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For the book with the same name, see Zhuangzi (book).
莊子 Zhuangzi
Full name 莊子 Zhuangzi
Born 369 BC
Died 286 BC (aged 83)
Era Ancient philosophy
Region Chinese philosophy

Zhuangzi (simplified Chinese: traditional Chinese: pinyin: Zhuāng ZǐWade-Giles: Chuang Tzŭ) was an influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BCE during the Warring States Period, a period corresponding to the philosophical summit of Chinese thought — the Hundred Schools of Thought. His name is sometimes spelled Chuang Tsu, Chuang Tzu, Zhuang Tze, Chouang-Dsi, Chuang Tse, Chuangtze or – in English – Master Chuang.

Contents

Life

Zhuangzi is thought to have lived during the reign of King Hui of Liang and King Xuan of Qi, in the span from 370 to 301 BCE. Zhuangzi was from the Town of Meng (蒙城, Méng Chéng) in the State of Song (now Shāngqiū 商丘, Henan). His given name was Zhou (周, Zhōu). He was also known as Meng Official, Meng Zhuang, and Meng Elder (蒙吏, Méng Lì; 蒙莊, Méng Zhuāng, and 蒙叟, Méng sǒu, respectively).

The validity of his existence has been questioned by 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. 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 was the actual creator of the 33-chapter text of Chuang-tzu ... Regarding the identity of the original person named Chuang, there is no reliable historical data at all.[1][2]

Zhuangzi's philosophy

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In general, Zhuangzi's philosophy is skeptical, arguing that life is limited and the amount of things to know 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. "Our heart-minds are completed along with our bodies." Natural dispositions to behavior combine 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 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 conclusion of the section called "The Happiness of Fish" (魚之樂, yúzhīlè). The names have been changed to pinyin romanization for consistency:

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)

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The butterfly dream

昔者莊周夢為蝴蝶,栩栩然蝴蝶也,自喻適志與,不知周也。俄然覺,則蘧蘧然周也。不知周之夢為蝴蝶與,蝴蝶之夢為周與?週與蝴蝶則必有分矣。此之謂物化。
Zhuangzi dreaming of a butterfly (or a butterfly dreaming of Zhuangzi)

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 hints at many questions in the philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and epistemology. The name of the passage has become a common Chinese idiom, and has spread into Western languages as well. It appears, inter alia, 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 philosophical novel Buddha's Little Finger.

Zhuangzi's philosophy was very influential in the development of Chinese Buddhism, especially Chán (also known as Zen).

Anarchism

According to Murray Rothbard, Zhuangzi was "perhaps the world's first anarchist"; 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." Zhuangzi was the first to work out the idea of spontaneous order, before Proudhon and Hayek.[3]

Evolution

In Chapter 18, Zhuangzi also mentions life forms have an innate ability or power (機) to transform and adapt to their surroundings. While his ideas don't give any solid proof or mechanism of change such as Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin, his idea about the transformation of life from simple to more complex forms is along the same line of thought. Zhuangzi further mentioned that humans are also subject to this process as humans are a part of nature.[4]

Cultural References

  • The 'Butterfly dream' was cited in Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, where it is attributed to a, "Chinaman of the T'ang Dynasty - and, by which definition, a philosopher."
  • The 'Butterfly dream' was referenced in the video game Chrono Trigger when the heroes first speak to Doreen in the Kingdom of Zeal, who says: "Am I a butterfly dreaming I'm a man? Or a bowling ball dreaming I'm a plate of sashimi? Never assume what you see and feel is real!"
  • In the video game Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, The 'Butterfly Dream' is shown in the intro scene. The theme song 'Dream of Butterfly' also seems to be based on it.
  • Haruka, Doumeki's grandfather from xxxHOLiC, cited the 'Butterfly Dream' while talking with Watanuki about dreams and the 'dream world'. (Tankoubon 12, Chapter 133, page 18)

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Kirkland, Russell. Taoism: The Enduring Tradition. Routledge: New York, 2004. Pgs: 33-34.
  2. ^ But see the burning of books and burying of scholars during the warring states period.
  3. ^ Rothbard, Murray. Concepts of the Role of Intellectuals in Social Change Toward Laissez Faire, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol IX No. 2 (Fall 1990)
  4. ^ "A Source Book In Chinese Philosophy", Chan, Wing-Tsit, Princeton University Press, p. 204 1963. ISBN 0691019649

References

  • 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.
  • Balfour, Frederic Henry (translator). (1881). The Divine Classic of Nan-Hua; Being the Works of Chuang Tsze, Taoist Philosopher. Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh.
  • Bruya, Brian (translator). (1992). Zhuangzi Speaks: The Music of Nature. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-00882-0.
  • Cleary, Thomas (translator). (1992). The Essential Tao: An Initiation into the Heart of Taoism Through the Authentic Tao Te Ching and the Inner Teachings of Chuang-Tzu. HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 978-0-06-250177-6 (one of several)
  • Feng, Gia-Fu and English, Jane (translators). (1974). Chuang Tsu: Inner Chapters. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 0394719905.
  • Fung, Yu-lan (translator). (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.
  • Giles, Herbert Allen (translator). (1926). Chuang Tzǔ: Mystic, Moralist, and Social Reformer. Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh. Reprint: 1974. New York: AMS Press. ISBN 0404569153.
  • Graham, A. C. (translator). (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).
  • Hinton, David. (1997). Chuang Tzu: the Inner Chapters. New York: Counterpoint. ISBN 978-1-887178-34-1.
  • Legge, James (translator). (1891). The Sacred Books of China: The Texts of Taoism, Part I. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Reprint: 1962. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0486209906.
  • Mair, Victor H. (translator). (1994). Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-553-37406-3.
  • Merton, Thomas. (1969). The Way of Chuang Tzu. New York: New Directions.
  • Palmer, Martin et al. (translators). (1996). The Book of Chuang Tzu. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-019488-3.
  • Seaton, Jerome and Hamill, Sam. (1998). The Essential Chuang Tzu. Boston: Shambhala Press. ISBN 1-57062-336-8.
  • Waltham, Clae (editor). (1971). Chuang Tzu: Genius of the Absurd. New York: Ace Books.
  • Wang Rongpei (translator). (1999). Zhuangzi (Library of Chinese Classics: Chinese-English edition). Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. ISBN 978-7-5438-2087-6.
  • Ware, James R. (translator). (1963). The Sayings of Chuang Chou. New York: Mentor Classics.
  • Watts, Alan with Huan, Al Chung-liang (1975). Tao: The Watercourse Way. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-394-73311-8. 
  • Watson, Burton (translator). (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).
  • Watson, Burton (translator). (1968). The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0231031479.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Only after the great awakening will we realize that this is the great dream. And yet fools think they are awake, presuming to know that they are rulers or herdsmen. How dense!

庄子 or 莊子 Zhūangzi (c. 369 BC - c. 286 BC), literally Master Zhuang, was a Chinese philosopher, who is supposed to have lived during the Warring States Period, corresponding to the Hundred Schools of Thought. His name is also transliterated as Zhuang Zi, Zhuang Zhou, Chuang Tzu, Chuang Tse and Chuang Chou.

Sourced

Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.

Zhuangzi

Quotations sourced to the book known as Zhuangzi:
  • Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.
    • As translated by Lin Yutang; Alternate translations:
      Once Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly, a fluttering butterfly. What fun he had, doing as he pleased! He did not know he was Zhou. Suddenly he woke up and found himself to be Zhou. He did not know whether Zhou had dreamed he was a butterfly or a butterfly had dreamed he was Zhou. Between Zhou and the butterfly there must be some distinction. This is what is meant by the transformation of things.
      One night, Zhuangzi dreamed of being a butterfly — a happy butterfly, showing off and doing things as he pleased, unaware of being Zhuangzi. Suddenly he awoke, drowsily, Zhuangzi again. And he could not tell whether it was Zhuangzi who had dreamt the butterfly or the butterfly dreaming Zhuangzi. But there must be some difference between them! This is called 'the transformation of things'.
After ten thousand generations there may be a great sage who will be able to explain it, a trivial interval equivalent to the passage from morning to night...
  • How do I know that enjoying life is not a delusion? How do I know that in hating death we are not like people who got lost in early childhood and do not know the way home? Lady Li was the child of a border guard in Ai. When first captured by the state of Jin, she wept so much her clothes were soaked. But after she entered the palace, shared the king's bed, and dined on the finest meats, she regretted her tears. How do I know that the dead do not regret their previous longing for life? One who dreams of drinking wine may in the morning weep; one who dreams weeping may in the morning go out to hunt. During our dreams we do not know we are dreaming. We may even dream of interpreting a dream. Only on waking do we know it was a dream. Only after the great awakening will we realize that this is the great dream. And yet fools think they are awake, presuming to know that they are rulers or herdsmen. How dense! You and Confucius are both dreaming, and I who say you are a dream am also a dream. Such is my tale. It will probably be called preposterous, but after ten thousand generations there may be a great sage who will be able to explain it, a trivial interval equivalent to the passage from morning to night.
  • Right is not right; so is not so. If right were really right it would differ so clearly from not right that there would be no need for argument. If so were really so, it would differ so clearly from not so that there would be no need for argument.
    • "Discussion on Making All Things Equal"; Variant: If right were really right, it would be so different from not-right that there would be no room for argument. If so were really so, then it would be so different from not-so that there would be no room for argument.
  • Forget the years, forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home!
    • "Discussion on Making All Things Equal"
  • A trap is for fish: when you've got the fish, you can forget the trap. A snare is for rabbits: when you've got the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words are for meaning: when you've got the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find someone who's forgotten words so I can have a word with him?...
XXVI External Things
  • A frog in a well cannot conceive of the ocean.
    Of a person who has limited life experience and hence world view; see 井底之蛙.
    From 莊子/秋水.
  • The wise man looks into space and does not regard the small as too little, not the great as too big, for he knows that, there is no limit to dimensions.
    From 莊子/秋水.

External links

Wikipedia
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Simple English

Zhuangzi was an ancient Daoist philosopher who wrote a book which is also called Zhuangzi. He also known by the name of Chuang Tzu, as well as several other transliterations.

The Zhuangzi advocates that men distance themselves from the traditional prestige and honor of worldly life, and think about what it means to simply live. A famous story in the Zhangzi is a story about two ministers who ask Zhuangzi to serve as a court official. Zhuangzi replies with a story about a sacred turtle. He says, "There is a sacred turtle in the palace whose shell is kept in a special box. Now would that turtle rather be honored in that box and dead, or would he rather be alive dragging his tail through the mud?"



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