

工夫 has three meanings: 1. A period of time that is occupied; for instance: after a moment of gongfu the task is completed; using two years of gongfu writing, a single book is written; 2. A period of free time or leisure time, for instance: right now, I don't have gongfu; on weekends, everybody has gongfu, otherwise they travel; 3. A moment [when something happens], for instance: although I am done with that gongfu, I am still but a child.

功夫 primarily points to a person's skills, achievements, etc. For instance: his acting truly had gongfu, the actors all achieved practiced gongfu.

The difference between the two words lies in this: 工夫 indicates time; 功夫 does not indicate time but refers to a person's skill.
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Re: Gong Fu vs. Kung fu.

Postby wyardley » Feb 15th, '13, 22:20

the_economist wrote:The phrase 工夫 often refers to labor, as is pointed out by the Language Log post, and interestingly, also refers to leisure time (see http://www.5dhz.com/hanziliushu/shuowenjiezi/2009-09-04/1088.html --- in Chinese). I interpret 工夫茶 to therefore encompass elements of labor and skill, as mentioned by Will and Poohblah, and also a leisurely time. It might not be a long time, indeed it isn't generally a very time consuming process to brew 工夫茶.

Maybe reaching here (I can't say whether this is the intent behind the expression), but I think it's fair to say that having leisure time is important for enjoying gongfucha - that is, if one doesn't have a certain amount of leisure time, one would probably use more casual tea brewing methods.
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Re: Gong Fu vs. Kung fu.

Postby gingkoseto » Feb 16th, '13, 21:04

In recent years, quite a few tea scholars pointed out that 功夫(as in kungfu movie) is a mis-spelling of 工夫(as in gongfu tea). Some Chinese tea sellers would emphasize in their writings or webpages that oolong tea culture is 工夫 tea and not 功夫 tea (probably in order to show that they are well-cultured...)
But many Chinese (and English) terms formed as results of mis-spelling or mis-use. So we never know how people would spell gongfu tea 1000 years from now :wink:

In the book Oolong Tea written by Gong Zhi (a oolong "godfather" in China), he interprets 工夫/gongfu as "time", and the meaning extends to "effort", and the meaning extends to "skills, qualities that require time and effort". Pretty much the same as said in the_economist's previous post.
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Re: Gong Fu vs. Kung fu.

Postby MEversbergII » Apr 18th, '13, 12:48

Slightly tangential. I've picked up a bit of the language(s) via tea, but haven't had much efforts into formal study.

Both 功夫 and 工夫 use "husband" (夫). The former uses "power" / accomplishment (功). The latter uses "work" / skill (as in trade skill?) (工). What's the significance of the "Husband" involvement? Or can one not be so academic with the combination of logograms?

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Re: Gong Fu vs. Kung fu.

Postby wyardley » Apr 18th, '13, 15:11

I think this is just a different meaning of 夫 (worker vs. husband).
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Re: Gong Fu vs. Kung fu.

Postby Poohblah » Apr 18th, '13, 22:43

MEversbergII wrote:Or can one not be so academic with the combination of logograms?
If you try to translate Chinese character-by character, you are quickly going to run into a lot of problems. e.g. http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3998
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