菜根譚 Vegetable Roots Discourse: Books and reading

Following from previously on books and reading, here’s to:
‘chewing well on that true taste, which lies within the vegetable root.’

善讀書者,要讀到手舞足蹈處,方不落筌蹄;
善觀物者,要觀到心融神洽時,方不泥跡象。

The person who reads books carefully
Should read until “his hands dance and his feet stamp”*;
Then, from the first, he will not fall “into net and snares.”**

The person who perceives things well
Should look until his mind merges and his spirit softens;
Then, from the first, the outward traces will not be muddied.

人解讀有字書,不解讀無字書;知彈有弦琴,不知彈無弦琴。
以跡用,不以神用,何以琴書之趣?

Men understand how to read books that have words,
But do not understand how to read those that lack them.
They know how to pluck the lute that has strings,
But do not know how to play the one that has none.
Caught by the form, but untouched by the spirit:
How will they get at the heart of either music or literature?

— 菜根譚 Vegetable Roots Discourse:

[Notes:

*
“When an emotion stirs inside, one expresses it in words;
words being inadequate, one sighs over it;
sighs being inadequate, one sings it in poetry;
poetry being inadequate, one unconsciously dances with his hands and stamps his feet.”

詩經 Book of Odes

.

**
“The purpose of nets is to catch fish. When the fish are caught, the nets are forgotten. The purpose of rabbit snares is to catch rabbits. When the rabbits are caught, the snares are forgotten. The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten.

Where is the man who has forgotten all words? He is the one I would like to speak with.”

— Chuang Tzu
]

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