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This Version

Words are altered to conform to more recent writing and spelling.

  • Titles are added to the sections to make recognition easier.
  • Words behind an orange, eight-spoked asterisk are added to Legge's work by the editor of this work. The additions consist of section abstracts, links, and are aimed at increasing the benefits of the massive content on the whole.
  • The spelling of some names is made easier. Hyphens in some names are dropped.
  • 'Tzu' (Pinyin: Zi) after a name is translated as 'Master' and put in front of the name - a common practice in Burton Watson's work too.

Insertions in round brackets (..) are usually those of Legge's.

Possible Authors

Chuang Tzu ( ca. 365 – 290 BCE) - also Zhuangzi, or Master Chuang or Master Zhuang, Mester Zhuang - was a Taoist philosopher and author. His original personal name was Chuang Chou (Zhuang Zhou). Spellings vary; instead of 'Master Chuang' we may also come across Chuang Tsu, Zhuang Tze, Chouang-Dsi, Chuang Tse, Chuang-tzu and Chuangtze.

His biographic data are few, and perhaps not reliable. Also, that it was he who wrote the Chuang Tzu, also called Nan Hua Zhen Jing (The true book about the southern land of blossoming) has been questioned. Russell Kirkland supposes that a Kuo Hsiang of the 200s CE wrote all the thirty-three chapters of the book. (Wikipedia, "Zhuangzi")

The Book

The artful book that is commonly known as Zhuangzi and Chuang Tzu, is most often ascribed to Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi). It is one of the two founding works of philosophical Taoism, along with Tao-te Ching (Dao-de Jing). The Chuang Tzu is commonly held to be the most important of all Taoist writings. It consists of anecdotes, allegories, parables, and fables, and is in part humorous or irreverent.

The book has three main parts. The inner chapters (1-7); the outer chapters (8-12), and mixed writings (13-33). Opinions, insights, and views in it are clothed in allegories, brief treatises about philosopical conundrums and anecdote-like dialogues and tales. The text is of a complex style and marked by a poetic flair. One finds critique of exaggerated ceremonialism and praise of a life of retirement in idyllic environments, besides inner freedom. And thus the work is marked by what is called "a free spirit".

Refinement and naturalness are advocated. Fit simplicity of living is advocated. And the body is not viewed as a means of carnally bad temptation, but rather as something positive to delight in. Regulating sex forms is found to be fit. Neither abstinence nor abstinence nor excessive sexual indulgence is advocated, and the sexual energy of women is viewed as boundless, so women are encouraged to reach orgasm without restriction.

Astrology forms part of Taoism, and divination.

Taoism encourages people to take good care of nature and its diversity.

One also finds sensitive holism in the text. The Chuang Tzu's philosophy was very influential in the development of Chinese Buddhism, especially Chan (Zen). Some of the outlooks in the book about transformations of life from simple to more complex forms predate the evolutionary approach of Charles Darwin.

Taoism and Buddhism

Taoism involves a way of life and is a religion to some too. It contains numerous teachings and include a number of meditative and contemplative traditions and exercises. Some of them may benefit one's physical and mental health. Studies of meditation techniques confirm it.

When Buddhism entered China it interacted and merged considerably with Taoism. What is more, Buddhism's scriptures were translated into Chinese using Taoist vocabulary.

For centuries, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism deeply influenced one another in China. All three embrace a humanist philosophy.

The number of Taoists worldwide is difficult to estimate. They range from upwards of six to much more than fifty millions. (Wikipedia, "Taoism")

Some key concepts

Tao has a variety of meanings; not just "the indescribable way".

Wu wei is a key concept. It stands for doing nothing (in the open). It is often expressed by "action without action" or "(quite) effortless doing".

Taoists teaches that the body ties directly into the Chinese five (system) elements, and that we may gain knowledge of the world by understanding ourselves better. Chinese acupuncture is an outlet of Taoism, and the ancient Chinese classic I Ching (The Book of Changes) has evolved from it too.

Wang T'ao and James Legge

The Scottish scholar James Legge (1815–97) was aided by the pioneering Chinese Wang T'ao (1828–97?) in the monumental translation of the Five Classics of Confucianism. Wang also spent two years with Legge in Europe.

Dr Legge was professor of Chinese at Oxford University (1876-1897). He translated The Analects of Confucius, the Sayings of Mencius, The Tao Teh King and other Chinese works into English. The Chuang Tzu was one of the hardest Chinese Taoism works to translate for him, he writes.


Chuang Tzu based on James Legge's translation, Chuang-tzu, the Zhuangzi by Master Chuang ie Master Zhuang, Literature  

Cleary, Thomas, tr., comp. 2000. Taoist Meditation: Methods for Cultivating a Healthy Mind and Body. London: Shambhala.

Graham, Angus Charles. 1989. Chuang-Tzu: The Inner Chapters. Reissue ed. London: Unwin Paperbacks.

Legge, James, tr. 1891. The Sacred Books of China: The Texts of Taoism. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Mair, Victor Henry, tr. 1994. Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu. New York: Bantam Books.

Pregadio, Fabrizio. 2008. The Encyclopedia of Taoism. Vols 1 and 2. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Watson, Burton, tr. 1968. Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings. New York: Columbia University Press.

Yutang, Lin, tr. 1963. The Wisdom of China. London: New English Library.

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