The stone at the beginning of the story represents life to me. The stonecutter is approaching it while it is still a clean slate. It holds all sorts of possibilities for the stonecutter. However, when the stonecutter hears the fanfare below for the Mandarin prince, his vision is influenced by the "power" the stonecutter believes the prince has. He is envious of that fame and wants to top it. And so the stonecutter's quest for the "most-exalted state" begins.
The stonecutter now wishes to be a Mandarin Prince worthy of the people's praise. He is granted this wish and is briefly happy with his new life until he experiences the sun's rays. Then he decides that the sun is more powerful than the prince because the sun shines all people, prince and pauper alike. So he wants to be the sun. He wishes for each state, one more powerful than the next: the sun, a cloud, the wind, and a stone. With each wish, he finds something else more powerful. He is never happy with the life that has been given to him. He thinks that with each change, he is climbing a ladder of hierarchy when really his journey is coming full circle. The stonecutter does not realize that we are all given a part to play in this life and that we all serve a purpose. The job of a stonecutter is just as important as the job of a prince.
At the end of the story the stonecutter stands before a stone, contemplating what sort of image to carve. I think this represents the stonecutter's evolution. Finally, he realizes that his original function in life really is important.
The stonecutter's story shows that in Daoism there is always a tipping point, yin and yang. There is balance in the world and when it seems like one side is heavy handed, the universe tips the scales and evens itself out. Nature rules in Daoism and nothing is forced as demonstrated in wu wei -- "actionless action," or taking no intentional or invasive action contrary to the natural flow of...