Quote of the week
The rhythm of Ding, the cook, is described in the third chapter of the Zhuangzi. To be an expert, as Ding, is to be experienced and natural. This passage of the Zhuangzi reflects the naturalness and ease of Ding’s expertise in undoing the ox.
The rhythmicality is reinforced by the poem’s reference to ‘The Mulberry Forest’, a legendary piece of dance music named after a place called Mulberry Forest in Song territory. In this forest, it is said that the legendary Emperor Tang cut his hair and fingernails short, and offered himself up for sacrifice in exchange for rain to relieve a seven-year drought. The music is used to dance and pray for rain and good crops.
Just like the Mulberry tune, the musicality of the cook’s knife joins life and death as an art. How the ox is cooked and eaten influences affects how the people are nourished, and this ‘how’ is a reflection of the art that synthesizes nature and culture, life and death, and the human and animal (Wu, 1989). All of these things become one another in Ding’s culinary-cosmic dance, where the knife cuts and slithers through the ox and turns it into a feast. Providing such an aesthetic to taking and disassembling life allows the people to feast and be nourished by the animal’s suffering.