dao uselessness

I think this may be harder for me than for all of you, but we leave the Art of Taoism today to enter new frontiers. I always feel this way when coming to the end of such a wonderful grouping: But, as the dao reminds us: the only constant is change! Note: I will begin lessons on Taoism tomorrow, as this exhibit shows the art of China.
Chinese characters for uselessness

Chinese characters for "Group of Musicians"

An ancient gnarled tree:
Too fibrous for a logger’s saw,
Too twisted to fit a carpenter’s square,
Outlasts the whole forest.

Loggers delight in straight-grained, strong, fragrant wood. If the timber is too difficult to cut, too twisted to be made straight, too foul-odored for cabinets, and too spongy for firewood, it is left alone. Useful trees are cut down. Useless ones survive.

The same is true of people. The strong are conscripted, the beautiful are exploited. Those who are too plain to be noticed are the ones who survive. They are left alone and safe.

But what if we ourselves are among such plain persons? Though others may neglect us, we should not think of ourselves as being without value. We must not accept the judgment of others as the measure of our own self-worth. Instead, we should live our lives in simplicity. Surely, we will have flaws, but we must take stock in them according to our own judgment and then use them as a measure of self-improvement. Since we need not expend energy in putting on airs or maintaining a position, we are actually free to cultivate the best parts of our personalities. Thus, to be considered useless is not a reason for despair, but an opportunity. It is the chance to live without interference and to express one’s own individuality.

365 Tao
daily meditations
Deng Ming-Dao (author)
ISBN 0-06-250223-9

The exhibition traces the continuous renewal and refinement of Chinese culture, each object reflecting a sense of era and regional characteristics. Every period has its own great accomplishments from the pottery wares of Yangshao culture, dating 6,000 years ago, to the paintings of the last feudal dynasty only 200 years ago. These cultural relics come from Shaanxi, Gansu, Zhejiang, Henan, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, Liaoning, Anhui, Hunan, Hubei, Hebei, and Jiangsu - over ten provinces, cities, and autonomous regions, from north to south and east to west. Each object in the exhibition represents the quintessence of the cultural relics unearthed in this vast, expansive land.

detail of flute player

deteail of clapper

detail: flute player

detail: clapper

Chinese characters for "Group of Musicians"

Group of Musicians

Excavated in Xiían, Shaanxi Province, in 1995
Tang dynasty, 618 — 906CE
height 11 - 11.5 cm

The upper classes in the Tang dynasty enjoyed a life of luxury and leisure. Lavish banquets enlivened by music and dance.
This group of male musicians in loose-fitting informal dress and scarf caps probably accompanied a group of dancers. The instruments are the four-stringed lute, pipa; the upright mouth organ, sheng; the transverse flute, the pan flute, the clapper, and the small harp.

National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing

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