Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Vegetable Roots Introduction

Caigentan in Chinese combines cai 菜 "vegetables; greens; (non-staple) food; dish; course (in menu)", gen 根 "roots (of plants); bottom (of mountains)", and 譚 "talk; conversation; discourse". Literally "Vegetable Root Discourse", it was written by the Ming Dynasty scholar and philosopher Hong Zicheng 洪自誠. This compilation of wisdom based on the teachings (Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism), the three major religion that flourish at the time of China.

Caigen 菜根 "inedible root of a vegetable; cabbage stalk" is a literary metaphor meaning "bare subsistence" (originating in Zhu Xi's Xiaoxue 小學 "Minor Learning"). The Chinese proverb Jiao de caigen, baishi ke zuo 嚼得菜根, 百事可做 (Rohsenow 2002:66) literally means "[One who has] chewed vegetable roots [for lack of anything better to eat] can accomplish anything", or figuratively "One who has gone through hardships can do anything". "By vegetable roots, food such as turnips, radish, carrots and sweet potatoes is meant", says Vos (1993:172).

English translations of the Caigentan title range from literal to figurative:

Musings of a Chinese Vegetarian (Isobe 1926)
Discourses on Vegetable Roots (Chao 1959)
The Roots of Wisdom (Wilson 1985)
Discourses on a Simple Life (Vos 1993)
Tending the Roots of Wisdom (White 2000)
Zen of Vegetable Roots (Li and Fu 2002)
Vegetable Roots Discourse (Aitken and Kwok 2006)

Hi All,

Hearing of the book, and being a fan of ancient eastern wisdom, I was compelled to buy it, thus purchased it from Amazon. I have found the book poetic, inspiring and in tune with my own way seeing things thus I wish to start this blog and slowly share with the public some of it's contents.

There are two parts, book 1 contains 225 chapters, book 2 contains 135 chapters. When transcribing the passages I will do a few things that diverges from the original. I will title each chapter depending on how I best interpret the teachings. I may change words slightly or
add my own additions in square brackets to allow it to make more sense to me. I may add a small commentary section at the end of the passages and relate my own interpretations of the teachings, wisdom, text. I apologize in advance if I offend, as that is never my intention. Other than that i cannot think of anything else.

If your planning to wait until I put up each chapter this may take years. If you enjoy the excerpts please buy the book, it is not very expensive and worth having in your inventory.


A Fellow Modern Scholar and Philosopher.

Wikipedia 2010, Caigentan.

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