Edgeball: Exciting News From China
By Dr. Brian Doherty 12/2/2014
In one of the many places where the itinerant philosopher Confucius lived, archeologists have discovered writings that indicate that a game like table tennis was played during the time of the sage, and was in fact a way to measure men. (The literal English translation of the Chinese is “swatting at flies with warrior aim”). The first of these new analects, or sayings, have been translated by Cranston Zook. Several of them are reprinted here:
The disciple Zigong was speaking of last night’s matches. “Ya Zi Zui yells ‘cho’ when he gains a point on a net ball, an edge ball, or when his opponent misses serves.”
Confucius said: “Ya Zi Zui is not a gentleman of culture. To celebrate your gain through others’ misfortunes will come back and bite you in the butt.”
The disciple came to Confucius. “Master: when is it appropriate for a player to yell ‘cho’”?
Confucius replied: “Yelling ‘cho’ when you have made a great shot is not worthy of a gentleman. Nor is it for the man of culture to yell ‘cho’ at the end of a long rally point that has gone in his favor.”
“Then, Master, is it not for the gentleman to yell ‘cho’”?
Confucius: “Yell ‘cho’ when your opponent has made a fine shot, or has thwarted your best attempts to score. Then you have played like a gentleman.”
The ping pong association had changed the ball from carved mulberry wood to molded bamboo, using the rationale that it would increase the length of rallies, and make the game more fun to watch.
Yuan Tou approached the Master. “Do you not agree that they have ruined the game with this changing of the ball?”
Confucius said: “The game is ruined when the player no longer adapts. Adapt to your limitations, to your opponent’s skills, and to the change in equipment, and you will find profit in the game.”
Confucius had a daughter, Mei Xin, who was adept at the game. After her last tournament in the U16 age division, it was appropriate for her to socialize with males. Three members of the table tennis club were interested.
--Tell me, said Confucius. --What is it about my daughter that gains your admiration.
Sha Gua said: --I watch her footwork and my gaze travels upwards. Her calves are perfectly proportioned and her thighs are powerfully muscled and well-shaped.
--That is all very well. What about you?
Pang Dui Dui said. --She plays with her hair tied back. Her ponytail bounces from shoulder to shoulder in a way that is mesmerizing, and shows off her graceful neck.
Finally, Confucius turned to Qian. --What do you admire about my daughter?
Qian replied: --There is no strong loop I can devise to get past her backhand blocks. She is able to generate tremendous topspin both close to the table and playing away from it. And her pushes are unpredictable and often catch me off balance.
--It seems you know my daughter well, said Confucius. --Please come to tea at the family home next Sunday.