Monday, June 09, 2008


In a discussion on Mushtaq's blog, regarding knives as dexterity tools, I was reminded of a story I heard once. I thought I'd share it:

In China, a renowned jade-carver was moved to take an apprentice. The young man, eager to learn an art and craft that was highly-respected and lucrative, showed up at the carver's house bright and early. The old man handed him a chunk of jade the size of a chicken's egg, told him to hold it in his hand, and began to talk at length about his upbringing -- his grandfather, his great-grandfather, and how he would get up each day to milk the cow, feed the horse, and do other chores on the farm.

This talk went on for a hour or so. The old carver took the jade and sent the young man home.

The next day, the apprentice showed up, and once again, the old man gave him another jade stone to hold, and told a long and -- not to put too fine a point on it -- boring story.

This went on every day for a month. The apprentice was beginning to get really pissed off at the old man. What did any of this senile blather have to do with learning anything?

Another week went by, same thing every morning: The carver would hand the young man a piece of jade and start to ramble.

Finally, after two months of this, the apprentice decided that his patience was at an end. He resolved that on the next morning, he would speak to the old carver about it, demand to be taught what he had expected to learn.

So he showed up in the morning, the old man handed him a green stone, and the boy started to speak, then stopped and frowned. He said, "This is not jade!"

The old man smiled ...


J.D. Ray said...

Hmm. I thought the story was going to end with the old man convincing the boy that, if he couldn't stand the constant boredom, he shouldn't be in such a detail-oriented business.


William said...

There's a similar bit in the wonderful book _A Single Shard_ by Linda Sue Park --- clay of course, but still quite nicely handled. Anyone w/ an interest in Korea who hasn't read it, should.