Perhaps, one might wonder, it is only children who value the virtue of lustrous transparency. For a long time, I have puzzled over the concept of transparency in the Tao Te Ching, and have concluded that there is meaning why the text - about the transparency of nature - can be obscure.
There is a Mandarin phrase, 内行看中种, 外行看色, which means something to the effect of: the expert looks at the origin of the type, and the novice looks at colour. So that which is transparent to the expert and the novice will differ. In fact, there is an Eastern tradition which explains that advanced teaching is not meant to be revealed to the novice at all: babies have no means by which to digest hard foods.
But that revelation may have to happen in stages does not diminish the virtue of lustrous transparency, : jade exhibiting such qualities were most valued by ancient Chinese scholars. Indeed, the highest grade of jade is naturally transparent; not treated with bleach in order for impurities to be removed.
Age grants transparency, providing a life has been well lived. A person, like Lévi-Strauss, may look back and explain their intellectual genesis in retrospect, connecting the dots to that later time, the final stages of life. He was, after all, the one who explained the importance of stories in 'man's understanding of the lived experience.


Precocious youth often consumes the poisoned apple of experience, only to learn that not all that glitters isn't jade (but a jade-like stone, viz. the Book of Odes). But as George Henry Lewes writes of Goethe, precocity need not mean soon ripe, soon rotten; rather it may be an early sign of a mind at once greatly receptive and productive. "In youth, when the  passions begin to stir, the character is made to swerve from  the orbit previously traced. Passion, more than Character,  rules the hour," Lewes writes, "but he crystallizes once more into prudence, as he hardens with age". Rather be a shattered piece of jade than an unbroken piece of pottery.
What a beautiful depiction of candid aging, right down to the image of "crystallization" which returns us to the image of jade: that microcrystalline matrix. Perhaps that is beauteous maturity: for the matrix - complex, obscure to 'he who does not understand - to be lustrous, transparent. In the oft-cited passage (Pin Yi) of The Analects (and also in a passage in Xunzi), Confucius' discipile Zi-gong asks him about the qualities of jade that make it so valued:
'Allow me to ask the reason why the superior man sets a high value on jade, and but little on soapstone? Is it because jade is rare, and the soapstone plentiful?' Confucius replied, 'It is not because the soapstone is plentiful that he thinks but little of it, and because jade is rare that he sets a high value on it. Anciently superior men found the likeness of all excellent qualities in jade. Soft, smooth, and glossy, it appeared to them like benevolence; fine, compact, and strong - like intelligence; angular, but not sharp and cutting - like righteousness; hanging down (in beads) as if it would fall to the ground - like (the humility of) propriety; when struck, yielding a note, clear and prolonged, yet terminating abruptly - like music; its flaws not concealing its beauty, nor its beauty concealing its flaws - like loyalty; with an internal radiance issuing from it on every side - like good faith; bright as a brilliant rainbow - like heaven; exquisite and mysterious, appearing in the hills and streams - like the earth; standing out conspicuous in the symbols of rank - like virtue; esteemed by all under the sky, - like the path of truth and duty. As is said in the ode (I, xi, 3, 1), "Such my lord's car. He rises in my mind, Lovely and bland, like jade of richest kind."
Thus it is said that, 谦谦君子,温润如玉, a gentleman is like jade. More beautiful than flawed, unbleached, crystallised into the paradoxes that form virtue.



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