I became a master carpenter by trial and error. I always practiced every day to become a more skillful carpenter, and when I succeeded in mastering the art, I then used the knowledge I had to make carvings and the materials of which I made carvings.
If you could teach anyone a single skill, what would it be?
My master carpenter, Tzŭ Zúngdán, is one of the most extraordinary artisans in the universe. I believe only someone like him can master any skill.
What do you say to those who say that artisans should be self-employed, or that workers should be paid?
It’s easy for me to become a master carpenter because the most important element of any craft is being good at making things yourself. If you are good at making things yourself, you will not need to use help of others. Therefore, the best master carpenter in the universe is the one who has mastered the art of making things himself. If you master other techniques such as tiling, you will also master the art of making things, to which a carpenter who learned from other masters would have much inferior talent. A master craftsman would never use tiling to make the carvings on the wall. What kind of carvings could we find in the walls if the carver had used tiling? These things are not done by anyone but by people. There is more to master than the art of making things. When we understand art, we begin to understand art in a way that is very different than just making things, making them on the spot, so that we might have knowledge for our everyday life.
The art of making things is not like some art that is only about making things. It is the art that is about putting something into the world, about creating things. It is because of this that the Chinese say that “every art starts from the first day of human creation.” That day is the beginning. Only then will the art of making things grow and develop.
Does this mean that in every culture, there is a master painter—the painter who is the only one who has mastery over painting at high resolution?
That is correct. It is only when someone develops this skill and becomes master in this art that they are able to paint well and create beautiful works.
In the West there have always been carvers who have had the ability to paint, but they did
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