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 ~

Monday, June 25, 2018

Who is Cook Ding?

Today is the 13th anniversary of Cook Ding's Kitchen. With almost 1.2M hits and close to 2000 posts, if I've proved anything, it's this: you don't have to be the best, just the one that is the most stubborn and refuses to go away.

OK. So. Who is this Cook Ding cat anyway?

In case you are wondering who is this Cook Ding, he is a character in one of Zhuang Zi's (Chuang Tzu) stories in The Inner Chapters, a Daoist classic. It is one of the "skill stories" and it has always resonated with me. It goes like this:

Cook Ding

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)

For myself, my practice has mostly been focused on distance running and Cheng Man Ching's short Taijiquan form (Zheng ManQing). 


walt said...

If we could take several long steps back, and view the Arc of History objectively, we would find that 'Rick Matz' was eternally *linked* to Cook Ding and Zhuangzi. He could have done far worse!

Rick Matz said...


David said...

13 years with more than 100 posts a year. Pretty good job. Hope you continue.
(...I’ve had my blog for 5 years now and haven’t even published 100 posts yet...)

Rick Matz said...

Thanks. I'm more of an aggravator than a creator of original material. I post whatever happens to catch my eye.

Travis said...

Pretty sure you meant aggregator:)
Not that both can’t be right...