The Dao of Learning

There is a common convention of Chinese culture in which the word Dao, meaning the way, is applied to any field of study. Thus we have the Dao of archery, the Dao of writing, the Dao of mothering, and even the Dao of basketball. This expression refers to a way of knowing and embodying which is unique to each pursuit, and implies both ease and confidence. It is somewhat like saying in English, "She really has the knack of tree climbing." In addition to implying that a person is really skilled at something, it implies that the activity itself transforms the person who does it, it is not just an act of doing, it is an act of mutual self-recreation.

Truly knowing a skill, or even a subject, further implies a curriculum. Thus many books have been written describing the Dao of Archery, the Dao of making Tea, or even the best selling book The Tao of Pooh.

ZhuangziIn Japanese, which uses Chinese written characters, Dao becomes "do," in many familiar arts like Karatedo, Judo, Aikido, Budo (the warrior code), and Chado (the art of tea).
For most of the last 1500 years in China the first lessons one received when learning to write calligraphy were instructions on how to sit without obstructing circulation, how to hold and move the brush in coordination with ones breath such that the student might start discovering the Dao of writing from day one. In fact, implicit in this idea is the notion that one is learning how to embody the physicality of great public officials of the past. This is also true of all traditional subjects, music, martial arts, medicine, weaving, etc. In traditional Chinese culture the physical process of acquiring knowledge is not subordinate to knowledge itself-- How one learns is, in a sense, given priority to what one learns.
This idea is beautifully illustrated in the story of Cook Ding in the 300 Century BCE text, the Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu). The story is an ironic tale in which Cook Ding butchers an ox in front of the king, it is the title story of the third chapter called "The Mastery of Nourishing Life." In the story, the king is amazed by the dance like beauty, grace, and ease with which Cook Ding butchers the ox. When asked, Cook Ding explains how the naturalness of his skill came about and in the end the king declares that listening to these words has taught him how to nourish life.