Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Sunday, June 24, 2007

2nd Anniversary of Cook Ding's Kitchen

The 25th of June is the second anniversary of Cook Ding's Kitchen. I will be busy at work all week, and working late, so I wanted to make a post for the occasion, tonight.

Daoism is many things, but pretty much everyone would agree that the Daoist studies nature, and tries to take away some lessons from the working of nature. Nature works efficiently, and so the Daoist comes to admire skill; especially skillful living.

The story of Cook Ding, from Zhang Zi (Chuang Tzu) is to me, all about skill in one's daily living. The story that started this blog is below. Enjoy.

Prince Huei's cook was cutting up a bullock. Every blow of his hand, every heave of his shoulders, every tread of his foot, every thrust of his knee, every whshh of rent flesh, every clink of the chopper, was in perfect rhythm — like the dance of the Mulberry Grove, like the harmonious chords of Ching Shou.

"Well done!" cried the Prince. "Yours is skill indeed!"

"Sire," replied the cook laying down his chopper, "I have always devoted myself to Tao, which is higher than mere skill. When I first began to cut up bullocks, I saw before me whole bullocks. After three years' practice, I saw no more whole animals. And now I work with my mind and not with my eye. My mind works along without the control of the senses. Falling back upon eternal principles, I glide through such great joints or cavities as there may be, according to the natural constitution of the animal. I do not even touch the convolutions of muscle and tendon, still less attempt to cut through large bones.

"A good cook changes his chopper once a year — because he cuts. An ordinary cook, one a month — because he hacks. But I have had this chopper nineteen years, and although I have cut up many thousand bullocks, its edge is as if fresh from the whetstone. For at the joints there are always interstices, and the edge of a chopper being without thickness, it remains only to insert that which is without thickness into such an interstice. Indeed there is plenty of room for the blade to move about. It is thus that I have kept my chopper for nineteen years as though fresh from the whetstone.

"Nevertheless, when I come upon a knotty part which is difficult to tackle, I am all caution. Fixing my eye on it, I stay my hand, and gently apply my blade, until with a hwah the part yields like earth crumbling to the ground. Then I take out my chopper and stand up, and look around, and pause with an air of triumph. Then wiping my chopper, I put it carefully away."

"Bravo!" cried the Prince. "From the words of this cook I have learned how to take care of my life."

ZhuangZi (Lin YuTang)


Taiki Shisei Kenpo said...

Congrats! 2 years and still going strong. But remember blogging is nothing, training is everything haha

those who blog don't know, those who know don't blog ;-)

all the best, Robert

Rick Matz said...


John Vesia said...

Good story. I often wondered where you got the Cook Ding moniker from.

Congratulations on 2 years. Mine's coming up July 5th. Two years is a long time to run a topical blog. Most people don't realize the effort and research that goes into these things.

Zen said...