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Author Zhuangzi
Country China
Language Chinese
Genre(s) Philosophy

The Taoist book Zhuangzi (simplified Chinese: 庄子traditional Chinese: 莊子pinyin: Zhuāngzǐ) was named after its purported author Zhuangzi, the philosopher. Since 742 CE, when Emperor Xuanzong of Tang mandated honorific titles for Taoist texts, it has also been known as the Nánhuá Zhēnjīng (simplified Chinese: 南华真经traditional Chinese: 南華眞經pinyin: Nánhuá Zhēnjīng), literally meaning "True Classic of Southern (Cultural) Florescence," alluding to the tradition that Zhuangzi came from South China. Another explanation is that the place that Zhuangzi was born was placed within the administrative unit Nánhuá (南華) County during the Tang dynasty.

The text is a composite of writings from various sources. The traditional view is that Zhuangzi himself wrote the first seven chapters (the "inner chapters") and his students and related thinkers were responsible for the other parts (the "outer" and "miscellaneous" chapters). Strong proof of direct authorship by Zhuangzi of any of the text is difficult. The recension by Guo Xiang (circa 300 CE) is the basis for practically all extant editions of the Zhuangzi.

The inner chapters have great grammatical and conceptual coherence and are believed to have been primarily written by one hand[citation needed], even if not by Zhuangzi himself. Zhuangzi has been categorized as a "Taoist" by the Chinese tradition, but especially in the inner chapters, he stands out from the rest. He also writes comparatively little about Tao in the inner chapters of the work, even less than Mencius and other prominent Confucians, prompting scholar A. C. Graham to note, "Zhuangzi never knew he was a Taoist".


The Zhuangzi text is widely regarded as both deeply insightful in thought and as an achievement of the Chinese poetical essay form. It uses the Chinese language in complex, multi-layered, and often playful ways, and is notoriously difficult to translate. Nevertheless, some sinologists have tried. There are complete English translations of all thirty-three chapters by Frederic Balfour, James Legge, Herbert Giles, James Ware, Burton Watson, Martin Palmer, Victor H. Mair, Wang Rongpei, and Nina Correa. There are selected translations of the seven "inner chapters" by Fung Yu-lan, Burton Watson, Gia-Fu Feng, A. C. Graham, Thomas Cleary, and David Hinton. There is also a translation of the seven "inner chapters" and twelve additional chapters by Jerome Seaton and Sam Hamill. There are interpretations of selected Zhuangzi passages by Thomas Merton and Brian Bruya. Graham's is, to date, the most academically thorough, but Watson's is highly praised for its poetic style. Mair's translation also has its highlights, including his decision to translate the poetic parts of the text into English poetry.

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