The Old Wheel wright

One day while King Huan sat in his palace reading, an old man named Bian the wheel wright sat just outside making wheels.
Bian: What’s that you are reading?
King: It’s a classic by a famous sage

Bian: And is that famous sage still alive?

King: Oh no, he’s long dead

Bian: Then what you’ve been reading is nothing but dregs left over by a dead man

The king was horribly angry at his words,

King: What!? What do ou mean by that?! Speak!!! Or it will be death of you!

Bian: Your majesty, please, let me explain. I am a wheelwright, so let me use wheel making as an example. When making a wheel, a fast chisel saves energy, but the wheel doesn’t come out round. A slower chisel takes more strength, but gives a perfectly round wheel.

He continued, “The secret to wheelmaking is a chisel that is neither slow nor fast, but one that moves exactly as you wish it. I can explain this to my son, but i can’t pass on the skill to him, and that’s why at seventy years old, i am still making wheels. So you see, the wisdom of ancient sage can’t be passed down, and that’s why i say the book you’re reading is merely the dregs of a dead man.”

A book lover often thinks that the words themselves are of great value, but it is actually the meaning that isn’t recorded by language that is valuable. The words are traces, shadows, having nothing of substance in common with those who left them behind. The wheelwright was unable to pass his skill on to his own son.


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