Thanks, Hayley

“Like an artichoke, a Chinese poem does not have a message. It has a taste. Throughout the history of Chinese philosophy and aesthetics, taste-that internal and most private of experiences-has served as a metaphor for the truth that cannot be put into words. The Chinese have long recognized both the impossibility of fully expressing truth in words as well as the paradoxical necessity of using words to convey this sense of the ineffable. “True words are not beautiful and beautiful words are not true,” says Lao Tzu. Chuang Tzu writes, “He who knows does not speak, and he who speaks does not know.” And the I Ching or Book of Changes laconically states that “words do not exhaust meaning.” While many more such statements could be found, the one that best sums up this paradox comes also from Chuang Tzu. “The fish net exists to catch the fish; once the fish is caught, the net can be discarded. Words exist to catch meaning; once the meaning is caught, words can be abandoned.”

-Richard W. Bodman’s How to Eat a Chinese Poem

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