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Zhuangzi: Basic Writings

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-- Asian Affairs The basic writings of Chuang Tzu have been savored by Chinese readers for over two thousand years. And Burton Watson's lucid and beautiful translation has been loved by generations of readers.Chuang Tzu (369?-286? B.C.) was a leading philosopher representing the Taoist strain in Chinese thought. Using parable and anecdote, allegory and paradox, he set fort -- Asian Affairs The basic writings of Chuang Tzu have been savored by Chinese readers for over two thousand years. And Burton Watson's lucid and beautiful translation has been loved by generations of readers.Chuang Tzu (369?-286? B.C.) was a leading philosopher representing the Taoist strain in Chinese thought. Using parable and anecdote, allegory and paradox, he set forth, in the book that bears his name, the early ideas of what was to become the Taoist school. Central to these is the belief that only by understanding Tao (the Way of Nature) and dwelling in its unity can man achieve true happiness and freedom, in both life and death. Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings includes the seven "inner chapters," which form the heart of the book, three of the "outer chapters," and one of the "miscellaneous chapters." Watson also provides an introduction, placing the philosopher in relation to Chinese history and thought.Witty and imaginative, enriched by brilliant imagery, and making sportive use of both mythological and historical personages (including even Confucius), this timeless classic is sure to appeal to anyone interested in Chinese religion and culture.


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-- Asian Affairs The basic writings of Chuang Tzu have been savored by Chinese readers for over two thousand years. And Burton Watson's lucid and beautiful translation has been loved by generations of readers.Chuang Tzu (369?-286? B.C.) was a leading philosopher representing the Taoist strain in Chinese thought. Using parable and anecdote, allegory and paradox, he set fort -- Asian Affairs The basic writings of Chuang Tzu have been savored by Chinese readers for over two thousand years. And Burton Watson's lucid and beautiful translation has been loved by generations of readers.Chuang Tzu (369?-286? B.C.) was a leading philosopher representing the Taoist strain in Chinese thought. Using parable and anecdote, allegory and paradox, he set forth, in the book that bears his name, the early ideas of what was to become the Taoist school. Central to these is the belief that only by understanding Tao (the Way of Nature) and dwelling in its unity can man achieve true happiness and freedom, in both life and death. Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings includes the seven "inner chapters," which form the heart of the book, three of the "outer chapters," and one of the "miscellaneous chapters." Watson also provides an introduction, placing the philosopher in relation to Chinese history and thought.Witty and imaginative, enriched by brilliant imagery, and making sportive use of both mythological and historical personages (including even Confucius), this timeless classic is sure to appeal to anyone interested in Chinese religion and culture.

30 review for Zhuangzi: Basic Writings

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    This book contains the "inner chapters," not the entire Chuang Tzu, but generally considered the essential and least corrupt chapters. It's one of my favorite books, and after reading Watson's translation I'm unable to read anyone else's - it's wonderful (and there are quite a few weak versions, and weaker paraphrases). Of the Chinese classics I've read this is not only the most subtle and profound, it's sometimes absolutely hilarious. His parodies of Confucianism are a riot, his magical unreali This book contains the "inner chapters," not the entire Chuang Tzu, but generally considered the essential and least corrupt chapters. It's one of my favorite books, and after reading Watson's translation I'm unable to read anyone else's - it's wonderful (and there are quite a few weak versions, and weaker paraphrases). Of the Chinese classics I've read this is not only the most subtle and profound, it's sometimes absolutely hilarious. His parodies of Confucianism are a riot, his magical unrealism is timeless, his man dreaming he's a butterfly - or is it the other way around? - the useless tree that's preserved itself so long by being useless, not like all those fructiferous trees .... It's a rare combination of inane silliness with serious reflections on human nature, existence, nature and metaphysics (if that's the right term).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Akemi G

    GR keeps asking me if I've read this book because I've read Tao Te Ching. Well, I have read Chuang Tzu's writings in Japanese translation that comes with the original Chinese texts and footnotes. (Chinese characters represent not only the phonetics but also the meanings, and many modern Japanese translations of Chinese classics contain the original text to assist deeper understanding--even though I don't speak Chinese, I know the meanings of the characters. We've been reading such classics for g GR keeps asking me if I've read this book because I've read Tao Te Ching. Well, I have read Chuang Tzu's writings in Japanese translation that comes with the original Chinese texts and footnotes. (Chinese characters represent not only the phonetics but also the meanings, and many modern Japanese translations of Chinese classics contain the original text to assist deeper understanding--even though I don't speak Chinese, I know the meanings of the characters. We've been reading such classics for generations; it's part of the cultural heritage of the area that received the ancient Chinese influence. In fact, the Japanese might read Chinese classics more than the Chinese today.) Chuang Tzu wrote extensively, so editors/translators must choose which stories to include in the book. I trust that this English translation contains his essential writings. Chuang Tzu defies definition. Yes, he was a Taoist. His thinking and writing are so limitless, however. Be mesmerized in the many imaginative stories and lose yourself. That's what these stories are ultimately about--to lose (or forget) the small self. Jesus taught by fables. I find it interesting that Chuang Tzu did something similar on the other side of the continent.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Yuen

    I can't decide if I learnt something, or nothing at all. This book has a mystic's tone, in just the same way that Wittgenstein's TLP does. As a translation, Burton Watson makes a great companion and the foreword provides the necessary context to read the work, illuminative for those who are unfamiliar with Eastern philosophy. His many footnotes were helpful in understanding the text as well. As a philosophy, readers from the western analytic tradition might be left uncomfortable. The work is a bit I can't decide if I learnt something, or nothing at all. This book has a mystic's tone, in just the same way that Wittgenstein's TLP does. As a translation, Burton Watson makes a great companion and the foreword provides the necessary context to read the work, illuminative for those who are unfamiliar with Eastern philosophy. His many footnotes were helpful in understanding the text as well. As a philosophy, readers from the western analytic tradition might be left uncomfortable. The work is a bit obtuse and its aphoristic nature leaves one confused as to what one ought to do wrt the philosophy of the text, let alone if one ought to "do" anything at all! As a poetic work, it's brilliant and provocative. Take what you will and learn from it, or don't.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    I am probably the wrong sort of person to read this sort of book. I felt the philosopher made a lot of nebulous and unrelated metaphors in an attempt to explain universal truths. And also I did not agree with what the philosopher regarded as truth. It felt more like being numb to truth. However, it is useful to read the philosophies that shaped other cultures, because it enables us to connect with people we might not otherwise understand.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    I've read this a number of times and I've read other translations ... for me Burton Watson is the best ... the humor shines through and the language Watson uses in his translation is clear and precise. He also provides useful footnotes which are located on the same page as the text Here's a famous sample using the famous cleaver illustration: "However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I'm doing, work I've read this a number of times and I've read other translations ... for me Burton Watson is the best ... the humor shines through and the language Watson uses in his translation is clear and precise. He also provides useful footnotes which are located on the same page as the text Here's a famous sample using the famous cleaver illustration: "However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I'm doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until -- flop! the whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth coming to the ground. I stand there holding the knife and look all around me, completely satisfied and reluctant to move on, and then I wipe off the knife and put it away." (p. 47) Here is Chuang Tzu at his most essential presenting "wuwei" which is not "non action" but just the essential action, not over acting. (Modern society could sure use a dose of wuwei.) Okay, looking at Watson's translation he uses words which are deceptively simple yet surgically precise. That is why, Watson's translation remains for me the best.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    I almost felt like putting this on the "fantasy" shelf, so much of it was so purely fanciful. Chuang-tzu is, in the words of my prof, "a wild literary ride." Daoist in affiliation, this book is actually pretty drastically different from Lao-tzu's, and much more of the mystical side. The only reason why it's at 4 and not 5 stars is the lack of cohesiveness which plagues these +2000 year old texts. It can be a little hard to focus your attention at times when the thing is jumping all over the plac I almost felt like putting this on the "fantasy" shelf, so much of it was so purely fanciful. Chuang-tzu is, in the words of my prof, "a wild literary ride." Daoist in affiliation, this book is actually pretty drastically different from Lao-tzu's, and much more of the mystical side. The only reason why it's at 4 and not 5 stars is the lack of cohesiveness which plagues these +2000 year old texts. It can be a little hard to focus your attention at times when the thing is jumping all over the place. But it's still really a nice philosophical treat of a book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    I didn't finish it. I got about halfway through and just couldn't take another damn parable. (I think I hate parables.) I actually agree with the basic messages of the book (e.g., constantly striving for happiness can make you unhappy, so just be), but there were some parts that I just couldn't take. For example, you need a non-horse to show you that a horse is not a horse. So, yes, a non-horse is good to have around so you can tell what is a horse, but why would that be helpful in showing you t I didn't finish it. I got about halfway through and just couldn't take another damn parable. (I think I hate parables.) I actually agree with the basic messages of the book (e.g., constantly striving for happiness can make you unhappy, so just be), but there were some parts that I just couldn't take. For example, you need a non-horse to show you that a horse is not a horse. So, yes, a non-horse is good to have around so you can tell what is a horse, but why would that be helpful in showing you that a horse isn't a horse? Go home Chaung Tzu, you're drunk.

  8. 5 out of 5

    William Cheek

    It doesn't matter what your worldview is - Chuang Tzu is good food for the mind. The basic allure is in the concept of casting off...everything. Our deepest thoughts and considerations are almost always blocked by certain premises that we are unable to see through. Chuang Tzu escapes these barriers, in a thrilling and powerful way. At its basic level, The Way according to Chuang Tzu is not anchored in anything. Physical circumstance, metaphysical reality - these do not, well, MATTER. The Way is a It doesn't matter what your worldview is - Chuang Tzu is good food for the mind. The basic allure is in the concept of casting off...everything. Our deepest thoughts and considerations are almost always blocked by certain premises that we are unable to see through. Chuang Tzu escapes these barriers, in a thrilling and powerful way. At its basic level, The Way according to Chuang Tzu is not anchored in anything. Physical circumstance, metaphysical reality - these do not, well, MATTER. The Way is a philosophy that goes beyond all of this, rooted in nothing but the detached mind. There is no seeking, only understanding. There is no high, no low, only acceptance. It is a worldview as as expansive and daring as any other. That doesn't mean I'll be following this Way anytime soon - as thrilling as it is to mull over, its implications paint a picture of rather bleak and colorless detachment. Human suffering will not bring down the true Chuang Tzu sage, but neither will human celebration lift him up. Still, though, Chuang Tzu's writing will tune your mind, sift your preconceptions, ask you to release - just for a bit - whatever it is you hold as true and to simply THINK. And that is always a good thing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    Zhuangzi has been labeled a "Taoist" since the 2nd century B.C., but what the hell does that mean? Sima Qian started this whole thing of calling Laozi and Zhuangzi "Taoists", like they shared the same world view and argued the same ideas. Wrong! Laozi and Zhuangzi really need to be taken as separate representations of different ways of thought, distinct not only from each other but from the wave of "Confucians" (another label courtesy of Sima Qian in the 2nd century BC) to come after Confucius h Zhuangzi has been labeled a "Taoist" since the 2nd century B.C., but what the hell does that mean? Sima Qian started this whole thing of calling Laozi and Zhuangzi "Taoists", like they shared the same world view and argued the same ideas. Wrong! Laozi and Zhuangzi really need to be taken as separate representations of different ways of thought, distinct not only from each other but from the wave of "Confucians" (another label courtesy of Sima Qian in the 2nd century BC) to come after Confucius himself. Zhuangzi was a contemporary of Mencius. He probably lived in the state of Song, where the exiled Shang clans were allowed by their Zhou conquerers to quietly carry out their sacrifices to their ancestors under careful scrutiny. In a way, we might say a glimmer of Shang cultural values is coming through in Zhuangzi's writings, which are so characteristically different from the Zhou inspired Confucian thinkers. Regardless, Zhuangzi doesn't like utility. He doesn't like language, but is a master of its use. He never offers solutions to problems, he only hints at them. He's a performer and a trickster, and so hard to figure out what the hell he's getting at. But what he seems to be saying is that maybe the only things in life worth knowing are ineffable. How can you ultimately "know" something? And as soon as you put what you know into action, you immediately limit other possibilities. Zhuangzi wants to leave you in a state of uncertainty, in a state where you're open to any number of possibilities. If he instead provided answers and solid explanations, the power of potential would be cut off. You might think these answers would provide stability, but for Zhuangzi what is lost by the provision of answers is no stability at all. For Zhuangzi, the only way to answer questions is to shift between them, to wander in the realization of the myriad explanations for any question. And therein is power and wisdom - not in assigning names or defining hierarchies or learning the Rites or in learning how to be a gentleman. These are more of my lecture notes from class discussions of the "100 schools" that are helpful to reflect on if ever you read this book (or re-read it, as the case may be). My one big suggestion if you read Zhuangzi (or any of these books really): Take them on their own terms and try hard to separate what the author is trying to say from all that over 2000 years of other people have said about what the author is trying to say. It's a hard thing to do, but very rewarding if you can do it!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    I found this to be a nice discussion of Taoism, worlds easier to extract meaning from than the Tao Te Ching, though not quite as clear as the Tao of Pooh. It has all the trappings of ancient philosophy: parables, dialogues, and very poor logical constructions (though, unlike in Plato, these are essentially irrelevant for Zhuangzi; the point is never expressed in logical terms, but rather by illustration in analogy and parable). The parables are somewhat repetitious, both in tone and in ideas, an I found this to be a nice discussion of Taoism, worlds easier to extract meaning from than the Tao Te Ching, though not quite as clear as the Tao of Pooh. It has all the trappings of ancient philosophy: parables, dialogues, and very poor logical constructions (though, unlike in Plato, these are essentially irrelevant for Zhuangzi; the point is never expressed in logical terms, but rather by illustration in analogy and parable). The parables are somewhat repetitious, both in tone and in ideas, and sometimes parables are explicitly repeated in slightly altered form. They express three central ideas: 1. That Virtue (happiness, lack of suffering, contentment) is to be found in a middle way, which makes no pretense to glory, riches, or power, nor to asceticism or isolation. It advocates acceptance of your lot in life as the truest road to happiness. 2. That fate is the ultimate determinant of the life you live. You are given a body, a society, a mind, etc, which all conspire to make you who you are and make you do what you do. 3. That all divisions of the world and experience into categories are fallacious and indeed the source of all discontent. This means that language and thought themselves are facetious and don't necessarily have anything to do with the objective universe, and that the only way to truly understand is to abandon all attempts to understand. These ideas are pretty damned nice for a philosopher who thought such a long time ago. They're not perfect, of course, but I'd say it is probably worth reading. Maybe not. I dunno. Definitely read the Tao of Pooh over Zhuangzi, I'd say, but maybe complement them with each other. This translation has a nice straightforward character, in that the translator provides many footnotes that are up front about the fact that in many places he didn't really know what Zhuangzi was trying to say. This makes it easier to find the spots that aren't worth trying to parse, since he points them out as dubiously translated and maintained from the original. "Words exist because of meaning; once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him?"

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hieu Cao

    I don't understand several first chapters; however, the text gradually makes sense by itself. Chuang Tzu attempts to show us a perspective completely different from conventional thinkings but perfectly harmonious. A must-read! --- 03/12/2011, Sat This is my second reading. I will make some statements about my insights gained from this book: - All 'words' are relative but points to one absolute truth of nothingness. - There must be something in order to have nothingness. - Life as well as the whole wor I don't understand several first chapters; however, the text gradually makes sense by itself. Chuang Tzu attempts to show us a perspective completely different from conventional thinkings but perfectly harmonious. A must-read! --- 03/12/2011, Sat This is my second reading. I will make some statements about my insights gained from this book: - All 'words' are relative but points to one absolute truth of nothingness. - There must be something in order to have nothingness. - Life as well as the whole world is meaningless or purposeless to its core. Nothing has a purpose. - Time is relative and purely imaginative. It's a concept human came up with. - Our whole life is a dream, but also not a dream. - Our desire makes things different, separated, and isolated. But things including our desires are themselves nothings. - In the world where Buddhism is widespread and people are kind to each other, the religion will be that of killers. - Since everything is nothing, nothing exists without its opposite. - We are absolutely free, but at the same time, absolutely connected. - We are perfect. There is no such thing called improvement. Finally, I just said about nothing.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Xia

    A corrupted text far too obfuscated with the intentions of it’s scribes and rewriters passed through the millennia . Some stories are in the spirit of Tao: the stories involving trees and uselessness, the story of the bird and offerings of men, of Confucius’s student attempting to help a corrupt king, of the butcher cleaving livestock, of the White Sea turtle appearing as an envoy in dream, and some discourses on the limited expectations of smaller men, but that’s it. The exaggerated singing at t A corrupted text far too obfuscated with the intentions of it’s scribes and rewriters passed through the millennia . Some stories are in the spirit of Tao: the stories involving trees and uselessness, the story of the bird and offerings of men, of Confucius’s student attempting to help a corrupt king, of the butcher cleaving livestock, of the White Sea turtle appearing as an envoy in dream, and some discourses on the limited expectations of smaller men, but that’s it. The exaggerated singing at the event of their wive’s deaths, the logical word play of moism , the intellectualism of filial piety values (loving parents, following the brother’s will, etc.) of Confucius mores adds confusion and contradictory messages relative to the experience of Tao. The contradiction and change of voices is startling and far too often. This supports the theory of multiple authors having rewritten the text with their own bias in each successive generation. Sadly these corruptions represents the larger parts of the text.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    Very trippy. I opened to the first page and was immediately confronted with a story about a bird who became a pig who became a flower. But once you get into it and understand it intuitively, its stories and principles about the "Dao" or the flow of nature, will just begin to make sense to you. That said, sometimes, you'll still want to put your head down and cry from baffled confusion, but overall, it's a good read that leaves you with a greater sense of connection to the world and nature and Da Very trippy. I opened to the first page and was immediately confronted with a story about a bird who became a pig who became a flower. But once you get into it and understand it intuitively, its stories and principles about the "Dao" or the flow of nature, will just begin to make sense to you. That said, sometimes, you'll still want to put your head down and cry from baffled confusion, but overall, it's a good read that leaves you with a greater sense of connection to the world and nature and Daoism.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kontrolpian

    The more nihilistic side of Taosim—not for the uninitiated in Chinese philosophy. “What? How can you dislike Chuang Tzu!?” Honestly speaking, if this book had been my first of Chinese philosophy, I probably would have become obsessed with it. But what I like about it is the framework that it builds off, which is the Taoist tradition—that which became the basis for almost all Chinese thought. What I dislike is Chuang Tzu’s take on it, not Chinese mysticism in toto. Therefore, while there are s The more nihilistic side of Taosim—not for the uninitiated in Chinese philosophy. “What? How can you dislike Chuang Tzu!?” Honestly speaking, if this book had been my first of Chinese philosophy, I probably would have become obsessed with it. But what I like about it is the framework that it builds off, which is the Taoist tradition—that which became the basis for almost all Chinese thought. What I dislike is Chuang Tzu’s take on it, not Chinese mysticism in toto. Therefore, while there are some sections that I like, these are sections which explain ideas not particular to Chuang Tzu, and that other philosophers explain much better. The great question Chinese philosophy tends to aim to answer is: how is one to cope with life and the world? He who manages to answer this question and act accordingly is deemed a Sage. Chuang Tzu is no different. So, what is particular to Chuang Tzu? The main difference is that the Sage of Chuang Tzu is an asshole. The metaphysical view expounded is a sort of absolute relativism. Thus, Chuang Tzu’s Sage is a person who, aware of his smallness and the meaninglessness of all things and categorizations, is apathetic, cynical and nihilistic. On one occasion, a master plunges a man into a deep depression: “After [the master helped him ‘achieve the highest understanding’], Lieh Tzu concluded that he had never really begun to learn anything. He went home and for three years did not go out. He replaced his wife at the stove, fed the pigs as though he were feeding people, and showed no preferences in the things he did. He got rid of the carving and polishing and returned to plainness, letting his body stand alone like a clod. In the midst of entanglement he remained sealed, and in this oneness he ended his life.” (p. 94) And Chuang Tzu seems to suggest that this way of life is desirable. Being to some extent detached from worldly affairs is characteristic to Chinese mysticism, yet the relativism of Chuang Tzu is more akin to Meursault’s, from Albert Camus' The Stranger, even going so far as voiding the meaning of good and evil. This is yet another troubling point: the problem of moral relativism is that there is no real reason to do good—or evil, or anything, for that matter. In one passage, the issue is identified, yet not satisfactorily solved (Section 17: Autumn Floods). As a consequence, Chuang Tzu’s Sage is very cynical, not caring much for others and even advising disciples not to bother to prevent calamities, lest they get themselves into trouble. To top it all off, I sense the book emanates a subtle air of misanthropy: there are little praises of the natural and condemnations of the human here and there. It does not sit well with me. There are much richer and healthier forms of Chinese mysticism out there. As for the style, the book is short, yet often repetitive, using various formulations to illustrate, if not the same, very similar concepts. The language is often muddled, and it is often unclear when he is being ironic. There are many occasions where Confucius is referenced, yet it is unclear to me when he is being praised and when he is being mocked. This might be due to my lack of expertise and/or knowledge of the context, which is why this last criticism might be rather anachronic. Even so, this further proves my point that this is not a book for a beginner. “But it is highly up to interpretation!” Maybe. It is said in the introduction that these texts are not meant to be subjected to rational scrutiny but are meant to be ‘read and reread’. And herein lies the issue with mysticism: it has an element of the non-rational. In this sense, it acquires a certain haughtiness, and can be very easily used as a shield against rational argument. ‘The wise man not arguing with fools’ can also be (quite ironically) an expression of closed-mindedness. I do not deny that Chuang Tzu could be of help to many people taken on a superficial level, but if you do read it, and if you do like it, please remember: everything in moderation, even moderation. Take everything with mysticism, even mysticism.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alec MacDonald

    3.9 stars--rounded up. An interesting, short read that has some food for thought, but I've enjoyed and gained more from other books I've read on Taoism. Could be the translation that was the hurdle for me. I'll try a different translation later. 3.9 stars--rounded up. An interesting, short read that has some food for thought, but I've enjoyed and gained more from other books I've read on Taoism. Could be the translation that was the hurdle for me. I'll try a different translation later.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Words won't do this book justice. This short volume is brilliant and I shall return to it regularly. A wonderful exposition of the Tao and the principles of Wu Wei. Words won't do this book justice. This short volume is brilliant and I shall return to it regularly. A wonderful exposition of the Tao and the principles of Wu Wei.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    Great companion to the Tao Te Ching. Will likely remain an important book for me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Buhs

    I don't really have any idea of what I just read. (Which is why I'm not giving it a star rating--that wouldn't be fair.) Chuang-Tzu is the lesser known Taoist writer--possibly as much of a legend as his more famous--and possible peer--Lao Tzu. This is a collection of his writings, not the entire surviving corpus. Burton Watson, the translator, provides an excellent overview of the early history of Taoism and the place of these writings in it. Still, it was hard for me to make sense of. This is a bo I don't really have any idea of what I just read. (Which is why I'm not giving it a star rating--that wouldn't be fair.) Chuang-Tzu is the lesser known Taoist writer--possibly as much of a legend as his more famous--and possible peer--Lao Tzu. This is a collection of his writings, not the entire surviving corpus. Burton Watson, the translator, provides an excellent overview of the early history of Taoism and the place of these writings in it. Still, it was hard for me to make sense of. This is a book that requires serious study to make sense of--not just because it has become a religious text, but its antiquity and its context in a very long-ago and foreign culture, it reminded me of reading the old Testament. Except there's even less of a story. What are provided here are fragments. They are grouped into chapters, but I wondered how these groupings were achieved in many cases. The last two, when the writer spoke most directly to the reader, were the most consistent and easy to understand. Otherwise, a lot of the time I was reading this I wondered if it could be classified as a book at all--indeed, it made me wonder how things get contained as and called a book. Which, I suppose, is part of Chung-Tzu's point--though not one he was trying to make. Certainly he is at pains to question the very notion of categories--good, bad, etc. There's the famous part where he dreamed he was a butterfly and, upon waking, wondered if he wasn't a butterfly dreaming he was a man. And the other famous part wondering about how one can know what fish feel. But lots of other parts are much more pedantic, about being the good kind of ruler, or the good kind of person, which has some relationship to the Tao, but, to me at least, this relationship was never clear. Lao-Tzu can continue to be read because his best translators (re)create a lapidary language. The sections are free-form poetry; there is a philosophy developed, and consistent themes across them. I could not see those here for being too confused by the details. Though Burton provides footnotes explaining who certain people are, it is still too distant, too intellectual an exercise. Besides, a bunch of the footnotes make clear that the original text is confusing even to Burton and other commentators, making meaning even that much more distant.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brian Wilkerson

    Chuang Tzu is a book on Taoist philosophy. This particular translation is part of the Basic Writing series from Burton Watson. The introduction written by him advises the reader against systematic analysis of the work itself because it is a mystic text. It is not to be analyzed and studied but reflected upon and understood. I agree with him. Looking for meaning in each line, paragraph, page etc. is bound to be frustrating. I don't see it as written that way. It's more of gestalt sort of thing. Chuang Tzu is a book on Taoist philosophy. This particular translation is part of the Basic Writing series from Burton Watson. The introduction written by him advises the reader against systematic analysis of the work itself because it is a mystic text. It is not to be analyzed and studied but reflected upon and understood. I agree with him. Looking for meaning in each line, paragraph, page etc. is bound to be frustrating. I don't see it as written that way. It's more of gestalt sort of thing. You have to read it with an open mind, without preconceptions, to get anything. For me, personally, it resembles some of the martial art books that I've read. I see themes of the empty mind, value of intuition/muscle memory and the importance of detachment and focus. It's been kind of hard to write this review because of the nature of the wisdom in this book. It frequently makes light of language itself by calling it "reckless" or otherwise insufficient in explaining The Way. At one point, Chuang Tzu even says that once you understand the meaning of his words you can and should forget the words themselves. So while I wrote this review I felt like I failed to really talk about the book at all. It's more like what I thought about the book which might be completely off-base. I like this book but for some reason I don't feel like giving it an "A". Perhaps it is because some of the passages feel like nonsense. The introduction mentioned that some of the text was difficult to translate, corrupted, or something like that. It also mentioned how some of the historical text feels like it was written by a different person with less skill but that he tried to remove as much of that as possible. Although this particular copy has scribbled notes from its previous owner which function as a contrasting viewpoint, which is helpful. Trickster Eric Novels gives "Chaung Tzu" a B+

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erik Moron

    Reading In the World of a Man from this book really made me wonder on what life truly means to me. Zhuangzi's way of portraying to the reader what life would be like if they were as free spirited as he was, made me really wonder. Zhuangzis uses this book to show different ways of Daoism and truly believes in his ethics. "When you haven’t yet settled what’s within you yourself, what leisure have you to concern yourself with the conduct of tyrant?" This is an example that really hit me. It is true Reading In the World of a Man from this book really made me wonder on what life truly means to me. Zhuangzi's way of portraying to the reader what life would be like if they were as free spirited as he was, made me really wonder. Zhuangzis uses this book to show different ways of Daoism and truly believes in his ethics. "When you haven’t yet settled what’s within you yourself, what leisure have you to concern yourself with the conduct of tyrant?" This is an example that really hit me. It is true that people are at times very opinionated, while the judgement they are giving is something they haven't fixed within themselves. Zhuangzi's way of showing he was a simple man, was by simply shedding light on how presented himself, ripped clothing, shoes, and portraying an image of a homeless man. This in his stories showed me that he was a man who lived his life in his way, he was not a clone of someone. He was simply himself! "This turtle, now, would it prefer to be dead with its bones preserved and honored, or to be alive with its tail dragging in the mud?” “Alive with its tail dragging in the mud,” answered the two officials. “Then go away,” said Zhuangzi. “I mean to drag my tail in the mud!” This quote in his story shows that no matter what importance of character the people approaching him were, he was just a man who was trying to live his life; in regards to what he knew. Which was simply enjoying his time on Earth. (268)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Richard Thompson

    This book and the Tao Te Ching are the two great books of Taoism. I liked the Tao Te Ching better, but then I realized that until I could rid myself of the sentiment of thinking that my relative like or dislike of the two books was important, I certainly could not claim to have absorbed the teachings of the Tao. This book is a beautiful, complex and infuriating poem, which uses repetition, contradiction, and a structure like a Jackson Pollack painting to develop its themes in a way that simple e This book and the Tao Te Ching are the two great books of Taoism. I liked the Tao Te Ching better, but then I realized that until I could rid myself of the sentiment of thinking that my relative like or dislike of the two books was important, I certainly could not claim to have absorbed the teachings of the Tao. This book is a beautiful, complex and infuriating poem, which uses repetition, contradiction, and a structure like a Jackson Pollack painting to develop its themes in a way that simple explication could not do. The Tao is everything and everywhere (also nothing and nowhere) and is therefore mindfully embedded in every part of the form, words, stories, characters, themes and structures of this book. It is an incredible achievement of beauty and style that works on several different levels as a teaching tool. It is also sometimes irritating, hard to read and seemingly pointless, but that in itself is at least part of the point. And like the Tao Te Ching, this is a book that could stand up under many readings. It would show itself differently each time. For that reason it could easily go on a list of ten books that I would take with me to a desert island.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tony duncan

    After reading the Tao Te Ching, I discovered Chuang Tzu and it blew me away. This was an actual historical person that is documented and these are his writings. The main thing is that his points are made in a style that is completely n harmony with the philosophy. Some of the passages are very funny, and the emotional connection fo the humor makes the point being made affect you. It is the connection to the idea, and the making it a part of oneself, rather than the intellectual understanding that After reading the Tao Te Ching, I discovered Chuang Tzu and it blew me away. This was an actual historical person that is documented and these are his writings. The main thing is that his points are made in a style that is completely n harmony with the philosophy. Some of the passages are very funny, and the emotional connection fo the humor makes the point being made affect you. It is the connection to the idea, and the making it a part of oneself, rather than the intellectual understanding that is key. I just realized that there is a parallel in sufism. Lao Tzu turned me onto a new way of contemplating reality and human nature, but Chuang tzu made it possible for me to make the ideas a part of who I am.. similarly Rumi showed me that love and treating the divine as precious were not antithetical to my atheism/agnosticism. But Hafiz made it an irresistable emotional imperative that I make love a central part of my relationship to the world and to the people around me

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson

    This is one of those books that I always have with me. I am not a Chinese scholar but I've studied and practiced Tai Chi and traveled in China immediately after the cultural revolution in the early 1980's. That gave me a chance to see a culture and a way of life that I suspect hardly exists anymore. Chuang Tzu's Taoist writings are one of the basic tenets of Chinese philosophy and anyone interested in China, martial arts or philosophy should read this book. Like any ancient book shrouded in myst This is one of those books that I always have with me. I am not a Chinese scholar but I've studied and practiced Tai Chi and traveled in China immediately after the cultural revolution in the early 1980's. That gave me a chance to see a culture and a way of life that I suspect hardly exists anymore. Chuang Tzu's Taoist writings are one of the basic tenets of Chinese philosophy and anyone interested in China, martial arts or philosophy should read this book. Like any ancient book shrouded in mystery and read in translation it's not completely sure how much of the book is from the original writings and what has been added later. There are amusing tales and beautiful depictions. One of the most famous is when Chuang Tzu questions whether he is a man dreaming he is a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he is a man. A beautiful and timeless book to lift one out of the mundane difficulties of life and to remember to appreciate the mists that rise from the earth.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Delly

    So far this was the most entertaining philosophy book I have had to read for my class, and the most relatable to my life. There are practices in Taoism I am too selfish to attain. However, there was one aspect that I totally related to: Woodworker Ch'ing on pages 126-127 would only carve from a tree if he saw the bell stand within. I used to be a costumer for a historic site, and I tried to only buy fabric if I could imagine it in garment form - and the fabrics I bought without this "vision" lan So far this was the most entertaining philosophy book I have had to read for my class, and the most relatable to my life. There are practices in Taoism I am too selfish to attain. However, there was one aspect that I totally related to: Woodworker Ch'ing on pages 126-127 would only carve from a tree if he saw the bell stand within. I used to be a costumer for a historic site, and I tried to only buy fabric if I could imagine it in garment form - and the fabrics I bought without this "vision" languished in my fabric cabinet until I either gave up on them and sent them out to be used as cleaning rags or decided to use them for undergarments. And my mantra for the costumes was that the interpreters should wear the clothes like they were their own personal modern clothes, which is similar to the topic of forgetting your feet when your shoes re comfortable. Who knew Taoism lived in my costume philosophy!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kennedy Okafor

    After reading this book i realized that Zhuang Zhou is trying to tell us so much about ourselves but first i have to say that this book is confusing and it would make you think really deep. In my opinion Zhuang is trying to emphasis that figuring out who you are is more important than anything and also having the right ethics as well to back it up. Also doing good and getting a reward for it is actually not doing any good at all because you are trying to get praised for doing good but the good t After reading this book i realized that Zhuang Zhou is trying to tell us so much about ourselves but first i have to say that this book is confusing and it would make you think really deep. In my opinion Zhuang is trying to emphasis that figuring out who you are is more important than anything and also having the right ethics as well to back it up. Also doing good and getting a reward for it is actually not doing any good at all because you are trying to get praised for doing good but the good that is the actual good id the spiritual good. Also not doing something that you do not believe in is also what Zhuang is trying to communicate because he was offered good lots of time but he refused it because he did not believe in getting rewarded for doing good because that was what he believed. (154)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Serdar

    A slightly rough diamond but a diamond all the same. Much of why I picked up this book in the first place was to better acquaint myself with Taoism, specifically as it formed one of the key influences on Buddhism in China. Chuang Tzu I chose, I admit, in big part because he was one of the folks John Cage name-checked directly in his work, and I wanted to see the rest of what was there apart from the few snippets Cage quoted in "Indeterminacy" and "Silence". This particular edition is only a smal A slightly rough diamond but a diamond all the same. Much of why I picked up this book in the first place was to better acquaint myself with Taoism, specifically as it formed one of the key influences on Buddhism in China. Chuang Tzu I chose, I admit, in big part because he was one of the folks John Cage name-checked directly in his work, and I wanted to see the rest of what was there apart from the few snippets Cage quoted in "Indeterminacy" and "Silence". This particular edition is only a small part of Chuang Tzu's extant writings (hence the "rough), but they are the best preserved and most coherent part of it. It's not hard at all to see how many specific insights in it flow directly into similar insights in Zen, and for that reason I suspect a copy will end up on the same little shelf I have where I keep "The Zen Teachings Of Huang Po". And stay there for keeps.

  27. 5 out of 5

    bryce

    the good word... 4th century BCE... comedian, poet, story teller, and trickster.. a book i continually aspire to understand and hold myself to, With a satchel of quirky stories... he single handedly undermined the institution of rational thought in ancient China.. (who knows if that's true.. it just has a ring to it...) Burton Watson... is an excellent translator, a famous scholar... ive read four other translations.. only his manages to begin to capture all the multitudes... (though others are be the good word... 4th century BCE... comedian, poet, story teller, and trickster.. a book i continually aspire to understand and hold myself to, With a satchel of quirky stories... he single handedly undermined the institution of rational thought in ancient China.. (who knows if that's true.. it just has a ring to it...) Burton Watson... is an excellent translator, a famous scholar... ive read four other translations.. only his manages to begin to capture all the multitudes... (though others are better for teasing out the philosophical implications, at the cost of obliterating the humor, or the poetry...) seminal inspiration for philosophical Taoism, Cha'an Buddhism, and ten thousand other things... the book glows in the dark...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Felonious

    Over the years I have read many books about Tao, and I'm more than a little embarrassed to admit that this is the first book I have read by Chuang Tzu. Chuang Tzu was one of the earliest and most prolific writers on Tao/Taoism. Several of the stories in this book I have heard/read versions of in other books. Some of my favorites are “The Useless Tree”, “3 In The Morning”, and “Training a Cock to Fight”. Even though these stories along with several others were already known to me it was nice to r Over the years I have read many books about Tao, and I'm more than a little embarrassed to admit that this is the first book I have read by Chuang Tzu. Chuang Tzu was one of the earliest and most prolific writers on Tao/Taoism. Several of the stories in this book I have heard/read versions of in other books. Some of my favorites are “The Useless Tree”, “3 In The Morning”, and “Training a Cock to Fight”. Even though these stories along with several others were already known to me it was nice to read them as written by Chuang Tzu (translated by Burton Watson). Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings is poetic, humorous and will help direct the reader to the Way, it also left me wanting to read more of Chuang Tzu's writings.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Myles

    in a nutshell, this book offers a fairly loose translation of the Chuang Tzu, and offers a bit of philosophical difference from the works of Confucius. The book is sometimes a bit difficult to grasp, until you remember what the prologue suggests doing, and then the tales of pages begin, once again, to come together as they were intended to do. Personally, I think that Confucius had a better way than the Chuang Tzu. Then again... maybe it's just the frame of mind that I read it from? all in all- w in a nutshell, this book offers a fairly loose translation of the Chuang Tzu, and offers a bit of philosophical difference from the works of Confucius. The book is sometimes a bit difficult to grasp, until you remember what the prologue suggests doing, and then the tales of pages begin, once again, to come together as they were intended to do. Personally, I think that Confucius had a better way than the Chuang Tzu. Then again... maybe it's just the frame of mind that I read it from? all in all- worth reading if you're willing to try to get in to ancient chinese philosophies and religions.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Opzonbee

    As a Chinese,the time(Spring and Autumn Periods)Chuang Tsu,Sun Tsu,Lao Tsu,etc lived is always fascinating to me,it's one of few periods in the long history that actually make me proud.Of course,Chuang Tsz is a must read for me,though I find it difficult and I haven't finished it in the years,the ideas Chuang Zhou brought in his works inspired me so much that I mentioned him here and there from time to time.What he said more than 2000 years ago always remind me that out of the suffering and mean As a Chinese,the time(Spring and Autumn Periods)Chuang Tsu,Sun Tsu,Lao Tsu,etc lived is always fascinating to me,it's one of few periods in the long history that actually make me proud.Of course,Chuang Tsz is a must read for me,though I find it difficult and I haven't finished it in the years,the ideas Chuang Zhou brought in his works inspired me so much that I mentioned him here and there from time to time.What he said more than 2000 years ago always remind me that out of the suffering and meaningless surviving of the people through these long years,there's a man that actually lived and left something.

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