Friday, April 22, 2011


Can a Mountain Retain Its Beauty?

The Book of Mencius, 6A:8, tr. Wing-Tsit Chan in A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963; rpt. 1969), p. 56 (footnote omitted):
Mencius said, "The trees of the Niu Mountain were once beautiful. But can the mountain be regarded any longer as beautiful since, being in the borders of a big state, the trees have been hewed down with axes and hatchets? Still with the rest given them by the days and nights and with the nourishment provided them by the rains and the dew, they were not without buds and sprouts springing forth. But then the cattle and the sheep pastured upon them once and again. That is why the mountain looks so bald. When people see that it is bald, they think that there was never any timber on the mountain. Is this the true nature of the mountain? Is there not [also] a heart of humanity and righteousness originally existing in man? The way in which he loses his originally good mind is like the way in which the trees are hewed down with axes and hatchets. As trees are cut down day after day, can a mountain retain its beauty?"
Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, Vol. IV:3 = Physics and Physical Technology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971; rpt. 2000), p. 244, figure 872 (with caption "Deforestation in the mountains, a picture from the Wang Kung Chung Chhin Le, printed about +1590 (from the album of Chêng Chen-To, 5). The artist, Li Wên, was one of the foremost wood-block illustrators of his time. On the procuration of timber see Yang Lien-Sheng (ii), pp. 38 ff."):


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