When Tzu-ch'i of Nan-po was taking a stroll
by the Hill of Shang, he spotted a great tree
that towered above all the rest.
Its branches could shelter a thousand horses
and its shade would easily cover them all.
"What kind of tree is this," he thought
"its timber must be quite extraordinary."
But when looking up he discovered
that the higher branches were too gnarled
to be used for floorboards or rafters.
When looking down he noticed that the trunk
was too soft and pitted to be used for coffins.
He licked one of the leaves and it left
a burning taste in his mouth. He sniffed
the bark and the odor was enough to take away
his appetite for three days.
"This wretched tree is completely useless,"
he exclaimed, "and this must be why it has grown
so large! Aha! --this is exactly the kind of
uselessness that the holy man puts to great use."