Guishan Lingyou was the founder of the Guiyang school of Zen. He began his career, however, as the cook at the monastery of Baizhang Huaihai.
It is said that Baizhang had decided to open another monastery and sought to choose a monk worthy to head it. He called his disciples together and told them that whosoever could best answer a question he put would be selected the abbot of the new monastery. Then he placed a flower vase on the floor in front of him and asked: “Who can tell me what this is without saying its name?”
There was a period of silence before the chief monk suggested: “No one would call it a wooden shoe.”
Then Guishan came forward and nudged the vase with his foot, after which he left the chamber. Baizhang smiled and announced, “The cook has answered best.” And so Guishan was chosen to lead the new monastery.
[Guishan Lingyou – Zen Masters of China: 128, 200-203, 208-10, 232]