The Way Can Be Found in Bricks and Shards

Carved by Ian Boyden for Hua Rende, 2012

25 x 25 mm

 

This seal reads, 道在瓦甓, or "The Way can be found in bricks and tiles." The style of the seal is meant to evoke the design of seals from the Warring States Period (475–221 BCE), a time of tremendous philosophical flourishing. One of my favorite texts from this period is the The Chuang-tzu, one of the fundamental texts of philosophical Taoism. This phrase comes from a delightfully irreverent passage that reads:

 

Master Dongguo asked Zhuangzi, “This thing called the Way—where does it exist?”

Zhuangzi said, “There's no place it doesn't exist.”

“Come,” said Master Dongguo, “you must be more specific!”

“It is in the ant.”

“As low a thing as that?”

“It is in the panic grass.”

“But that is lower still!”

“It is in bricks and shards.”

“How can it be so low?”

“It is in the piss and shit!”

Master Dongguo made no reply.

 

I carved this seal as a New Year's present for my teacher Hua Rende. This phrase has particular significance for the two of us because it was the title I gave to an essay I wrote about Hua Rende's calligraphy as well as the Chinese title for the exhibition I curated of his calligraphy at Whitman College in 2005. To find out why I should choose such a title you can read my essay here! You can see images of the exhibition here.