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Daoism -> Zhuangzi -> Inner Chapters -> Man in the World, Associated with other Men -> 5

A (master) mechanic, called Shi, on his way to Qi,
came to Qu-yuan,
where he saw an oak-tree, which was used as the altar for the spirits of the land.
It was so large that an ox standing behind it could not be seen.
It measured a hundred spans round,
and rose up eighty cubits on the hill before it threw out any branches,
after which there were ten or so, from each of which a boat could be hollowed out.
People came to see it in crowds as in a market place,
but the mechanic did not look round at it,
but held on his way without stopping.
One of his workmen, however, looked long and admiringly at it,
and then ran on to his master,
and said to him,
'Since I followed you with my axe and bill,
I have never seen such a beautiful mass of timber as this.
Why would you, Sir, not look round at it, but went on without stopping?
:「Have done,' said Mr. Shi, 'and do not speak about it.
It is quite useless.
A boat made from its wood would sink;
a coffin or shell would quickly rot;
an article of furniture would soon go to pieces;
a door would be covered with the exuding sap;
a pillar would be riddled by insects;
the material of it is good for nothing,
。」 and hence it is that it has attained to so great an age.'
When Mr. Shi was returning,
the altar-oak appeared to him in a dream, and said,
'What other tree will you compare with me?
Will you compare me to one of your ornamental trees?
There are hawthorns, pear-trees, orange-trees, pummelo-trees, gourds and other low fruit-bearing plants.
When their fruits are ripe, they are knocked down from them,
and thrown among the dirt.
The large branches are broken,
and the smaller are torn away.
So it is that their productive ability makes their lives bitter to them;
they do not complete their natural term of existence, but come to a premature end in the middle of their time,
bringing on themselves the destructive treatment which they ordinarily receive.
It is so with all things.
I have sought to discover how it was that I was so useless; I had long done so,
till (the effort) nearly caused my death;
and now I have learned it
- it has been of the greatest use to me.
使 Suppose that I had possessed useful properties,
should I have become of the great size that I am?
And moreover
you and I are both things
- how should one thing thus pass its judgment on another?
how is it that you a useless man
!」 know all this about me a useless tree?'
When Mr. Shih awoke, he kept thinking about his dream,
but the workman said,
'Being so taken with its uselessness,
?」 how is it that it yet acts here as the altar for the spirits of the land?'
:「'Be still,' was the master's reply,
'and do not say a word.
It simply happened to grow here;
and thus those who do not know it do not speak ill of it as an evil thing.
If it were not used as the altar,
would it be in danger of being cut down?
the reason of its being preserved
is different from that of the preservation of things generally;
!」 is not your explaining it from the sentiment which you have expressed wide of the mark?'

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