Single Whip (單鞭 dān biān) is a common posture found in most forms of t'ai chi ch'uan. Typically at the end of the posture the left hand is in a palm outward push and the right hand held most commonly in the form of a hook or closed fist. Notable exceptions are the Single Whip in Sun-style and Wu/Hao style t'ai chi ch'uan which finish with both hands open, palms outward.
Single Whip is one of the movements/postures most repeated in the solo training forms. Its first appearance in most forms follows the Grasp Sparrow's Tail sequence (peng, lu, ji, an) and is seen later as a variant renamed Snake Creeps Down. There is also a posture in the Wu style sword form called Single Whip Fusing Throat.
The martial applications of Single Whip are many. There are various strikes, throws, changeups (using one hand to create an opening so that the other can strike) and kicks derived from this posture trained by different schools.
Single Whip is historically a mis-transcription of the posture's original name, which is "Carry Baskets" (擔扁 Dān Biăn).
The mis-transcription most likely came about when Yang Chengfu's (楊澄甫) senior student Chen Weiming (陳微明; Simplified: 陈微明) was writing the names of the moves down (as Yang Chengfu was illiterate, not a disgrace in China at that time as typically only scholars and government officials were literate. Chen Weiming had the Chinese equivalent of a Master's degree). As Yang Chengfu pronounced "dān biăn" meaning "Carry Baskets," Chen Weiming probably heard and then wrote down "dān biān" meaning "Single Whip." When Chen Weiming read back "dān biān" meaning "Single Whip," Yang Chengfu probably heard "dān biăn" meaning "Carry Baskets" and then approved the mis-transcription. The pronunciation of dān biān and dān biăn are so close that such a mistake can easily be made.
The name "Carry Baskets" refers to the form at the end of the move, where the outstretched arms of the practitioner evoke the image of one carrying baskets of goods attached to the end of a stick one holds across one's shoulders, a common Chinese and Asian practice.
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