The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

Synopsis

This is one of the most justly celebrated texts of the Chinese tradition - impressive for both its bold philosophical imagination and its striking literary style. Accepting the challenge of translating this captivating classic in its entirety, Burton Watson has expertly rendered into English both the profound thought and the literary brilliance of the text.

Excerpt

All we know about the identity of Chuang Tzu, or Master Chuang, are the few facts recorded in the brief notice given him in the Shih chi or Records of the Historian (ch. 63) by Ssu-ma Ch'ien (145?-89? B.C.). According to this account, his personal name was Chou, he was a native of a place called Meng, and he once served as "an official in the lacquer garden" in Meng. Ssu-ma Ch'ien adds that he lived at the same time as King Hui (370–319 B.C.) of Liang and King Hsüan (319–301 B.C.) of Ch'i, which would make him a contemporary of Mencius, and that he wrote a work in 100,000 words or more which was "mostly in the nature of fable." A certain number of anecdotes concerning Chuang Tzu appear in the book that bears his name, though it is difficult, in view of the deliberate fantasy that characterizes the book as a whole, to regard these as reliable biography.

Scholars disagree as to whether "lacquer garden" is the name of a specific location, or simply means lacquer groves in general, and the location of Meng is uncertain, though it was probably in present-day Honan, south of the Yellow River. If this last supposition is correct, it means that Chuang Chou was a native of the state of Sung, a fact which may have important implications.

When the Chou people of western China conquered and replaced the Shang or Yin dynasty around the eleventh century B.C., they enfeoffed the descendants of the Shang kings as rulers of the region of Sung in eastern Honan, in order that . . .

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