|Died||286 BC (aged 83)|
|Literal meaning||Master Zhuang|
|Alternative Chinese name|
Zhuang Zhou, more commonly known as Zhuangzi (or Master Zhuang), was an influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BC during the Warring States period, a period corresponding to the summit of Chinese philosophy, the Hundred Schools of Thought. He is credited with writing—in part or in whole—a work known by his name, the Zhuangzi, which expresses a philosophy which is skeptical, arguing that life is limited and knowledge to be gained is unlimited. As a Daoist philosopher, some claim his writings reflect a form of western relativism, while others question revisionist interpretations.
The only account of the life of Zhuangzi is a brief sketch in chapter 63 of Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian, where he is described as a minor official from the town of Meng (in modern Anhui) in the state of Song, living in the time of King Hui of Liang and King Xuan of Qi (late 4th century BC). Sima Qian writes:
- Chuang-Tze had made himself well acquainted with all the literature of his time, but preferred the views of Lao-Tze; and ranked himself among his followers, so that of the more than ten myriads of characters contained in his published writings the greater part are occupied with metaphorical illustrations of Lao's doctrines. He made "The Old Fisherman," "The Robber Chih," and "The Cutting open Satchels," to satirize and expose the disciples of Confucius, and clearly exhibit the sentiments of Lao. Such names and characters as "Wei-lei Hsu" and "Khang-sang Tze" are fictitious, and the pieces where they occur are not to be understood as narratives of real events.
- But Chuang was an admirable writer and skillful composer, and by his instances and truthful descriptions hit and exposed the Mohists and Literati. The ablest scholars of his day could not escape his satire nor reply to it, while he allowed and enjoyed himself with his sparkling, dashing style; and thus it was that the greatest men, even kings and princes, could not use him for their purposes.
- King Wei of Chu, having heard of the ability of Chuang Chau, sent messengers with large gifts to bring him to his court, and promising also that he would make him his chief minister. Chuang-Tze, however, only laughed and said to them, "A thousand ounces of silver are a great gain to me; and to be a high noble and minister is a most honorable position. But have you not seen the victim-ox for the border sacrifice? It is carefully fed for several years, and robed with rich embroidery that it may be fit to enter the Grand Temple. When the time comes for it to do so, it would prefer to be a little pig, but it can not get to be so. Go away quickly, and do not soil me with your presence. I had rather amuse and enjoy myself in the midst of a filthy ditch than be subject to the rules and restrictions in the court of a sovereign. I have determined never to take office, but prefer the enjoyment of my own free will."
The validity of his existence has been questioned by some, including himself (See below) and Russell Kirkland, who writes:
According to modern understandings of Chinese tradition, the text known as the Chuang-tzu was the production of a 'Taoist' thinker of ancient China named Chuang Chou/Zhuang Zhou. In reality, it was nothing of the sort. The Chuang-tzu known to us today was the production of a thinker of the third century CE named Kuo Hsiang. Though Kuo was long called merely a 'commentator,' he was in reality much more: he arranged the texts and compiled the present 33-chapter edition. Regarding the identity of the original person named Chuang Chou/Zhuangzi, there is no reliable historical data at all.
However, Sima Qian's biography of Zhuangzi pre-dates Guo Xiang (Chinese: 郭象; pinyin: Guō Xiàng; Wade–Giles: Kuo Hsiang; d. 312 AD) by centuries. Furthermore, the Han Shu "Yiwen zhi" (Monograph on literature) lists a text Zhuangzi, showing that a text with this title existed no later than the early 1st century CE, again pre-dating Guo Xiang by centuries.
Zhuangzi is traditionally credited as the author of at least part of the work bearing his name, the Zhuangzi. This work, in its current shape consisting of 33 chapters, is traditionally divided into three parts: the first, known as the "Inner Chapters", consists of the first seven chapters; the second, known as the "Outer Chapters", consist of the next 15 chapters; the last, known as the "Mixed Chapters", consist of the remaining 11 chapters. The meaning of these three names is disputed: according to Guo Xiang, the "Inner Chapters" were written by Zhuangzi, the "Outer Chapters" written by his disciples, and the "Mixed Chapters" by other hands; the other interpretation is that the names refer to the origin of the titles of the chapters—the "Inner Chapters" take their titles from phrases inside the chapter, the "Outer Chapters" from the opening words of the chapters, and the "Mixed Chapters" from a mixture of these two sources.
Further study of the text does not provide a clear choice between these alternatives. On the one side, as Martin Palmer points out in the introduction to his translation, two of the three chapters Sima Qian cited in his biography of Zhuangzi, come from the "Outer Chapters" and the third from the "Mixed Chapters". "Neither of these are allowed as authentic Chuang Tzu chapters by certain purists, yet they breathe the very spirit of Chuang Tzu just as much as, for example, the famous 'butterfly passage' of chapter 2."
On the other hand, chapter 33 has been often considered as intrusive, being a survey of the major movements during the "Hundred Schools of Thought" with an emphasis on the philosophy of Hui Shi. Further, A.C. Graham and other critics have subjected the text to a stylistic analysis and identified four strains of thought in the book: a) the ideas of Zhuangzi or his disciples; b) a "primitivist" strain of thinking similar to Laozi; c) a strain very strongly represented in chapters 8-11 which is attributed to the philosophy of Yang Chu; and d) a fourth strain which may be related to the philosophical school of Huang-Lao. In this spirit, Martin Palmer wrote that "trying to read Chuang Tzu sequentially is a mistake. The text is a collection, not a developing argument."
Zhuangzi was renowned for his brilliant wordplay and use of parables to convey messages. His critiques of Confucian society and historical figures are humorous and at times ironic.
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In general, Zhuangzi's philosophy is skeptical, arguing that life is limited and knowledge to be gained is unlimited. To use the limited to pursue the unlimited, he said, was foolish. Our language and cognition in general presuppose a dao to which each of us is committed by our separate past—our paths. Consequently, we should be aware that our most carefully considered conclusions might seem misguided had we experienced a different past. Zhuangzi argues that in addition to experience, our natural dispositions are combined with acquired ones—including dispositions to use names of things, to approve/disapprove based on those names and to act in accordance to the embodied standards. Thinking about and choosing our next step down our dao or path is conditioned by this unique set of natural acquisitions.
Zhuangzi's thought can also be considered a precursor of relativism in systems of value. His relativism even leads him to doubt the basis of pragmatic arguments (that a good course of action preserves our lives) since this presupposes that life is good and death bad. In the fourth section of "The Great Happiness" (至樂 zhìlè, chapter 18), Zhuangzi expresses pity to a skull he sees lying at the side of the road. Zhuangzi laments that the skull is now dead, but the skull retorts, "How do you know it's bad to be dead?"
Another example about two famous courtesans points out that there is no universally objective standard for beauty. This is taken from Chapter 2 (齊物論 qí wù lùn) "On Arranging Things", or "Discussion of Setting Things Right" or, in Burton Watson's translation, "Discussion on Making All Things Equal".
Men claim that Mao [Qiang] and Lady Li were beautiful, but if fish saw them they would dive to the bottom of the stream; if birds saw them they would fly away, and if deer saw them they would break into a run. Of these four, who knows how to fix the standard of beauty in the world? (2, tr. Watson 1968:46)
However, this subjectivism is balanced by a kind of sensitive holism in the famous section called "The Happiness of Fish" (魚之樂, yúzhīlè).
Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling along the dam of the Hao Waterfall when Zhuangzi said, "See how the minnows come out and dart around where they please! That's what fish really enjoy!"
Huizi said, "You're not a fish — how do you know what fish enjoy?"
Zhuangzi said, "You're not me, so how do you know I don't know what fish enjoy?"
Huizi said, "I'm not you, so I certainly don't know what you know. On the other hand, you're certainly not a fish — so that still proves you don't know what fish enjoy!"
Zhuangzi said, "Let's go back to your original question, please. You asked me how I know what fish enjoy — so you already knew I knew it when you asked the question. I know it by standing here beside the Hao." (17, tr. Watson 1968:188-9, romanization changed to pinyin)
The traditional interpretation of this "Daoist staple", writes Chad Hansen (2003:145), is a "humorous miscommunication between a mystic and a logician". The encounter also outlines part of the Daoist practice of observing and learning from the natural world.
The butterfly dream
Another well-known part of the book, which is also found in Chapter 2, is usually called "Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly" (莊周夢蝶 Zhuāng Zhōu mèng dié). Again, the names have been changed to pinyin romanization for consistency:
Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things. (2, tr. Burton Watson 1968:49)
This passage hints at many questions in the philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and epistemology.[vague] The name of the passage has become a common Chinese idiom, and has spread into Western languages as well. It appears as an illustration in Jorge Luis Borges' famous essay "A New Refutation of Time", and may have inspired H. P. Lovecraft's 1918 short story "Polaris". It also appears in Victor Pelevin's 1996 philosophical novel Buddha's Little Finger and in José María Merino's short story Papilio Síderum.
Zhuangzi said the world "does not need governing; in fact it should not be governed," and, "Good order results spontaneously when things are let alone." Murray Rothbard called him "perhaps the world's first anarchist".
In Chapter 18, Zhuangzi also mentions life forms have an innate ability or power (hua 化) to transform and adapt to their surroundings. Zhuangzi further mentioned that humans are also subject to this process as humans are a part of nature.
Translations into English of the full text:
- Balfour, Frederic Henry (1881). The Divine Classic of Nan-Hua; Being the Works of Chuang Tsze, Taoist Philosopher. Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh.
- Legge, James (1891). The Sacred Books of China: The Texts of Taoism, Part I. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Reprint: 1962. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-20990-6.
- Giles, Herbert Allen (1926). Chuang Tzǔ: Mystic, Moralist, and Social Reformer. Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh. Reprint: 1974. New York: AMS Press. ISBN 978-0-404-56915-0.
- Ware, James R. (1963). The Sayings of Chuang Chou. New York: Mentor Classics.
- Watson, Burton (1968). The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-03147-9.
- Palmer, Martin. (1996). The Book of Chuang Tzu. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-019488-3.
- Mair, Victor H. (1994). Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-553-37406-3.
- Wang Rongpei (1999). Zhuangzi (Library of Chinese Classics: Chinese-English edition). Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. ISBN 978-7-5438-2087-6.
Translations into English of the inner chapters, often with some additional chapters:
- Fung, Yu-lan (1933). Chuang-tzǔ: a new selected translation with an exposition of the philosophy of Kuo Hsiang. Shanghai: The Commercial Press. Reprint: 1964. A Taoist Classic: Chuang-Tzu. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. ISBN 978-7-119-00104-3.
- Watson, Burton (1964). Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings. New York: Columbia University Press. Reprint: 1996. ISBN 978-0-231-08606-6; ISBN 978-0-231-10595-8 (paper).
- Feng, Gia-Fu and English, Jane (1974). Chuang Tsu: Inner Chapters. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-394-71990-0.
- Graham, A. C. (1981). Chuang-tzǔ: The Seven Inner Chapters and other writings from the book Chuang-tzǔ. London: George Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-0-04-299010-1. Reprint: 2001. Chuang-tzǔ: The Inner Chapters. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-87220-582-6; ISBN 978-0-87220-581-9 (paper).
- Cleary, Thomas (1992). The Essential Tao: An Initiation into the Heart of Taoism Through the Authentic Tao Te Ching and the Inner Teachings of Chuang-Tzu. Harper San Francisco. ISBN 978-0-06-250177-6 (one of several)
- Hinton, David. (1997). Chuang Tzu: the Inner Chapters. New York: Counterpoint. ISBN 978-1-887178-34-1.
- Seaton, Jerome and Hamill, Sam. (1998). The Essential Chuang Tzu. Boston: Shambhala Press. ISBN 978-1-57062-336-3.
- Ziporyn, Brook (2009). Zhuangzi: The Essential Writings with Selections from Traditional Commentaries. Indianapolis: Hackett. ISBN 978-0-87220-911-4.
- Other romanizations include Zhuang Tze, Zhuang Zhou, Chuang Tsu, Chuang Tzu, Chouang-Dsi, Chuang Tse, or Chuangtze
- Mair, Victor H., ed. (1983). Experimental Essays on Chuang-Tzu, Issue 29. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 13–14.
- Ziporyn (2009), p. vii.
- Horne, Charles F., ed. (1917). The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, Volume XII: Medieval China. New York: Parke. pp. 397–398.
- Kirkland, Russell. Taoism: The Enduring Tradition. Routledge: New York, 2004. Pgs: 33-34.
- Palmer (1996), p. xix.
- Benjamin J. Schwartz, The World of Thought in Ancient China (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1985), p. 216.
- Palmer (1996), p. x.
- Rothbard, Murray (1990). "Concepts of the Role of Intellectuals in Social Change Toward Laissez Faire". Journal of Libertarian Studies 9 (2): 43–67.
- "A Source Book In Chinese Philosophy", Chan, Wing-Tsit, Princeton University Press, p. 204 1963. ISBN 0-691-01964-9
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (September 2009)|
- Ames, Roger T. (1991), ‘The Mencian Concept of Ren Xing: Does it Mean Human Nature?’ in Chinese Texts and Philosophical Contexts, ed. Henry Rosemont, Jr. LaSalle, Ill.: Open Court Press.
- Ames, Roger T. (1998) ed. Wandering at Ease in the Zhuangzi. Albany: State University of New York Press.
- Bruya, Brian (translator). (1992). Zhuangzi Speaks: The Music of Nature. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-00882-0.
- Hansen, Chad (2003). "The Relatively Happy Fish," Asian Philosophy 13:145-164.
- Merton, Thomas. (1969). The Way of Chuang Tzu. New York: New Directions.
- Waltham, Clae (editor). (1971). Chuang Tzu: Genius of the Absurd. New York: Ace Books.
- Watts, Alan with Huan, Al Chung-liang (1975). Tao: The Watercourse Way. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-394-73311-8.
- Chang, Chung-yuan (1963). Creativity and Taoism: A Study of Chinese Philosophy, Art, and Poetry. New York: Julian Press.
- Creel, Herrlee G. (1982). What is Taoism? : and other studies in Chinese cultural history. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-12047-3.
- Watson, Burton (1962). Early Chinese Literature. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Chan, Wing-Tsit (1963). A Source Book In Chinese Philosophy. USA: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01964-9.
|Chinese Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
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- Chuang Tzu at Taoism.net, Chuang Tzu's Stories and Teachings - translations by Derek Lin
- Zhuangzi, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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- Chuang-tzu at Taopage.org
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