32. Chewing Tzu – The Rumination Book


Edition of 50 copies

This performance book is composed of four pieces of chewing gum printed front and back with a rubber-stamped food coloring text authored by the ancient Taoist philosophers Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu and the Taoist I Ching. The gum pieces are wrapped in rice paper printed in red and black lettering with a “chop” mark of a mouth with teeth. In order to open the book (or package) a string of dental floss must be unraveled at one end.

Chewing Tzu is a work about reflection or rumination. The four sticks of gum symbolize the four stomachs of cows and other ruminants. Four is also significant in Chinese philosophies, such as the Four Elements, Four Causes, Four Characters, Four Forms, Four Kindnesses, Four Moral Qualities, Four Virtues, Four Wisdoms, Four Beginnings and Four Points of Argumentation, not to mention the four seasons.

“Tzu” is the equivalent of “master.” Chuang recalls “chewing,” so Chewing Tzu may be thought of as chewing the words of the master, which are often cryptic and non-sensical for the non-expert, especially when taken out of context. Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu provide three of the statements. The remaining one is from the Taoist I Ching. I am happy to give you more specifics, but for now I don’t want to spoil the performance.

The sticks of gum must first be read, front and back, and then chewed and reflected upon, as each stick has a separate flavor that relates to the text. As Mencius said, “There is a common taste for flavor in our mouths.” You will recognize the flavors. But you may be apprehensive as was one philosopher upon receiving a gift of medicine, citing, “Not knowing its properties, I dare not taste it.” The performance depends on you. And besides, one out of four sticks is sugarless!


Chewing Tzu
The Rumination Book

The cinnamon can
be eaten and so

it gets cut down.

Dwell in the fruit

do not rest
in the flower.

Involved with
the adult

one loses the child.

The five flavors

one’s palate
to be spoiled.

%d bloggers like this: