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Content created: 2014-07-21
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Zhuāngzǐ: The Dào of Cow



The following wee story comes from the writings attributed to Zhuāngzǐ 庄子 of the IVth century BC. It is perhaps the most famous passage in that whole collection. (Then again, perhaps not.)

This passage contrasts a mighty but flighty lord with his humble butcher, who has perfectly mastered his art by constant attention to the true ways of nature. The cook explains that his mastery did not come instantly, in a sudden flash of enlightenment, but through methodical and reflective practice, until he and his craft were one.

In a happy ending, the lord claims that from this brief conversation, in a sudden flash of enlightenment of exactly the kind the cook did not advocate, he has learned how to "enrich my life." Did he learn that, or did he miss the point?

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A review quiz is available covering this item in combination with another short selection from Zhuāngzǐ, The Joy of Fish. (Quiz Link)

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