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Zhuangzi Resources

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Resources:
 
 
Zhuangzi
By Indiana Universityarrow-10x10.png (R. Eno)
 
 
The Completearrow-10x10.png Works Of Chuang Tzu
Translated by Burton Watson
 
 
Chuang-tzu Chapters
Translated by Lin Yutang
 
 
The Chuang-tzu
James Legge's Translation Updated
 
 
Zhuangzi – "Being Boundless”
By Nina Correa
 
 
Zhuangzi
A. Charles Muller
 
 
Booksarrow-10x10.png Essays, and Musings
 
Bilingual
 
Zhuangzi Libraryarrow-10x10.png of Chinese Classics: Chinese-English edition: 2 Volumes) (English and Chinese Edition)
http://www amazonarrow-10x10.png.com/Zhuangzi-Library-Chinese-Classics-Chinese-English/dp/7543820870
 
 
Zhuangzi: Bilingual Edition, English and Chinese:
James Legge
 
 
Chuang Tsu / Inner Chapters (English and Mandarin Chinese Edition)
Feng and English
http://www amazonarrow-10x10.png.com/Chuang-Chapters-English-Mandarin-Chinese/dp/0394719905
 
 
Other Books:
 
Chuang-Tzu: The Inner Chapters 
A.C. Graham
 
 
The Way of Chuang Tzu
Thomas Merton
 
 
Zhuangzi: A New Translation of the Daoist Classic as Interpreted by Gua Xiang (Translations from the Asian Classics)
Richard John Lynn
 
 
Zhuangzi: Thinking through the Inner Chapters
Bo Wang / Translated by Livia Kohn
 
 
Experimental Essays on Zhuangzi
Victor Mair
 
 
Wandering at East in the Zhuangzi
Roger T. Ames
 
 
Zhuangzi and the Happy Fish
Roger T. Ames
 
 
Zhuangzi: Text and Context
Livia Kohn
 
 
New Visions of the Zhuangzi
Livia Kohn
 
 
Hiding the World inside the World: Uneven discourses on the Zhuangzi
Scott Cook
 
 
Essays on Skepticism, Relativism, and Ethics in the Zhuangzi
Edited by Kjellberg and Ivanhoe
 
 
Introduction and Notes for a Complete Translation
Sino-Platonic Paper by Mair

 

 

 

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a. Chapter 1: Xiao Yao You (Wandering Beyond)

The title of the first chapter of the Zhuangzi has also been translated as “Free and Easy Wandering” and “Going Rambling Without a Destination.” Both of these reflect the sense of the Daoist who is in spontaneous accord with the natural world, and who has retreated from the anxieties and dangers of social life, in order to live a healthy and peaceful natural life. In modern Mandarin, the word xiaoyao has thus come to mean “free, at ease, leisurely, spontaneous.” It conveys the impression of people who have given up the hustle and bustle of worldly existence and have retired to live a leisurely life outside the city, perhaps in the natural setting of the mountains.

But this everyday expression is lacking a deeper significance that is expressed in the classical Chinese phrase: the sense of distance, or going beyond. As with all Zhuangzi’s images, this is to be understood metaphorically. The second word, ‘yao,’ means ‘distance’ or ‘beyond,’ and here implies going beyond the boundaries of familiarity. We ordinarily confine ourselves within our social roles, expectations, and values, and with our everyday understandings of things. But this, according to Zhuangzi, is inadequate for a deeper appreciation of the natures of things, and for a more successful mode of interacting with them. We need at the very least to undo preconceptions that prevent us from seeing things and events in new ways; we need to see how we can structure and restructure the boundaries of things. But we can only do so when we ourselves have ‘wandered beyond’ the boundaries of the familiar. It is only by freeing our imaginations to reconceive ourselves, and our worlds, and the things with which we interact, that we may begin to understand the deeper tendencies of the natural transformations by which we are all affected, and of which we are all constituted. By loosening the bonds of our fixed preconceptions, we bring ourselves closer to an attunement to the potent and productive natural way (dao) of things.

Paying close attention to the textual associations, we see that wandering is associated with the word wu, ordinarily translated ‘nothing,’ or ‘without.’ Related associations include: wuyou (no ‘something’) and wuwei (no interference). Roger Ames and David Hall have commented extensively on these wu expressions. Most importantly, they are not to be understood as simple negations, but have a much more complex function. The significance of all of these expressions must be traced back to the wu of Laozi: a type of negation that does not simply negate, but places us in a new kind of relation to ‘things’—a phenomenological waiting that allows them to manifest, one that acknowledges the space that is the possibility of their coming to presence, one that appreciates the emptiness that is the condition of the possibility of their capacity to function, to be useful (as the hollow inside a house makes it useful for living). The behavior of one who wanders beyond becomes wuwei: sensitive and responsive without fixed preconceptions, without artifice, responding spontaneously in accordance with the unfolding of the inter-developing factors of the environment of which one is an inseparable part.

But it is not just the crossing of horizontal boundaries that is at stake. There is also the vertical distance that is important: one rises to a height from which formerly important distinctions lose what appeared to be their crucial significance. Thus arises the distinction between the great and the small, or the Vast (da) and the petty (xiao). Of this distinction Zhuangzi says that the petty cannot come up to the Vast: petty understanding that remains confined and defined by its limitations cannot match Vast understanding, the expansive understanding that wanders beyond. Now, while it is true that the Vast loses sight of distinctions noticed by the petty, it does not follow that they are thereby equalized, as Guo Xiang suggests. For the Vast still embraces the petty in virtue of its very vastness. The petty, precisely in virtue of its smallness, is not able to reciprocate.

Now, the Vast that goes beyond our everyday distinctions also thereby appears to be useless. A soaring imagination may be wild and wonderful, but it is extremely impractical and often altogether useless. Indeed, Huizi, Zhuangzi’s friend and philosophical foil, chides him for this very reason. But Zhuangzi expresses disappointment in him: for his inability to sense the use of this kind of uselessness is a kind of blindness of the spirit. The useless has use, only not as seen on the ordinary level of practical affairs. It has a use in the cultivation and nurturing of the ‘shen‘ (spirit), in protecting the ancestral and preserving one’s life, so that one can last out one’s natural years and live a flourishing life. Now, this notion of a flourishing life is not to be confused with a ‘successful’ life: Zhuangzi is not impressed by worldly success. A flourishing life may indeed look quite unappealing from a traditional point of view. One may give up social ambition and retire in relative poverty to tend to one’s shen and cultivate one’s xing (nature, or life potency).

To summarize: When we wander beyond, we leave behind everything we find familiar, and explore the world in all its unfamiliarity. We drop the tools that we have been taught to use to tame the environment, and we allow it to teach us without words. We imitate its spontaneous behavior and we learn to respond immediately without fixed articulations.

 

http://www.iep.utm.edu/zhuangzi/#H3

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I'm curious if anyone has more information on the historical context of some of the topics brought up in Zhuangzi, or of the period when it was written. When I have gone back to reread it or other texts I get a different understanding after I have learned more background about some of the events or people that are referred to. I think I still have more to study though.

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