In Chinese calligraphy:
心靜而本體現，水清而月影明 （traditional Chinese)
Xīnjìng ér běn tǐxiàn, shuǐ qīng ér yuèyǐng míng
–When the mind is still the true self presents itself, (just as) when the water is clear, the moon’s shadow shows
In the Ming Dynasty, Taoist Hóng yīngmíng 洪應明(洪应明) produced a collection of proverbs aimed at self-cultivation, called 菜根譚 (菜根谭) Càigēn tán. The content blends Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist thought, using over 359 proverbs to explain life philosophy.
The book has “vegetable root” in its title, referring to the root of the matter, which is that true intelligence and enlightenment can only obtained through hard work. Working through life’s hurdles is analagous to grinding through vegetable roots. If it’s possible to find the taste of tough vegetable roots fulfilling, then some of life’s bitter pills may be easier to swallow.
In keeping with a strong work ethic, the book offers life skills. The prose is simple, well organized, and heavily motivational for those looking for self improvement.
While the details of Hóng yīngmíng’s life are mostly unknown, he lived in the mountains. During that part of the Ming dynasty, the ineffective emporer was struggling , eunuchs had effectively taken power, and the country was full of social unrest. There were starting to be more and more conflict with non- Han Chinese. It was a time of exasperation for the cultured and educated.
The calligraphy font used here is 小篆 Xiǎozhuàn, a stylized font typically used on seals and often called seal script.
With clear water you see the moon’s shadow, With peace you find yourself