Zhuang Zhou (莊周)
|Born||c. 369 BC|
|Died||c. 286 BC (aged c. 82 – 83)|
|Literal meaning||"Master Zhuang"|
|Hanyu Pinyin||Zhuāng Zhōu|
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Zhuang Zhou (/ /), commonly known as Zhuangzi (//; Chinese: 莊子; literally "Master Zhuang"; also rendered in the Wade–Giles romanization as Chuang Tzu),[a] was an influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BCE during the Warring States period, a period of great development in 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 is one of the foundational texts of Taoism.
See also: Zhuangzi (book) § History
The only account of the life of Zhuangzi is a brief sketch in chapter 63 of Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian, and most of the information it contains seems to have simply been drawn from anecdotes in the Zhuangzi itself. In Sima's biography, 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 fourth century BC). Sima Qian writes that Chuang-Tze was especially influenced by Lao-Tze, and that he turned down a job offer from King Wei of Chu, because he valued his personal freedom.
The validity of his existence has been questioned by Russell Kirkland, who asserts that "there is no reliable historical data at all" for Chuang Chou/Zhuangzi, and that "the Chuang-tzu known to us today" is better attributed to its "commentator", the third-century writer Kuo Hsiang.
Main article: Zhuangzi (book)
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 in chapters 8-10 and the first half of chapter 11; c) a strain very strongly represented in chapters 28-31 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.
Zhuangzi has influenced thinking far beyond East Asia. The German philosopher Martin Buber translated his texts in 1910. In 1930, Martin Heidegger asked for Buber's translation of Zhuangzi after his Bremen speech "On the Essence of Truth". In order to explain his own philosophy, Heidegger read from chapter 17, where Zhuangzi says to the thinker Hui Shih:
"Do you see how the fish are coming to the surface and swimming around as they please? That's what fish really enjoy."
"You're not a fish," replied Hui Tzu, "so how can you say you know what fish really enjoy?"
Zhuangzi said: "You are not me, so how can you know I don't know what fish enjoy."
The historian of ideas Dag Herbjørnsrud concludes: "It may therefore be difficult to say where the philosophies of Lao Tzu and Zhuangzi end and where the most influential German thinking of the twentieth century starts [...]"
The 20th century Chinese philosopher and essayist Hu Shih considered Zhuangzi a Chinese forerunner of evolution. In the chapter "Supreme Happiness", Zhuangzi described the transmutation of species.
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