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Chen Guying. The Annotated Critical Laozi With Contemporary Explication and Traditional Commentary
2020, Brill
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, Contributed by: I Xuan Chong
Publisher’s Note: Chen Guying’s Laozi dissects different versions of the Laozi and provides close readings of traditional and contemporary commentaries, from Han Fei, Wang Bi, and Heshang Gong through to Shi Deqing, Xu Kangsheng and Ding Yuanzhi. This book completely changed Laozi studies in China, where serious student or scholar can ignore Chen’s amazing work. It is the standard interpretation of the Laozi at nearly every Chinese university.

Comment: English translation of an often-cited commentary (originally written in Chinese) of the Laozi (with ancient commentaries)

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Chen Guying. The Philosophy of Life: A New Reading of the Zhuangzi
2016, Brill
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, Contributed by: I Xuan Chong
Publisher’s Note: Chen Guying, one of the leading scholars on Daoism in contemporary China, provides in his book The Philosophy of Life, A New Reading of the Zhuangzi a detailed analysis and a unique interpretation of Zhuangzi’s Inner, Outer and Miscellaneous chapters. Unlike many other Chinese scholars Chen does not focus on a philological, but on a philosophical reading of the Zhuangzi highlighting the main topics of self-cultivation, aesthetics, and epistemology. Chen’s perspectives on the Zhuangzi range from the historical background of the Warring States Period to his own personal (political) experience. Since Chen is also a specialist on Nietzsche, he elaborates Zhuangzi’s philosophy of life and the idea of regulating one’s heart by drawing a parallel to Nietzsche’s perspectivism.

Comment: This is an English translation of an often-cited commentary (originally written in Chinese) of the entire Zhuangzi.

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Chiu, Wai Wai. Zhuangzi’s Knowing-How and Skepticism
2018, Philosophy East and West 68(4), pp. 1062-1084
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Added by: Lea Cantor
Abstract:

A common interpretation of the Zhuangzi holds that the text is skeptical only about propositional knowledge and not practical knowledge. It is argued here that this interpretation is problematic, for two reasons. The first is that there is no motivation for Zhuangzi to criticize propositional knowledge, given some general pre-Qin epistemological assumptions. The second is that Zhuangzi explicitly criticizes a certain kind of practical knowledge. It is then explained how Zhuangzi's skepticism can co-exist with the idea of "great knowledge."

Comment: This is a useful article for anyone interested in the question of scepticism in the Zhuangzi - a foundational text in the Daoist tradition of classical Chinese philosophy. The article is written in a way that is accessible to those with little or no background in the Zhuangzi, Daoism, or classical Chinese. However, some basic knowledge of classical Chinese philosophy as a whole is required to follow the argument of the paper. The paper offers a useful overview of a number of scholarly controversies surrounding the scope and nature of Zhuangzi's scepticism, and how they relates to interpretive issues surrounding the so-called 'skills stories' of the Zhuangzi.

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Chong, Kim-Chong. The Concept of Zhen 真 in the Zhuangzi
2011, Philosophy East and West 61(2): 324-346.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Ian James Kidd
Abstract: The term zhen in the Zhuangzi is commonly associated with the zhen ren or the "true person," who is described, for example, as capable of going through fire and water unharmed. Some scholars take this as typifying a mystical element in the Zhuangzi. This essay investigates the various meanings and uses of zhen in the Zhuangzi and reaches a broader understanding of the zhen ren in various contexts.

Comment: Excellent on the concept of 'zhen' (authenticity, naturalness) in Daoism. Long but clearly written. Very useful for explaining the character of Daoist ethics.

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Chung-Yuan Chang. Immeasurable potentialities of creativity
2011, In Chung-Yuan Chang (ed.). Creativity and Taoism: A Study of Chinese Philosophy, Art, and Poetry. London & Philadelphia: Singing Dragon.
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Added by: Meilin Chinn
Summary: A study of the Taoist (Daoist) concept of creativity as a non-instrumental process in which all things create themselves. Chang argues for the foundational place of this understanding of self-emergent creativity in the aesthetics of Chinese art.

Comment: Can be used as both an introduction to Daoism and to Chinese aesthetics.

Related reading:

  • Laozi, Tao Te Ching. D. C. Lau, trans. New York: Addison Wesley, 2000.
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Hong‐ki Lam. The State of the Field Report IX: Contemporary Chinese Studies of Zhuangzian Wang (Forgetting)
2023, Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 22, 297–317
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, Contributed by: I Xuan Chong
Abstract: The use of the character wang 忘 (forgetting) in the Zhuangzi 莊子 has been widely recognized in traditional and contemporary Chinese scholarship, but its meaning remains unclear. This article reviews some notable studies in Sinophone academia concerning the notion of wang in the Zhuangzi. The studies, though not necessarily focused on wang, shed light on different aspects of the concept, including its relation to self-cultivation, aesthetics, ethics, and ontology. While some scholars see wang as a form of elimination, others stress its relation to other concepts such as shi 適 (fitting). The relation of these two concepts, however, is not yet clear. There are also debates over what makes wang possible, with some linking it to dao 道 and some directing our attention to our daily experience. Despite the limited attention paid to wang to date, the studies reviewed show that it is a crucial aspect of Zhuangzian philosophy and deserves further study.

Comment: A state of the field report primarily covering Chinese publications on an important topic in the Zhuangzi. A useful overview for those who want to dig deeper into that topic. Prior konwledge of Zhuangzi's philosophy can be helpful.

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Karyn Lai. “Early Daoist Philosophy: Dao, Language and Society”.
2008, Chapter 6. In An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, 93-110.
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, Contributed by: I Xuan Chong
Abstract: This chapter - taken from the first edition of An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy - presents a comprehensive introduction to key ideas and arguments in early Daoist philosophy.

Comment: This introductory chapter offers a reliable and accessible interpretation of the Laozi.

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Kim‐chong Chong. Zhuangzi and the Issue of Human Nature
2023, Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 22, 237–254
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, Contributed by: I Xuan Chong
Abstract: The issue of human nature or xing 性 was a major philosophical topic of the mid- and late-Warring States period of ancient China. It was famously discussed, for example, in the Mencius. Zhuangzi 莊子 lived around the same time as Mencius and one might expect that he, too, would have discussed it. Surprisingly, the term xing is absent from the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi. There have been different responses to this, namely, that Zhuangzi: used different terms equivalent to xing; believed that human nature is bad (despite not mentioning xing); was deliberately silent on xing as an oblique way of criticizing others such as Mencius. I review these claims and pro- vide an analysis of how xing was mainly conceptualized during the Warring States period in essentialist terms. I shall read Zhuangzi’s philosophy as transcending this conceptual framework. Instead of a theory of human nature, Zhuangzi provides sto- ries and descriptions of the different facets of human behavior and their psychologi- cal and other complexities. These often have an epistemic focus that stand indepen- dently of any theory of human nature.

Comment: A useful discussion of Zhuangzi's views about human nature. Best read together with Wai Wai CHIU's "The Debate over Xing in the Outer Chapters of the Zhuangzi". Prior knowledge of the Zhuangzi is helpful.

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Laozi, trans. D.C. Lau. Tao Te Ching (Laozi/ Daodejing); trans. DC Lau
1963, Columbia University Press
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, Contributed by: I Xuan Chong
Publisher’s Note: The Laozi is a key text in Daoism/Taosim (a school in Classical Chinese Philosophy), and is also the single most frequently translated Chinese classic. This is a bilingual edition of a standard translation.

Comment: This is a highly influential and still excellent English translation of the Laozi. It is essential reading on Daoism.

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Laozi, trans. Richard John Lynn. The Classic of the Way and Virtue: A New Translation of the Tao-te ching of Laozi as Interpreted by Wang Bi
1999, Columbia University Press
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, Contributed by: I Xuan Chong
Publisher’s Note: The Laozi is a key text in Daoism/Taoism (a school in Classical Chinese Philosophy), and is also the single most frequently translated Chinese classic. This edition features a translation "as interpreted by Wang Bi" (a highly influential ancient commentator). This approach aligns closely with common practice in the Chinese-speaking world.

Comment: This is essential primary reading on Daoism that is sensitive to the Laozi's ancient reception.

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Shuen-Fu Lin. Those Who Fly Without Wings: Depictions of the Supreme Ideal Figure in the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi
2022, In Chong, Kc. (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of the Zhuangzi. Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy, vol 16. Springer, Cham.
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, Contributed by: I Xuan Chong
Abstract: In pre-Qin Chinese canonical texts, the supreme ideal figure with impeccable virtue and wisdom is usually referred to as the Sage (sheng 聖 or shengren 聖人). The Zhuangzi, however, is an exception. In this famous Daoist text, the supreme ideal has been referred to, in different contexts, as a Perfect Person (zhiren, 至人), a Daemonic Person (shenren, 神人), or an Authentic Person (zhenren, 真人), in addition to the Sage. Most scholars, when discussing the meanings of these terms, treat them as synonyms used by the author(s) of the Zhuangzi to designate the same figure. Very few scholars believe that they refer to four different types of ideal figures with different levels of perfection. In this article, I will first focus on depictions of the Sage, the Perfect Person, the Daemonic Person, and the Authentic Person in the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi to see whether they are used by the author to refer to the same or four different levels of a supreme ideal figure. I will then move on to discuss Zhuangzi’s art of writing as manifested in these depictions. The interpretive strategy I adopt is that of close reading with an eye to addressing the larger issues around the Inner Chapters in early Chinese culture.

Comment: This chapter offers a careful reading of Zhuangzi's descriptions of the "ideal person"

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Wai Wai CHIU. The Debate over Xing in the Outer Chapters of the Zhuangzi
2022, Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 21, 549–567
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, Contributed by: I Xuan Chong
Abstract: Contemporary discussions of xing are often inspired by the Confucian tradition, but recent studies have brought the Zhuangzi 莊子 to the table as a viable alternative. In this essay, I present three different accounts of xing 性 in the Outer Chapters: (1) the primitivists who emphasize body vitality and simple life, (2) the Huang-Lao 黃老 school that emphasizes the balance among different things and the overall cosmological order, and (3) skill stories that look at individual skill masters rather than people in general or the role of the human species in the cosmos, entertain only the descriptive dimension of xing, and cast doubt on the normative status of xing. These three accounts can be read as responding to each other, and each shares certain themes with the Inner Chapters in different ways. Together, they demonstrate the complexity of the Zhuangzi’s view on xing and complicate attempts of cross-textual comparison.

Comment: Best read together with Kim-chong Chong's "Zhuangzi and the Issue of Human Nature". Prior knowledge of the Zhuangzi is helpful.

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Wang, Robin. Dao Becomes Female
2017, In Garry, A., Khader, S.J. and Stone, A (eds.) New York: Routledge, pp. 35–38
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner
Abstract: Daoism, a Dao based and inspired teaching and practice, has been considered to be the philosophy of yielding in Chinese intellectual history. One important aspect of yielding is being rou 柔—soft, gentle, supple—which the Daodejing couples with the feminine. Not surprisingly, then, the female and femininity have enormous significance for Laozi and Daoism. To highlight this unique philosophical aspect of Daoism, this chapter will place femininity/the feminine/the female center stage to investigate Daoist thought and its possible contribution to feminist thought in a contemporary global setting. In this chapter I promote a somewhat female consciousness of Dao, or a Daoist female consciousness, which may expand, support, or alter feminist assumptions about femininity/the feminine/the female. The overarching focal point of this understanding lies in a depiction of the female and femininity as a cosmic force, a way of knowing, and a strategy for leading a flourishing life. The main points are that Dao does not govern actually existing gender relations—or, at least, that the social and political reality of gender relations is not modeled on Dao, because the patriarchy is not Dao. Highlighting the female or feminine aspect of Dao, or Dao as becoming female, is a feminist intervention, using resources from within classical Daoist thought in order to re-imagine or reconfigure gender for our time.

Comment: A useful way of introducing some feminist thought into a course on classical Chinese philosophy. It would fit well either in a unit on Daoism or in a unit on feminism. It would be tough to use this in a feminist course to introduce some Daoist thought; the chapter is tricky without some familiarity with the Daodejing

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Wong, David. Zhuangzi and the Obsession with Being Right
2005, History of Philosophy Quarterly 22(2), pp. 91-107.
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Added by: Lea Cantor
Abstract:

Since Zhuangzi laments the human obsesssion with being right, he would be highly amused at the scholarly obsession with being right on the meaning of his text, especially on the matter of whether he ultimately believed in a right versus wrong. The fact is that he invites our obsession by raising the question and then refusing to answer it. In chapter two, we are invited to take a stance above the debating Confucians and Mohists. What one shis 是 the other feis 非 (what is 'right' for one is 'not right' for the other); what one feis the other shis. Argument is powerless to declare a victor. Zhuangzi asks, "Are there really shi and fei, or really no shi and fei?".

Comment: This remains one of the best and most accessible articles on the philosophy of the classical Daoist text Zhuangzi. It offers one of the clearest accounts in anglophone literature of the text's sceptical stance, highlighting the ethical and political stakes of disputes (including among Confucian and Mohist philosophers) to which the Zhuangzi refers in different parts of the text. The article does not presuppose any knowledge of classical Chinese, of the Zhuangzi, or of Chinese philosophy. The article makes a strong case for reading the Zhuangzi as displaying a sophisticated sceptical stance, the character of which will be of interest to anyone interested in scepticism quite generally (both ancient and modern). The article might be easily integrated into a general course on scepticism, the history of philosophy, classical Chinese philosophy, and/or Daoist philosophy.

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Zhuangzi, trans. A.C. Graham. Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters, translated, with Commentary, by A. C. Graham
2001, Hackett Publishing
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, Contributed by: I Xuan Chong
Publisher’s Note: A reliable translation and commentary of the core chapters of the Zhuangzi by a leading scholar.

Comment: This is an essential partial translation of the Zhuangzi. Its commentary is very helpful. It is essential reading on Daoism.

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