Zhuangzi: Text and Context 1931483272, 9781931483278

Zhuangzi: Text and Context is a comprehensive discussion of the ancient Daoist work Zhuangzi in 24 chapters, providing a

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Table of contents :
Chapter One The Text
Chapter Two Perfect Happiness
Chapter Three Axial Age Philosophy
Chapter Four Ordinary Thinking
Chapter Five The Social Setting
Chapter Six Body and Mind
Chapter Seven Ancient Daoist Strands
Chapter Eight The Universe
Chapter Nine Guo Xiang
Chapter Ten Personal Factors
Chapter Eleven Religious Daoism
Chapter Twelve Meditation and Self-Cultivation
Chapter Thirteen The Buddhist Connection
Chapter Fourteen The Perfected
Chapter Fifteen Poetry and Art
Chapter Sixteen Language and Metaphors
Chapter Seventeen Mysticism
Chapter Eighteen The Self
Chapter Nineteen Western Thought
Chapter Twenty Skillful Spontaneity
Chapter Twenty-one Contemporary Philosophy
Chapter Twenty-two Ethical Living
Chapter Twenty-three The Environment
Chapter Twenty-four In the World
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Zhuangzi Text and Context by

Livia Kohn

Three Pines Press P. O. Box 530416 St. Petersburg, FL 33747 www.threepinespress.com © 2014 by Livia Kohn All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. 9


First Three Pines Edition, 2014 Printed in the United States of America  This edition is printed on acid-free paper that meets the American National Standard Institute Z39.48 Standard. Distributed in the United States by Three Pines Press. Cover art: The character you for “free and easy wandering” in the calligraphy of Marcello Assandri. Art work: “The Peng Bird” (p. 32) and “Rocks of Beauty” (p. 254) by Marcello Assandri.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Kohn, Livia, 1956Zhuangzi : text and context / by Livia Kohn. -- First Three Pines edition. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-931483-27-8 (alk. paper) 1. Zhuangzi. Nanhua jing. 2. Philosophy, Chinese. I. Title. BL1900.C576K66 2014 299.5'1482--dc23 2013040147

Contents Prefac Preface


1. The Text 2. Utmost Happiness 3. Axial Age Philosophy 4. Ordinary Thinking 5. The Social Setting 6. Body and Mind 7. Ancient Daoist Strands 8. The Universe 9. Guo Xiang 10. Personal Factors 11. Religious Daoism 12. Meditation and Self-Cultivation 13. The Buddhist Connection 14. The Perfected 15. Poetry and Art 16. Language and Metaphors 17. Mysticism 18. The Self 19. Western Thought 20. Skillful Spontaneity 21. Contemporary Philosophy 22. Ethical Living 23. The Environment 24. In the World

1 11 22 33 46 56 66 77 89 101 112 124 135 146 157 168 178 187 199 209 220 232 243 255

Bibliography Index

267 315

Acknowledgments “Work is love made visible,” says Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. Writing is work made visible. This book thus represents the double visibility of my academic work and my long-standing love for Daoism in all its forms, and especially of the ancient classic Zhuangzi. However much we love something, though, and however much we are ready to work for it, nothing ever happens without opportunity and outside stimulation. The stimulation for this book came from Xu Liying, academic director of the Taoist College Singapore, where I taught a twelve-session, semester-equivalent class on Daoist cultivation in the spring of 2012. The students enjoyed the class so much that they requested my return in the following year, and Dr. Xu, knowing that I had recently published a selected translation of the Zhuangzi, suggested the classic as my focus. I agreed, although daunted at the time. A whole semester only on Zhuangzi, how am I going to do that? I sure hope there’s enough. Well, I needn’t have worried. There’s enough here for two semesters easily. Once the decision is made to pursue a certain task, again we have choices—as the traditional Scottish folksong has it, to take the low road or the high road. I could quite easily have assigned the twelve chapters of my topic-based translation to the students and spent each class talking about the theme in general terms, encouraging discussion and letting things unfold as they would. But I decided to take on the challenge of doing something deep and solid, to really confront and work through all the different aspects of the text. One reason for this decision was that I had some unfinished business with the Zhuangzi, going back to the early stages of my academic life. I had started my Daoist career in the 1970s with a dissertation on the Song-dynasty immortal Chen Tuan, pursuing the question of what “immortality” meant to the people at the time, what the key personal characteristics were that made someone an immortal. Chen Tuan, in layers of records and stories throughout the Song and Ming, appeared very much as a Zhuangzi-style mystic, not only in his name but in his activities: wandering at ease through life, happily connected to heaven, highly perceptive with regard to the energies of others, respectful toward authority but not intimidated by it, entirely his own person from beginning to end. Wishing to understand what role the Zhuangzi played in the Chinese mystical tradition, I applied for and received a grant from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, spent a year studying intensive Japaiv


nese, and moved to Kyoto. There I was immensely fortunate to work with the great Zhuangzi specialist Fukunaga Mitsuji, whose rendition of the text forms the backbone of Burton Watson’s translation, still to my mind the most powerful English version. For two years, I breathed, ate, and slept Zhuangzi, studying the text, its commentaries, its role in poetry, its impact on Chan Buddhism, and more, always guided and supported by Fukunaga who made his numerous articles available to me—often having to dig deep in old boxes or climb high to reach the top of his bookshelves. The work resulted in five articles, published in various journals in the mid 1980s, but it stopped there. Guided by Max Kaltenmark and Anna Seidel, I moved on to more religious Daoist texts, such as the Xisheng jing and the Zuowang lun, and from there further afield into Daoist mythology, monasticism, history, medicine, and body cultivation. While the Zhuangzi never completely dropped out of my sight, influencing many aspects of later Daoism in worldview, terminology, and imagery, it did not take center stage again until 2009, when the editors of Skylight Path Press asked me to do a selected translation with commentary for their classics series. I agreed and spent the summer of 2010 in Albuquerque, cheerfully perusing different translations, reacquainting myself with the original, making selections, and deciding how best to present the worldview of the entire text in a semi-coherent fashion. The resulting book, Chuang-tzu: The Tao of Perfect Happiness, came out in 2011, and I gave a copy to Dr. Xu when I taught in Singapore in 2012. Now confronted with the task of providing a semester’s worth of serious lectures on the text, I knew I was not completely unprepared, since I could draw on my translation as well as on those five old articles and my various discussions of the Zhuangzi in conjunction with later Daoist texts and cultivation methods. However, it became very clear very quickly that there was an enormous amount of material to cover and that there were multiple aspects and dimensions to the project. The greatest issue was inside versus outside, emic versus etic: the careful reading of the text itself, understanding its meaning, interpreting its concepts, and discussing its implications versus the various relationships it stands in: history, society, philosophy, Daoist schools, commentaries, poetry, art, and Buddhism, as well as cross-cultural comparisons with Western concepts and thinkers, from Aristotle through Meister Eckhart to Derrida. The choice I made was to include both text and context and to give equal weight to both. However, rather than focus on either one for any length of time, I decided to interweave the two in a dynamic interaction of patterns, writing chapters short enough so I could present tow topics in each of the twelve class sessions. The book, therefore, has twenty-four chapters: all the odd-numbered chapters are on context, from the compilation of the text to its reading in 21st century ecology; the even-


numbered chapters are on text, presenting and explicating the core concepts of the Zhuangzi from perfect happiness to playful uselessness. Each sequence can be read on its own—all about the text in the even chapters, all about its history and comparison in the odd ones—but the sections also connect in an integrated synthesis. It is, therefore, no accident that “Ordinary Thinking” comes after “Axial Age Philosophy,” “Meditation and Self-Cultivation” follows “Religious Daoism,” “The Self” is presented next to “Mysticism,” and so on. The Zhuangzi exerts its powerful magic even when writing about it, so that—with some modification and tweaking in the actual writing process—the book has grown, quite by its own making, into an intricate warp and weft of concepts and connections, interpretations and insights. I have kept myself largely in the background, summarizing the readings of previous scholars. But the very act of comprehensive compilation has created patterns and led to a new and different appreciation of the inherent system of the Zhuangzi. In addition, I have presented my own take on occasion, bringing one or the other dimension of modern science to bear on what I think the text is really after. I have also, except when citing someone else’s study, refrained from talking about Zhuangzi when I meant the text. Zhuangzi not in italics is the person who has a biography in the historical records and appears as a protagonist in the text. The philosophy, the work, is of the Zhuangzi, a conglomerate that incorporates different strands yet has a power and integrity all its own. In the actual writing I am indebted to supporters in all four directions of the globe. To the north, in North Carolina and Alabama, I much appreciate the immense help I received from Shawn Arthur and Daniel Doyle, who provided me with much needed resources and sound advice. To the south, in my own town of St. Petersburg, I am deeply grateful to Greg Colgan of the Eckerd College Library, interlibrary-loan master extraordinaire who never tired to supply me with books and articles, however obscure. To the west, in Los Angeles, I much wish to thank Robin Wang and her assistant Fan Ni who helped me obtain research materials and connected me to Chinese scholars. And to the east, I am indebted to Chen Guying who invited me to the Third Cross-Strait Sinology Forum in Xiamen in November, 2012, where I met and heard and read all the major players on the Chinese Zhuangzi front, learning a lot and receiving immense inspiration. Last, and most importantly, I thank Xu Liying for her instigation and my students at the Taoist College Singapore for their enthusiastic participation and never-ending questions and comments during the class, which have made this study what it is. The final presentation of the book, moreover, owes much to the wonderful artwork of Marcello Assandri, friend and fellow China enthusiast.

Chapter One The Text The text Zhuangzi 莊子 is named after the Warring States thinker Master Zhuang (d. 286 BCE). As described in chapter 63 of Sima Qian’s 司馬遷 Shiji 史記 (Historical Records) of 104 BCE, his full name was Zhuang Zhou 莊周 and he lived during the rule of Kings Hui of Liang 梁惠王 (r. 370-319) and Xuan of Qi 齊宣王 (r. 319-301). Of lower aristocratic background, he held a minor post in Meng 盟, which formed part of the state of Song 宋 (in modern Henan). Most likely well trained in the arts of the gentleman (Billeter 2010, 83-84) and occupying a minor office in the “Lacquer Garden” (Wang 2004, 186), he became known for his erudition and the quality of his language. King Wei of Chu 楚魏王 (r. 339-329) tried to tempt him into accepting the post of prime minister, but Zhuangzi compared this office to the role of the sacrificial ox and insisted that he would rather pursue his own enjoyment (Fung 1952, 1:221; Höchsmann and Yang 2007, 3; Møllgaard 2007, 11; Roth 1993a, 56; Wang 2004, 13; Yang 2007, 3). Flourishing in the 4th century BCE, and living in the vibrant and exuberant southern culture of Chu (Coutinho 2004, 28; see Zhang 1987), Zhuang Zhou was a contemporary of the Confucian thinker Mencius 孟子 (372-289), the dialectician Hui Shi 惠施 (380-305), and the poet Qu Yuan 屈原 (343-278), to whom several shamanic songs in the Chuci 楚辭 (Songs of the South; trl. Hawkes 1959) are attributed (Nienhauser 1986, 975). Seeing the annexation and partition of his home state by Qi, Wei, and Chu, he received a rather negative impression of political power (Billeter 2008, 262; see also Deng 2011). As for his personality, various anecdotes in the Zhuangzi show him as a man of “considerable fire, deep compassion, fortitude of character, intellectual audacity, as well as radical wit and originality” (Höchsmann and Yang 2007, 1)—an altogether engaging and rather whimsical personality (Klein 2011, 309). Never partisan or exalting himself, he was rather poor, wearing a patched gown (ch. 32) and simple sandals (ch. 20), and on occasion poached for food in a local aristocrat’s game reserve (ch. 20). 1


Yet he refused to take office for more money and better status (ch. 17), accepting the vagaries of life’s circumstances, his own as well as that of loved ones, as part of the natural flow (chs. 18, 24, 32) (Graham 1989, 17476; 1981, 116-25; Chen 2010, 5-7, 10). Zhuang Zhou distrusted official rules, standardized categories, established opposites, and the dictates of language, instead inspiring people to see things from different perspectives, illuminating the flow of cosmic spontaneity, and allowing heaven to work through him in all his thoughts and actions (Graham 1989, 191). Part of a culture that sought solutions to social upheaval in theory and practice, Zhuangzi in his life and work focused on the realization of freedom in individual life and on harmony with the whole of existence (Höchsmann and Yang 2007, 4).

Zhuangzi’s Work A member of the political and philosophical community of his time, Zhuang Zhou interacted with various thinkers and political figures, making arguments, telling stories, presenting metaphors, and generally engaging in intellectual exchange. Although he was most certainly literate, writing a book would not have been a major priority compared to discovering the best way to live in the world. As Carine Defoort notes, following Joel Thoraval (2002), in ancient China “writings were usually not selfcontained, consistent, theoretical instructions, but rather footnotes to living practices” (2012, 460). Within this setting, “thinkers did not write books, they jotted down sayings, verses, stories, and thoughts” (Graham 1981, 30; Lin 2003, 268). Thus, the first formally structured essays did not appear until the 3rd century BCE, and only after that were gradually collected into more integrated works. In addition, only institutions or people of means—governments, aristocrats, local rulers—could afford the luxury of having materials committed to writing, hiring trained scribes and procuring the expensive base materials: carefully cut and cured bamboo slips plus fine carving knives during the Warring States (479-221 BCE) and rolls of plain silk and condensed ink sticks in the Han (221-206 BCE). Written texts, moreover, were regarded with awe, since they could transmit knowledge without personal contact and were in themselves carriers of power. They could also potentially fall into the wrong hands, and their owners protected them accordingly, either stashing them away safely in a treasury or transmitting them only in conjunction with various reliability tests, pledges of valuables, and serious vows of trust—not unlike the blood covenants of antiquity, sworn to establish fighting alliances (Harper 1998, 63; Lewis 1990, 44).


Aristocrats with an interest in world improvement thus collected relevant materials. Some searched out already written works and had them transcribed; others invited knowledgeable people to their estate and had them dictate their wisdom to an experienced scribe. Even the Daode jing 道德經 (Book of the Dao and Its Power, DZ 664)1 supposedly came into being this way. The story goes that Laozi was on his way into western emigration when he encountered the border guard Yin Xi 尹喜 who had him dictate his teachings to a scribe (Kohn 1998a, 264-67).2 Similarly, the Huainanzi 淮南子 (Book of the Prince of Huainan, DZ 1184), another important collection of around 150 BCE, was created on the basis of the knowledge of various masters, assembled at his estate by Liu An 劉安 (197-122) (Major et al. 2010, 7-13). Most texts, moreover, “did not assume a standard form until Liu Xiang 劉向 (77-6 BCE) edited them for the imperial library of the Han dynasty” (Graham 1981, 29), and the idea of a “school” of thought only grew gradually with the assembly of manuscripts presenting a similar outlook (Schwartz 1985, 215). The likelihood is thus that Zhuangzi himself left behind only disjointed pieces, soon mixed with his disciples’ record of his teaching and their own take on what the master meant (Coutinho 2004, 35). With no firm concept of single authorship, constantly revising and adding to the corpus, they kept his teachings intellectually alive (Lewis 1999, 55, 94). Over the years they formed a lineage that can be identified as the Great Scope School (dafang zhijia 大方之家; Hoffert 2006, 161). The various members of this lineage then created a multifaceted collection, the first “text,” which underwent further rounds of editing over the centuries. According to the “Yiwen zhi” 藝文志 (Record of Literature) in Ban Gu’s 班固 Hanshu 漢書 (History of the Han Dynasty), this consisted of 52 chapters that included materials from Zhuangzi himself through various layers of disciples to assorted related materials. The earliest text, then, was a physical “record,” containing the “message” then most closely associated with Zhuangzi (Roth 1993b, 215; Yang 2012, 522; Graziani 2006, 19). It is not clear when exactly this first record was put together. Liu Xiaogan 劉笑敢 (1994a) argues for the existence of the entire book around 250 BCE, well before unification in 221 and even before the Lüshi chunqiu 呂氏春秋 (Mr. Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals), associated with Lü Buwei 呂不韋 (291-235), wealthy merchant and prime minister of Qin, 1

Texts in the Daoist Canon (DZ) are cited according to Schipper and Verellen 2004. Other Daoist texts follow the listing in Komjathy 2002. 2 Its historical origins, on the other hand, are documented in its rather fragemented early version, found in bamboo strips at Guodian and dating to the 4 th century BCE, plus its first complete text uncovered in several silk manuscripts at Mawangdui with a date of 168 BCE. See Chan 2000.


dated to 239 (Knoblock and Riegel 2000, 1). His argument for this early date is that, according to his count, 42 percent of the standard Zhuangzi is already cited in the Lüshi chunqiu and Hanfeizi 韓非子 (Book of Master Han Fei; trl. Watson 2003), which to him suggests that the work existed even before unification and certainly before the Han. Others place the text later, arguing that different parts were compiled over many years (Graham 1980; 1990e) and that the final collection took place only in the Han dynasty, probably at the court of Liu An between 150 and 122 BCE (Roth 1991a, 120; 1997b, 58; Graham 1991, 282; Klein 2011, 361).

The Standard Edition The earliest citations of the 52-chapter text appear in the Huainanzi commentary of the Later Han official Gao You 高誘, which dates from about 200 CE (Major et al. 2010, 8); commentaries which recoup the text and thus form its first editions only survive in citations (Knaul 1982, 53). The standard edition in 33 chapters that we still use today, what Harold Roth calls the “foundational edition” (1993b, 223; also Roth 1992), goes back to its main commentator, Guo Xiang 郭象 (252–312). Like Wang Bi 王弼 (226-249), the principal editor and commentator of the Daode jing (see Chan 1991), he was part of an intellectual movement known as Mystery Learning (Xuanxue 玄學). Mystery Learning arose after the end of the Han in reaction to the strong control of intellectual life by officials of this dynasty. It focused on a search for a more spiritual dimension of life through the recovery and reinterpretation of less political classics, including Daoist works and the Yijing 易經 (Book of Changes). In accordance with their quest of a deep and meaningful philosophy of life, thinkers at the time interpreted the Daoist classics in a new and often more abstract way. Guo Xiang followed this trend and eliminated more popular and fanciful elements he found unworthy of Zhuang Zhou. As he says in his postface, preserved in an edition at the Kōzanji 高山寺 Temple near Kyoto, Japan (trl. Knaul 1982, 54-55; Wang 2004, 146; 2007a, 13-14), these included “parts similar to the Shanhai jing 山海經 (Classic of Mountains and Seas; trl. Mathieu 1983), others that resemble the scripts of dream-interpreters; . . . vulgar and far-fetched expressions, without any essence or depth whatsoever.” Guo Xiang mentions five chapter titles. First, he speaks of a chapter called “Final Words” (Weiyan 尾言), which resembles the “Imputed Words” (Yuyan 寓言) of chapter 27. Following the Qing commentator Wang Fuzhi 王夫之 (1619-1692), many scholars consider this chapter to be


the postface to an earlier edition (Wang 2004, 17). Fukunaga believes it to be identical with “Final Words” mentioned by Guo Xiang (1979, 5:278). The latter also writes of “Intention Cultivated” (Yixiu 意修) or “Intention Followed” (Yixun 意循), which is somewhat reminiscent of “Constrained in Intention” (Keyi 刻意), i.e., Zhuangzi 15. Next, there is “Zixu”子胥, a personal name variously found in the Lüshi chunqiu (ch. 14/8.1) as well as in the Huainanzi (13.12) and the transmitted Zhuangzi (ch. 26). Also known as Wu Yun 伍韻, Wu Zixu 伍子 胥 was a minister of the state of Wu who was forced to commit suicide, his body being thrown into the Yangtze (W 294). It is possible that this chapter contained various stories about him. As to the remaining two titles, “Eyi” 閼亦 and “Youyi” 遊易 or “Youfu” 遊鳧 (Takeuchi 1979, 6:249), they also refer to people’s names. Passages associated with them were collected by Wang Yinglin 王應麟 (1223-1296) in his Kunxue jiwen 困學紀聞 (After Hard Times in my Studies, Record of Hearsay; see Hervouet 1978, 131). He lists a total of 38 Zhuangzi passages, including those about Eyi and Youyi: A slave of Eyi, a grandson of Yinyi 殷翼, and a son of Clansman E 遏氏 decided to visit the creative power together. So they ascended to Primordial heaven. Upon reaching its top, they were ranked among the stars. (10.24a)

The early commentator Sima Biao 司馬彪 notes that Primordial heaven is the name of a mountain. This is, however, the only reference to its meaning. The names of the three men are indicative of a tribal identity rather than individual personages in that they are called “slave,” “grandson,” and “son” of the clans E 遏, Yin 殷, and E 遏. Yin among them may refer to the Shang Chinese, whereas E is a Xiongnu name, already in the “Xiongnu zhuan” 匈奴傳 (Record of the Huns) in the Shiji written with the character 閼 as well as in the variant 遏. This fragment is comparable to the story of the four eccentric masters and their way of dealing with the marvels of creative change as well as with that of Fu Yue 傅說 who “climbed up to the Eastern Governor, straddled the [constellation] Winnowing Basket and the Tail, and took his place among the stars,” both found today in Zhuangzi 6 (Watson 1968a, 82; hereafter abbreviated “W”). Other sources refer to several further lost chapters. For example, Sima Qian notes that “Weilei Xu” 畏累虛 like “Gengsang Chu” 庚桑楚 (i.e., Zhuangzi 23) must have been a chapter title as well as a personal name. Weilei Xu is usually understood as the name of the mountain to which Gengsang Chu retired. As a person, he would have been Gengsang Chu’s teacher, who in turn taught Zhuang Zhou (Takeuchi 1979, 6:249).


Also, there was probably a chapter called “Hui Shi” 惠施, evidence for which is found in the biography of Du Bi 杜弼 in the Beishi 北史 (History of the North, ch. 72) and the Liangshi 梁史 (History of the Liang, ch. 50). This could have consisted of the discussion of Huizi in Zhuangzi 33. Then there was a chapter called “Horses’ Bridles” (Machui 馬捶), somewhat resembling “Horses’ Hoofs” (Mati 馬蹄), i.e., Zhuangzi 9. This chapter title is also mentioned by He Zilang 何子朗 in his Baizhongfu 敗冢赋 (On the Marker of Defeat) as well as in the “Wenxue zhuan” 文學傳 (Record of Literature) of the Nanshi 南史 (History of the South; Takeuchi 1979, 6:250). In terms of contents, these various chapters apparently contained materials of popular religion, dealing with magic, exorcism, dream interpretation, ecstatic journeys, medical lore, and natural transformations. Many stories of this kind have been recouped in the Liezi 列子 (Book of Master Lie, DZ 668; trl. Graham 1960), another potential source of lost Zhuangzi materials (see Littlejohn 2011; Takeuchi 1979, 6:251). Although such materials may well be later than the oldest parts of the Zhuangzi, they yet indicate that the text in the Han dynasty contained a great deal more magical and popular material and was only philosophically purified by Guo Xiang.

Divisions and Layers Already Ban Gu records that the Zhuangzi chapters (pian 篇) divide into three groups: Inner (nei 內), Outer (wai 外), and Miscellaneous (za 雜), a division that may go back to either Liu An (ca. 150 BCE) or Liu Xiang (ca. 50 BCE) (Chai 2008, 10; Klein 2011, 359). All editions, including Guo Xiang’s, have seven Inner Chapters (chs. 1–7). In addition, the 33-chapter version has fifteen Outer (chs. 8–22), and eleven Miscellaneous (chs. 23– 33). There is a distinct difference between the Inner Chapters and the others in terms of titles: they consist of three characters instead of two, are vague in meaning, and refer to content rather than just picking up the first words of the essay (Wang 2004, 143; 2007a, 10). It is thus possible that the titles of the Inner Chapters were created by the author as opposed to those of the others which were added by later editors, providing grounds for an earlier dating. On the other hand, comparisons with other texts of the period show that first-word titles are common in the Warring States period, while thematic titles appear first in the 2nd century BCE, making them later (Chai 2008, 12). Some scholars even date them to the Tang dynasty (Billeter 2008, 254; Wang 2002, 220). Until the Song, this was not a problem: scholars considered all of the


Zhuangzi as being written by Zhuang Zhou. Only under the Ming and Qing did they become doubtful and suggested that the Outer and Miscellaneous Chapters might have been compiled by disciples. Modern scholars have viewed the division variously. Ren Jiyu 任繼 愈 observes that the titles of the Inner Chapters match a historically later pattern and notes that the Shiji mentions various titles of the Miscellaneous Chapters, concluding that the Inner Chapters are later additions by Zhuangzi’s disciples. Cui Dahua 崔大華 counters this by saying that titles could have been added by anyone at anytime and emphasizes the narrower and more pessimistic world-view of the Inner Chapters, concluding that they are earlier and go back to Zhuangzi himself (see also Lin 1994, 48; Wang 2004,144; 2007a, 12). Zhou Tongdan 周通旦, in a yet different take, assumes that all chapters were written by Zhuangzi but the Inner Chapters were later, their pessimism showing sign of old age. Yet others contend that all Zhuangzi chapters present a multitude of authors and were mixed up thoroughly by Guo Xiang (Chai 2008, 16-18). The evidence used for any of these positions tends to be external to the text: mentions of titles in the Shiji, descriptions of lines of thought in other works, as well as Zhuangzi criticism in early works. Another method is internal examination, looking particularly at single versus compound terms: dao 道, de 德, ming 命, jing 精, shen 神. All these occur singly in the Inner Chapters as well as in the works of other Warring States thinkers, such as Confucius, Mozi, and Laozi. Their compounds (daode, xingming 性命, jingshen) are not found until the early Han, but occur frequently in the Outer and Miscellaneous chapters (Chai 2008, 20; Chai 2007; Yang 2007, 10-11). On the other hand, even this usage could have been added by a later editor (Klein 2011, 312; Wang 2002, 216). If the Inner Chapters were indeed early, one would expect them to be cited visibly in early documents. However, this is not the case. Chapters cited in pre-Han materials show a distinct preference for Outer and Miscellaneous chapters, notably 10, 14, 17, 23, 26, and 28-32 (Klein 2011, 324-33). The latest research accordingly finds that the Inner Chapters were written by multiple hands and constitute a later stratum of the text, “representing someone’s judgment of what was best in the proto-Zhuangzi,” i.e., the collection of materials that circulated under this name in the Han dynasty and did not take firm shape until Liu An was active in the mid-2nd century (2011, 361). Alternatively the Inner Chapters—applying a common Han designation that bestowed dignity on sections in closest accordance to imperial ideology— could have served to claim the text as supporting official doctrine (Billeter 2008, 193; 255-56). The oldest layer of the text, then—matching patterns in the Bible and other Western sources (Billeter 2010, 83)—is the material formulated


in dialogues, which places many parts of the Outer and Miscellaneous chapters in the most ancient portion of the work. Sections that consist of dialogues plus abstract discourse are slightly later, while the most recent level presents philosophical theory proper (Billeter 2008, 260-61; Wang 2002, 214-25). What is now chapter 27, “Imputed Words,” outlines these different forms of presentation, and may well have been the preface of the most ancient version, with chapter 33 serving as a postface (Billeter 2008, 259; Lin 1994, 49; Wang 2004, 18; Yang 2012, 524). Analyzing the Zhuangzi beyond the traditional chapter division with a focus on styles and contents of its various chapters, A. C. Graham has identified several textual layers that outline the heterogeneous teachings of several “Daoist” philosophical schools. His analysis has since been further supported by studies on the inherent rhyme structure of the text (see McCraw 1995; 2010). It divides the text into six groups of chapters, each written by a specific group: 1. Zhuangzi himself (chs. 1-7)—centering on the words and stories of Zhuang Zhou, dating from around the 3rd century BCE; 2. Primitivists or anarchists (chs. 8-11)—focusing on simplicity and the return to life before the development of culture, dated to the later Qin dynasty (ca. 205 BCE); 3. Syncretists (chs. 12-16 and 33), possibly identical with the Huang-Lao school of the Han—integrating formalized cosmology into the understanding of Dao, dating from the 2nd century BCE; 4. Later Zhuangzi followers (chs. 17-22)—often matching the style and content of the Inner Chapters; 5. Anthologists (chs. 23-27 and 32)—collecting heterogeneous, fragmentary materials, including some of Zhuangzi himself that might have been part of the Inner Chapters; 6. Individualists or hedonists, also called Yangists after their main thinker Yang Zhu 楊朱 (chs. 28-31)—emphasizing a worldview of ease and leisure that serves only one’s own satisfaction, dating from the early Han dynasty (Graham 1980; 1990e; Hoffert 2002; Lin 2003, 269; Mair 2000, 37; Rand 1983; Roth 1991a, 80-81; 1993a, 56-57; Schwartz 1985, 216).

In a more subtle textual analysis, Graham further reconstructs the “Inner Chapters” (chs. 1-7), which he considers the oldest part, linked with Zhuang Zhou himself. To supplement what his work might have looked like originally, Graham transposes several passages from the Miscellaneous chapters, for a new interpretation (1981, 100-16). Another vision of the different layers of the text appears in the work of Liu Xiaogan who rejects Graham’s dating, his division of schools, and his reconstruction of the Inner Chapters. Instead of six schools and layers, Liu sees three: 1. Transmitters—followers of Zhuangzi whose work shows great similarities with the “Inner Chapters” (chs. 1-7, 17-27, 32);

THE TEXT / 9 2. Anarchists—opponents of all government and social organization (chs. 810, parts of 11, 28, 29, 31); 3. Huang-Lao 黃老 thinkers—mergers of various philosophical schools with Daoism (chs. 12-16, 33, part of 11). (1994, 88)

Instead of assuming a corruption in the Inner Chapters, moreover, which can be remedied with the help of later materials, he finds any reconstruction “unnecessary and in any event impossible to realize” (1994, 170), arguing rather for an acceptance of the standard text as transmitted. In a careful reading, Liu finds many common points among all the Inner Chapters, concluding that they formed an integrated set of materials from early on and were never seriously altered. He also uncovers a high rate of coincidence between the Inner Chapters and the works he attributes to the transmitters, judging the latter to be the immediate followers of Zhuangzi and active later propagators of his thought. The coincidence rate declines with the Huang-Lao and anarchist documents, but it is still there, which suggests to Liu that the compilers of these parts of the text, even with their differences in overall outlook, were still Zhuangzi followers. Rather than seeing the text as a compilation of different materials, as Graham seems to do, he thus prefers to understand it as a documentation of the thought of Zhuangzi in its original form and various later developments. Liu Xiaogan’s reading, if different, is not always incompatible with other views. While he does not see the hedonists as separate, claiming that most of the materials Graham attributes to them form part of the other schools, he joins the majority of scholars in finding harmony, integrity, and antiquity in the Inner Chapters. Also, his transmitters closely match Graham’s Zhuangzi followers, and his anarchists are basically the same as the latter’s primitivists. In addition, his definition of Graham’s syncretists as precursors of the Huang-Lao school, the leading form of Han Daoism (see Peerenboom 1993), rounds off the picture of a continuous evolution of Daoist thought in the time before and after unification.

Translations The Zhuangzi has been translated many times in various different languages (see Wilhelm 2010). The earliest English version is by Frederic Balfour (1881), followed by that of James Legge (1891), the early master translator of classical Chinese philosophy (see Girardot 2002), and by that of Herbert Giles (1889). The first French rendition is by Léon Wieger (1913); the first complete German version is by Richard Wilhelm (1912). Major Chinese editions with modern rendition and commentary include those by Wang Shumin (1947), Guo Qingfan (1961), Qian Mu


(1962), Chen Guying (1975), Xuan Yi (1977), Sha Shaohai (1987), Wu Kuang-ming (1988a), Zhang Yanshang (1993), Fang Yong and Lu Yongping (2007), Fang Yong (2009a; 2009b), and Tian Bangxiong (2013). In addition, there bilingual (Chinese-English) translations by Qin Xuqing and Sun Yongchang (1999), and by Huang Hanqing (2006) (Billeter 2008, 263-64; 2009, 197; 2010, 11). Specific extensive commentaries include works on the first (Deng 2010), second (Chen 2004; Shen 2001), and last chapters (Ma 1958; Dan 2007). The leading Japanese version is by Fukunaga Mitsuji (1979), originally published in 1956. This formed the foundation for Burton Watson’s complete translation (1968a), which established the modern standard. An index to the text was compiled at the Harvard-Yenching Institute (Hung 1956). More recently, scholars have explored new and different dimensions of translation. As Shuenfu Lin points out, traditionally translation meant the appropriation of content of an original source without any particular concern for its style or linguistic idiosyncrasies. This led to the exploitation of the original for the purposes of enriching the linguistic and aesthetic dimensions of one’s own culture, leaving the original far behind. Only in the 18th century did translators come to respect the foreign in the original text but it was not until the 19th and 20th centuries that they actually gained the courage to move toward the foreign nature and attempt to do it justice (Lin 2003, 264). These days, translators divide into two major camps. Following Octavio Paz (and Jean François Billeter), the first believe that it is essentially impossible to find precise equivalents and that translation is always transformation. In this view, it is more important to do justice to the totality of the source language rather than its specific parts and details. Translation always involves interpretation, reworking, reformulating, and reasserting the original (Billeter 2008, 218; 2010, 39). At the other end of the spectrum are those (represented most radically by Vladimir Nabokov) who insist that the only possible translation is strictly literal, all else being mere imitation and parody (Lin 2003, 264; citing Schulte and Biguenet 1992). Among complete Zhuangzi translations into English, the most literal is by A. C. Graham (1981; 2001), while others follow the content orientation, using different Chinese and Western renditions as their backdrop. These include Mair (1994a; 1994b), Palmer (1996), Höchsmann and Yang (2007), and Ziporyn (2009). More theme-based and aimed at modern practitioners are the renditions by Cleary (1999), Mitchell (2009), and Kohn (2011). Illustrated versions, moreover, include Feng and English (1974), Cai and Bruya (1992), and Towler (2011) (see Small 2013). Each translation is different, and each has its own unique take on the text, opening various visions on this powerful, multifaceted work.

Chapter Two Perfect Happiness The core issue in the Zhuangzi is happiness, personal ease and fulfillment, individual freedom—the way to live the best and most perfect life on this earth.1 He uses two key terms to describe this ideal that both also form chapter titles: “Zhile” 至樂 (Perfect Happiness; ch. 18) and “Xiaoyao you” 逍遙遊 (Free and Easy Wandering; ch. 1). Chapter 18 formulates the central questions right up front: In this world, is there such a thing as perfect happiness? Is it possible to live to the fullest in this body? If so, what should we do? What can we rely on? What should we avoid, what support? What is best to pursue and what had better be abandoned? What should we delight in, what detest?

What then, are we to do? And, first of all, what not to do?

Ordinary Happiness The things people in today’s world consider most valuable are wealth, position, vigor, and a sense of being good at something. The things that make them happy are physical comfort, rich food, beautiful clothes, lovely colors, and great music. On the other hand, they uniformly detest poverty, low status, early death, and crime. (ch. 18)

In another passage on ordinary happiness, the Zhuangzi lists eight personal characteristics and six virtues commonly believed to make people feel good about themselves and bring them happiness. These include “a beautiful face, great hair, tall stature, good muscle tone, vigor, style, courage, and skill” as well as “wisdom and insight, courage and enterprise, benevolence and righteousness” (ch. 32).

1 For Chinese discussions of the Zhuangzi in this light, see especially Chen 2010; Dongfang 1996; Tan 1998; Wang 2004; 2007c; Wu 2008.



However, none of these really brings happiness, since they each have serious drawbacks and often depend on sensory satisfaction. People’s greatest suffering occurs when their bodies cannot get comfortable, their mouths cannot feed on rich tastes, their physical form cannot fit into beautiful clothes, their eyes cannot look upon lovely colors, and their ears do not have a chance to listen to great music. When they do not get these things, they are deeply frustrated and develop tremendous anxiety. (ch. 18; Kohn 2011, 3)

This means that, echoing Daode jing 13, as long as people have a personal body and are dependent on sensory satisfaction for personal happiness, it will elude them. As the Zhuangzi continues: “When people are born, whatever they do, frustration is born along with them. Thus, even to attain long life, people make themselves ignorant and dull. Still, they spend all their time worrying about not dying” (ch. 18), thus continuing the vicious cycle of strife and frustration, labor and dissatisfaction. So, let us say, we do have a beautiful, healthy body, vigor, and style, and manage to satisfy our physical needs and sensory demands to the fullest. Does that bring happiness? Yes, it does so within limits, but if we enhance and show off our attributes to have more of them than others, “they bring nothing but trouble.” This is because they create immense social pressure to perform as well as jealousy and envy in our surroundings (ch. 32). Even without good looks and great vigor, just cultivating the various social and moral virtues will not guarantee happiness, since they too lead to increased social pressure and situations of envy: “Wisdom and insight lead to outside involvement; courage and enterprise lead to numerous resentments; benevolence and righteousness lead to piles of responsibility” (ch. 32). Neither a good physique nor a great moral rectitude thus creates anything but trouble. Another major drawback of this way to happiness is that any procurement of property and social status requires hard work and continued sacrifices. “To attain wealth, people submit to great suffering and make themselves sick, . . . to attain position, people slave day and night without stopping” (ch. 18). In addition, once they have reached their goal and are wealthy and in high regard, “they accumulate so much stuff that they cannot even use it, . . . and they keep worrying constantly whether they come across as being good at their job” (ch. 18). In either dimension, people seek happiness by looking, moving away from their inner core, from who they truly are. As he says: “However dedicated they are to their life, it is yet entirely separate from them, entirely outside of themselves.” Material goods, in particular, are a great problem, since they overwhelm the senses, tie up mind and thinking, and take us ever farther


away from inner peace. They specifically lead to “confusion, suffering, sickness, addiction, trouble, and fear: the greatest evils in the world.” Look at the wealthy: their ears are overwhelmed by the sounds of pipes and drums, winds and strings; their mouths are filled with meat and wine. These rouse their intention for more of the same so they completely forget their real position in the greater scheme of things: this is confusion. Drowning in surging energies and passions, they are like laborers lugging an uphill burden: this is suffering. Amassing material goods, they try to find comfort; amassing power and influence, they try to find fulfillment. Resting quietly for a moment, they sink into depression; engaging themselves physically, they turn into maniacs—this is sickness. Pursuing wealth and running after profit, they fill their houses to overflowing and do not know how to escape. Still, they lust for more and cannot resist— this is addiction. More stuff piled up than they could ever use, grasping for more than they could ever hold, their mind is full of care and close to exhaustion, yet they still keep going after projects and things, not knowing when to stop—this is trouble. At home suspicious of theft by deceitful servants, in town terrified of attacks by robbers and con-artists, they surround themselves with alarm systems in their houses and dare not walk around by themselves outside—this is fear. (ch. 29; W 338; Kohn 2011, 11)

In other words, whatever we cultivate and pursue on the outside— physical, material, social—cannot and will not lead to a sense of true happiness, of inner joy, of real lasting contentment. As the Zhuangzi says, “Do not be an embodier of fame. Do not be a storehouse of schemes. Do not be an undertaker of projects. Do not be a proprietor of wisdom” (ch. 7; W 97).

Nonaction How, then, are we to act in the world, if we cannot pursue fame and position, material goods and sensory satisfaction? Resolving the issue, the Zhuangzi points to nonaction (wuwei 無為) as the source of true happiness—defined variously as “trying without trying” (Wu 1981), “actioncentered spirituality” (Barrett 2011, 687), or “spontaneous response” (Graupe 2011, 85) that is “without artifice” (Coutinho 2004, 33). Nonaction is being “not willful” (Ames 1986, 341), “non-interfering with natural processes” (Coleman 2002, 389), and allowing “things to transform themselves” (Hall 1984, 149). A “state of personal harmony in which actions flow freely from one’s spontaneous inclinations without the need for extended deliberation or inner struggle” (Slingerland 2000, 300; Sundararajan 2011, 57), it represents a “paradoxical active letting-be of


everything in the world, without the all-too-human will to control things according to one’s desires” (Goh 2011, 121). Nonaction is thus a way of being that is just as it is, in “the undifferentiated chaos of the process of differing” (Owens 1993, 271), i.e., in perfect naturalness or spontaneity (ziran 自然) (Callahan 1989; Billeter 1996; 2008, 45-70; G. Chen 2012, 23; Yang 2007, 46).Effortless, responsive, and unobtrusive (Fox 1996, 59; 2003, 208), it allows things to “unfold and develop of their own accord” (Liu 1999, 214). The foundation of easy wandering (Fox 1996, 61), it is the way to create “organic harmony,” the “spontaneous mutual adjustment among many elements and forces in a given system,” such as, for example, a low-maintenance garden (LaFargue 2001, 52). Nonaction means doing nothing in the sense of leaving, life, the universe, and “the body free to make its complex coordinations, . . . to do the work our mind wants—and this is not the same as relaxation” (Wormhoudt 2001, 41) but a paradigm for meditative felicity (Burneko 1986, 400). As the Zhuangzi has it, “Perfect happiness is being free from the need to be happy. Perfect accomplishment is being free from having to accomplish anything. Perfect happiness and living to the fullest can only be realized in a state of complete nonaction” (ch. 18; Kohn 2011, 7). The concept plays a role in various ancient texts of all different schools, referring to human attitude to action on several different levels—political, personal, and spiritual (Slingerland 2000; 2003). Among Daoist materials, the first to use wuwei as a technical term, both the Daode jing and the Huainanzi come down mostly on the political side (Major et al. 2010, 898. Here nonaction is “designed for the ruler, not for the common people” and means “not to make use of the sovereign position to do anything” (Liu 1991, 55; 1999; Sundararajan 2011, 58). Transcending self and destiny, he should refrain from value judgments and arbitrary standards, serving in an attitude of “reign but not rule” (Ames 1983, 29, 35, 44; 1981; Wu 2007, 77). Rather than setting rules, limitations, and taboos, according to the Daode jing, the sage ruler should “take no action and let the people transform naturally” (ch. 57); he “acts with nonaction and has no ruin, lets go of grasping, and has no loss” (ch. 64; Ames 1983, 39; Chen 1969, 190). Matching the patterns of natural development, carefully observing the natural patterns and closely aware of the interchange of opposites (contraction-expansion, weakness-strength; ch. 36), the sage ruler—neither moral nor immoral (Moeller 2009, 35)—channels the energies of heaven and earth, thereby allowing the world to unfold perfectly—a notion that has had a lasting impact on Western thought, especially during the Enlightenment (Goodfield 2011, 59). On the more personal level, nonaction is interpreted variously: it can mean simply doing nothing or be a form of action that does not force


but works by yielding; it may be a way of action in accordance with nature; or it can be nondual action, without conscious deliberation and in full spontaneity (Loy 1985, 74-77). It neither means being completely passive nor totally spontaneous without any planning (Graupe 2011, 85). Rather, as expressed in the thought of Yang Zhu, it means letting go of limiting concerns, imposed plans, and outside values in favor of finding a strong inner sense of where life is headed. To act in nonaction is to abstain from forceful and interfering measures that cause tensions and disruption in favor of gentleness, adaptation, and ease (Liu 1991, 46; Fox 1996, 59). A concrete example would be a farmer in the process of modernization—he moves along with the times and makes best use of available methods as his means permit, avoiding all forceful actions that go against the natural flow (Liu 1998, 223). Going beyond the personal and political, the spiritual dimension of nonaction, as expressed most clearly in the Zhuangzi, includes transcendence of ordinary consciousness by letting heaven take over and moving about the world and the universe in cosmic freedom (Liu 1991, 49). There is a certain level of paradox in its practice: one cannot intentionally act without intention; nor can one go with heaven’s flow unless one is already internally connected to it (Slingerland 2003, 8-9; Ivanhoe 2007, 281). This is resolved by understanding nonaction as the quality of action rather than as a state of mind—as one is free from intention yet connected to heaven, action flows naturally (Ivanhoe 2007, 284). The Zhuangzi illustrates this point in a variety of stories: rather than creating a complex system or giving specific guidance, it creates a “systematic” within life. Nonaction here is beyond systematization, a “system of no system,” a state of inner spaciousness and personal realization (Wu 2002, 75). Living life from this position allows the realization of each person’s perfect potentiality in authentic action: “Authentic action not only realizes the potential to do or be but also the potential to not do or be” (Møllgaard 2007, 55). As Thomas Merton says, it is perfect action, “because it is action without activity, action not carried out independently of heaven and earth, in perfect harmony with the whole” (1969, 28). Another take on nonaction is simply “do nothing.” Siroj Sorajjakool describes it in a personal journal as taking a huge step back from defining self and success through outside validation, from constantly trying to be better and bigger and bolder, from all the oughts and shoulds of life. Instead, just stop and sit: As we sit silently in our own anxiety and our discomfort, we learn to integrate the natural flow of life. We learn to listen to life instead of trying to tell life how to live. Life has a life of its own. . . Only in the space of nothingness can the soul find its place, its calling. (2009, 67-78)


Seeing nonaction as a fundamental way of being in the world, as a nothingness that allows letting go of constructs and mental tensions, Sorajjakool links it with Christian notions of love and Western ethical concepts yet continues to come back to the core vision of the Zhuangzi which is “about aligning oneself with nature, with what is . . . with change itself” (2009, 95). Ultimately, nonaction comes back to the old adage: “Let go and let God.” We need to get ourselves out of the way so that the natural power of the universe can be ever present to participate and share with us. Nonaction means permitting “yes” from the universe, to allow the universe to play in and through our lives (Carlson and Kohn 2012, 58), letting us to flow with the changes and transformations of life in “free and easy wandering.”

Free and Easy Wandering This is the title and central focus of the first chapter of the Zhuangzi, which overall uses the term almost a hundred times (Lo 2002, 81; Liu 2009, ch. 5; Wu 2009). Its stories connect with an inner logic and, without setting out a clear system, provide insights by mysterious resonance (Lin 2003, 284; Wu 1982, 108), focusing on issues of perspective, freedom, and uniqueness. Each being in nature and the greater universe has its own unique character, abilities, and nature—it does what it does within its own frame of being, following its naturalness in nonaction (Wong 2009, 575; Yearley 1995), yet constantly carried by the infinite source of Being (Alexander 2012, 47). This is freedom: not a general attitude or state but a personalized pattern, to do what one does best with perfect joy (Chen 2010, 137; Fung 1952, 1:226), no longer the passive product of society and circumstance but empowered to constitute and determine one’s own course of action (Zhao 2012, 141). But it also limits perspective: the small cannot comprehend what the big is doing; the ordinary cannot understand what it means to be extraordinary; the practical cannot see the potential of apparently useless items. Zhuangzi’s “wandering,” aside from physically traveling and being at ease, also indicates following one’s own natural patterns while adapting to the changes (Lo 2002, 82; Møllgaard 2005, 13-14). The word yao in xiaoyao is “related to terms meaning ‘to cross over’ or ‘to go beyond,’ as well as to other words indicating pleasure, agreeableness, and lack of depth. You means “swim” or “float” (Yang 2003, 112) and “evokes the image of a waving flag” (Robinet 1993, 171; Deng 2010, 53; Wu 1990, 85). Wandering means carefree meandering in naturalness (Fox 1996, 60). Floating freely and being carried by the swirls and eddies of life (Billeter 2010, 68), it implies “a laid-back attitude towards life in which one takes things as they come and flows along with Dao” (Mair 1994, 385). Some-


times also rendered “distant excursion,” “spiritual wandering,” or “let fancy roam” (Pas 1981, 482; Wang 2006c, 41), it may be more outgoing and ecstatic, a “trip” beyond the boundaries of ordinary life (Graham 1981, 8; Lo 2002, 84); or it may be more spiritual and deep, a surrender “to the chaos of self-emerging life” (Møllgaard 2007, 22; Fukunaga 1946). Seen in modern China as a form of “unbridled, self-centered hedonism” (Chong 2005, 256), it is “a self-satisfying movement that fulfills itself” (Wu 1990, 85), a way of being in the world that is “completely open, versatile, and ready to become whatever the hand you are dealt requires” (Levinovitz 2012, 395). Wandering can occur on two levels: within the boundaries of the world, between the constraints of society and nature (Cook 1997, 540); and beyond common boundaries, between heaven and earth, beyond the four seas, in the infinite (Jiang 2011, 470-71; Höchsmann and Yang 2006, 37-38; Lo 2002, 86). “Wandering,” moreover, is often used as a transitive verb in the sense of “let something move” in leisure (xiao 逍) and without regard for distance (yao 遙). An example is chengwu youxin 乘物遊心: let the mind move by striding on things, let things carry the mind along in free flow. This means that one no longer has deliberate goals and is instead centered completely in the transforming processes of heaven and earth (Billeter 2010, 95; Graham 2001, 69). Like nonaction, free and easy wandering has been read in a variety of ways and on different levels, connecting and comparing it to visions of freedom in the West. Liang Qichao 梁啟超, for example, sees it as an early expression of “free will,” while Yang Guorong sees it as a form of spiritual independence in the world (2007, 289). For Tan Sitong 譚嗣同 it is a release from governmental authority; Yan Fu 嚴復 reads it as anticipating “freedom and equality in the Western sense,” emphasizing not only the ability but the right to self-determination (see also Chen 2010, 100). Li Zehou 李澤厚 finds that Zhuangzi in this concept gives prominence to the individual for the first time. Liu Xiaogan acknowledges Zhuangzi’s pursuit of freedom but sees it as different from the modern Western concept of political and individual liberty (Deng 2010b, 316-19). Others are more critical. Hou Wailu 侯外廬 interprets “wandering” as an escape from life, a denial of social responsibility, an advocacy of hermetic philosophy, while Guo Moruo 郭沫若 sees pessimism and opportunism in Zhuangzi’s position (Deng 2010b, 320-21). Deng Lianhe 鄧聯 合 roots it in the particular age of writing: “The ‘happy excursion’ is a forced decision by individuals in a dark age, but not a way of existence and the ideal of life in a normal society” (2010b, 222; see also Wang 2004, 3). It was because people could not fulfill themselves within their society, torn apart by wars and strife, that they turned inward and “produced an


unexpected positive effect: the awakening of human consciousness” (2010b, 223). A more subtle analysis of free and easy wandering shows that it has five features: it transcends contingency and is not dependent on circumstances or good fortune; it implies no fixed norms or direction but focuses on adaptation to change; it is grounded in an understanding of the potential range of alternative forms of life; it implies a readiness to transcend limits or boundaries associated with mainstream values and norms; and it is associated with an essentially carefree attitude (Fraser 2011a; see also Pas 1981). Freedom in the Zhuangzi is experienced not so much as political liberty than as intrapsychic harmony (he 和) and inner peace (an 安); there is a sense of flowing along (shun 順) with the natural processes. There is no goal—unlike happiness in the West which is the “ultimate goal” of life in a teleologically oriented philosophy of finality (Jullien 2007, 102-07), wandering has no end other than itself, no fixed path (Fraser 2011a). It is everywhere (Merton 1969, 27). Yet, since it requires a constant response to change, it involves cognitive flexibility, the ability to look at things from multiple perspectives, and the childlike capacity to play: discover, explore, wonder at the world (Fraser 2011a; Fox 1996, 62; Wu 1982, 19). It is “being in phase,” a form of “free evolution, proceeding in comfort, without a designated port and without anxiety over the outcome” (Jullien 2007, 109). Like fish in water, people are in Dao: they “swim in this milieu of endless movement,” letting “life itself decide how it will go” (Yang 2007, 29). Happiness (le), moreover, is the intrinsic quality of the ongoing process of wandering (you) in an attitude of nonaction (wuwei). It is not eudamonia, the ancient Greek concept of the good share or good spirit (daimon) given by the gods (Weed 2011, 45), nor its expansion, the ultimate fulfillment of human endeavor, the universal end of life, what the American founding fathers implied when they put “pursuit of happiness” into the Constitution (Jullien 2007, 110). The trick to realizing it fully is to “bring some heaven into myself,” i.e., “to make contact with that part of myself which is pure process (natural and spontaneous) through the liberation from everything superimposed by the ‘induced point of view’ or bias of an individual ego” (Jullien 2007, 43). This means to align with the heavenly rather than the human, the cosmic rather than the social (Billeter 2010, 49), to “adequately respond to and satisfy the vital injunction that comes to me directly from the immense source of reactivity that lies in the great world process as a whole rather than from the narrow orb of my desires and repulsions” (Billeter 2007, 44). The most important question for the Zhuangzi is accordingly how to distinguish one from the other: the heavenly from the human, the deep-source impulses from extraneous conceptions and de-


sires. The bulk of the book, then, focuses on understanding the workings of mind and body and on learning how best to work with life in all different modes and levels to not only attain the experience of wandering in perfect happiness and nonaction but maintain it at all times and through all the ups and downs of life.

Flow The closest equivalent to Zhuangzi’s ideal state in Western thought is the concept of “flow” as studied and defined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1975; 1990). A deep sense of enjoyment and feeling of exhilaration—seemingly effortless movement (1990, 53)—flow is “a state in which people are so deeply involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter” (1990, 4). A state of “optimal experience,” it occurs every time when an experience is so enjoyable that it is pursued for its own sake: a goal in itself, it is “autotelic” (1990, 67). Typically an experience of this sort has eight characteristics: 1) a chance of successful completion; 2) the ability to concentrate fully; 3) clearly delimited goals; 4) immediate feedback; 5) oblivion of everyday life; 6) sense of control; 7) no concern for self; and 8) an altered sense of time (1990, 49; Jochim 1998, 63; Week 2011, 53). Activities that favor the flow state are first of all games, sports, dance, music, art, and leisure, but it can easily be expanded to include all kinds of other tasks, including work, housework, and daily tasks (Csikszentmihalyi 1990, 59). No matter what the content of the activity, the individual is deeply absorbed and transcends his or her limited self. She feels fully engaged—neither bored nor anxious—and fully authentic: “In flow, there is no room for self-scrutiny” (1990, 63). While far away from the drudgery and mental self-castigation that often accompany ordinary life, “there is nothing mysterious or mystical about these experiences. They are just as real [and as natural] as being hungry or as concrete as bumping into a wall” (1990, 65). Offering new horizons of achievement and complexity, flow is universal: regardless of geography, culture, age, or social standing, people all have and report it (1990, 4). They even had it 2,300 years ago, as the Zhuangzi documents. Csikszentmihalyi himself links his vision of flow to free and easy wandering, noting that you is translated often as “flowing” and that it clearly describes the proper way to live: without concern for external rewards, in spontaneity and with total commitment to the activity at hand (1990, 150). He argues that while Westerners tend to reach it by consciously setting goals and mastering challenges, the ancient Chinese preferred to relax on conscious mastery and enter meditative oblivion; while Westerners often aim to change objective conditions, Eastern thinkers tend to


disregard them in favor of an overall spiritual playfulness. Still, even in the Zhuangzi people train and master certain skills, thereby reaching flow (1990, 150-51). The ultimate goal in both Csikszentmihalyi and the Zhuangzi is to “turn all life into a unified flow experience” where one’s actions and feelings are in harmony at all times. To do so, people have to have a coherent overall meaning that goes beyond the playing of a game or the completion of a task (Csikszentmihalyi 1990, 214). Traditional cultures offered such a meaning in their religions, and Muslims often still have it today, remaining calm and in flow even under strong pressure. “There is nothing to it,” the engineers say, “we don’t get upset because we believe that our life is in God’s hands, and whatever he decides will be fine with us” (1990, 215). The Zhuangzi uses Dao, heaven, creative change, and destiny to describe the underlying pattern of life we have no control over, all that we need to accept and relax into while maintaining inner peace—in nonaction and perfect happiness. Modern people, on the other hand, no longer steeped in religion and with innumerable opportunities and goals competing for prominence (1990, 224), have to work to find a coherent meaning to give purpose to their lives. Only by finding the one overarching thing, can they truly dedicate themselves to achieving harmony, a dynamic order in the contents of consciousness. This, then, allows them to “go with the flow,” seeing obstacles as challenges and mistakes as learning opportunities (see Carlson and Kohn 2012, 148). Another take on this state of life perfection is found in Gary Zukav who describes it in terms of “authentic power.” He says, Authentic power feels good. It is doing what you are supposed to be doing. It is fulfilling. Your life is filled with meaning and purpose. You have no doubts. You have no fears. You are happy to be alive. You have a reason to be alive. Everything you do is joyful. Everything is exciting. You are not worried about doing something wrong, making a mistake, or failing. You do not compare yourself with others. You do not compare what you do with what others do. (2002, 10506)

Power is also a key concept in the thought of David Hawkins, psychiatrist and master of behavioral kinesiology. Echoing Csikszentmihalyi’s emphasis on the importance of meaning, he says: Power arises from meaning. It has to do with motive, and with principle. Power is always associated with that which supports the significance of life itself. It appeals to that part of human nature that we call noble. . ., to what uplifts, dignifies, and ennobles. . . . Power is total and complete in itself and requires nothing from outside. It makes no demands; it has no needs. It energizes, gives forth, supplies, and supports. . . . Only power brings joy. (2002, 132, 136)


As we integrate fully with our power, Hawkins emphasizes, we increasingly focus our attention away from the limited goals and perspectives of humanity and allow the universe to play a dominant role in our lives. To this end, he outlines a set of eight basic truths that serve as the foundation for becoming fully open to universal flow: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Everything in the human domain is temporary, transient, and evolutionary. Nothing can be really owned; all relationships are temporary and arbitrary. Everything belongs to God/the universe. Sentient beings live solely by faith, then by experience. Ownerships and relationships are stewardships only. Focus on alignment rather than attachment or involvement. Cling to principles rather than people, objects, conditions, or situations. Resolve to live with courage and dignity, summoning forth unseen Power. (2006, 100-101)

Everyone has this authentic power naturally within themselves. Not only that, but we can experience it at any time in Perfect Moment, the key to an energy expansion practice called Core Health that integrates Western science with Eastern cultivation. Perfect Moment is “a reclaimed sense of wholeness and harmony, of being connected to everything, the certainty that life is good and that we are an integral part of that goodness” (Carlson and Kohn 2012, 116). We can find it by mentally going back to a time when we felt good and connected, were part of everything—rolling in the grass, looking at the clouds, playing, swinging, riding, baking, etc. We all have it; it is intrinsically and uniquely ours. No one taught it to us or gave it to us; no one can take it away. By placing ourselves into our Perfect Moment, we connect to the heavenly source within and are immediately part of the flow of universal energy. We are intrinsically happy: there is no need to be anyone or do anything. We can float along with the currents of life in complete ease, activating what the Zhuangzi calls perfect happiness and attaining the state of free and easy wandering.

Chapter Three Axial Age Philosophy The Zhuangzi arose around 300 BCE, in a period of great change not only in China but the world over. The German philosopher Karl Jaspers (18831969) called this period the Axial Age in his seminal work The Origin and Goal of History (1953). The term refers to the fact that at this time in many different cultures new thinkers and religious leaders arose who, for the first time, placed great emphasis on the individual as opposed to the community of the clan or tribe (Graham 1989, 1). Examples include the Buddha in India, Zoroaster in Persia, Socrates in ancient Greece, and Confucius in China. The ideas proposed by these thinkers and religious leaders had a strong and pervasive impact on the thinking of humanity in general, contributing significantly to our world-view even today. Part of the overall transition of culture from the bronze to the iron age, China at this time was undergoing tremendous economic and political changes. Iron-age technology brought with it better ploughshares, wagon axles, and weapons, causing an increase in food production and massive population growth, as well as greater mobility and wealth among the people. This in turn led to a heightened hunger for political power among local lords, who began to wage wars in order to expand their lands and increase their influence, setting large infantry armies against each other—instead of fighting in personally selected bands of blood brothers (see Lewis 1990). While the central king of the Zhou dynasty (1122–221 BCE) was still officially in charge of the entire country, there were in fact many independent states in a more-or-less constant state of conflict (Wang 2004, 1; 2007b, 19). The period is thus appropriately named the Warring States (zhanguo 戰國). As more powerful states conquered lesser ones, local aristocrats or knights (shi 士) became masterless and went to seek employment throughout the country (Graham 1989, 2; Poo 1998, 180). Literate and well informed, some of these knights proposed new and varied theories of life, world, and government (Brindley 2010, xxii). 22


Most of them, in accordance with the situation they faced, were concerned with the proper “way” or “method” (dao 道) leading to the recovery of the harmony and social manageability of an earlier, golden age (G. Chen 2012, 27). Their works tend to be characterized by a backward focus and feudalistic vision. Although Western scholars usually characterize them as “philosophers,” they always placed a strong emphasis on the practical dimensions of their teachings, both in regard to the individual’s social behavior and to personal self-cultivation. In fact, at the core of most ancient Chinese thought are practices of social discipline and the transformation of individuals and communities (Slingerland 2000, 294-95). Sima Tan 司馬谈 (d. 110 BCE) distinguishes six major philosophical schools, each of which proposed one particular area as being most responsible for the state of social and cosmic disharmony, and offered remedies accordingly. The Confucians focused on social etiquette and proper ritual; the Daoists emphasized the natural flow of things. The Mohists saw the solution to all problems in social equality, nonviolence, and concern for all; the School of Names (dialecticians) found the key flaw in the inaccurate use of language and the resulting confusion in people’s minds. The Legalists thought that a set of strict laws and punishments was necessary to return order to the world; and the Yin-Yang cosmologists understood social and personal harmony to depend on the cycles of the seasons, the movements of the stars, and other macrocosmic phenomena (Graham 1989, 380-81). To understand the Zhuangzi in its original context, especially the first four are important.

Confucianism Confucianism goes back to the thinker Confucius (Kongzi 孔子, 551–479 BCE), the illegitimate son of the ruler of Lu, a small state in eastern China (modern Shandong). Born in a time of crisis and trained in elementary feudal arts as well as to read and write, he became a minor functionary in the state’s administration, then developed certain ideas of his own as to the causes of his country’s problems and their remedy (Van Norden 2007, 65). He spent several years traveling to various states in the hope of having his vision put into practice. However, when no ruler employed him, he returned home and began to teach in private, soon establishing a name for himself and his ideas (Creel 1949). His disciples later collected his sayings into a volume known as the Lunyu 論語 (Analects), which today has twenty chapters, of which the first nine are believed to be historically closer to Confucius himself (Lau 2003; Makeham 1998, 92; see also Levi 2002; Billeter 2008, 163-92).


The central concept of early Confucianism is ceremony or rites (li 禮) and music (yue 樂), indicating proper behavior that is just “right” in all kinds of social situations, including government (Graham 1989, 11-14; Cook 1997, 522; Liu 2006, 59). This has to be learned through careful education for all, although some people are more naturally adapt than others. Education is a corner-stone of Confucianism, which sees it as an ongoing, life-long process leading to full adulthood, the complete person (chengren 成人; see Tu 1976). In contrast, the Zhuangzi radically rejects the Confucian notion of personhood (McLeod 2012), criticizes the outward formality and hypocrisy of funeral rites (Galvany 2011), and sees in education mainly the danger of habituation, of getting used to seeing things in preconceived categories which leads to “fixed, inflexible patterns of behavior that blind us to alternative ways” (Fraser 2006, 535; Wang 2004, 2-3; 2007b, 20-22). In addition to a major disagreement about the nature and importance of learning, the Zhuangzi also contests another key doctrine of Confucianism: the practice of certain consciously studied and intentionally acquired virtues (de 德). These include benevolence (ren 仁) toward one’s fellow human beings, social responsibility (yi 義) toward social organizations and groups of people as well as filial piety (xiao 孝) toward parents and loyalty (zhong 忠) toward the ruler (Csikszentmihalyi 2004; Ivanhoe 1993a). There are many instances where the text actively denigrates Confucian ceremony and virtues and vigorously breaks with the “golden rule” to avoid doing to others what one would not want to have done to oneself (Liu 2006, 58-53-54; Huang 2005b; Nivison 1996a). Instead, the Zhuangzi says, “Do for others in not doing for others,” encouraging people to connect to heaven and wander beyond the ordinary (Møllgaard 2007, 118-19). However, the language it uses to do so inherits early Confucian discourse, which is “indicative” rather than dialogical: “The Master indicates one corner of the whole and leaves it to the disciple to orient himself and find the other three” (Møllgaard 2007, 67; also Jullien 2000, 239). The Zhuangzi, like the Lunyu, says nothing in particular, does not string out a lengthy argument, yet reveals its truth. Also, both Confucianism and the Zhuangzi embrace the goal of “spontaneous mastery,” where music and happiness (le, the same word in Chinese) are both complete (Cook 1997, 525; Peerenboom 1993, 206). Confucius appears thirty-five times in the Zhuangzi as a major protagonist of stories, reflecting the fact that by the time the Zhuangzi was compiled, he was venerated widely as a great master and his life and work were generally well known (Lo 2002, 83; S. S. Chen 2012, 545-46). Thus, as John Makeham has shown, the story of Confucius and his disciples running out of food between the states of Chen and Cai—which ap-


pears in different variants among early philosophers—is found seven times in the text, with different outcomes: in some cases, Confucius suffers; in others, he frees himself from social bounds (1998, 83-85). Among his many appearances, moreover, Confucius variously plays the role of teacher or of student, either representing Zhuangzi’s ideas or arguing against them (Graham 1981, 126-34). As Ronnie Littlejohn has shown, one third of stories featuring Confucius have him as “rightthinking teacher,” instructing his disciples, often particularly Yan Hui 顏 回 (Billeter 2008, 71-76), in ways supported by the Zhuangzi: to reject fame and usefulness, practice meditation and stillness, reject discursive thinking and discriminations, and live in nonaction and spontaneity rather than follow ceremony (2010, 183). Especially the Outer Chapters portray Confucius as a “right-thinking student” who learns to treat all things as equal, turns away from discriminations, discursive thinking, argument, and fame (2010, 185). Other stories have him as a teacher in direct contact with Laozi (Lao Dan 老聃) who—consistently shown as a wise elder—criticizes him especially for his inclination toward dispute and the artificiality of his virtues. Yet other tales show him as a student who pursues fame, wealth, and position, tries to change things, and fails to achieve inner stillness (2010, 184, 186; Wang 2004, 3). An unrepentant moralist, he “is caught up in the outer world of man and incapable of preserving the inner unity of the Way” (Møllgaard 2007, 111). While Confucius and his teachings are thus highly controversial in the Zhuangzi, certain fundamental ideas of the second major Confucian thinker Mencius (Mengzi 孟子, 372-289) contain a higher resonance. Although he was Zhuangzi’s contemporary and moved in the same circles, he is not mentioned in the text. Like Confucius, Mencius came from eastern China and was both a government official and a teacher of philosophy who spent many years traveling to local rulers to offer his advice, notably working for King Hui of Liang (Graham 1989, 112). He inherited Confucius’s thought through the lineage of the latter’s grandson and followed him in the effort to find ways of restoring the idealized golden age of the mythical sage rulers. But Mencius’s focus, as shown in the book of his name (see Lau 1984), was different in that he located the key to social harmony less in ceremony than in the human mind (xin 心) which he declared to be originally and inherently good (Liu 2006, 71) but in need of guidance and direction (Chan 2002, 51). Education in Mencius, rather than an effort to create a culturally designed outlook and behavior, is accordingly the search for the “lost mind,” an effort to recover what is already there naturally, notably the roots of moral action in compassion, aversion to shame, courtesy and


modesty, as well as an innate sense of right and wrong (Cua 2002, 127). This mind can be accessed through words, but on a deeper level lies with vital energy (qi 氣), which can be controlled by will and thought or obscured by outside, sensory data (Mengzi 2A2; 6A15; Chan 2002, 47; Cook 1997, 537). Once people have found access to their original mind, they can begin to spread goodness around them. Here Mencius maintains some of Confucius’s social thinking by proposing that the expression of innate goodness has to begin with benevolence within the family and righteousness in the community. At the same time he acknowledges the need to go with the flow of vital energy and innate goodness, like Zhuangzi placing a greater emphasis on the human mind than on outward formality and circumstances.

Mohism and the Dialecticians Another major factor in understanding Zhuangzi’s position within the philosophical environment of his time appears in the teachings and methods of the later Mohists and the dialecticians. Mohism is the philosophy of Master Mo (Mozi 墨子, ca. 470-390 BCE), a native of Teng (in modern Shandong). His surname, literally “ink,” may refer to a dark complexion or to criminal branding, either one indicating a common origin of the thinker, who in several stories is depicted as a carpenter (Graham 1989, 34). He founded a quasi-religious, utopian community based on the principle of jian’ai 兼愛, “impartial concern” or “universal love” (Lowe 1992). His school is best known for advocating merit-based officialdom, a unified ethical code, and belief in the power of the gods in combination with non-violence, frugality, simplicity, and a strong disregard for personal comfort and physical integrity (Wang 2004, 4; 2007b, 24). These and other key themes are outlined in the book Mozi, which consists of seventy-one chapters and was, like other early materials, compiled by disciples over several generations (trl. Johnston 2010; see also Fung 1952, 1:76-105; Graham 1989, 41-50; Liu 2006, 108-30; Loy 2007; Schwartz 1985, 135-72). Six chapters of this collection (chs. 40-45), now known as the later Mohist Canons, “present elements of a sophisticated semantic theory, epistemology, consequentialist ethics, and theory of analogical argumentation, along with intriguing discussions of causality, space and time, and meretological ontology” (Fraser 2011b, 1; see also Graham 1978). Compiled around Zhuangzi’s lifetime, they form a major backdrop for his argumentation about the nature of reality, language, and perception. In terms of historical interaction, Mohists pursued truth through argument and reason, centering on language and argumentation, while Confucian-


ism was practice oriented, focusing on the mastery of ritual skills and on practical knowing. In response to Mohist criticism, the Confucians developed systematic, well-argued doctrines as part of their training program, and Warring States culture in general shifted toward a heavy emphasis on disputation. The Zhuangzi, and especially chapter 2 on “Making All Things Equal” (Qiwulun) presents a critique of this shift (Eno 1996, 13132). The Mohist Canons were deeply concerned with how to judge distinctions between shi 是 (this, right) and fei 非 (not-this, wrong), hoping to establish firm models to classify reality and justify ethical norms (Fraser 2011b, 1; Graham 1989, 156). They also focused on general likes and dislikes, benefit and harm as a way of creating social stability, claiming that “wealth, population, and social order are basic needs whose satisfaction makes all people happy” (Fraser 2011b, 3.2). However, individual happiness here is not a final goal but a criterion to identify what is beneficial to all—the focus remaining communal rather than personal. Part of this vision is also the Mohist doctrine of “relationship ranking,” which says that we are closer to certain people and creatures than others and have to adapt our behavior accordingly (2011b, 3.3). The Zhuangzi finds great fault with the Mohist position and points out repeatedly that all beings should be treated equally, that happiness is a subjective value, and that there can never be complete certainty that we really know what we know. In their focus on argumentation the later Mohists are furthermore similar to another school of the time, the dialecticians, logicians, or disputers (bianzhe 辯者), also known as the School of Names (mingjia 名家). Their main characteristic is that they argue out alternatives to decide which is right and wrong, working with logical principles such as the law of the excluded middle (Graham 1989, 167). In addition, they tend to take words, statements, and common truths about reality apart to show their inherent absurdity and paradoxical nature. As the Shiji notes, the dialecticians “made minute examination of trifling points in complicated and elaborate statements . . . and specialized in the definition of names but lost sight of human feelings” (Fung 1952, 1:193-94). The most famous dialectician is Gongsun Long 公孫龍 (ca. 325-250 BCE), whose major work, the Gongsun Long zi, was compiled in the early middle ages but contains remnants of arguments from pre-Han sources (Graham 1989, 82; 1990d). His major method is known as jianbai 堅白, lit. “hard and white,” referring to the fact that if an object is classified as one it cannot be another at the same time (Makeham 1989; Billeter 2010, 54). The most frequently cited example of this is the “White Horse Dialogue,” which argues that “a white horse is not a horse” on the grounds that “to name the color is not to name the shape” (Graham 1989, 85).


The most prominent dialectician in the Zhuangzi is Huizi (Hui Shi 惠 施, ca. 380-305 BCE), prime minister under King Hui of Liang (Wang 2004, 5; 2007b, 26). Like Zhuangzi a native of Song (Fung 1952, 1:195), he appears in twelve stories in the text (chs. 1, 2, 5 plus 17-18, 24-27, 33). His function as the argumentative counterpart to Zhuangzi appears most clearly in a story where Zhuangzi passes his grave, saying, “Since you died, Master Hui, I have had no material to work on. There’s no one I can really talk to” (ch. 24; Ames 1998, 222; Graham 1969, 139-40; Chen 2010, 15). The overall role Huizi plays in the Zhuangzi is that of a “sympathetic sophist;” it is central to the structure of the book (Raphals 1998, 144; Graham 1989, 76-82; Wang 2004, 5-6; 2007b, 26-28). Huizi also appears in other texts of the time. The Lüshi chunqiu (18/5.8, 6.2-4) and the Huainanzi (12.3) show him as a maladroit dialectician, a man of clever arguments but without any sense of practical application. For example, at one point he composed a law code for his overlord which impressed all who read it, but when the question came up whether it would work, the answer was ‘no’ (Graham 1989, 76-77). Huizi tries to be virtuous but is not good enough, appears reasonable initially then reveals himself as impractical and excessive, showing an overall problem with perceiving reality (Raphals 1998, 146-47). Unlike this, in the Xunzi 荀子, Huizi is a heterodox philosopher, someone who propounds dangerous doctrines and neglects the essentials, has skills but no appropriate purpose, disregards good form and reality (1998, 148-49). The Hanfeizi and in the Hanshi waizhuan 韓詩外傳 (Outer Commentary to the Book of Songs) by Han Ying 韓嬰 (2nd c. BCE), finally, show him as a skillful analogist who starts impractical but ends plausible (Raphals 1998, 150-53). In terms of doctrine, Huizi, whose work only survives in fragments, is known for ten paradoxes. “The sun at noon is declining; the creature born is the creature dying. Heaven is as low as earth; mountains are level with marshes. The south has no limit and yet has a limit. Go to Yue today and arrive yesterday. The center of the world is north of Yan in the north, south of Yue in the south: you are there” (Fung 1952, 1:196-99; Schwartz 1985, 223-24; Graham 1969, 140; 1989, 78). He and Zhuangzi agree that the universe is one and that we all form part of it, but Huizi focuses on perceiving this intellectually, speculating about it with words and arguments, while Zhuangzi centers on experience and the realization this truth offers in terms of freedom, happiness, and transcendence (Fung 1952, 1:201).


The Greek Connection Another name sometimes given to the dialecticians in ancient China is “sophists,” borrowing a name from ancient Greece, as indeed there are several Greek schools of philosophy that bear resemblance to forms of thought in the Zhuangzi. This is the case despite the fact that Greek (and generally Western) thought for the most part rests strongly on the concept of pure Being (Ding an sich), which has no direct correspondence in China. Asking the question, “What is an object?” Aristotle (384-322 BCE) focuses on the notion of primary Being or original substance (ousia), a firm “whatness” that manifests in particular qualities and properties (Li 1993, 341-42). Chinese thinkers, in contrast, have no verb for “to be,” operating instead with “have” and “have not” (youwu 有無), which are complementary characteristics of the flow of existence, neither essential nor substantial or unchanging (Graham 1959; 1990e, 344-45). The Zhuangzi, moreover, sees all things as part of Dao and acknowledges the coexistence of potentiality and actuality in things, “the simultaneous coincidence of different ways of an entity’s being to its temporal and chronological dimension” (Li 1993, 352). Despite this fundamental dichotomy, there are a number of similarities between Chinese and Greek thought during the Axial Age. To begin, Greek philosophers faced a similar political situation—autonomous city states increasing in power and wars a common occurrence. Sophists or masters of learning, like Chinese shi, would work as traveling educators, training people not only in theoretical skills such as discursive thinking and logic but also in practical applications such as public speaking and the best way to live. As in China, knowledge of oneself and the world went closely together with care of the self and ways toward selfrealization (Foucault 2005). In addition, the growth of participatory democracy in Greece enhanced the need for informed citizens and the use of debate to flush out positions and ideals, so that many teachers became “fascinated by the mechanics of argument and delighted in paradoxes” (Graham 1989, 75). For the most part, they worked individually and did not belong to any particular school (Taylor and Li 2011, 1). A major figure known for sophism is Protagoras of Abdera (ca. 490410 BCE), whose thought is presented (and refuted) in the Theaetetus, the only one of Plato’s dialogues that discusses issues of logic and knowledge. The work asks how we know that we know, provides four definitions of knowledge, and rejects them all: science which only gives a description, the senses which only provide subjective perception, the intellect which offers nothing but an opinion, and logic which gives apparent reasons for opinions (Raphals 1994, 511; also Raphals 1996; Trowbridge 2004, 13-15). This leads to an overall position of skepticism, a form of Greek thought that has much in common with the Zhuangzi. Skepticism gener-


ally is the pervasive “doubt whether truth or happiness exist,” combined with the assertion of the fundamental “inability to know truth or happiness” (Wu 1982, 7). It appears in three dimensions: 1) the thesis that nothing can ever be known with certainty; 2) the recommendation that one should suspend judgment; and 3) the method of continuous questioning and inquiry (Ivanhoe 1993b, 641). Another distinction is between declarative and interrogative skepticism (Wong 2005, 99). In the latter mode, it was practiced by Socrates who would first refute the arguments of his opponent, then turn on his own. It also often involved humor, narratives, and irony—all found in the Zhuangzi, especially in chapter 2, which employs the skeptical method to show the uncertainty of ordinary perception and knowledge but with the goal of leading people to the inherent certainty of Dao (Raphals 1994, 503, 505). While skepticism as a method is certainly present in the Zhuangzi,1 its more formal development as a school in ancient Greece takes the teaching further to propose a state of profound equanimity in the certainty of unknowing. The school’s founder, Pyrrho of Elis (360-275 BCE), traveled to India in the army of Alexander the Great and there saw “naked philosophers” who enjoyed peace of mind because they had freed themselves completely from the need to pronounce anything either right or wrong. His disciple Timon moved to Athens and developed a formal school, whose major tenets have survived particularly in the work of Sextus Empiricus (160-210 CE), a Roman-Greek thinker who lived in Egypt (Kjellberg 1994, 112; 1996; Petersen 2000). Skepticism here is less concerned with pure argumentation than with learning how to live without beliefs (adoxatos) (Trowbridge 2006, 251; 2004). It works by counterbalancing each assumption or statement with opposing viewpoints (epoche), thus leading to the understanding that nothing can be firmly known and causing the indefinite suspension of judgment (ataraxia). The advanced skeptic accordingly still perceives the world and experiences various emotions, but the evaluations and added opinions are gone. This makes it possible to see all events as fleeting sensations and allows a detached attitude to life (Kjellberg 1994, 112-14; Trowbridge 2006, 250). While this may sound much like the free and easy wandering in the Zhuangzi, some scholars argue that Zhuangzi is not a skeptic since he disagrees fundamentally with the skeptical assumption that there is nothing to be known, no certainty anywhere (see Kjellberg and Ivanhoe 1996; Chinn 1997). Related questions concern the presence of perspectivism and relativism in the Zhuangzi, philosophical methods that are sometimes con1

Discussed in Chen 2005; Cheng 1977; Goodman 1985; Graham 2010, 7-8; Hansen 2010, 51; Harbsmeier 1993; Ivanhoe 1993b; Liu 2006, 154; Mair 2010; Norden 1996; Peterman 2008; Raphals 1992; Schwitzgebel 1996; Wong 2005; Yearley 2010.


flated or confused with skepticism. While skepticism centers on the proposition that we cannot ultimately know whether we really know, perspectivism allows the possibility of firm knowledge but argues that each individual being has its particular perspective that are equally valid, none being better, truer, or more valuable than another.2 Relativism, on the other hand, says that all perspectives are relative and eventually cancel each other out, so that there is no standard at all accessible to human understanding (Ivanhoe 1996; Radice 2001; Q. Chen 2012, 622). It is the most radical of all positions. Chad Hansen separates it into semantic and perspectival relativism, which focus on issues of language and viewpoints respectively (2010, 33-34, 45-47). Robert E. Allinson divides it into five kinds: hard, soft, neither-nor, both-and, and asymmetrical (1988a; 1989a, 111-26; 1989b). A hard relativist says that all values are as good as all other values and there is nothing stable whatsoever. The soft position notes that values are fundamentally relative, but some are also ethically good or wise and that it is possible to respond to events appropriately with intuition and awareness. The “neither-nor” position wakes to the realization that there is always some perspective or the other, and then aims for a state of internal quietude. The “both-and” position is paradoxical and cannot be maintained. The asymmetrical stand, finally, allows the coexistence of relativism in the world of opinions and the non-relative, intuited knowledge of the sage on a higher plane of being, where ignorance is transformed into knowledge: this is what Zhuangzi aims for, his “spiritual transformation” (Allinson 1989b, 22; see also Liu 2006, 158-61). A yet different dimension of Greek thought in relation to the Zhuangzi is the school of Stoicism as represented by the Greeks Zeno of Citium (ca. 334-262), Chrysippos of Soli (ca. 279-206), and Epictetus (55135 CE) as well as, more famously, by the Roman orator Cicero (107-43 BCE) and the thinker Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE) (Wong 2006, 208-09; Coleman 2002, 386, 388). Less interested in the issue of knowledge than the skeptics, stoics yet resemble them in that they refuse to attach intrinsic value to anything in the world and aim for a state of detachment and inner peace. However, their main venue, rather than argumentation and the consideration of perspectives, is the complete elimination of all passions and strong emotions in favor of a connection to inherent virtue. They favor the state of “resilience,” defined as the ability to keep the mind in equilibrium while experiencing feelings, and encourage their followers to act in accordance with rational thinking and while exercising prudent caution (Wong 2006, 211).

2 See Chen 2010, 124; Ziporyn 2003; Hansen 2003a; Connolly 2011, 487, 491; Huang 2008, 365; Lee 2011, 6; Liu 2006, 162-65.


Stoics, as much as early Daoists, emphasize naturalness and balance, living in harmony with nature. Suspicious of conventional morality, they seek a state of serenity and inner peace, quietude and moving with the flow. They equalize life and death, focusing on inner virtue rather than outer support; they live in humility and simplicity while fulfilling their role as nature intended (Coleman 2002, 388-92). The main difference to the Zhuangzi is that here the ideal way of life is more intuitive than rational and aims for perfect happiness and an almost ecstatic state in free and easy wandering.

Chapter Four Ordinary Thinking The main obstacle to attaining perfect happiness is ordinary thinking, the value judgments people make on the basis of sensory data and their assumption that they know things for certain. The Zhuangzi explains how this state came about in four stages that apply both to the evolution of human consciousness within the individual and its historical unfolding. The ideal, original state is one of “perfect knowledge” (zhizhi 至知), matching the level of Dao (Huang 2008, 366). People have “not yet begun to see beings as existent” (weishi youwu 未始有物) and rest, as Guo Xiang says, in a state of “complete merging” (huncheng 混成). Like newborns, at this point, they have no awareness of external things as separate and “relate to the world as if nothing had yet come into existence” (Coutinho 2004, 167). From here consciousness evolves to recognizing “beings” (wu 物). People perceive things as separate from themselves, yet they make no distinctions between them and do not attach value to one over the other. “There is more now than undifferentiated mush—there is some kind of plurality of differentiable things, but these things are not grouped into bounded regions” (2004, 166). From here, consciousness moves into the stage of “distinctions” or “boundaries” (feng 封), a word that has both political and geographical implications (Countinho 2004, 166). At this stage, “this and that” (shibi 是 彼) are clearly separate and people react to things with emotional attitudes, such as loving life and hating death. Only after this do they reach a point where they fix their world and make dichotomous general judgments, marking things as “right and wrong” (shifei 是非). At this point, “Dao is destroyed, and one-sided preferences dominate” (ch. 2; W 41; Kohn 2011, 26-27; Billeter 1998, 22; Chen 2010, 133; Wang 2004, 65; 2007d, 80-81; Yang 2007, 64-68). In other words, from a state of being one with everything, of flowing acceptance, we evolve to objectification, distinguishing between different things and learning to tell A from B but without evaluating them. Next we come to delimitation, an awareness things being different and 33


having a particular impact on our lives. Only after that do we move to judgment, attaching permanent, intellectually justifiable values to things and setting up a firm conception of how the world works. This evolution is part of the natural unfolding of consciousness in all human beings: We want explanations for why we behave as we do and for the ways the world around us functions. Even when our feeble explanations have little to do with reality. We’re storytelling creatures by nature, and we tell ourselves story after story until we come up with an explanation that we like and that sounds reasonable enough to believe. (Ariely 2012, 165)

It is also the result of the ingrained response of the physical organism to outside threats. Under extreme pressure, at the height of the flight-or-fight response, aka stress, a type of thinking kicks in that keeps people free from distractions and focused upon the perceived threat. “This type of thinking is self-centered, absolute, biased, black and white, dichotomous (win or lose; die or survive; right or wrong; good or bad; etc.), inflexible, mechanical, and automatic. . . It is called primal thinking” (Santee 2008, 99). Primal thinking, usually combined with shallow breathing and high adrenaline levels, perpetuates stress, leading to a permanent state of hyper-vigilance, hyper-arousal, anger and anxiety. “With everything people encounter, they become entangled; day after day, they use their minds in strife . . . sweating and laboring to the end of their days” (ch. 2; W 37, 38). The mental picture, moreover, they create of the world as difficult and threatening becomes rooted in their minds as real, and they navigate their lives within these limitations. This is the state of ordinary thinking Zhuangzi deplores—the extreme opposite of flowing acceptance and perfect happiness. The Zhuangzi presents these issues specifically in two chapters: Qiwulun 齊物論 (Making All Things Equal; ch. 2), also rendered “Equalizing Discourses on Things,”1 and Qiushui 秋水 (Autumn Floods; ch. 17). The former divides into twenty short sections and is the most abstract as well as the most frequently studied of all Zhuangzi chapters (Graham 1969, 150-59; 2000). The latter, in seven stories (L. Hansen 1972), presents a more mature systematization of the ideas expounded in ch. 2 (Graham 1969, 138). The text takes us on “a journey out beyond the bounded regions, from the real to the surreal, to the realm of the fantastic” (Coutinho 2004, 166). It guides its readers to reverse the four stages, first using cognitive exploration and a discussion of the functions of discourse to release the strictures of “right and wrong.” Next, it applies the methods of skepticism and an exploration of the nature of knowledge and lan1

For discussions of the title and the chapter as a wholfe, see Billeter 1998; Cao 1982; Chen 2004; Graham 1969; 1981, 48; Huang 2008; Shen 2007; Wang 2004, ch. 5; 2007d.


guage to loosen mental “boundaries.” From here, it uses relativism and a wider vision of universal integration to allow going back to the state where there are merely “beings.” And, finally, it encourages loss of self, oblivion, and no thinking to reach the state of “complete merging.” However, the process envisioned in the Zhuangzi is no mere return to infanthood or the mindless, instinctual life of an animal. Rather, it presents a higher evolution of consciousness, an extremely focused awareness, to a level that integrates the intellectual abilities and emotional maturity of an adult with the spontaneity, freshness, and wonder of a child. It is not merely the relinquishing of human faculties into a complete surrender to heaven, but the productive interaction of the humanly and the heavenly within, the full realization of all our potentials in complete freedom (Graham 2010, 8, 11; Møllgaard 2007, 60; Wong 2009, 571-72; Yang 2007, 81).

The Futility of Dispute The Zhuangzi goes back to a time of increasing rationality when, through the emergence of Mohism and other rivals of Confucianism, it became habitual to argue one’s case, define one’s terms, look to metaphysical problems, and ponder theoretical puzzles for their own sake (Billeter 1998, 20; Graham 2010, 4; Coutinho 2004, 154; Wang 2004, 6). A number of technical terms aside from “right and wrong” expressed this tendency, notably bian 辯 (distinction, disputation), liang 兩 (both sides), qu 取 (choose, prefer), sheng 勝 (win), lei 類 (be of the same kind), and ke 可 (admissible) (Graham 1969, 139). Each disputer presented his particular viewpoint—splitting the world according to his particular categories (1969, 144)—in the hope to amass enough evidence to convince the other that he was right and thus win the debate. Each would argue from a “lodged place” (Graham 1981, 25), a perspective deeply rooted in his personal context that represented his particular response to reality, utterly different from that of his opponent, yet equally artificially demarcated (Lai 2006, 367). The Zhuangzi sees beyond the arguments themselves to the underlying structure of dispute: Suppose you and I had an argument. If you have beaten me instead of my beating you, then are you necessarily right and I am necessarily wrong? . . . Is one of us always right and the other wrong? . . . Whom shall we get to decide what is right? (ch. 2; W 48; Chan 1963, 189; Huang 2008, 364; Radice 2001, 33)

That is to say, right and wrong are manmade superimpositions on reality that reflect people’s thinking but, since they cannot fully match reality, can never be determined with certainty or in permanence. The


more rigid and inflexible they get—in the chengxin 成心 or “fixed mind”2—the more they result in blind dogmatism and come to derange the world (Wu 1991, 38). According to the Zhuangzi, disputes about reality cannot be settled by referring to facts; the method of checking theory against reality presupposes a reality that is stable and uniform for all; and even if we assume such a stable reality, each disputer’s characterization of it is subjective and arbitrary (Lai 2006, 368; Chen 2010, 88-89). Or, as Chad Hansen formulates it, “Zhuangzi never thought there could be a neutral test of success. What works depends on the evaluative standards internal to one’s dao” (1992, 275). The choice of criteria is always biased, colored by difference, function, or preference (ch. 17; W 179-80). Each person—each living being even—has its own unique perspective, and none is more right than another (2006, 169). As “heaven blows on the myriad things in a different way, so that each can be itself” (W 37), people are terrified when they are up in a tree but monkeys love it; people praise the beauty of Lady Li but “fish dive to the bottom of the stream” in fright (ch. 2; W 45-46). The River God cannot fully appreciate the vastness of the Eastern Sea, the frog in the well cannot have the same perspective as the giant turtle (ch. 17; Billeter 2008, 12; Chen 2010, 90-92; Ivanhoe 1993b, 645; L. Hansen 1972, 118-19; Lai 2006, 369). On the other hand, each being has its own unique place in the greater scheme of things and each perspective has an inherent right to be there. “Things all have that which is so; they all have that which is acceptable” (ch. 2; W 40). There is no point of one being envious of another or trying to argue about their way of being: the Kui has only one foot, the millipede has hundreds; the snake slithers, the wind blows—they all do what they do without knowing how or why (ch. 17; W 183). “We cannot marshal arguments that should convince all others,” but there is essentially nothing wrong with our way of seeing and doing things (Wong 2005, 93; Hansen 2003a, 153). Not only each being but each situation comes with its own particular perspective, as documented in the dialogue about the happiness of fish. One day, Zhuangzi was strolling beside the river with Huizi. Huizi, a man of erudition, was fond of arguing. They were just crossing a bridge when Zhuangzi said, “The fish have come up to the surface and are swimming about at their leisure. That is the happiness of fish.” Huizi countered, “You are not a fish. How can you tell when a fish is happy?”—”You are not me,” said Zhuangzi. “How do you know that I can’t tell when a fish is happy?” 2 Discussed in Billeter 1998, 19; Chen 2010, 114; Chong 2011; Cua 2002, 142; Hansen 1992, 276; Lee 2011, 12; Ling 2012, 98; Raphals 1992, 89; Wang 2004, 63; 2007d, 74.

ORDINARY THINKING / 37 “I am not you,” said Huizi triumphantly. “So of course I cannot tell about you. In the same way, you are not a fish. So you cannot tell a fish’s feelings. Well, is my logic not unanswerable?” “Wait, let us go back to the root of the argument,” said Zhuangzi. “When you asked me how I knew the happiness of fish, you admitted that you knew already whether I knew or not. I knew, on the bridge, that the fish were happy.” (ch. 17; W 189)3

The story makes two points, already recognized in Guo Xiang’s commentary (Hoffmann 1994, 1099). First, fish have their own way of being in the world. They may appear to be frolicking happily about in the water, but a human being can only read his or her own feelings into their behavior and never really know what they feel or perceive. At the same time, since both Zhuangzi and the fish are in a state of you, “complete absorption in their natural environment,” there is some sort of resonance—the spontaneous recognition from the way the fins float of “whether the fish is in good fettle or lesser humor, or would rather be left completely alone”(Hoffmann 1994, 1102). “Both kinds of happiness are entirely different and separate, but they are both equally in perfect accord with Dao” (Moeller 2004a, 63, 65). Second, each statement is unique to its own situation and speaker. All “knowledge is always proximate as the condition of an experience”— expressed here in the word an 安, which means both “how” and “where” (Graham 1981, 123; Ames 1998, 220; Hoffmann 1994, 1099; Teng 2006, 40). In addition, the story shows the process of overcoming the limitations of right-wrong thinking. While Huizi represents the way a dialectician would argue, from a single perspective that elevates human thinking to the highest standard, Zhuangzi first responds in the same manner, and then exposes his logical contradictions and shows how one can be open to multiple, ever shifting viewpoints (Chang 1963, 138; Hansen 2003b, 148). Beyond this, the tale can also be read as a metaphor, where fish stand for words and ideas and the dialogue is about the nature of communication and the difficulty of genuinely and deeply connecting to others. As “most people hear the words but do not get the idea,” life inevitably remains a “continuous circuit of misunderstandings” that always leads back to the starting point. The story thus makes the case of a different sort of language, where the subject-object division is overcome and speech matches life in its “total fluidity,” no longer “of or about but out of or from reality” (Hoffmann 1994, 1111-13).


The story is told and discussed in Allinson 1989a, 140; Birrell 2000, 52; Chang 1963, 138; Chen 2005, 497; Chen 2010, 12-13; Goh 2011, 123; Hoffmann 1994; Wong 2009, 576; Yang 2007, 177; Yukawa 2010, 60.


Overcoming Boundaries The appreciation of everyone’s uniqueness, the situational conditioning of judgment and language, then, allows a move toward a more subtle understanding of perception in terms of “boundaries,” recognizing that all categories are mutually interdependent (Hara 1993, 89; Billeter 1998, 2324). Everything has its “that,” everything has its “this.” From the point of view of “that” you cannot see it, but through understanding you can know it. So I say, “that” comes out of “this” and “this” depends on “that—which is to say that “this” and “that” give birth to each other. (ch. 2; W 39)

This leads to the conscious questioning of knowledge in a skeptical mode, asking, “How do I know that I know?” (ch. 2; W 45); and “How do I know that loving life is not a delusion? How do I know that in hating death I am not like a man who, having left home in his youth, has forgotten the way back?” (W 47; Graham 1969, 145; 2010, 7; Moeller 2004a, 85; Peerenboom 1993, 202). Knowledge (zhi 知) is the subjective power of intellectually grasping and consciously processing outside reality, reaching understanding through recognition and representation (Zhang 2002, 423-24), in the process, superimposing a “second coding” on it (Moeller 2003, 119). It is a function of the mind that creates a “limited and often incorrect grasp of the world” (Ivanhoe 1996, 199; 1993b, 648; Wong 2005, 95). To loosen the strictures of conceptual knowledge, the Zhuangzi takes its logic to an extreme. If we assume there is a beginning of things, there must be a “not yet beginning,” which in turn must have its own stage of “not yet beginning”—until the statement becomes meaningless (W 43; Raphals 1992, 90). Another way of getting at conceptual knowledge is the realization that it is closely tied to language or words (yan 言), which on the purely experiential level constitute a noise like the twittering of birds. Yet, “words are not just wind; they have something to say” (ch. 2; W 39)— even worse, by giving specific definition to “this” and “that,” they take on a life and power of their own. “The one and what I said about it make two, and two and the original one make three” (W 43). Using language to alert readers to the inherently unsatisfactory nature of knowledge, the Zhuangzi formulates double questions—”Do people say something? Or do they say nothing?” (W 39); “Does the sage still have a “this” and “that”? Or does he in fact no longer have a “this” and “that”? (W 40) (Coutinho 2004, 160; Lin 2012, 654). It also presents cases where reality is clearly independent of any words or structures imposed on it, such as in the story of the monkey trainer handing out nuts. When he gives them “three in the morning and


four at night,” they erupt in fury; when he gives them “four in the morning and three at night,” they are delighted (W 41; Chen 2010, 115; Kupperman 1989, 312; Peerenboom 1993, 209; Radice 2001, 35). The keeper here sees “that an accidental difference does not affect the substance of the arrangement,” never even trying to get the monkeys to be “more reasonable” (Merton 1969, 32). He realizes that our emotional reaction to the events of life creates boundaries that lead to judgment—to loving life and hating death, seeing wealth as good and poverty as bad, delighting in life in China and despairing when abducted into the border countries (W 47). Confucius’s equanimity when surrounded by potentially hostile troops provides a positive example: use knowledge “to understand that hardship is a matter of destiny, that success is a matter of the times, and that it is best to face difficulty without fear” (ch. 17; W 185). Becoming increasingly conscious of the tendency to superimpose boundaries on reality eventually leads to a meta-perspective and opens the way to being “flexible, tolerant, and aware of the infinite range of possible ways of responding to life” (Hansen 1992, 284; Wong 2005, 92). It means getting away from distinctions in terms of good and bad, beneficial and harmful, to realize that, trapped by classifications and categories, “we no longer actually perceive the rain but are annoyed that the weather is so terrible” (Moeller 2003, 120). In other words, the Zhuangzi advocates “knowledge abstinence,” a state of unknowing that appears “idiotic”—reflecting the passage in Daode jing 20, which says: “Common folk are bright and discerning; I alone am dull, dull” (Moeller 2003, 118). Letting go of conceptual and linguistic boundaries allows us to shift to a fresher, clearer way of seeing, moving from “intensional” to “extensional” cognition. That is to say, instead of having an internal matrix of what reality should look like and fitting objects and situations into it, we allow life to come to us from the outside and appreciate it for what it is (Dretske 1969, 55-56). Doing so, we can reach a playful and easy state characterized by a “continuous willingness to be surprised, an openness to and even enjoyment of being jolted” (Wong 2005, 98).

Making All Things Equal Letting go of knowledge and the constriction of language next leads to the “equalization” of all things, a state where we recognize “beings” as existent but do not value one over the other, a way of seeing life with balance and equilibrium (Chinn 1998; Stevenson 2006, 301). The word qi 齊, to equalize, shows this graphically. It originally indicates “ears of grain in the field waving in the sun.” Arranged in order and all responding to one another, they appear identical in shape and color yet are each unique and different (Wu 1991, 37). “Equalize” thus means to see the


greater order of things while appreciating each being, thing, and event in its own right and purposely refraining from adding classifications and judgments (Wang 2004, 66; 2007d, 82). Thus, qualifications of size, age, rank, and others no longer apply. As the text has it, “There is nothing in the world bigger than the tip of a hair, and Mount Tai is tiny; no one lives longer than a dead child, and [long-lived] Pengzu dies young” (ch. 2; W 43; Raphals 1992, 91). Beyond that, the most powerful demonstration of the equalization of things is the butterfly dream: Once Zhuang Zhou dreamt he was a butterfly, flitting and fluttering about like butterflies do. He had a wonderful sense of pleasure and felt greatly alive. He had no idea that he was Zhou. Suddenly he woke up and could clearly sense that he was Zhou. But he did not know whether he was Zhou who had just dreamed that he was a butterfly or whether he was in reality a butterfly who was now dreaming that it was Zhou. Still, Zhou and the butterfly have to be somehow separate—or do they? This is what we call the changing of things. (ch. 2; W 49; Kohn 2011, 75)

Moving through different modes of reality—human and animal, dreaming and waking—Zhuang Zhou makes them all equal. He does not know, he does not need to know, what is what but accepts all states as mere temporary phases, changes or transformations (hua 化) of the universal flow of life, being fully present and delighting playfully in all.4 Ironically, the butterfly dream which demonstrates the futility of all classifying and knowing is the most frequently discussed and analyzed passage of the Zhuangzi (e.g., Du 2007; Wang 2012). Some read it straightforward, as a way of questioning what is real and what is illusion (Goldin 2003, 237), as an “illustration of the relativity of all knowledge” (Graham 1969, 149; Hara 1993, 90; Raphals 1992, 87), or as a demonstration of “the fluidity of conceptual categories” (Roth 2003, 29). Others read it as a pointer to the “perpetual renewal at the core of the life process” (Buber in Herman 1996, 143), or as a “symbol of freedom and spontaneity” (Sellmann 1998, 164; Bao 2010, 201). Yet others find in it an illustration of the “relationship between soul and surface body, existence and nonexistence” (Chen 2005, 493), the “unhinging of human subjective consciousness, . . . the anthropomorphic anxiety of no longer knowing who or what one is” (Goh 2011, 112), or “the multiplicity of reality as modes of consciousness” (Saso 2010, 142). Along these lines, Chad Hansen notes, “Zhuangzi suggests that the distinction between dreaming and waking, real and imaginary is itself a part 4

This position is expressed in Chen 2010, 28; Elvin 1985, 166; Kupperman 1989, 314; Lee 2011, 11-12; Ming 2012, 500; Olson 2013, 257; Peterson 2000, 111; Raphals 1992, 93.


of a system of arbitrary conventional ways of discriminating” (2010, 52). Yet others expand the story and read it as a description of what oneness with Dao is like (Zhang 1981), a demonstration of mystical union or Zenlike awakening (Thiel 1970), a liberation from the illusion of a permanent self in favor of an interfusion of being and nonbeing (Gaskins 1997, 115), and illustration of how the flexible mind works in the face of the underlying oneness of all things (Chong 2006, 379-81). Moving further away from the story itself, some find in it a “rhetorical device against Confucians and Mohists,” seeing the different states of the dreamer as a metaphor for “philosophical views that come and go” (Lee 2007, 197; 2014, ch. 2). A yet different reading links it to other dream stories in the text: King Wu who invents a dream for political purposes (ch. 21; W 229); Zhuangzi who has a dream conversation with a skull to learn about the joy of the dead (ch. 18; W 193); Carpenter Shi who dreams of a tree telling him about uselessness (ch. 4; W 64). All these, like the dreams used in Jungian psychotherapy (Jung 1966), contain a valid and important message, with authority and relevance to real life (Skogeman 1986, 79-80). Read from this perspective, moreover, the butterfly dream becomes a sign of “man discovering that he had an inner soul and beginning to separate the outer and inner world” (1986, 84). Just as the butterfly symbolizes the true self as it flits about, free from the boundaries of the ego, Zhuang Zhou in the dream realizes his true nature and reintegrates on a higher psychic level (1986, 88; also Li 2012, 511-13). The concept of identity and self-realization generally looms large in the dream’s exegesis. One interpretation sees the butterfly as the inherent human potential to experience different states and the waking dreamer as the ability of self-doubt and critical self-reflection, thereby confirming personal identity and selfhood (Han 2009; 2010). Another reading points out that the butterfly is an animal that needs very little and is easy on the environment, completely free from being utilized or devoured—a symbol of the ideal way of being in the world (Luo 2012, 570). Yet another understands the changing of the states as a reference to shamanic trance while yet indicating our ultimate inability to experience anything but our own being in the world (Lee 2007, 193, referring to Nagel 1979) The complex interaction of different mental states and their importance for identity form the focus of another interpretation that stresses the “radical interrelation among identities and statuses” (Wu 1991, 43). While each dream is a world unto itself, the selfsame situation can be either of Zhuang Zhou or the butterfly, depending on which dream one wakes up from. However, even awakening is but a change of venue, the entrance to yet another dream, so that ultimately all forms of existence are questionable and potentially illusory, and the dreamer remains involved in “an endless change-over of dream worlds” (1991, 44-


45). Fully realizing the continuous flow of all mental and physical states, one can transcend these worlds. “Awakened to an ever-present possibility of changing back and forth between numerous different worlds, one eliminates all fear of change and fear of death and opens to a continuous journey into new entities” (Wu 1990, 381; Chen 2010, 29; Zheng 2012, 646; 2014). On the level of practical living, moreover, this means that we awaken to “living two lives: dream and awake, in this world and not of it, true self and public. Everything takes on fascinating strangeness (awe and wonder). Simple and mundane is now a spectacular mirror of the heavenly reservoir of existence” (Wu 1982, 375; see also Crandell 2010, 106). A yet different dimension of the butterfly dream emerges when it is linked with another passage in chapter 2: You dream of enjoying a fun party and wake up crying the next morning. You dream of crying sorry tears and wake up to go off hunting. While you dream, you have no idea that you are dreaming—you may even be trying to interpret your dream while you are dreaming. It is only after you have woken up that you know it was actually a dream. In the same way, there may well be a great awakening, after which we shall know that life is actually a great dream. (ch. 2; W 47; Kohn 2011, 81)

Seen in this context, the butterfly emerges as a symbol of metamorphosis and transformation across species boundaries, the shedding of old skin, analogous to the process of self-transformation toward a higher level of conscious awareness (Allinson 1989a, 71, 75, 81; 2009, 214; Lo 1999, 160). This is strengthened by rewriting the original passage to have the section about waking up third instead of second, placing the sentence, “Suddenly he woke up and could clearly sense that he was Zhou,” after the doubt of identity, and connecting the entire episode with the other dream passage (Allinson 1988b; 1989a, 82). Certain that he is Zhuang Zhou in an ever-changing universe, the dreamer is awakened from selfignorance and gains meta-knowledge, just as the related passage allows the possibility of a great awakening from all life (Allinson 1989a, 104). Other scholars tend to be more hesitant about rewriting the original, however much it may have been tinkered with by early editors, and prefer a reading that focuses more on external (ontological) rather than internal (spiritual) transformation (Lee 2007; Lusthaus 2003, 169; Weed 2011, 49). The various dream stories and discussions in the Zhuangzi accordingly are seen as illustrations of the ongoing flow of life in different modes and shapes while serving to criticize the confidence placed in subjective judgments. “What is rejected is not knowledge as such but the idea that we can have knowledge by making distinctions” (Yang 2005, 260).


The most illuminating reading of the story is by Hans-Georg Moeller, who compares the Western-inspired translation by Herbert Giles (1889, 47) with the Daoist interpretation by Guo Xiang, in the process pointing out some typical fallacies of Western readers. “Giles’s rendering keeps the original surface of the story alive, but completely converts the philosophical content into motifs of the Western philosophical tradition” (Moeller 2004a, 47). To begin, he renders the story in the first person and translates hua as “metempsychosis,” implying a Western understanding of self, soul, and transmigration. Guo Xiang, on the other hand, sees only a continuous unfolding of changes and transformations. According to Giles, Zhuang Zhou remembers his dream, while Guo Xiang has him forget—instead of a continuous “I” that moves through the different stages, there are only phases of existence that are all “equally authentic or real” (Moeller 2004a, 44, 48; 1999, 440). “The sharply distinguished segments of experience constitute a continuous and perfectly connected whole just because they have nothing in common with each other” (Moeller 1999, 443). In addition, the Western thinker focuses on doubt, Zhuang Zhou’s uncertainty of not knowing, where the Daoist philosopher points to being “fully and completely” present in any given moment, thus feeling no need to know or any form of existential uncertainty. Giles further translates fen 分, separate or distinct, as “barrier,” implying the need to transcend or go beyond. In the Daoist view, on the contrary, “it is not the crossing of boundaries that gives rise to ‘true’ reality, but rather the affirmation and acceptance of them” (Moeller 2004a, 46, 50). By the same token, Giles understands Zhuangzi’s awakening as seeing the unreality of his dreams, unmasking worldly existence as mere appearance, while Guo Xiang finds all experiences and phases of life equally real ( Moeller 2004a, 47, 51). “Whatever is is just what it is and nothing but what it is” (1999, 444). The core motif of the story is the Daoist teaching of change from one existential state into another, as exemplified also in the Huainanzi parable of Duke Niuai transforming into a tiger (2.2; Major et al. 2010, 87), as which he promptly devours his older brother (Moeller 2004a, 52). The key is to be fully present in whatever state one is, forget about all others, and completely accept reality. There is no continuous substance that moves between phases of life, all stages of existence are real, and one can be just one thing at any given time: dreams are an equally valid form of living, “being dead is just as authentic as being alive” (1999, 440, 442). The story illustrates the philosophy of presence (1999, 444), which precludes any form of reflection, memory, doubt, or conscious classification, anything less than the full equalization of all things.


Universal Integration Having made all things equal, the person is ready to move into the state of “complete merging” with the greater universe, become a “man of farreaching vision” (W 41) who embraces all life and, at one with pure spirit, flows along with Dao (G. Chen 2012, 85). Chapter 2 variously describes this state, beginning with Ziqi of South Wall having “lost himself” in a trance state where the “body is like a withered tree and the mind like dead ashes (W 36). Having relinquished a personal, one-sided hold on things, he is open to the “piping of heaven,” allowing the energies of the universe to flow through him and carry him along (W 37; Wang 2004, 62; 2007d, 74), throwing open everything to the light (W 40). A sage, perfected, or perfect man, he “rides the clouds and the mist, straddles the sun and the moon, and wanders beyond the four seas. Life and death have no effect on him” (W 46; Chen 2010, 42-43). In all this oneness, however, the ideal person is not brainless or mindless, but has developed a Dao-based vision of life. As describe in chapter 17, he appreciates different ways of looking at reality: from the point of view of differences, function, and preference. Each offers a conventional view, such as seeing things as big and small, useful and useless, or right and wrong while yet opening a higher level of seeing: even a thing conventionally labeled “small” can be huge; what ordinary people consider useful is still its own thing and thus intrinsically useless; everything can be wrong when looked at in a certain way (ch. 17; W 179-80). In addition, the text categorically states: “Measure is without limit; time is without end; allotment is without constancy; and beginning and end are without cause” (W 177; L. Hansen 1972, 125-27). The text postulates that “one of great knowledge,” who has fully realized that it is impossible to know (Lusthaus 2003, 180), should act in accordance with four realizations. 1) Observing far and near, he finds that there is no limitation to existence and no point to evaluate or classify anything. 2) Witnessing past and present, he sees that there is no stopping of time and thus no point in feeling sorry about the past or trying to hang on to the present. 3) Examining full and empty, he understands that there is no control over what happens in life and strong emotions are just so much wasted energy. 4) Comprehending the flow of existence, he accepts that there is no great universal reason for being on the planet so that all interpretations and reactions to life and death are ultimately futile (Chen 2010, 34-35; Kohn 2011, 25-26; Lusthaus 2003, 176-77; Yearley 2010, 126). These four show what the world looks like from the “zeroperspective” of the sage, enhancing the importance of being fully present at any given moment (Moeller 2004, 100-01). They offer a blatant reminder of what we cannot do: make time stop, predict our destiny, or make sense of reality. Instead of trying to come up with fixed rules and


guidelines on how to live life—like Confucians and Mohists—”Zhuangzi here presents a way to figure out what to do in harmony with the fact that there are no immutable rules” (Lusthaus 2003, 175). Instead of depicting the person of great knowledge as a learned or erudite thinker who analyzes and divides reality, he shows one how one can “get ethical bearings because of uncertainty,” have “insight in life’s uncertainties without denying, suppressing, or obscuring them,” “how to react with equanimity to whatever life throws at one” (2003, 180, 178). To get to this point, the ideal person uses his intellectual faculties, continuously moving away from the particular and toward the cosmic: he observes (guan 觀), looking at things from his unique perspective and understanding what his particular viewpoint is; he witnesses (zheng 證), watching the flow of reality from a detached position; he examines (cha 察), detecting relations between things and seeing hidden strands of connections; and he comprehends (ming 明), opening himself to the full clarity and brightness of totalizing knowledge. In other words, he “takes a view on things, watches what happens, examines the results, and arrives at complete comprehension” (Lusthaus 2003, 180). This involves both the ability to appreciate alternate standpoints and to see the bigger picture, looking at the world from the perspective of Dao, bringing the vastness of heaven into the limited world of humanity. It also involves the reversal of ordinary thinking: overcoming attachments to personal viewpoints, loosening emotional reactions to events, releasing projected values and conditioned reflexes, and erasing oppositional extremism (2003, 183-84). The result is a state of inner peace, a balanced way of being, and an openness to all.

Chapter Five The Social Setting The majority of dialogues in the Zhuangzi are set at the court of a local ruler or the place of a major master, placing the text into an upper-class setting in late Zhou-dynasty China. After gaining control over the empire in 1122 BCE, the Zhou kings (wang 王) greatly expanded their rule, appointing local warlords as dukes (gong 公) over outlaying areas. Following the feudal model, they in turn bestowed land and the title “marquis” (hou 侯) on certain trusted followers. As the central power weakened, the dukes made themselves increasingly independent, so that by the 5th century BCE seven major states were fighting over power and territory. These states were Qin 秦 in the west (modern Shaanxi, the state that eventually would unify the country and bring forth the first emperor [di 帝]), Yan 燕 in the north (Hebei), Qi 齊 (including Lu 魯) in the east (Shandong), and Chu 楚 in the south (Jiangsu). In addition, there were Ba-Shu 巴蜀 in the southwest (Sichuan), Yue 越 in the southeast (Zhejiang), and Jin 晉 in the center (Henan). In 453, the latter divided in the three lesser states of Han 韓, Zhao 趙, and Wei 魏 (later also known as Liang 梁). Beginning with Chu in the 5th century, moreover, most local lords appropriated the title “king,” formally declaring their independence from the Zhou (Ebrey et al. 2006; Loewe and Shaughnessy 1999). Local rulers had absolute power in their enclave, a power they often abused in tyranny (ch. 4; Wang 2004, 30; 2007c, 46). Still, they needed help, and their courts typically consisted of several branches and layers— civil and military, educated and practical—employing not only family members but also local scribes, managers, and craftsmen. While kinship ties, expressed in the cult of joint ancestors, formed the basis of all decisions and social and political actions in the early Zhou, the increase in inter-state wars and inter-lineage conflicts led to the replacement of the old system of clan honor with a struggle for dominance through armed force (Lewis 1990, 43). No longer related to one’s partners-in-arms by ties of kinship, Zhou warriors had to develop new modes of connection and documentation of commitment. A key solution to the problem was the 46


blood covenant (meng 盟), sealed “through the collective drinking of blood of a sacrificial victim” and activated in a set of formal rites (Lewis 1990, 44; Graziani 2006, 89). Just as personal ties replaced family solidarity in the military, so outside advisers—however dangerous the political game—applied to serve in civil administration and policy making. Gradually a merit-based bureaucracy began to take over the role of the family council. At the same time, as more powerful states conquered lesser ones, local knights (shi 士) became masterless and went out to find new roles (Graham 1989, 2). Developing strong opinions on how the world should be run, they found different venues and expressions: some created what we now call philosophical schools; others found employment with local rulers; yet others eschewed social involvement completely (see Yü 1987). The Zhuangzi lists five different kinds of such knights, each with a different area of focus and main location of activity (Chen 2010, 77-78). Those at court, for example, concern themselves with the ordering of the state, turning into “bringers of accomplishments and annexers of territory.” Those who run their own schools work mainly on moral training, “discoursing on benevolence and righteousness,” on “being modest and deferential.” Then again there are retirees who focus on long life, “huffing and puffing” in various kinds of breathing and physical exercises. The scholars of “rivers and seas” are “unhurried idlers” whose main goal in life is nonaction, while—last but not least—those living in the mountains are hermits “who condemn the world:” “sullen and critical, indignation is their whole concern” (ch. 15; W 167). In terms of local lords, the text mentions a number of rulers, mostly from an earlier period, e.g., King Zhuang of Chu (d. 591 BCE), Duke Ai of Lu (494-468), Duke Huan of Qi (d. 643), and Marquis Wen of Wei (d. 396). Closer to Zhuangzi’s own life time, the book also has a story that features Marquis Wu of Wei (d. 370), the father of King Hui of Liang (r. 370-319), who employed Huizi as his prime minister and had various interactions with Mencius (ch 24). Many of the well-known philosophers and royal advisers of the Warring States play a role in the book, including Confucius, Lao Dan (Laozi), and Huizi, plus Guan Zhong 管仲 (c. 720-645), prime minister and major reformer under Duke Huan of Qi and later associated with the book Guanzi (Rickett 1985, 1:8-9). Each of these, moreover, had various disciples who appear in the Zhuangzi, in dialogue either with the ruler or their master. Thus, Confucius is often accompanied and questioned by one of four disciples: Yan Hui, Yan Yuan, Zigong, and Zilu. Lao Dan is in conversation not only with Confucius but with Liezi, Cui Ju, Tian Zifang, Nanrong Chu, Gengsang Chu, Song Rongzi, and others (Wang 2004, 7-8; 2007b, 29-30). A yet different lineage, placed back into more mythological times, runs from Piyi through Wang Ni and Ni Que to Xu You and the sage ruler Yao (chs. 2, 13).


The Yellow Emperor (Huangdi 黃帝) learns from Guangchengzi 廣成子 (ch. 11) and Cheng of North Gate (ch. 14), while Ziqi of South Wall is in conversation with Yancheng Ziyou (ch. 2) and Shun of East Wall speaks with Tian Zifang (ch. 21). Masters are commonly depicted as superior and aloof, inscrutable and mysterious, while disciples ask questions, get reprimanded for their shortcomings, then receive instructions (Defoort 2012, 465-69; Roth 1997b, 45-46). Their methods, moreover, as reflected in certain key dialogues of the text,1 bear a close resemblance to the transformative techniques used by master hypnotist Milton Erickson. Like Zhuangzi, he never speaks of theory or technique but tells stories to distract his listeners’ attention, then uses “operative imagination” to transport them to a different dimension of thinking and thereby effects a change in the mode of consciousness. He uses the rhetorical question, “Have you never heard of . . .,” implying that the topic is familiar and nonthreatening. He matches his breathing rhythm with that of his listeners to create “mental entrainment,” invites them to open their eyes to new perspectives, and activates metaphors and images that involve the right rather than the left brain and thus ease access to the subconscious (Billeter 2008, 17-18). Using these elementary hypnotic techniques—hypnotic in a sense of shifting consciousness to the experiential level and slowing brain waves to alpha rhythm—masters in the Zhuangzi as much as the text itself allow their disciples or readers to relax, cause “their intention to melt away,” then transform their awareness and open new ways of thinking for greater personal fulfillment (Billeter 2008, 22-26). The Zhuangzi with its varied sets of characters, therefore, vividly reflects the culture of intellectual debate and aristocratic policy-making that flourished in the Warring States period (479-221 BCE), possibly mirroring life at the Jixia 稷下 Academy in the Qi capital of Linzi 臨淄, which brought forth various syncretist thinkers and has also been linked with Zhuangzi himself. However, the text also goes beyond this level of society to include more marginal figures and members of lower classes: hermits and immortals, ritual specialists, craftsmen, and outcasts.

1 Billeter (2008, 11-41) examines seven: Gongsun Long speaking with Mou of Wei, including the “Frog in the Well” parable (ch. 17); Xu Wugui with Wu of Wei, including how to judge dogs (ch. 24); Nanrong Chu and Laozi on how to meditate (ch. 23); Tian Zifang and Wen of Wei about the qualities of a superior master (ch. 21); Liezi and Bohun Wuren on the energetic radiance of the sage (ch. 32); the Gourd Master and the shaman on controlling one’s physical expression of qi (ch. 7); and Zhuangzi in the Diaoling park observing the food-chain of life (ch. 20).


Hermits and Immortals Hermits in ancient China were aristocrats who refused official positions and left society to pursue a life of personal integrity, moral sophistication, and oneness with cosmic principles (Vervoorn 1984, 250). Some retired to their landed estates, favoring privacy over public service; they despaired of the greed and avarice of society and protected their inner nature against outside demands (Xu 2011, 452). Others removed themselves from society because it forced them into moral compromise, but might come back to serve if and when the time was right (Berkowitz 1989, 44-48; 2010, 298). Yet others left for the mountains, where wild animals and indigenous tribes roamed, seeking to follow simpler, even animal ways of life (Goh 2011, 118). They were considered moral heroes and sage figures in the Confucian tradition (Vervoorn 1990, 27). Zhuangzi himself was a recluse of sorts, several stories attesting to his refusal to serve in office. Others include renowned imperial advisers—like Yao’s teacher Xu You 許由—who made great policy because of their selfless detachment but had to be prized away from their secluded and joyful tilling of the soil by the ruler himself, who usually promised them humility and moral goodness since monetary incentives and grants of high rank had no effect (Li 1962; Bauer 1985; Ling 2012, 161). Another figure of this kind is Bocheng Zigao, a noble under Yao who “relinquished his title and took up farming” when Shun passed the empire to Yu. Questioned by the new ruler, he explains that since the lord has instituted rewards and punishments, “from now on virtue will decay and penalties will prevail;” he wants no part of this (ch. 12; W 131). Many of these reclusive advisers emerge as immortals in the later Daoist tradition, with first biographies in the Han-dynasty Liexian zhuan 列仙傳 (Immortals’ Biographies, DZ 294). They include Lü Shang 呂尚, Wu Guang 務光, Fan Li 范蠡, and Dongfang Shuo 東方朔 (Kaltenmark 1953, 71, 78, 102, 137). Laozi, Yin Xi, and Juanzi 涓子, moreover, all wrote books to aid government but stayed in seclusion (1953, 60, 65, 68). A more radical brand of hermits appears in the paragons of extraordinary conduct who lived only for their own values and never even considered to serve (Berkowitz 1989, 79). Best known among these are Boyi 伯夷 and Shuqi 叔齊, also mentioned in the Zhuangzi (ch. 6). Two brothers, they left for the mountains to preserve the principles of propriety because their father wanted the younger son to inherit his fief. When the Zhou dynasty came to power, they stayed in seclusion, unable to stomach King Wu’s unfilial conduct and King Wen’s traitorous behavior. Rather than give in to moral depravity, they starved themselves to death (Vervoorn 1983; 1984, 266; 1990, 35-37; Berkowitz 1989, 83; Graham 1990b, 86-90; Wang 2004, 172; 2007c, 40).


Other hermits, however, were more fortunate and blossomed in the clean living of the mountains. Thus Shan Bao “lived among the cliffs, drank only water, and didn’t go after gain like other people. He went along like that for seventy years and still had the complexion of a young child” (ch. 19; W 201). Their enhanced health and youthful vigor connected the hermits with ascetics who chose a life outside of society for personal rather than moral reasons, including longevity masters along the lines of the long-lived Pengzu 彭祖: they would “huff and puff, exhale and inhale, blow out the old and draw in the new, do the bear-hang and the bird-stretch, and were interested only in long life” (ch. 15; Graham 1981, 265). The key to the ideal of the hermit in ancient China was, therefore, his uprightness—the personality strength that made him put his own integrity, health, and peace of mind before the demands of politics and society. The Zhuangzi expands this to include the idea of total freedom and independence, of being beyond harm and able to wander wherever one pleased, freely and joyfully (Vervoorn 1984, 280; Berkowitz 1989, 101-03). This state could be realized either in the mountains or in society, the emphasis being on the mental detachment that would ensure an inner invulnerability to outer events and demands. This inner openness was then associated with freedom from bodily harm and decay and linked with longevity and meditative practices to form the ideal of immortality (Berkowitz 1989, 107; 2010; see also Yü 1964, 87-88; Wen 1956, 159). The earliest passage describing immortals in Chinese literature is in the Zhuangzi. The “spirit man” on Mount Gushe has “skin like ice or snow, and is gentle and shy like a young girl. He does not eat the five grains but sucks the wind, drinks the dew, climbs up on the clouds and mist, rides an flying dragon, and wanders beyond the four seas” (ch. 1; W 33). Immortals like hermits live in the wilderness, make themselves garments of leaves or deer skins, fast by living on pure qi or eat raw food they find in the woods (Kaltenmark 1953; Eskildsen 1998, 20-21). The very word for immortal, xian 仙, consists of a graph that shows a man next to a mountain. It associates them with the untamed and threatening parts of the natural world that civilized men stayed away from but which also offered refuge to people under political or military pressure (Berkowitz 1989, 123-28). Using various longevity and selfcultivation techniques—breathing techniques, diet control, healing exercises, sexual hygiene, absorption of solar energies, and meditations (see Engelhardt 2000; Kohn 2012)—immortals attain extended old age and strong vigor, transform the body into vital energy, and eventually leave for far-off paradises, such as Mount Kunlun 崑崙山 and the isles of Penglai 蓬萊 (Kohn 2003, 26). Pure men of spirit, they are immune to


human needs and stay away from people as far as possible, increasingly associated with birds in the lightness of their bodies and their ability to fly (Kaltenmark 1953, 10-15). However, they may emerge on a whim to serve sporadically and in a detached manner, appearing to rulers as advisers or transmitting their teachings in odd settings—such as Huangshi gong 黃石公, the Master of the Yellow Stone, who appeared to Zhang Liang 張良 to transmit military strategies (see Bauer 1956). Divine figures in their own right, moreover, they were urgently pursued by Qin and early Han emperors in search of divinization and bodily survival (see Loewe 1979; Puett 2002).

Ritual Specialists Ritual specialists are another major group of early practitioners that worked with spiritual and longevity methods. Unlike hermits and immortals, however, they remained within society and utilized highly specialized techniques to gain control not only over their own bodies but also over nature and the elements (Kohn 2003, 28). In the process they acquired magical powers they used for their own gain and to the benefit of rulers. Called wu 巫 in antiquity and fangshi 方士 in the Shiji under the Han, they have been described as shamans, magical practitioners, technicians of the supernatural, masters of formulas, and more (Puett 2002, 239). The word wu, often rendered “shaman,” in both pictogram and word field belongs to the complex of dancing, fertility, and pacification (Schafer 1951, 152-55; Wang 2012, 56). Wu in ancient China were dominantly female and played a key role in the interaction with divinities and the influencing of weather patterns, notably linked with ritual sacrifices or bodily exposure for rainmaking and spirit possession for healing (Allan 1984). Traversing natural boundaries and reaching into nonhuman realms, they specialized in knowledge of ancestral and nature spirits and were able to address, influence, and even control them (Coutinho 2004, 71). The Chuci contains several cycles of shamanic poems sung to induce the deities’ descent or express their ecstatic soul-travel to the otherworld (Hawkes 1959; Puett 2002, 277-80). Working with control over outside things and ancestral spirits, wu were known particularly for their technical expertise, which the Zhuangzi contrasts vividly with the cosmic insight of the perfected. A sage named Huzi, the Gourd Master, gives in to the urgings of his disciple Liezi and lets himself be analyzed by Jixian 季咸. A spirit shaman (shenwu 神巫), “she could tell whether men would live or die, survive of perish, be fortunate or unfortunate, live a long time or die young” (ch. 7). Coming re-


peatedly to the master, she sees a different personality or mind image each time, making predictions that run from immediate death to great good fortune. Eventually she runs away, spooked by the never-ending change and inconceivable depth of the master’s expression (Puett 2002, 130; Defoort 2012). The Gourd Master explains: This time I showed her the pattern of not-yet-beginning, before I even came to be. So what she saw was pure emptiness, writhing snakelike, not knowing who or what, at times not even there, at times flowing in waves. And that’s why she fled (ch. 7; Kohn 2011, 73; W 97)

The image of the spirit specialist that emerges here is that of a competent but limited technician “whose art is concerned only with attaining knowledge over life and death” (Puett 2002, 130). S/he may have some control over spirits and be good at prognostication, but these abilities do not hold up before the cosmic empowerment of the perfected master: while the technician knows life and death, the spirit person has gone beyond their limitations and is unaffected by them (2002, 125). The holds also true for the fangshi, literally “method masters” or “technique specialists” (Wang 2012, 34). Their very name indicates the emphasis they placed on skills and techniques, predicting fortunes and performing astrological divinations, analyzing weather patterns and making rain, healing diseases and exorcising demons, communicating with the dead and conjuring up spirits, advising on military strategy and providing magical weaponry (DeWoskin 1983, 23-35; Ngo 1976; Poo 1998, 160; Wang 2012, 35). Rulers surrounded themselves with such men, often specialized in particular techniques. For example, Emperor Wu of the Han (156-87 BCE) employed Li Shaojun 李少君 to establish contact with the immortals and help him prevent old age, Shaoweng 少翁 to summon the spirits of the dead, and Luan Da 欒大 to extend his life with alchemy and grant him control over ghosts (Watson 1968b, 2:25, 29, 31; Poo 1998, 118; Puett 2002, 243). In addition, the fangshi were known for their development of technical instruments such as the diviner’s compass (see Harper 1978; Kalinowski 1983), the invention of new media such as paper, and the codification of alchemical and technical methods—leading to their reputation as proto- or pseudo-scientists (see Needham et al. 1956, 93-113; Poo 1998, 103-22; Deng 2012, 636). Their position in contrast to hermits, immortals, and the perfected in the Zhuangzi has various implications. For one, it is a vivid illustrations of the cosmological division between self-emergence (sheng 生) and completion (cheng 成), i.e., the natural flow of life given by heaven that one follows in (unknowing) nonaction and expresses in impromptu words versus the (knowledge-based) methods developed by human beings that work with prescribed, trained action and are formulated in technical


language (Møllgaard 2007, 16). The Zhuangzi comes down strongly on the side of self-emergence, proposing the acceptance of one’s heavenordained situation and the realization of internal freedom that comes with this acceptance (Puett 2002, 128, 132). On a more historical, sociological level, this contrast represents a major shift in the ritual and political structure during the Warring States and into the early Han. The key religious focus in ancient China was to “forge deceased humans into ancestors who could then be influenced through sacrifices and divinations” (Puett 2002, 317-18). Ancestors were ranked hierarchically, with the “thearch” (di 帝) at the top, and interaction with each level required particular expertise and techniques, handled largely by wu and other ritual masters. The knights of the Warring States, however, claimed that there was a creative force they called Dao or the One (yi 一) at the root of everything, the ultimate ancestor of all. The Zhuangzi eulogizes it vividly: It is its own source, its own root. Before heaven and earth existed it was there, firm from ancient times. It gave spirit to ancestors and the thearch; it gave birth to heaven and earth . . . The sun and moon got it and from ancient times have never rested. . . The Yellow Emperor got it and ascended to the cloudy heavens. (ch. 6; W 81-82)

Having direct access to this made it possible to become a deity oneself and eliminated the need for sacrifices and ritual techniques, leading to a quest for personal deification through self-cultivation practices and the acquisition of knowledge. Rulers of the Qin and early Han, in their pursuit of the immortals, were hoping to attain the status of gods; however, leaders of the late Western Han rejected theomorphic notions of kingship and rulers were once more defined as humans, albeit of a particular ritual status (Puett 2002, 319). The Zhuangzi, as the product of Warring States philosophers, comes down strongly on the side of self-cultivation and self-divinization but stops short of advocating full divine powers of control and manipulation. Here the key is finding inner peace and perfect happiness through alignment with the flow of life, the movements of heaven, the workings of Dao. The text tends to reject techniques for spiritual attainment (Crandell 2010, 118), since all instructions on how to “cling fast to life” are a form of technical expertise that does not work (ch. 23). As Thomas Merton notes, “All deliberate, systematic, and reflexive ‘self-cultivation,’ whether active or contemplative, personalistic or politically committed, cuts one off from the mysterious but indispensible contact with Dao, the hidden ‘Mother’ of all life and truth” (1969, 26).


Craftsmen and Outcasts Other technical specialists in the Zhuangzi besides wu 巫 are highly skilled craftsmen (gong 工). The two words are closely interrelated: according to the Han dictionary Shuowen jiezi zhu 說文解字注 (Annotated Interpre-tation of Phrases and Explanation of Words), wu are gong plus shen 神, spirit or “in-spiration” (Deng 2012, 635). Craftsmen played an important role in ancient Chinese society and held a strong presence at the court of local rulers. Their work was essential to the functioning of life: they created furniture and dinnerware, butchered livestock and cooked meals, made wheels, wagons, weapons, and sundry items of daily use. Not only highly skilled in their work, they would also develop new tools and technologies, coming up with creative ways of doing things and opening advantages for their lord (Deng 2012, 636)—such as the traveler who took the silk-bleachers’ anti-chapping salve to the King of Wu (ch. 1). In many ways, these craftsmen are like shamans or ritual specialists in that they have unique expertise and secret knowledge, extraordinary skills and a close connection to nature and the divine. They work with spirit and bring about almost divine creations, and are often described with awe (Deng 2012, 637). In numerous admiring and positive stories, usually set in dialogue with a local ruler or a senior philosopher, the Zhuangzi has craftsmen (and others, e.g., tax collectors and border guards) point out deep truths or demonstrate superb expertise. Examples include Wheelwright Bian who describes the words of the sages as the “the crummy left-overs of men of old” (ch. 13), Woodworker Qing who makes bell stands of almost divine quality (ch. 19), and Cook Ding who cuts up oxen without a hitch (ch. 3) (Billeter 2010, 15-22) (see ch. 20 below). Reading the stories in the context of the shi-wu contrast, it seems that the skilled figures provide a vivid illustration of the limitless nature of Dao (which transcends social and physical boundaries), of what it means to be fully open to cosmic oneness, to have spirit flow in life without obstruction (Ding 2012, 637). Dao is everywhere, each and every activity is connected to and imbued by heaven, and there is nothing that cannot be undertaken to perfection. “The truly human person inherently behaves in certain ways rather than others” (Puett 2002, 133). The skills and wisdom of the craftsmen are the natural expression of who they are, as opposed to the ritual specialists who deal with the unseen rather than the natural realm and are contrived and artificial in their expertise. On the other hand, each skilled master had to undergo long years of training, repeating each move. They learned all aspects of their trade, which did not come to them spontaneously, even if they had a particular knack—such as the boatman and swimmer (ch. 19)—that made them inclined toward certain crafts (Billeter 2010, 20). Through systematic learn-


ing of techniques they reached a state where Dao flows (as if) naturally, where they could deliver themselves into the patterns of heaven and function to perfection. This opening to flow through systematic practice, the attainment of spontaneity as a result rather than a return connects the Zhuangzi to both later Daoist and Chan (Zen) practitioners, who found techniques immensely helpful and formalized body practices to extreme levels with the express purpose of developing spontaneity on a higher level (see Eno 1996). The contrast between emergence and completion, nonaction and techniques, the One and the ancestors, philosophers and shamans is thus not as clear-cut as it might seem, nor is Zhuangzi’s position straightforward and one-sided. There is a place for techniques, there is oneness underlying all. We have certain natural skills and tendencies that we are born with (sheng) but we need to work on them, learning from masters, honing our skills, enhancing our abilities to fulfill our potential (cheng). We can be in the flow by not doing, but we can also reach it by doing to extreme: the interchange of yin and yang at play means we become more spontaneous the more we perfect techniques, become more childlike the more we fulfill ourselves as adults. This flow is also present at the far end of the social spectrum, among the lower classes and outcasts of various sorts: criminals who were punished by amputation, cripples who incurred handicaps by accident or were born deformed, freaks, disadvantaged people, and madmen of various sorts with hair unbound and streaming wild (Allinson 1989a, 59; Billeter 2010, 93; Brindley 2010, 60; Graziani 2006, 112; Wang 2004, 3; 2007b, 23). Some Chinese sources, such as the Liji 禮記 (Book of Rites), indicate a connection of bodily harm to ritual ecstasy: spirit masters pray for rain by self-immolation, crippled shamans perform sacrifices (Deng 2012, 632). It is, moreover, quite possible that the Zhuangzi originally contained many more stories featuring such characters, edited out by Guo Xiang as not suitable for a “philosophical” work, and had stronger roots in ecstatic religion than commonly acknowledged (Deng 2012, 630). Still, the text does not dwell on the supernatural powers of these outcasts, but emphasizes their acceptance of destiny and the overall flow of Dao. However malformed the body, virtue or inner power is still intact; however strange the thinking, the wisdom of heaven still flows through (ch. 5) (Møllgaard 2003, 354). Thus Jie Yu, the madman of Chu, unveils bogus virtue (ch. 7) and sings of the role of the sage (ch. 4). Crippled Shu lives a life of peace and quiet despite social upheaval (ch. 4) and Shushan No-Toes continues to learn and improve himself (ch. 5) (Raphals 1992, 95; Wang 2004, 28; 2006c, 42). On whatever social level we may live, into whatever physical circumstances we may be born, whatever chances and skills we may have in life, we can have a positive connection to heaven and allow Dao to flow through us and us to flow in Dao.

Chapter Six Body and Mind Both the potential to flow with Dao and the tendency to get caught up in the process of setting boundaries and creating judgments of right and wrong rest with the fundamental human constitution of living in embodied form, having sensory faculties, and relating to the world through mental and emotional reactions to the data the senses transmit. While we can recover our connection to organic nature and primordial formlessness, because of the senses and our processing of their information we tend to add an additional dimension to life, overlaying what is with how we would like it to be. The transition from original oneness to living with evaluations based on sensory data is expressed vividly in the myth concerning Hundun 混沌. The term, pronounced “wonton” in Cantonese and often translated “chaos,” indicates a formless sack or unshaped bulk of energy. In the story, it is the name of the primordial ruler of the center. The ruler over the southern sea was Shu [Tight]. The ruler over the northern sea was Hu [Abrupt]. The ruler over the center was Hundun [Chaos]. On occasion Shu and Hu would meet in the realm of Hundun who received them with great hospitality. The two then started to plan how they could possibly pay back Hundun’s kindness. They said: “All people have seven orifices so they can see, hear, eat, and breathe. He alone has none of them. Let us try boring him some.” So they bored a hole every day, and on the seventh day Hundun died. (ch. 7; Kohn 2011, 19; Wang 2004, 140)

Though without sensory faculties, Hundun functions just fine, resting in a state of primordial blur, indistinction, or confusion (Billeter 2010, 103-06). He is generous and kind, hosting his neighbors with enthusiasm. To repay his kindness, they try to make him more like other creatures and drill sensory openings into him—as a result of which Hundun dies. He is, as Norman Girardot says, “bored to death” (2009, 61). The point of the story is that the state of inherent wholeness, of oneness with Dao we 56


are originally born with, is destroyed bit by bit the more we use the senses and discriminating knowledge to relate to the world (Raphals 1992, 97; Wu 2007, 264). On their basis we develop likes and dislikes and use our conscious mind to separate from reality, evaluating things in terms of good and bad, high and low, advantageous and detrimental. In contrast to this, as the Huainanzi makes clear, returning to a state of primordial oneness through “the closure of the four senses means that the body is without trouble and that all of its individual parts are without sickness. There is no death, no life, no gaps or excess. This is called [the condition or body] of the true man” (1.14; Morgan 1966, 84-86; Girardot 2009, 124). How, then, do body and mind, senses and emotions, function in the Zhuangzi? What are the key factors that create a life of extraneous concerns and alienation from nature? And how do they all work together?

The Fixed Mind People get caught in judgments of right and wrong because they have a “fixed mind,” “prejudiced mind,” or “constructed self” (chengxin 成心), which develops on the basis of experience (Behuniak 2002, 70; Hara 1993, 91; Xu 2011, 458; Ziporyn 2003, 43). As Chad Hansen says, Cheng (success, completion) is just what wins given the prior commitments. However, these patterns get cheng (fixed) in the heart; they persist and accumulate. Discrimination patterns (language) are easy to learn in youth. When we grow old, our commitments to settled patterns begin to weigh us down. (1992, 276; 2010, 41)

Being weighed down by settled patterns creates rote responses, inflexibility, and stereotypes. In terms of judgment, it means predictability and prejudices; in terms of personality, it means stiffness and set ways (Enzinger 2002, 136; Yearley 2010, 129). The mind is no longer free and easy, but covered by weeds and brambles (youpeng 有蓬), as the Zhuangzi describes Huizi’s attitude to the big gourd (ch. 1; Chong 2011, 438). Or it becomes machine-centered, a “mechanical mind” (jixin 機心) that sees the world in terms of personal gain and loss and strives to impose its own preferences on life (ch. 12) The source of all errors (Billeter 2010, 50), this kind of mind holds on tight to its set patterns and particularly to established norms, such as the classic Confucian values benevolence and righteousness, loyalty and filial piety. Rather than expressions of spontaneous goodwill and joyful relationships that change over time, they become restrictive, stifling corsets of mind and life (Sommer 2010, 215).


In terms of physical expression, this state matches the gong 躬 body: the ritual, sanctimonious body that occurs frequently in Confucian literature. “The gong body is that aspect of the human body or person most closely associated with the ritualized performance and public, visual display of character, conduct, and values” (Sommer 2008; 2010, 213). Written with the combination of “body” and “bend,” gong graphically illustrates the ritual action of bending at the waist and bowing in formal ceremony. Reflecting the fixed mind within and linked with ritual life, it provides an outward presentation of the person on ceremonial display, controlled and constrained, unyielding and inflexible. The Zhuangzi, not surprisingly, has only contempt and criticism for this kind of body and mind. “With likes and dislikes, sounds and colors you cripple what is on the inside; with leather caps and snipe-feathered bonnets, batons stuck in belts and sashes trailing, you cramp what is on the outside” (ch. 12; W 141; Oshima 2010, 71). What is seen in Confucian sources as the “purveyor of ideal conduct is conceived here as exhibiting little more than artifice” (Sommer 2010, 215).

The Heart-Mind The mind at the base of this artifice, moreover, is xin 心, a word that literally indicates the physical organ of the heart and graphically depicts its chambers (Enzinger 2002, 96; Jochim 1998, 50). In China, it is the seat of both cognitive and affective functions, motivational and emotional patterns (Chong 2011, 428; Gu 2009, 158; Oshima 2010, 65; Wang 2004, 202)—including thought (si 思), knowledge (zhi 知), recall (nian 念), will (zhi 志), and intention (yi 意). A structuring force within the person, it can be open and fluid or regulating and tight, working with preference and aversion, approval and disapproval (Fraser 2011, 104). The chief of the inner organs and functions of the body, the heart-mind supervises and manages the senses which have a tendency to get overly excited (Daode jing 12). As the Guanzi, “Xinshu” 心術 (Arts of the Mind), says: In the body, the heart-mind holds the position of the ruler. The functions of the nine orifices correspond to the separate responsibilities of officials. The ears and eyes are the organs for seeing and hearing. If the heart does not interfere with the activities of seeing and hearing, the organs will be able to maintain their separate functions. Now, if the heart-mind is full of desires, the eyes will not see when things pass by nor will the ears hear when there are sounds. Therefore it is said, “If the person on high departs from Dao, those below will be lax in their work.” Therefore it is said, “The art of the heart-mind lies in controlling the orifices in nonaction.” (Rickett 1998, 75; Moeller 2004a, 74; Zhang 2002, 393)


The heart-mind interacts with the senses like officials (guan 官) in a ranked administration. It is their central manager: the more it leaves the senses to do their thing, the better they work. However, when it gets into micromanagement or superimposes its particular tendencies or preferences, i.e., socially determined, induced desires (yu 欲) (Kupperman 1996, 190-91; Puett 2004, 39), the senses will stop functioning fully and only report pertinent information. “Imposing overnice forms” on the body’s functions that are as extraneous as a sixth finger or webbed toes (ch. 8; W 98), the heart-mind comes to predispose sensory data, limiting perception of reality in favor of preconditioned responses. The senses, moreover, provide input described as qing 情, a word that “has a broad semantic range, including such meanings as basic tendencies, inclination, disposition, and fundamental qualities” (Puett 2004, 42; Harbsmeier 2004, 71). The most common translation of qing is “feelings” or “emotions” (Zhang 2002, 384; Cua 2002, 128; Tang 2003, 272). A. C. Graham sees it as “what is essential” in the Aristotelian sense (1981, 62; see also Chen 2002, 28; Hansen 1995, 195; Puett 2004, 37), while KimChong Chong prefers to read it as “facts,” indicating the reality of life as it flows through the person (2010, 23; Harbsmeier 2004, 78). Michael Puett renders it as “basic emotional dispositions” (2004, 42) and Chad Hansen understands it as “reality feedback” (1992, 276) or, more precisely, “reality-induced discrimination or distinction-making reactions” (1995, 196). He says, Qing just crop up; we must deal with them. They come like the alternation of day and night; we just don’t know where they come from. And it does not matter where they come from. They shape our lives. Without them we would have no notion of ‘I’ (as distinct from the reality outside us). (1992, 277)

The Zhuangzi clearly associates qing with likes and dislikes (haowu 好惡; chs. 5, 31), and specifically indicates “joy, anger, grief, delight, worry, regret, fickleness, inflexibility, modesty, willfulness, candor, and insolence,” describing these reactions as “music from empty holes,” i.e., pure vital energy (qi 氣) flowing from heaven through the person (ch. 2; W 37; Kuriyama 1999, 244). Chinese medical literature places qing in the body’s organs. As the Huangdi neijing suwen 黃帝內經素問 (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, Simple Questions) says, “When the qi of the liver is too empty, there is fear; when it is too full, there is anger. . . . When the qi of the heart is too empty, there is sorrow; when it is too full, there is excessive joy” (ch. 3). Qing thus indicates a flow of vital energy in response to sensory experiences in the organs of the body, combined with various mental and affective functions. This flow is felt but not seen, as the Zhuangzi says about the true lord in the body (ch. 2; Chong 2010, 27). It conveys sensory in-


formation that is already colored, presenting “distinction-making reactions” and leading to a particular attitude of the heart-mind. With all these characteristics, qing closely matches the modern neurological and psychological definition of emotions. Closely related to desires (see Marks 1986), emotions “provide a quick, general assessment of the person’s situation that draws on powerful internal and external values,” relaying essential information to the amygdala, which provides an immediate classification into positive or negative and decides whether the response should be aggressive or defensive, approach or withdrawal (Ratey 2002, 171, 174; Goleman 1997, 34). They have three key components: a felt bodily experience of more or less dominant sensations; a conscious cognition or thought regarding the cause or object of the emotion; and an expressive reaction, a clear behavioral move that can be as subtle as a facial expression and as obvious as an aggressive punch or a loving embrace (Goleman 1997, 84; Kohn 2008a, 88). The Chinese system allows for this close connection of affect, cognition, and operative relations (Fraser 2011c, 103). The heart-mind as manager moves along with the qing throughout the different parts of the body (Ishida 1989, 55), makes sense of the body sensations, creates a narrative around them, keeps a record in memory, and establishes set behavior patterns and conscious judgments (Lee 1998, 459). In doing so, the heart-mind makes clear choices. It can be wide open and flowing everywhere or concentrated in one specific body part and sense organ. For example, when someone is absorbed in reading or listening or some other activity, the mind is focused there to the exclusion of all else. If guided to move smoothly around the body so that it fills more of it, higher states of mental awareness result (Kohn 2005, 46; Kupperman 1996, 192). One way to achieve this is through mind-fasting (xinzhai 心齋), systematically releasing sensory input until, instead of hearing with the ears and the mind, one is only aware of the steady flow of qi manifesting as sounds in a state of empty, open, non-judging awareness (ch. 4).1 As also expressed in the Mengzi (2A1), the mind here is unmoving, free from superimposing its patterns on experience, going beyond senses and language and connecting directly to vital energy (Nivison 1996b, 129). The “Neiye” 內業 (Inward Training) chapter of the Guanzi describes the same process, “If the mind can release sorrow and happiness, joy and anger, desires and profit-seeking, it returns to a state of equalizing” (Roth 1999a, 50; Rickett 1998, 35; Peerenboom 1993, 237; Zhang 2002, 394). As this equalizing state develops fully, as the mind increasingly becomes “like dead ashes” (ch. 2), qing are increasingly experienced as cosmic flow, 1

The passage is discussed in Brindley 2010, 58; Chong 2011, 430-31; Fraser 2011c, 99-100; Jochim 1998, 52; Kohn 2010, 25-26; Santee 2008, 114-15; 2011, 52-53; Sun 2012, 508.


eventually reaching a point where the person can be wuqing 無情, free from distinction-making reactions and emotional dispositions. As the Zhuangzi says: “What I mean when I say a person is wuqing is that he does not allow likes and dislikes entering him and burdening his body, but always goes along with his inherent naturalness, never trying to improve on life” (ch. 5).2 This is vividly illustrated in several episodes concerning death and mourning. While Zhuangzi feels sadness at the loss of his wife, for example, “his grief being unexceptional and its origin obvious,” he expresses it by drumming and singing, showing that there is no need for “sorrow of greater duration” (ch. 18; Olberding 2007, 342; Chen 2010, 1617; Ling 2012, 15; Pregadio 2004, 105). Other figures in the book (such as Mengsun Cai; ch. 6) when confronted with death, go so far as to not even feel a sense of loss and grief, having come fully to terms with death as a natural part of the flow of life (Galvany 2012, 36; Graziani 2006, 206; Lee 2014, ch. 5; Olberding 2007, 344-45; Raphals 1992, 98; Wong 2009, 570). The word for “body” used in the wuqing passage, moreover, is shen 身, the lived, relational body, which represents the sum total of one’s inner life and learned conduct manifest in physical presence and visible to others (Jochim 1998, 47; Jullien 2007, 67). Determined by decision making, reflection, and set behavior, shen represents the familial and social personhood of the individual (Sommer 2010, 215-16; Sivin 1995b, 14). It is the way we shape ourselves as embodied persons; while deeply rooted in nature, it is yet artificial and contrived. The Daode jing says that this body is “the reason why I have great afflictions” (ch. 13), referring to apprehensions about winning or losing, being in favor or disgrace. In other words, the personal body is the self-image the heart-mind creates on the basis of emotional dispositions, which in turn provide reactions to sensory data activated as we experience life. These emotional dispositions, then, take on a life of their own and, in a continuous feedback loop with the heart-mind, create personality boundaries and a stereotyped vision of life that gets more rigid over time and may well lead to a fixed mind and sanctimonious behavior. This essentially is how human beings function. After all, “the brain cannot start from scratch at every new situation. It must build on what it has seen before. For that reason, stereotypes are not intrinsically malevolent. They provide shortcuts in our never-ending attempt to make sense of complicated surroundings” (Ariely 2008, 168). This is why we have expectations that become self-fulfilling and why mental predispositions will color sensory experience as much as sensory data influence our thinking, creating a body that is “a work of the imagination, fashioned from social ideals as well as from physical data” (Sivin 1995b, 12). 2 For detailed analyses, see Benson 2005, 313; Berkson 2005, 313; Chong 2010, 3033; Jochim 1998, 49; Kohn 2011, 67; Lung 2012, 73; Lundberg 1998, 217; Wong 2009, 569.


However, just as we can be free from emotional reactions, so we can liberate ourselves from the social strictures of the personal body—not physically but in our minds and attitudes (Wang 2004, 116). The Zhuangzi, while disdaining the cultivation of the shen as a social entity, supports it as the physical base of life and advocates preserving, maintaining, and enhancing it (Jochim 1998, 47; Sommer 2010, 217). So do later Daoists, who support longevity practices while encouraging a state of wushen 無 身, being free from the extraneous, overlaid self-image created to impress others and achieve success in the world. “Rather than feeling in a particular way about things and evaluating everything that is happening in personal terms, we learn conceive of ourselves as part of the flow of existence” (Kohn 2007, 143).

Spirit and Physical Form As our identity shifts toward the flow of life, another type of mind arises—as the Guanzi says, “Within the mind there is yet another mind” (Roth 1999a, 107). The Zhuangzi calls this “heaven’s storehouse—one fills it, yet it is never full; one drains it, yet it is never empty” (ch. 2). Also described as “one-with-heaven” (ch. 15) and the “numinous terrace” (lingtai 靈台; ch. 11), it is pure, cosmic spirit (shen). Spirit is the core level of the heartmind, a powerful indwelling agent, as well as a holy force to be held in awe (Roth 1990, 18). The Zhuangzi says, “Pure spirit reaches in the four directions, flows now this way, now that: there is no place it does not extend to. Above, it brushes the sky; below, it coils on the earth. It transforms and nurses the myriad things, but no one can make out its form. It is one with heaven” (ch. 15; W 169). The active, organizing configurative force and transformative influence in the person, spirit is without limit or judgment and comes before sensory affects and emotional reactions (Lewis 2006, 22). An integrated whole that is not subject to increase or decrease, it works mainly with precognition and intuition (Roth 1990, 23, 16), opening us to heaven and cosmic oneness (Puett 2003, 257). It will remain in its lodging place, the body as form (Kuriyama 1999, 167), as long as it stays clear of vexations, predisposed desires, and intentional harnessing (Roth 1990, 17). “Be unseeing and unhearing, guard spirit in stillness,” Guangchengzi says (ch. 11). Manifest in individual consciousness and impossible to be perceived directly—as when concentrated in gods, ancestors, and other divine forces—its vitalizing force exerts transformative influence on all aspects of the human being (Kohn 2005, 34; Zhang 20002, 171). Being whole in spirit means that one uses it to perceive and react instead of the senses, as Cook Ding and Woodworker Qing testify (chs. 3,


19). It also means that one remains unaffected by outer circumstances, as exemplified in the case of the drunken man who falls off a carriage and suffers no injury because “his spirit is whole” (ch. 19; Billeter 2010, 44-45). The body, moreover, that comes with this is physical form (xing 形), “a discrete, visible shape or mass whose edges and outlines stand in contrast to the formless” (Sommer 2010, 218). The Shuowen defines it as xiang 象, “simulacrum,” “symbol,” “replica,” the symbolic image that one has of something (9A.19a). Cosmologically, form marks the beginning of the created world. “Before form, there is the One,” says the Huainanzi (1.13; Major et al. 2010, 64) (Kohn 2007, 96). The body as form is not circumscribed by cultural norms or defined through social values; it is part of the natural world, and animals have form as much as human beings do. A physical, living entity, it is the lodge or residence of the spirit (ch. 6; Pregadio 2004, 108). The more we keep the spirit whole, retaining innocence and wonder, the more “the form stays whole, so that it can live forever” (ch. 11) (Billeter 2010, 63). It is quite useless to try and nourish the form alone (ch. 19), but even a mutated or mutilated form still supports the spirit, as shown vividly in stories of hunchbacks and cripples whose virtue or spirit remains strong despite their physical challenges (ch. 5; Sommer 2010, 221-22). At one with spirit, one can allow the physical form to change as it pleases. As Master Yu says: Let’s pretend my left arm changed into a rooster, then I could use it to predict the time of night. Let’s assume my right arm turned into a crossbow, then I could use it to shoot an owl for roasting. Let’s see: if my butt changed into a wheel and my spirit into a horse, then I could use them to ride around in. What other vehicle would I need? (ch. 6; Kohn 2011, 39)

By the same token, living through pure spirit and experiencing the body as form allows us to experience others and ourselves as pure beings and find peace with death. “The Great Clod [of creation] has burdened me with form, labored me with life, relaxed me in old age, and is now ready to rest me in death. So, seeing my life as a good thing, I should also see my death as a good thing” (ch. 6; W 85). At birth, we are endowed with pure spirit and simple form, but as we grow up and interact with the world on the basis of the senses and emotions, we develop a sense of social and personal identity, overlaying our original being with heart-mind and personal body. According to the Zhuangzi, and formalized in later Daoist theory and practice, our main task in this life is the recovery of our inherent cosmic qualities, learning to live fully as spirit and form (Kohn 1991, 251). The quieter the heartmind remains with respect to the spirit’s workings and the less we superimpose the personal body on the inherent tendencies of our natural body, the more we realize spirit and form, feeling increasingly fulfilled and at ease.


The Vast Abyss Realizing spirit and form fully in our lives connects us to the universe, heaven, and Dao but still confines us to the level of the individual. Expanding from individualized existence into cosmic vastness is the ultimate dimension of body and mind in the Zhuangzi, a state that matches the level of “complete merging” discussed above. In this state, the mind is pure flow of the vast cosmic abyss (yuan 淵), while the body is merely the limitless vacillation of universal energy. The person, moreover, has control over his or her expression of the body-mind. Thus the Gourd Master shows all kinds of different dimensions to the shaman, eventually spooking her into escape. At one point, he gets closer to the center of the cosmic patterns. The passage is supplemented in the Liezi: What she saw just now was the hub of my vital energy in balance. Where swirling waves come together, there is a deep pool; where still waters come together, there is an abyss; where flowing waters come together, there is an abyss. The abyss [of the cosmic mind] has nine names, and I have shown her three. (Zhuangzi 7; Kohn 2011, 71; Puett 2003, 256) The nine names are: Whirlpools, still waters, currents, water bubbling up from the ground, water dripping from above, water slanting from the side, water dammed and turned back, water draining away in a marsh, several streams coming from one source, and the all hollowed-out abyss. (Liezi 2; Graham 1960, 51; Girardot 2009, 124-25; Kohn 1998b, 145)

Each of these stands for a particular state of the cosmic mind that is “both complex and fluid” (Kupperman 1996, 192; Thompson 1998, 16): from the water that has not yet emerged from the source through the vastness of the primeval ocean and the beginning stages of heaven and earth that are without name or substance but already working, to the pattern of earth—”still and silent, nothing moving, nothing standing up.” Unlike the heart-mind and even the spirit, whose activities are written with the “heart” radical, this mind is all water: its activities are running, gurgling, springing, whirling, eddying, and so on (Kohn 1998b, 139). The river of life itself, it flows in us and through us, and we merge with it in vastness. The body that comes with this is “a boundless organism with infinite boundaries” (ti 體) (Sommer 2008). Like the body of a plant, each part of which is interconnected with each other part and can propagate and replicate the entire plant, so ti indicates the limbs and parts of the human body that together form one whole. By extension, it also means the human body as part of a much larger social and cosmic corpus, “consubstantial with the bodies of ancestors and descendants” and “all the people with whom it engages in exchanges of labor and food” (Sommer 2010, 223; Emerson 1996). The boundless organism of the ti body is like


an extended network: each individual contains many different ti within himself and is outwardly bound in with numerous others. “The largest unit of the ti is the cosmos itself, . . . a wholeness that can encompass life and death, heaven and earth, and all beings” (Sommer 2010, 224). Whether as organism, form, personal body, or ritual body, human physical reality in China is nothing firm or stable but the visible expression of the universal flow of energy, spirit, and mind (Ames 1994; Goldin 2003, 230). A dynamic field of multiple forces and tendencies (Lewis 2006, 20), the body is a continuous process of materialization, animation, disintegration, and reconstitution (Jullien 2007, 69). As François Jullien says, The actualized form is that which arises out of the flows of energy that permeate particular concretions, without any break in the sequence or intrusion from without. In this transition from nonexistence to the existence of an individual person, the Western notion of the body does not figure—cannot figure—because the perspective remains of a homogeneous and continuous process. . . . Only phenomena of (energetic) individuation and de-individuation truly exist, and this physically oriented process . . . naturally retains the (transcendent, animating) “spirit dimension” within itself as it flows from the original energy. (2007, 70)

This understanding, moreover, matches the vision of quantum physics, which sees both body and mind as constantly vibrating and forming part of a vast integrated universal pattern that can never be predicted with certainty (Capra 1991, 133). Muscles, flesh, bones, and organs are all made from highly ordered, crystalline material, consisting of tiny atoms vibrating in groups along coiled molecules. The patterns are constant, rapid, and orderly, as well as essentially interconnected (Capra 1991, 137). When subjected to the influence of a magnet or a needle, the field is modified and the whole pattern changes. The same holds true for the mind, and there is no separation of consciousness from physical existence. Both are energy fields; they just vibrate at different speeds: 1022 Hz for the atomic nucleus, 1015 for the atom itself, 109 for molecules, and 103 for cells. Sensations in the body accordingly do not come from specific sense organs but arise through the fluctuation of different vibratory fields—all of which are immediately linked with consciousness in a non-local way, and in fact, are consciousness and intimately interconnected with all life forms on the planet and in the vastness beyond (Targ and Katra 1999; Tart et al. 1979; Bock-Möbius 2012).

Chapter Seven Ancient Daoist Strands Embedded in an environment of axial-age thinkers and practitioners, the Zhuangzi contains materials from, and is related to, various different strands of ancient Daoism. They have three dimensions in common: a cosmology based on Dao as the underlying power of the universe; practices of self-cultivation that focus on modifying ways of being; and a vision of politics to make a difference in the world (Roth 1999a, 7). In other words, early as much as later Daoists (and Neo-Confucians) work on the three levels of cosmos, self, and society. In the Zhuangzi proper, aside from the thought associated with Zhuang Zhou and his followers, three major trends stand out that each focus predominantly on one of these dimensions. They include the syncretists or pluralists (chs. 11-16), with a detailed description of the workings of the universe; the individualists or hedonists (chs. 28-31), with a focus on self-preservation; and the primitivists or anarchists (chs. 8-11), with a strong political vision of life in a simple and pure society. In addition, self-cultivation methods in the Zhuangzi echo terms and practices outlined in the “Neiye,” while its cosmology bears resemblance to various manuscripts unearthed from Warring States tombs (Rickett 1998, 15-55; Roth 1999). The combination of all three dimensions, moreover, under the Han ripened into the thought of Huang-Lao and came to play a role in the politics of the early empire (Yates in Pregadio 2008, 508-10). Underlying all these strands, however, is the thought of the most fundamental of all Daoist texts, the Daode jing.

The Daode jing The Daode jing before the Han was called the Laozi after its alleged author. A legendary figure, called Lao Dan and treated as a great master in the Zhuangzi (Wang 2004, 8-10; 2007b, 31-33), he was a learned and somewhat reclusive official at the Zhou court, where he served as an archivist and 66


instructed Confucius. Later, the Shiji reports, he decided to emigrate and transmitted his wisdom to the border guard Yin Xi (Graham 1990a; 1998)—later associated with the philosophical work Guanyinzi 關尹子. Under the Han, when the 81 short, verse-like chapters of the Laozi were recited as a sacred text, its author rose in prominence and later grew into a major deity of the Daoist religion (see Seidel 1969; Kohn 1998a). The Daode jing survives today in three editions: the standard version edited and commented by Wang Bi (Lin 1977); the silk manuscripts of the complete text found at Mawangdui 馬王堆, dated to 168 BCE (Henricks 1989); and the bamboo slips of thirty-one passages unearthed at Guodian 郭店 from around 350 BCE (Henricks 2000). The finds document the gradual compilation of the text, collated from sayings and aphorisms by generations of disciples (LaFargue 1992; Henricks 2000, 19-20). Interpreted numerous times over the millennia, the book today is the most frequently translated and studied work after the Bible (see Csikszentmihalyi and Ivanhoe 1999; Kohn and LaFargue 1998). In terms of cosmology, the Daode jing centers on Dao or “the Way,” the “organic” or “spontaneous order” and underlying source of the universe (Graupe 2011, 81; Robinet 1999, 128; Schwartz 1985, 195). Described as invisible, inaudible, and subtle (ch. 14), mysterious and obscure (ch. 21), Dao cannot be known or named (ch. 25) (Masami 1999, 177; Jung 2011, 35), yet it is ubiquitous and fluid like water (ch. 78) and functions as the mother of all things (chs. 1, 20) (Henricks 1999, 163; Moeller 2004a). Dao brought forth unified oneness from infinite vastness, then gave rise to the two forces yin and yang; from their interaction, the myriad beings developed (chs. 42; 39). Remaining in perpetual nonaction (ch. 37) and always moving in goodness (ch. 34), it patterns itself on naturalness or spontaneity (ziran) and works through heaven and earth (ch. 25) (G. Chen 2012, 165; Liu 1999, 220). Dao in the world manifests in de 德, inner power or virtue, the creative potency of universal creation channeled through individual people (ch. 38). While all was in harmony at the dawn of time, eventually humanity grew and culture developed, and the world went into decline. As a result, people lost their inherent connection to Dao, became greedy (ch. 53), and established artificial rules and norms (ch. 18). To remedy the decline, in terms of self-cultivation, people should realize that their bodies are more important than their reputation (ch. 44), get away from involvement (ch. 56), discard wisdom, and return to simplicity (chs. 19, 48). Controlling the input of the five senses (ch. 12), they should recover the value of emptiness and openness (chs. 11, 45) and the vitality of an infant (ch. 10). Learning when it is enough (chs. 33, 44), they should cultivate weakness and softness (chs. 36, 43), flow along with Dao, and live in nonaction (ch. 64) (Moeller 2006).


In many ways, the practical advice of the Daode jing means moving in the opposite direction from established cultural norms, being simple and dull when everyone strives for sophistication and wisdom (ch. 20), reducing desires when everyone engages in the quest for more and bigger possessions (ch. 37), relax and do nothing when everyone pushes, strives, and works hard (ch. 57). It justifies this position from the cosmology of yin and yang, which claims that each development sooner or later flips into its opposite, so that the strong and mighty will fall while the meek and gentle will rise, the violent and hard will break while the soft and fluid will persist (chs. 36, 40) (Xie 2000, 470-71). The ideal person in the Daode jing who lives out the cosmology and has realized self-cultivation is the sage (shengren 聖人). He is socially responsible, benevolent, and helpful in all situations, yet remains unassuming and nondescript in his person (chs. 2, 27). He does not speak or preach but acts appropriately at all times (ch. 3). Although of high rank and even the ruler, he does not think of himself as possessing anything, nor does he insist on his position, his way, or his personal wishes (ch. 64). On the contrary, his mind is at one with Dao, and he always sees the inherent patterns of nature and the world and thinks of the greater good of all (chs. 22, 80). A representative of universal virtue, he embraces all beings, developing peace within and goodness without (ch. 57). The rulership of the sage is gentle and noninvasive (ch. 29). Since wars bring devastation and hunger, he avoids them as much as possible (ch. 30), but if he has to engage in warfare he does not delight in slaughter or gloat in victory (ch. 31). He helps people recover their original purity (ch. 45); under his guidance, society gives up sophistication, culture, and luxury, moving toward a life of plainness and simplicity (ch. 28). People once again live in small communities, take care of their simple needs, and happily refrain from venturing into the unknown (ch. 80). There is no greed, because there is nothing to obtain; there are no robbers because there is nothing to steal (ch. 19). There are no wars because nobody wants any more territory than they already have; war horses pull plows and fertilize the fields (ch. 46); armor and weapons are curiosities rather than essentials (ch. 80). Ruling the empire is as simple as frying a small fish (ch. 60), people live without desires (ch. 64), and the greater universe takes care of everything to perfection (ch. 37).

Cosmology Cosmology is the central focus of the syncretists, so called because their vision integrates elements of Confucianism, Legalism, and Mohism (Lee 2008, 552; Hansen 2007). They were forerunners of the Huang-Lao school


that flourished in the early Han (see Peerenboom 1993) and is documented in four treatises associated with the Yellow Emperor unearthed at Mawangdui (see Chang and Yu 1998; Ryden 1997; Yates 1997). Their fundamental position is that Dao as manifest in heaven and earth and their various natural functions has inherent structure and is visible and measurable in its patterns. Such patterns include the two forces (yin-yang), the four seasons, the six directions (four cardinals plus up and down), as well as the natural law of things, their predictable rhythm of birth, growth, decline, and death (Zhuangzi 14; W 154). The more people learn of universal laws and adjust to cosmic patterns, the more ordered social life can be and the more fulfilled everyone is. Learning is thus not a bad thing; neither are instruments for measuring and techniques of alignment. Laws, moreover, are inherent in the natural world, and social structure and cultural progress form just one more expression. This vision is also represented in their choice of mythical hero, the Yellow Emperor, traditionally seen as the harbinger of culture and social order and later adopted as the ancestor of the Tian 田 family, rulers of the state of Qi (Schwartz 1985, 239; Wang 2004, 177).1 Within this framework, the syncretists, possibly better described as cosmologists, have several key concerns. One of them is the more precise understanding of the cosmogonic process, the continuous emergence of creatures from primeval oneness (Tong 2011, 99). Thus, the Zhuangzi has a passage describing the unfolding of the world from Grand Antecedence (taichu 太初), characterized by nonbeing, through the One, where forms are not yet present but there is a first tentative division, to beings with individual bodies and destinies. “These bodies (xingti 形體) contained spirit, so each had its own inherent tendencies, their inner nature.” Obtaining (de 得) life, moreover, meant participating in cosmic virtue or potency (de 德), which explains the cosmic interconnectedness of all despite individual uniqueness (ch. 12; W 131). This expands the description of cosmic unfolding in Daode jing 42, giving names, forms, and psychological aspects to different stages of development. The term Grand Antecedence used here, moreover, later appears as the first of several formal stages of cosmogony, preceding Grand Initiation (taishi 太始) and Grand Simplicity (taisu 太素), in the Dazhuan 大傳 (Great Commentary, 1.11; Wilhelm 1950) supplement to the Yijing, the Liezi (ch. 1; Graham 1960, 18; Robinet 1993, 121), and the religious Daoist Kaitian jing 開天徑 (Scripture of Opening the Cosmos; DZ 1437; Kohn 1993, 35-43; Schafer 1997).

1 For more on the Yellow Emperor, see Ding 2012, 636; Le Blanc 1986; Lewis 1990, 174; Peerenboom 1993, 86-92; Roth 1997b, 46.


Another early version of cosmic unfolding appears in the Guodian manuscript Taiyi shengshui 太一生水 (The Great One Gave Birth to Water; Ames and Hall 2003, 225-31; Henricks 2000, 123—29; Yao 2013, 4). Here the primordial state of the cosmos is called Great One, which brings forth Water. From there, heaven arises, which then brings forth to earth. Next, “spirit radiance” (shenming 神明), or “the gods above and below,” comes about, which leads to the unfolding of the measurable patterns of the world: yin and yang, the four seasons, cold and hot, moist and dry, etc. However distinct and disparate the various phenomena become, however, “the Great One is concealed in Water and moves with the four seasons,” pervading all equally (Henricks 2000, 123). Water as a major vehicle of cosmic connection, pervasively pure and subtle like spirit, is also a key feature in the syncretist chapters of the Zhuangzi (ch. 12; W 141), as is the notion of the Way of heaven (tiandao 天道; ch. 13), a key concept of this strand (Roth 1991a, 96; Schwartz 1985, 246). The bamboo manuscript Hengxian 恆先 (Constancy at First), dated to the late Warring States, further expands on the nature of the original state, describing it as whole, still, clear, and empty (Qiang 2007, 89). This echoes the Zhuangzi: “Emptiness, stillness, limpidity, silence, nonaction— these are the level of heaven and earth, the substance of Dao and virtue” (ch. 13; W 142). From here, however, the Hengxian moves into a description of qi, vital energy, as the key factor in the unfolding of the world, and rather than defining one part actively bringing forth the next, it postulates that “qi originated and activated itself,” then split into clear and turbid and generated heaven and earth, from where the various patterns of life emerged (Jiang 2007, 90-91)—a model that features prominently in the Huainanzi (see Le Blanc 1987; Major 1993; Major et al. 2010, 114-16). Another syncretist concern is the use of instruments and techniques of adjustment known as the “arts of Dao” which, however, does not mean the drive to control phenomena (Creel 1970a, 25; Lee 2008, 553). The Zhuangzi mentions particularly the movements of the stars and planets (ch. 13; W 150), the efficacy of ritual (ch. 14; W 160), and the power of music (ch. 14; W 156). On the latter, it has: Northgate Cheng said to the Yellow Emperor: “Your Majesty was playing Xianchi music in the wilds around Lake Dongting. When I first heard it, I was frightened. Then I listened some more, and found I was getting languid. As I listened to the last part, I was totally confused—bewildered, speechless, like I couldn’t get hold of myself.” “That’s quite normal,” the Yellow Emperor responded. “I played it with human means, attuned it to heaven, executed it in accordance with propriety and righteousness, and elevated it to the [pre-creation] level of Great Clarity.” (ch. 14; Kohn 2011, 65; Chan 2011, 16-17; G. Chen 2012, 38; Weed 2011, 47)


In other words, just as rituals and regulations are “capable of bringing about order” (W 160), music is a major means of manipulating the human mind and emotions, creating synergy among all the different aspects of the body, and opening access to different levels of being: human, heavenly, energetic, and cosmic (Billeter 2010, 128; Chan 2011, 18; G. Chen 2012, 54; Graziani 2006, 104-06). The human level is one of constant anxiety and insecurity, while the heavenly is peaceful and flowing—a sense of being languid. From here, the music passes through the level of vital energy, as expressed in ethics and a positive outlook to end at the cosmic, symbolized by the sphere of Great Clarity. This stage, like the mind as abyss in the Gourd Master story, is closest to primordiality and marked by merging: no speech and loss of self. The role of the ruler in the syncretist vision is one of nonaction and openness: performing the right rituals at the right time and in the right direction, he is the major conduit between heaven, earth, and Humanity (Maspero 1978, 86; Peerenboom 1993, 96). He allows the energies of the cosmos to flow freely and purposely, so that order can be maintained and all people can “express their particular nature” (Ames 1983, 57). At peace within, he “isomorphically mirrors the patterns and processes of the cosmos, literally incarnating the Way” (Lee 2008, 559; 2014, ch. 6; Roth 1991a, 100). Individual practitioners, too, follow this route, such as Shen Dao 慎到, Tian Pian 田骈, and Peng Meng 彭蒙, major figures associated with the syncretists and the Jixia Academy (Peerenboom 1993, 230-34; Roth 1991a, 80; Schwartz 1985, 242). The Zhuangzi describes them as discarding knowledge and relaxing into Dao, maintaining inner peace, and keeping themselves free and faultless (ch. 33; W 370; Hansen 2010, 24).

Self-Cultivation A more specific focus on the methods rather than the cosmology of inner peace is central to the early strand of self-cultivation or preserving and nourishing life (yangsheng 養生). It comes in two forms, a radical opening to the impulses of the emotions and protection of the individual body, on the one hand, and the concentrated internal transformation of body, mind, and self toward cosmic purity, on the other. The first is associated with the thinker Yang Zhu 楊朱 (ca. 440–360 BCE), who was active under King Hui of Liang (Graham 1989, 54). His position, reflected in passages of the Zhuangzi (chs. 28-31), the Liezi (ch. 7), and the Lüshi chunqiu (ch. 3/3.1-4), is called individualist because it focuses on the preservation of the individual’s life and independence over and above reputation in, and service to, society (Bauer 1985, 159; Wang 2004, 4; 2007b, 25; Xu 2011, 448)—the classic trope noting how Yang Zhu


refused to sacrifice even a hair on his body to save the world (Mengzi 7A26; Liezi 7; Graham 1960, 148; Lewis 2006, 18; Vervoorn 1990, 55). Also called Hedonist after the Greek word hedone for “pleasure,” it is best described as “privatist,” since the “individual” at the time is not a fixed unit and the main thrust of the teaching favors self, family, and clan over state, empire, or universe.2 Yang Zhu’s teaching centers on three theses: 1) death is the final end of the existence of the individual; 2) death cannot be overcome by something extraneous to the body, such as fame and glory; and 3) human beings must enjoy the present to the extent that they forget about death (Cai 2005, 171). It is thus a worldview of ease and leisure, a life of no constraints and no restrictions, an attitude of giving in to desires and serving one’s own happiness and satisfaction (Graham 1960, 142; 1989, 60). It can be described as supporting four major points: freedom and liberty, the dignity of the individual, privacy and autonomy, and unconstrained self-development (Xu 2011, 449-51). Since each individual is unique, all should live in accordance with their own ideas and ideals, conforming only to Dao while respecting everyone else’s right to do the same (Huang 2010a 71; 2010b, 131). Dao being unbounded nothingness pervading each individual, whatever is good for oneself is also part of Dao (Brindley 2010, 58), and it is essential to be genuine and keep oneself intact (Graham 1989, 56). If people stopped striving for outer recognition, meddling with their characteristic, inherent tendencies, and trying to impose their will on life around them, the world would be a much better and more harmonious place (Xu 2011, 459). The Zhuangzi in general tends to agree with this fundamental position, encouraging people to be independent (ch. 11), stand up for themselves (ch. 21), value life (ch. 23), and protect the body (ch. 3). Like Xu You and others who reject a throne (ch. 28), Zhuang Zhou refuses to serve in office, preferring to “drag his tail in the mud” (ch. 17; Ling 2012, 137). The text in its individualist chapters, moreover, contains scathing criticism of the things people do to themselves and their integrity to gain rank and position in the world, such as officiousness, obsequiousness, sycophancy, flattery, calumny, maliciousness, wickedness, and treachery (ch. 32; W 347). However, unlike the radical individualists of the Liezi for whom happiness can be found “only in fine clothes and good food, music and beautiful women” (ch. 7; Graham 1960, 139), it maintains an ideal of simplicity and restraint, as is documented in Yan Hui’s answer to Confucius’s question, “Why don’t you get a job?”


See Berling 1985, 101; Brindley 2010, 70-74; Elvin 1985, 165; Emerson 1996, 11; Graham 1989, 53; Hansen 1985, 36.

ANCIENT DAOIST STRANDS / 73 “I don’t want a job. I have eight acres of fields outside the city wall, enough for vegetables and grain. I also have an acre and a half of farm land nearby, which gives me enough silk and hemp. Strumming my zither is enough to give me pleasure, studying Dao with you is enough to make me happy. I don’t want a job.” (ch. 28; Kohn 2011, 185)

The focus on simplicity and opening to Dao while actively pursuing self-cultivation, moreover, connects the Zhuangzi to the other branch of early self-cultivation, expressed in the “Neiye.”. Like the followers of Yang Zhu, practitioners here focus on life and vital energy, defending themselves against outside intrusions. However, they work with a more dynamic cosmos, expressed in the systematic exploration and transformation of the vital forces energy, essence, and spirit (qi jing shen 氣精神) (Lewis 2006, 20-21; Roth 1997b, 51). Adepts in this strand refine their qi through physical control and moderation in lifestyle and diet, withdrawal from sensory stimulation, and sitting in meditation. They pursue the fourfold alignment of body, limbs, breath, and mind to attain stillness and stability. Once at rest and filled with the potency of qi, adepts achieve complete balance in body and mind. They reach a level of simplicity that allows them to let go of things and be free from sensory overloads. Finding a state of serenity and repose in detachment from emotions that resembles the clarity and stillness proposed in the Daode jing (ch. 45), they walk through life in complete harmony with all, free from danger and harm. At peace within and in alignment with the world outside, they attain a level of physical health that keeps them fit and active well into old age. Reaching beyond ordinary life, they gain a sense of cosmic freedom that allows them to “hold up the Great Circle [of heaven] and tread firmly over the Great Square [of earth]” (Roth 1999a, 112-13). The “Neiye” says, When you enlarge your mind and let go of it, When you relax your qi and expand it, When your body is calm and unmoving, And you can maintain oneness and discard the myriad disturbances— Then you will see profit and not be enticed by it, You will see harm and not be frightened by it. Relaxed and unwound, yet acutely sensitive, In solitude you delight in your own person. This is called “revolving the qi”: Your thoughts and deeds seem heavenly. (ch. 24; Roth 1999a, 115)

Another set of early self-cultivation instructions involving qi appears in an inscription on a dodecagonal jade block—possibly a knob on a staff (Chen 1982)—from the 4th century BCE (Wilhelm 1948; Engelhardt 1996, 19). It says,

74 / CHAPTER SEVEN To guide the qi, allow it to enter deeply and collect it. As it collects, it will expand. Once expanded, it will sink down. When it sinks down, it comes to rest. After it has come to rest, it becomes stable. When the qi is stable, it begins to sprout. From sprouting, it begins to grow. As it grows, it can be pulled back upwards. When it is pulled upwards, it reaches the crown of the head. It then touches above at the crown of the head and below at the base of the spine. Who practices like this will attain long life. Who goes against this will die. (Kohn 2008b, 14; 2010, 31; Harper 1998, 126; also Roth 1997a, 297-98)

While the Zhuangzi would have no objection to the description of the movements and characteristics of qi, it contains no instructions as detailed as these and would reject them as too controlling and intentional. “In the ‘Neiye,’ the goal of the superior man is to unify and control things and, indeed, gain power over them. . . In the Zhuangzi, the spirit man allows things to be as they naturally ought” (Puett 2002, 126; also Graziani 2009, 442). Despising the followers of the long-lived Pengzu who are interested in nothing but extending life (ch. 15; Roth 1997b, 56), the Zhuangzi presents self-cultivation as regressive rather than proactive, letting go rather than intentionally modifying or increasing.

Politics This regressive tendency is also at the core of the more political Daoist strand of the primitivists or anarchists, so called because their ideal is the return to a simpler level of culture and harmonious social order while rejecting a formally structured state (Bender 1983, 5; Graham 1990b, 72; Skaja 1998, 105). They follow the utopian Daode jing vision: Let there be a small country with few people— They might have plenty of utensils, but nobody would use them, They would be concerned with death and never travel far. They might have boats and carriages, yet nobody would ride in them; They might have shields and spears, yet nobody would line up with them. The people there would again knot cords to communicate, They would sweeten their meals, adorn their robes, Enjoy their homes, and take pleasure in their customs. Two neighboring villages of this kind might be visible to each other, They might even hear each other’s dogs and roosters, Yet the people in either would grow old and never go back and forth. (ch. 80; Bender 1983, 10-11)

In addition, they integrate the teachings of the agriculturists (School of Tillers; nongjia 農家) who, under the leadership of Chen Xiang 陳相, around 315 BCE established a withdrawn, utopian community in the state of Teng, which consisted largely of farmers and craftsmen (Graham


1990b, 68-69, 101; Vervoorn 1990, 60). Following them, the primitivists adopt the Divine Farmer (Shennong 神農) as their mythical hero, the sage ruler who first developed agriculture, animal husbandry, weaving, and pharmacology (Graham 1990b, 81; Lee 2014, ch. 4; Karlgren 1946). Conforming to Dao in primitivist understanding means that people achieve spontaneous harmony by living in small, self-sufficient communities that are self-administered and free from social stratification. Sedentary, they rest contented with enough food, clothing, and shelter and have no desire for migration, expansion, or even outside contacts (Lee 2007b, 600-01). Returning to rudimentary civilization (Sarkassian 2010, 315), their overarching goal is to “preserve and circumscribe” (zaiyou 在 宥) human nature “in order to prevent its being damaged and ultimately destroyed by the seductive and destructive forces of civilization” (Roth 1997b, 44). Their contention is that the inherent tendencies of everything, including people, animals, and natural objects, form a set ontological reality that needs to be uncovered and preserved but not cultivated or transformed, and certainly not altered or manipulated by techniques or instruments (Lee 2007b, 602-03, 608; Brindley 2010, 80-81). They accordingly reject the hallmarks of advanced civilization (boats, carriages, armor) (Sarkassian 2010, 314) and all forms of craftsmanship: “If we must use curve and plumb line, compass and square to make something right, that means cutting away its inner nature; if we must use cords and knots, glue and lacquer to make something firm, this means violating its natural virtue” (ch. 8; W 100). “Horses and oxen have four feet—this is what I mean by the heavenly [natural]. Putting a halter on the horse’s head, piercing the ox’s nose—this is what I mean by the human [artifice]” (ch. 17; W 183; Bender 1983, 11; Berkson 2005, 313; Graham 1990b, 98; Yang 2007, 37). Claiming that “works of art derange the senses and generate unnatural desires” and that any “advance in sophistication and laws only creates more trouble” (Sarkassian 2010, 316-17), the primitivists pursue the ideal of the “uncarved block” (pu 朴) (Lee 2007b, 601). This also involves a rejection of knowledge and critical awareness, achieved in the legendary age of He Xu: “People stayed home but did not know what they were doing, walked around but did not know where they were going. Their mouths crammed with food, they were merry; drumming on their bellies, they had a good time” (ch. 9; W 106; Sarkassian 2010, 220). Believing that “we once lived in better balance not because we had better desires or better leadership but because we lacked the means to let our desires run amok and cause strife” (Sarkassian 2010, 322), the primitivists propose a rather radical program of purging the world by obliterating all artifice and silencing those who promote it: destroy implements, kill sages, blind artists, deafen musicians, cripple artisans, im-


prison craftsmen, and gag intellectuals (Zhuangzi 10; Sarkassian 2010, 320-21). This has had some historical impact. Their documents dating from the mid-to-late 3rd century BCE (Roth 2003, 199), these Daoist reactionaries witnessed warfare and treachery on a large scale and may well have provided inspiration for the totalitarian ideology and radical purges under the Qin, including the execution of 460 dissenting scholars and the massive burning of books in 214 (Sarkassian 2010, 325-26).

Zhuangzi’s Truth Looking at these various early Daoist strands in combination, it becomes obvious how each picks up on one aspect of the Daode jing and develops it in greater detail and toward a particular vision of cosmos, self, and society. The overarching tendency is for deeper analysis and more control, an increase in technical terms and specific practices—the syncretists using various theories and methods to understand and match the universal flow, self-cultivation practitioners working with vital energy in particular ways, and even the primitivists who eschew all artifice imposing radical changes on the way things are in their time. The strands also help to highlight key features in the thought associated specifically with Zhuangzi and his followers. Appreciating the movements of nature and the greater cosmos, they favor living in alignment with it but refrain from trying to find detailed explanations or promoting specific techniques. Respecting people’s individuality and personal choices as well as valuing the body and supporting its care, they maintain a preference for simplicity and light desires, but encourage unlearning of extraneous tendencies over the focused practice of transformational methods. Preferring a private life to public service, internal contentment in simple living to outer rank and the accoutrements of office, they yet do not seek to convert everyone to their way of life and have no urge to radically change society as a whole. Zhuangzi and his followers overall show a great sense of acceptance of the present and support personal choice and integrity in relation to cosmos, self, and society. “Truth is a pathless land” holds true for Zhuangzi as much as for Krishnamurti.

Chapter Eight The Universe To live fully and find our way in this “pathless land,” it is essential that we shift away from seeking happiness on the outside and move toward living in the flow. We have to let go of value judgments and disputation in favor of acceptance and merging, release our fixed mind and personal body as we open toward spirit and the vastness of universal integration. The Zhuangzi makes a strong distinction between the two dimensions of life (sheng 生) and accomplishment (cheng 成) or, as Eske Møllgaard describes them, “self-emergence and completion” (2007, 15). They match the opposites of heaven (tian 天) and humanity (ren 人), spontaneity (ziran 自然) and artificiality (wei 偽), nonaction (wuwei 無為) and technical action (shu 術), caring for life (yangsheng 養生) and skilled techniques (ji 技) (2007, 16). This distinction is also expressed in terms of nonbeing (wu 無) and being (you 有), the latent potentiality of existence and its manifest forms, or “non-presence and presence, center and periphery, non-change and change, one and two” (Moeller 2004a, 130). The Zhuangzi devotes much of its writing to the description of defensive structures in everyday life that obscure the heavenly while strongly emphasizing the need to be free from the drive for completion (Møllgaard 2007, 16). Understanding the human predicament in these terms, the question thus arises: Yes, but how? To begin the journey toward living more fully and in perfect happiness, the first step is to appreciate how the greater universe works so that we know what forces to align ourselves with, beginning with the core power of the Daoist universe, Dao or the “Way,” the field from which all life grows (Henricks 1999, 164; see also Ames 1986; Callahan 1998).



Dao The graph for dao 道 appears first in Western Zhou bronze inscriptions as composed of three semantic elements: a foot, a crossroads, and an ornamented eye signifying a head (Cheng 2004, 145; Eno 1996, 129; Shang 2002, 231; Wang 2012, 44). The matching graph in the oracle bones today would consist of the character for “walk” (zhuo 辶) plus the word for “long life” (shou 壽), which shows that dao in the early stages was related to choreographed or processional liturgies, a sense still present today in the word dao 禱, “to pray” (Eno, 1996, 145n11). In the pre-philosophical period, dao had four meanings: a way to walk on (path), a way of doing things (art), to provide guidance on a path, or to give instruction on how to do something, i.e., say or tell (Eno 1996, 129). It thus included the way of going or doing plus the action of walking or doing and the guidance needed to go or do (Shang 2002, 231-32). Under the impact of the early philosophers, beyond signifying both discourse and skilled practice, dao became the word of choice to designate a certain teaching or method, including “a complex of skills plus the motor and verbal procedures for their transmission from teacher to student, and discursive doctrines that expressed the personal or social functionality of the particular method” (Eno 1996, 129). It was then “used to describe the skills, training procedures, and social cultures of various closed professions, such as divination, metallurgy, and music” (Eno 1996, 130). Confucius spoke of “my dao,” meaning a set system of instruction and practice that would lead to a particular sort of mastery; Mozi, in contrast, proposed dao as argument and reason, for which language was essential (Eno 1996, 132). There are, thus, as Chad Hansen has argued, many normative daos or specific forms of guidance and discourse (2010, 23), i.e., conventional, systematic patterns of behavior and skills transmitted from master to disciple (1995, 187; 2010, 37; Billeter 2010, 38). While access to daos as skill mastery is not instinctive and cannot be found in animals (Eno 1996, 140), human beings have a natural disposition to behave according to a learned core of dao (Hansen 1995, 190). The more metaphysical dimension of the term appears first in the Daode jing, which begins with the famous words, “The Dao that can be told is not the constant Dao” (ch. 1) (Fried 2012, 421; Wang 2004, 154). That is to say, beyond all the various daos of skill mastery and profound discourse, there is a “way of life” (Bynner 1944, 55; Henricks 1999, 161), an “essence or source of life” (Chen 2010, 121; Møllgaard 2007, 22; Robinet 1999, 130), a “model for all” (Liu 1999, 220), or an “inherent way of being” (Kohn 2011, 17), a flowing process of existence (Neville 1980, 26; Owens 1993, 261). It is constant, invisible, inaudible, and subtle (ch. 14),


the origin of heaven and earth (ch. 1), the mother of the universe (ch. 25), always empty yet never exhausted (ch. 4) (Henricks 1999, 163; Masami 1999, 181; Shen 1988, 3; Wang 2012, 46; Xie 2000, 470; Zhang 2002, 14). In other words, while performance daos are indeterminate and vary with place, time, social setting, and individual (Hansen 1995, 192; 2010, 35), there is some force or pattern pervading all existence—described in chaos theory as the “fractal geometry of form and process” that appears in “intricate, repetitive patterns” throughout the world (Jones and Culliney 1999, 644-45) As core force of the universe, Dao as described in the Daode jing pervades all-there-is and, however inaccessible to ordinary sensing and knowing, and continues to flow in the creative process of all existence free from metaphysical rupture (Billeter 2010, 136; Cheng 2004, 147; Fung 1952, 1: 223; Jullien 2000, 281; McCormick 1999, 332; Møllgaard 2005, 2; Sun 1953, 145-46). Without any exterior input or modification, Dao is a perpetuum mobile that does not depend on anything (Moeller 2004a, 98, 107). Essentially immanent, it can never become the object of knowing (Robinet 1996, 125). Part of the realm beyond color, sound, and form, before there are things, Dao is free from distinctions, values, and borders (Møllgaard 2007, 23). Not a material substance or even energy, it is a process of circular movement, blending and coalescing forces, so that vitality can gush forth in continuous emergence (Jones and Culliney 1999, 65253; Jung 2011, 33). Benjamin Schwartz describes this process as “organic order.” Dao is organic in the sense that it is part of the world and not a transcendent other as in Western religion; it is also order because it can be felt in the rhythms of the world, in the manifestation of organized patterns (1985, 195; see also Graupe 2011, 79). Cheng Chung-ying explains the dimensions of Dao in terms of language: cosmic Dao is pre-language, whole, and circular; representational Dao is communicable, partial, and linear (2004, 145). Eske Møllgaard speaks of it as both visible and invisible, transcendent and immanent, latent but not beyond, the continuous flow of experience coming into being (2005, 2-5; see also Robinet 1996, 115). One way to think of Dao, apparent also in later religious literature, is as two concentric circles, a smaller one in the center and a larger on the periphery. The dense, smaller circle in the center is Dao at the root of creative change—tight, concentrated, intense, and ultimately unknowable, ineffable, and beyond conscious or sensory human attainment (Daode jing chs. 6, 14, 25) (Fried 2012, 425). The larger circle at the periphery is Dao as it appears in the world, the patterned cycle of life and visible nature. Here we can see Dao as it comes and goes, rises and sets, rains and shines, lightens and darkens—the ever-changing yet everlasting, cyclical alteration of natural patterns, yin and yang, life and death (chs. 2, 9, 22, 36) (Cheng 1990, 28). It is the Dao of natural transformations: the meta-


morphoses of insects, bodily dissolutions, and all the inevitable organic changes of human and other beings (Skogeman 1986, 81-82; Robinet 1993, 154). This natural, tangible Dao is what people can study and learn to create harmony in the world; the cosmic, ineffable Dao, on the other hand, they need to open to by being still and clear, and only then can they find true peace in life (Kohn 2001, 22; Shen 1988, 22; Xie 2000, 471, 474; Yang 2007, 96; Wang 2012, 125). The Zhuangzi follows the Daode jing in its description of Dao as beyond sensory and intellectual cognition (Höchsmann and Yang 2007, 31): “Dao has reality and signs but is without action or form. You can hand it down, but you cannot receive it; you can get it, but you cannot see it. It is its own source, its own root; it was there before heaven and earth” (ch. 6; W 81; Chen 2010, 123). It is beyond being and nonbeing, neither reality nor concept (Wang 2003, 48). “If Dao could be presented, everybody would immediately present it to their rulers. If it could be offered, everybody would immediately offer it to their parents. . . But it cannot be any of these things” (ch. 14; Kohn 2011, 125). “Dao cannot be heard: if you hear it, it’s not Dao. Dao cannot be seen: if you see it, it’s not Dao. Dao cannot be spoken of: if you speak of it, it’s not Dao. Understanding is just trying to give form to what is originally formless. In no way can Dao be named” (ch. 23; Kohn 2011, 23; Lee 2011, 10). Despite this elusiveness, however, Dao as immanent process is everywhere, even in excrement: “Don’t look for any particular thing—nothing ever is without Dao” (ch. 22; W 241) (Chen 2010, 128; Fu 1976, 124). As Geling Shang points out, Zhuangzi’s articulation of Dao thus consists of two major parts: 1) a criticism of Dao as a metaphysical reality and cosmological origin and a deconstruction of truth, knowledge, and language as something final, absolute, and unchangeable; 2) an establishment and reconstruction of Dao as one of differences, along with an affirmative attitude towards life itself, and thus a way to attain the ultimate liberation of the human spirit (2002, 237). The reconstruction, moreover, focuses on bringing Dao into the individual’s life, opening a connection, a pervasion, a thoroughfare, a free flow (tong 通) to the inherent so-being of the universe as it flows through one’s particular existence (Roth 1990, 20; Tong 2011, 91). Thus Guangchengzi advises the Yellow Emperor, “Perfect Dao in its innermost essence is serene and obscure; in its highest ultimate, it is murky and silent. . . Practice being unseeing and unhearing” and cultivate “clarity and stillness,” so that Dao can come to stay (ch. 11; Fried 2012, 431). Adepts undertake mind-fasting, because “Dao gathers in emptiness alone” (ch. 4); perfected masters rest “in emptiness and nonbeing, peace and serenity, fully matching the inner power (de) of heaven” (ch. 6). Dao, also called “no being” (wuwu 無物), here is not a metaphysical entity, a transcendental being external or above this world, but an ever-


open process of nature as it is, ongoing transformation with no beginning or end, limit or boundary, right or wrong (Shang 2002, 241; Xie 2000, 478). Opening to Dao means placing oneself in the quiet, silent center of all, at the “axis,” “hinge,” or “pivot of Dao” (daoshu 道樞) (ch. 2; Fox 1996, 64; 2003, 215; Wang 2012, 53; Xie 2000, 476). The “core point in the center of the continuous ebb and flow, give and take of complementary opposites” (Merton 1969, 30), this pivotal place is like the gnomon in ancient culture—a wooden pole at the center of the world where no shadow would fall on midsummer day which signified the center of space and time, the hub of the cosmic wheel, the still and empty center around which all activities revolve (Moeller 2004a, 104, 129). Adopting this position, we overcome the duality of being and nonbeing and reach a state of vibrant aliveness that comes with a strong affirmation of the world (Lee 2011, 9). It means letting go of any artificial distinctions of reality and appearances, oneness and differences, truth and error, life and death, in favor of a state of flow, freedom, and perfect happiness (Shang 2002, 241; Fried 2012, 434).

Heaven Another core term the Zhuangzi uses frequently to describe the cosmic dimension of life is heaven (tian 天). Indicating both the supreme deity and the physical sky, as well as physical nature, heaven has a will of its own and is the master of the universe (Perkins 2005, 330; Yang 2007, 37; Zhang 2002, 4). A governing, generative power and principle that is transcendent with regard to nature and the myriad things, the idea of heaven carries the connotation of sacredness, supreme power, and morality (Graziani 2006, 274; Tang 2003, 272). Not found on the oracle bones of the Shang, whose main deity was di 帝, the highest ancestor of the ruling clan, the earliest appearance of tian is in Western Zhou bronze inscriptions. They show the graph as a variant of the word for “big” (da 大), which includes the word for “man” (ren 人), plus a line at the top. The Shuowen, too, specifies that the character for “heaven,” i. e., “that which is highest and cannot be surpassed,” is composed of the words for “one” and “big” (1A.1a) (Chang 2000; Zhang 2002, 3). The original meaning of the word is thus “great man” plus “one,” and as such it is similar to king (wang 王), originally also showing a person with a line on top (Creel 1970b, 497-98; Fung 1952, 1:31). Heaven may


well originally have referred to the collective ancestors of the king plus the location where they were thought to reside, i.e., the sky (Creel 1970b, 502). Gradually this merged into a single powerful deity, “a sky god hardly distinguished from the sky itself” (Graham 1989, 1). Heaven’s doing is spontaneous and natural (Wang 2012, 137; Zhang 2002, 8), self-causing and self-evidencing (Ames 1986, 131), but it also has a will of its own and can bestow its decree or “mandate” (ming 命) on rulers and states (Creel 1970b, 501). Early philosophers disagreed about its nature. The Mohists insisted that heaven—like gods, ghosts, and ancestors—was a personified deity, had consciousness, was omniscient, and affected people by rewarding and punishing behavior based on an ethical standard (Graham 1989, 17, 49; Csikszentmihalyi 2004, 44). Confucians and Daoists, on the other hand, saw heaven as impersonal, as “a term that designates the whole scenario of cosmic and social functioning, the course of time and the pattern of space” (Moeller 2004a, 106-07). The Daode jing expresses this most radically when it says that “heaven and earth are not benevolent” (ch. 5), meaning that they are impartial and indifferent rather than ruthless (Wong 2009, 573). heaven is often paired with earth in the compound tiandi 天地. This signifies nature, the visible universe (L. Hansen 1972, 122; Møllgaard 2005, 3-4). The Zhuangzi says: “heaven and earth are huge, but they are alike in their transformations. . . Pervading heaven and earth, that is Dao” (ch. 12; W 126). It describes them in terms of the four seasons, six directions, and various weather conditions (thunder and lightning) (chs. 14, 18) and calls them “the father and mother of the myriad beings” (ch. 19). Things get their physical form from heaven and earth and receive their vital energy from yin and yang (ch. 17), the underlying energetic forces of the universe. Mounting the truth of heaven and earth (ch. 1), being their companion (ch. 4), knowing their workings, flowing along with their vital energy (ch. 6), and connecting to their essence (ch. 11) makes it possible to achieve sagehood and perfection (Csikszentmihalyi 2004, 45-46; Graham 1989, 195-96; Höchsmann and Yang 2007, 32). While heaven and earth in many ways represent the visible, tangible Dao on the periphery, it is also possible to place oneself in their center, to “harmonize with heaven’s core point” and “rest in heaven’s balance” (ch. 2). The two terms used here are tianni 天倪 and tianjun 天均: ni literally means “beginning” or “least point,” and is translated as “equality” (W 48), “bounds” (Møllgaard 2007, 21), and “natural division” (Wen 2011, 79). Jun indicates a heavy weight, a grindstone, or a potter’s wheel (Coutinho 2004, 169)—“balance,” “harmony,” and “natural identification” (Wen 2011, 80-81). The Zhuangzi connects the two terms (ch. 27), leading to the vision of overall balance. Just as “it is only when the potter


finds the center of the circle that he is able to respond to the clay in novel ways” (De Reu 2010, 50), so to live our best life, we have to undertake the balancing act of being “sometimes of heaven’s party and sometimes of humanity’s party” (Graham 1989, 196), to find the place of zeroperspective (Moeller 2004a, 101, 105), the “central, peaceful ground on which to stand” so we are able to face “the world without partiality or anxiety” (Wen 2011, 81).

Oneness One way to achieve this level of centeredness is to adopt the quality of oneness. Oneness or “the One” (yi 一) is highest unity, the “ultimate ancestor of everything” (Puett 2002, 318), the formless omnipresent integration of the cosmos (Yang 2007, 63; Capra 1991, 131). Unifying all things that exist, it is not a material or visible entity like heaven and earth, neither is it a potent creator, a metaphysical reality, a number that initiates all numbers, or a single entity opposite to the many. “The Chinese world is not ‘one’ in the classical Greek sense of a single ordered ‘uni’-verse where some external, independent, and determinative principle provides unity and order to something other than itself. It is not “one” in the sense that would make it a closed system, defined in terms of abstract, universal, necessary, and unchanging natural and moral laws” (Ames 1998, 228). Rather, signifying the number “one,” overall unity, uniformity, and non-duality, it is a fundamental quality of Dao (Li 2012, 553-54). In this world of “omnicentric holism” (Ziporyn 2003, 34), it serves as a general description designating togetherness, integration, the sum-total of all things (Gu 2009, 162, 243), the origin of beings (Robinet 1999, 137), the unity and coherence Dao gives to the world (Wang 2012, 48). It is the not-quite-something all things have in common that binds the universe together. Adjectives associated with oneness include all-round (zhou 周 ), whole (quan 全), combined (he 和), equal (qi 齊), and equivalent (jun 均) as well as together (tong 同) and pervasive or open (tong 通) (Shang 2002, 243). Oneness is the spontaneous activity that makes all things what they are (zisheng 自生), “the infinite flux of the ever-becoming nature in which everything comes to be and ceases to be and cannot help but be what it is” (Shang 2002, 248). Oneness thus means commonality but not uniformity, togetherness but not identity (Shang 2002, 244). As the Zhuangzi says, “Heaven cannot help but be high; earth cannot help but be broad; sun and moon cannot help but revolve; the ten thousand things cannot help but flourish” (ch. 22; W 239).


Already the Yijing describes the complexity of the world in terms of one (yang, one single line) and two (yin, a divided line) (Wilhelm 1950). Confucius said, “My way is that of oneness, which connects the universe” (Lunyu 4.15). Oneness is Dao, yet also subtly different, still primordial but a bit closer to the created world. The Daode jing has, “Dao produced one; one produced two; two produced three; and three produced the myriad things” (ch. 42; G. Chen 2012, 31; Gu 2009, 161; Shang 2002, 238; Tong 2011, 100; Wang 2012, 147). The Zhuangzi matches this. “In the Great Beginning there was nonbeing. There was no being, no name. Out of it oneness arose. Then there was oneness, but there was no form. Beings realized and came to life. It was called their life-force” (ch. 12). This underlying power of oneness is what makes things and people what they are in the greater scheme of the universe. Accordingly the Daode jing formulates cosmic unfolding in terms of “obtaining” oneness, a system formulated in greater prominence in the later Huainanzi (see Major 1993). Heaven obtained oneness and became clear. Earth obtained oneness and became settled. Spirit obtained oneness and became powerful. The Valley obtained oneness and became full. All beings obtained oneness and lived and grew. (Daode jing 39; Robinet 1993, 120)

The Zhuangzi again matches this, describing the effect of obtaining inherent primordial Dao. Xiwei got it and held up heaven and earth. Fu Xi got it and entered into the mother of energy. The Northern Dipper got it and from ancient times has never wavered. The sun and the moon got it and from ancient times have never rested. . . The Yellow Emperor got it and ascended to the cloudy heavens. Zhuan Xu got it and dwelt in the dark palace. . . Pengzu got it and lived from the age of Shun to the age of the Five Dictators. (ch. 6; W 81; Zhang 2002, 104)

Oneness is close to water as the source of all life, later correlated with the winter solstice, the point of cosmic renewal in the annual cycle (Robinet 1993, 121). It matches the underlying nonbeing of the world, the central pole of the cosmos, the hub of the wheel and central quietude that allows people to let the world move around them without involvement and attachment. The mind of oneness is free from attachment, obsession, dualism, dogmatism, prejudice, and discrimination; it represents thorough openness to and for all that exists (Shang 2002, 245). Thus the classic saying: “Knowing how to guard the One, the myriad affairs are done” (zhi shouyi wanshi bi 知守一萬事畢), found in numerous Daoist texts over the millennia (Kohn 1989, 131; Robinet 1983b, 86-87).


Applied by an individual practitioner, what other effect than eternal life could this oneness produce? Thus the Daode jing has, “make your spirit and material souls embrace oneness and not be separate” (ch. 10), implying the avoidance of death (Zhang 2002, 103). In the Zhuangzi, Guangchengzi exclaims: “I hold on to oneness, abide in its harmony, and thus I have kept myself alive for 1200 years, without my body suffering any decay” (ch. 11). It also says, “Realize what makes them one and thereby be one with all” (ch. 21; W 226). Similarly, the Huainanzi has, “Heaven and earth revolve and pervade each other; the myriad beings are ultimately one with them. When one knows the One, nothing remains unknown” (7.5; Major et al. 2010, 245; see also Lüshi chunqiu 3). The primordial oneness of the universe, which “identifies and equalizes all things in the togetherness of Dao” (Shang 2002, 247; Li 2000, 98), eventually divides into the two forces yin 陰 and yang 陽 as its primary functions. Originally designating the sunny and shady sides of a hill (Wang 2012, 22; Zhang 2002, 83-85), they soon came to designate the qualities of things, the interdependence of their development, their mutual inclusion and balanced development (Neville 1980, 26-28). The Zhuangzi speaks of yin and yang as representing the natural order (chs. 4, 6) and identifies them with the qualities of movement and stillness (ch. 13). As the Daode jing already points out (ch. 42), yin and yang interact to establish a harmony in what it calls the “three.” The three here is recovered unity on the basis of original oneness and accordingly means a totality as complete as the original unity of Dao albeit on a more complex level (Robinet 1993, 122). Whether as original cosmic oneness or as onein-three, any realizing of oneness allows us to become what we are originally meant to be, to fulfill our destiny in the universe, to grow and live in perfection.

Vital Energy The fundamental oneness of existence in Chinese thought finds a more concrete expression in the notion of qi 氣, cosmic or vital energy, the “stuff of Dao that leads to an actualization of things and the concretization of events” (Cheng 1986, 360). The character for qi appears first in the oracle bones of the Shang dynasty as consisting of three parallel lines, possibly showing morning dew transforming into lines of steam under the sun, or alternatively showing flowing clouds or the steam from boiling rice, as the Shuowen explains it (Wang 2012, 59). Associated with smoke, ether, and clouds (Bodde 1959), qi also denotes anything perceptible but intangible: atmosphere, vapor, a sense of intuition, or even ghosts (Kohn 2005, 11).


Defined as “configurative energy” in Chinese medicine (Porkert 1974, 167), qi is not only life-sustaining breath but “a metaphysical, mystical reality which serves to connect the world of the manifold, determinate, and discrete to the world of nonbeing” (Schwartz 1985, 218). It “channels through dispositions and configurations of dynamic environments” and “represents qualities that are physical, biological, emotional, meteorological, spiritual, and so on” (Behuniak 2002, 68; Chan 2002, 59). In modern terms, qi is best described as matter and energy in convertible interchange, as in Einstein’s famous equation E = mc2. Signifying “both what really exists and what has the ability to become,” qi combines potentiality with matter and it is the “life principle and the stuff of objects” (Zhang 2002, 45-46). There is only one qi, just as there is only one Dao (Yang 2003, 117). It has two basic characteristics: first, it has “various gradations of subtlety, like one and the same material that can manifest as solid ice, fluid water, or volatile steam;” second, it is “not static but follows an inherent order like water flowing down and steam rising up” (Defoort 2012, 473). Inherently containing “order, structure, and form” (Cheng 1986, 363), qi appears on different levels of subtlety and in different modes. At the center, there is primordial, prenatal, true, or perfect qi; at the periphery, there is postnatal or earthly qi. Both are in constant motion and manifest variously, potentially being “harnessed, blocked, released, accumulated, or lost in dynamic, functional configurations” (Behuniak 2002, 68; also Capra 1991, 194). The Zhuangzi reflects this division. It speaks of the “one qi of heaven and earth” (ch. 6) and states, “Human life is nothing but an assemblance of qi. When it comes together, we come to life; when it scatters, we die” (ch. 22; Behuniak 2002, 75; Kuriyama 1999, 223; Robinet 1993, 83; Zhang 2002, 48). “Qi transforms and there is form; form transforms and there is life” (ch. 18). If the qi of heaven is not in harmony, that of earth is obstructed (ch. 11). The sage values qi since it is the one unifying factor pervading the cosmos (ch. 22). While qi on this level is cosmic and intangible, qi is also present in nature, visible and measurable. It moves in the patterns of yin and yang, gives rise to the four seasons (chs. 23, 25) and manifests in the six directions (ch. 1); it is tangible as vapor and especially clouds (chs. 1, 2, 11, 14). Qi is also visible and audible in the myriad beings. The “Great Clod belches forth qi,” the Zhuangzi says, “blowing on the myriad things differently, so that each can be itself” (Cook 2003, 65; Berkson 2005, 315). That is to say, each individual being per qi has a unique shape and brings forth its very own sound (Hansen 2010, 39; see also DeWoskin 1982). They roar like waves, whistle like arrows, screech, gasp, cry, wail, moan, howl. Those in the lead cry out yeee; those behind cry out yuuu. In a gentle breeze,

THE UNIVERSE / 87 they answer faintly; but in a full gale, the chorus is gigantic. Then, when the fierce wind has passed on, all the hollows are empty again. (ch. 2; Behuniak 2002, 76; Ling 2012, 186; West 2000, 76)

This describes the workings of vital energy as the spontaneous selfgeneration and self-functioning of all beings; the generative force or principle that fashions them; and the balance between self-engendering and the actualizing force of nature, between self-choosing and dependence on universal patterns (Li 2000, 93). It shows how all existence is a “magnificent, conductor-less symphony” (Lo 1999, 160; Kuriyama 1999, 244), a vibrant, daily renewed polyphony of sound consisting—like the music of Johann Sebastian Bach—of essentially simple elements combined in increasingly complex patterns (Billeter 2010, 129). Produced by a multitude of unique beings, all connected and alive through the blowing of cosmic energy, it allows all to continuously resonate with the perfect pitch of Dao that is inaudible yet deeply embedded in every being (Kohn 2007, 103; Huang 2008, 369; Tong 2011, 103). Staying within this metaphor, one may describe Dao as “background noise,” functioning along the lines of chaos theory in physics, according to which “all ‘bodies’ self-order through random repetition out of chaotic atomic flows and decay back again into these flows”(Stevenson 2006, 303). Individual bodies or beings, moreover, have the potential to be either in tune or out of tune with the true pitch of Dao, since qi flows through the human body like blood (Zhuangzi, ch. 7) and constitutes human temperament or “inner nature” (ch. 23). This flow can be upright or wayward (ch. 15), causing harmony or dissonance, health or disease, long life or early death (ch. 29). Upright (zheng 正) qi flows freely, creating a balanced state of being in the person as much as in nature and society: it means not only health but regular weather patterns and the absence of disasters as much as the peaceful coexistence among social units. Its opposite is wayward (xie 邪) qi, which has lost the harmonious pattern of flow and no longer supports the dynamic forces of change. Disorderly and dysfunctional, it creates patterns that violate the cosmic order, depleting personal, natural, and social resources (Kohn 2005, 12-13). In either dimension, qi stands in close connection to the human mind (Zhuangzi, ch. 4). When it flows smoothly, “the mind is at rest and free from affairs” (ch. 6) and we get along easily with all beings (ch. 7). By the same token, mental peace supports and nurtures qi, causing it to be upright (ch. 19). Yet the mind can also modify qi into wayward mode so that, for example, depression prevents it from coming forth (ch. 29) and its expression in emotions and desires “entangles virtue” (ch. 23). A key to working with qi is its conscious cultivation: “Sitting quietly, you stabilize the qi” (ch. 30). In stages reminiscent of the “Neiye,” adepts become upright, still, clear, and empty (ch. 23). Doing away with ordi-


nary perception, they release the mind to the point where they perceive through pure qi rather than with the help of the senses (ch. 4). They can go even beyond this by “forgetting spirit and qi, casting off form and bones” to reach a state of oblivion and flow (ch. 11). Some may even master control over the self as a dynamic expression of qi. Thus, the Gourd Master can show “the workings of balanced qi” as one of energy patterns as his disposal (ch. 7). A similar understanding of qi also appears in the Mengzi, but here it is imbued with moral qualities so that its cultivation affords control over the mind as the master of the senses and opens the person to higher ethical living (Lewis 2006, 27-28). In the Lüshi chunqiu, on the other hand, it is more of physical force whose moderate use is essential for the creation and maintenance of good health (3/2.5; Knoblock and Riegel 2000, 101). Taken together, then, Dao at the core of the cosmos is the underlying flow of existence, while heaven and earth express this flow in visible patterns of natural interchange and development. Oneness is the quality of inherent unity in the cosmos and the existing world, and vital energy provides the tangible, self-generating force that binds them all together.

Chapter Nine Guo Xiang Guo Xiang (252-312) is the major commentator of the Zhuangzi and editor of the standard edition in 33 chapters, reducing the text from its earlier 52 (Fung 1952, 2:205-06). Little is known about his life. The Jinshu 晉書 (History of the Jin Dynasty, ch. 50) of the year 648 only notes that he was talented as a young man who from an early age delighted in Daoist materials, became a skilled participant in various intellectual debates, and served in local government for a period (Ziporyn 2003, 17). Guo Xiang’s work is steeped in Mystery Learning (Xuanxue 玄學) and follows in the wake of several other early commentaries, notably the work of Xiang Xiu 向秀 (ca. 130-200), which he allegedly plagiarized—a claim that is no longer held to be true today. His commentary paved the way for connecting the Zhuangzi to Buddhist as well as religious Daoist world-view in centuries to come and established the text and its core concepts as part of traditional Chinese thinking (Billeter 2010, 135; Deng 2010, 272; Lo 2010, 234; Wang 2012). It opened a new understanding the relationship of Dao and world, integrated Confucian values and official ideals, and explored the intricacies of the human mind in a way that had a lasting impact on later understanding. It also adapted the Zhuangzi to the dominant, more reclusive thinking of the time, transforming its original thought of radical autonomy, personal independence, refusal of official service, and rejection of all dominance into a form of spiritual compensation for disenfranchised aristocrats (Billeter 2010, 133).

The Commentary Tradition Commentaries in traditional cultures represent particular philosophical expressions and developments (Henderson 1991, 3). Guo Xiang’s work is the earliest full surviving Zhuangzi commentary; other medieval exegeses are extant in citations. The Tang scholar Lu Deming 陸德明 (-630?), in his 89


Jingdian shiwen 經典釋文 (Explanatory Notes to the Classics), notes five commentators known in the Western Jin period (265-317): 1. Sima Biao 司馬彪, a minister of archives under the Jin, dated to after 265. 2. A certain Mr. Meng 孟氏, possibly identical with Meng Kang 孟康 who lived during the Wei dynasty. 3. Cui Zhuan 崔譔, shorter in scope. 4. Xiang Xiu, a member of the Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove (see Holzman 1956), generally believed close to the Cui edition. 5. Guo Xiang. (Takeuchi 1979, 6:239-44; Chai 2008, 8-9; Yang 2007, 7)1

Since the editions by Sima Biao and Mr. Meng as well as those by Cui Zhuan and Xiang Xiu are considered identical, it seems that there were in fact three major versions with the following chapter division: edition Sima/Meng Cui/Xiang Guo Xiang

inner 7 7 7

outer 28 20 15

misc. 14 0 11

expl. 3 0 0

total 52 27 33

Lu Deming collected as much material as possible from the citations of these editions and their commentaries but, except for some slight remainders, they must be considered lost.2 After Guo Xiang and two successors who used his edition in the 4th century, there is a hiatus in Zhuangzi reception until the Tang dynasty, when Lu Deming collected glosses and provided a careful reading of characters. The major commentary extant from this time is the Buddhist-inspired and religious Daoist reading of Cheng Xuanying 成玄英 (fl. 630-660), a major representative of the school of Twofold Mystery (Chongxuan 重玄), who expands the interpretation in new, Daoist ways and reads the text in terms of the meditative practice of “twofold oblivion” (see ch. 13 below). This is followed by a cluster of other works, inspired by Emperor Xuanzong (r. 712-756) who, in 742, elevated Zhuangzi to the rank of a high Daoist sage and bestowed the title Nanhua zhenjing 南華真經 (Perfected Scripture of Southern Florescence) on the text. Most commentaries of this group were either commissioned by or submitted to the emperor, but have not survived (Yu 2000, 7, 26). As can be seen from the table below (based on Ziporyn 2009, 221-27; Yu 2000, 9, 26; also 1

Meng and Cui remain unknown. For Sima and Xiang, see Jinshu 82 and 49. Much of the Sima commentary is cited in the commentary to the Wenxuan 文 選 (Selections of Literature; trl. Knechtges 1982). Passages are also listed in Siku quanshu congmu tiyao 146 (3:3039) and in the Sima Biao Zhuangzi zhu 司馬彪莊子注 by the Qing scholar Sun Fengyi 孫馮翼 (in Wenjing tang congshu 問經堂叢書). 2


Fang 2008; 2009b), interest in the Zhuangzi revived under the Song, lapsed in the Yuan and early Ming, was strong again from 1500-1700, and has now flourished since the mid-19th century.

Zhuangzi Commentaries through the Ages Name Sima Biao Xiang Xiu Guo Xiang Xu Xianmin Li Hongfan Lu Deming Sun Simiao Li Rong

Chars 司馬彪 向秀 郭象 徐仙民 李弘範 陸德明 孫思邈


Dates 246-306? 227-272? 252-312 334-397 4th c. -630? 581-682 7th c.

Notes historian poet, Seven Sages scholar-official scholar-official scholar scholar, philologist medical scholar, Daoist Daoist master

Cheng Xuanying Lu Zangyong Li Hanguang Liu Zong Shuai Yeguang Gan Hui Wei Bao Wen Ruhai Zhang Jiugai Chen Jingyuan Lü Huiqing Wang Pang Chen Xiangdao Jiang Yu Zhu Xi Lin Xiyi Zhao Yifu Zhu Boxiu Luo Miandao Zhu Boxiu Liu Chenweng Yang Shen Lu Xixing Luo Miandao Li Zhi Jiao Hong Sun Kuang Shi Deqing Tao Wangling

成玄英 盧藏用 李含光 柳縱 帥夜光 甘暉 魏包 文如海 張九垓 陳景元 呂惠卿 王雱 陳祥道 江遹 朱熹 林希逸 趙以夫 槠柏秀 羅勉道 槠伯秀 劉辰翁 楊慎 陸西星 羅勉道 李贽 焦宏 孫礦 釋德清 陶望齡

630-660? fl. 700 683-769 fl. 733 fl. 733 fl. 741 fl. 741 fl. 741 761-805? 1024-1094 1032-1111 1044-1076 11th c. 11th c. 1130-1200 1193-? 1189-1256 12th c. -1270? 1230-1278? 1232-1297 1488-1559 1520-1606 16th c. 1527-1602 1540-1620 1543-1613 1546-1623 1562?-1609

Daoist master Daoist Daoist master Daoist Daoist Daoist official Daoist official Daoist master Daoist hermit scholar official, Wang Anshi follower official, Wang Anshi’s son scholar scholar thinker artist poet, Yijing master hermit, Daoist thinker thinker scholar recluse scholar poet novelist, Daoist philologist thinker, Buddhist scholar official, literary critic thinker, Buddhist monk scholar poet

92 / CHAPTER NINE Yuan Hongdao Li Xiangzhou Tan Yuanchun Wang Xuan Shi Daosheng Fang Yizhi Qian Chengzhi Wang Fuzhi Ye Bingjing Lin Yunming Qu Dajun Guo Songtao Wang Kaiyun Yang Wenhui Wang Xianqian Yan Fu Ma Qichang Hu Yuanjun Zhang Binglin Cao Shoukun Liu Xianxin

袁宏道 李湘州 譚元春 王宣 釋道盛 方以智 錢澄之 王夫之 葉秉敬 林雲銘 屈大均 郭嵩燾 王闓運 楊文會 王先謙 嚴復 馬其昶 胡遠濬 章炳麟 曹受坤 劉咸炘

1568-1610 1573-1633 1586-1637 1565-1654 1592-1659 1611-1671 1612-1692 1619-1692 17th c. 1628-1697? 1630-1696 1818-1891 1833-1916 1837-1911 1842-1917 1853-1921 1855-1930 1866-1931 1869-1936 1879-1959 1896-1932

poet, Buddhist monk scholar, Confucian poet, literary theorist scientist scholar, Buddhist monk scholar, Buddhist monk hermit, Buddhist monk philosopher, Confuan philologist, poet poet poet, Buddhist monk diplomat, statesman scholar scholar, modernizer, Buddhist scholar, conservative scholar, reformer, Peking Univ scholar, historian scholar scholar, Western, Buddhist scholar scholar, Sichuan University

The periods of increased interest in the Zhuangzi coincide with phases of high philosophical activity. Guo Xiang’s work forms part of Mystery Learning, a philosophical movement that arose after the end of the Han in reaction to the strong control of intellectual life by officials of this dynasty. It focused on the search for a more spiritual dimension of life through the recovery and reinterpretation of less political classics, notably the “three mysteries” (sanxuan 三玄): Daode jing, Zhuangzi, and Yijing (Fung 1952, 2:169; Wagner 2003; Wang 1996). Lu Deming’s philological collection and Cheng Xuanying’s exegesis as well as other works of the Tang belong to a great effort of both Daoists and Buddhists to formulate their world-view in a coherent, integrated manner in order to satisfy the rulers’ demand for a comprehensive, unifying ideology. It coincided with the integration of the major medieval Daoist schools into a systematic ordination system, the establishment of large-scale, state-sponsored monastic institutions, the creation of legal codes for recluses of all religions, and the elevation of Daoism to state-sponsored and statesupporting religion (Kohn and Kirkland 2000). Under the Song, Zhuangzi interpretation rose to a new height with the coming of Neo-Confucianism and the recovery of the ancient philosophers (DeBary 1975; Jian 2010; 2012). In the late Ming and early Qing, as well as again in the 19th century—and once more today—Chinese thinkers have come to hold strong concern for national identity, searching for a


valid and potent vision of life that matches the needs of their time while yet being solidly based in their own tradition. The Zhuangzi has thus played a continuous role in the ongoing process of Chinese thought and culture.

Guo Xiang’s Work Among all the Zhuangzi commentaries, Guo Xiang’s work is the most important, and all later thinkers use his edition and reading as their basis. Yet as early as the 5th century, he stood accused of having stolen his exegesis from Xiang Xiu. The first record of this is in Liu Yiqing’s 劉義慶 (403-444) Shishuo xinyu 世說新語 (A New Account of Tales of the World): Previously none of the several tens of commentators on the Zhuangzi was able to get the full essence of its ideas. Xiang Xiu, going beyond all earlier commentators, wrote an “Explanatory Interpretation,” which made a subtle analysis of its marvelous contents and gave great impetus to the vogue of the Mysterious. His comments on the two chapters “Autumn Floods” and “Perfect Happiness” were the only ones not completed, when Xiang Xiu died. Since the latter’s sons were still in their infancy, his “Interpretation” fell into oblivion, but a separate copy still existed. Now, Guo Xiang was a person of mean behavior who nevertheless possessed outstanding ability. Observing that Xiang Xiu’s “Interpretation” had not been transmitted to the world, he proceeded surreptitiously to pass it off as his own commentary, while he himself commented on the two chapters “Autumn Floods” and “Perfect Happiness” and made some alterations in the chapter “Horses’ Hoofs.” For the remaining chapters, he merely established the punctuation. (Mather 1976, 100)

Largely accepted by later scholars and thinkers, this statement led to the appellation Xiang-Guo for the main Zhuangzi commentary (e.g., Fung 1952, 2:205-07; Hou 1957, 2:210-11; Mather 1969; Zürcher 1959, 128). However, in the early 20th century, a postface Guo Xiang wrote to his edition surfaced in a version preserved at the Kōzanji temple in Kyoto, Japan (see Knaul 1982). First doubts appeared about the reliability of the Shishuo xinyu accusation (e.g., Liu 1928; Yang 1940). Then scholars analyzed the variations in philosophical outlook between Xiang Xiu and Guo Xiang, using citations of their work in other texts such as Lu Deming’s Jingdian shiwen, realizing that they were substantially different (Fukunaga 1964, 192-95; Su 1980, 141-50; Takeuchi 1979, 6:242-45; Yang 1978, 115-18.) Today the consensus is that Guo Xiang did indeed write the standard surviving commentary, although he made extensive use of all that had been said on the Zhuangzi and other Daoist texts before him


(Fukunaga 1964, 189; Su 1980, 169; Yang 1978, 130). Fukunaga lists the following facts in his favor: 1. The editions of the Zhuangzi on which Guo Xiang and Xiang Xiu wrote their commentaries differed greatly (see Kohn 1992a, 107-08). 2. Zhang Zhan’s 張湛 commentary to the Liezi, dating from the Western Jin, quotes Guo Xiang’s philosophical theses: they are fully congruent with the view expressed in his Zhuangzi commentary. 3. Xiang Xiu’s world-view as apparent in his Nan Yangsheng lun 難養 生論 (Criticizing “On Nourishing Life”) is completely different. 4. Liu Jun 劉峻, in his commentary to the Shishuo xinyu, cites Xiang Xiu’s biography to the effect that he based his Zhuangzi interpretation largely on the commentary by Cui Zhuan. He supposedly wrote merely an essay on the subject, which means that his work on the Zhuangzi probably did not even take the form of a commentary. 5. A period of about forty years separates Xiang Xiu’s and Guo Xiang’s works. During this time the general outlook of philosophy changed so markedly that the Zhuangzi commentary can be safely assigned to Guo Xiang’s time (1964, 189-202). The main tenet of Guo Xiang’s commentary is his combination of the ancient Daoist value of natural unfolding (ziran 自然, self-so, nature, spontaneity) with Confucian social morality, thus bridging the gap between nature and society, spontaneity and control (Lo 2010, 333; Fu 1976, 128-29; Tang 1983, 68; Wang 2012, 708). He follows in the footsteps of Mystery Learning thinkers such as Wang Bi and He Yan 何晏(190-249) (see Chan 2010; Chua 2010). In their commentaries to the Daode jing, they describe Dao as the absolute beginning of all things while contesting that the ground of being could not itself be a mere being, and thus proposed nonbeing (wu) as the metaphysical basis of all life. This underlying nonentity being the core or substance (ti 體) of all, they see concrete existence as its manifestation or function (yong 用). Another structural image (see Munro 1968) used for this relationship is that of root and branches (benmo 本末), understanding the underlying power as the invisible root of life, while all manifest things form its visible outgrowth, both separate and connected, unique and unified (Ziporyn 2003, 32). Going beyond this, Guo Xiang also inherits the thought of Pei Wei 裴 頠 (263-300) the author of the Chongyou lun 崇有論 (In Praise of Being). He denies the presence of any underlying (non)entity and claims that being is the only possible reality, that all things are self-generated, including also social norms (Balazs 1948, 51; Mather 1969, 173; Ziporyn 2003, 25). Guo Xiang adopts this view, focusing on a number of different aspects of naturalness or spontaneity (Feng 1964, 28, 31, 45). They include self-so (ziran), self-generation (zisheng), self-transformation (zihua


自化; 3.46a), self-oblivion (ziwang 自忘), and self-realization or “selfintegration” (zide 自得) (Cai 2005, 193-94; Wang 2012, 712). The latter is essential not only here but also in Neo-Confucianism where it is based on the Mencius’s notion that the gentleman dwells at ease as he is connected to Dao (DeBary 1983, 58; Sellmann 1987, 378; see also Ames and Hall 1987, 92). To him, “all is exactly as it should be, all reality is reasonable, and everything is exactly right in being exactly what it is” (Ziporyn 2003, 28). This stands in contrast to the Zhuangzi, which deplores the degenerate state of people’s minds and seeks their transformation. Guo Xiang’s commentary, as contained in the Nanhua zhenjing zhushu 南華真經註疏 (Commentary and Subcommentary to the Perfected Scripture of Southern Florescence, DZ 745), has: What existed before there were beings? If I say yin and yang were first, then that means yin and yang are beings, too. What, then, was before them? I may say nature was first. But nature is only the natural way of beings. I may say perfect Dao was first. But perfect Dao is perfect nonbeing. Since it is nonbeing, how can it be before anything else? So, what existed before there were beings? There must always be another being thing without end. Thus, I understand that beings are what they are by nature; they are not caused by anything else. (24.39b; Cai 2005, 193; Chan 1964, 335; Fung 1964, 45; Knaul 1985a, 19; Kohn 1992a, 71)

In other words, for Guo Xiang, the self-so subjectivity of each individual entity is “absolutely self-sufficient, independent, and inviolate” (Ziporyn 2003, 32). However, beings also know each other, interact with each other, and depend on each other, and in their interaction bring forth social rules, norms, teachings, and material objects. He describes the relationship of the self-so of individual beings and their outer actions and products with the structural image of the traces (ji 跡) and that which brings forth the traces (suoyi ji 所以跡) (P. Chen 2012, 671). The image appears first in the Zhuangzi, which has, “The six classics are the old traces of the former kings. How could they be that which left the traces?” (ch. 14). More specifically, traces are “footprints” (Höchsmann and Yang 2003, 173) or “worn-out paths” (W 166), things made by an action entirely unrelated to them that mirrors the shape of the feet or direction of walking but in itself is neither. The inherent so-being of each entity is that which brings forth traces. It cannot be known, because the moment it becomes an object of knowledge, it is a trace and the act of knowing becomes that which makes it. Any form of cognition can accordingly only recognize traces (Tang 1983, 297; Ziporyn 2003, 37-38, 43). Traces in themselves are just what they are, neither good nor bad, but they can become problematic if taken as immutable values. Here Guo Xiang integrates Confucian morality into Daoist spontaneity (X. Chen 2012, 796). Norms and virtues are an


expression of people’s self-so and have a vital role to play in life. However, if they grow old and stale, are taken rigidly and enforced harshly, or turn into dead models, they can lead to disorder and disruption, social standstill and political tyranny (Ziporyn 2003, 52-53). The key to a successful society and happy life is thus matching the ongoing process of unique change (duhua 獨化) of each and every being (Cai 2005, 194, 197). Another major source for Guo Xiang’s understanding of the traces is the Daode zhigui 道德指歸 (Pointers to Dao and Virtue, DZ 693) by Yan Zun 嚴遵, aka Junping 君平, a Han-dynasty Daoist who made a living as a fortune-teller in the markets of Chengdu. He uses the image to distinguish the inner truth of Dao from the outer truth of being in the world. The truth within is more powerful and eternal than the ever-changing reality of outside existence, the mere trace of the inner workings of Dao. At the same time, worldly phenomena are clearly ordered because they are supported by Dao. Every being has its share in Dao, determining its particular course of life (Robinet 1977, 22; Kohn 1992a, 59-60).

Inner Nature and Destiny Guo Xiang follows Yan Zun further in that he, too, places a heavy emphasis on inner nature and destiny (xingming 性命), the inherent character tendencies and circumstantial life trajectories of each being. They are the key factors that order human life from within and make it possible for people to live perfectly in a perfectly self-transforming world. His view has had a lasting impact, serving as the foundation of the religious Daoist vision of life as expressed first by Sun Simiao 孫思邈 in the 7th century as well as in the formulation of inner nature and destiny as core concepts of internal alchemy (Kohn 2012, 40-41; Lu 2009). Guo Xiang defines inner nature (xing 性) as the personal aspect, allotment, or share (fen 分) everyone has in the cosmos. Completely independent of the person’s subjective wishes or concrete hopes, it orders personal existence from within (see Mou 1985). Inner nature encompasses all our inherent tendencies, the abilities we have naturally, our self-so: “what we rely on spontaneously without ever being conscious of it” (2.35b). The “determinacy” of any given moment, it is the way people are they way they are, independent of knowledge or conscious awareness (Ziporyn 2003, 59). Firmly embedded in the individual’s being in any given moment, it cannot be altered, and any forced change to it means subjective suffering (Chen 2010, 98; X. Chen 2012, 801; Wang 2006, 273). However, with careful cultivation, it can be transcended (Wang 1996, 545). Inherent tendencies are both limiting and liberating—limiting because they prevent people from reaching any goal they may set them-


selves; liberating because fulfilling all inborn gifts to the fullest brings perfect happiness (Cai 2005, 192). The trick is to realize which is which— inner strength or outer ideals; as the Zhuangzi has it, to “distinguish the heavenly from the human.” Destiny (ming 命), what should best happen given our particular circumstances (as opposed to “fate,” which implies a set determinism of outcome) means the optimal circumstantial trajectories of life (Fox 2005, 54), the “coincidence of forces beyond a person’s control” (Lo 2010, 334). Already an importance concept in early thought and the Daode jing, it here appears in the sense of “original life” (ch. 16), literally the life one is “ordered” (ming) to have by heaven (Kaltenmark 1965, 657; Maspero 1981, 259). “That what one is given is destiny” (4.11a), Guo Xiang says and links it to cosmic principle (li 理), the structuring force of the self-so that makes everything be what it is. Originally indicating the lines running through a piece of jade, the term indicates the natural structure of things, people, and events; by extension, it has come to mean any form of systematic pattern, rhythm, and order (Zhang 2002, 26-29), including also the “dynamic pattern of experience” (Ames 2002, 79). Representing a “decisive watershed in the tradition,” Guo Xiang applies it to human life as “the internal controlling principle” (Ziporyn 2010, 113). “Each individual has principle as much as each and every affair has what is appropriate to it” (3.14b). In concrete terms, destiny as principle means the specific conditions and potentialities of life people are born into and the various circumstances they encounter, about which they can do nothing, including also a preordained life expectancy (Ziporyn 2010, 114). “What is what it is without ever knowing why it is we call destiny. Thus, by giving up the very concept of destiny and letting it be as it is, destiny and principle are complete” (30.17a). Any attempt to consciously perceive or evaluate either of these factors—internal or external—is in vain, because as share and principle they are part of the cosmic flow, that which brings forth the traces, the individual’s self-generation. Any objectification renders their expression a mere trace and thus diminishes their true being. Guo Xiang’s solution to realizing oneself fully (zide 自得) is thus not through conscious awareness but through oblivion (wang 忘) and merging or darkening (ming 冥) into oneness (yi ) (Wang 1996, 545; Ziporyn 2003, 38; X. Chen 2012, 797). As Guo Xiang interprets the Zhuangzi passage on “sitting in oblivion”: Sitting in oblivion—what could one not be oblivious of? First, one abandons the traces, then one becomes oblivious of that which brings forth the traces. On the inside, one is unaware that there is a body-self; on the outside, one never knows of heaven and earth. Only thus, can one become ful-

98 / CHAPTER NINE ly vacant and unify with all the changes, and there will be nothing that is not pervaded. (7.39b; Robinet 1983a, 92; Kohn 1992a, 74-75)

Becoming increasingly oblivious of self and world, knowledge of the traces, of the manifest world outside gives way to a state of “unknowing” (wuzhi 無知), a spontaneous form of knowledge that is “situational and unprincipled” (Graupe 2011, 85). Instead of conscious mental activity and awareness of feelings, there is no-mind (wuxin 無心). Then one moves on to give up even that which brings forth traces, “forgets and again forgets” or “decreases and again decreases,” as the Daode jing has it (ch. 48). All beings become the same in one’s perception: there is no more good and evil, no more right and wrong. Then, whatever “I” may develop, whatever state the “I” may be in, oblivion pervades all and all is one. As Guo Xiang says, Taking shape is me arising, being alive is me at work; Growing old is me decaying, being dead is me at rest. All these states are different, yet they are the same, as they are all “me.” Though all four are changes, they never are not me. How could this “me” be cherished as separate? (7.23b; Kohn 1992a, 75)

The ultimate oneness, the self-so of existence, thus works fluidly within and through oneself. By becoming fully one with all, the individual dissolves in the flow of life, attains perfect unity and inner harmony. A new sense of self emerges that is universal, at one with principle. This life of mine, I did not bring it forth. Thus, all that occurs throughout my life of perhaps a hundred years—all my sitting, getting up, walking, and staying, all my movements, all my quiet, all hurrying and resting of mine, even all the feelings, characteristics, knowledge, and abilities I have—all that I have, all that I do not have, all that I do, all that I encounter: it is never me, but principle only. (6.16a; Knaul 1985b, 434; Ziporyn 2003, 40)

In such a state, the person at one with Dao no longer acts according to individual feelings, wishes, and intentions. Rather, the pure creative force of the universe, the radiant spirit of the world, acts through his or her individual mind: The ways of the human mind are such that naturally there is nothing that is not done. Going along with them and just following and complying with them, people are naturally tranquil and fulfill their duties spontaneously. (13.10b)

The ideal, and indeed only, way to live according to Guo Xiang is thus one of alignment, of going along with one’s inherent tendencies and circumstantial trajectories, realizing all inborn gifts and using life’s opportunities to the fullest. Guo Xiang applies a large variety of terms to express this: accord with (shi 適), correspond to (dang 當), adapt to (ying


應), comply with (fu 付), rely on (yin 因), avail of (dai 待), go along with (shun 順), follow (cheng 稱), obey (zhi 致), be content with (an 安), tolerate (ren 任), and resign to (tuo 託). Not used in with great precision, these terms in their variety yet provide a good sense of Guo Xiang’s intention. Some are highly positive, giving the impression of joyful harmony, others are more forms of utilization, while some convey a resigned feeling, a sense of giving up on free choice and adapting to circumstances.

The Ideal Life The ideal life in Guo Xiang’s thought has an inner and an outer perspective. On the inside, in the mind, there is only tranquil freedom and unified perception. On the outside, in the actions, there is harmony with the natural processes, a complete accordance with the flow of life. The ideal person here is the sage, with a mind that is no longer limited to an ego or a specific identity. Rather, his mind has become one with the spontaneous current of nature. As Guo Xiang describes it, The mind of the sage attains to the perfect union of yin and yang; he penetrates the wondrous destinies of the myriad beings. Therefore, the sage can be one with the changes and in harmony with creative change. He will find everything all right wherever he may go. He embraces the myriad beings, and none ever deviates from its perfect natural state. (1.29b)

With this quality of a pure mind, the sage occupies a position of complete calm in the midst of a world of dualistic thinking. Desires and emotions revolve around him like an ever-turning wheel. Taking right and wrong as a circle, the sage establishes himself in its middle. Thus, he gets rid of all rights and wrongs. From such a position, he is free to respond to right and wrong, and this responding will be just as endless as the ever-ongoing circle itself. (2.29a)

In taking up this position in the center of things, the sage sees his uniqueness. He is utterly without match or companion, whole in nature and himself; he stands beside heaven and earth and is at one with all beings. Non-reliant and non-dependent (wudai 無待), he is in complete alignment and accordance with the cosmos. This stands in contrast to the Zhuangzi, which propounds a transcendent going-beyond, a reaching to the underlying force of Dao, which Guo Xiang denies (Feng 2012, 480). By the same token, the ideal of free and easy wandering for Guo Xiang is not a mere freedom to do as one pleases. For him it is selfrealization by following one’s inner truth and doing one’s duty in society, serving to the best of one’s ability, not declining office (Pas 1081, 481;


Feng 2012, 484). In his outside actions, the sage therefore serves his ruler and fellow men while responding perfectly to any situation in life. His movements are like natural processes; his actions appear spontaneous, yet are in fact inevitable. “Free from self, free from merit, free from fame,” as the Zhuangzi has it (ch. 1), the sage is part of what brings forth the traces to such a degree that he himself leaves none. While serving, he does not impose: he never changes anything in the world, nor become an example for others. “A good traveler leaves no track or trace,” as the Daode jing says (ch. 27). Guo Xiang’s sage appears meek and withdrawing. He rests in tranquility of mind no matter what he does, accepting everything he encounters as yet another manifestation of creative change, never getting excited. He keeps out of danger and remains free from harm, because he is pure in his actions and not because he possesses any magical powers. Already the Zhuangzi says, “A perfected person enters the water and does not get wet; he enters the fire and does not get burned” (ch. 15). Guo Xiang interprets, The perfected naturally walks on dry land without, however, purposely avoiding water. He naturally is far away from fire, but does not intentionally run away from it. He might not feel heat as heat, yet he would never run toward a fire. . . or plunge into water, or endanger his life in any other way. (7.6ab)

Yet, the sage is not afraid of danger either, since fear is an ego-based emotion he has completely left behind. In real danger, Guo Xiang says, the sage will still emerge uninjured, because no harm can be inflicted on anyone without fear. All these questions are academic, though, as the sage always encounters useful and propitious situations. “He will always step into good fortune” (19.14b) and will never be hit by calamities. This is not only, because the sage has given up all notion of “calamity,” but also because he is one with universal principle, from which no wrong can ever come. On a wider social level, if everyone attains perfect oblivion and realizes sageliness, all contention and disorder in the world would cease. As everyone fulfills his or her share in the cosmos and lives in complete harmony along with universal principle, the ideal society without strife or friction is born, Dao pervades the world, and great peace abides.

Chapter Ten Personal Factors The key personal factors Guo Xiang presents already appear in the Zhuangzi, but in a somewhat less systematic fashion; they represent the way universal forces work in and through the individual. Thus, vital energy constitutes “inner nature,” i. e., human temperament or inherent characteristic tendencies (Shun 1997); heaven provides “destiny,” the decreed “future that emerges out of the force of external circumstances” (Ames 2001, 277) and forms the personal trajectories of the individual; Dao is at the root of “virtue,” the true inner power of the person. All three work together to give structure to human life, creating a framework that sets specific perimeters and limitations in terms of what we can and want within our social and natural environment, while also setting the stage for unfolding our potential and expanding our sphere. The tension between unity and uniqueness, between being part of the greater universe and a single individual entity, between vastness and containment is the forum of our growth. It is the place where we realize our potential, fulfill our destiny, and develop our inner power to the utmost. The universe is always for expansion and greater expression. With a positive default setting, it always says “yes,” whether we say “I can” or whether we say “I can’t” (Carlson and Kohn 2012, 2-3). Everything we are and everything we do is intimately connected to the universe, and while we need to find who we really are and what we can do best with the hand we are dealt, the sky is the limit with regard to our unique expression and expansion. The trick is to say “yes” at the right time to the right things, listen to what the universe tells us and go along with its guidance, to follow the heavenly more than the human, and to rest in inner peace no matter what. For this, we need to understand who we are in cosmic terms.



Inner Nature—Inherent Tendencies The term for “inner nature” (xing 性) does not occur in the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi. In its later sections it indicates the natural way things are: people have five fingers rather than six, trees grow upwards instead of sideways, life flows along instead of being regimented by rules and rituals (ch. 8; W 98-100; Chen 2010, 97). “The physical form contains spirit, each with its peculiar manifestation: we speak of inner nature” (ch. 12). Consisting of the words “heart” and “life” (Graham 1989, 56; Lee 2007b, 603; Lewis 2006, 16), inner nature in early China was originally a concept of low philosophical standing that “belonged to the ordinary language of everyone who worried about his health and hoped to live out his natural lifespan” (Graham 1990c, 13; 2002, 6). That is to say, it was primarily an expansion of the concept of life in the hedonist vision and appears prominently in the primitivist chapters of the Zhuangzi (Henricks 1999, 162). Later it came to indicate the inherent tendencies and functional dispositions of the human being (Behuniak 2002, 69; Robins 2011, 32), the individual’s “spontaneous development in certain directions” (Ames 2002, 74; Graham 1991, 288). Chinese thinkers were divided on whether it was originally good, bad, or neutral, as well as whether there was an original, fundamental difference in the inner nature of ordinary people and sages.1 Inner nature defines our inborn, genetically determined uniqueness, expressed physically in our fingerprints, retina, hand lines, and all the various physical characteristics that make us who we are. Psychologically it is our predisposition toward certain preferences, behaviors, and skills (Zhang 2002, 368). Even newborn babies exhibit it—the same picture or gesture may make some smile, some cry, and others go to sleep. Based on this, inner nature determines choices and behavior: “If we have the capacity to experience free and easy wandering, how can we possibly keep from wandering? If we don’t have it, how can we ever wander?” (ch. 26). There are two fundamental models of looking at inherent tendencies: as development or discovery. The former sees it as certain base tendencies that need to be controlled, structured, and developed; the latter sees it as a cosmos-based set of dispositions that one needs to discover and cultivate (Lee 2007b, 603; Yearley 1990, 60). Westerners tend to see inherent tendencies in the first mode: weak and problematic, they form a reservoir of selfish and dangerous potentials that have to be harnessed, controlled, and trained, so that the person can cope with outside conditions. Daoists and Chan Buddhists, on the other hand, tend to un1 Discussed in Brindley 2010, 87-103; Chen 2002, 21-22; Cua 2002, 127; Graham 1989, 107; Lewis 2003; Perkins 2005, 332; Shun 1997; Tang 2003, 276; Zhang 2002, 368.


derstand inner nature in the second sense as a link to the cosmos. Originally pristine and whole, “however much covered by the ‘dust’ of passions and ideas” (Roth 1999a, 151), it is the ultimate source of wisdom, the root of enlightenment, and the key to being as one is, never mind what the outside situation may be (Brazier 1995, 44; Kohn 2008a, 117). The most detailed description of inherent tendencies in pre-Han China appears in the Xing zi ming chu 性自命出 (Inherent Tendencies Issue from heaven’s Decree), a bamboo manuscript excavated from Chu and dated to around 300 BCE. It defines inherent tendencies in terms of the energetic flow of the emotions, i.e., “dispositions and tendencies to react in certain ways. When stimulated by things, inner nature stirs, forming specific [emotional] reactions” (Perkins 2010, 18) or “dispositional responses” (Puett 2004, 45; Tang 2003, 275). In other words, inherent tendencies are vital energy flowing through the person. Although universally one, when stimulated by sensory data, they move in specific, unique pathways that closely connect to the heart-mind (Perkins 2010, 19). Giving rise to emotions that are unique to each individual, they determine the way the person reacts to reality and lives in the world. The manuscript moves on to discuss inner nature as being modified by moving, enticing, restraining, or refining it with the help of things, pleasure, deliberation, rightness as well as circumstances and practice (Chen 2002, 25-26; Perkins 2010, 20). It then outlines a sequence of how best to deal with it. From becoming aware of how we react to and engage with outside things, we learn to restrain and fine-tune our ways. Once we have a certain degree of control, we can begin to draw it out, nourish, and grow it, moving ever closer to spiritual practice and Dao, and becoming more ourselves and more fulfilled in the process. A similar vision also appears in the “Neiye,” which recommends ignoring pleasure and anxiety, then using the classical Confucian methods of music, rites, reverence, and tranquility to calm down the waves of the emotions. “When you are outwardly reverent and inwardly tranquil, you can return to your true inner nature, and this nature will become greatly stable” (Roth 1999, 31, 88). The Zhuangzi would concur with this sentiment: it is essential to connect to and never lose the core of one’s inherent tendencies (chs. 8, 9, 11, 14). Mencius, too, proposes the cultivation of inner nature, which he defines in two dimensions. It is the seat of the “five dispositions,” i.e., people’s biological nature as expressed in unique reactions to data transmitted by the five senses. It also determines the inherent character of human beings and as such includes the sprouts of moral goodness (Møllgaard 2007, 113). While the first should be harnessed and controlled, the latter should be uncovered and expanded. Both, moreover, connect to destiny (ming 命), the heavenly decree of the circumstances one faces in life.


Destiny—Circumstantial Trajectories “Heaven confers destiny; destiny issues inner nature. Inner nature brings forth emotions; emotions create the way [people live],” the Xing zi ming chu states (Perkins 2010, 20; Puett 2004, 45; Tang 2003, 271). Destiny is thus closely connected to inner nature, setting the external framework for its internal demands and determining life’s circumstantial trajectories. Matching this, Mencius describes destiny as “a set or immutable pattern” of life one is born into, be it “knowable or inscrutable” (Raphals 2005, 71), which determines whether or not (or how easily) one can fulfill the demands of one’s inherent character tendencies. For example, a musical person born into a tone-deaf family would have certain obstacles to overcome. Mencius further posits certain universally acclaimed predestined virtues to be achieved, such as benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and honesty. Destiny, then, determines the specific efforts one has to make to develop in these virtues and grow the sprouts of goodness (Chen 1997a, 496). Originally, the word ming meant “decree,” “command,” or “mandate.” It occurs first in the oracle bones, where it appears as ling 令 and indicates a “mission or gift granted by a higher authority to a lower person” and, more specifically, the divine approval or command the Shang kings received from a high god or ancestor (Zhang 2002, 125; Chen 1997a, 498; Poo 1998, 3-4; Raphals 2003, 540; 2005, 75; Tang 1962, 200). Adding the “mouth” radical to ling (Schaberg 2005, 24), ming is the “official notice of empowerment by the king” (Cook 1997, 260), spoken aloud and using a special, formulaic language during the ceremony of investiture of local nobles (Schaberg 2005, 27). The term thus essentially means the specific mandate, “charge” (Keightley 1978, 33), or “allotment granted by a superior arbiter on an occasion of distribution” (Schaberg 2005, 30). The view of destiny that resulted from this—and continued into the Western Zhou, who replaced the ancestors with heaven as the high god— was normative, i.e., a form of moral determinism (Raphals 2003, 537; 2005, 72; Slingerland 1996, 567). That is to say, they looked to specific causes for events and saw life as determined by a personal, inherently moral god or a group of deities who would reward and punish human beings on the basis of their behavior on earth (Chen 1997a, 495; 1997b). One effect of this was the concept of the Mandate of heaven (tianming 天 命), used to explain the change of dynasties. Heaven (tian) would appoint (ming) a certain leader to come to the fore, ideally but not necessarily bestowing his favor upon a morally upright person (Cai 2005, 176; Chen 1997c; Poo 2005, 111). “The commands of heaven do not necessarily correspond with the normative [moral] order that heaven itself has given


man the potential to realize” (Puett 2005, 61; Tang 1963). That is to say, the circumstantial trajectories decreed by heaven can be normative or destructive—but they have to be accepted in either case. Another effect of this vision was the Confucian understanding of destiny as linked to righteousness (yi 義), best described as duty—the complete set of familial, social, and political conditions and responsibilities one faces in the course of life (Raphals 2005, 70; Slingerland 1996, 567; Tang 1962, 213; Wang 2004, 63; 2007d, 76). The Xing zi ming chu says, “Use righteousness to internalize heaven; use ceremony to modulate heaven” (Tang 2003, 272). This is also reflected in the Zhuangzi where Confucius says, There are two great containing forces in the world: destiny and duty. The love of a child for the parents is destiny; it can never be extirpated from the heart. The obedience of a citizen to his country is duty; wherever you go there is always government and you cannot get away from it anywhere between heaven and earth. (ch. 4; Kohn 2011, 49; Crandell 2010, 106; Ling 2012, 193; Wang 2004, 26, 161; 2007c, 40; see also Ames and Hall 1987, 196-97)

Although one always has parents and there will always be government of some sort, it is possible to modify one’s circumstantial trajectories. Early Chinese would try to find out the will of the ancestors with divination (Smith 1991, 13), appease the gods with sacrifices, and appeal to them with prayers (Chang 1980); Confucians would make offerings to the Ruler of Destiny (Siming 司命) (Raphals 2003, 541), undertake moral efforts to live up to the standards of heaven (Eno 1990), and cultivate themselves internally to the point where “the vicissitudes of the outside world can be faced without worry or fear” (Slingerland 1996, 568). Shamans and technique specialists would suggest a change in physical appearance to alter circumstantial trajectories (Bokenkamp 2005, 155; Lewis 2006, 64). Medieval Daoists, last but not least, would feign death, plant decoy corpses, change their name and residence, or create a new embryo as an immortal alter ego to trick the administrators of the celestial ledgers into changing their destiny (Bokenkamp 2005, 158; Campany 2005, 134). In contrast to this, in the late Warring States, the descriptive mode of looking at destiny in the form of fatalism emerged, especially formulated in the Xunzi and, to a lesser degree, in the Zhuangzi.2 This involved the understanding of destiny as a blind, predetermined course, a fixed lot that was regulated by an impersonal, unchanging power (Chen 1997a, 495; 1997c; Raphals 2005, 72; Zhang 2002, 126). Ming then came to mean “that 2

Discussed in Chen 1997a, 512; 2000, 19; Eno 1990; Hsü 1975; Liu 1994; 1988; 94; 2006, 172; Machle 1993; Slingerland 1996, 567; Raphals 2003, 538. For a comprehensive study in comparision to ancient Greece, see Raphals 2013.


which is ordained, whether as destiny or as a life vocation to be fulfilled,” ordered and directed by heaven as a quasi-personified, impartial, natural force (Schwartz 1985, 126; see also Fraser 2011c, 102; Nylan 1993, 35). The Daode jing says: “Heaven and earth are not benevolent” (ch. 5). By the same token, the Zhuangzi states categorically, “Inner nature cannot be changed, destiny cannot be altered, time cannot be stopped, and Dao cannot be obstructed” (ch. 14; W 166). Destiny here designates the factors of life “about which we can do nothing,” including appearance, health, family, parents, social status, laws, and duty (Fraser 2011c, 99). “We do not own our inner nature and destiny: they are contingencies leant by heaven and earth; neither do we own our children and grandchildren: they are cast-off skins lent by heaven and earth” (ch. 22; W 238). As a result, whatever changes the natural processes wreak on the body is part of circumstantial trajectories as natural transformations; one has to submit to them “like a child obeying his parents” (ch. 6; W 85). When looking for the reason why one is poor or in trouble, the only conclusion is that “it must be destiny” (ch. 6; W 91; Crandell 2010, 106; Zhang 2002, 129). “That I have not managed to escape hardship is due to destiny” (ch. 17; W 184; Chen 1997a, 513; Liu 2006, 172). There is no point mourning the wife “bawling and sobbing,” which only shows that one “doesn’t understand anything about destiny” (ch. 18; W 192). In summary, Life and death, existing and perishing, success and failure, wealth and poverty, worthiness and low status, praise and blame, hunger and thirst, heat and cold— all these change over time and are the workings of destiny. They come and go before us like day and night, and we can never understand their cause or beginning. (ch. 5; Kohn 2011, 51; Chen 1997a, 513; Poo 2005, 109)

The key to working with destiny as circumstantial trajectories in the Zhuangzi is adapting to the inevitable progression of life and death, the unstoppable march of time (Graham 1989, 190; Raphals 2003, 544). Time here is not “a continuous transformation of future into past,” but a “sequence of extended phases of presence” (Moeller 2004a, 98). On the one hand, time means a predictable temporal sequence, such as the cycle of the seasons or of day and night, life and death necessitating certain actions at specific times (Moeller 2004a, 95; Poo 2005, 110). Providing a sense of continuity, permanence, and inevitability, there is no point getting upset or disturbed by them. “Since life and death closely follow each other, why whine about either?” (ch. 22). “Connecting to the core of life, do not labor over what life cannot do” (ch. 19). Yet, time also consists of discrete moments of presence, each constitutive element being strictly momentary, arising and passing in rapid succession, felt subjectively and relative to situations and attitudes (Capra, 166). “Temporal change is permanent, while the temporal phases within this course are impermanent” (Moeller 2004a, 96). To adjust to


this, one must completely forget past and future. “Authenticity of existence” means living in “the immediate experience of time, in absorption in pure presence” (2004a, 98). Dealing with circumstantial trajectories, then, means to accept the ongoing change of everything in the flow of time with equanimity while being immediately present and vibrantly alive in every single moment as it comes and goes, expanding and fulfilling one’s inner nature or inherent tendencies to the best of one’s ability (Barnwell 2013, 37). Resting in destiny (anming 安命; ch. 30; Ling 2012, 39; Raphals 2003, 242), however, does not mean that one has no choice. Zhuangzi clearly makes a choice when offered a position by the King of Chu: he prefers to continue fishing and “drag his tail in the mud” (ch. 17). He also makes a choice when asking for relief during a time of great poverty (ch. 26). Yan Hui refuses to get a job, because he has enough to eat and “studying Dao is enough to make me happy” (ch. 28). Others may decide to accept an official appointment, then work with it differently: When Father Proper got his first position, he bowed from his neck. At his second position, he bowed from his chest. At his third position, he bowed from his waist, stayed in the shadows, and never walked far from the wall. What a model! When an ordinary person gets a position, he squares his backbone. At his second position, he dances on top of his carriage. At his third position, he calls his uncles by their first names. What a difference! (ch. 32; Kohn 2011, 191)

In other words, times change and life flows along, and within any situation we encounter, certain opportunities arise. Heaven not only sets limitations but also offers chances and new openings: daming 達命, literally “reaching to destiny,” means “to grasp a great opportunity” (ch. 30; Raphals 2003, 543; 2005, 78). Seeing these chances, we make choices based on our inherent tendencies, the inclinations and disinclinations that come from vital energy as it moves through us. These choices create a new set of circumstances and we move along. Once set on a given course, we make yet further choices, again in accordance with our inherent tendencies, such as working with humility and decorum or getting all proud and puffed up. Zhuangzi’s point is always the same: choose what is right for you. When you have a choice, follow your deepest yearnings and grow to be more and more truly yourself. When you have no choice (such as facing death), choose to remain whole within. Outside things should be no reason to disturb your inner harmony and should never enter your heart. Make sure you remain calm and at peace, going along with all and never subject to joy or hate. Make sure you remain on an even keel day and night and join all things in their spring. Thereby you stay connected with life in your heart at all times: this is what we mean by saying that ‘capacity is fulfilled’. (ch. 5; Kohn 2011, 51)


Inner Power The more we live in this way, moreover, the more we open ourselves to Dao, which flows through people and the world through an “inner power that is formless, which means that things can never lose it” (ch. 5). While inherent tendencies and circumstantial trajectories set structure and create certain patterns in life, inner power goes beyond both to connect us in a more organic and more intimate way to the greater universe. “When essential nature is cultivated, it returns to inner power; when this reaches its utmost, you are at one with [cosmic] initiation. At one, you are empty; empty, you are great” (ch. 12; Kohn 2011, 47). The word translated here as “inner power” is de 德. The character consists of the radical on the left, which means “to move ahead,” combined on the right with “heart” at the bottom and “eye” at the top, thus indicating personal unfolding in a particular direction (Ames 1986, 330; Barnwell 2013, 4). The word is most commonly rendered “virtue” (e.g., Chan 1963, 139; Cline 2004, 219; Lau 1963, 43; Zhang 2002, 342). Other translations include, “power” (Waley 1934), “moral force” (Waley 1938), “inherent integrity” (Behuniak 2002, 73), “property” (Yang 2007, 197), “virtuosity” (Hansen 1995, 18; Fraser 2011c, 100), “excellence, integrity, charisma” (Barnwell 2013, 2), or “potency” (Ames 1998, 225; Kohn 2011, vii), i.e., “the personal capacity for the course of action, which is the Way” (Graham 1989, 13). Roger Ames defines de as the “arising of the particular in a process vision of existence, the unfolding of a sui generis focus of potency that embraces and determines conditions within the range of particularity” (1986 131). It occurs first, without the “heart” radical, on the oracle bones of the Shang dynasty, where it “was conceived as giving a person psychic power or influence over others, and sometimes even over one’s nonhuman surroundings” (Nivison 1996c, 17; Barnwell 2013, 5). De at this point was the quality or psychic energy, especially in the king, that ancestral spirits would perceive, approve, and reward. It could be enhanced and increased by self-denial or sacrifice, or by doing something selfless on behalf of others. Based on power over oneself, it would give rise to power over others, “causing them to orient themselves toward the person.” De thus meant two connected things: self-control and moral action plus authority and charisma (Nivison 1996c, 24, 26; Barnwell 2013, 6). In the bronze inscriptions of the Western Zhou, de was first written with the “heart” radical and seen more as a mental activity and interior force. Still bestowed by divine powers but expanded beyond the royal realm, is was then accessible to everyone and connected to social virtues, such as filial obedience (Henricks 1999, 162; Barnwell 2013, 13). To garner and enhance it, one should avoid force, practice personal self-restraint, be humble, generous, and dutiful (Nivison 1996c, 29-30).


In the Warring States, Confucians adopted the concept, placing it even more firmly into the mind of the individual. Enhanced by the practice of specific “virtues,” such as benevolence and righteousness (Skaja 1998, 103; Barnwell 2013, 50), de would determine the innermost character of a person. If pursued with an ulterior motive, subjected to thoughts of reward and punishment, it might result in negative attitudes, such as egotism and bigotry (Barnwell 2013, 56, 80). If fully developed, on the other hand, it would produce a complementary response in others and the society around them in the form of “moral charisma” (Ivanhoe 2007, 283), thus creating overall goodness in the world. “If you desire what is good [with de], the people at once will be good (Nivison 1996d, 32). De was then linked with Dao and came to mean the “location of dao in a particular thing,” the inherent power of Dao that “enables a thing to be alive, intelligent, and connected with others” (1996d, 33; Barnwell 2013, 48). The Daode jing echoes this understanding but connects de with nonaction, denying the value of practicing certain prescribed “virtues” to enhance it, and with the natural power of vital energy, insisting that having abundant de means being vibrantly alive and invulnerable to harm (Barnwell 2013, 39-40; Ivanhoe 1999, 249; Cline 2004, 222; Zhang 2002, 343). While Dao is the defining condition and underlying force of the universe, de is its particular aspect, its “auto-generative, selfconstrued arising” in the existent world (Ames 1989, 124; Cline 2004, 220). “The inherent capacity of a thing to perform its specific function successfully,” de is the power of an individual substance, essence, thing, or person to be inherently self-so and connected intimately with Dao (Skaja 1998, 104). The Zhuangzi has de in this sense in the story about the pigs: Confucius notices piglets nursing at the body of their dead mother. “After a while they gave a start and all ran away and left her. . . They loved not her body but the thing that moved her body” (ch. 5; W 73). By extension, de is the concrete particularization and psychological internalization of Dao (Masami 1999, 180), its “dispositional-state form,” the actual psychophysical state that occurs when we behave according to Dao (Hansen 1995, 189). When de stands out, bodily form is disregarded (Behuniak 2002, 74); when de fills the heart, heaven is still complete within despite all physical changes (Deng 2012, 634), leading to the ability to go beyond physical limitations and expand toward Dao. This is the central focus of chapter 5, “Dechongfu” 德充符, translated variously as “Signs of Virtue Complete / Full Virtuosity” (W 68, Höchsmann and Yang 2006, 110; Fraser 2011c, 102), “A Person of De Takes Charge of the Tally” (Ames 1986, 336), “Integrity / Potency Satisfies the Tally” (Ames 1998, 225; Ames and Hall 1987, 224; Behuniak 2002, 74), or “Ample Signs of De” (Barnwell 2013, 77). The difference depends primarily on the interpretation of fu, often translated “talisman,” based on its use in later Daoism (see Despeux 2000). Both a “sign” and a “tally,” a fu in


the Warring States period was one among several communication devices used to send messages to local governors and generals in the battlefield. These devices “consisted of two halves to be combined to form a whole, a single unit that was considered perfect” (Bumbacher 2012, 13). A trustworthy messenger would take one part of a fu and an oral message, delivering the latter only if and when his half perfectly matched that of the intended recipient (2012, 24). Applied to the title of chapter 5, this means that de is needed to match and complete the tally, i.e., is the part that human beings need to form a single unit with Dao. At the same time, de itself needs to be complete for Dao to be fully present. Both readings of the title are thus inherently correct, the Chinese allowing, even actively implying, both. Much of what the Zhuangzi has to say about de, then, is how to complete it. “Take care of your body and unify your vision: heavenly harmony will come to you. Contain your knowledge and unify your conduct: divine entities will want to be part of you. De will be your beauty, and Dao will be your home” (ch. 22). One way to describe this connection of de and Dao is, as Chad Hansen says, to see Dao as a computer program, while de is the internal, electrical state of the computer which has been programmed. The human effort at making de complete is like the translation of the program into the computer system: it determines how well the computer executes the program, requiring consistent debugging so that the program is translated accurately into patterns of action (1992, 3). Human efforts and practices, therefore, are the channels by which Dao is activated as de within. By extension, human actions and attitudes signal the degree to which Dao is present and manifests in life. De, therefore, is the inner power, the living vibrancy of Dao activated within. It is what Edwin Carlson of Core Health calls “inpower”: “Rather than being victims to the whims of the cosmic super-computer, people can be in-powered by it. . . . People of high energetic purity can control their energy fields and gain immunity to negative patterns . . ., enhance their personal potency and create health and wholeness from the inside-out” (Carlson and Kohn 2012, 26; Hawkins 2002, 34). The Zhuangzi illustrates this inpowerment with stories of figures suffering from physical handicaps, being maimed or deformed, such as Shushan No-Toes, Mr. Lame-Hunchback-No-Lips, or Aitaituo who was incredibly ugly and unassuming (Barnwell 2013, 35; Lin 1994, 67). They bridge the gap between myth and reality, provide a shock and paradox to the common world, and see life and world differently from ordinary people (Allinson 1989a, 54). They also exceed in wisdom and social success— lecturing Confucius, impressing rulers, and exerting an irresistible attraction on women (ch. 5; W 71-75; Deng 2012, 631; Fraser 2011c, 101). “The very punishment that marks them as outcasts from the world of men transports them to the realm of heaven” (Møllgaard 2007, 109). Alt-


hough handicapped, these figures “overcome discreteness by extending their de to contribute to and integrate themselves with the community; they are still complete and satisfy their half of the bargain” (Ames 1998, 225). “Possessed by a deep inner calm,” they have no worries but manifest what Tibetans call “authentic presence” (Trungpa 1986, 131; Barnwell 2013, 36). This is not uncommon. “Many individuals who have suffered harshly end up not only surviving but do so thoroughly enjoying their lives,” often even describing their crippling accident as the “most positive event” they had (Csikszentmihalyi 1990, 193). The psychological mechanism is not complex: the physical handicap creates new challenges, sets clear goals, and reduces inessentials. It also enhances “courage, or what in earlier times was known simply as ‘virtue’—a term derived from the Latin word vir, or man” and closely linked with “resilience, perseverance, mature defense, and transformational coping” (Csikszentmihalyi 1990, 200, 202; Barnwell 2013, 1217)—all core characteristics of de and inpower. The mechanism, moreover, applies not only to physical issues but also to other life challenges, such as getting fired, becoming homeless, losing a loved one, etc. It is also activated by people who intentionally separate from society and eschew material comfort, finding their own inner truth as hermits, vagrants, prophets, or wanderers. An example is Reyad, an Egyptian who decided to walk to Europe and has continued his wandering for over twenty years. His reflections echo the Zhuangzi: During my journey I have seen hunger, war, death, and poverty. Now through prayer I have begun to hear myself, I have returned toward my center, I have achieved concentration, and I have understood that the world has no value. . . . If I am to live like a free man who does not depend on anyone, I can afford to go slowly; if I don’t earn anything today, it does not matter. It means that this happens to be my destiny. (Csikszentmihalyi 1990, 196-97)

No matter what happens, his inner power is strong and he can cope, resting in “unselfconscious self-assurance” and finding sufficient resources for his simple needs. Being in de thus happens “when a person no longer sees himself in opposition to the environment, as an individual who insists that his goals, his intention, take precedent over everything else. Instead, he feels a part of whatever goes on around him,” of the greater cosmic dimension of Dao (Csikszentmihalyi 1990, 204). While inherent tendencies and circumstantial trajectories—our unique, personal share of vital energy and heavenly decree—therefore, determine our inherent tendencies and overall life situation, inner power is the direct flow of Dao through us, what gives us the potential to rise beyond our limitations, participate fully in the cosmic flow, and flow though life in perfect happiness.

Chapter Eleven Religious Daoism Flowing through life is also a core value in religious or organized Daoism, which began with a number of revolutionary, millennial movements in the 2nd century CE. At this time the empire of the Later Han was battered by a succession of floods, droughts, and locust plagues, leading to famines and epidemics, whose disastrous effect was compounded by corrupt government. Many people at the time became homeless and joined bands of brigands, trying to survive as best as they could. They yearned for stability and a community that would allow them to work and live in peace, yet fought the existing institutions that had proven inefficient or harmful. Several religious leaders emerged who promised the arrival of a new world of “great peace” (taiping 太平) with the beginning of the next 60year cycle in 184 CE. Several of them were Daoist-inspired, having connected to a deity known as Lord Lao (Laojun 老君)—the representative of Dao and a deified version of the ancient thinker Laozi (Seidel 1969; Kohn 1998)—who gave them healing powers, nominated them as “celestial master” (tianshi 天師), and provided instructions on how to form successful communities. The two major Daoist leaders and groups recorded at the time were the Great Peace movement under Gan Ji 干吉 in Shandong and the Celestial Masters under Zhang Daoling 張道陵 in Sichuan (Hendrischke 2006; Kleeman 1998). Both fought vigorously against the Han. In 184, the Great Peace community rose in the central plains, staging the so-called Yellow Turban Rebellion, and was completely destroyed after decades of fighting (Levy 1956). The Celestial Masters wrested a vast territory in Sichuan from Han control, essentially establishing a state of their own. After various skirmishes with up-and-coming local warlords, they submitted to Cao Cao 曹操 in 215, to be soon forced into exile, moving to various other parts of the country where they both maintained their religion and mingled with local cults (Hendrischke 2000).



In the southern region of Jiangnan, in the small town of Jurong 句容 next to Mount Mao near Nanjing, they encountered a flourishing religious culture that consisted of eremitic meditation and alchemical practices, later known as the Daoist school of Great Clarity (Taiqing 太清) (Pregadio 2006). Joining forces with these practitioners, they established connections to various divine figures, notably denizens of a superior heavenly realm known as Highest Clarity (Shangqing 上清). This led, in the early 4th century, to a series of new revelations that provided descriptions of Highest Clarity and practical methods to get there: meditation, ecstatic soul travel, and alchemical elixirs (Robinet 1984; 1993; 2000; Miller 2008). Although limited originally to a few aristocratic families in Jurong, the Highest Clarity revelations came to play an essential role in medieval Daoism in two ways. First, one of their disgruntled members branched out and, in the 390s, created his own school, known as Numinous Treasure (Lingbao 靈寶). It relied on Han-dynasty cosmology, had a strong focus on ritual and community, and soon spread into larger segments of the population. It also became the major platform for the Daoist integration of Buddhism and the dominant southern school in the 5th century (Yamada 2000; Zürcher 1980). Second, the Daoist master and alchemist Tao Hongjing 陶弘景 (456-536) set out to collect the original Highest Clarity materials and, around the year 500, created a comprehensive collection known as the Zhen’gao 真誥 (Declarations of the Perfected, DZ 1016), which put Highest Clarity firmly on the map and elevated it to the leading form of Daoism at the time (Strickmann 1979; trl. Smith 2013). It remained in this position throughout the Tang (618-907), when all religions were pressured to create integrated systems of ordination and practice. In Daoism, this became known as the Three Caverns (sandong 三 洞): the Celestial Masters served as lay practitioners at the base, Numinous Treasure masters were ritual and community specialists in the middle, and Highest Clarity monastics stood at the top and provided the overall leader or “patriarch.” This time also saw the emergence of a new level of Daoist philosophy and the growth of a flourishing meditation culture, both in close interaction with Buddhism, plus the establishment of Daoism as state-sponsored religion, including Daoist-based examinations as an entryway to officialdom (Kohn and Kirkland 2000). The integrated medieval system collapsed with the end of the Tang, and various new schools emerged in the Song (960-1260), leading to a renewed flourishing of Daoism. Most important is the school of Complete Perfection (Quanzhen 全真), which arose in 1170, became the umbrella organization for all Daoist sects under the Yuan, and is still the leading school in mainland China today (Yao 2000), while the Celestial Masters continue their tradition with headquarters in Taiwan. The main practice


since that time has been internal alchemy (neidan 內丹), a comprehensive system that integrates many earlier practices and internalizes alchemical practices of old (Skar and Pregadio 2000).

The Zhuangzi Unlike the Daode jing, which was already recited as a sacred text in the Han dynasty and has been prominent in the Daoist religion ever since (see Kohn and LaFargue 1998), the Zhuangzi never played a role in ritual and did not become a revered scripture until the Tang, when Emperor Xuanzong elevated its author to sainthood and gave it the formal title Nanhua zhenjing in 742 (Billeter 2008, 258; 2010, 36; Graziani 2006, 29; Robinet 1983b, 61; Yu 2000, 25). In many ways, the text “cannot be ranged in any satisfactory manner among any forms of Daoism” (Billeter 2010, 136). The peasant-based millenarian movements of early Daoism ignored it completely, and among 4th-century alchemists, it appears only generically as a classical literary work. Thus Ge Hong 葛洪 (283-343), a member of the Jurong families that founded Highest Clarity and the author of the alchemical work Baopuzi 抱朴子 (Book of the Master Who Embraces Simplicity, DZ 1185), does not list it among the titles of his Daoist library but cites it as an ancient philosophical text, which “expounded modeling ourselves on mystery only in general terms” but did not provide sufficient practical methods (Ware 1966, 142). He also refers to it in a discussion of the sage, noting that Zhuangzi (ch. 10) makes the point that even a robber can attain his own version of sagehood, and thus showed it as not only a political quality (Ware 1966, 202). Ge Hong further mentions Zhuang Zhou as an inspired master who, like Xu You who refused the empire under the sage-king Yao, opted for the reclusive rather than the political life. However, he did not live up to his own teachings (Ware 1966, 19, 41). While expounding that life is but a long dream (ch. 2) and that one should not become buried in office like the hallowed tortoise (ch. 17) or the sacrificial ox (ch. 32), he yet asked the local ruler for food when hungry (ch. 26). “From this,” Ge Hong comments, “we know that he was unable to make life and death equal,” and denounces the text’s presentation as misleading (Ware 1966, 229; Robinet 1983b, 61). The Highest Clarity revelations elevated Zhuangzi to semi-immortal status and named him as a practitioner of Daoist cultivation on Mount Baodu 抱犢山, who ascended to heaven in broad daylight and took up a position in the celestial office of the Great Ultimate. His main Daoist teacher, moreover, was the Mulberry Master (Sangzi 桑子, Changsang


gongzi 長桑公子), who also instructed the master physician Bian Que 扁 鵲 and the Daoist immortal Jade Master (Yuzi 玉子) (Zhen’gao 14.4b; Robinet 1983b, 61-62). The latter has hagiographies in various Song sources, and is now also found in the amended edition of Ge Hong’s Shenxian zhuan 神仙傳 (Biographies of Spirit Immortals) (Campany 2002, 370, 546). The Mulberry Master appears in both Han and Highest Clarity documents and is known for his magical powers and alchemical recipes (Ngo 1976, 144; Schipper 1965, 107). In addition, Tao Hongjing names Zhuangzi as the leader of three major schools, the other two being Highest Clarity and Buddhism (Zhen’gao 19.1a; Robinet 1983b, 62) and structures his Zhen’gao in a very similar manner, the first part like the Inner Chapters forming an essential yet gradual introduction (Smith 2013, 4). In terms of content, Highest Clarity adopts numerous expressions and concepts from the Zhuangzi, such as “perfected” (zhenren 真人), “great clarity” (taiqing 太清), “pivot of Dao” (daoshu 道樞), “numinous terrace” (lingtai 靈台) and the “One” (yi 一). It also integrates Zhuangzi figures as senior immortals, such as Guangchengzi, and works with Zhuangzi metaphors, visions of ecstatic flight, and immortals living on pure qi (Robinet 1983b, 63-67, 73). More specifically, it variously refers to the big, gnarled tree as a symbol of longevity, uses the swamp pheasant as a metaphor for contentment and the refusal to be caged, and applies Cook Ding’s “mystic blade edge” as an expression for true discernment (Smith 2013, 41, 53, 111). Highest Clarity also inherits major aspects of its worldview directly from the Zhuangzi and expresses it in Zhuangzi terms. It understands Dao as the root and source of all existence, as its “great ancestor” (ch. 6; Smith 2013, 67), acknowledges its universal impartiality that prevents it from bestowing special favors on anyone or anything (ch. 25; Smith 2013, 141), and connects it to the notion of great emptiness (taixu 太虛), now a cosmological realm of space and mystery and also the title of a senior deity (2013, 60, 170). Various technical terms regarding the structure of the world, such as the “four seas,” “six energies,” “nine regions,” and “northern sea” go back directly to the Zhuangzi, but now form part of a much more elaborate and complex vision (Smith 2013, 34, 228, 254). Like the Zhuangzi, Highest Clarity documents describe the human condition as one of having lost one’s true home, the spirit lodging in the body yet belonging to a higher realm (Zhen’gao 2; Smith 2013, 141, 179). Realizing the relative interconnection of all value judgments, such as right and wrong (2013, 165), medieval Daoists as much as Zhuangzi followers strive to transcend the realm of mutual dependence in favor of a state of non-dependency (wudai) in a state of perfection and complete oblivion, characterized by free flow, ecstatic roaming, and ascension to the otherworld (Smith 2013, 132, 167, 224). Reaching “oblivion in sponta-


neity,” “upward, I float beyond the purple dawn” (Zhen’gao 1, 3; Smith 2013, 67, 173). All of this, however, does not make the Zhuangzi a Daoist text, and it is safe to say that for most of the early middle ages, it remained part of literati culture, finding “its audience among a group of high-class poets and philosophers, cynical skeptics and recluses, and Buddhist writers and translators” (Yu 2000, 22). Only under the Liang dynasty (502-558), the time of Tao Hongjing, did its audience grow to wider segments of the literary world, again flourishing as one of the “three mysteries.” At the same time, Daoists readied themselves for the unification of the empire and strove to present both a powerful school and a unified doctrine acceptable to larger audiences. As part of this effort, they integrated various philosophical and medical texts into their official canon, essentially doubling their stock, a move sharply criticized in the Buddho-Daoist debates (Kohn 1995, 151-52). Thus, the Zhuangzi appears first officially as a Daoist text in the Xuandu guan jingmu 玄都觀經目 (Scripture Catalog of the Monastery of Mystery Metropolis), submitted to the emperor in 569, and from here moved into the Daoist section of dynastic catalogues and into the Daoist canon, which records it with various commentaries (Yu 2000, 22).

Twofold Mystery The Zhuangzi begins to play a more active role in religious Daoism first in the context of the school of Twofold Mystery (chongxuan 重玄), named after the phrase “mysterious and again mysterious” in the Daode jing (ch. 1). As described by the court Daoist Du Guangting 杜光庭 (850-933) in his extensive Daode zhenjing guangsheng yi 道德真經廣聖義 (Extensive Sagely Meaning of the Daode jing, DZ 725), it was prominent among the Daoist elite in the early Tang and served as a theoretical framework for integrating complex Daoist teachings while laying the foundation for understanding advanced meditation practices (Assandri 2009, 3; Kohn 2007, 181; Yu 2000, 61). The masters of Twofold Mystery were court Daoists involved in politics and Buddhist debates. Several of them wrote commentaries to the Zhuangzi (see ch. 9 above), but only the one by Cheng Xuanying 成玄英 has survived as a subcommentary to Guo Xiang’s (DZ 745). Originally from Shanzhou 陝州 in Henan, Cheng Xuanying lived during the Sui and early Tang dynasties (Lu 1993, 235), spending his early years as a recluse in Donghai 東海 in the coastal region of Jiangsu (Yu 2000, 44), where he studied with various masters and expanded his Daoist learning. Gaining a reputation as a proficient Daoist scholar, his name reached the capital


and, in 631, Emperor Taizong invited him to the Chang’an where he remained for twenty years (Yu 2000, 53). Around 646, Cheng appears as a member of the Xihua guan 西華觀 (Temple of Western Florescence), established by Taizong in 631 (Asssandri 2009, 38). In 647, the emperor invited him with other Daoists to take part in the prestigious project of translating the Daode jing into Sanskrit, originally entrusted to Xuanzang 玄奘 (600-664), then the most famous Buddhist in the capital. Some years later, Cheng Xuanying apparently fell into disgrace: for reasons unknown, during the Yonghui era (650-656), he was exiled or retired to Yuzhou 郁州 near Donghai, the area where he had spent his younger years (Yu 2000, 57). It seems that he did most of his writing there, including commentaries to the Zhuangzi, the Yijing (lost), the Numinous Treasure scripture Duren jing 度人經 (Scripture of Salvation, DZ 1), and the Daode jing (Asssandri 2009, 39). The latter, the Kaiti xujue yishu 開題序訣義疏 (Supplementary Commentary and Topical Introduction to the Scripture of the Dao and Its Virtue), has survived in Dunhuang (P. 2535) (ed. Yan 1983; see Robinet 1977). Cheng Xuanying, like other Twofold Mystery thinkers, worked easily with both Daoist and Buddhist teachings, but relied most strongly on the two-truths theory as adapted from the Buddhist Mādhyamika (Middle Way) school (Asssandri 2009, 27). An advanced philosophical expression of the ancient distinction of substance and function, it expands on Guo Xiang’s traces and that which brings them forth. It is most clearly formulated by Jizang 吉藏 (549-623) in his Erdi zhang 二諦章 (On the Two Levels of Truth) and Sanlun xuanyi 三論玄義 (Mysterious Meaning of the Three Treatises) (Yu 2000, 88-89). The theory describes a basic dichotomy of two levels of truth: worldly and absolute, being and nonbeing, projections and mind. As Cheng says in his Daode jing commentary: The two minds of being and nonbeing, the two visions of outcome and subtlety all spring from the one Dao. They arise together, but have different names, but despite their different names they belong to the one Dao. This is called deep and profound. The mysterious nature of depth and profundity is realized in the return of principle to no obstruction. Neither obstructed by being nor obstructed by nonbeing—this is what we mean by mysterious. (ch. 1; Yan 1983, 303; Robinet 1977, 108; Kohn 2007, 182)

The mysterious state is realized in three stages. First one moves from seeing reality or being as existent to understanding that it is ultimately emptiness or nonbeing. Then one sees that nonbeing, too, is a way of conceptualizing the world and moves into the realm of non-


obstruction and non-duality by affirming both being and nonbeing as states of mind. Third, one realizes, in the words of Jizang, that “both duality and nonduality are worldly truth, whereas neither duality nor nonduality is the highest truth. . . . This is the Middle Way without duality” (Chan 1963, 360; Ng 1993, 25-26). The structure of the two levels of truth as applied to the three stages leads logically to the analytical method of the “Four Propositions,” technically known as the tetralemma (siju 四 句 ), the hallmark of Mādhyamika and of Twofold Mystery. They are: “affirmation of being; affirmation of nonbeing; affirmation of both, being and nonbeing; negation of both, being and nonbeing” (Robinson 1967, 57; Robinet 1977, 117; Assandri 2009, 1). Twofold Mystery simplifies this to a certain degree and sees the attainment of Dao as occurring in two steps, described as twofold oblivion (jianwang 兼忘). Practitioners must first discard all concepts of being, then proceed to discard all ideas of nonbeing. These two are, moreover, identified as mental projections (jing 境), i.e., illusory mental imaginations that are projected outward and create an apparent reality of “being;” and active wisdom (zhi 智) or mind as such (xin 心), the inherent function of active consciousness which signifies “nonbeing” (Robinet 1977, 245; Sunayama 1990, 262). Becoming oblivious of both means the reorganization of ordinary consciousness to absolute consciousness and again from absolute consciousness to no consciousness: an indeterminate, radiant state that embodies the Dao of Middle Oneness. Cheng describes this in terms of wisdom and insight (zhihui 智慧), “two transcendental characteristics of Dao, . . . bright and white, with no prior existence nor prior cause and reason, they come only in the course of being used” and lead to great self-benefit (Yu 2000, 111). As Cheng says, In self-cultivation one discards movement and returns to serenity. Once the practice of the self is complete, one rises again from serenity to movement. Thus going along with all living creatures, one moves without distorting serenity. For this reason there is no harm or evil done. Within and without, one continues to practice. In fruitful interchange, one returns to oneself. (ch. 60; Yan 1983, 560; also Yu 2000, 87, 103)

Translating the Zhuangzi into the language and concepts of his time, Cheng Xuanying uses its terms, phrases, images, and stories to explicate his vision of the Daoist path and ultimate attainment. He greatly enhanced the text’s reception and made a major contribution to its appreciation from the early Tang onward (Yu 2000, 164). Especially his highlighting of the various practice methods described in the Zhuangzi set the stage for its role in medieval Daoist cultivation.


Body Cultivation The Zhuangzi mentions both physical and meditative practices, including early breathing techniques, healing exercises, and various ways of reorganizing the mind toward Dao (see ch. 12 below). It explicitly states that “the perfected breathes all the way to the heels while the multitude breathe just to the throat—bent over and submissive, they croak out words as if they were retching; full of intense passions and desires, they have only the thinnest connection to heaven” (ch. 6; W 77-78; Graziani 2006, 299; Kohn 2011, 139; Robinet 1983b, 83). It also says: To huff and puff, exhale and inhale, blow out the old and draw in the new, do the Bear Amble and the Bird Stretch, interested only in long life—such are the tastes of the practitioners of healing exercises [daoyin 導引], the nurturers of the body, Pengzu’s ripe-old-agers. (ch. 15; Graham 1986, 265; Kohn 2008, 14)

Although denigrating in tone, this mentions some key practices for nurturing life that were later integrated into the religion and still form an important part of Daoist cultivation and qigong today. “Huff and puff” translates chuixu 吹呴, which are two kinds of exhalation still used as part of the so-called Six Healing Breaths (liuzi jue 六字訣), where they describe a hot and a cold breath, done with open and closed mouth, respectively. “Exhale and inhale” is huxi 呼吸, a binome that begins with exhalation because that is considered the yang part of the process, the movement of the breath being up and outward. The word hu, moreover, is another one of the Six Healing Breaths, where it indicates a blowing form of exhalation, performed with rounded lips (Despeux 2006, 38). Next, the Zhuangzi speaks of “blowing out the old and drawing in the new” (tugu naxin 吐故納新). The word tu, “to blow out” or “to spit,” implies that the breath was exhaled through the mouth, while na, “to draw in,” is written with the “silk” radical and suggests a subtle drawing in through the nose (2006, 38). Again, it is still used today to indicate the cleansing of the body’s energy through focused breathing, expanded over the centuries into a series of systematic practices (Kohn 2012, 231). The two physical practices mentioned next, the Bear Amble and the Bird Stretch are documented variously in early Han manuscripts. The Yinshu 引書 (Stretch Book) from Zhangjiashan 張家山, dated to 186 BCE, describes their effects: “Bird Stretch is good for the shoulder joints; Bear Amble is good for the lower back” (Kohn 2008, 59; 2012, 29). The Daoyin tu 導引圖 (Exercise Chart), unearthed from Mawangdui and dated to 168 BCE, provides an illustration (Nos. 41, 32) (Kohn 2008, 38-39; Harper 1998, 325). Both bear and bird, moreover, are prominent in the so-called Five Animals’ Frolic (wuqin xi 五禽戲) a system of exercises that imitates the


movement of animals and goes back to the 2nd-century physician Hua Tuo 華沱. It appears next in the Yangxing yanming lu 養性延命錄 (Record on Nourishing Inner Nature and Extending Life, DZ 838), a comprehensive outline of Daoist longevity practices associated with the 7th-century physician, alchemist, and Zhuangzi commentator Sun Simiao. After that, the Five Animals’ Frolic is described in detail in Ming and Qing sources. It was revived and expanded as part of the qigong movement in the 1970s and is highly popular today (Kohn 2008, 163-67; Wang and Barrett 2006). The Yangxing yanming lu, moreover, cites the Zhuangzi variously, especially in its first section on “General Concepts.” First it has its phrase, “Life has a limit” (ch. 3), adding Xiang Xiu’s comment: “All that life is endowed with has a limit, but wisdom has none” (1.1a; Kohn 2012, 166). Next it refers to the Zhuangzi passage: “The perfected of old slept without dreaming” (ch. 6), and adds a comment by a certain Zhenzi: “People who are not bothered by affairs during the day do not dream at night. Thus, Master Zhang lived for over a 100 years, remaining erect and strong throughout” (1.9a; Kohn 2012, 174). The general understanding here is that the Zhuangzi, along with various Daoist and medical classics, has some fundamental perspectives to add to the practice of self-cultivation. More specific references to the Zhuangzi in terms of physical practices appear in later medieval sources, typically using the text as a backdrop for practices that have essentially nothing to do with it. Thus, for example, the 9th-century Zhiyan zong 至言總 (Collection of Perfect Words, DZ 1033) refers to the phrase, “The sage values vital essence” (ch. 15), in the context of controlling sexual energies and engaging in the bedchamber arts (4.7a). Similarly, the Daoshu 道樞 (Pivot of the Dao, DZ 1017), a collection of self-cultivation and internal alchemy by Zeng Zao 曾造 (d.1151), uses a Zhuangzi citation on the purity of water (ch. 15) in the context of describing the oceans and passageways of qi in the Daoist body (7.14b; Robinet 1983b, 81). The Zhuang Zhou qijue jie 莊周氣訣解 (Explanation of Zhuang Zhou’s Formulas for [Working with] Qi, DZ 823; trl. Huang and Wurmbrand 1987, 2:195-200) even has Zhuang Zhou in the title. A short manual on breath absorption, it cites a commentary to the Huangdi Yinfu jing 黃帝陰符經 (Yellow Emperor’s Scripture of the Hidden Talisman; DZ 110; trl. Komjathy 2008) ascribed to Li Quan 李筌 (fl. 713-741) and may date from


the Tang (Lévi in Schipper and Verellen 2004, 370). However, the Yinfu jing commentary is probably not by Li Quan but rather goes back to Yuan Shuzhen 袁淑真 of the 11th century and thus dates from the Song (Reiter and Schmidt in Schipper and Verellen 2004, 692), making the Zhuang Zhou qijue jie a Song document. This is also supported by the fact that it echoes the Qifa yaomiao zhijue 氣法要妙至訣 (Arcane and Wondrous Formulas on Methods of [Working with] Qi, DZ 831; trl. Huang and Wurmbrand 1987, 2:201-20), another Song collection on longevity and breathing. It begins with the Zhuangzi sentence, “We can point to the wood that has been burned, but the fire is transmitted elsewhere” (ch. 3), then proceeds to interpret it in terms of the relationship of bodymind and destiny/life (ming). In other words, the same structural pattern holds true for firewood burning to ashes with the fire continuing elsewhere by consuming more fuel and the human bodymind exhausting itself while destiny/ life moves on without stopping, in endless transformations of energetic flow. “Time never comes back, destiny/life never stops” (1a), yet by doing the right kinds of exercises we can extend the period of fuel (bodymind) consumption. The text then moves on to exhort people to not become victims to the desires of the senses, the so-called “five robbers,” and live in moderation (1b-2a). To attain immortality and overcome the bodymind’s tendency to decay, moreover, one must work first of all with the qi in the form of breath: “Enclose the qi [hold the breath] and swallow it, thereby transforming it into blood. This in turn transforms into vital essence, and vital essence transforms into spirit. Spirit transforms into vital fluids, and vital fluids transform into bones. An immortal embryo forms in the elixir field [in the abdomen], and as such you can live forever” (2ab). It continues with more detailed instructions on how exactly and for how many times to swallow the qi, how to modify one’s diet to desist from the consumption of grain and other solid foods in favor of living on internal qi (2b-3b)—a practice commonly known as bigu 辟榖 (Kohn 2010a, 150-58). It then moves on to describe ways of enhancing the functioning of the internal organs by visualizing them in particular colors and inhabited by animal-shaped body gods and how to increase qi-circulation through systematic guidance of energy throughout the body (3b-4b). All these are standard procedures in both the longevity and Daoist traditions (see Kohn 2008). However, they date from the middle ages and cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be linked to the Zhuangzi, which just serves as the lead-in classic, the formal link to antiquity, the legitimizing sponsor of a tradition that has developed far beyond it.


Immortality Another dimension where the Zhuangzi made some impact within religious Daoism is in the characterization of immortality. For one, Zhuang Zhou himself is elevated to immortal status; for another, some immortals are stylized along the lines of the ancient perfected, flowing along with life in easy wandering and perfect happiness. Zhuang Zhou first appears among immortals’ biographies in the Xianyuan bianzhu 仙苑編珠 (Garden of Immortals: A Pearl Treasury, DZ 596) by Wang Songnian 王松年 of the early Song dynasty. A collection of 8-character verses for mnemonic purposes (Koffler in Schipper and Verellen 2004, 885-86), it only notes that his name was Zhuang Zhou, aka Zixiu 子休, and that he wrote a book in 33 chapters. Citing the first few sentences of the book on the Peng bird flying south, it concludes with the mention of its formal Tang title Nanhua zhenjing (3.17b). In 1145, Chen Baoguang’s 陳葆光 Sandong qunxian lu 三洞群仙錄 (Record of the Host of Immortals of the Three Caverns, DZ 1248), an anthology that collects extracts from earlier hagiographies (Verellen in Schipper and Verellen 2004, 886-87), mentions Zhuangzi twice: once citing the Zhen’gao on his being a disciple of the Mulberry Master, cultivating himself, and ascending to heaven (7.10a); and once with the Shiji story of the King of Chu offering him a position which he declines (8.1a). A more complete copy of the Shiji biography plus a mention of his Tang title and a picture of the master appears in Zhao Mengfu’s 趙孟頫 Xuanyuan shizi tu 玄元十子圖 (Portraits of Ten Masters of Mystery Prime, DZ 163, 8b-9a), a work that focuses particularly on ancient philosophical figures (Gyss-Vermande in Schipper and Verellen 2004, 894). The great collection of Daoist immortals, Lishi zhenxian tidao tongjian 歷世真仙體道通鑑(Comprehensive Mirror through the Ages of Perfected Immortals and Those Who Embody the Dao, DZ 296) by Zhao Daoyi 趙道 一 of the year 1294 (Lévi in Schipper and Verellen 2004, 887-92) has the most comprehensive hagiography of Zhuang Zhou. It follows the Shiji to cover his basic information, then cites the Zhuangzi with two stories on his refusal to serve in office—the turtle “dragging its tail in the mud” (ch. 17) and the sacrificial ox that cannot return to “being a lonely calf” (ch. 32). It also cites the Zhen’gao passage and concludes with listing his Tang and Song titles—the latter bestowed by the Daoist-inspired Emperor Huizong (r. 1101-1126): Perfected Lord of Subtle Wonder and Primordial Pervasion 微妙元通真君 (Weimiao yuantong zhenjun) (6.4a-5a). Zhang Tianyu’s 張天雨 Xuanpin lu 玄品錄 (Record of Mystery Ranks, DZ 781) of the year 1335 not only cites the Zhuangzi in accounts of various


Daoist masters meeting with Laozi (1.3b6a), but also has a detailed biography of Zhuang Zhou which combines the Shiji account with a preface to the text, the Zhen’gao note, and the Tang and Song official titles (1.7a-8a). Wang Shizhen’s 王世貞 account, finally, in the Liexian quanzhuan 列 仙全傳 of the year 1600 provides a picture, cites the Shiji, and tells the story of the turtle dragging its tail in the mud (1.4b). To sum up, Zhuang Zhou becomes a fully recognized Daoist immortal, with pictures, imperial titles, and hagiographies, but the emphasis remains on his refusal to serve in office and his ascension to heaven as first claimed in the Zhen’gao. His vision, on the other hand, bears fruit in the characterization of immortals as perfected beings at one with the universal flow and living in a state of deep oblivion. One example is the immortal Chen Tuan 陳摶 (d. 989), whose birthplace in Henan puts him close to Laozi but whose various names (Tunan 圖南, Fuyaozi 扶搖子) relate him to the Zhuangzi (ch. 1). Here the huge Peng bird, “pushing off on the whirlwind” (tuan fuyao), rises up 90,000 miles, stretches across the skies and “sets out for the south” (tunan) (Knaul 1981, 22). Connecting not only to the image of the mighty bird but also to the entire vision of the Zhuangzi, Chen Tuan’s names thus suggest a person at one with Dao who uses the inherent power of the universe to ascend to greater heights. In addition, Chen Tuan, as many other immortals, is depicted as a calm and sagely figure whose mind is at peace and who lives in detachment to the world around him. Courted by various emperors, he refuses repeatedly to appear at court, and is appreciated for his expression of cosmic freedom: “Chen Tuan, recluse of Mount Hua, hides his traces between hills and meadows and lives withdrawn among rocks and caves. Without any restraint he wanders even beyond this world, fully relishing the richness of Dao” (Lishi zhenxian tidao tongjian 47.4b). His close connection to Dao, moreover, finds expression in his ability to recognize people’s circumstantial trajectories from their facial features (Kohn 1988) as well as in his practice of “sleep exercises” (shuigong 睡功), a trance-based ecstatic flight to the otherworld (Knaul 1981, 59; Kohn 2008, 184). The image that emerges is close to that of the perfected in the Zhuangzi, once again signaling the impact of the text on the religious tradition.

Chapter Twelve Meditation and Self-Cultivation The way to attain the calm and serenity, associated with the perfected and immortals, is with the help of various “silent and meditative exercises plainly evoked or subtly suggested in the Zhuangzi” (Graziani 2009, 455). They all involve a transformation of the ordinary, dualistic mind as based on sense impressions, emotions, and cognitive evaluations into a flow of pure energy and spirit, merging in oneness with Dao, opening to inner power, and going along with the changes (see Roth 1991b). They do not work with control and intentional purpose, however. They do not look for any form of transcendence (Puett 2004, 256), and have no systematic strategy in the sense of providing “a clear mental representation of what is supposed to take place, step by step” (Graziani 2009, 456). As Thomas Merton says, “One cannot call Zhuangzi a ‘contemplative’ in these sense of one who adopts a systematic program of spiritual selfpurification in order to attain to certain definite interior experiences, or even merely to ‘cultivate the interior life’” (1969, 26). The mode of self-cultivation in the Zhuangzi is thus more along the lines of the Daode jing’s “diminish and again diminish” (ch. 48), working less with conscious intention than with opening to new levels of experience that will lead to the desired state as a by-product rather than an intended goal (Graziani 2009, 443; Elster 1983, 43). “You never find happiness until you stop looking for it” (Merton 1969, 27), just as you won’t go to sleep while consciously and vigorously trying to do so (Graziani 2009, 453). While requiring certain regimens (Billeter 2010, 85; Jullien 2007, 87), the central focus of the text is on allowing rather than pursuing, easing into the experience and relaxing in nonaction. Like meditation practice in general, spiritual practice in the Zhuangzi thus works with the dynamic combination of active effort and passive surrender. “It is essential that one practice with dedication, seriousness, and on a regular basis,” but one must not be “too goal-oriented and spiritually ambitious” (Kohn 2008a, 17). The Yogic tradition describes these two poles as “training and deconditioning” (Feuerstein 1980, 78-80), while the modern master B. K. S. Iyengar calls them “effort, 124


awareness, and joy,” or having both “a sense of direction and a center of gravity” (1988, 41-45). Others formulate this facet as “practice is attainment” or “sitting is enlightenment,” emphasizing that while one practices assiduously, one should not intentionally try to go anywhere or attain anything. The Zhuangzi accordingly rejects systematic cultivation in favor of resting in natural tranquility and prefers self-emergence over completion (Møllgaard 2007, 136). As “selflessness prevails over self-centeredness,” one works “on the self as an atmospheric totality as opposed to the attitude that focuses solely on outward goals” (Graziani 2009, 456). Cultivation means freeing one’s being from “obstructions and focalizations of the vital, thereby reestablishing communication both within itself and with the world, reinciting and breathing new life into itself” (Jullien 2007, 72). In the course of practice, identity shifts toward pure vital cosmic energy, personal subjectivity is lost, and a more natural, instinctual, animal way of being emerges (Goh 2011, 114; see also Graziani 2006, 87).

Mind-Fasting The primary method of self-cultivation in the Zhuangzi is called mindfasting (xinzhai 心齋): Unify your will and don’t listen with your ears but listen with your mind. No, don’t listen with your mind, but listen with your qi. Listening stops with the ears, the mind stops with matching [perception], but qi is empty and waits on all things. Dao gathers in emptiness alone. Emptiness is mind-fasting. (ch. 4; W 57)1

This involves the systematical release of sensory processing until, instead of hearing with the ears and the mind, one is only aware of the steady flow of qi manifesting as sounds in a state of immobile, empty, open, nonjudging awareness (Billeter 2010, 98-99; Graziani 2009, 440, 448; Jochim 1998, 52; Santee 2011, 52-53). To reach the inner emptiness of Dao, one begins with an act of will and intention, turns one’s attention inward, and withdraws the senses. Then one relaxes into a more fluid state, letting the senses go, and allowing pure cosmic energy to move, impartial and open, eventually reaching emptiness and no-mind (Hara 1993, 96; Kohn 2010b, 25; Santee 2008, 114-15; Yang 2003, 91). The same process also appears in Guangchengzi’s instructions to the Yellow Emperor: 1

The passage is discussed in Billeter 2008, 80; 2010, 96; Graham 1981, 68; Kohn 2011, 107; Mair 1994, 32; also Lo 1999, 161; Robinet 1983b, 91; Wang 2004, 37; 2007c, 58; Yang 2003, 117)

126 / CHAPTER TWELVE The essence of perfect Dao is serene and dark; the ultimate of perfect Dao is dim and silent. Don’t look, don’t listen, but embrace spirit in stillness, and your body will right itself. . . . Take care of inner [power], close off outer [impact] (ch. 11; W 119; Roth 1997b, 59-60).

Yet another way the Zhuangzi describes this is as “making the body like a withered tree and the mind like dead ashes” (chs. 2, 24; W 36, 271). This eliminates the fixed mind as well as the heart-mind to recreate the natural spontaneity of childhood: “The infant acts without knowing what he is doing, moves without knowing where he is going. His body is like the branch of a withered tree; his mind is like dead ashes” (ch. 23; W 254; Møllgaard 2007, 134). The person who achieves this state is “perfected in reality and perception. He never looks for reasons. Dim and dark, dark and dim, no-mind complete: one can’t plan anything with him” (ch. 22; Kohn 2011, 117). Part of the overarching harmony of heaven, a person in this state is “truly authentic,” resting in “self-forgetful sleep-informed non-self-awareness” (Wu 2007, 269). The importance of sensory withdrawal, the idea of the infant as complete, and the understanding of the perfected person as dull and dim also appear in the Daode jing. It warns against sensory indulgence: “The five colors cause the eyes to go blind; the five tones cause the ears to be deaf; the five flavors cause the palate to be spoiled” (ch. 12) (Masami 1999, 178). It emphasizes the potency of the infant whose grasp is firm and who can cry all day long without flagging (ch. 55). And it describes the state of the master as “dull and confused,” “like an infant who has not yet smiled” (ch. 20; Wu 2007, 270). Culturally and historically, mind-fasting is related to purification undertaken as preparation for ancestral and other rituals in Confucian circles (Sommer 2002, 99). Also called zhai, it could last from one to seven days and involved abstention from all or specific foods as well as intoxicating substances, plus the avoidance of blood and dirt, sexual abstinence, taking baths in fragrant waters, and withdrawal to solitude to concentrate the mind—all techniques also used in meditation (Roth 1997a, 306). In both cases, the practice entailed an intentional removal from the sensory world combined with a cognitive exercise of concentration and opening to the otherworld—the world of emptiness and Dao in the Zhuangzi, the world of the ancestors in Confucian rites. In the latter, as outlined in the Liji, the master of sacrifice thought “about the deceased and remembered what they looked like, how they sighed and how they laughed;” he recalled those things that pleased the departed and became very involved in their emotional life (Sommer 2002, 99; 2003, 212). Occlusion, sensory deprivation, isolation, and starvation all served to allow


entry into things otherwise beyond the senses, the opening of a sphere outside of ordinary perception (Kohn 2010b, 28).

Oblivion The withdrawal of the senses and dissolution of perception into the flow of vital energy culminates in an advanced practice called “sitting in oblivion” (zuowang 坐忘). The classical passage describes how Yan Hui gradually eliminates social demands, such as benevolence and righteousness, rites and music, then finds complete oblivion (G. Chen 2012, 59). Explaining the latter, he says, I let my limbs and physical structure fall away, do away with perception and intellect, separate myself from body-form and let go of all knowledge, thus merging in great pervasion. (ch. 6; Kohn 2011, 111; Billeter 2010, 6061, 80-81; Robinet 1983b, 92; Yang 2003, 90) [Guo Xiang adds:] Sitting in oblivion—what could one not be oblivious of? First one abandons outward manifestations, then one becomes oblivious of that which causes these manifestations. On the inside one is unaware that there is a body-self; on the outside one never knows there are heaven and earth. Only thus can one become fully vacant and unify with the changes, and there will be nothing that is not pervaded. (DZ 745, 8.39b; Kohn 2008a, 104; 2010b, 17; Robinet 1983b, 92)

“A state of deep meditative absorption and inherent oneness, during which all sensory and conscious faculties are overcome and which is the base point for attaining Dao” (Kohn 2010b, 1), this is also echoed in the dialogue between Cloud Chief and Big Concealment. “You only have to relax into nonaction and things will transform themselves. Smash your form and body. . . . Undo the mind, slough off spirit, be blank and soulless” (ch. 11; W. 122; Roth 1997b, 52; Billeter 2010, 110-13; Peerenboom 1993, 198). Oblivion, a “privileged example of a by-product state” (Graziani 2009, 450), creates a different way of being in the world which “does not mean eradicating one’s self” (Jochim 1998, 55). Instead, one is no longer limited by the bodily form and the process of interiorizing thought “within a [solipsistic] mindbody dualism” (Goh 2011, 122). Oblivion allows “full access to the true cosmic being” we originally are (Alexander 2012, 78), characterized by “great pervasion” (datong 大通), oneness with Dao where one is fully open to the flow of vital energy and spirit, ready to expand one’s inner power to the utmost (Graziani 2009, 442). Free from all separation and obstruction (Tong 2011, 97), this state is a form of “mysterious merging” (xuanming 玄冥): “in utter freedom one


dissolves in the four directions and submerges in the unfathomable” (ch. 17; W 187; Goh 2011, 117). A practical illustration of this state appears in the beginning of chapter 2, where Ziqi of South Wall is sitting “leaning on his armrest” in the relaxed posture of meditation (West 2000, 75). “Vacant and far away, he was as if he had lost his match” (yu 耦, ou 偶) (W 36; Legge 1979, 13). Cheng Xuanying explains this: Yu is duplicate/match. That is to say, body and spirit are a pair, and “thing” and “self” are a duplicate match. Ziqi was leaning on his armrest in a state of “sitting in oblivion.” He had concentrated his spirit, was far-off in his thoughts, so he raised his head to the sky and sighed. Becoming aware of cosmic spontaneity in all subtlety, he had separated from his form and distanced himself from discriminating knowledge. Trance-like, he let his physical form fall away and left behind both body and mind, forgetting both other and self. Therefore, it was as if he had forgotten both match and duplicate. (DZ 745, 2.1a; West 2000, 74)

Not having a “match,” then, means being beyond the constraints of dualism, the main characteristic of ordinary thinking and common life in the world—”treating things as things but no longer being treated as a mere thing by them” (ch. 20; Billeter 2010, 109). The Zhuangzi also expresses this with the term jiandu 見獨, literally “seeing one’s aloneness” (ch. 6; W 83), but maybe more appropriately described as “manifesting the individual” (Hara 1993, 88) or “envisioning uniqueness” (Perkins 2005, 334). It is a major step in “a patient, gradual training” (Graziani 2009, 451) toward complete oblivion, oblivion, experienced by Buliang Yi 卜梁倚 under the guidance of Nüyu 女偊 (Woman Hunchback) and explained in some detail to Nanbo Zikui 南伯子葵: After three days, he was able to put the world outside himself. Once he could do this, I continued my support, and after seven days, he was able to put beings outside himself. Once he could do this, I continued my support, and after nine days, he was able to put life outside himself. Once he could do this, he achieved the brightness of dawn, and after this, he could see his aloneness. After he had managed that, he could do away with past and present, and after that, he was able to enter [a state of] no life and no death (ch. 6; W 83; see also Graham 1981, 87; Mair 1994, 57; Yang 2003, 109).

The progress to oneness with Dao here appears in seven steps: the adept puts (1) the world (tianxia 天下), (2) beings (wu 物), and (3) life (sheng 生) outside himself (wai 外)—an activity interpreted by Guo Xiang as becoming “oblivious” (8.3a). From here he goes on to attain (4) the brightness of dawn (chaoqie 朝彻) and (5) the ability to see his own aloneness (jiandu). That is to say, he finds an inner clarity or radiance, possibly like the bright light within that in many meditation traditions


signals the opening to pure consciousness (Blakeley 2008, 322). In jiandu, moreover, he attains a state of nonduality which, according to Guo Xiang, means being free from all feelings about death (Graziani 2006, 258). “Not hating death,” he says, “means that one can be at peace with whatever one encounters; one is vast and open and without obstruction, seeing the cosmic pivot and acting with it” (8.3b). “Seeing one’s aloneness” in his terms thus means “letting go of whatever one comes in contact with” (8.4a), being without a “match.” From here Buliang Yi (6) abandons past and present (gujin 古今) and (7) enters a state beyond life and death (busi busheng 不死不生), interpreted by Guo Xiang as “giving up all attachment to life and death” (8.4a), i.e., going beyond time and existence and reaching oneness with Dao in complete freedom (Kohn 2010b, 22; Hara 1993, 97). The process took nineteen days to complete, which contrasts with Confucius who encountered Laozi and stayed home for three months (ch. 14); with the Yellow Emperor who went into seclusion for three months (ch. 11) or, according to some sources, for three years (Roth 1997b, 50); and with Yancheng who practiced with Ziqi of South Wall over a period of nine years, reaching gradually through closer connection with the spirits and a loss of awareness of life and death to a state of oneness with the “great mystery” (ch. 27; W 306). The time frame of cultivation tends to come in threes, matching the mourning period in ancient China, which was three months for Mohists and three years for Confucians (Graziani 2009, 452), i.e., the culturally accepted norm for reconstituting one’s self in a new state.

Later Adaptations Both forms of meditation described in the Zhuangzi later found their way into religious Daoist practice. Mind-fasting was linked with the ritual tradition and became part of the larger culture of zhai in medieval Daoism, while oblivion under Buddhist influence evolved into a systematic practice for Daoist attainment. Zhai 齋 as “fasting” originally meant the preparatory purification before rituals; it came with sensory withdrawal, sexual abstention, physical cleansing, and the avoidance of defilement. In the 5th century, under the growing influence of Buddhism, it was connected to the idea of pūjā (gongyang 供養), i.e., the offering of food to deities and the sharing of food—usually vegetarian meals donated by wealthy sponsors—among humans and gods, lay donors and recluses (Kohn 2010a, 101). The term zhai as a result no longer meant “fast” but came to indicate “vegetarian feast,” either offered to the gods or shared among the religious commu-


nity. The term’s meaning further expanded with the increased formalization of the ritual schedule, both in Buddhism and Daoism. For one, it also came to mean “temporary renunciation,” certain specific days, known as zhaijie 齋戒, when lay followers would opt to take eight precepts instead of the customary five and participate in the monastic routine (Soymié 1977). The most powerful and expansive use of zhai, finally is as “rite of purgation” or “festival,” a major ritual event usually dedicated to the expiation of sins or the blessing of ancestors and the emperor, held at regular intervals throughout the year (Kohn 2003, 124; see also Yamada 1999; Benn 2000). Zhuangzi’s mind-fasting became one of these purgations. It is first mentioned as such in the Dongxuan lingbao Wugan wen 洞玄靈寶五感文 (The Five Commemorations of the Cavern Mystery of Numinous Treasure, DZ 1278), a ritual compilation by Lu Xiujing 陸修靜 (406-477) (Saso 2010, 137). Lu was a leader in both the Celestial Masters and Numinous Treasure schools, best known for his compilation of the first Daoist catalog and his attempts at reforming the Celestial Masters (Bokenkamp in Pregadio 2008, 717-19; Nickerson 1996). The Wugan wen, dated to 453, contains a sermon by Lu on the sentiments of gratitude—toward parents, deities, and masters—one should develop to successfully participate in a purgation that clears sins (Schipper in Schipper and Verellen 2004, 253; Yamada in Pregadio 2008, 1001). After the sermon, the text provides a list of purgations, beginning with those of Highest Clarity which involve mindfasting, i.e., internal cultivation, as opposed to the Numinous Treasure liturgy of purgations undertaken in ritual performance. The text specifically mentions “abandoning the multitude and separating from one’s opposite” (juequn li’ou 絶群離偶), resting in “serenity and emptiness” (jixu 寂虛), “calming the vital energy” (jingqi 靜氣), “letting go of the physical form” (yixing 遺形), “forgetting the boundless body” (wangti 忘 體), and “merging with Dao in nonbeing” (wu yudao he 無與道合) (2a). It thus echoes various phrases from the Zhuangzi closely associated with meditation practice. A more extensive list of purgations with a similar division appears in the late Tang work Jinlu dazhai qimeng yi 金籙大齋啟盟儀 (Address to the Sworn regarding the Great Golden Register Purgation, DZ 485). Part of the extensive Golden Register Purgation, “the most powerful Daoist rite in medieval times, capable of tempering yin and yang to prevent natural calamities and to protect or save the emperor” (Benn 2000, 320; Maruyama in Pregadio 2008, 580), this work contains a formal sermon to the participants, given by the Master of High Merit (gaogong 高功) at the beginning of the service (Schipper in Schipper and Verellen 2004, 998-99). It says,

MEDITATION AND SELF-CULTIVATION / 131 The only way to attain perfect Dao is with methods of zhai, which comes in internal and external form. . . . Internal fasting means become peaceful and tranquil, serene and silent to join Dao in soaring and roaming. It is just like the method of mind-fasting Confucius explained to Yan Hui in the old days. (2a)

The Zhuangzi practice thus continued in the Daoist ritual tradition as a mainstay of internal purification. Sitting in oblivion, on the other hand, became a mainstream practice in the Daoist meditation tradition under the auspices of Buddhist mindfulness practice (see Kohn 1989b). It was especially formulated in the Zuowang lun 坐忘論 (On Sitting in Oblivion; DZ 1036; trl. Kohn 2010b), by Sima Chengzhen 司馬承禎 (647-735), renowned court Daoist and the twelfth patriarch of Highest Clarity (see Engelhardt 1987, 35-61; Kirkland 1986). The text presents progress toward oneness with Dao in seven steps and makes use of the Zhuangzi in each. It begins with “Respect and Faith,” insisting that adepts have to have heard of the practice—in terms cited from the Zhuangzi (Kohn 2010b, 141)—believe that its promises are real, and trust that they have the capacity and energy to attain them. Next, they work on “Interception of Karma,” which in essence means detaching themselves from society and, at least for a practice period, withdraw from ordinary life and let go of their “mechanical minds” (Zhuangzi 12) which are only concerned with temporary profits (2010b, 141). Third, they dedicate themselves to “Taming the Mind,” which means the establishment of basic concentration with the help of breath observation combined with an increased awareness of just how jumpy and fickle the ordinary mind is while appreciating that “spirit is without bend” (Zhuangzi 17; Kohn 2010b, 142). Next, “Detachment from Affairs,” the half-way point, sees the first conscious turning away from things, an initial level of oblivion, where one lets go of worldly achievements. It cites the Zhuangzi: The Zhuangzi says: “He who has mastered the essentials of destiny does not labor over what it cannot do” [ch. 19]. By “what destiny cannot do” we mean the things outside one’s allotment. Vegetarian food and old clothes are good enough to nourish inner nature and original destiny. Why depend on wine and meat, gauze and silk, and only with them consider life complete? Therefore, whatever is not fundamentally necessary to sustain life has to be given up, and whatever of the necessary things is too many has to be abandoned. (Kohn 2010b, 148)

Step five, “Perfect Observation,” leads practitioners to a reorientation within self and world, to letting go of attachments to body and self, and increasingly overcoming dualistic evaluations and value judgments. This comes with a new appreciation of the workings of destiny, here expanded to include the Buddhist notion of karma. Citing the Zhuangzi (ch.


23), the text says: “Karma enters and cannot be avoided: it is your own karma.” The word used here is ye 業, literally “tasks,” “business,” “outside concerns” (W 255), or “training” as in “Neiye.” Thus, if poverty and diseases come, they cannot be stopped, but “must be my own karma, my own heaven-given destiny” (Zhuangzi 6; Kohn 2010b, 151). Next one reaches “Stability of Cosmic Peace” (taiding 泰定), another phrase taken from the Zhuangzi: “He whose inner being rests in the stability of cosmic peace will spread a heavenly radiance” (ch. 23). This refers to the attainment of clarity and stillness, from where spiritual wisdom arises like a radiant light. The Zuowang lun also cites the Zhuangzi on the relationship of knowledge and speech. “To know Dao is easy—to keep from speaking about it is hard. To know and not to speak, this gets you to the heavenly part” (ch. 32). It further uses the text to describe the interaction of tranquility and wisdom in the advanced practitioner. “Wisdom and tranquility take turns nourishing each other, and harmony and universal order emerge from inner nature” (ch. 16; Kohn 2010b, 154-55). In the last step, called “Attaining Dao,” adepts reach full oneness with heaven and earth, a life as long as the universe, and various spiritual powers (Zhuangzi 6, 17). As perfected beings they can live among fellow men and spread the purity of the Dao by just being themselves; or they can ascend spiritually to the heavens where they take up residence among the immortals (Kohn 2010b, 157; 2008a, 105-06). Overall, the Zuowang lun thus not only uses the ancient Zhuangzi method as its center but also makes ample use of the text’s terminology and outlook, combining its vision and phrases with those of Buddhist insight meditation and connecting them with the ultimate religious Daoist attainment of immortality, i.e., the overcoming of bodily death and expansion of spirit into the vastness of the otherworld and a continued existence among the ranks of the heavenly perfected.

Contemporary Practice Both forms of meditation in the Zhuangzi still play an active role today. Daoists use sitting in oblivion to attain a loss of self and reduction of conscious mind activity. “Remain empty so that there is no separation from Dao. Then wisdom will arise and bring forth light, with is the clear qi of the person” (Shi 2005, 6). Eva Wong describes it as “a dropping of conceptions” which leads to “the natural emergence of the natural self, the natural celestial mind” (Shi 2007, 8). This is characterized by “choiceless awareness,” a “detached observation” of reality (Shi 2006, 11), a more Buddhist notion than the immediacy emphasized in the Zhuangzi, as is


the strong emphasis modern Daoists place on physical posture (Kohn 2013, 14-15; 2008a, 106). Beyond the specific meditation methods described in the ancient texts, Daoists also use the entire Inner Chapters as a model for meditation practice. Contemplating chapter 1, they realize that change occurs in many ways but is external, while on the inside one can attain stability, a congealing of spirit in a state of nonbeing, where one is “without self, without merit, without fame” (Saso 2010, 139). Chapter 2 provides inspiration to abstain from discursive reasoning, instead reaching for oneness of Dao and self in an “unconditioned state of permanence, non-change, no words, and emptiness (2010, 141). The three stories in chapter 3 show how the way of nature is fluid and life-giving at all times, encouraging adepts to join the flow. In chapter 4, with the passage on mind-fasting, they find a first glimpse of union with Dao (2010, 142-43). Chapter 5 emphasizes the importance of inner power, inspiring adepts to be complete without fulfilling external requirements. How to think and life as a perfected and how to release all mental activity into full oblivion are described in chapter 6, while chapter 7 illuminates the wider dimensions of Daoist practice, including the ideal relationship with society and the world (Saso 2010, 147-49). The Inner Chapters thus become the model of the Daoist path from individual limitation to oneness with Dao and active beneficence in the world. Outside specifically Daoist circles, psychologists and psychotherapists have recently adapted both meditation practices in the context of reducing stress and anxiety. Thus Taoist Cognitive Psychotherapy (TCP) seeks to help the patient overcome difficulties—and especially Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)—by identifying and changing dysfunctional thinking, behavior, and emotional responses (Craig 2007). The goal is to evoke the direct, holistic experience of the individual, undistorted by thoughts of gain and loss, praise and blame, society and world. As patients get more deeply in touch with the energies within, they realize what really nourishes them: “Worries about social status, absolute distinctions, dysfunctional thinking, and cognitive distortions simply dissolve” (Santee 2008, 111). They derive identity less and less from outside sources and the validation of others, thereby reducing the stress response and anxiety patterns, instead experiencing a feeling of completeness and connection to greater universal patterns. Within the academic study of meditation, finally, mind-fasting can be described as a form of concentrative meditation. This involves complete control of attention through absorption in a single object, leading to one-pointedness of mind and sensory withdrawal. Stilling the conscious chatter and focusing attention inward, the subtle murmur of the subconscious and the inherent flow of vital energy can be perceived (Kohn 2008a, 5).


Sitting in oblivion, on the other hand, is its own unique type, best described as “immediacy” (Faure 1991). On par with “just sitting” in Chinese Chan and Japanese Zen as well as with the “total perfection” of Tibetan Dzogchen, it rejects sensory perception and conscious thinking as inherently dualistic and potentially misleading. It “goes beyond all other meditation methods in that its central focus is the complete overcoming of both the conscious and subconscious mind, the eradication of all sensory evaluation and dualistic thinking, and the achievement of immediate presence in ordinary activities” (Kohn 2008a, 97). Immediacy forms one among a total of six types of meditation. They include first of all three forms based on the modes of human perception, i.e., visualization of gods and sacred scenes (visual), chanting or mantra practice (auditory), and body motion, such as in yoga or taiji (kinesthetic). In addition, there is detached observation, used in Buddhist insight meditation and Daoist inner observation, which establishes an objective observer in the conscious mind, a “witness consciousness” (Deikman 1982). This is a mental position of distanced seeing, a faculty of taking a step back from involvement with experiences and emotions, allowing the release of negative patterns and opening a calmer way of living. Last but not least, there is body energetics, which focuses on the refinement of tangible forms of body (often sexual) energies into more spiritual forms. Activating energy in an intricate network of subtle channels, centers, and passes, adepts of kundalini yoga and internal alchemy, seek the emergence of a higher spiritual energetic level, through which they communicate and ultimately become one with the divine (Kohn 2008a, 78).

Chapter Thirteen The Buddhist Connection Buddhism first reached China through merchants, refugees, envoys, hostages, and mendicant monks as early as the Han dynasty (Ch’en 1973; Zürcher 1959, 23; Tsukamoto 1985, 8). Its presence was officially acknowledged in the 1st century CE with the famous dream of Emperor Ming of a great sage arising in the west and the first shrines erected by Chinese aristocrats, such as Prince Ying of Chu (Tsukamoto 1985, 43-44, 60-64). Formal Buddhist institutions are not documented until the late 2nd century (Zürcher 1959, 28), when also the earliest translations of sutras appeared. They were for the most part works on doctrine (abhidharma) and meditation (dhyāna) that originated from both major schools of Buddhism, the ancient mainstream (Theravāda) and the more recent Mahāyāna (Zürcher 1959, 32). The translation style, moreover, made heavy use of Sanskrit transliterations, so that terms and concepts remained rather obscure. 1st This changed in the 3rd and 4th centuries, when indigenous thinkers used native Daoist terms and concepts to express Buddhist ideas, so that, for example, nirvāna became “nonaction” and prajñā was turned into “non-knowledge” (Zürcher 1959, 16). Sometimes this style of translation is described as “matching the meanings” (geyi 格義), referring to an exegetical technique of “categorizing concepts” that involved the “correlation of lists of enumerated Buddhist concepts with presumably comparable lists of notions extracted from non-Buddhist works” (Mair 2010, 233; Thompson 2013, 233). Also, at this time, native Chinese (under non-Han rulership) first obtained the right to become monks—although traditional Confucians strongly objected to the idea of giving up the family, shaving off one’s hair, and living on the donations of others (Tsukamoto 1985, 42). The first aristocratic monks emerged, and Chinese Buddhist thought began to develop. Still, institutions were small, scattered, and run individually by abbots according to their version of the rules; practices were haphazard and not standardized; and doctrine was often understood in Daoist rather than proper Buddhist terms. 135


The big breakthrough came in the 5th century when the northern Toba-Wei rulers made use of Chinese organized religions to administer the country (Gernet 1995, 233). They sponsored the Kuchan monk Kumārajīva (344-413) in an extensive translation project, which created a standardized terminology for Buddhist concepts and provided much needed information on worldview and practice (Assandri 2009, 15). Authoritative translation of the Buddhist monks’ rules, the Vinaya (Prebish 1994), appeared together with major doctrinal scriptures such as the Lotus sutra (trl. Hurvitz 1976; Watson 1993), the Vimalakirti nirdeśa sutra (trl. Luk 1972), and the Avatamsaka sutra (trl. Cleary 1984). This massive increase of available information in an accessible language that presented Buddhism neither as utterly alien nor as a milder variant of philosophical Daoism, created a new religious environment in which institutions of both Buddhism and Daoist came to flourish greatly and which made Buddhism a mainstay of popular Chinese religion. It also, in the 6 th century, gave rise the uniquely Chinese Buddhist school of Chan (Fung 1958, 341; Moeller 2004a, 149; Wong 2006, 219). The Zhuangzi was one of the major Daoist sources that served to create a framework for incoming Buddhist doctrines and was picked up readily by Buddhist thinkers (Knaul 1986). In addition, it has long been recognized as one of the major sources of Chan Buddhism. Numerous terms and concepts are identical in both, they share a particular vision of self-cultivation as much as an idiosyncratic use of language, and there is clear historical evidence of the integration of concepts (Fukunaga 1969). In late imperial China, moreover, numerous Buddhist monks wrote commentaries on the Zhuangzi, interpreting it in their own light and under the auspices of the “harmony of the three teachings” (sanjiao heyi 三 教合一).

Early Thinkers The first Buddhist thinker to comment on the Zhuangzi was Zhi Dun 支遁 (aka Daolin 道林, 314-366), a Chinese aristocrat of Central Asian background who never joined a formal community but expressed his religion by sporting a monkish attire, shaving his head, and observing the five precepts. His thought, as expressed also in his Zuoyou ming 坐右銘 (To the Right of the [Teacher’s] Seat, T. 2059; 348c; Kohn 1992a, 119-20), contains a mixture of Buddhist technical vocabulary and Zhuangzi metaphors and generally is based heavily on Mystery Learning, especially Guo Xiang (Zürcher 1959, 116, 360; Hurvitz 1962, 46; Deng 2010, 327). While Guo Xiang focuses on naturalness or spontaneity and claims that one has to become oblivious of self and world, Zhi Dun states that


one should transcend matter to reach the arcanum which encompasses both being and nonbeing. Integrating Buddhist doctrine, he notes that all matter is ultimately empty, because it arises as part of the chain of dependent origination and does not exist by itself. On the other hand, he says that “heaven’s truth is the original world” and sees the process of purification as a return to truth (Fukunaga 1956, 101; Hachiya 1967, 84). As long as there is mental activity in the form of thoughts, worries, and emotions, heaven’s principle cannot make itself manifest. Even the ten stages of prajñā are no more than the “traces,” the outward symbols of the actual doctrine (Fukunaga 1956, 100; 1979, 3:117). Human beings should forget the traces and what causes them, nonbeing and what causes it. Zhi Dun uses the suoyi 所以 construction of Guo Xiang to express stages of oblivion, of unified perception which are utterly ineffable. But whether someone can pass through these stages fully depends on his “karma-lot” (yuanfen 緣分) (Hachiya 1967, 86; Kohn 1992a, 121), a combination of the Buddhist concept of retribution with Guo Xiang’s notion of cosmic share or allotment. He conceives of enlightenment in Zhuangzi phrasing: “The mind merges with the Great Void; in emptiness and identity, change and emotion are forgotten” (Hachiya 1967, 84). Yet Zhi Dun also deviates from the Daoist vision, notably in his understanding of human nature as potentially evil rather than a reflection of pure Dao (Pas 1981, 481, 490; Zürcher 1959, 129). Thus one should purge oneself of desires, cut attachments to family and state, and fully submit to monastic precepts—as opposed to releasing things and going along with all (Wong 2006, 208). “Living in simplicity, the perfected is like a hungry person fully satiated, like a thirsty man once his thirst is quenched” (Mather 1976, 100). Perfect happiness goes beyond the limits of personal needs, instincts, and inherent tendencies, leading to full freedom, independence and non-reliance. While this is close to the Zhuangzi, Zhi Dun also adds Buddhist dimensions: cosmologically, he integrates the notion of emptiness; in terms of psychology, he presents the conditioning of life through karma; and practically, he advocates the denial of instincts and life as a monk (Knaul 1986, 415). This development continues with Xi Chao 郤超 (336-377), a layman who came from a family with both Daoist and Buddhist connections. He probably knew Zhi Dun, as they were active in the capital about the same time (Zürcher 1959, 134; Fukunaga 1961, 631). His religious thought appears in the Fengfa yao 奉法要 (Essentials on Venerating the Dharma; T. 52.86a-89b; trl. Zürcher 1959, 164; Ch’en 1963). Somewhat more practically oriented than Zhi Dun, he focuses on karmic retribution and morality in human life, but also deals with an absolute state beyond karma in terms of wisdom (prajñā), cessation (nirvāna), and emptiness (sunyatā).


To reach this, Xi Chao maintains, people must first realize the fact that they are suffering and lead sinful lives, then change morally to ensure karmic merits and good fortune. There may be a similarity here with Guo Xiang’s notion that the perfected always encounters positive situations. The devotee of Xi Chao, like Guo Xiang’s sage, mysteriously responds to the world, having emptied his mind of “gain and loss, slander and fame, praise and ridicule, sorrow and joy” (T. 52.88a; Zürcher 1959, 171). “Mental oblivion” is the practice of the Way, and nonknowledge in the complete stillness of nirvāna is the wisdom of the sage. Xi Chao says, Emptiness is an expression for being oblivious of all attachments; it is not a term denoting a space to dwell in. Nonbeing means just nonbeing; if one imagines it as a concrete entity, one will be impeded by boundaries [feng 封]. Similarly, being means just being. Becoming oblivious of both is the way to full liberation, as being and nonbeing actually issue from mind and have no separate reality whatsoever. (T 52.89a; Fukunaga 1961, 642)

That all dharmas issue from mind is also stated in the Vimalakirti nideśa, in much the same way as nirvāna is described as utter stillness in the Nirvāna sutra. Yet Xi Chao’s system of thought is still firmly rooted in the Chinese tradition, as does that of Dao’an 道安 (312-385), a leading monk in north China who “was unable to break with his own Chinese past, particularly with the notion that the Chinese classics contain in germ everything a human being must have for a complete life” (Zürcher 1959, 186; see also Hurvitz 1962, 63; Link 1958, 1). His teaching of “the original nature of dharmas” (benwu 本無) represents a thorough mixture of Buddhist and Daoist ideas (Link 1969, 193; Fung 1952, 2:244). According to Dao’an, being and nonbeing together constitute the whole of natural existence (ziran), the nature of which is “transcendental nonbeing.” The unfolding of the world is a continuous process, latently present all the time. Likening it to the Daode jing’s “spirit of the valley” (ch. 6), Dao’an describes “original nonbeing” as “empty openness,” i.e., “a gap or hollow space which is open at both ends” (Link 1969, 197). To realize this openness, to lodge one’s mind in original nonbeing, means ending all involvement with reality and merging with the cosmic flow. The process is described in the preface to the Da shier men jing 大十二門 經 (Great Sutra of Twelve Teachings; T. 55.46a): “The sage wards off lust with the four absorptions (dhyāna), so that there is no remainder of lust left, and puts an end to existence with the four attainments of emptiness” (Link 1969, 207). Like the Zhuangzi, this proposes two basic states of mind—distorted and full of lust versus original, pure, empty, and open. These create two truths, ordinary and enlightened. “By becoming consciously aware of our


identity with that living trunk which supports and nourishes our life, we can achieve the calm stillness and certainty of the original source” (Link 1969, 199), realizing the enlightened perspective of emptiness while living actively in the ordinary world. Thereby the very life of the sage, detached from society and ethically pure, becomes a sermon, a realization of absolute truth on earth (Tan 2008, 208).

The Middle Way The two truths paradigm was also essential in the Mādhyamika (Middle Way) school of Buddhism, which came to exert considerable influence on Tang Daoism and Chan (Faure 1991, 56. Going back to the Indian thinker Nāgārjuna (2nd c.), this school emerged from the debate on different metaphysical theories concerning absolute reality (Kalupahana 1976, 129). Its core proposition was that all phenomenal reality was conceptual and had to be completely refuted in order to realize ultimate reality, the goal of the religious life (Kalupahana 1976, 138). The most efficient approach to refute any concept in those days was dialectics, using logic as its main tool. This logic, which in India was used by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, worked with four propositions or progressions, reducing theories ad absurdum (Assandri 2009, 15). The main tenets of Mādhyamika thought were introduced into China through the work of Kumārajīva. They have several tenets in common with the Zhuangzi: no-self in the sense that there is no personal identity or continuity; no solid reality due to the mutual interdependence of phenomena, described in terms of dreams and illusion; relativism since characterizations of opposites depend on one another; non-knowledge as oblivion or the obliteration of mental activity and critical evaluations; variable ethics as expressed in constant change and the application of “skillful means;” emptiness as “no things” and as the fundamental characteristic of existence; the way of using the mind like a mirror and the body in nonaction, purely reflective and responsive; as well as the two truths theory (Loy 1996, 52-65). The first to formulate Mādhyamika thought in China was the monk Sengzhao 僧肇 (374-414) (Berman 1997, 44; Fung 1952, 2:388; Liebenthal 1948, 5; 1968, 41). Unlike earlier thinkers and despite the fact that he relied heavily on Guo Xiang and freely used Daoist vocabulary, he did not consider himself an heir to the Zhuangzi tradition, but a Buddhist, a student of Kumārajīva (Tan 2008, 196). As such he showed a “thorough familiarity with sūtra sunyavāda, he understood epistemology, ontology, and the theory of language of the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras and of the Vimalakirti nideśa” (Robinson 1967, 135; Hurvitz 1962, 73; also Fukunaga 1955, 252; Liebenthal 1968). He accepted the doctrine of the two truths,


assuming that true enlightenment was a mental state completely cut off from ordinary sense-spheres, a state of no-mentation (Robinson 1959, 105; Chang 1977, 411), and identified ultimate reality as oneness: “How could what is all be this or that? It is just our human mind that makes distinctions” (Liebenthal 1968, 41). For Sengzhao, the ultimate is defined in terms of sunyatā, prajñā, and nirvāna, which he interprets in Daoist terms with the triad of Dao, being, and nonbeing. Using Mādhyamika patterns, he then works through the dialectical interchange of being and nonbeing, describing them as both (as well as neither) existent and inexistent (Chan 1963, 355; Chang 1977, 410; Tan 2008, 196). However, while sunyatā or emptiness in Buddhism means that “all things are devoid of self-existence” (Wang 2003, 57) and transcends both being and nonbeing, for Sengzhao, Dao is a real force that manifests through the existence of phenomena, encompassing but not going beyond being and nonbeing (Tan 2008, 197). Similarly, as made clear in his Panruo wuzhi lun 盤若無知論 (Prajñā Is Non-Knowledge; T. 45.153a), prajñā for him is not nameless or indescribable but unknowing, an intuition of emptiness that goes beyond the intellect and deliberate cognition (Chang 1977, 415; Liebenthal 1948, 71). He explains it in Zhuangzi terms, as a “formless sense” (wangxiang 罔象) conveyed in “crazy words” (kuangyan 狂言) (Chang 1977, 409), and uses the metaphor of the mind as mirror (Robinson 1967, 213; Tan 2008, 198). Nirvāna, finally, is not cessation in the Buddhist sense, but a state in which the bodymind intuits absolute truth (Tan 2008, 199) that is both there and not there (Chang 1977, 410). By the same token, he criticizes the Zhuangzi for its notion of continuous change and incessant motion, proposing an understanding of existence as neither in rest nor in motion—”past things do not come, present things do not go” (Tan 2008, 200). Then, however, he favors rest over motion as the true, inherent state of things that reflects the unchanging nature of the Buddha’s truth (Chan 1973, 350). He also advises compliance with change moment by moment, closely echoing Guo Xiang’s notion of self-emergence (Tan 2008, 201). Both are activated in nonaction, a state characteristic of nirvāna and the core activity of the sage, which reflects the understanding that “there is nothing worthy of action after the recognition of the emptiness of all things” (Tan 2008, 207). “Because the perfected views the transformations of the universe as all of one breath, he passes through, adapting himself to whatever he encounters” (Liebenthal 1968, 54). The combination of Buddhist metaphysics and Zhuangzi concepts in Sengzhao thus led to a more complex understanding of life, where all is ultimately empty and being and nonbeing flow through each other, both existent and inexistent, moving and at rest, formed and formless, world


and absolute, samsāra and nirvāna. This theoretical model continues in the Huayan 華嚴 (Avatamsaka) school of the early Tang, notably expressed by Fazang 法藏 (643-712) and Zhengguan 證觀 (738-839), who emphasize both the originally empty nature and non-obstruction of phenomena and the ultimate state of immediate intuition or non-knowledge (Møllgaard 2007, 139-40; Moeller 2004a, 152; Chang 1963, 56; 1977, 413). This, in turn, laid the foundation of Chan thought, which in several ways is “remarkably similar to Daoism” (Creel 1970a, 23).

Chan In the 6th century, the combination of radical Mahāyāna thinking with the vision of the Zhuangzi became the inspiration for a number of radical monks who objected to the set ways and rigid patterns of established Buddhists. These monks wished to return to the original Buddhist pursuit of personal enlightenment rather than serving the aristocracy with devotional rituals and enjoying the luxuries of sponsored living. They took to the mountains where they practiced deep meditative absorption, called chan 禪 after the Sanskrit word dhyāna, and eschewed the use of scriptures, rituals, devotion, and formalized training. They inspired young seekers, soon grew into substantial groups, and eventually became a major school known as Chan (Dumoulin 1965; Faure 1991; McRae 1983; Yampolsky 1967). In their effort to create a valid form of authentic Buddhist practice, they integrated traditional Chinese ways and thought, most dominantly that of the Zhuangzi. However, unlike their predecessors, they remained fully committed to the Buddhist project. “No matter how profound Zhuangzi’s impact on Chan is, Zhuangzi’s ideas and vocabularies have been assimilated and integrated into Buddhist teachings” (Wang 2003, 188). Chan is, therefore, definitely not a continuation of Zhuangzi worldview in Buddhist guise. Rather, it is a formulation of Buddhist theory and practice in terms derived from the Zhuangzi. Among commonalities four stand out. Both recognize ultimate reality (Dao, buddha-nature) as immanent in everybody and everything; both propose a doctrine that goes beyond words, writings, and scriptures, encouraging the overcoming of distinctions in pervasive silence; both place high emphasis on naturalness and spontaneity, eschewing the performance of special rituals; and both perceive the harmony of opposites, working through social conventions to a state of nondualism or nonaction (Ch’en 1964, 361-62; Tominaga 1983, 128-32). Both representing forms of “soteriological or therapeutic philosophy,” they focus on non-attachment and non-philosophy, working on


deconstructing self-identity (Wang 2003, 27, 31) while pursuing “a truly free way of life for humankind” (Fukunaga 1969, 40). To this end, the Zhuangzi advocates “making the body like dried wood and the mind like dead ashes” and encourages its followers to let go of thinking and worrying. Chan texts similarly speak of the need “to drop off body and mind,” but “mind” here is not as somatic as in Daoism, rather representing Buddhist notions of consciousness (Moeller 2004a, 150; Hershock 1996, 155). Thus Wangming’s 亡名 (c. 516-580) Xixin ming 息心銘 (On Resting the Mind), an early Chan text found at Dunhuang (S 2165), says, using Zhuangzi phrasing: Don’t think much, don’t know much! Much knowledge means deep involvement—much better to rest the will. A head full of worries means many failures—much better to maintain oneness. . . . When all mental activity and thoughts cease, life and death are permanently cut off. No more death, no more life; no phenomena, no names. One Dao in emptiness and vastness, the myriad beings all made equal. (Knaul 1986, 422)

This oneness in turn leads to a state beyond dualistic thinking or bodily self-consciousness, described as “having lost oneself,” for example, by Ziqi of South Wall in the Zhuangzi (ch. 2). Chan matches this: Zuikan was a Zen master who always used to address himself. “Zuikan?” he would call. And then he would call “Yes!” “Zuikan!” “Yes!” Of course he was living all alone in his small zendō, and of course he knew who he was, but sometimes he lost himself. (Suzuki 1970, 81)

Mentation in this “lost” state, moreover, like in the Zhuangzi, goes beyond the senses and the conscious mind and centers in the intuition of the belly. As Ian Willem van de Wetering recalls: “Listen with your belly,” the old teacher in Kyoto had said. “Think with your belly. Forget your ears, your nose, your eyes. Don’t be guided by the imagination of your brain. All answers are right there!” And he had poked me in the stomach with his short blunt stick. I fell over. The master had laughed. “You aren’t sitting well. If you sat properly, I could never push you over.” (1975, 150)

Sitting firmly in a full or half lotus posture without moving and calming the breath to a very slow rhythm is at the core of seated meditation (zuochan 坐禪) as well as essential to Daoist oblivion (zuowang). Keeping the body stable, the mind comes to rest, but thoughts continue to arise and pass away. To break the addiction to conscious evaluations and critical judgments, Chan followers as much as the masters in the Zhuangzi go beyond analytical reasoning and resort to paradoxes and radical questioning (Kohn 2008a, 100). As Shunryu Suzuki says, “When fish swim, water and fish are the fish. There is nothing but fish. . . You cannot find buddha nature in vivisection” (1970, 134).


The result of this practice is enlightenment which, like the free and easy wandering of the Zhuangzi, relies on nonaction and naturalness, cannot be conveyed adequately in words, focuses on the full and intense realization of this life here and now, and centers on the realization that buddha-nature (Dao) is present in everyone and everything (Fukunaga 1946, 208; see also Ch’en 1964, 361; Hershock 1996, 156). Both the Zhuangzi and Chan, moreover, deconstruct the conceptual-linguistic hierarchy and experiment with the limits of language, moving between expression and silence, meaning and nonsense, and thinking and the unthinkable not unlike modern Western thinkers, such as Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Foucault, and Derrida (Tominaga 1983, 128, 131; Wang 2003, 87-89). They exhibit negative attitudes toward language, yet use it most original and productive ways (Wang 2003, 187; Tominaga 1983, 131), such as parables, riddles, and double questions (Lin 2012, 656). Chan “court cases” or koans (gongan 公案), in particular, well known for posing unanswerable questions and often leading to masters shouting or hitting, reflect certain patterns of instruction dialogues in the Zhuangzi (Defoort 2012). As other linguistic techniques and pedagogical methods, they serve to implode the conscious mind, to make it come up against impossible barriers time and again, until it gives up and lets go (Addiss et al. 2008, 89; Kohn 2008a, 113; Wang 2003, 163). This, however, is not formal cultivation to transcend the Three Worlds, which is described as useless (Chang 1971, 130). As Master Linji 臨濟 (Jap. Rinzai; d. 866) admonishes his “followers of the Way” (daoliu 道 流) in the Linji lu 臨濟錄 (Recorded Sayings of Master Linji), You seek escape from the Three Worlds. You foolish people! If you want to get out of the Three Worlds, where can you go? . . . One of your passionate urges is the World of Desire. A momentary anger is the World of Form. And a second’s foolish ignorance is the World of Formlessness . . . We are the Three Worlds! (ch. 27; Schloegl 1976, 45; Addiss et al. 2008, 48)

Understanding the oneness of all, the adept lets go of all dualism and, as a “true man [perfected] of no status” (wuwei zhenren 無位真人) (Schloegl 1976, 10), returns to ordinary society (Tominaga 1983, 132). Like Farong, who “after his enlightenment . . . descended from the mountain, begging for alms and carrying riches for 300 people to the temple” (Chang 1967, 37), he lives in the perfection of “everyday mindedness, free from intentional action, free from concepts of right and wrong” (Loy 1985, 81). His is a state where the “body itself is wholly psychic” (Loy 1985, 80) and one remains in is-ness (tathatā), the “just is” of ordinary life (Cleary 1977, 571; Yamada 1979, 88). “When hungry, I eat; when thirsty, I drink,” as Linji says (Schloegl 1976, 37, 52; Chang 1969, 285; Reps 1957, 91)—”nothing special, living Zen” (Boko-Beck 1993).


This nondual state, moreover, manifests in the immediacy of lived experience, in the full “authenticity of the present” (Moeller 2004a, 151), and leads to superb practical skills, like those mentioned variously in the Zhuangzi. In the words of a Japanese garden-designer, Nowadays, whatever I do I am completely at one with it. I accept pleasant things as wholly pleasant and distasteful things as completely distasteful, and then immediately forget the reaction of pleasantness or distastefulness. (Kapleau 1965, 234).

Buddhism Sinicized Throughout the middle ages, Chinese Buddhists used the Zhuangzi to come to terms with their adopted religion in terms of their own cultural heritage, over the centuries becoming less Daoist and more authentically Buddhist in outlook. In the late Ming, however, this shifted toward acknowledging ancient Daoist texts as indigenous classics of a fully sinicized Buddhist tradition, identifying Laozi and Zhuangzi as bodhisattvas, and initiating “a new genre of Chinese Buddhist writing that did not claim a historical link to Śākyamuni” (Epstein 2006, 17). The key figure in this shift was Hanshan Deqing 憨山德清(1546-1623), one of the four great monks of the late Ming (see Yü 1981). Hanshan was born into a Buddhist family near Nanjing and joined a monastery at age 11, learning elementary Buddhist discipline while continuing his literary studies. He was ordained at age 17, then worked at his original institution before moving north in 1572. In 1576, he experienced a great awakening and, under the tutelage of the Empress Dowager, settled at the Tayuan Temple 塔院寺 on Mount Wutai 五臺山, from where his fame began to spread. Favoring a more remote lifestyle, he moved to Mount Lao 勞山 in Shandong, a major Daoist center, where he lived for twelve years. In 1589, his close connection to the Empress Dowager caused him to be imprisoned, defrocked, and exiled to Leizhou 雷州 in Guangdong. He continued to be active in the Buddhist community and as a writer, but did not resume his monk’s attire until 1614. He died in 1623 in Caoxi 曹溪, at the former temple of the Chan master Huineng 慧能 (Epstein 2006, 20-24). Besides his commentary to the Zhuangzi, he also wrote an exegesis of the Daode jing (1607) and the Guan Lao-Zhuang yingxiang 觀老莊影響論 (Contemplating the Refractions and Reverberations of Lao[zi] and Zhuang[zi]; dat. 1598) (Epstein 2006, 69-70). In the latter, he argues that the three teachings (Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism) are like the different aspects of a glittering pearl, radiating and reverberating in and around and through each other, yet part of the same true mind underly-


ing all (2006, 73-74). Since the enlightened mind is nondual, it no longer sees any difference between them but accepts all as inspiration. Hanshan interpreted the Zhuangzi as fundamentally a Buddhist text, a Chan manifesto for awakening that contained the Buddhist message at its core. Its author was a bodhisattva who had taken birth intentionally in China to spread the teaching (2006, 149). Passages that refer to life and death as a “great dream” followed by a “great awakening” (ch. 2), indicate the Buddhist notion of life as illusion and of enlightenment as the ultimate state, identified as such by the Buddha as “a great sage” who “appears after ten thousand generations” (2006, 150). Sections that mention “no self” (ch. 1) and the inability to find a “true ruler” among the many aspects of the bodymind (ch. 2) furnish proof of Zhuangzi’s awareness of the doctrine of no-self (2006, 155, 164). The concept of the “true master” (zhenzai 真宰) indicates not only the invisible principle inherent in heaven and Dao but also connects to true awareness and buddhanature: “Master Zhuang wants people to awaken to their true master and thereby attain true knowledge” (2006, 161). In addition, Hanshan interprets the Zhuangzi’s emphasis on continuous change as an indication of his awareness of reincarnation (Epstein 2006, 184) and reads the entire text as a way to “encourage readers to transform themselves” (2006, 192). He sees it as outlining stages of personal cultivation, focusing specifically on the dialogue between Woman Hunchback and Nanbo Zikui, which outlines several stages of transmission (ch. 6; W 83). Practice thus begins with learning about the potential of self-realization through being “aided by ink” (fumo 副墨), i.e., reading materials such as the Zhuangzi, then moving on to “repeated recitation” (luosong 洛訟), that is, chanting and memorizing the sacred words. This in turn will allow one to come to a full and deep understanding of the text, in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic terms, through “seeing with clarity” (zhanming 瞻明), “hearing with acceptance” (niexu 聶許), and becoming “ready for service”(xuyi 需役). The bodymind fully involved in the practice, one can now become deeply “immersed in chanting” (yu’ou 於謳), thereby “reaching a higher level of concentration and gaining deeper spiritual insight.” It all culminates in “mysterious merging” (xuanming 玄冥) or “joining vastness” (canliao 參寥), i.e., “the true realm of Dao which is spacious, expansive and empty” (Epstein 2006, 197-201). Here the Zhuangzi has graduated a manual not only for ways to Buddhist enlightenment but also for devotional and liturgical practice that involves recitation, chanting, and structured meditation. The text serves as an indigenous pillar of support for the Buddhist enterprise, reaching beyond its expression of ancient Chinese wisdom and ways to oblivion into the realm of Buddhist enlightenment and Chan immediacy.

Chapter Fourteen The Perfected Who, then, are the people who have managed to reach a state of oblivion and full immediacy? The Zhuangzi describes them as “perfected” (zhenren 真人), a term also used in Chan Buddhism and rendered variously as “true man,” “authentic person,” “genuine human,” “real mensch,” and in the Shuowen defined as a recluse who has reached a higher level of being (Coyle 1998, 198). Zhen indicates the “true state of a thing” as opposed to anything artificial, a way of being in utmost purity and sincerity (Coyle 1998, 197, 199). It is illustrated by the raw piece of jade as opposed to the finely designed ceremonial object or by the uncarved block of wood in contrast to the intricately carved masterpiece (Chong 2011b, 324, 327). Zhen can apply both to the properties and the actions of things. The English word “perfected” suits this because it implies a twofold dimension: the connection to the original, underlying perfection and wholeness of Dao at the root of existence as well as the effort-based unfolding of true authenticity, a new evolutionary stage in human development. Other related words in the Zhuangzi, often interchangeably used to the same effect and closely matched, are “heavenly man” (tianren 天人), “spirit man” (shenren 神人), and “perfect man” (zhiren 至人)—connecting to Dao, clarity, and authenticity, respectively—as well as the “great man” (daren 大人) and, to a lesser degree, “sage” (sheng 聖) (Kirkwood 1992, 8; Sun 2012, 506; Tong 2011, 94)—the latter usually involving more of a social orientation (ch. 33; W 362; Møllgaard 2014, 2) and being a “master communicator” (Ames and Hall 1987, 259). Being like such a person means to be whole and unaware as if completely drunk: When drunks fall from a carriage, though it goes fast, they won’t be killed. They have bones and joints like other people, but they are not hurt in the same way, because their spirit is whole. They had no idea they were riding, and they don’t know they have fallen out. Life and death, alarm and terror do not enter their chest. (ch. 19; W 198-99; Graham 1981, 137; Kohn 2010b, 22; Mair 1994a, 176) 146


The ideal state is thus one of complete unknowing, an utter lack of awareness of where one is or what one does, a way of being without a fixed identity (Ziporyn 2003, 36; Yang 2007, 121). As the text describes it in the case of Mengsun Cai 孟孫才: He doesn’t know why he lives and doesn’t know why he dies. He doesn’t know why he should go ahead; he doesn’t know why he should fall behind. In the process of change, he has become a thing [among other things], and he is merely waiting for some other change that he doesn’t yet know about. Moreover, when he is changing, how does he know that he is really changing? And when he is not changing, how does he know that he hasn’t already changed? (ch. 6; W 88)

Holding fast to the pure vital energy of the cosmos, there are no thoughts of disaster or change, of life or death that might come into the mind (Coyle 1998, 202). This, in turn, creates a safety net, preventing any kind of upset or injury. The spirit is whole, and so is the person.

Psychological Profile In this wholeness of spirit, at the pivot of Dao, inner power is the main force moving the individual. At-one, natural, and spontaneous, such people are carried by cosmic currents and merely flow along like water. Using their natural gifts properly, they act in full conformity with the heavenly patterns, naturally free, without control, special powers, or transcendence (Coyle 1998, 203; Fung 1964, 18; Legge, 1979, 14; Puett 2003, 256, 260). Such people “take heaven as their ancestor and inner power as their roots” (Lo 1999, 165); free of emotions, they do “not use mind to oppose Dao, nor use human faculties to assist heaven” (Graham 1981, 84); in them, the human and the heavenly do not overcome one another but work in harmonious balance (Chong 2011b, 325; Graziani 2006, 273-77). As the Zhuangzi says: When water flows downward, it doesn’t do anything but just follows its inherent nature. Similarly, when the perfected fully realize inner power, they do not cultivate anything and yet there is absolutely nothing that could separate them from it. It is just like the sky is naturally high, earth is naturally solid, the sun and the moon are naturally bright—what is there to cultivate? (ch. 21; Kohn 2011, 147)

Another way of describing this psychological state is in terms of being naturally and spontaneously at home in Dao as fish are in water (ch. 6), described with the term “aligned” or “comfortable” (shi 適): “One is oblivious of the feet when the shoes are comfortable; one is oblivious of the waist when the belt fits just right. Knowledge obliterates all right and


wrong when the mind is completely aligned with all” (ch. 19; W 206-07; Kohn 2010b, 24). This means, we are naturally at home in the universe, as comfortable in our mind and spirit, inner nature and destiny, inherent tendencies and circumstantial trajectories, inner power and Dao, as we are in clothes that fit well (Coyle 1998, 200; Fox 1996, 63; Fung 1953, 1:227). Since the match is perfect, there is no need to evaluate things or develop feelings about anything. Since we are the only way we can be as determined by heaven, there is no urgency to change or develop regrets about not changing. Living without evaluation or judgment, we “enjoy everything as it is for what it is” (Yearley 2010, 126). Accepting everything that occurs as the way it should be, the “mind holds to and lets go of events as they arise” in each moment. We recognize life as “a series of new beginnings” and embrace each changing state when it comes, then let it go in complete presence (Yearley 2010, 132-33; Moeller 2004a, 10003). At rest in a place where “the relationship of consciousness to the sense organs is no longer one of destruction and overcoming, but one of permeation and transformation” (Chong 2011b, 337), where “the various drives and parts of person and world are integrated in an affirmative way” (Coyle 1998, 199), the perfected have a personality that is withdrawing and gentle. Thomas Merton calls this “cosmic humility”—based on the full “realization of one’s own nothingness, this is full of life and awareness, responding with boundless vitality and joy to all living beings” (1969, 27). The perfected of old did not resent being humble, did not take pride in success, and never plotted their affairs. From this basis, they could be without regret if things went wrong, remain free from self-congratulations when they went right. . . They slept without dreaming and woke without concerns. Their food was plain and their breath deep. (ch. 6; Kohn 2011, 139; also ch. 15; Kohn 2011, 137; Coyle 1998, 199)

Fully authentic people are free from pride, bragging, and schemes and hold neither fear nor regret. Without stress, they can breathe deeply; without anxiety, they have no nightmares; without ambitions; they live simple lives (Chong 2011b, 334; Kohn 2002, 296; Graziani 2006, 284, 293). Nor are they worried about life and death. “The perfected of old came to life without celebration, they left again without messiness. Calmly they came, calmly they went—and that is all. They never forgot where they came from; they never inquired about where they would end” (ch. 6). Death to the perfected is merely a “return to perfection,” another transformation in the ongoing flow of existence (Brindley 2010, 58; Chong 2011b, 327; Coyle 1998, 205).


Withdrawn and unassuming, such people manifest “blandness” (dan 淡), a characteristic of Dao in the Daode jing (ch. 35), like being invisible, inaudible, and subtle (ch. 14). Blandness is “an optimal and discreet equilibrium where all qualities coexist simultaneously” (Jullien and Parkes 1993, 108), a state of neutrality, where “one is not fixed within the confines of a particular definition” (Jullien 2004, 23). From here, the perfected renew themselves constantly, like heaven, they “embrace the whole of reality and conform to all its diverse patterns” (Jullien and Parkes 1993, 109). Having access to the undifferentiated foundation, they live in original innocence, in true naiveté, free from intention, able to “simultaneously encompass contradictory qualities,” adapting to the changes and “realizing mastery of all their abilities” (Jullien 2004, 56, 60). Fully themselves yet also fully one with all beings, “the nature of their existence is such that the joys and sufferings of others are their own,” with no selfidentity apart from the world. “There is no limit to their ability to respond to diverse and changing circumstances” (Legge 1979, 17-18).

Clarity and Being-Cognition This, however, is not an unconscious, reflexive, or instinctual pattern. “Able to watch the yes and no pursue the alternating course [of things] around the circumference, the perfected retain perspective and clarity of judgment” (Merton 1969, 30; Ziporyn 2003, 37). “Clarity” (ming 明), also rendered “understanding,” “illumination,” “brightness,” “lucidity,” or even “enlightenment” (Callahan 1998, 183; Fraser 2006, 537; Lo 1999, 150), is an important characteristic of the perfected. A state of mind free from assumptions (Ritchie 2010, 8), it is an inner radiance of spirit that “transcends all epistemological dualities” (Lo 999, 164) and works with “a correlative spiral rather than a hermeneutic circle” (Coyle 1998, 200). It is completely different from ming as intellect and the “finite, differentiating mind” (1999, 157). Just as “the person whose inner being rests in the stability of cosmic peace will spread a heavenly radiance” (ch. 23), so the perfected may cultivate blandness and appear dull in a crowd (Daode jing 20, 24, 41), but they always returns to inner light, the pure radiance of spirit and inner power (1999, 154). However much they may contain and shelter it (she 舍), this radiance emanates outward. As a result, others will seek them out, even if they do not want it (Billeter 2008, 30). Thus Liezi turns back on his journey to Qi because people kept serving him first: “If inner sincerity is not dissolved, it emits from the body as a sort of radiance. This impacts on the minds of others and makes them favor you in disregard of rank and old age. It soon becomes a source of affliction” (ch. 32; Kohn 2011, 189).


Another situation where oblivion can become an affliction is when it does not reach to clarity but remains mere forgetfulness. The Liezi provides an example, telling the story of Master Hua 華子 from the state of Song who was in oblivion to the point that he could no longer quite function in daily life: He would receive a present in the morning and forget it by evening, give a present in the evening and forget it by morning. On the road, he would forget to walk; in the house he would forget to sit down. Today he would not remember yesterday; tomorrow he would not remember today. (ch. 4; Graham 1960, 70)

This case of ancient Chinese Alzheimer’s was naturally quite upsetting to his family who consulted various specialists, all to no avail, until a Confucian of Lu came and offered to do an early version of psychotherapy: “He tried stripping Hua, so that he looked for clothes. He tried starving him, so that he looked for food. He tried shutting him up in the dark, so that he looked for light.” Encouraged by these signs that there was a survival instinct still at work, the Confucian asked to be left alone with Hua and, literally overnight, jerked him out of his oblivious state—to the latter’s great regret: “Formerly, when I was in oblivion, I was boundless. I did not notice whether heaven and earth existed or not. Now suddenly I remember: all the disasters and recoveries, gains and losses, joys and sorrows, loves and hates of twenty or thirty years rise up in a thousand tangled threads. . . . Shall I never again find a moment of oblivion?” (Graham 1960, 71)

In other words, oblivion creates a sense of inner peace and openness, a freedom from emotions and evaluations, success and failure, and any sort of strife. It is a state of inner wholeness where one along with Dao and just is—without memories or expectations, free from urges, pushes, or endeavors. Yet to maintain it one must be completely beyond any form of survival instincts: looking for light, food, and clothes when deprived of them is an indication that perception and intellect have not been driven out completely (Kohn 2010b, 23). In modern terms, this oblivion-cum-clarity can be described as a “simple and undivided state of mindfulness,” a way of being “in pure awareness, free from premeditation, self-consciousness, and evaluation of contents” (Kirkwood 1992, 9), playful, childlike, spontaneous (Crandell 2010). It may also be compared to the notion of pure experience and the “direct enjoyment of life,” a core value in John Dewey’s Experience and Nature (Skaja 1998, 113; Ames 2002, 81). Another way of looking at it is in terms the “observing self” as described by Arthur Deikman (1982). “The inner root of a person’s existence, the ultimate and transcendent sense of self deep within, it is there yet cannot be known, felt, or manipulated; it allows people to be receptive to the world around them, to see every-


thing as flowing streams of energy, intensely alive and perfectly individual, yet ultimately interconnected in a cosmic whole” (Kohn 1992a, 178). The most pertinent contemporary description is Abraham Maslow’s concept of Being-cognition, echoed also in Erich Fromm’s distinction of being versus having (1996). Unlike its opposite, Deficiency-cognition, which focuses outside objectives and leads to anxiety, fear, worry, and anger, Being-cognition is self-justifying, cheerful, and compassionate. Engendered in experiences of special or perfect moments of complete health and happiness called peak-experiences, i. e., times of greatest thrill, maturity, and selflessness (Maslow 1964, 97), Being-cognition is whole and free from purpose and strife. It is characterized by a sense of oneness and perfection, a feeling of life’s richness coupled with an awareness of its simplicity and beauty, goodness and justice (1964, 83). The mind in Being-cognition is powerful and highly concentrated, giving full attention to any object that is present at any given moment yet never evaluating it in some external or separate context. There is no subtracting from reality’s integrity by “rubricizing” it; there are no conscious categories, comparisons, or judgments. In Deficiency-cognition, repeated perception of the same object leads to habituation and boredom, categories and prejudices (the fixed mind). In Being-cognition, the observer retains the freshness of the present, the “beginner’s mind” of Chan Buddhism. Rather than thinking in linear structures, moreover, people in Being-cognition envision the world in patterns of circles or spirals, fusing all polar extremes into an integrated unity. They have a sense of intense immediacy and go beyond dichotomies to take in the whole (Maslow 1964, 91)—just as the perfected remain in the still center of all, the core of Dao, the pivot of life (Weed 2011, 53). This centered stillness leads to a powerful life of authentic, nonalienated, and productive activity. As Erich Fromm points out, living in the “mode of being” means “to renew oneself, to grow, to flow out, to love, to transcend the prison of one’s isolated ego, to be interested, to list, and to give” (1996, 88). Indescribable in words, it is the core of pure experience, the ultimate way of being in the world.

In Action The perfected have no individually determined, personally chosen life, but are heaven in action. That is to say, all their doings are determined not by personal preferences or egoistic desires, but by spirit and inner power working through the individual. By the same token, death to them is not the loss of a carefully crafted and ultimately artificial identity, but the mere change from state of being to another, yet another transformation of many. As the Zhuangzi says,

152 / CHAPTER FOURTEEN The life of the sage is heaven in action; the death of the sage is a being transformed. In stillness, her inner power matches yin; in motion, her flow matches yang. She does nothing to initiate good fortune; nothing to anticipate calamity. She gets an impulse, only then responds; receives a push, only then gets going; finds no other way, and only then stirs herself. Giving up analysis and precedents, she intuitively follows the inherent order of the cosmos. For this reason, she is completely free from all natural disasters, attachments to things, opposition from others, and spiritual burdens. (ch. 15; W 168; Kohn 2011, 137; Coyle 1998, 199)

Freedom from natural disasters and calamities—immunity to the elements, invulnerability in the face of water and fire—is an important mark of the perfected in action (Chen 2010, 79-81). The perfected “could climb high places without getting scared, dive into water without getting soaked, and pass through fire without getting hot” (ch. 6; W 77); they could “walk under water without choking, tread on fire without burning, and travel above the myriad things without fright” (ch. 19; W 198; Chong 2011b, 324). More explicitly, the perfected are spirit people: The perfect are like spirit. Though the great swamps blaze, they cannot burn them; though the great rivers freeze, they cannot chill them; though swift lightning splits the hills and howling gales shake the sea, they cannot frighten them. People like this ride the clouds and mist, straddle the sun and the moon, and freely wander beyond the four seas. Life and death have no effect on them, how much less the rules of gain and loss? (ch. 2; W 46)

This feature is understood variously. Taken literally, and linked with the idea of ecstatic flight—another major characteristic of the perfected (chs. 19, 21; W 207, 231)—it has been seen like the magical powers of shamans and immortals, documented in immortals’ biographies and the literature of the marvelous. Masters of Dao and transformation, they can walk far distances in a day, run at great speeds, possess great strength, and are impervious to extreme temperatures, water, and fire. They can also make themselves invisible, enter walls, dive into the earth, and soar off into the skies (DeWoskin 1990; Robinet 1986). Others have read these features more psychologically, as demonstrating the power of mind over matter. Thus the Liezi tells of Shangqiu Kai who can perform amazing feats because he has strong belief and never lets fear enter his mind. “I forgot where my body was going; I forgot which things benefit and which harm me. I was single-minded” (ch. 2; Graham 1960, 41). The text also describes Zhao Xiangzi’s encounter with a stranger in the mountains who can pass through metal and stone and walk over fire without harm, again because he does not know (Graham 1960, 46). Guo Xiang matches this understanding when he says that the perfected can perform such feats because “they mystically accept all they encounter and never rouse their mind; . . . going along perfectly with the


mildness and severity of heat and cold, they never let them impact on his mind” (DZ 745; 7.2a). This, of course, is not only a Chinese feat: yogis, shamans, and medicine men whose minds are whole or in deep trance commonly survive being immersed in water and walking over hot coals. Going beyond this, however, Guo Xiang provides yet subtler interpretations. First he attributes the freedom from harm as the result of conscientiousness and simple prudence, noting that “the perfected naturally walk on dry land without purposely avoiding water. They are naturally far away from fire, but do not intentionally run away from it. They might not feel heat as heat, yet they would never run toward a fire. . . or plunge into water, or in any way endanger their lives” (7.6ab). In other words, the perfected are smart enough to stay out of trouble. Moving beyond this, however, there is also a more cosmic, destinyoriented dimension to their invulnerability. Once people are in a state of perfection, Guo Xiang says, in close and direct connection to Dao and inner power, they “will always step into good fortune” and never be hit by calamities (19.14b-15a). This is more than giving up the psychological apprehension of calamity and being at peace with whatever happens; it is more than being prudent and avoiding potentially dangerous situations. It is being consistently fortunate and meeting only circumstances that are just right, because one is merged with universal principle, from which no wrong can ever come (Knaul 1985a, 30). Then again, on a wider social level, the perfected of old maintained social responsibility and never wavered, accepting nothing even when in dire straits. They were dedicated to observing the rules but not rigid about them; extensive in their emptiness but not fanciful with it. . . .They considered punishments as the substance of government, propriety as its supporting wings, wisdom as the key to good timing, and virtue as its main guideline. (ch. 6; W 79; Kohn 2011, 145)

There is thus an inherent sense of morality and social consciousness within such people, just as Dao is inherently good, with a positive default setting that works to benefit all (Carlson and Kohn 2012, 3). Human beings intuit this cosmic goodness as a sense of well-being and inner harmony which, if it is to be achieved with their limited sensory and intellectual faculties, can be expressed in moral rules. “Morality is thus part of the cosmic harmony which Daoists embody, and their being in the world increases the ethical quality of life around them. Nevertheless, perfected Daoists are not per se moral, but rather transmoral or supramoral, going beyond the demands of human society in a spontaneous sense of cosmic oneness” (Kohn 2002, 289; 2004, 13). Accepting life as it is and never trying to influence or modify the behavior and attitudes of others (Merton 1969, 30), the perfected “are humble and withdrawing, and always cheerful; eminent and superior,


they give themselves no airs. Collected, they know how to present a proper demeanor; outgoing, they know when to stop within the range of their inner power” (ch. 6). They may appear “vague and aimless, yet wander beyond the dirt and dust; they are free and easy, tending to nothing is their job” (ch. 19; W 207). Part of heaven, they match yin and yang in their rest and movement, always at ease with the flow of life (Kirkwood 1992, 12). This makes them unassuming and nondescript but also potentially individualistic and even eccentric. One modern example may be found in Henry Miller who, like Zhuangzi, thought of life as “energy—tremendous energy,” and “always insisted that life is good, even when it is bad” (Peerenboom 1998, 134). Populating his novels with prostitutes, bums, and ordinary people, he maintained a childlike naïveté throughout his life, “a great exuberance that led to wild flights of fancy” (1998, 135) and insisted on immediacy, “throwing himself headfirst into the torrent of life” (1998, 138). However, he was nothing like the quiet, withdrawing sage, who “lives unobtrusively like a quail and consumes little like a hatchling, moves about freely like a bird and leaves no traces or tries to change things around,” while yet enjoying the benefits life has to offer, such as wealth, long life, children, and so on (ch. 12). Rather, Miller was often “self-centered and egotistical,” going through many failed marriages and encountering social confrontation and upheaval, possibly but not unequivocally leaving the world a better place (Peerenboom 1998, 138).

Social Life Yet leaving the world a better place is precisely what the perfected do, their role being subtle yet powerful, creating a model for the “new man” who is secure, joyful, fully present, and supportive of everyone’s growth (Fromm 1996, 170-71). Their impact is not unlike the “butterfly effect” described in chaos theory, which states that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Beijing can, under the right circumstances, lead to weather changes several oceans away (Gleick 1988, 23; Jung 2011, 32). This is also known as the “sand pile effect,” meaning that at a certain point the addition or removal of a single grain of sand can lead to the collapse of the whole (Waldrop 1992, 304). Becoming “fractally congruent,” i.e., matching the subtle patterns that pervade all existence, a tiny change in a complex system can thus have extensive amplification and vast resonance. Similarly the perfected with their inner power in a state of wholeness and reverberation with Dao can provide a strong stimulus toward harmony and goodness just by being who they are (Jones and Culliney 1999, 648).


Chinese mysticism and spiritual cultivation thus has a clear social and political dimension (Kohn 1992a, 172-75); Zhuangzi’s perfected, while remaining “free from self, free from merit, free from fame” (ch. 2), exert a tremendous effect on society. They do so through being at the edge of chaos: “functioning at the highest dynamic activity while still possessing structure and integrity” (Jones and Culliney 1999, 649). In concrete practice, this means that they create the right kinds of attractor fields around themselves and offer others a model of how to live (Kohn 2002, 299). David R. Hawkins makes this effect measurable in his kinesiology-based “Map of Consciousness,” showing that a single person at a high level of spiritual evolution can energetically transform the planet, making up for as many 70,000 people in survival mode (Deficiency-cognition), i.e., tormented by desires and pushing for apparent success (2002, 35). This does not necessarily mean that they get actively involved in society: The spirit man hates to see the crowd arriving, and if it does arrive, he does not try to be friendly with it. Not being friendly with it, he naturally does nothing to benefit it. The perfect man dwells corpse-like in his little four-walled room, leaving the hundred clans to their uncouth and uncaring ways, not knowing where they are going, where they are headed. (ch. 23; W 249).

Still, the perfected straddle two worlds. Born and alive in a body and in human society, they are “beings among beings,” yet in their minds and spirit they are far beyond ordinary people. Inwardly free from the world, seeing fame and reputation as “so many handcuffs and fetters” (chs. 5, 20; W 72, 214), and steadfastly refusing to “become embroiled with it in questions of people and things, profit and loss” (ch. 26; W 301), they are yet also part of the world and cannot not act (Moeller 2004a, 100). Being human means being socially responsible, and thus the perfected are active in the world (Kohn 2002, 300), while “yet making sure that there is nothing they are very close or very distant to” (ch. 24; W 276-77). A man at ease, the perfected “does not use any remedies” to fix personal and social troubles. He just is. “The spirit man does not bother to ask what methods the sage uses to reform the world.” Similarly, the sage does not trouble with the ways the worthy man (xianren 賢人) works to fix the age; the worthy man does not worry about what the gentleman (junzi 君子) does to serve the state; and the gentleman ignores what the petty man (xiaoren 小人) does to get along with the times (ch. 26; W 301). All these figures are involved in the world, but the lower in the hierarchy, the more externally oriented they are, the more restricted is their ethical vision, and the smaller is their sphere of influence (Chen 2010, 71). The one with the greatest influence in the world is the great man, a figure that occurs first in the Yijing, in the fifth line of the first hexagram Qian, indicating “heaven.” “The dragon soars into heaven; it is auspicious


to see the great man” (Wilhelm 1950, 9). The fifth line of the hexagram symbolizes the ruler, indicating that the great man is a title of the head of state. Unlike Confucian materials that contrast the great man with the “small man,” defining him as sage and paragon of virtue (Lunyu 16.8; Mengzi 4B6), the Zhuangzi emphasizes his cosmic nature. [The Great Man] dwells in the echoless, moves in the directionless, takes by the hand you who are rushing back and forth, and proceeds to wander in the beginningless. He passes freely in and out of the boundless; he is as ageless as the sun and the moon. His face and body joined with oneness, he is without self. (ch. 11; W 124; Kohn 1992a, 97-98)

The great man, therefore, is at one with the universe, free from all bondage, and yet sees all, knows all, and never dies (Graham 1989, 204; 1981, 143-44). He embraces heaven and earth, far beyond definite social connections, representing the integration of ecstatic freedom and political order. His actions in the world are thus beneficial yet unassuming, not unlike the sage in the Daode jing (see Ching 1997, 214-18; 1986; Kohn 2002). He moves for the sake of the hundred clans and does not violate the rules. If there is enough, he does not scramble for more. Having no reason to pursue things, he seeks nothing. But if there is not enough, he seeks, scrambling in all four directions. Yet he does not think of himself as greedy. If there is a surplus, he gives it away. He can discard the whole empire, yet not think of himself as generous. . . . He may wield all the power of the Son of heaven, yet not use his high position to lord it over others. He may possess all the wealth of the world, yet not exploit his riches to mock others. He may also decline what is offered to him, but not because he hopes for praise and fame. (ch. 29; W 336-37).

Chapter Fifteen Poetry and Art The great man, especially characterized as beyond ordinary limitations and ecstatically joining the greater forces of the universe, is among the prime examples of poetic expression in the Zhuangzi that continued in later centuries. The text itself is well known for its literary brilliance (Watson 1962, 161), its “commanding authorial presence” (Crandell 2010, 97), and its extensive rhetorical skills (Kirkwood 1992, 6). Presenting “a collision of logic and poetry” (Graham 1989, 214), the Zhuangzi contains verse—i.e., poetry (shi 詩) in adaptation of the Shijing 詩經 (Book of Songs), also a model of rhyme structures in the Daode jing (Baxter 1998)— in various sections, as many as 125 lines in the Inner Chapters alone (Raphals 1994, 103). Poetic expression here tends to present admonitions and criticism, praise for the sages of the past, as well as theoretical assertions and arguments, but it is not used to lend authority to statements (Raphals 1994, 104, 109). Literary patterns include songs, such as the chant of the Madman of Chu (ch. 4), and parallel phrases, such as the outline of greatness (ch. 2) and the admonition to stay away from fame and worldly affairs (ch. 7) (Raphals 1994, 106-07). Closely connected to poetry and literary excellence, the Zhuangzi has provided many felicitous terms that turned into set phrases in classical Chinese (Huang 1998, 2) and inspired poets to write about its author. Thus the Tang poet Wang Wei 王維 (701-761) describes Zhuangzi as “keeping himself aloof from affairs of state” while “dutifully tending to the trees” of an orchard (Höchsmann and Yang 2007, 3). In addition, the text has exerted a powerful influence on the worldview and expression of many Chinese poets, including the great masters Li Bai 李白 (701-762), Bo Juyi 白居易 (772-846), and Su Dongpo 蘇東坡 (1037-1101)—the latter being “steeped in Zhuangzi philosophy” (Huang 1998, 18, 27-28; Wohlfart 2012, 34-35). It has provided key images, such as the butterfly and the fisherman, poetically showing the ideal of freedom and personal peace. For example, Zhang Zhihe 張志和 (730-810) depicts the ideal life in the 157


image of simple fisherman finding “happiness in the wind and waves,” while Liu Zongyuan 柳宗元 (773-819) shows him beyond success and failure, “alone in the cold river fishing,” and Wang Wei emphasizes his equanimity: “Nothing in the world concerns my mind” (Thompson 1998, 28-29; Qiu 2005, 105). While it exerted its major impact on Chinese poetry, the Zhuangzi did not remain limited to it. Its vision and imagery spread beyond China and into Japanese poetry, especially in the late imperial period. It also expanded into the performing and representational arts and came to mold the perception of greatness in music, calligraphy, and painting.

The Great Man There are three outstanding poems on the great man in medieval Chinese literature, all taking up the figure as described in the Zhuangzi: Sima Xiangru’s 司馬相如 (179-117 BCE) Daren fu 大人賦 (Rhapsody of the Great Man; Shiji 117; trl. Watson 1968b, 2:302-30), Ruan Ji’s 阮籍 (210-263) Daren xiansheng zhuan 大 人 先 生 傳 (Biography of Master Great Man; trl. Holzman 1976), and Liu Ling’s 劉伶 (d. 265), Jiude song 酒德頌 (In Praise of the Virtue of Wine; trl. Kohn 1992a, 105-06). All three poets were social outsiders, but while Sima Xiangru—after eloping with the daughter of a wealthy merchant and opening a wine house with her—proceeded to earn a court appointment (Hervouet 1964), Ruan Ji and Liu Ling remained on the fringes of officialdom and lived among the Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove (zhulin qixian 竹林七賢; see Holzman 1956). The latter, also including the Zhuangzi commentator Xiang Xiu 向秀 (ca. 130-200) and the poet Xi Kang 嵇康 (223-262), were a group of eccentrics and drug-takers—using especially the psychedelic Cold Food Powder (hanshi san 寒食散; see Wagner 1973)—who attempted to create a perfect and secure private society on their estates. Facing a world of political chaos and social upheaval, they sought a solution to their personal terror in fantastic flights to the otherworld and escaped into poetry, music, and ecstatic “wandering” (Balazs 1948, 27). They understood the Zhuangzi concept concretely as a way of behavior, a freedom among others and in nature, and realized it in activities such as hunting, hiking, and garden parties (Fukunaga 1962, 24; Holzman, 1957, 83, 97; Middendorf 2010). All three poetic explorations of the great man not only make heavy use of Zhuangzi images and terminology, but also work in close combination with the “Yuanyou” 遠遊 (Far-Off Journey) poem in the Chuci (Hawkes 1974: 60; Fukunaga 1970). The latter is a shamanic song that outlines ecstatic soul-travels through different dimensions of heaven and


earth, extolling encounters with various gods, and culminating in a merging with nothingness at the Great Beginning (Kohn 1992a, 94-95; 1993, 251-57). All these poems have the same basic plot in common, expanding on the core Zhuangzi theme of free and easy wandering: the protagonist despairs of the limitations of this world and sets out to discover a more perfect realm beyond. However, while the hero of the “Yuanyou” is primarily a learner and a seeker, the great man in Sima Xiangru is the ruler of an empire who controls the world, self-assured and strong. In imitation of the Yellow Emperor, in Han lore a successful immortal and the model for Emperor Wu, under whom Sima served (Yü 1964), this great man equips a magnificent chariot, drawn by radiant dragon steeds, and freely summons stars and deities for his entourage, embarking on a triumphant circuit through the universe and ending in superior survival like the hero of the “Yuanyou” and Master Guangchengzi in the Zhuangzi (Holzman 1994, 107). Below, lofty openness—there was no more earth; Above, empty vastness—there was no more heaven. He looked, but his vision blurred—nothing to be seen, He listened, but his ears were numb—nothing to be heard. Striding on emptiness and nonbeing, he ascends even farther, Transcending all, he is without match and alone survives. (Shiji 117.3062)

In contrast to this, Ruan Ji’s great man is the alter ego of the author searching for the perfect way of being in the world (Fukunaga 1970, 111). It begins with the key question: Heaven and earth dissolve, the six harmonies open out, Stars and constellations tumble, sun and moon fall down. I leap up and higher up, what should I cherish?

On his quest, the protagonist encounters three different characters: a stout Confucian who expostulates on the merits of perfecting virtue and serving the state—matching the ideals of officialdom in Ruan Ji’s native family (Holzman 1976, 2-9); a hermit who scorns all official involvement and sees only his solitude as noble—reflecting his unsuccessful attempt at withdrawal to the wilderness (Fukunaga 1958a, 39); and a woodgatherer who emphasizes the relativity and transience of all things and thus attains contentment with whatever he may be doing in any given moment—indicating a phase when he strove for detachment through the Yijing (Holzman 1976, 185; Knaul 1985c, 76) The great man, and through him the poet, rejects all three ways of life in favor of complete transcendence in an ecstatic journey to a paradise of freedom and immortality, using the Zhuangzi as the main medium


to conceive and express his ideal state. In real life, moreover, Ruan Ji found times of oblivion and spiritual harmony especially through music, already in the Zhuangzi described as a major source of altered states (DeWoskin 1982; Weed 2011, 48). Playing the zither, he sat in a trancelike state, his spirit purified and floating in chaos (Fukunaga 1958a, 43). In contrast to Sima Xiangru, Ruan Ji has privatized the imperial nature of the great man. Being free within, not outwardly recognizable as the emperor, ornaments and beauty of the great man come naturally and do not have to be attached from without. No one will know where he stays—he has successfully escaped the vicissitudes of the world, official and otherwise. He is chief, but in his heart and away from the world. A yet different and more hedonistic take on the same ideal appears in Liu Ling’s Jiude song, where—in reflection of the poet’s own life as a happy drunk and eccentric (Mather 1976, 372-74)—the great man knows no other duty than ecstasy through wine. The text expands the Zhuangzi passage about a drunken man falling from a carriage and remaining unharmed (ch. 19) while also integrating the shamanic imagery of the “Yuanyou.” Thus, the great man Makes heaven his curtain and earth his seat, Indulges in what he pleases. Stopping, he grasps his wine-cup and maintains his goblet; Moving, he carries a casket and holds a jar in his hand. . . . With ruffled whiskers, he sits, legs spread apart, The yeast becomes his pillow, the sediments his mat. Utterly free he is from yearnings and from worries, Always happy and full in his contentment. (Wenxuan 47; Kohn 1992a, 105; see Knechtges 1982)

Medieval Poets Ruan Ji and Liu Ling are just two examples of medieval poets using the Zhuangzi to express their particular worldview and aspirations. Others include Xi Kang, Xiang Xiu, Sun Chuo 孫綽 (314-371), Tao Qian 陶潛 (aka Yuanming 淵明; 365-427), and Xie Lingyun 謝靈運 (385-443) (Knaul 1985c, 81-83). They have several features in common. For one, they operated in an escapist mode and used wine and drugs for the attainment of higher states, gaining a temporary respite from their worldly plight—as opposed to a lasting personality transformation through oneness with Dao. Xi Kang, as much as other hermit aristocrats of the time (Berkowitz 2010, 291), felt alienated in different dimensions of life: politically in his failure as an official; morally in his concern with the ideal human society; and religiously in his belief that the ultimate true life was eternal (Fukunaga 1962, 22). He alleviated this alienation by


withdrawing from the corrupt world of the ruling class and finding security in the utopian society of the Bamboo Grove. There he rejected all established moral values and propagated his own inherent naturalness, the ideal of acting free from emotions and with no-mind, like the perfected of the Zhuangzi concept (Fukunaga 1962, 22; Holzman 1957, 26; 1994, 114; Mather 1969, 166; Middendorf 2010, 150). Similarly Sun Chuo, the most Buddhist-inspired among them (Fukunaga 1961b, 35), proposed the complete oblivion of Confucian virtues, leading to a state where all actions are performed in a state of no-mind and will leave no trace, i.e., will not result in any karma (Link and Lee 1966, 169; Schmidt-Glintzer 1976, 57). Second, they drew a connection between nature as landscape and the ideal of free and easy wandering, moving beyond the understanding of nature as the opposite of culture, simplicity versus complexity, tranquility versus involvement (Berkowitz 2010, 300-01). They were the first to associate nature as physical landscape with naturalness (ziran 自然), the self-so of Guo Xiang (see Mather 1969). Thus, for Sun Chuo, Mount Tiantai 天台山 represented the paradisiacal abode of the immortals. Ascending this mountain, he experienced merging with Dao, a sense of identity with the underlying power of life as embodied in mountains and streams (Mather 1961, 231). Similarly, Xie Lingyun used the Zhuangzi expression “spontaneous alignment” (zishi 自適) to express the ideal state and suggested that absorption in nature was an inherent instinct to purify and rectify oneself (Fukunaga 1958b, 33; Berkowitz 2010, 302; Mather 1958, 67; also Frodsham 1967). Third, they praised the idea of going along with whatever happened, seeing mountains and rivers as symbols of transcendence and a gate toward outward peace and internal freedom. Thus, Xi Kang, in his Yangsheng lun 養生論 (On Nourishing Life), proposed to experience life as intensely as possible, to pursue all the happiness that can be afforded by the senses (Henricks 1983, 31-37). Xiang Xiu insisted that one should appreciate and savor the feelings of being alive asking, “What good is a life I cannot enjoy?” (Kohn 1992a, 107). For many of them, moreover, music played a key role to the pure joy of life. Playing the zither and creating perfect tonal harmony stimulated a sense of oneness and emotional tranquility, encouraging a state of perfect happiness (Van Gulik 1941; Holzman 1957, 68; Middendorf 2010, 135). As Ruan Ji says in his Yuelun 樂 論 (On Music), The great process of nature is simple and easy. The most beautiful music is uncomplicated. The power of Dao is plain and bland— It possesses neither sound nor flavor. (Jullien 2004, 80)


The best known and most complex among these poets is Tao Yuanming whose poetry expressed his core concern with the concept of authenticity, truth, or perfection (zhen 真). The term for him characterizes the inner workings of the universe, the continuous process of existence in natural continuity, as much as the naturalness found in landscape and human emotions. It finds expression both in the spontaneous alignment with, and enjoyment of, the affairs of everyday life, as well as in the complete oblivion of self and world in an ecstasy induced by drinking wine or absorbing oneself in nature (Fukunaga, 1963, 54; 1969, 16; Chen 2010, 109). Tao fulfills his longing for this state concretely by retiring to his estate and taking up the simple life of the farmer, described in his first poem on Guitian yuanju 歸田園居 (Returning to Live on the Farm): A dog barks in the depth of a lane; A cock crows at the top of a mulberry tree. Inside my doors there is no dust or hubbub, In empty rooms, I have found peace and leisure. For a long time, I was a prisoner in a cage: Now I have come home to naturalness. (Cai 2005, 195)

This naturalness means that he has found a way to fully express his inherent tendencies and live within his circumstantial trajectories, finding spiritual and personal perfection in simplicity and withdrawal. But it also has an ecstatic component. His Yinjiu diwu 飲酒第五 (Drinking Wine Poem No. 5) expresses this: A hut thatched in the human world, Yet I hear no carts, no horses, or din. Asked, “How could you be so?” My heart grows distant, the land turns remote. Picking ‘mums at the east fence, looking long to south hills, Mountain air at dusk so fair, birds flying in pairs home— Here is a touch of perfection. Desiring to explain? Words are already forgotten. (Hightower 1968, 12–14; Wu 1991, 35-36; 1998, 392-39; 2002, 21-44)

Describing a sense of inner detachment, Tao yet stays connected to nature—flowers, hills, birds—seeing perfection in its simplicity and spontaneity. At the same time, he also goes beyond it: “The unhurried idle picking of something turns ‘a wild flower’ into a chrysanthemum of longevity; the moment he looked far and long he turned the blasé mount dusk into the ‘south hills’ of eternity” (Wu 2007, 271). Tao Yuanming experiences the oblivion of the Zhuangzi, the way of being of the perfected, the freedom of naturalness—the complete alignment with heaven as defined by Guo Xiang (Cai 2005, 193; Wohlfart 2012, 57).


A later heir to Ruan Ji and Tao Yuanming, albeit not following their escapist model, was Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 (1007-1072) who combined a fundamental Confucian outlook with Daoist quietism, a firm conviction of the importance of service with the will toward inner freedom in the face of universal change (Huang 1998, 19, 47). He turned to the Zhuangzi especially in times of personal loss and when his integrity was questioned (Huang 1998, 2; see also Liu 1967; Mote 1960). Receiving his appreciation of the Zhuangzi from the Tang literary master Han Yu 韓愈 (768824) and especially his Jinxue jie 進學解 (On Scholarly Attainments; trl. Hartman 1986, 179-80), Ouyang also integrated Buddhism into his life, practicing meditation during his exile on the Yangzi and reaching a state of “liberation by forgetting the self” (Huang 1998, 22). In his poem Zishu 自述 (Self Talk), he describes himself in Zhuangzi terms: Free at heart and unruly, I also serve After a fashion, as an official. Tagging along, rather like a wineskin Draped on the shift of a carriage. Worthies of the time do not bother to bend their brows, In my mute oblivion, who would talk to me? (Huang 1998, 10)

Detachment, oblivion, and freedom are thus the key themes traditional Chinese poets received from, and expressed through, the Zhuangzi.

Japanese Verse As this poetic tradition continued over the centuries, it also expanded into Japan, especially in the early Tokugawa period (1600-1868) and most notably in the work of Matsuo Bashō 松尾芭蕉 (1644-1694). Born into the lesser aristocracy, he served a local lord who introduced him to the parlor art of collaborative poetry known as “linked verse” (renga 連歌), which has a long history in both China and Japan. At this time, as the merchant class of Edo came to fore, it was being popularized and condensed into a humorous form called “matched rhyme” (haikai 棑諧) (Qiu 2005, 13). Still rather long, reaching up to hundreds of lines, this opened with a most powerful seventeen-syllable verse, which in due course became an autonomous form of poetry known as haiku 棑句 (lit., matched phrase)—most closely connected to Zen and spirituality and by far the best known form of Japanese poetry in the West (Yasuda 1957). Bashō was the most prolific writer of Haiku and soon became famous for his poetic prowess. For some time he worked as a teacher, but soon renounced the social life of the literary circles of the capital and set out on long stretches of “free and easy wandering” throughout all parts


of Japan—like Napoleon in Europe and George Washington in the US, he became a figure to give renown to many localities, all claiming that he slept there (Ueda 1982). His took the name Bashō from a banana tree that his disciples planted near his hut, the place he would return to after bouts of wandering (Qiu 2005, 69). As he describes his life, Another year gone— A traveler’s hat on my head, Straw sandals on my feet.

The key to understanding his poetry and that of his contemporaries—many of whom were inspired by the Zhuangzi, which they received through the commentary by Lin Xiyi 林希逸 (b. 1193; Qiu 2005, 4)—is the notion of fūryū (fengliu 風流), lit. “flowing with the wind,” a term that implies “the unpredictability of human existence, the customs of society, the integrity of a sophisticated person, as well as elegant but unconventional behavior and taste” (Qiu 2005, 198). For Bashō, it is a key element of the reclusive life, including aspects of rusticity, humility, and deliberate eccentricity (Qiu 2005, 98). Finding authenticity and perfect happiness in the most ordinary of tasks and activities, the poet expresses a fresh, “beginner’s mind” perspective on life, picking up on Zhuangzi stories and metaphors—Ziqi’s trance, the butterfly dream, the mountain tree, the little quail, Hundun, and more (Qiu 2005, 18-20, 67, 78, 130, 142; Wohlfart 2012, 35, 51). For example, Scattering blossoms: The dream of a butterfly— One hundred years in a gleam. (Qiu 2005, 18)

He also integrates Chinese poets, using Qu Yuan’s poem “The Fisherman,” Tao Yuanming’s “Drinking Wine Poem,” Xi Kang’s “Rhapsody on the Zither,” as well as the works of Li Bai, Du Fu, Su Dongpo, and others (Qiu 2005, 105, 112-14). Bashō was particularly fond of the Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove, admiring their lifestyle and work: The sounds of the cotton bow Are comforting like zither Deep in the bamboo grove. (Qiu 2005, 123)

Connecting to the spirit and practice of Zen, he deeply appreciated the flow of life and death as a single strand, moving along with the creative change (zaohua / zōka 造化) and illustrated with the image of the cicada. It doesn’t look like Tey will die in a short time— The sounds of cicadas. (Qiu 2005, 135)


To be fully immersed in the flow of life, moreover, he advocates oblivion and immediacy, the latter expressed as a lightness of being that allows “intuitive perception and contemplation to lead composition” so that “poetry comes to write itself” (Ueda 1982, 167; Wohlfart 2012, 68) He expressedly follows the Zhuangzi in proposing to “do away with fame and profit, to forget years, and to be in idleness,” thus reaching perfect happiness (Qiu 2005, 153).

The Arts The same Zhuangzi ideal of oblivion, spontaneity, and immediacy, a connection to naturalness both within and without, also plays an important role in music and the visual arts. The text speaks of the “piping” and the “music of heaven” as well as of “ultimate music” (Wu 1992, 4; Chan 2011, 16), indicating not only how each individual being makes its own unique sound but also how people can use its condensation of naturalness to create happiness and harmony in the world, opening access to different levels of being: human, heavenly, energetic, and cosmic (Wu 1992, 5; Middendorf 2010, 137-39). The way the celestial bodies and natural phases move is in itself a form of musical harmony, which can be received and imitated by human beings (Middendorf 2010, 142). The cyclical movement of the cosmos and the rhythm in music are similar, echoing matching universal patterns that connect people to a vaster and more profound level of life (Wu 1992, 6). The ultimate music, moreover, “is without sound,” inaudible and subtle (Coleman 1991, 221). As Wang Bi notes in his Daode jing commentary: To call it faint means one does not hear it when listening. It is the tone beyond hearing. Wherever there is tone, there is division. In the consequence of division, there is no do while there is re. If there is division, then no unity of plurality can be achieved. Therefore what is audible is not great sound. (Chan 2011, 18)

At the same time, great music should also have an “audible dimension” (Chan 2011, 19), and the “entire cyclical process of the cosmos” is a “most magnificent response song,” full of beauty and essentially musical, characterized by graduated movement, rhythm, and harmony (Wu 1992, 7; DeWoskin 1982). This, in turn, is recognized by the medieval poets, many of whom used music “to achieve unification of subject and object” (Chan 2011, 23) and reach altered states of consciousness and who praised music variously in their works. As Zuo Si 左思 (ca. 253-307) says in his Zhaoyin shi 招隱詩 (Poem Invoking the Hidden), The stone spring gurgles forth gemstones

166 / CHAPTER FIFTEEN Over and under bobbing strings of fish. Not necessarily coming from silk and bamboo, The landscape sounds clear notes. Why would it wait for the pipes of song? The shrubs themselves intone gravely. (Wu 1992, 7)

The ideal is, therefore, to develop exceptional skills in music to the point of becoming fully oblivious of self and others in complete harmony. This combination of thorough training and self-forgetfulness, the attainment of mastery to the point of unselfconscious spontaneity, is also at the core of Zhuangzi’s impact on the visual arts, whose ideal of beauty is a function of harmony and oneness, simplicity and plainness (Coleman 1991, 213; Chang 1975). Art is a medium that allows people to connect to the root, to Dao as the “commanding unity in the universe” (Coleman 2002, 386). All beauty is natural and unselfconscious; all things natural and unselfconscious are beautiful (Chang 1963). There is, in fact, no such thing as ugliness but only a difference in perspective, so that the outwardly ugly man attracts female attention, while the outwardly beautiful concubine repels with her excessive self-awareness (ch. 4) (Coleman 1991, 215-16; 2002, 391-92). Reaching to the perception of the clarity of Dao (Coleman 1991, 219), the “great painter” works spontaneously, without effort: he “may appear to be doing nothing—a stroke here, a dash there— but he thereby achieves a masterpiece” (Coleman 2002, 389). The highest criterion of excellence in Chinese art, as the Qingdynasty painter Shi Tao 石涛 (1641-1707) outlines in his Huapu 畫譜 (Treatise on Painting), “was the ability to convey the most refined and dynamic qi through one’s brush. In painting this meant to capture both the physical appearance of the subject (be it a person or landscape) and its inner essence” (Little 2000, 719; see Coleman 1978, 65; Wohlfart 2012, 64). Shi Tao expresses this with the concept of “no method,” the idea that all is part of primordial chaos, which manifests fully in each and every stroke. He thus developed the “one-stroke” method, where the “paint brush moves naturally and spontaneously, and the line emerges of itself, full of life” (Wohlfart 2012, 65). At one in cosmic flowing with the qi of the object, the painter is free from thoughts or emotions; his mind and empty mirror, he does nothing: the painting paints (2012, 67). This also holds true for calligraphy, as exemplified in the work of Wang Xizhi 王羲之 (307-365)—practicing Daoist and Zhuangzi connoisseur (Fukunaga 1960, 638; Knaul 1985c, 80). Here it meant to encapsulate the core energy of the written word (Ledderose 1979. A powerful means to capture cosmic essence from earliest times (Chaves 1977), writing in Daoism developed further to represent pure heavenly powers, condensed cosmic truth expressed in heavenly symbols (Bumbacher 1995). Stylized forms of holy words, written in “cloud script” and transmitted to practi-


tioners in trance, became the root of Daoist talismans, inscribed slips of paper inhabited by spirits that contained celestial powers and served as passports to the otherworld (Legeza 1975, 18-19). Naturalness here is one step beyond the world of physical nature and reaches into the cosmic realm of Dao at the root of creation. Just as the ultimate music is silent, so the most perfect visual representation of life is simple, abstract, and empty. In Chan Buddhism, this led not only to the classic image of the empty circle, representing the perfection and ultimate emptiness of the universe, but also to the radical simplicity of artistic expression that both roots in the world and opens new perception (Lieberman 2006). Whether expressed in “swift brush strokes, unpredictable glaze patterns, the eternal quality of rock gardens, or great open spaces in painting,” the goal is to just let things be themselves, expressing their essence while freeing the viewer’s mind from preconceptions.

Chapter Sixteen Language and Metaphors The reason why the Zhuangzi has had such a powerful and lasting impact on artistic expression and particularly on poetry is the nature of its language. The entire text consists of a continuous flow and shift of stories, metaphors, and meanings (Wang 2003, 125; 2004, 204), working with “a labyrinth of confusion” (West 2000, 72) and applying an elusive way of writing that evokes “lived truth” (Wu 1982, 11). Rather than working with direct communication which, as first outlined in Aristotle’s Rhetoric, is speaker-oriented and assumes a linear, teleological relation between the speaker and the receiver (Wang 2004, 195), the text uses indirect communication as described by Kierkegaard. Non-teleological, this assumes an interactive relation between the speaker/author and the listener/reader, is primarily concerned with the existential and practical dimension of what is communicated, and works toward spiritual awakening or transformation (Wang 2004, 200-01; 2003, 131; Fraser 2006, 540). As a result, the language of the Zhuangzi expresses a multiplicity of meanings and viewpoints. Often sounding like “a man thinking aloud” (Graham 1969, 13), it works with numerous fictitious characters, putting words into the mouths of talking trees, ancient kings, and rival philosophers, constantly expanding and reverting meanings, intensely demanding the reader’s existential and situational involvement (Wang 2004, 203; Schwitzgebel 1996, 70). Inviting the reader into another world (Owen 1985, 10), the text tells a story, discusses one explanation or meaning for it, then goes on to discuss other ways of reading it—ultimately calling into question all previously said, constantly opening possibilities and expanding viewpoints (Wang 2004, 204). The Zhuangzi never presents a single, specific image but sets up “an evocative collage of metaphors, . . . one referring to another” (Wu 1990, 108), pushing the reader into a web of metaphors and forcing him to play with them, “provoking him into experiencing as many sides of the issue as his originality allows”(Wu 1982, 39). 168


Like in Zen koans (Wang 2003, 137; Cheng 1973, 92), the readers’ active participation is central to the structure of this communication: they have to explore the meaning of their own lives, transform their own personhood, and follow along with endless change in active selftransformation (Wang 2004, 205). To create a certain attitude toward life in its readers (Crandell 2010, 100; Kirkwood 1992a, 7), the Zhuangzi uses all kinds of literary techniques—trifles, falsehood, contradiction, exaggeration, fiction, absurdity, satire, sarcasm, and more.1 Irony, in particular, is a popular tool, since it depicts and enacts the indescribable, breaks down traditional habits of abstract, impersonal thinking, and is jocular while pointing out deep-seated truths (Sellmann 1998, 168). The language of the Zhuangzi reaches from the mythical and poetic through the discursive and analytical to tacit forgetting and language speaking itself (Fu 1978, 321-29). It not only involves negatives of common terms (no-mind, no-self) and double negations (nonbeing of nonbeing), but also double questions (said something? said nothing?) and paradoxes (the usefulness of the useless) (Møllgaard 2007, 71; Wu 2006, 73). “Playing at the boundary between the sayable and the unsayable” (Wang 2004, 209), it opens both sides of any concept or vision, never coming down on one firm statement, fixed meaning, or final interpretation.2 Moving in the open space between affirmation and negation, he shifts signifiers and suspends propositional discourse (Møllgaard 2007, 73)

Uses of Language In the Zhuangzi, language (yan 言) does not propose anything, but just announces what comes into being. Unlike disputation (bian 辯) which tries to make solid statements and create firm definitions, it is like pure sound—such as the wind blowing or birds twittering (Billeter 1998, 21; 2008, 142; Hansen 1992, 274; 2010, 39)—an experience of reality that moves constantly and may or may not express anything beyond itself (Møllgaard 2007, 76). Reality ultimately goes beyond language; language ultimately has no words and is silent—a feature expressed in the Daoist claim to being the “teaching of no words” (Daode jing 2) and the cultivation of “linguistic fasting” (Moeller 2004a, 120-21). The named coming forth from the deep root of the nameless (2004a, 122), language in the


For its many literary features, see Chong 2006, 382; Galvany 2009, 48; Huang 1998, 4; Kirkwood 1992a, 12; Schwitzgebel 1996, 71, 73; Wang 2004, 206; West 2000, 72; Yearley 2010, 134. 2 Wang 2003, 146-56. See also Ch’ien 1984, 382; Møllgaard 2007, 81; Rapp 2010, 180; Wu 2006, 70


Zhuangzi as much as in Chan is reality speaking of itself, expressing a snippet of true so-being in however limited a fashion (Faure 1992, 171). On this background, the Zhuangzi makes creative use of language on all its different levels: semantics that focus on the relationship of words to reality, dealing with meaning, concepts, and designation; syntax which is about the relationship of language to itself, centered on word classes, rules, and sentence structure; and pragmatics concerned with the social context, how speech functions as an activity in society (Hansen 1985, 495). In terms of semantics, it works in creative ways, twisting and turning concepts like right and wrong, this and that, in all different directions (1985, 502; Soles 1998, 155). In terms of syntax, classical Chinese, dominantly centers on full words or names (ming 名) as accurate and proper ways to represent reality (shi 實) and ideas or meaning (yi 意). The Zhuangzi subverts this radically (Fraser 2007, 421; Yang 2007, 158): words are merely the “guests of reality” (Berkson 1996), the traces of experience, the shadow of ideas. The so-called sacred scriptures are nothing but “the crummy left-overs of men of old” (ch. 13) (Yang and Xiao 2008, 4, 9-10; Schwitzgebel 1996, 74-75; Soles 1998, 155; Yearley 2005, 515). Just as one discards the fish trap once one has caught the fish, so one should let go of words once meaning is attained (ch. 19; Soles 1998, 162; Moeller 2004a, 55; 2000, 496; Møllgaard 2007, 75). However, meaning itself is fluid and constantly changing, beyond objectification. There is no fixed concept—or even a single word—for permanent, abiding “truth” in the Western sense (Munro 1969, 55; Soles 1998, 149), only various terms and perspectives that continue to change. In terms of pragmatics, finally, the text encourages and enhances this change to shape the readers’ perception and behavior toward greater flexibility and deeper authenticity (Hansen 1985, 503; Schwitzgebel 1996, 77). Its storytelling serves to acquaint people with previously unsuspected possibilities, opening new perspectives, engaging multiple world orders, and exploring different ways of being in thought and action (Callahan 1998, 178; Kirkwood 1992a, 7). It shocks, stuns, or jolts them to evoke a state of non-rational awareness, a “reflection of who we are and why we do what we do” (Watson 1962, 162) that goes beyond narrow conventionalism (Kirkwood 1983, 60). Following the principle of “show, don’t tell,” the text tells stories and presents vivid images, providing a flow of action rather than abstract concepts (Kirkwood 1992b, 35). Narrative forms in the text, then, aside from simple stories, include anecdotes, fables, allegories, and parables (Lin 1994, 55; Soles 1998, 162). Anecdotes are short snippets of stories, brief and often amusing encounters or dialogues between more or less fictional characters. Fables are tales that have animal, inanimate, or other nonhuman protagonists ex-


pressing a certain moral of worldly wisdom or spiritual truth. Allegories are literary expressions in prose or poetry that tell something concrete on the surface but contain a hidden meaning in their depths. Parables are short allegorical stories told to convey some deeper insight or religious belief. Examples include Cook Ding cutting up the ox (ch. 3; W 50), the hunter catching cicadas (ch. 11; W 120), and the four friends undergoing changes due to illness (ch. 6; W 83). They all tell stories of physical action but call most attention to the underlying mental states, encouraging readers to explore such states for themselves (Kirkwood 1983; 1992a, 16). The stories allow readers to experience briefly what it feels like to live in the mind of a sage and see the non-intellectual awareness of the perfected in action. Typically the Zhuangzi presents its teachings in three expansions: an anecdotal dialogue, an allegorical illustration in a fable or parable, and a poetic description of the key issues (Moeller 2003, 118). Animals and nature spirits like the River God often appear as protagonists to convey that the viewpoints expressed are non-self-conscious and preepistemological, while allegories indicate the nature of the perfected mind, the natural way of being in the world (2003, 119). The poetic expansion, finally, provides the most vivid description of the ideal state, showing how unknowing and freedom from benefit and harm play out in the world (2003, 120). Through all this, the text often presents the Socratic irony that one who knows that he does not know is in fact the wisest of all—taking it even further to the point where Zhuangzi heroes do not even know that they do not know, resting instead in a state of deep oblivion and inner unity (Moeller 2003, 122; Wu 1981, 155; 1982, 375; 2006, 70).

Goblet Words “Zhuang Zhou expounds [his views] using absurd expressions, extravagant words, unbordered phrases, and irregular and paradoxical expressions” (ch. 33; Wang 2003, 199; Fu 1978, 324; Lin 1994, 61). His words appear contradictory, irresponsible, and unintelligible, even “crazy” (Wang 2004, 17). They seem descriptive but are in fact performative, causing the reader to “read and reread them until one has ceased to think and just feels with intuitive sense,” reaching out to the mind moving behind the words (Wu 1988b, 3; 2006, 63). Their power lies in their tendency to rupture standard models of text-reader interaction, consistently requiring the reader’s active involvement (Rapp 2010, 193; Wang 2003, 146; Yearley 2005, 521). More specifically, the text uses three kinds of words: lodged (yuyan 寓言), double (chongyan 重言), and goblet (zhiyan 卮言) (ch. 27; Billeter


2008, 259; S. Chen 2012, 544; Lin 1994, 51; Wang 2003, 140; Wang 2004, 196). This division is closely related to view of language expressed in the Inner Chapters, especially in the “Qiwulun” (Graham 1989, 200; Burneko 1986, 403-07; Wang 2004, 84; Wu 1982, 34). While “lodged” and “double words” may refer particularly to the concrete and practical aspects of Zhuangzi’s writing, “goblet words” indicate his general, more philosophical stance toward use of language (Lin 1988, 384; Wang 1988, 2:1090). Using lodged words means to “lodge words elsewhere,” i.e., “put one’s words into the mouths of other people” (Lin 1994, 53; Wang 2004, 202). The term indicates the use of parables, figurative descriptions, imaginary conversations, fantasy dialogues, and the like, which make up nine-tenths of the Zhuangzi—as opposed to the straightforward discursive language normally used in argumentation. Double words contain multiple layers or rays, spreading an opalescent, shaded light while conveying ambiguous actualities (Wu 1988b, 5; 2006, 64). They are figurative and imaginative, roughly matching the Western category of “metaphorical language.” However, they are not singular but always include discursive passages intermingled among them (Wang 2004, 203). The word chong also means “heavy,” possibly indicating the power of words as they convey the authority of the speaker’s experience (Rapp 2010, 191; Yearley 2005, 209). They often include quotations or illustrations from revered sources as well as aphorisms and poetic sayings (Yearley 2005, 512). Goblet words are balancing and challenging. A goblet is a vessel that tips when full and rights itself when empty. It indicates how Zhuangzi’s words “adapt to and follow along with the fluctuating nature of the world and thus achieve a state of harmony” (ch. 27; W 303; Wang 2003, 142; Wang 2004, 62; 2007d, 75; Wu 1988b, 2; 2006, 62). Words of this kind are “speech that is natural, unpremeditated, free from preconceived values, always responding to the changing situations in the flow of discourse, and always returning the mind to its original state of emptiness” (Lin 1994, 65). Goblet words are “spill-over sayings” that relay the speech of awakened consciousness, moving the reader from ordinary to a more transcendent perspective, establishing a new kind of equilibrium (Graham 1981, 65; 2001, 107; Chong 2006, 388; Lin 1994, 63; Rapp 2010, 192; Yearley 2005, 525). But a goblet is also a container of wine: to find out its taste, people must drink the wine and experience it for themselves. Goblet words, therefore, make the reader drink from the source of the text, requiring his active participation (Wang 2003, 205). “The unnamable thus named points to language as the most appropriate way of uttering whatis-hidden beyond the nameable and the unnamable” (Fu 1978, 324). More cosmologically, “goblet words come forth day after day and are in harmony with the operation of nature; they accommodate them-


selves to endless changes and, therefore, may live out their years” (ch. 27; W 303). The “operation of nature” here translates tianni 天倪 which, together with tianjun 天均, the “potter’s wheel of heaven” (Burneko 1986, 402), indicates the ongoing balancing of nature, the active creation of equilibrium in the cosmic flow (De Reu 2010, 44; Wang 2004, 197; Wang 2003, 142; Wen 2012, 539). As the Zhuangzi says, Right may be not right; so may be not so. If right were really right, then right would be distinct from not right, and there would be no dispute. If so were really so, then so would be distinct from not so and there would be no dispute. Forget the years; forget [fixed] distinctions. Wander in the realm of infinity and make it your true home!”(ch. 2; W 48-49; Wang 2003, 198)

In other words, nothing in the world is fixed and unchanging, of permanent self-identity. All beings and things are inherently as they are, expressing themselves in multiple aspects and perspectives, yet they are also all connected in the great universal web, creating the operational balancing of nature. For the individual, this means that one should maintain a close connection to the central pivot of Dao, from where one can respond to change. It also means that there should be the possibility of language that is in harmony with Dao, accommodating itself to endless change. Goblet words are such a possibility (Wang 2003, 198).

Metaphors Another possibility is the use of metaphors, figures of speech that create a relationship between a concrete entity or image and an abstract concept or idea that is not immediately obvious, often expressing the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar. There is no one-on-one standard pattern for the use or interpretation of any given metaphor. Each has an openended range, a potential multiplicity of meanings, while yet also being directed specifically toward certain implications. “Associated with a metaphor is a definite cognitive content that its author wishes to convey and that the interpreter must grasp if he is to get the message” (Davidson 1984, 262). Thus, for example, the cicada can represent the small person, “literal and petty-minded,” as it does in the Zhuangzi (ch. 1; Allinson 1989a, 43); by extension, it can indicate boastfulness and ignorance, the noisy chirping of people who don’t really know what they are talking about, as indicated in Cheng Xuanying’s commentary (Huang 1998, 35). In the opposite valuation, the cicada stands for purity and loftiness, selfsufficiency, and a sense of timely action—qualities desired by Handynasty court advisers who wore it embroidered on their caps (Huang


1998, 32, 35). Moving into a completely different direction, the cicada is also a symbol for female charm, its shimmering wings reflecting the ideal of a woman’s beauty; it inspired early medieval hairstyles. In a yet vastly divergent vision, moreover, based on its ability to shed its skin, the cicada stands for the transience of life and the potential of transformation and renewal, apparent in both the Zhuangzi (ch. 1) and in medieval poetry (Huang 1998, 32-33). While metaphors can therefore be determined by the particular cultural context and social, historical situation, there are also certain natural phenomena or creatures that have a tendency to always invoke a certain concept or feeling, reflecting “a preconceptual, deeply embodied structure of thought” (Lakoff and Johnson 1980; 1999; Chong 2006, 370; Galvany 2009a, 72). The butterfly, prominent in the Zhuangzi (see ch. 4 above), is one example: throughout numerous cultures and historical periods, independent of cultural conditioning, it always stands for transformation and freedom, the awareness of death approaching—a haunting example of the latter being butterflies painted by little children on the walls of Nazi concentration camps (Kübler-Ross 1997). The Zhuangzi is replete with metaphors. It uses thirty-seven plants, thirty-four imaginary creatures, thirty-two each of land animals and inanimate objects, twenty-two birds of different species, fifteen aquatic animals, and eighteen instances of insects (Bao 2010, 197). This wide scope represents the abundance of nature and the richness of the world as well as its interconnectedness and continuous transformation, the ubiquity and creative power of Dao (2010, 199, 210; Allinson 1989a, 36; Chong 2006, 371). Several key metaphors relate to the nature and practice of debate. Thus, for example, the raccoon dog or badger (lisheng 狸狌)—untamable and unruly, feeding on carrion, and only interested in filling his belly (ch. 1)—represents the petty officials, mercenaries who use any means for self-advancement and serve any lord that will have them (Galvany 2009a, 81). Jumping and leaping in all different directions, ignoring peaks and abysses, and eventually falling into a trap, the raccoon dog also stands for the way these people argue: without consistency and clarity, their intellectual skills are ineffective and they eventually fall into a trap (2009, 83). Another key metaphor in the Zhuangzi is the big tree (chun 椿), the Chinese mahogany or toon (Smith 2013, 53): gnarled, knotty, and humongous, it resists all attempts to measure, control, regulate, or use it. It, too, refers both to ways of argument—convoluted and useless—and to living people, but in the latter case it becomes a positive image for the perfected who reach to heaven and cannot be controlled or used by society (Galvany 2009a, 78-80). The residence of the earth god spirit, the tree—as much as the perfected person—is a connector of heaven and


earth but ostensibly useless in practical terms (2009a, 88-90). Its wood remains uncarved (pu 朴), virginal, reflecting the inherent innocence and good nature of the ideal person, the continuity of the beginner’s mind free from malice and distortions (Galvany 2009a, 95).

Mind as Mirror Another powerful metaphor for the pure, unspoiled mind of the perfected is the mirror. The Zhuangzi uses it variously: The perfected use their mind like a mirror. They do not send things off as they go or welcome them as they com; they respond but does not keep. (ch. 7; W 97)3 In their motions, they are like water; in their stillness, like a mirror; in their responses, like an echo. (ch. 33; W 372) People do not mirror themselves in running water—they mirror themselves in still water. Only what is still can still the stillness of other things. (ch. 5; W 69) If water in stillness possesses such clarity, how much more must pure spirit. The sagely mind is the mirror of heaven and earth, the glass of the myriad things. (ch. 13; W 142)

A mirror accepts whatever is presented to it without interpretation, judgment, or desire, merely reflecting in stillness any image put before it (Billeter 2010, 101; Yearley 2010, 130; Wu 1982, 124). Just as it does not hold onto reality or evaluate it in any form, so the mind of the perfected must reflect but not hold or judge, remaining in perfect simplicity and thus finding the awareness of interior union (Saso 2010, 150; Wohlfart 2012, 26) Made from bronze, and often engraved with inscriptions and decorative representations, mirrors in ancient China were powerful tools of magic, able to distill and radiate fire and water (Needham et al. 1962, 8794; Poo 1998, 181). Concave surfaces of metal, mirrors would focus sunlight and produce heat or fire during the day, and collect water and the essence of the moon at night (Cline 2010, 155; Oshima 2010, 76, 80). They thereby exerted power over both yin and yang, connected closely to the central celestial bodies, and encompassed stillness and activity, the way the perfected would go along with all in utter clarity yet remained undisturbed by emotions (Cline 2010, 156-58). By extension, in the Han dynasty, mirrors were attached to the belts of officials for protection and divine connection (Powers 2000, 79). Placed 3

Cited in Billeter 2010, 100; Chen 2005, 502; Ching 1983, 238; Cline 2010, 156; Crandell 2010, 112; Graham 2010, 10; Oshima 2010, 75; Peerenboom 1993, 213; Yearley 2010, 130.


in tombs, they showed images of immortals and bore inscriptions for ascension. Magical in their potency, they served as markers of cosmic directions for the deceased (see Loewe 1979). Medieval Daoists used mirrors to concentrate their powers for transformation and multilocation. Thus, the Mingjian jing 明鑑經 (Scripture of Magical Mirrors, DZ 1207), a 4th-century text related to the Baopuzi, describes various methods involving mirrors, beginning with the basic requirements of purification and the establishment of a secluded chamber where “you won’t hear the rumblings of carriages, the clanging of bells, or even the chirping of birds” (1ab). Then a set of clear mirrors must be obtained, ideally with few ornaments and no bumps or scratches (2a). As adepts gaze into them over a long period, they gain powers of omniscience, multilocation, and communication with the gods, notably the divine Laozi in his nine transformations (Kaltenmark 1974; Kohn 1998a, 6970). Daoists also employ mirrors for exorcistic and protective purposes: if demons or ghosts are present, holding up a mirror makes them reveal their true, hideous shape, which frightens them into fleeing the scene (Kohn 2001, 64). In later popular religion, the mirror plays an important role in the afterlife. After death, the person reaches the first court of hell to face an underworld tribunal, headed by a judge who looks like a traditional Confucian official, sits behind a high dais, and is assisted by two half-human bailiffs named Horseface and Cowhead. The deceased is stripped of any clothing and has to walk before the mirror of destiny, which shows every evil committed in this lifetime, thus providing the foundation for underworld verdict and punishment (Kohn 2001, 184) In India, too, mirrors were used for divination, a feature that plays a role in the Jātaka tales of early Buddhism (Wayman 1973, 252, 263). Beyond that, early Buddhist texts speak of the mind as mirror, obscured by dust or defilements (Demiéville 1987; Lai 1979, 248). This is expanded later to indicate the storehouse-consciousness (ālaya vijñāna) of the Yogacāra school, the ultimately illusory nature of perception in Prajñāpāramitā literature and the Mādhaymika school, as well as the bodhisattva’s usage of the mind on the eighth stage of attainment, “where consciousness of the infinite three realms and the ‘other one’ [objective domain] come together individually,” as described in the Lankāvatāra sūtra (Wayman 1973, 255). The mirror signals a state of mind so concentrated and immediate that it is no different from the object, so untainted by discursive thought that no-self is realized. A broken mirror, on the other hand, signifies an erroneous reflection of the external world, i.e., the phenomenal mind and a perception of a separate, contiguous self (1973, 256, 259; Lao 1979, 249). The Zhuangzi understanding of the mind-mirror as originally pure that needs systematic cleansing continues both in medieval Daoism and


Buddhism. In the former, it appears in Ge Hong’s Baopuzi, which speaks of “cleansing the dark mirror of the mind” (ch. 5; Ware 1966, 99). In the latter, it is first picked up by Sengzhao who cites the Zhuangzi verbatim and applies it to his understanding of the wisdom mind, “a resplendent mirror and a candle in the dark” (Tan 2008, 199, 206; Robinson 1967, 213). From here, the mirror metaphor moves into Chan, where it symbolizes the elimination of the “reflected I” and the “conduct of the bodhisattva” in concern and compassion (Hershock 1996, 1010). As such the image plays a key role in the famous Tanjing 壇經 (Platform Sutra), which also picks up on various other Zhuangzi notions and images (Lai 1979, 249). The mirror is central in the two poems by the rival sixth patriarchs, symbolizing the schism between the gradualist and sudden approaches to enlightenment. Thus, Shenxiu 神秀 (d. 706), the representative of the more traditional, “gradual” trend, later associated with the Northern School (see McRae 1983), said: The body is the tree of enlightenment; the mind is like a clear mirror. At all times we must strive to polish it—don’t let the dust collect!

Huineng 慧能 (638-713), contender for the “sudden” position, countered: Enlightenment originally has no tree; the mirror has no stand. Buddha-nature is always clean and pure—where is there room for dust?4

Tang Daoists, as exemplified in Wu Yun’s 吳筠 poetry (d. 778; see DeMeyer 2006; Kohn 1998b, 143), Sima Chengzhen’s Shanqing hanxiang jianjian tu 上清含象劍鑑圖 (Chart of a Highest Clarity Sword and Mirror and Their Symbols, DZ 431; Fukunaga 1973; Schafer 1979), and the mystical Wuchu jing 五廚經 (The Five Kitchens; DZ 763.3b; Kohn 1998a, 67; 2010b, 99, 202), tend to be closer to the original Zhuangzi and northern Chan usage of the image. They are less radically sudden than the southern patriarch, who invokes the mirror symbol only to supersede it immediately in a vision of nonduality (Ching 1983, 239). Beyond these traditions, moreover, the image is active in Neo-Confucianism (see Munro 1988), and was especially developed by Wang Yangming 王陽明 (14721529) who says that “the average man . . . resembles a spotted and dirty mirror which needs thorough polishing” (Ching 1983, 240): [Their hearts are] like mirrors in the mud, Enclosing the light within the darkness. Dust and dirt once removed, The mirror will reflect the beautiful and the ugly. (Ching 1976, 63; 1983, 241). 4 Cited in Yampolsky 1967, 130, 132; Ching 1983, 239; Lai 1979, 248-49; Tominaga 1983, 129; Wang 2003, 65; Wayman 1973, 261; Wu 1982, 124.

Chapter Seventeen Mysticism The ideal of a pure and reflective mind, completely merged into and pervaded by Dao, is also at the heart of mysticism. Going back to the Greek word for “conceal,” mysticism is a form of religious experience that involves intimate communion or oneness with ultimate reality—whether defined as force, deity, or state of being—a going beyond of the limits of individual existence and opening to a cosmic consciousness, leading an “action-guiding knowledge of the nature of the universe that cannot be adequately expressed in words” (Van Norden 1999, 195). Understood best in terms of Western traditions, mysticism centers on the experience of mystical union (unio mystica), characterized by ineffability, true knowledge (noesis), transiency, and passivity (James 1936, 370-71), plus timelessness, oneness, and self-transcendence. In other words, a person in the grip of a mystical experience has a sense of being outside or beyond the self, of being grasped by something greater and vaster, and of merging into a power or entity immeasurably larger than himself. He or she feels as if going beyond time and space, as if all ordinary senses have stopped functioning, making it impossible to classify or describe what is happening. At the same time, the mystic has the impression that she is in touch with the innermost secrets of the universe, which are revealed to him to know for certain. However powerful and overwhelming the experience, it does not last, and soon she finds herself back in the common world of dust and grime, the same yet not the same as before. 1 Having undergone an initial awakening to a higher sphere through such a powerful cosmic experience, mystics strive to repeat it. However, union remains elusive—it cannot be planned, learned, or controlled. All one can do is make oneself experience-prone, opening the channels to ultimate reality through mystical practice or training, involving both physical and mental techniques (Roth 1999, 64). Typically, a seeker then 1 See Bucke 1901; Happold 1970, 45; Proudfoot 1985: 124-48; Stace 1960, 44. For China, see Csikszentmiyalyi 1999, 34; Kohn 1992, 23; Roth 1999b, 63.



proceeds through three major stages: purgative, illuminative, and unitive (Underhill 1911). The purgative life is a period of purification, of emptying and cleansing the learned values of ordinary society, freeing the individual from the thought and feeling patterns of past habituation. The illuminative stage opens the self to the absolute, teaching the mystic what to expect and expanding his or her thinking into more cosmic dimensions, opening to new modes of cognition and intuitive knowledge. The unitive stage signals the fulfillment of these expectations in union with the absolute, when all opposites are integrated on a new level, and the phenomenal, ordinary self is replaced by the more integrated, cosmic Self (see Ellwood 1980). These three levels are also known as the active, interior, and super-essential or God-seeing life (Happold 1970: 56), ultimately leading to enlightenment, union, or oneness, from where social life resumes again on a new and higher level (Kohn 1992a, 28). In addition to mystical experience and mystical practice, adepts also develop a new vision of the world, expressed in mystical philosophy. While expressed uniquely in terms of specific traditions and shaped by the understanding and reinterpretation of the individual, it has certain basic features in common that have been summarized under the heading of “perennial philosophy,” a term coined first by Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716), later discussed by Bertrand Russell (1872-1970; Russell 1963), and fully developed by Aldous Huxley (1894-1963; Huxley 1946). Its worldview can be summarized in four statements. 1. The phenomenal world of matter is only a partial reality. It is actually the manifestation of an underlying, more real Ground. 2. Human beings by nature cannot only know the underlying Ground by reasoning but also by direct intuition. This intuition serves in some way to unite the knower and the known. 3. The nature of human beings is structured dualistically. Human beings consist of a phenomenal ego of which they are conscious in everyday reality, on the one hand, and of a non-phenomenal, eternal self by which they partake in the underlying Ground, on the other. More than that, it is possible for human beings to overcome duality, to identify with the underlying Ground and to become fully one with it, i.e., develop a cosmic sense of Self. 4. It is the chief end of human existence in the world to discover and become the cosmic truth of the Self. The ultimate aim of human life is to realize the underlying Ground intuitively and become fully one with it. Thereby humanity can realize the truth of the individual as well as that of the entire world. (Happold 1970, 20)

This can be read in two different ways: either there is in ontological fact only one Ground that every mystic no matter from what culture or historical period connects to, so that all experience the same “pure consciousness event” (PCE; Forman 1990); or there are multiple ways of accessing a transpersonal state, which is culturally and historically deter-


mined, so that descriptions may be similar but are ultimately not pointing to the same thing (Katz 1978; see also Csikszentmihalyi 1999, 39; Roth 1999a, 131; 1999b, 65; Kohn 1992a, 20). Be that as it may, mystics the world over have a profound, life-changing experience, undergo training of various sorts, and formulate their understanding of life and world in theoretical concepts and illustrative stories. How, then, does the Zhuangzi fit into this context?

Reading the Zhuangzi The Zhuangzi is a multivalent, multi-layered work that has been read in numerous different ways, such as, for example, an explication of the Daode jing, a blueprint for Chan Buddhism, a guide to doing nothing in personal self-abundance, and a fundamentally hedonistic document with strong survivalist and materialist tendencies (Wu 1982, 2-6). In addition, scholars have seen the work as representative of a particular kind of philosophical system along the lines of Greek or Western schools of thought. The most prominent among them are skepticism, relativism, and perspectivism so that, for example, Chad Hansen reads it as a work of ethical relativism, not unlike contemporary analytic philosophy (Van Norden 1996, 247; Defoort 2007, 4). But there are also other forms of thought people have found in the Zhuangzi: nihilism, the denial of “our ability to make any difference in the world or the existence of any bright future or both;” fatalism, the denial of personal freedom of choice; and evolutionism, the understanding that everything proceeds in a “linear unfolding of events” (Wu 1982, 7). Some have received the text more historically as typical for the age of decadence in Warring States China; others have seen it as a document of the ancient belief in immortality. Some have perceived the Zhuangzi as the work of a “structured, integrated thinker, trying to create a ‘comprehensive’ reading and making sense of everything, chapter by chapter,” in the overall hope of demythologizing the text (Wu 1982, 8). For example, Herlee G. Creel has striven to extract Zhuangzi’s core ideas and create a “well-coordinated body of thought” (1959, 141). Others have despaired of understanding the text as a systematic presentation and have come to deny its stature in comparison to Western or Indian thinkers. Thus, Arthur Wright suggests that, unlike its Western counterparts, the Zhuangzi presents only thought but does not reach into the realm of systematic philosophy, while Ninian Smart sees its ideas as similar to those of the Indian thinker Sankara but its presentation as more elusive and thus not as good (Wu 1982, 9-11). All these attempts of attaching a particular label or formal systematization to the Zhuangzi, of trying to pinpoint one overarching mode or


system of thought in the text, have failed, limiting it in its full power and complexity. Rather than a linear, systematic presentation of philosophy, the Zhuangzi is like music, a complex composition of multiple, interconnected layers that work more like a symphony or an opera (Wu 1982, 29). The text as a whole “has no view, no prescription, no achievements. Zhuangzi is vague yet intriguing,” playful and erratic “like a little child among us, while yet constantly reminding us that he is not us, and we better lead our own life” (Wu 1982, 368). Mysticism is the one label that has been attached to the Zhuangzi more often than others. Thus, Isabelle Robinet calls it a “mystical text” (1993, xviii) with a strong focus on the mystical experience (1997, 33), and claims that it represents “the oldest and best example of contemplative and mystical Daoism” (1993, 48). Similarly Benjamin Schwartz sees it as centering on the mystical experience, especially in passages that emphasize using qi rather than the senses for perception, and contends that this is a form of mysticism quite compatible with the Western ideal of union with a transcendent force (1985, 192-94, 217; Csikszentmihalyi 1999, 41). Fung Yu-lan agrees with this, as do Brian Lundberg and Herlee G. Creel. They see the various passages on sitting in oblivion and going beyond ordinary mental activity as representative of mystical union with Dao (Creel 1970, 40; Fung 1952, 1:130; Lundberg 1998, 213-14). Other reasons for calling the text “mystical” are its playfulness and eccentricity (Wu 1981, 145), its demands to unlearn distinctions and reject or abandon reason (Coyle 1998, 200; Graham 1969, 144; 1981, 9; 1989, 176; Lee 1998, 461; Maspero 1978, 307). “The Zhuangzi abandons the project of objective knowledge to the point where all perspectives are equal and all are one in mystical union” (Ziporyn 2003, 57). It proposes the experience of oneness, an immediate merging with “an undifferentiated world, finding true knowledge only on the intuitive level,” in a mystical state of illumination where all distinctions collapse, “and it is no longer I who act but heaven” (Alt 2000, 3, 12). This take-over by heaven or mystical union, moreover, is described in terms of free and easy wandering, a “direct and immediate vision of the divine in ecstasy” (Maspero 1981, 459). Even Wing-tsit Chan calls the Zhuangzi “mystical” (in DeBary 1960) but denies that there is complete abandonment of reason which continues to be the leading light of life (1963, 177). Wayne Alt agrees with this, arguing against A. C. Graham’s understanding that the Zhuangzi demands the complete abolition of reason and elimination of conscious distinctions. The text, he says, “emphasizes the efforts of thoughtful men to understand the ways of world in which they live, and to enrich their daily lives by perfecting the practice of the arts” (Alt 1991, 2). These arts are mystical in the sense that they favor the flow of energy or spirit over rational analysis and work dominantly with intuition. However, this does


not mean giving up all conscious thinking, reasoning, or the ability to make distinctions. In other words, the perfected distinguish perfectly well between a stone and a piece of bread; they just don’t get upset if faced with one rather than the other. They have overcome of evaluative judgments and emotional reactions but still use the rational mind in an overall state of flexible responsiveness (Van Norden 1996, 259). The mystical process in the Zhuangzi, moreover, is most commonly seen as a transformation of qi, “already conceived of as a ‘metaphysical,’ mystical reality which serves to connect the world of the manifold, determinate, and discrete to the world of nonbeing” (Schwartz 1985, 218; Van Norden 1996, 257; Sellmann 1998, 171). The inner cultivation of forgetting, then, becomes the purgative stage; the refinement of qi and the ability to use it in perception is illuminative in nature; and the merging with Dao in “great pervasion” represents the unitive level (Lee 1998, 460). The latter, moreover, involves profound noetic states and opens potentially new states of consciousness (1998, 462; Van Norden 1996, 260). Yang Rur-bin expands on this understanding, reading the entire Inner Chapters as representative of the mystical quest, which he defines in terms of both mental and physical transformation through an expansion of qi. The purgative stage here signals the disintegration of perception and rational judgments, the unraveling of identity as a personal self; the illuminative stage sees the emergence of direct awareness as a form of higher, more authentic consciousness; and the unitive state marks oneness with Dao, an opening to a vast cosmic identity (2003, 91-94). More specifically, he says that, after giving a glimpse of the ultimate state in the first chapter, the Zhuangzi leads readers to doubt their own self, mind, and thinking in the following chapter, attacking ordinary ways of judgment and classification and encouraging the transformation of perception away from rationality. In chapter 4, the text demands that one melds the sense organs into a single entity, uses qi rather than the mind, and allow energy to flow freely through body, self, and universe (Yang 2003, 95-96). This in turn leads to a state where the entire bodymind is permeated by qi, whole and forgotten, like dead ashes or withered trees (chs. 2, 22; 2003, 99). Moving on from there, in the third chapter, the text guides readers to connect to the greater universe, living in a state where there is no more subject-object division, and all distinctions blur. Spirit wanders freely, and the person moves with cosmic qi (2003, 101). The final state is reached when there is, as described in chapter 6, no more body and self and one does fully away with perception and understanding in oblivion (2003, 90, 105).


Typologies While mysticism in general involves experience, practice, and philosophy, there are also several different kinds or types, depending mainly on the agent of union. The oldest distinction is between Western and Eastern mysticism, formulated first by Rudolf Otto on the basis of a comparison between Meister Eckhart and Shankaracharya, characterizing the Western form as theistic and transcendent in contrast to the Eastern, which is monistic and immanent (Otto 1932; Csikszentmihalyi 1999, 36). Reformulated in terms of ecstasy and embrace (Western) versus blur and spiritual dislocation (Eastern) by Arthur C. Danto (1972), this was further expanded in the 1960s. Thus, R. C. Zaehner distinguishes three types of mysticism: panenhenic, monistic, and theistic, i.e., a sense-based merging with nature, an undifferentiated unity of all beyond space and time, and a union with a transcendent personal god (1961). W. T. Stace moves the division into a more psychological realm by distinguishing extrovertive and introvertive forms (1960). That is to say, if the mystical experience of union “includes sense-perceptual, somatosensory, or introspective content,” it is extrovertive; if it involves a sense of nothingness or emptiness that goes beyond the senses, it is introvertive (Gellman 2010). Based on these two models, scholars have classified Zhuangzi mysticism differently. Following the division by R. C. Zaehner and expanding his idea of the panenhenic, Lee Yearley calls it “intraworldly” and distinguishes it from the Indian goal of unity and the Western of union, matching the overall worldview in these areas: change-only, monism, and real contingency. That is to say, while East Asian thought acknowledges only creative change as real with no uncontingent reality behind it (Ames 2002, 77; Neville 1980, 25; Capra 1991, 114), Indian religions see the world as unreal and only one reality as existing, that of the unchanging (Wohlfart 2012, 7). Western worldview, in contrast, acknowledges two realms—the real and unchanging plus the temporary and fleeting—which interpenetrate and depend on each other (Yearley 1982, 440-43). Knowledge differs accordingly. Eastern thought focuses on unknowing: it acknowledges no fixed place to stand on, time to be in, or object to focus on, so that all knowledge is a learned system, a temporary crutch. Indian philosophy centers on the ideal: truth exists but it cannot be expressed in ordinary terms or with common senses, so that the only way to reach out toward is through negative theology. In the West, then, knowledge is analogous: it reflects something about what truly is, echoing and connecting but not entirely matching the realm of the ultimately real (1982, 446-47). For mysticism, this means that in India one merges fully with the one and only reality that fully exists, realizing that no particular con-


crete, embodied entity in the world is fully real. In the West, one becomes one with an immutable transcendent being that is totally other, joining an entirely separate level of reality that goes far beyond this world and can only be accessed with help from the other side in the form of grace. Unlike these two, the Zhuangzi neither denies the concrete reality of this world nor poses a level of being that is totally other, but “aims to see the world in a new way, to reorient perception” toward a more fluid way of being, a “centered responsiveness” where one is firmly planted in the pivot of Dao and uses the mind as a mirror (Yearley 2010, 127-30; see also Roth 1995). Others have followed the model by W. T. Stace and characterized Zhuangzi mysticism as extrovertive in the form of nature mysticism (Ching 1973) or as dominantly introvertive, aiming for emptiness (Wu 1995, 233; Csikszentmihalyi 1999, 38). Harold D. Roth takes this one step further and says that the Zhuangzi combines both forms in a creative synthesis which he calls “bimodal” (1999a, 132; 1999b, 66; 2010). Centering his analysis on the mystical praxis of early Daoists, who formed a “lineage of practitioners involved in apophatic practices” (1999b, 63; 1999a, 134), he notes that the Zhuangzi advocates letting go of self-consciousness and all attachments to self, merging with Dao and dissolving in an introvertive mystical experience (2010, 203-05). Once this stage is reached, however, adepts move into the extrovertive mode, seeing unity in multiplicity and returning to the world with new eyes and a new way of being (2010, 206-07). This matches my own findings with regard to Daoist mysticism in general: it combines deep trance states of self-loss in enstacy with free soaring to new heights in ecstasy (Kohn 1990). Another typology, developed in a wider study of Chinese mysticism (Kohn 1992a), pinpoints five particular characteristics based firmly on Zhuangzi ideas and practices: 1. Dao—unlike God or Brahman—is “a divine force so immanent that it is even in the soil and tiles; so much a part of the world that it cannot be separated from it.” Manifest as unceasing change, it both creates and is forever part of the world (Kohn 1992a, 11). 2. The dualism common to all mystical traditions is not one of opposition but of complementarity. Rather than seeing a divide between this world and transcendent reality, Chinese mystics work with yin and yang, flowing along with the changes and striving toward the refinement of one into the other. As a result, the mystical experience does not mean a complete rupture, a total otherness, but is one of increased refinement and energetic competence (1992a, 167). 3. The body plays a central role in mystical cultivation. Since all is Dao and consists of qi, body, mind, and spirit are part of one and the same continuum, “the border is not between body and mind/soul, but


within the mind. The physical body, seen as the divine replica of the cosmos, is placed on the side of Dao” (1992a, 170). 4. Mystical praxis includes physical, breathing, and meditation techniques in seamless integration. Adepts attain physical health and longevity, restructure their minds toward the clarity and emptiness of Dao, and overcome attachments to self and world, gaining a new and expanded perspective (1992a, 172). 5. Society and politics are never far from human life, however mystical. In China, the accomplished mystic is always a social being who radiates his or her qualities throughout the world. Placed at the pinnacle of society, the mystic is the sage and also the ideal ruler, Even as a recluse and rejecting office—as Zhuangzi himself did—he serves as a model and influences the people around him (Kohn 1992a, 172; see also Van Norden 1999, 196). The Zhuangzi thus has strong mystical elements but they are quite different from those commonly known in other traditions, yet they have exerted a tremendous influence on Daoist and Chinese mysticism.

Self-Transformation Almost but not quite mystical is the verdict of several other scholars who read the Zhuangzi mainly as a work of self-transformation. Thus Fukunaga Mitsuji, the leading Japanese expert on the text, sees its core as the transformation of perspective, a change in the way we use our conscious and rational minds. The world in the Zhuangzi is perfect as it is— nothing one could do or say would make it better—but we can change the way we look at it and live in it. The first step, then, is to understand how the conscious mind causes problems in people’s lives: by evaluating everything according to abstract categories and intellectual divisions. This is followed by the realization that there is no need to feel separate from the inherent perfection of all. In fact, one always participates in Dao; the absolute is the now: right here to share absolutely. Transformational praxis, next, is the reorganization of consciousness. First one understands that all distorted views come from the split into different identities by comparing oneself with others and by making deliberate choices. Any conscious ego-identity, according to Fukunaga’s reading of the Zhuangzi, will always be one-sided, shifting continuously from one “I” to the next without any constancy. To eliminate this, one enters successive states of oblivion: first one forgets living beings on the outside, then one forgets mental classifications within. Distinctions between dream and reality, life and death, self and others blur; the delineation between people and animals becomes vague; and consciousness merges into chaos. There is no more rational evaluation, no more emo-


tional attachment, no more particular, limited identity. At one with the flow of existence, one enjoys everything just as it is in a state of perfect happiness (Fukunaga 1946; 1979; Kohn 1992a, 54-56). A similar position is also expressed by Robert E. Allinson, who proposes “spiritual transformation” as the “single, major theme” or core message of the Zhuangzi (1989a, 8, 11; 2003, 487). Like Fukunaga, he sees the essential point of the text as liberating people “from the mental prison of differing and competing conceptual belief systems” toward a point where “the mind is opened so that one can act from a higher level of mentation, which is an epistemologically superior framework” (1989a, 11). This is not essentially mystical. “The point of self-transformation,” Allinson says, “is not simply a voyage into mysticism simpliciter but essentially to arrive at the standpoint of transevaluation” (1986, 435). He also notes that Zhuangzi’s teaching is quite explicable and not ineffable as the mystical experience, centered on the deconstruction of “I” as intelligible identity and not focused on merging with an absolute or faithbased power as in other religious traditions (2003, 494). Not part of “a special, secret knowledge or group of initiates,” spiritual transformation “does not require a belief in any set of ideas such as a particular manifestation of a deity or a set of doctrines concerning the soul or an afterlife or even a code of ethical practices.” Nor does it depend on “the special practice of certain exercises, techniques of breathing, or meditation” (1989a, 8). The state of free and easy wandering, according to Allinson, “refers to the absolute freedom of the mind to move in any direction that it fancies, a level of freedom that is possible only after achieving a state of transcendence or transcendental happiness” (1989a, 7). It means turning “off the adult critical mind and bringing forth the mind of wonder of the child, but it does not mean turning the mind off completely” (1989a, 28). There is, therefore, a release of judgmental, self-conscious ego-identity and a merging with Dao but, for Allinson, this is not mystical in the sense that one remains conscious, aware, and critical, rising to extraordinary levels of perception and understanding that allow one to grasp reality immediately and as a whole, without any “part of the mind standing back” (1989a, 44-45). The Zhuangzi in this understanding, therefore, guides people in an expansion and transformation of the self to higher and vaster levels of being (2003, 493)—a key characteristic that would qualify as “mystical” in the reading of many other comparative scholars.

Chapter Eighteen The Self What, then, is this “self” that undergoes transformation in the Zhuangzi? The “self” is inherently a modern Western concept, a something to be lost or found that requires the dichotomy of subject and object (Slingerland 2004, 323; Benson 2005, 302). It is a complex and intricate phenomenon, made up from personal identity, social relations, and specific ways of understanding the cosmos or larger universal connection (Taylor 1989). In Western thought, it goes back to René Descartes (15961650) with his emphasis on reason and the autonomy of the individual vis-à-vis God and nature. To him, self meant the inherent “thinking substance” of the person, the confirmation of existence due to thought (cogito ergo sum) (Billeter 2008, 250-52; Solomon 1994, 10; Taylor 1989, 147; Wohlfart 2012, 8, 14). In his wake, John Locke (1632-1704), a key thinker of the Enlightenment, created a new theory of mind that laid the foundation for modern concepts of the self. He calls it “that conscious thinking thing (of whatever substance, made up of spiritual or material, simple or compounded, it matters not), which is sensible, or conscious of pleasure and pain, capable of happiness or misery, and so is concerned for itself, as far as that consciousness extends” (1997, 307; also Taylor 1989, 162). The self was thus seen mainly as a function of consciousness—which was not originally sinful but a blank sheet—a personal sense of reflection and awareness created actively by the thinking, rational ego (Johnson 1985, 94). “Only that of which we were conscious belonged to our identical self” (Mol 1976, 56; Kohn and Roth 2002, 1). David Hume (1711-1776) was the first to deny the constant, substantial nature of the self, seeing it instead as a bundle or “collection of impressions and ideas, memories and personality patterns” (Kupperman 1984, 37), comparing it to an ever flowing river (Ramachandran 2000, 110). This trend continued with Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), who found that an ‘I’ was necessary for empirical, coherent awareness, consisting of 187


a certain level of consciousness determined by personal representation in relationships and integrated patterns (Kupperman 1984, 45).

Psychology and Sociology While modern philosophers such as Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976), Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), and Roderick Chisholm (1916-1999) have continued to speculate about the nature of the self in terms of substance and knowledge (Kupperman 1984), psychologists have worked with it experimentally and divided it into various kinds (Johnson 1985). Thus Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the father of psychoanalysis whose vision has inspired generations of psychologists, both as followers and opponents, sees it as tripartite: id, ego, and superego. The id is our instinctual substructure, an unconscious and impulsive part, based on inherited, biological factors; it includes basic drives such as libido and aggression. The ego is the modification of the id under the impact of personal reality; it applies reason and has both conscious and subconscious parts, the latter including automated responses to outer and inner impulses. The superego is the higher self, characterized by interiorized social values and ethics, the ideal vision of oneself that controls impulses (McLeod 2008). The American philosopher and psychologist William James (18421910), too, divides the self into three kinds: material, social, and spiritual. They include the way we define ourselves through body, clothes, and possessions; through family, friends, work, culture, and other relationships; as well as through God and the universe, a sense of inner wholeness and self-satisfaction (James 1890. Discussed in Green 2012; Perinbanayagam 2012, 8-9; Solomon 1994, 13; Wang 2000, 358-59). Each level involves multiple identities, defined as evolving and adaptable building blocks of the self (Perinbanayagam 2012, 9). Together they create an “empirical self,” the sum total of all that I can call mine (Green 2012). James also makes the important distinction of self as subject and as object: myself as thinking and doing certain things versus myself being evaluated and developed in specific ways. Later psychologists have expanded on this scheme variously, so that, for example Hubert Hermans speaks of the “dialogical self,” seeing its main characteristic as being the result of social and personal interaction (1993). Donald Winnicott distinguishes a “true self” from a “false self,” marking the difference between an authentic inner experience and the various defensive mechanisms created in social interaction (1990). Erik Erikson divides it into “true” and “synthetic identity,” a pervasive sense of wholeness based on the mutuality between individual and group versus an overwhelming feeling of totality created by an arbitrary delinea-

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tion of self and others (1964, 92). And Robert Jay Lifton speaks of the “protean self,” after the Greek God Proteus who changes shape in response to challenges. This self is situational (Graupe 2011, 80), an open system, a continuous “balancing act between responsive shape shifting and efforts to consolidate and cohere” (Lifton 1993, 9), between “connection and separation, movement and stasis, integrity and disintegration” (1993, 29). It is fluid and many-sided, constantly changing into ever new possibilities (1993, 1, 9; see also Benson 2005, 318). Yet others propose the “fractal self,” based on chaos theory and the science of complexity: sharing form and process with nature and the universe, it “can seamlessly interweave its being with affinitive systems or attractors in the world” (Jones and Culliney 1999, 644). Moving beyond the intra-psychic dimensions of the self, sociologists have examined its emergence in various social settings, distinguishing levels, such as the biological-familial, creative-social, ritual-relational, environmental, and cosmic (Benson 2005, 323-25; see also Lakoff and Johnson 1999, 268). Connecting these levels with different areas and functions of the brain (Austin 1998; Tophoff 2013, 2-3), they have also applied performance, metaphor, and narrative theories to the subject (Perinbanayagam 2012, 11-13). The self in this understanding is a coherent, personal narrative, continuously evolving and constructed by memory, both personal (Eakin 2000, 293; Sachs 1985, 105) and cultural or social (Fivush and Reese 1992, 115; Neisser 1994, 6). Its main purpose is to make sense of reality: in order to survive, human beings need to create meaning in themselves and their environment (Freeman 1992, 16). “Every human society is engaged in the never completed enterprise of building a humanly meaningful world” (Berger 1969a, 27; Berger and Luckmann 1966); “there is no such thing as uninterpreted reality” (Mol 1976, 68). This meaningful world as narrative is then acted out in the particular drama of life. “Metaphors govern everyday functioning” (Lakoff and Johnson 1980, 3; Smith 1985, 65); “stories guide action, and people construct identities by locating themselves in . . . emplotted stories” (Somers 1994, 613; Williams 2012, 101; Morris 1994). In a religious and spiritual context, moreover, this occurs in “a transcendent frame of reference, where events can appear in a more orderly, more consistent, and more timeless way” than in the ordinary world (Mol 1976, 206). Self-narratives and symbolic systems help people manipulate their environment and find a sense of security and competence in it. They involve values, criteria of validity, patterns of logic, and a distinct perspective on the world in addition to a set of substantive beliefs, rules and prohibitions, and a specific understanding of technology (Hardin and Kehrer 1978, 84-84).


Self as Object and Observer Within this context, an important distinction is between the “object self” and the “observing self.” The object self emerges through the natural evolution of human consciousness. At birth, the world is nothing but a blur of confusing, sensory impressions of varying kind and intensity, gradually structured as people use their bodies as templates for understanding. People’s primary experience is based on the senses and expressed in physical needs or desires, and any object they encounter is understood through the body. A first abstract, yet humanly fundamental concept emerges: object = body = self (Deikman 1982, 68). One’s very own body, the agent that processes sensory data and translates them into needs and desires, thus comes to be seen as an object itself, to receive stimuli from and direct wishes toward. Consciousness of the object self can be divided according to three distinct functions: thinking, feeling, and acting. The thinking self contains one’s conception of who and what one is. A “me” defined by society and culture, it includes all the characteristics one attributes to oneself: tall, ugly, strong, shy, and so on (Tophoff 2013, 5). Thinking is bound by relativity and the dependence of opposites. It is based on measurements and comparisons, on the establishment of categories and classifications. The feeling self, next, contains the emotions: anger, fear, worry, sadness, joy, and so on. All these are reactions of feeling toward a given object or objective; they are intimately linked with desire. The feeling self accordingly classifies the world according to whether anything is desirable or undesirable at any given moment and reacts with matching feelings and emotions (Kohn 1992b, 124). The acting or functional self, third, is an awareness of oneself as an acting individual. I know that I do; I realize the capacity I have to act in the world. I feel my body as an instrument of outer activity; I direct my feet and hands, my facial muscles, as well as my vocal chords in a particular direction, producing a particular effect. The acting self manipulates the world around it. It pulls objects and objectives toward it or pushes them away (Deikman 1982, 92-94). All three taken together constitute the object self. What thinking, feeling, and acting have in common is their conceptual basis of the world and the self as objects to be evaluated, classified, and manipulated in certain ways. They constitute the hard core of the ego in the center of the person, a core that is the measure of all things, yet always remains an object itself. There is originally nothing wrong with developing a healthy sense of self-preservation and of conceiving of the world and oneself as objects. In fact, it is a necessary stage of human development, an evolutionary phase that is essential for survival of both individual and culture. On the other hand, as children develop so evolution proceeds further. The vision

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of the world and oneself as objects eventually becomes only one of several possible modes of self-conception. Robert Kegan distinguishes altogether six such modes, of which only the first three are object-centered. From them, the individual develops to a greater acceptance of and respect for other human beings, to stages of mutuality, harmony, and a fruitful inter-individual vision of life and the world (1982). Arthur Deikman acknowledges the same development when he speaks of another mode of consciousness that people learn to develop over time. This he calls the “receptive mode,” a way of perception which diminishes the boundaries between self and world and gives people a sense of merging with the environment (1982, 71). An example for this would be the appreciation of a piece of music or a work of art. Looking upon anything artistic as a mere object one is bound to be bored by it, left cold and untouched. In order to appreciate art, people must open themselves to it and merge with it to a certain degree. The same holds true for intimate, close relationships. No true understanding can take place if individuals keep themselves shut into a world of mere objects. The observing self, then, is the fulfillment of the receptive mode (Billeter 2010, 69). Originally at the center of one’s being, this self is the deep inner root of one’s existence, an ultimate and transcendent sense of being alive within. It is there, yet cannot be consciously known, felt, or manipulated: it cannot be objectified in any way. Rather than thinking, feeling, and doing things actively and with regard to an object, the observing self allows things to happen spontaneously. Instead of as objects, people then see themselves and the world as flowing streams of energy, intensely alive and perfectly individual, yet ultimately interconnected in a cosmic whole. The observing self has no limits; it is transcendent and yet most deeply immanent in all (Deikman 1982; Kohn 1992b, 125; Benson 2005, 319).

Self in China Unlike in the West, there was no systematic theorizing about “self” in traditional China—the most fundamental units of self-awareness being the body and one’s role in society (Berkson 2005, 295-97; Tu 1985, 231). Still, there are several words for “self”: wu 吾, wo 我, and ziji 自己. The two former mean “I,” used in a slightly different manner. Wu, not apparent on oracle bones, tends to be more prominent in philosophical texts; it refers to oneself as part of a group, in ordinary situations, as a social agent. Wo, more prominent in historical texts, singles the person out more strongly, contrasting oneself with others and circumstances (Luo 2012, 559-60). In the Zhuangzi, the classic passage is, “I lost myself” (wu


sang wo 吾喪我; ch. 2), referring to the loss of self-identity in the sense of being separate from others and the world—an autonomous, automated, and habituated entity that has lost flow and works dominantly through the fixed mind (chengxin). This is also the entity one should dispatch into oblivion through systematic self-transformation, in favor of “seeing one’s uniqueness” (Luo 2012, 562, 565, 568; Graupe 2011, 85). Ziji, on the other hand, is an expression for “self” which consists of two characters that, in their original definition, connote an understanding close to the distinction between object self and observing self. Both words are radicals in the Chinese writing system, which means they constitute elementary parts of the language. The graph for ji 己 originally represents “the warp and weft of a loom” and shows “two threads running transversely and another running lengthwise” (Fazzioli 1986, 34; Wieger 1965, 217). Ji thus represents an organized structure, something one can see on the outside, something that can be manipulated and controlled (Jochim 1998, 47; Benson 2005, 316). Beyond its meaning of “selfhood,” the character is used already in oracle bone inscriptions as the sixth of the ten earthly stems, a group of ten characters which were used to indicate the names of the ten-day week in the Shang dynasty. As sixth stem, ji is associated with the center of things and later with the cosmic phase earth. It is the organized, structured center of the world, what one thinks of as self (Kohn 1992b, 127). Grammatically ji is used primarily in the object position (Dobson 1974, 414-15). One can “right one’s selfhood” (Mengzi 2A7); one can “conduct” or “establish oneself” (Lunyu 5.15, 13.20; Tu 1985, 232); one can compare others to one’s self (1.8); one can search for humanity or virtue within it (Fingarette 1979, 131). Ji as the self is therefore an object among other objects; it represents an organized person among other people, defined largely through familial and social relationships (Berkson 2005, 323; Tu 1985, 236; Wong 2009, 574; Yang 2007, 206). In its object dimension, ji is often contrasted with ren 人, literally “people,” but often just indicating others (Jochim 1998, 53). “I shall not let the fact afflict me that others do not know me,” Confucius says repeatedly (1.16, 4.14, 14.3, 15.18). He also formulates the Golden Rule using the same contrast: “Do not do unto others what you would not wish done to yourself” (12.1). In the same vein, ji is often explained through and used similarly to shen, the personal body (Benson 2005, 316). Like ji, shen 身, the lived, relational body whose pictogram shows a human figure with a protruding belly, occurs as a pronoun indicating oneself as opposed to others (Dobson 1974, 599-600; Jochim 1998, 47). Also like ji, the relational body is a constructed and organized object, something that develops and grows, not something one is equipped with spontaneously. It is thus the objectoriented, organized self, otherwise expressed by the word ji.

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Both Confucian and Daoist thinkers assert that this humanly conceived, consciously narrated, and object-dependent self has to be adjusted, cultivated, or subdued (Jochim 1998, 47). “Subdue the self (keji 克己) and recover proper ritual constitutes benevolent,” Confucius says, and continues, “If a person can, even for one day, subdue his self and recover proper ritual, the empire recovers benevolence through him” (Lunyu 12.1). Similarly, the Daode jing insists that the sage should always disregard his self and put himself in the background (ch. 7), that he should withdraw himself as soon as his work is done (ch. 9). The Zhuangzi is even more radical, pleading for its complete oblivion (ch. 6). What is left when the organized self is dissolved or fully cultivated is the other type of self, the zi. Part of the word ziran for so-being, spontaneity, or naturalness, it indicates the person’s inherent being, the way one is naturally before ego-consciousness and desires for objects (Berkson 2005, 311). The graph for zi 自 goes back to a pictogram that shows a human nose (Fazzioli 1986, 29; Wieger 1965, 325). The nose is the most protruding part of the face and as such a person’s central characteristic. Even today people in East Asia point to their noses when they want to indicate themselves. And yet, the nose, however much it represents oneself, cannot be seen or known. One can only guess at the looks of one’s own nose with the help of a mirror. It is something one is endowed with by nature, something one feels and uses, but cannot shape or control. The nose, as the center of oneself, is part of one’s basic makeup; it points back at one’s natural so-being, at the spontaneity of one’s existence (Kohn 1992b, 129). Grammatically zi never occurs as in the object position (Dobson 1974, 751), but is used exclusively in as reflexive, i.e., before the verb, indicating inherent flow of life through the person, the individualized process of becoming per se (Hall 1994, 227). Whatever one does, if done by the zi, is done of itself, i.e., as “life generated by self-emerging transcendence” (Møllgaard 2005, 10). One acts through the self as a spontaneous, independent organism, not by an organized object-centered self. In this sense, the zi can give rise to an inner feeling of shame (Lunyu 12.23); it can have a spontaneous inclination towards good or back fortune (Mengzi 2A4). It can develop spontaneous knowledge (Zhuangzi, ch. 2), or attain true spontaneity within (ch. 6). Connected to spirit, it is the practical expression of the quality of the inner self, beneath the multiple layers of mind and things (Berling 1985, 105; Benson 2005, 317).


Self in the Zhuangzi The Zhuangzi presents multiple dimensions of selfhood. For one, it speaks of the self as a container that one can fill and modify like an object. “The perfected made sure they had Dao in themselves” (ch. 4; W 54); “there is something strange in him,” the shaman proclaims (ch. 7; W 95). This self can be modified to suit the circumstances by “being outwardly compliant” and following social demands, such as “the etiquette of the minister” (ch. 4; W. 56). It can be “a storehouse of schemes” (ch. 7; W 97), or a harbor of spirit where emotions and human reactions should not be allowed to enter (ch. 5; W 74) (Slingerland 2004, 329-32; Jochim 1998, 50). The Zhuangzi rejects this socialized self (Berling 1985) and presents several lists of things that enhance it and should accordingly be avoided: The six appetites for eminence, wealth, recognition authority, fame, profit delude the will. The six personal concerns for appearance, carriage, complexion, features, temperament, and attitude ensnare the mind. The six emotions, hate, desire, joy, anger, grief, and delight entangle inner power. The six reaction patterns of rejecting, accepting, taking, giving, knowledge, and ability block off Dao. (ch. 23; Wu 1982, 121)

Joined by the activities of the five senses—they are all efforts we make to gain ordinary happiness but which in fact “mutilate people’s constant inborn nature” (Wu 1982, 121). We undertake these efforts in order to avoid pain and suffering, which comes about through the continuous interaction of the constructed self, the main representation we make of ourselves, with outside reality, mediated by feelings, knowledge, and volition. Always affected by impulses from reality, we translate these into feelings and reactions, then turn these feelings around and project them back onto reality, thereby making them into objects that gain a reality of their own, both in the world and in us (Lukashevich 1987, 62-65). This vicious circle perpetuates pain and suffering while continuing to enhance the self as object. By the same token, we can also control and direct our self, straightening (zheng 正), using (yong 用), cultivating (xiu 修), preserving (bao 保), nourishing (yang 養), losing (wang 亡), emptying (xu 虛), or forgetting (wang 忘) it (Berkson 2005, 317; Berling 1985, 112; Ivanhoe 1993b, 651; Slingerland 2004, 333-34; Zhao 2012, 142). While Confucians tend to favor the more active cultivating or subduing of the self according to social norms and requirements, the Zhuangzi emphasizes its emptying or loss, rejecting physical and meditative cultivation (Møllgaard 2005, 12) in favor of creating open awareness and a sense of newness and wonder. Cultivation versus openness can also be expressed in terms of attention as directed versus involuntary (James 1962, 87-94). That is to say, we

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can actively direct our attention in a willed focus toward a particular object or goal; or we can relax it to respond freely to outside stimuli. The focused direction of attention requires that we block all distractions through neural inhibitory mechanisms. This not only requires quite a bit of effort, but it also produces a narrow, routinized, or fixed mind that sees things only in pre-set patterns. Opening to involuntary attention, on the other hand is refreshing, relaxing, and stimulating, creating a sense of awe and mystery, a childlike wonder at the multiplicity of phenomena and the boundlessness of experience (Wong 2009, 580). The Zhuangzi vividly illustrates this distinction in the story of Zhuang Zhou wandering on Eagle Hill and coming to pursue a large magpie, which in turn pursues a praying mantis that in turn has its sight set on a cicada (ch. 20; W 218-19).1 He notices that he himself is no better than these other creatures, directing his attention exclusively on immediate gain in service of preserving his physical form (shouxing 守形), yet thereby losing his wider focus and forgetting his self (wangshen 忘身) (Ivanhoe 1991, 21). In a state of flowing with self and world, we could live at peace with all: “Our instinct and intuitions would steer us away from the calamities our intellects create” and enable us “to move among human beings but not be caught up in their follies” (1991, 22, 24). The story also shows that the relational connection of the self is not limited to the social, human realm but extends to the greater world of animals, of nature, and the universe (Jones and Culliney 1999, 643; Wong 2009, 578). Nature is ubiquitous in the Zhuangzi—many stories tell of animals, plants, trees, rivers, seas, and mountains—and it continues to challenge the reader to question truth, let go of initial perspectives, learn from the great variety of beings and phenomena out there, and become flexible and new with every moment (2009, 579). As we are renewed moment by moment, and allow ourselves to be part of the great world, moreover, we loosen our firm hold on our self and increasingly release our firmly defined object self. This release leaves us without strong reactions and emotions, and opens us to the unconditional acceptance of all reality. It is the gateway to the spontaneity and freedom of the observing, flowing self.2 It means moving away from a dispositional and reflective into a transcendent self (Brindley 2010, 62)—going beyond instinct and conditioning, social de1 The story is interpreted variously: as a spiritual conversion (Maspero 1981, 413-26); as reconciliation with death (Graham 1981, 116-18); as the realization and overcoming of philosophical conceit (Nivison 1991, 133); and as an example of the self-forgetfulness of all creatures (Billeter 2008, 35-37; Chen 2010, 8-9). I follow the reading by Ivanhoe 1991. 2 See Jochim 1998, 52; Lukashevich 1987, 79; Møllgaard 2005, 10; Wong 2009, 569; Wu 1990, 135.


termination and conscious evaluations into a superconscious, spiritual dimension (Yearley 1996, 153-55; also Lukashevich 1987, 45-47; Wu 2006, 66). “Self-emptying is the way to come home to oneself” (Wu 1982, 121), to be filled with heaven, spirit, virtue, numen, or energy, and thus be fully open and flexible (Berkson 2005, 307). The Zhuangzi describes this with various terms: at ease (an 安), wandering (you 遊), following (yin 因), flowing (shun 順), riding (cheng 乘), or leaning (yi 依) on Dao (Slingerland 2004, 330, 334; Lukashevich 1987, 51). Filled only with Dao, “an empty self has nothing with which to disturb others simply because it has nothing with which to disturb even itself” (Wu 1982, 122). In other words, “following the current of things is precisely the way to become fully oneself,” to find our “perfect self,” “whole in innate lucidity, responding, adapting, changing with the changes” (Wu 1982, 125; see also Graupe 2011, 82). Being our “true self,” we experientially connect to Dao, heaven, transcendence, original creativity (Møllgaard 2005, 8). Spirit then manifests as the subconscious and perceptual, the intuitive and instinctual mind, able to penetrate all while erasing self and reality as separate entities (Lukashevich 1987, 53-54). One’s knowledge, going far beyond the partial evaluation based on conditioned reflexes of the object self, becomes heavenly and formless, wholly integrated in a synthesis of all. The senses no longer evaluate in contradictory patterns but function as modes of simple, straightforward apperception, opening the path to immediate, spontaneous response (Lukashevich 1987, 100-05; Allinson 1989a, 143-44).

No-Self The concept of no-self is most familiar from Buddhism, where it developed in opposition to the Hindu understanding of ātman, an immutably present, eternal, and permanent inner substratum of the person, at one with Brahman at the core of creation (Berkson 2005, 318). No-self in Buddhism (anatta) denies the existence of this ontological substance (Austin 1998, 700). It forms part of the three basic “facts” taught by the Buddha, together with the continuous patterns of change or impermanence (anicca) and the fundamental unsatisfactoriness or inherently suffering nature of life (dukkha) (Loy 1996, 52; Rahula 1974, 17-20, 51-66). Any sense of lasting selfhood is thus an artificial construct. There is nothing permanent about anything, including the functioning of the mind, which is not one entity but consists of five “heaps” or aggregates (skandhas), such as consciousness and perception, which arise and pass away in any given moment (Brazier 1995, 84-86; Rahula 1974, 20-23). Another major Buddhist doctrine is the twelvefold chain of dependent orig-

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ination, which specifies the nature of universal change, each link or factor in the chain “arising from the preconditions created by the others” (Loy 1996, 52). There cannot be any “continuity that persists through change,” which rules out any form of lasting identity or selfhood (1996, 53). Any sense we have of personal continuity and persistence of self, therefore, must be an illusion, an artificial sense of separation, an erroneous alienation from original oneness (Loy 1996, 53; Jochim 1998, 45; Williams 2009, 69). The Zhuangzi, too, speaks of no-self: “The perfect man has no self, the spirit man has no merit, the sage has no fame” (ch. 1; W 32). “Shen Dao discarded knowledge and did away with self” (ch. 33; W 370).3 It looks at the human bodymind—the hundred joints, the nine openings, the six organs—and asks, “Which part should I feel closest to?” (ch. 2; W 38). Rather than trying to find a self in the conglomerate of existing factors, the text suggests that there is a “selfless self of the cosmic Dao,” an idealized no-self that is powerful and special in its own way (Brindley 2010, 125; see also Wang 2004, 64; 2007d, 78-79). The Zhuangzi’s understanding of no-self, like the Buddhist, depends on impermanence as universal constant: nothing persists but the ongoing flux of all (Wang 2000, 347). This flux occurs on all levels of life: alterations (bian 變) in form and shape, such as physical bodies living, dying, and getting sick, butterflies emerging from pupae, rotting flesh giving rise to maggots; changes (yi 易) in things, situations, and affairs, found in war and peace, criticism and praise, defeat and success; and transformations (hua 化) of life experiences and ways of being in the world (Sellmann 1998, 170). Change is infinite and limitless, time is without end, and there is no beginning or end to the transformations (Elvin 1985, 166-67). Reality consists of “a continuous dancing and vibrating motion” (Capra 1991, 194), interdependent among things and spontaneously changing in ways we cannot incite or control. We don’t even know “whether we’re changing or have changed already” (ch. 6; W 88; Wang 2000, 348-51). This universal law of change prevents the firm self-identification of anything: there is ultimately no ‘I,’ physical, emotional, or mental. “We go around telling each other, I do this, I do that—but how do we know that this ‘I’ we talk about has any ‘I’ to it?” (ch. 6; W 88; Wang 2000, 352-53). While the Zhuangzi denies the permanence and solidity of selfidentity, this “does not mean it advocates a nihilistic notion of self that denies the existence of the empirical self and negates the possibility of spiritual progress and freedom” (Wang 2000, 354). Freedom happens as we adapt to the fluidity of self—in its flexible, protean version—and ac3 For further discussions, see Ames 1983, 72; Benson 2005, 308; Berkson 2005, 307; Jochim 1998, 35-36; Wang 2000, 352.


cept that we live on the boundary line between self and no-self, defined through inherent tendencies as well as in various natural and social circumstances that may appear stable on the surface but are never steady, never solid, never permanent. While this matches the Buddhist understanding of no-self, the Zhuangzi differs from it in that it does not regard reality or conceived identity as illusory. While the underlying perception of the world as change and the emerging concept of no-self are the same, the fundamental dichotomy is quite different. Buddhists were arguing against Hindu ātman as solid, unchanging, ultimate reality and saw the main issue in the contrast between metaphysical, ontological fact and mental projection. This led to a sophisticated and subtle concept of emptiness as part of the karmic chain of dependent origination. Early Chinese thinkers had no such issues to confront. The dichotomy here is not ontological, between reality and illusion—which “has no counterpart in Chinese thought” (Ames 2002, 75; Sivin 1995a, 3)—but social and psychological, between rigidity and flexibility, conformity and spontaneity, human limitations and universal expansion. Illusion is not an issue—dreams are as real as waking life—and emptiness means just that: a lack of content, of predisposition, an openness to new perspectives and experiences that create flow and cosmic freedom.

Chapter Nineteen Western Thought Aside from being connected to various philosophical schools of ancient Greece and to modern notions of mysticism, the Zhuangzi in recent years has also been read in relation to Western thought. It has increasingly become the subject of comparative or cross-cultural philosophy, a field “in which philosophers work on problems by intentionally setting up a dialogue” between ideas from thinkers and works in different cultures, locations, and time periods (Littlejohn 2005, 1). Pursuing “a vision that transcends local and temporal variations of culture” (Mair 2010c, 96; Billeter 2010, 36), comparative philosophers engage in a highly subjective enterprise of scholarly inquiry, manipulating the different and common points among sources, deciding on highlights and irrelevancies, and moving back and forth between the equivocal and the univocal (Rapp 2010, 170). Comparative philosophy is thus a form of “imaginative construction” (Yearley 1990, 199), its “terms and frameworks being the creation of the scholar . . . in close attention to the figures (and texts) at hand” (Rapp 2010, 171). Deciding on which terms and concepts to place in a central position and which to consider secondary, the comparativist— much like the critic of art and literature (Rapp 2010, 172)—moves in a closed hermeneutic circle, where the grounds for any judgment or evaluation “remain criteria that fit within the world of imaginings” (Yearley 1990, 201-02). Nevertheless, comparative philosophers need to endeavor to do justice to all the works and thinkers under examination, avoiding as much as possible certain typical pitfalls. These include the tendency to recreate another tradition in the image of one’s own (descriptive chauvinism), to narrate similar views without opening them to mutual engagement (normative skepticism), to overlook common grounds in the light of overarching differences or incompatible terminology (incommensurability), and to disregard the inherently evolving and changing nature of 199


philosophical views in time and space (perennialism) (Littlejohn 2005; Parkes 1987a, 4). The Zhuangzi in this context has been creatively engaged with European thought of the last millennium, including the work of spiritually oriented thinkers, systematic mainstream philosophers, and those shaping contemporary discourse.

Religious Thinkers: Flow and Play The earliest Western medieval thinker compared to the Zhuangzi is the German mystic Meister Eckhart (ca. 1260-1327). A Dominican friarpreacher, he held a doctorate of theology from the seminary in Paris. Seeing God as abundance and love present in all creatures—a concept described as “godhead”—and living the simple life of a wandering mystic, he was criticized by church authorities and tried as a heretic, but died before sentencing. One of his key concepts is the notion of utter poverty—”will nothing, know nothing, have nothing” (Schürmann 2011, 211)—expressed as freedom, simplicity, and humility of spirit, a “selfless inactivity” suffused by the godhead that in many ways is close to Zhuangzi’s nonaction (Heitz 2007, 53-54). The godhead is true presence everywhere; it cannot be filled or emptied, but is both instant and everlasting—much like Dao (2007, 56, 59). To reach out to this and allow it to flow freely through the person, one should “let go of all distinctions and greatness, give up all will and knowledge, and completely dissolve the self,” an admonition that strongly echoes the Zhuangzi passage on sitting in oblivion (2007, 57). Reaching this state of selflessness, we can truly fulfill the way we were meant to be, in alignment with what the Zhuangzi calls inner nature and destiny and what Meister Eckhart describes as being “reverberated into motion by God” (Heitz 2007, 58). Both thinkers thus posit an underlying, all-pervasive force that lets beings come to life and determines their proper course. They both recommend giving up all notions of self and object-based knowledge in favor of simply flowing along, being carried by the higher power. While Meister Eckhart thus shares the Zhuangzi’s ideal of inner simplicity and openness, Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) matches the text more in his focus on joy and playfulness. Born as Gerard Gerards, Erasmus was a Catholic priest, theologian, and social critic, active in his native Netherlands as well as in southern Germany. Like Meister Eckhart a graduate of the seminary in Paris, he was a learned scholastic more than a mystic who lectured at the Catholic University of Leuven and prepared new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament (Nauert 2009).


Living in the time of the Reformation, he resisted joining the new movement, staying close to original Catholic doctrine while yet arguing in favor of religious tolerance and human dignity. His treatise Moriae Encomium (The Praise of Folly; trl. Miller 1979) is a satirical account of the key features of his time, a tongue-in-cheek look at reality, opening it to different perspectives. It has much in common with the Zhuangzi, not least the notion “that the path to political peace begins with people’s inherent playfulness” (Mair 2010c, 91), the activation of playfulness in the individual, his coming into his own as homo ludens (see Huizinga 1950). Both Folly and Zhuangzi surround themselves with misfits of various sorts, given to drunkenness, stupidity, laziness, pleasure, and madness. These appear as symbolic personifications in Erasmus—Methe, Apaedia, Misponia, Hedone, and Anoia—and as various eccentrics, fools, dolts, cripples, nincompoops, and madmen in the Zhuangzi (Mair 2010c, 86-87, 92). Both have little patience with rigidity in any form, notably as expressed by rhetoricians, lawyers, preachers, and officials (2010, 95). They also both recognize life and death as part of the same flow of existence and emphasize the fundamental value of joy, expressing it with a variety of terms. Thus Erasmus speaks of felicitas, laetitia, voluptas, oblectio, incunditas, and delectatio, while the Zhuangzi uses terms like le 樂 (be happy), yu 愈 (be pleased), bi 比 (be content), yue 悅 (delight in), xi 喜 (relish), huan 歡(enjoy), xiao 笑 (laugh), and zhizu 知足 (leave well alone) (Mair 2010c, 91). For both thinkers, reality is a playground, an entertainment staged by Folly or the vagaries of change. The both see the ideal mind as that of a child: free and easy, gentle in spirit, without artifice but with strong vitality (2010, 93-94). Their vision of life, however different their background, language, and cultural setting, is thus amazingly homogeneous, indicating the common recognition of a deep-seated truth beyond time and space.

Social Critics: Nature and the Individual More than nonaction and playfulness, Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz (16511695) offers similar views as the Zhuangzi with regard to the understanding of nature, knowledge, and the ideal person. Born in Neplanta near Mexico City as the illegitimate daughter of a Spanish captain and a Criollo woman, she was raised by her mother’s parents on an extensive hacienda that also had a substantial library. A vastly gifted child, she learned to read and write at age three and could do accounts by age five. In her teens, she was fluent in Spanish, Latin, and Greek as well as the Aztec language of Nahuatl and had mastered the major subjects of knowledge of her time. Prevented from entering university, a purely


male domain, she continued to study under the tutelage of other learned women as well as on her own. Eventually she joined a convent, where a life of the mind was possible but, criticized by church authorities for overstepping the boundaries of the female, she abandoned her books and learning in favor of a life of devotion (see Flynn 1971). She wrote mainly in poetic style. Her most famous work is The Dream, a philosophical treatise on reality and the soul in syllabic verse (see Trueblood 1988). Her understanding of nature and humanity as presented here echoes many ideas in the Zhuangzi. Nature, contrary to the dominant Aristotelian vision of an integrated organism tightly arranged according to cause and effect, to her is the visible aspect of God as the ultimate force of creation. Like Dao, this is ubiquitous but cannot be put into words or fully understood intellectually (Mitsuda 2002, 129). Life as part of nature, moreover, is transient and continuously changing, like a dream that can never be completely known (2002, 124). The least appropriate means of understanding life is the dominant mode of knowledge exercised by philosophers and theologians: reason, intellect, discourse. Small and limited, it is completely different from its divine counterpart, which is unknowing and works in an open and empty mind—echoing Zhuangzi passages such as that on mind-fasting (2002, 122-24). The ideal person for Sor Juana as much as in the Zhuangzi is connected to nature and relaxed in unknowing. He or she lives according to innate goodness, the presence of nature (God/Dao) within the person (Mitsuda 2002, 120). Rather than following any prescribed path or set rules, he or she flows along with the creative forces within, accepting all things as they are (2002, 129). Fully realizing one’s inborn tendencies, however, also means disregarding or overcoming social constrictions, and Sor Juana argued strongly for the education of women and a greater openness of society—just as Zhuangzi rejects and ridicules the social mores of his time. Nature and social inequality as key points in Zhuangzi comparison also feature prominently in the works of Henry David Thoreau (18171862), a leading representative of American transcendentalism and the author of the essay Nature (publ. 1838) as well as of the well-known Walden (publ. 1854; see Bode 1975; Thoreau 2010). A progressive thinker, nature lover, and social critic, Thoreau refused to administer corporal punishment as a school teacher, experimented with simple living in a hut in the woods near Boston, resisted forced taxation, objected to the Mexican-American war, supported the abolition of slavery, and engaged in extensive studies of natural history (see Bennett 1994). Walking in nature and taking in naturalness to him constituted a form of inner freedom; like Zhuangzi’s free and easy wandering, it was for him a metaphor of how to be fully engaged with the experience of the


moment, of participating in the continuously unfolding richness of all life (Dull 2012, 223, 231). As he says in Walden: We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it, and did not spend our time atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty. (Bode 1975, 554)

He further expresses this state with the word “saunter,” derived from the French sans terre, which literally means “without land.” To him this indicated a homeless floating along, like a pilgrim or a vagabond, taking in every kind of experience nature has to offer (Dull 2012, 230, 232). Like the Zhuangzi, Thoreau deplores the way ordinary people live, “yoked to the belief that productivity and labor are the sole means of survival” (Dull 2002, 233). Denigrating ordinary, “useful” knowledge, which he sees as a mechanism to insulate people from experience (2002, 234), Thoreau advocates replacing it with “beautiful knowledge,” which is full of wonder, amazement, and absorption in the beauty of life, thus providing a continuous freshness of perspective (2012, 233). Like Zhuangzi, he admires the natural world and stays away from politics—an area of life that to him does nothing better than reduce the fullness of the world to “monotonous homogeneity” and thus presents “an odious danger to be avoided” (Dull 2012, 234; Bennett 1994, 5-6). Thoreau’s project, quite like that of the Zhuangzi, is thus “authentic self-creation in the sense of a deliberate attentiveness to the conditions of one’s own experience and recognition of the possibilities afforded through the multiplicities of nature” (Dull 2012, 235, Bennett 1994, 52).

Influential Philosophers: Freedom and Reason The earliest major European philosopher compared to the Zhuangzi is the German thinker Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Born and raised in Königsberg, in the far eastern reaches of Prussia, he was the grandson of a Scotsman who presided over a stark and pious Protestant household that emphasized humility and devotion and left little room for unruliness or creativity. Kant entered the University of Königsberg in his teens, supported himself as a private tutor after the death of his father in 1738, and graduated with a the degree of Magister in 1755. For fifteen years, he made a living as a lecturer at the university combined with continued tutoring services; in 1770, he was appointed full professor of logic and metaphysics at the same school. Many other institutions offered him employment, but he preferred to stay in his hometown. He retired from active teaching in 1796 at age 72 (see Naragon 2006; Schönfeld 2011, 72).


A prolific writer, whose works are now widely available online (see Palmquist 2011), the transcendent idealist Kant was a major thinker of the Enlightenment and trend-setter for much of Western thought in the following centuries (Wenning 2011, 558). His magnum opus is Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Critique of Pure Reason; publ. 1781), which examines various ways of looking at and experiencing reality. Both his understanding of human freedom and nothingness echo ideas found in the Zhuangzi— which is coincidental since he had little knowledge of Daoism and disregarded it as “monstrous” (Clarke 2000, 41; Schönfeld 2011, 68; Wenning 2011, 559; Wenzel 2003, 123). For Kant, the core issue of philosophy is the contrast between the predetermined, set course of the natural world—visible in the stars, weather patterns, plant cycles, and animal lives—and the personal autonomy of the individual who, although embodied and thus part of the natural world, has free will and moral choice. He distinguishes two realms, the phenomenal and the noumenal, subject to causality and the laws of nature versus unconditioned and uncaused, the so-called Ding an sich or “thing in itself” (Höchsmann 2004, 235). The latter is ineffable, a hypothetical nonentity or projected postulation that can only be described in negative quantities or empty concepts (Wenning 2011, 558). The presence of these two realms in every human being means that there is a dual perspective in all activities, the physical and the ethical. This leads to Kant’s main moral demand, the so-called Categorical Imperative, that in all situations, no matter what, one should choose duty over pleasure, the ethical over the physical (Höchsmann 2004, 236; Wohlfart 2012, 21). This choice is made on the noumenal level, a visible manifestation of the power of free will to retain one’s more physical inclinations as determined by the phenomenal world. Duty thus is a means to expand one’s true human nature in the sphere of action (2004, 240). The main similarity to the Zhuangzi lies in Kant’s postulation of the noumenal, which echoes concepts of Dao and nonbeing, the self-so or inner subjective principle of all existence, the immanent framework of reality (Wenning 2011, 560-62)—although, as Lee Yearley points out, there is no fundamental contrast between the realms in Chinese thought, which sees only change as real and posits no uncontingent reality behind it (1982, 442). But Kant’s moral demands, too, echo tendencies in the Zhuangzi, which affirms the freedom to choose and make appropriate judgments and emphasizes the value of acting in harmony with the flow of being (Höchsmann 2004, 238-39). However, while Kant regards reason as essential in determining where one’s duty lies and supports political and social order, insisting on the necessity of law and proper rulership, the Zhuangzi focuses on intuition and sees both human-based order and reason as limiting factors. Morality for Kant is thus a function of ration-


ality; in the Zhuangzi it is the flourishing of nature, both inner and cosmic (Höchsmann 2004, 242-44). The inherent contrast between the phenomenal and the noumenal is also at the center of the thought of Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), the seventh child of a wealthy and devout Danish merchant who studied theology at the University of Copenhagen while also enjoying the good life of the city. When his father died in 1838, he became independently wealthy, completed his degree, moved to Berlin for a time, and dedicated himself to writing. He published many treatises, often working under pen names, such as Johannes Climacus and Hilarious Bookbinder. In his writings, he explored core existential issues, including pleasure and morality (Either/Or), melancholy and anxiety (Fear and Trembling), faith and reality (Stages of Life’s Way). Criticized for both his views and his lifestyle, he ran into conflict with the established church, which he chastised for worldliness and lack of piety as well as for creating an illusion of religiosity. The church, he claimed, encouraged the loss of a proper sense of self as an individual, distorting people’s view of themselves as sinful and thus their relationship with God (Carr and Ivanhoe 1999, 16-25). Kierkegaard’s thought, especially his high level of introspection, has remained influential, setting standards for contemporary thinkers. He has a few points in common with the Zhuangzi. Both were controversial and provocative figures who exerted a profound influence on their traditions; both addressed core religious and philosophical issues; and both were severely critical of the established or conventional modes of reflection, undermining the discursive, rational argumentation dominant in their times and considering reason as more of a hindrance than a help (Carr and Ivanhoe 1999, 28-29, 55; Moeller and Stan 2003, 130). They also both encouraged a greater level of self-awareness and had a therapeutic dimension to their thought, “seeking to help people who have lost themselves or at least their true selves, in the world or in sin”—self in the Zhuangzi being natural and good; in Kierkegaard, corrupted and defiled (Carr and Ivanhoe 1999, 88; Nelson 2013a, 178). In addition, both point to sources and motivation of personal guidance other than reason (intuition or grace), take fundamentally egalitarian positions, and advocate stripping away the outwardly determined, social self to reach a deeper level of being (1999, 88-89). Last but not least, both thinkers experimented with alternative forms of language, speaking through different and fictional voices, using humor and satire to full effect, and generally applying various forms of indirect communication (Carr and Ivanhoe 1999, 115; Moeller and Stan 2003, 131). However, their fundamental attitude and tone remains deeply different throughout: Kierkegaard never lets go of his existential anxiety and deep-seated seriousness, forever engaged in the struggle between faith and reason, while


Zhuangzi flows along with ease, playful in the changes, relaxed and essentially happy (Carr and Ivanhoe 1999, 115).

Nietzsche: Thinking Beyond Culture The premodern Western thinker with the greatest connection to the Zhuangzi is Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900), born in Prussia as the son of a Lutheran pastor. After his father died in 1849, the family moved to his mother’s relatives in Naumburg, where he grew up surrounded by women who cherished and cosseted him. In boarding school, he showed talent for languages, which led him to study theology and classical philology at the University of Bonn. He received an appointment as professor of classics at the University of Basel in 1869, and soon after served in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) as a medical orderly. There is suspicion that he contracted a serious disease, possibly syphilis, during this time. After this, his writings took on a more philosophical bend. In 1879, his health deteriorated to the point where he had to give up teaching. He traveled widely, looking for climates and medicines to help his condition. In 1889, he suffered a mental breakdown and entered a clinic in Jena, mainly supported by his sister Elisabeth. After several strokes in 1998-99, he died in 1900 (see Brinton 1948; Bataille 1992, 1-48). His works include The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science, Human All Too Human, Beyond Good and Evil, and the famous Thus Spoke Zarathustra (see McKay 2006). Nietzsche was a deeply troubled thinker, whose core focus was overcoming the Western philosophical tradition, declaring war on Plato and Aristotle as much as Zhuangzi opposed the dominant morality of Confucius and Mozi.1 Both Nietzsche and Zhuangzi moved beyond culture—the socially sanctioned “strategy for the attainment of balanced necessity” (Hall 1984, 171)—raising the Socratic irony to a new level by struggling with the question of “how to philosophize in the full recognition of the futility of thinking as a constructive enterprise based upon claims of truth and certitude” (Hall 1984, 143-44). They thereby opened paths of philosophical exploration that can be linked to nihilism, existentialism, and deconstructionism (Chan 1967, 48-49; Froese 2004, 97, 108; Lee 2011, 7; Shang 2006, 64). Nietzsche’s iconoclastic stance, activism, anthropocentrism, and optimism, moreover, inspired modern Chinese thought in the mid-20th century in several waves (Clarke 2000; Shang 2006, 151), also influencing the Zhuangzi reception of Chen Guying, a major exegete of the text (see 1

For discussions of this theme, see Froese 2004, 99; Lee 2011, 5; Moeller 2004a, 153-54; Shang 2006, 114-15; Wawrytko 2008, 525; Wohlfart 2012, 18. For a study of the contrasting views of Aristotle and Zhuangzi, see Li 1993.


Chen 1987). In a series of lectures at Beijing University in the mid-1980s, Chen further expands his reading of both thinkers to include anticapitalist views and individual liberation as well as features of naturalism and personal transformation—matching the Communist ideology of the time (Moeller 2004b, 60; Billeter 2009, 196). Commonalities abound. Both thinkers recognize that it is fundamentally impossible to explain key features of existence (life and death, reason and experience, finite and infinite) with analytical knowledge and discursive language (Froese 2004, 108; Hall 1984, 142; Shang 2006, 110). They accordingly work with anecdotes and parables, speaking in episodes and dialogue, and involving a large cast of characters (Parkes 1983, 236). Besides figures taken from the natural world, these include all sorts of fictional entities: birds, fish, and deities in the Zhuangzi; an array of mythical creatures in Nietzsche, such as the Fire-hound, the Dwarf, the Soothsayer, the Spirits of Gravity and Revenge, and more (Jones 2005, 244). Most vivid are those representing the “three metamorphoses” or stages of transformation in Thus Spoke Zarathustra—the camel, the lion, and the child (Nietzsche 1999, 33; see Parkes 1983, 245). Both thinkers, furthermore, relish the grotesque, deformed, and pathological, showing crippled and ugly figures in their remonstration with dominant cultural values of beauty, order, and integration (Parkes 1983, 244-45). And both embrace a radical perspectivism, acknowledging the relativity of all opposites, being critical of all valuing and standardizing, and emphasizing the concept of constant change (Froese 2004, 98; Jones 2005, 238, 244-45; Parkes 1983, 239; Shang 2006, 118; Wawrytko 2008, 530). In addition, both thinkers have an affinity to the concept of wandering, Zhuangzi in his “free and easy wandering,” Nietzsche in both his vision of the Dionysian spirit (Shang 2006, 127) as well as in his Zarathustra, where the protagonist wanders from place to place, walking like a dancer, meandering about and moving in spiraling circles as part of his self-transformation (Allinson 1986, 430; Parkes 1983, 244). They also both work with dreams, Zhuangzi in his famous butterfly dream as well as in the story where a tree or skull speaks to the protagonist. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra has four dreams that mark major transitions: the first inspires him to descend from the mountain and re-engage with the world; the second, where he sees himself as the guardian of tombs, “enables him to understand the redemption of his personal past;” the third prompts him to leave his disciples and become a recluse once more; and in the fourth, “he stands beyond the world with a pair of scales and weighs it,” having reached a transformed position (Parkes 1983, 242; Wu 1986, 374). Dreams in both thinkers are metaphors for the continuous floating of perspectives—even waking up is just another way of looking


at things—showing that existence is always the product of creative interpretation rather than the factual experience of truth (Parkes 1983, 243). The ideal state to be reached, finally, in both Zhuangzi and Nietzsche is a “fundamental innocentism” (Moeller 2004a, 154; Shang 2006, 130-32), being “innocent before each moment” (Jones 2005, 238), open to all perspectives and inherently playful (Wawrytko 2008, 534-35), seeing the world with a child’s eyes and accepting the flux of life and death in a “love of fate” (amor fati) (Jones 2005, 249; Lee 2011, 8), the “free selfcreative activity of events” (Hall 1984, 151). The perfected of the Zhuangzi thus has much in common with Nietzsche’s Übermensch (superman, overman), the ideal way of being that overcomes being human, “the lightning out of the dark cloud that is man” (Nietzsche 1999, 29; Allinson 1986, 434; Parkes 1989, 87; Shang 2006, 125, 131). Recovering original spontaneity, he represents a state of dynamic oneness with nature, realizing that the one and the many are inseparable and living in a new dimension of heightened and carefully trained instinct (Shang 2006, 124, 126). At the same time, however, there are also some fundamental differences, aside from the obvious gap in time, place, and culture. Most important among them is the all-pervasive anguish (Angst) in Nietzsche, his never-ending disgust with the small man and the depressing understanding that there is no end to mediocrity—the eternal return of the same (die ewige Wiederkehr des Gleichen) (Froese 2004, 110; Jones 2005, 240-41; Lee 2011, 8; Shang 2006, 136). Unlike this, Zhuangzi is full of laughter and playfulness, cheerfully romping through the world, seeing the futility of ordinary life but not letting it impact his freedom of spirit (Wawrytko 2008, 531). Zhuangzi dances and enjoys where Nietzsche despises and evades (Shang 2006, 135). As a result, Zhuangzi is happy to go along with whatever the changes may bring, flowing in nonaction and resting in the changes, engaging in pure aesthetic activity and thereby making cultural dominance impossible (Hall 1984, 150). Nietzsche, on the other hand, postulates the “will to power” (Wille zur Macht), a commanding force that echoes the lion’s roar (Jones 2005, 242-43), a grandiose potency that makes war on mediocrity and demolishes social limitations (Parkes 1989, 88; Wawrytko 2008, 530-31). Where Zhuangzi’s perfected flows along in acceptance, Nietzsche’s superman actively initiates revolution; where Zhuangzi rests in cool harmony, Nietzsche anguishes in friction-generated heat (Parkes 1983, 248). Still, both want a world that resonates with naturalness where people attain their full potential and grow to true greatness.

Chapter Twenty Skillful Spontaneity True greatness is attained when one lives in the world while fully expressing one’s natural skills in a special level of competence that goes far beyond ordinary life. Both the Zhuangzi, especially in “Mastering Life” (ch. 19), and the Liezi (ch. 2; Graham 1960, 43-45) illustrate this kind of life in a series of anecdotes, so-called skill stories or knack passages (Needham et al. 1956, 121). They are about craftsmen or sportsmen engaged in ordinary, benign activities, who have reached a level of skillfulness beyond words and knowledge (Ivanhoe 1993b, 651; Peerenboom 1993, 214). There is, for example, a hunchback—someone with physical limitations—”catching cicadas with a sticky pole as easily as though he were grabbing them with his hand” (ch. 19; W 199). Similarly the ferryman at Goblet Deeps “handles his boat like a spirit (shen)” (W 200). Ji Xingzi 紀渻 子 trains fighting cocks to perfection, able to judge by their looks and demeanor how they will do in a fight (W 204). Woodworker Qing 梓慶 makes bell stands that “seem to be the work of gods or spirits” (W 205). Carpenter Chui 工倕 “can draw as true as a compass or a T-square” (W 206). And Wheelwright Bian 輪扁 makes perfectly aligned wheels (ch. 13; W 152).1 The most symbolic of all of them is the tale about the swimmer at Lüliang 吕梁 Falls, who dives into water that “falls from a height of thirty fathoms and races and boils along for forty li, so swift that no fish or other water creature can swim in it” (ch. 19; W 204; Liezi 2). Not only does the swimmer not come to harm, he enjoys the ride, coming out of the water to stroll along happily. His skill means that he feels completely at 1 These and similar stories are collected and discussed in Alt 1991, 1; Berkson 2005, 312; Billeter 2010, 21; Eno 1996, 141; Fraser 2008, 130; Graham 1981, 135-42; Ivanhoe 1993, 643-44; Jochim 1998, 59-60; Lukashevich 1987, 87-89; Moeller 2004a, 110-13; Wohlfart 2012, 59-60; Wong 2009, 581; Yearley 1996, 165-66.



home in the water and moves along with all its eddies and currents, however swift—just as people should live fully in Dao and flow freely through life and world, going beyond mere technical expertise in a specific area and becoming virtuosi at living to the fullest (Billeter 2010, 2830; Ivanhoe 1993b, 652; Moeller 2004a, 109-10; Huang 2010b, 1052-53). These virtuosi all have several features in common. First, they all follow what is natural to them, going along with both their inherent tendencies (xing) and circumstantial trajectories (ming). Just as the millipede naturally handles itself with thousands of legs and the Kui hops along fine on just one (ch. 17; W 183; Billeter 2010, 70), “a good swimmer will in no time get the knack of handling a boat to perfection” (Eno 1996, 140). Because water is his natural element, he works with his inherent so-being and completely forgets the water and its possible perils (Liezi 2; Graham 1960, 41). Second, they perfect their natural abilities in their particular situation through apprenticeship (Billeter 2010, 19) or systematic training, the “repetitive practice of skill acquisition” allowing them to “replicate the spontaneity of the nonhuman world” (Eno 1996, 141). The cicadacatcher, for example, practices balancing balls on his sticky pole, increasing the number over many months until he is perfect (Chen 2010, 126-27). Third, they get themselves—their personal concerns, emotions, and mind—out of the way, allowing cosmic energy (qi) and spirit (shen) to flow and act through their subconscious mind (Billeter 2010, 24, 67). Woodworker Qing, for example, systematically fasts for seven days, stilling his mind to the point where he is oblivious of self and others. Only when his “skill is concentrated and all outside distractions fall away” does he select the wood for his project and proceed to carve it (W 206). He is like the perfected who “forgets his liver and gall and thinks no more about his eyes and ears” (ch. 19; W 207), vague and aimless, free and easy in everything he does. Sensory impression and the conscious, goal-oriented mind form great obstacles to this full unfolding of skillful spontaneity. As the Zhuangzi makes clear with regard to archery: If you join a contest and shoot to win a nice brick, you will be skillful. If you shoot for a fancy buckle, you will be nervous. If you shoot for a gold bar, you will be a wreck. Your shooting skill is the same in all cases, but if there is something you want badly, your focus will be outside. And the more your focus is outside, the more you get clumsy on the inside. (Kohn 2011, 169)

Free from the interference of the self-conscious mind, skillful people are like the “drunken man who falls from a carriage” and remains unhurt “because his spirit is whole” (ch. 19; W 198). Dao flows as freely through them as they flow along in it. In addition, this skillfulness feels good. It is the most comfortable, natural, and harmonious way of being


(W 207), the ultimate in health and self-expression (Barrett 2011, 694). It means that we nourish ourselves to the fullest with what is most appropriate and most delightful to us, while remaining constantly connected to the great, universal flow of life.

Cook Ding The most famous and most widely discussed skill story in the Zhuangzi is the tale of Cook Ding 庖丁 cutting up the sacrificial ox (ch. 3; W 50-51).2 He moves with rhythm and agility, “his hands touching, his shoulders leaning, his feet stepping, his knees thrusting—each with its own sound, all knife cuts completely in tune” (Kohn 2011, 171; Møllgaard 2007, 48-49). Asked about his skill, he explains that after decades of training he now goes with Dao, far beyond ordinary expertise (Brindley 2010, 60): he no longer sees ordinary, solid reality but works with subtle patterns, moving purely by intuition, feeling the qi of things and letting spirit move. “The spirit takes over completely. It lets me follow the natural contours, twisting in the deep hollows, sliding through the great openings” (Kohn 2011, 171). As a result, his knife never gets dull, and he never gets tired or makes a wrong cut. However, in all this deep concentration and flow, the conscious mind and senses are not abandoned but used to enhance focus: “Whenever I come to a complicated joint, and see that it will difficult, I proceed with great caution, focus my vision, and move very slowly” (Kohn 2011, 173). Once the tricky section is successfully resolved, Cook Ding again moves smoothly and with ease, finding deep and lasting satisfaction. The story is a parable, as the last line makes clear. Duke Huan exclaims, “I have listened to Cook Ding speak about his work and learned all about nourishing life!” It shows how we can apply the skills of the cook to live the best, longest, and healthiest life possible. Focusing on the task at hand, letting go of all other concerns, and moving along with the nooks and crannies of day-to-day reality, we nourish life fully (Kohn 2011, 172; Billeter 2010, 68-69). To do so, it says, we need to go beyond the technical perfection of practical skills, find release from the dualities of 2 The story is presented and discussed in Ames 1986, 336; Barrett 2011, 685; Berkson 2005, 310; Billeter 2001, 270; 2010, 15-20, 55-56; Brindley 2010, 59-60; Callahan 1998, 175; Chen 2010, 49-54; Crandell 2010, 117; Csikszentmihalyi 1990, 150; Eno 1996, 135; Fox 1996, 62; 2002, 82-83; Fraser 2008, 146; 2009, 445; Graham 1981, 63-64; Graziani 2005, 62-63; 2006, 41-48 Groves 2006, 100-02; Huang 2010b, 1051; Ivanhoe 1993, 643; Jochim 1998, 59; Kohn 2011, 170-75; Lee 2014, ch. 1; Lukashevich 1987, 50; Moeller 2004a, 109; Møllgaard 2007, 46-52; Olson 2013, 256; Tong 2011, 97; Wang 2004, 49-54; Wenzel 2003, 117; Wohlfart 2012, 33-34; Yearley 1996, 164-65.


this and that, self and other (Eno 1996, 135), and “turn from the outer to the inner” (Møllgaard 2007, 49). We must focus on the life of heaven, the “ceaseless self-emergence of life” as it unfolds in us, through us, and around us. Skillful spontaneity is but an expression of authentic action, the experience of the so-being of life and world that is the “texture of heaven” (tianli 天理), the inherently so (guran 固然) (Møllgaard 2007, 50). At the same time, the story also, in its setting among other stories discussing ethics and self-cultivation (ch. 3; Eno 1996, 137), reflects the socio-political order of Warring States China. Thus Cook Ding is a commoner not involved in the pursuit of politics, who conforms to Dao in whatever social level he finds himself (Brindley 2010, 59-60). He cooks, engaging in an activity that commonly serves as an image of social harmony, yet he works at the bottom of the social ladder. “Butchery is traditionally among the lowest professions in the long chain of activities, stretching from the slaughter of an animal to its sacrificial offering” (Graziani 2005, 64). The dismemberment of an animal is particularly gruesome and unclean—enhancing the starkness of the contrast to the ease and loftiness of the cook’s work. Duke Huan visiting the kitchen during the activity, too, is an anomaly. “Kings are not supposed to be running around in kitchens” (Graziani 2005, 67). The story echoes an episode in the Mengzi (1A7), where King Xuan of Qi “is shocked by the sight of a shivering sacrificial ox being carried to the offering of a ritual bell in a blood consecration” and replaces it with a sheep (2005, 68). In contrast to this sense of purity versus pollution, Dao in the Zhuangzi is literally everywhere, even in excrement (ch. 22; W 241) and can be found particularly in close contact with the physical realities of life. The Zen story of the Japanese master Dōgen 道元 (1200-1253) comes to mind here. When Dōgen arrives in China, his ship is held up by customs. His host monastery sends a delegation, whose leader turns out to be the cook. Dōgen is shocked at first, but through closer contact with the cook as well as through later practice comes to realize that true Zen happens in ordinary activity done to perfection (Kim 1975). The world of Cook Ding, unlike Confucianism but much like later Zen, is thus “an amoral world where the movement of the knife in the animal’s dead body is sustained by the free expression of spiritual impulse” (Graziani 2005, 68). This spiritual impulse, moreover, is not a transcendent, holy phenomenon but “emerges as a superior, more focused from of corporal activity” or technique (ji 技) (2005, 68; Billeter 1993). The conflict between Dao and technique, between life and completion (Møllgaard 2007, 39), so prominent in the story of Liezi and the shaman (ch. 7), the anecdote of Yan Yuan and the well-sweep (ch. 12), as


well as in the primitivist documents, is resolved here. Techniques both aid access to natural processes and dissolve in these processes as they are perfected, internalized, and naturalized. Methods of nourishing life and self-cultivation, by extension, have a role to play but cannot be used merely mechanically. The Cook Ding story furthermore reconciles several dimensions of life: the enclosed world of ceremonial rituals where spirits manifest themselves in response to food offerings; the world of self-cultivation adepts who put their energies into energy exercises; and the world of service, laborious, and repetitive activities in food production and processing (Graziani 2005, 70). Dao is in all three; one is not better, higher, or purer than another. We eat to live, we use energy to function, and we work with the spirits to enhance our lives. By the same token, skillful spontaneity in the Zhuangzi combines different aspects of being on a new level, joining the inner perfection of the flowing self and excellence in practical activities with the continuous cosmic presence of Dao in “rounded perfection” (Tong 2011, 94).

The Acquisition of Spontaneity To reach this fully integrated level, adepts pass through three stages, described in the words of the swimmer at Lüliang. “I began with my original ground (gu 故), grew in accordance with my inherent tendencies (xing), and let things come to completion in alignment with circumstantial trajectories (ming)” (ch. 19; W 205; Billeter 2010, 29). He further explains, “I was born on dry land and felt safe there—this is my original ground. I grew up with water and felt safe there—this constituted my inherent tendencies. I don’t know why I do what I do—this following circumstantial trajectories.” Zhang Zhan, the fourth-century Liezi commentator (see Kohn 2008b, 64-65; Stein 1999, 101), explains these three stages as “simplicity” (su 素), being unspoiled and unshaped; compliance (shun 順), going along with attraction and following inner urges; and naturalness (ziran), accepting circumstances and fluidly going along with them (Liezi, ch. 2; Graham 1960, 44; Moeller 2004a, 111-12). In other words, beginning with being grounded in concrete reality, facing the life we have in this world, we begin to discover what is right for us in accordance with our unique talents and abilities. Inevitably we are attracted to, or strongly resonate with, something we encounter— more so than with other things, and more so than other people. This happens most decisively with artists and musicians. Thus, for example, when Leonard Bernstein was ten years old, his family received a piano as


a gift from an aunt: he put his hands on the keys and knew that this was what he would do with the rest of his life (Humphrey 1994). Once attraction is established and a strong inner motivation found (Yearly 1996, 168), training sets in: technical knowledge and practical skills, teachers and lessons, repetition, habituation, and automatization (Billeter 2010, 56-57; Groves 2004, 203; Tong 2011, 97; see also Ryle 1949). This part of the process is the same as in all other training in the skills of life—physical coordination, social niceties, elementary and higher education, professional expertise (Yearley 1996, 168-70). However, it is not forced or pressured, felt to be a chore or necessary evil. Rather, the expansion of natural skills is a delight, a joy of discovery and exploration. It feels like growing into one’s own, mastering an ability deeply rooted within, bringing one’s inner truth to fruition, reaching far beyond ordinary skillfulness (Yearley 1996, 164). Still, as enjoyable as it may be, there is nothing spontaneous about training: perfection is the result of long and persistent effort (Eno 1996, 136; 1990, 171-80), so that, for example Cook Ding took nineteen years to reach his full competence (Fraser 2008, 146). Eventually we reach a level of expertise where the inherently anchored and thoroughly trained skill becomes spontaneous. The techniques have become second nature; they have been so deeply mastered that their motor execution requires no conscious attention (Eno 1996, 136). “Co-extensive with the continuum of vital energy” (Tong 2011, 98), they manifest easily under different circumstances and situations, far beyond our control and guided by the flow of life as destiny or circumstantial trajectories (Fraser 2008, 133). At this stage, our actions are determined by deeply rooted subconscious patterns and conditioned reflexes that are “the expression of both our inborn nature and of a long and good training . . . in timely cooperation with consciously willed actions” (Lukashevich 1987, 88; see also Fox 1996, 65).

The Skillful Mind The fully skillful mind contains both discriminative awareness and logical reasoning (Alt 2000; Barrett 2011). It maintains conscious, penetrating attention (Graham 2001, 13); it exercises clear intention, determined will, and functional knowledge (Fraser 2008, 131-32). Any self-consciousness, anxiety, or self-criticism, however, as well as all kinds of distractions through argumentation and analysis are eliminated (Alt 1991, 3-4). Working with effortless and consummate skill (Yearly 1996, 168), choosing the best available materials and co-workers, and making intelligent decisions about venues and situations—these are guided by intuition and the need


for unique expression, i. e., by a higher dimension than profit or practicality (Alt 1991, 9; Yearley 1996, 172). Skill mastery is intuitive, immediate, non-self-conscious, intimately aware, and highly sensitivity to context (Ames 1986, 344). “Our actions involve constant feedback mechanisms, which operate at such speed and accuracy that they resemble massive parallel processing in a computer. It is not that I should turn my mind off. The point is that a parallel processor now handles my walking, which once took my full concentration. It frees the central processing unit for other activities” (Hansen 1992, 302). The paradox of skill, then, is that we function best when we lose the “I” in the sense of the self-conscious critic. When the skill functions most effectively, it bypasses the central processor. It leaves the “me” out (1992, 303), allowing “instantaneous strategic adjustments” on all levels, mental, physical, and situational (Yearley 1996, 171-73; Berkson 2005, 310; Barrett 2011, 686). Knowledge in this state is fully integrated: the human and the heavenly, parts and the whole, form and formless, outside and inside, perception and conception, analysis and synthesis all form one system (Lukashevich 1987, 100). This skill-knowledge (Hansen 1975, 264-65) is practical, engaged, and immediate. It is a form of body thinking (Slingerland 2000, 295), a tacit non-cognitive knowing (Polanyi 1966; Eno 1996, 136). Rather than the active carrier of a skill or set of techniques, the person of skillful spontaneity becomes the vehicle or channel of its expression: art unfolds of itself, spirit moves, and perfection results—maker and made are one (Moeller 2004a, 114-15). Based on years of practice, this is neither the instinctual behavior of an animal nor the passive following of circumstances or yet the strange random actions of a madman (Groves 2006, 102). Instead, it is self-oblivion or unthought spontaneity in a setting of order and discipline, the ability to make strong decisions as an active agent in perfect harmony with existing circumstances and the overall flow of life. This is perfect creativity (Chang 1975; Csikszentmihalyi 1996). It represents ultimate attainment of full realization on all three levels: grounding/simplicity, inherent tendencies/compliance, and circumstantial trajectories/spontaneity in a state of utter freedom (Groves 2006, 103), not limited to any particular activity or artistry. “Zhuangzi admires skills but not any particular set” (Ivanhoe 1993, 651). He advocates going along with the “free and frictionless work of Dao,” allowing spirit to move through all dimensions and activities of life (Eno 1996, 127; Barrett 2011, 680). Thus he presents this as the ultimate, even normative, model of how to live in the world. Skillful spontaneity is significantly different from nonaction (Fraser 2008, 131). While the two have much in common, nonaction is an attitude to cultivate and attain a certain connection to spirit, a centeredness in


Dao, an acceptance of circumstances that is fundamental in the Zhuangzi as much as in all Daoist endeavors (Barrett 2011). Based on this attitude, you can begin to flow in life, to experience the smooth, harmonious interaction of self and cosmos in “free and easy wandering.” This, in turn, will put a smile on your face, make you feel light and free, joyful and exuberant, i.e., finding perfect happiness. But skillful spontaneity, while including all this, goes beyond. It means being thrilled and part of the flow of life while yet using all the different levels of the mind— unconscious, subconscious, conscious, and superconscious—that each reflect a different dimension of the brain.

Mind and Brain Among these different levels, the unconscious mind is the most basic. It matches the oldest part of the brain, sometimes called the reptilian brain, located in the brainstem, the cerebellum, and next to the limbic system. Active since the first vertebrates crawled over the planet, it contains basic movement coordination and posture control as well as the instincts that keep us fed and watered, satisfied and rested. It is also responsible for the management of the autonomic nervous system in control of the inner organs and of breathing as well as of activity and rest (Burrow 1964; Ratey 2002). The subconscious mind is a slightly higher function of the brain. Associated largely with the right hemisphere, the anterior cingulate gyrus, and the hippocampus, it contains memories, emotional connections, and ingrained belief systems. Of high plasticity, it works to protect the body and will reject any suggestions not considered beneficial but can be reached through imagery, metaphors, and music, being particularly open to visualizations. This part of the mind manages habits and automated responses to certain situations and holds the emotions, both in their raw forms and in memory of previous experiences (Murphy 1963). The conscious mind is the command center, an informationprocessing system located in the upper reaches of the brain, to a large extent housed in the left hemisphere as well as in the prefrontal cortex. It includes the language center, the critical faculty of reason, and the decision-making processes. It protects the person by rational analysis and classification of information, alerting him or her to dangers, and rejecting ideas that seem impossible or useless. It works with set patterns that create projections of ideal or fearful situations, often distorting actual facts, then sends signals to all other agencies in the bodymind to either excite or inhibit their actions. Yet it also includes the ability to


focus intelligently on one issue or the other, enabling us to think clearly and make positive decisions (Farthing 1992). Each of these levels vibrates at a different frequency, measured in brainwaves. While the conscious mind works largely in beta waves (12-35 Hz), the main mode in adults, when quieted down and allowing the subconscious to work undisturbed, its rhythm changes to alpha (8-12 Hz). This is the dominant state in children between ages seven and twelve; it is also the prime brainwave level in basic meditation. Meditative absorption, hypnosis, and the mind in children between the ages of two to six are characterized by theta waves (4-8 Hz). They indicate a deeply calm yet aware state, in which the subconscious is open and its patterns come to the fore (Billeter 2008, 235; 2010, 34). Less frequent in deep meditation but common in children under age two are delta waves (½-4 Hz), usually associated with deep sleep and hypnagogic states: people in this state appear unconscious yet can perceive sensory stimuli (Bentov 1977; Buzsáki 2006). The mind of skillful spontaneity works in alpha or theta waves, quiet and serene but alert and ready. It also centers on the subconscious, which is about a million times more powerful than the conscious mind, but does not eliminate or eschew it completely—activating it as and when necessary but not being seduced or controlled by it. In addition, the skillful mind opens the subconscious to the superconscious—God, universe, original oneness, cosmic consciousness. This level of life supports our expansion in love, oneness, truth, and beauty. Ken Wilber calls it “prepersonal heaven,” a preconsciousness before humanity perceived its existence as separate from nature and the creator (1980; 1981)— strongly reminiscent of Zhuangzi’s “perfect knowledge” or “complete merging” (ch. 2). Living in such a way that we allow this transpersonal consciousness—what the Zhuangzi calls spirit, heaven, or Dao—to play in our lives, we can recover original heaven in a healthy manner and attain harmony, oneness, and union in skillful spontaneity.

Situational Dynamics The prime function of skillful spontaneity always occurs in close connection to the concrete events and situations of daily life. The dominant way of understanding reality in ancient China did not follow a linear or causal model, according to which events succeed each other in one-on-one sequence and are logically and temporally related. Dominant in Western thinking, this follows Aristotle’s statement that “we never reckon that we understand a thing until we give an account of its how and why, that is, of its first cause” (Jullien 1995, 219).


Without completely ignoring the causal relationship, Chinese thinking “resorts to it only in the framework of the experience taking place in front of us, where its impact is immediate” (1995, 220). Rather than seeing events and experiences unfolding in “a chain of immediate causes and effects” and more in line with the idea of synchronicity as developed by Carl Jung (1955), the Chinese have, from the earliest times, understood reality as “change in a diagrammatic configuration” (Vander-meersch 1980, 2:267). They speak of “time” (shi 時), “place” (chu 處), and “circumstances” (shi 勢) (Eno 1996, 137). Shi originally indicated “strategic advantage” in a military context (Ames 1983, 65); it is a key term expressing “the particular configuration (disposition, arrangement),” tendency, or “propensity” of reality in an inherently dynamic process (Jullien 1995, 12, 221). For the Chinese, reality is not so much a firm set-up of things but the fluid configuration (Ames 1983, 67) of “a system according to which things function” (Jullien 1995, 221). They look at “the implications of tendencies” rather than at causes and effects—replacing the idea of “effect” with that of “efficacy,” the force created by the dynamics of a specific set of circumstances (1995, 178). Shi, in other words, is the particular “dynamic tendency stemming from a situation” (Jullien 1995, 182), the overall “lay of the land” (Eno 1996, 137), the inherent “potential of a situation” (Møllgaard 2007, 40) in a world that is essentially “a field of flux” (Eno 1996, 139). The concept is activated to great acclaim in the military, politics, and arts of traditional China (Jullien 1995). More specifically, shi designates the combined circumstances of one’s personal situation as embedded in material reality, geographical conditions, social forces, and overall cultural patterns that determine what attractors may come into one’s life, how much training may be available, and what chances there are for performing to one’s best abilities. As Malcolm Gladwell says in Outliers, “People don’t rise from nothing . . . It makes a difference where and we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievements” (2008, 17). Skillful spontaneity, then, means the integration of two abilities: first, to correctly read—intuit and interpret—the dynamics of any given situation; and second, to act in precise response to it, with “perfect awareness, full comprehension, and perfect execution of action” (Eno 1996, 137). As Alasdair Macintyre puts it, it is the ability to “come to terms with and make oneself fully adequate to the existence and properties of some set of objects” (1990, 68; Slingerland 2000, 314). It is thus both analytical and intuitive, receptive and active, being carried along by the flow of the world and working closely in accordance with it (Møllgaard 2007, 40).


The Zhuangzi expresses the skillful relationship to dynamic reality mostly with the term “destiny” or circumstantial trajectories, and only uses shi occasionally in the Miscellaneous chapters. The most detailed discussion occurs in the “Xu Wugui” chapter (ch. 21), where the text points out how people in different walks of life are “penned in” by circumstances: courtiers, politicians, military, lawyers, poets, philosophers, farmers, merchants, artisans, commoners, wealthy men, and those of ambition. Servants to circumstances and things, they delight in change, and if the moment comes when they can put their natural endowments to use, then they cannot maintain nonaction. In this way they all follow along with the turning years, letting themselves be changed by things. (ch. 24; W 266)

By the same token, the soaring monkeys have a grand old time when they can swing in tall trees, but are reduced to carefully feeling their way when all they have to work with are low bushes and brambles (ch. 20; W 216). Confucius, too, is subject to the propensity of things: “For a long time, I have tried to stay out of the way of hardship. That I have not managed to escape it is due to destiny. Similarly, I have tried to achieve success. That I have not been able to do so is due to the times” (ch. 17; W 184). The “man of great completion,” on the other hand, “flows with Dao and does not rest in brightness, moves with virtue and does not dwell in fame,” instead getting rid of merit and reputation, “wiping out his tracks and letting go of propensity” (ch. 20; W 214). He will not fall victim to their seduction: “He may wield all the power of the Son of heaven and not lord it over others” (ch. 29; W 337). A master of skillful spontaneity, he lives and works closely with the existing circumstances, appreciating their impact while remaining true to himself. He accepts what he cannot change, yet is never passive or a mere slave of the times (Jullien 2004, 61). He evaluates circumstances in an attitude of nonaction and relaxes into himself when they have nothing to offer, but acts positively and strongly when they provide an opening for the fuller expression and expansion of his uniqueness (Billeter 2010, 42). Skillful spontaneity is, therefore, a subtle balancing act between being driven by circumstances and pushing against them, relaxing into doing nothing and seeking opportunities. The true master, the highly skilled person of the Zhuangzi is clearly aware of his inborn tendencies and talents, finds time and place and social support to train them to perfection, then uses them dynamically as circumstances warrant—flowing but also steering, enjoying but also performing.

Chapter Twenty-one Contemporary Philosophy The same high level of personal competence and expertise, expressed in quite similar terms, in modern days plays a strong role in the educational philosophy of John Dewey (1859-1952). Born and raised in Burlington, Vermont he went to college there and became a high school teacher for a time. He then attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore where he received a Ph. D. in philosophy in 1884. After teaching at the University of Michigan, he moved to the University of Chicago in 1894, and there initiated the experimental Laboratory Schools. In 1901, after some controversy about the schools, he became professor at Columbia University in New York, from where he retired in 1930. He spent two years in China (1919-1921), giving hundreds of lectures on proper ways of schooling, which had a great impact on the development of modern Chinese education (see Boisvert 1997; Campbell 1971; Festenstein 2005; Ames and Hall 1987, 329). Without any direct influence from Chinese thought, his educational philosophy closely echoes the Zhuangzi, especially in his emphasis on learning through doing and in his vision of flowing action, a “readiness for change and adaptation in the face of obstacles and novelty” (Fraser 2006, 535). The goal of proper learning for Dewey is to achieve a level of competence where—very much like Cook Ding—one engages in a wellinformed, smooth-running activity, without any separation of how or what, using reflective, critical awareness only at problematic junctures (Behuniac 2010, 164). Yet even then the activity does not cease, but seamlessly flows under a slightly more conscious guidance, continuously “responding with awareness” (Graham 2010, 12). In Democracy and Education (1916), he further describes this ideal form of human activity as having four traits: directness, i.e., the immediate and absorptive concern for the subject matter; open-mindedness, i.e., the readiness to welcome and incorporate suggestions; single-mindedness or whole-heartedness, i. e., complete focus on the task with no ulterior aims; and responsibility, i.e., a proper consideration and acceptance 220


of the consequences of one’s actions (1916, ch. 13; Behuniac 2010, 168). The state involves a creative and positive interaction between intuition and conscious awareness, between absorption into the task and responsible choices, between being expert in certain techniques and open to new ways of responding to the world (Fraser 2006, 529; Ames and Hall 1987, 77). Dewey further acknowledges that skill training has to be both general and individual—providing a firm basis of widely used techniques within the person that serves as a point of departure for more personalized levels of expertise. It is dangerous to remain with the general since, without proper regard for unique abilities and conditions, rote learning and mechanical practice quickly become boring: “A uniform method for all breeds mediocrity” (Behuniac 2010, 167, 169). Personalized learning, on the other hand, helps people to make the practice their own, giving rise to techniques that are uniquely individual—always fresh, always creative, deeply imbued with spiritual and moral values (2010, 171).

Pragmatism and Semiotics John Dewey with his focus on the connection of practice and theory was a representative of the philosophical school of pragmatism. Striving to reform philosophy in the light of the natural sciences, this works with the central maxim that one should always consider the practical effects of concepts and work with experimental mental reflection, finding conceivable tests for one’s assumptions. This, in turn, means that all assumptions should be regarded as temporary and provisional: any category taken for granted creates fixed mental patterns that overlook the original use, purpose, and specific function of the object, activity, or institution in question (Hookway 2008). This fundamental mistrust of categories connects pragmatism to semiotics, the study of signs and the structure of interpretation: any word or classification used (the signifier) stands in a close relationship to the event that gave rise to it as well as to the understanding of reality it creates (the signified) (Coutinho 2004, 51). Since reality is thus made up of a triadic relationship between events, consciousness, and language, it is a constantly shifting phenomenon that tends to produce its own dynamic: words continue to refer to other words in a closed network, propositions and beliefs become self-proving in a hermeneutic circle (Grange 2005, 172). The term pragmatism was made popular by William James (18421910) in a lecture series in 1907, based on the maxim and philosophy developed by Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) (see Fox 2002). Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts as the son of a Harvard professor of astronomy and mathematics, he attended Harvard to receive a Ph. D. in chemis-


try in 1863. He spent his professional career working for the US Coastal Survey, undertaking measurements and geodetic evaluations while continuing his studies of and writing various articles. In 1879, he was appointed part-time lecturer in logic at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore where he published his first book in 1883. Dismissed from the Coastal Survey in 1891, he lived on a rural estate in Pennsylvania, studying and writing in relative isolation and increasing poverty (Burch 2010). His main contribution to the study of semiotics is his theory of the process of sign-making in three levels. Firstness is the spontaneous unfolding of events in the world, the creative expression of its natural sobeing; it gives rise to a matching image he calls “icon.” Secondness is the recognition of otherness, the realm of conflict and resistance, when the smoothness of flow is impeded; he describes this as the level of “index.” Thirdness is the stage of the “sign” proper, the fully developed symbol or way a community interprets experience, which in turn creates a specific cultural expression of activity, leading to a particular unfolding of events in the world (Grange 2005, 172-73). There is nothing fixed or solid about this process: signs keep changing as they relate to reality. Reality itself is shifting and changing at all times. However, cultures tend to strive for stability, creating habitual and standardized patterns of life in ethics, aesthetics, religion, science, politics, and so on. This soon becomes stifling and restrictive. But then, every so often an upsurge of novelty happens, the spontaneity of Firstness raises its head and the cycle begins anew (2005, 174). Semiotics with its vision of signifier and signified being interdependent and concrete reality a continuously shifting phenomenon that can only be interpreted but never firmly grasped close echoes the vision of life, language, and knowledge in the Zhuangzi. Here, too, life is understood as spontaneous so-being, in constant flux and ongoing change; language is made up of mutually dependent opposites and words that randomly point to certain features, yet in their very pointing are already obsolete; and knowledge is but an illusion that limps behind experience never able to catch or even approximate it (Grange 2005, 175). A somewhat different expression of the same idea appears in the thought of Richard Rorty (1931-2007). Born and raised in New York City, he received his Ph. D. from Yale University in 1956, then taught at Princeton for two decades before moving on to the University of Virginia and Stanford University (Ramberg 2007). His main work, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), describes modern science—as much as any conceptual framework of reality—as a set of working diagrams that create a world of mere representations. Reality is not determinate and cannot be expressed; there is no thing as such (Ding an sich). The only things we can hold on to are representations, metaphors that create logical space and provide an illusion of knowledge (Lee 1996, 176-77). The per-


sonal self accordingly is a “tissue of contingencies,” subject to cultural commensurability—the various shared values, assumptions, and norms created by communities (Lee 1996, 182; see also Ames and Hall 1987, 38; Huang 2009). Again, this bears strong similarities to the Zhuangzi, which exults figures such as the Peng bird and the perfected who are not tied to the restrictions of ordinary and mundane conceptual bounds, but who are truly themselves, unconventional, eccentric, aware of the representational structure of reality but not bound by it (1996, 185-87).

Analytic Philosophy In an effort to further clarify the relationship between signs and reality, analytic philosophy focuses on conceptual clarification and logical argumentation, striving to illuminate the way thinking works with logical positivism and a deep respect for science (Coutinho 2004, 50). Its main representative is Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), born in Vienna as the son of a Jewish industrialist family—the second richest in Europe after the Rothschilds. Wishing to make his sons into successful entrepreneurs, his father was a harsh perfectionist, causing the death of Ludwig’s two older brothers (by suicide and misadventure) when he was in his teens. Getting away from the family, he attended boarding school in Linz. He was an unsociable, mediocre student who had no faith in God or human goodness. To please his father, he studied engineering, first in Berlin, then in Manchester, where he got interested in the foundations of mathematics. In 1911, he became the student of Bertrand Russell at Cambridge and turned fully to philosophy. After serving in the Austrian army during World War I, he returned to Vienna to train as a high school teacher and also worked a bit as a gardener. In 1929, he received a fellowship at Cambridge, where he remained for the rest of his life, obtaining British citizenship (Nieli 1987; Biletzki and Matar 2009). For many years, he struggled with insanity, suicide, depression, and obsession, fighting personal demons as much as philosophical conundrums (Sorajjakool 2011, 734). Wittgenstein’s main philosophical focus is the relation of perception, knowledge, language, and the external world. Like Peirce and Rorty, he begins with the assumption that “all is but a bundle of perception—it is here but we cannot really know it” (Sorajjakool 2011, 730)—that the external world is a given form of life which cannot ultimately be known (Wohlfart 2012, 12). All science is essentially a set of propositions accepted by the scientific community, theories that satisfy needs of the culture at a certain time. The idea that the earth orbits around the sun is more convenient these days than it was 500 years ago, accepted as “truth” but in fact just speculation—just like the story in the Zhuangzi where the


monkeys are upset when their nut ration is “three in morning” and happy when it is four. Similarly, the so-called laws of nature are merely the result of inductive reasoning: “There is no logical compulsion for things to be as they are or act as they do” (Wu 1986, 386, 388). Language in this context is a specific human action that forms an essential part of world-making (Billeter 2010, 26). Inculturated into their language and the way it represents reality, people tend to forget that there are other possible ways of seeing and working with things. In fact, they are always limited and categorized by their specific conceptuallinguistic framework (Wu 1986, 389). Philosophy in this context is “a struggle against the bewitchment of our understanding by means of our language” (Wittgenstein 1958, 47). Wittgenstein engages in this struggle by dividing language logically into two levels: names pointing directly to certain objects or elementary propositions that have logical structure and create a representational anatomy of reality; and the realm beyond where thought reaches its limits and language either becomes nonsensical or falls silent (Sorajjakool 2011, 731-32; Tominaga 1983, 133, 138). The last sentence in his Tractatus logico-philosophicus is accordingly, “What one cannot speak of one must remain silent of” (1961, 151). The realm beyond language for Bertrand Russell is the mystical; for Wittgenstein it is deep silence, pure experience, the absorption in the present moment (Allinson 2007, 98). His goal, then, is to become attuned to the world and “leave everything as it is,” to “bring philosophy to a stop and remain in the ordinary” (Sorajjakool 2011, 233-34; Tominaga 1983, 134-35). In both his fundamental understanding of reality and language as well as in his emphasis on silence and the present moment, Wittgenstein has close resemblances to the Zhuangzi, which similarly encourages immediate experience (Sorajjakool 2011, 728), insists on multiple perspectives, and bemoans the limitations of culture and ordinary knowledge (Wu 1986, 387). On the other hand, the Zhuangzi transcends Wittgenstein in that it transcends language non-linguistically, goes beyond the limitations of logic and consciousness, and opens ways of living fully in nonduality and unknowing (Allinson 2007, 98, 104). The dominant figure in analytic philosophy since the late 20th century has been Hilary Putnam (b. 1926), born in Chicago as the son of a scholar of Romance languages. The family lived in France until 1934, when they returned to the US and moved to Philadelphia. He earned a B.A. in mathematics there, then studied philosophy at Harvard, graduating in 1951. After teaching at several schools, he received a professorship at Harvard in 1965. Active both for civil rights and in the Jewish revival, he was a member of the Progressive Labor Party for a decade. He retired from active teaching in 2009, continuing to write and lead seminars (Hickey 2009).


Following Wittgenstein, Putnam finds that all thinking is imprisoned in a particular view point but also acknowledges that understanding has a firm logical structure (Lee 1998, 448). An advocate of direct or internal realism, he contends that there is no thing as such and that all reality is mediated by signs, which do not intrinsically respond to objects. Objects in turn do not exist independently of conceptual schemes but are understood in their particular usage through difference to others (Putnam 1981, 49-50). For him, truth depends on reference, which depends on causation—but not in a single, linear, predictable manner. Since causation is radically perspectival, truth too is a matter of perspective and all reality is internal to one’s view point (Putnam 1983, 205-28). The most radical thought experiment Putnam proposes in this context is the hypothetical situation of a disembodied “brain in a vat” of nutrient fluids, hooked up to a computer that informs and stimulates it (1981, 1-21). If the brain says of itself, “I am a brain in a vat,” it creates a perspectival image of itself that is based on unique electrical impulses received from the physical presence of the computer. While there is a real world behind it, it cannot properly perceive it and only responds to the stimuli it receives, living entirely in the image it creates. Its empirical “I” is thus limited to a world defined by internally perceived, and thus subjective and transitory, references. Real existence cannot be known or established (Han 2010, 161-64). Putnam’s position echoes Zhuangzi’s butterfly dream where nothing provides a reference beyond the subjective experience of the dreamer, whether as human or butterfly (Han 2010, 165). It also matches its understanding, as expressed most vividly in the story of “three in the morning,” that nothing natural can provide the basis of a coherent and stable standpoint (Lee 1998, 452-55). The text, moreover, repeatedly emphasizes that human perspectives are controlled by language, which in itself is relative and depends on the mutual interaction of opposites. As Chad Hansen says, using Peirce’s terminology, “all language is indexical” (Hansen 1992, 282). On the other hand, the Zhuangzi does not conclude that all reality is perspectival and allows for a dimension beyond perception and perspective, in a realm of heaven or Dao that can be described as mystical (Lee 1998, 458-61), from where a transcendental “I” can be the subject of all experiences (Han 2010, 166).

Phenomenology Inheriting the semiotic understanding of the world as representation, phenomenology studies the structure of subjective experience and consciousness, striving to uncover the deepest significance of the various aspects of human experience (Coutinho 2004, 48). Working closely with


perceptions, emotions, judgments, and memories, it engages in a systematic reflection of the essential properties and structures of experience. It was founded by the mathematician and philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938). Born and raised in Bohemia (Czech Republic), he studied in Vienna, Leipzig, and Berlin, and served as professor in Göttingen and Freiburg. In the latter location, he became the teacher of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), whose thought was influenced by Daoist concepts, notably nonbeing and emptiness as described in the Daode jing (Wohlfart 2003, 52; Pöggeler 1987, 50; Zhang 2004, 80-81; Hsiao 1987, 97; Zhao 2012, 149), and bears a close resemblance to the Zhuangzi. Heidegger was born in the small town of Meßkirch in southern Germany as the son of a Catholic sexton. After graduating from the local high school, he attended the University of Freiburg to study theology but soon shifted to philosophy, receiving his Ph. D. in 1916. He served in World War I and, in 1919, obtained a position as academic assistant to Husserl in Freiburg, followed by an appointment as extraordinary professor at the University of Marburg in 1923. After the 1927 publication of Being and Time (Sein und Zeit; 1962a), he returned to Freiburg as Husserl’s successor. Although he joined the National Socialist Party, Hitler’s regime objected to his thinking, and Heidegger was prevented from publishing but, due to his ostensible support, allowed to continue teaching. He underwent denazification in 1946-1949 and, after being classified as a Mitläufer (“hanger on”), reinstated in his professorship. He taught at the University of Freiburg until his retirement in 1958, then continued to write and lecture independently (Ott 1994; Wheeler 2011). Heidegger was not only familiar with Daoism but deeply appreciated its vision and concepts. Together with Paul Shih-yi Hsiao he worked on a German translation of the Daode jing (Hsiao 1987) and was familiar with the Zhuangzi in the German rendition of selected stories by the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber (1878-1965) (1910; Engl.: Buber 1991; Herman 1996). Fascinated by Chinese ghost stories, he saw Zhuangzi like a Hasidic rabbi, full of spirituality yet playfully returning to the ordinary world, able to “harmonize the greatest transformation with fullest unity,” to actualize the transcendent in the immanent (Nelson 2013b, 5-6, 9). He felt that the Daoist approach to life had much to offer modern man, alienated by science and technology and badly in need of a new dialogue with nature and a more affective rather than analytical language (Nelson 2013b, 13, 15). These features also play a role in Heidegger, whose thought centers on the nature and manifestation of Being (Sein) in beings (Seiendes)


(Heidegger 1962a; Fu 1976, 115).1 Being is the Simple or the Selfsame, the origin of the One, nonbeing, the invisible—”the unspoken of language, the spontaneous that takes abode in man” (Maxia 1986, 446). It assembles in the world, in space and time, as Dasein, literally “being there,” the basic everydayness of life (Parkes 1987b, 111; 2003, 24). Being needs this being there (Da-) to be truly itself, continuously changing and “growing,” always coming into presence (Maxia 1986, 449). Heidegger describes this process of coming into being there with the word Ereignis, literally “event” (Fu 1976, 116, 137). Ereignis occurs spontaneously, as the natural unfolding in the coming together of Being, things, and thoughts, without the need for a past understanding of Being (Parkes 2003, 23). Devoid of content, it is pure function; ahistorical, it is without destiny; ever shifting, it is constantly new. While Ereignis singularizes itself in particular things in the larger context of the world, it cannot be mastered or transcended: it is what it is (Owens 1990, 238-39). Being in-between, Ereignis signifies an openness to which man belongs, an empty space that is foundational as well as innerworldly and most ordinary, like a forest clearing (Burik 2010, 508; Pöggeler 1987, 67). In this space, human beings as part of the ongoing process of eventing form part of Being and are intrinsically open to it. However, due to increasing mechanization and technology, they have been become fragmented and pathless (Parkes 2003, 28; Na and Huang 2008, 160). As a result, the Simple, instead of serving as a source of inspiration and connection, flees direct presencing and appears monotonous and wearisome. To remedy this, people should return to their inherent “self-belonging” and live simply and modestly (Parkes 2003, 21, 25) to thereby find Gelassenheit, literally “letting be in so-ness,” a mental attitude of calmness, composure, and patience that leaves one in the total presence of things, disengaged and free from attachment, content to “stay with what lies near” (Burik 2010, 512; Owens 1990, 243; Nelson 2013b, 14; Parkes 1987b, 131; 2003, 34; Stambaugh 1987, 86). Connecting this vision to the Zhuangzi, there are distinct similarities to Dao and natural spontaneity (Fu 1976, 118-26; Owens 1990, 235; Stambaugh 1987, 81-82), the overall realistic approach to nature and respect for it, the understanding of life as constant change and of human beings as being part of larger whole, as well as to the letting go of all in nonaction (Maxia 1986, 448, 451; Parkes 2003, 22, 26; Parkes 1987b, 110). Zhuangzi’s free and easy wandering, moreover, is echoed in Heidegger’s appreciation of, and gentle walking over, the fieldpath in his hometown. As he describes it in Der Feldweg (1953a), this is a beautiful nature trail 1 An extensive discussion of Heidegger and Zhuangzi appears in Huang 2006. A thorough philosophical evaluation of the Zhuangzi from a Heideggerian perspective, focusing on Being (zai 在), is found in Yang 2007.


conducive to relaxing body and mind in communion with nature. Wandering here, just as in the Zhuangzi, is a state where one is “growing” in the sense of being open to the heavens and taking root in the darkness of the earth—a state where Being or the Simple can again be heard (Maxia 1986, 446-47). Another common point is Heidegger’s understanding of language (1962b; Parkes 2003, 6). Distinguished in the two dimensions of Sprache (language) and Sprechen (speech), language is the audible expression of human feelings accompanied by thoughts, a social act that represents a certain scene and frame of mind, such as Ein Winterabend by Georg Trakl (Heidegger 1962b, 17-18; Na and Huang 2008, 151-54). Tending to fixate meanings and patterns, it yet also has the potential to overcome the onto-theo-logical thinking that has dominated Western thought for the past two millennia (Fu 1978, 301-03). A new form of language that is more poetic, more dynamic, and more primordial can break through established restrictions and overcome the separation of subject and object, evoking feelings and memories, and thus opening to the realm of Being by thinking and experiencing in new ways (Na and Huang 2008, 152; Ames and Hall 1987, 38). Heidegger’s language, much like that of the Zhuangzi, employs poetry and mythical images, uses arguments and ideas, works with paradoxes and neologisms, and encourages its reader to go beyond and forget it, in a “silence about silence” or by listening to the “sound of silence” (Heidegger 1962b, 30; Fu 1978, 321-26; Maxia 1986, 451). Just like the Zhuangzi employs goblet words, Heidegger creates verbs from nouns to express the dynamic of Being’s presencing—Die Sprache spricht (language speaks) (Heidegger 1962b, 13); das Nichts nichtet (nothingness nothings) (Heidegger 1953b, 178)—and uses words in their more literal, direct sense—e. g., Aus-einander-setzung (con-front-ation)—freeing them from their traditional conceptual and referential baggage (Burik 2010, 507, 510; see also Chan 2011, 22). Thereby Heidegger, as much as the Zhuangzi, opens up new ways of thinking and being.

Deconstructionism Another way to find new modes of experience and philosophy is through deconstructionism. Also called post-structuralism, it moves beyond the hard-core structuralism of the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009), which claims that there are universal structures of consciousness and classification underlying all human thinking and culture. These underlying structures find unique expression and particular cultural significance in different societies and historical periods, giving rise to particular symbol systems that determine the specific meaning of each


individual element. All meaning is, therefore, a function of structure, but it is not random or indeterminate; rather, it can be reconnected to the underlying source pattern through structural analysis (Coutinho 2004, 57; Shepherd 2007, 228). Denying the existence of any underlying structures or Being, deconstructionism aims to derail the presupposition of concrete, factual “presence” and unsettle the apparent stability of meaning (Coutinho 2004, 58). It strives to expose the inherent contradictions of all conventional signatory systems (Yeh 1983, 100), breaking through the traditional hierarchical order of true versus false, up versus down, God versus world (Shang 2006, 139). Its starting point is the semiotics of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), who recognized language—the sumtotal of all signs as relational units—as an essential human instrument of world-building. Like Heidegger, he distinguished language (langue) from speech (parole), but then understood it dualistically as consisting of the signifier (word, symbol, sign) and the signified (thought, idea, object)— whose relationship is entirely arbitrary yet logically structured (Berkson 1996, 104; Chien 1990, 39; Shepherd 2007, 228; Yeh 1983, 98). The leading thinker of deconstructionism is Jacques Derrida (19302004), born as the son of Jewish merchants in a suburb of Algiers, Algeria, then a French colony. When he was ten years old, the government adopted anti-semitism as its main policy and expelled Jews from educational institutions. Removed from his familiar school and taunted by his former friends, he developed a strong social awareness and inherent sense of justice. In 1949, he went to Paris to study philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure, the home of many leading thinkers of the time, including his teacher, the cultural critic Michel Foucault (1926-1986). The latter is best known for “exposing the dominating, normalizing, and oppressing purposes of the power/knowledge apparatuses in Western societies” in search of a greater and more authentic freedom of the self (Zhao 2012, 140; see Foucault 1970). Derrida earned his degree in 1952 and soon became a teacher at the École. In 1983, he was appointed as director of Studies in Philosophy at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, from where he retired in 1995, continuing to give seminars and lectures world-wide (Lawler 2011). There are many parallels between Derrida’s deconstructionism and the thought of the Zhuangzi. Both oppose established traditions (logocentrism) and conventional thinking, pursue radical uncertainty, subvert established values to enhance liberation, refuse to create a set philosophical system or school, aim at personal and social freedom, focus on language and its role in shaping mind and thought, write in provocative or even eccentric ways, and have exerted considerable influence on successive generations (Yeh 1983, 95-96; Shepherd 2007, 236-39).


Building on Foucault’s maxim that all truth is plural and historically contingent and on de Saussure’s observation that all thinking consists of nothing but differences, Derrida concludes that nothing is simply present but all depends on different relations (Owens 1993, 269; Shang 2006, 143). All language and texts are the sites of an infinite play of signs, the listener or reader being the active producer of specific combinations and thus the creator of all meaning—forever personal, forever new, forever changing (Berkson 1996, 103, 122). Derrida describes human worldmaking as the “systematic play of differences, or the traces of differences, of the spacing by means of which elements are related to each other” (Derrida 1981, 27; Shepherd 2007, 229; Burik 2010, 509-11). To distinguish this play or spacing of differences from ordinary differences, he calls it différance—using a word that has the same pronunciation in French as différence while playing on the multiple layers of its root differer: On the one hand, it [differer] indicates difference [to differ] as distinction, inequality or discernibility; on the other, it expresses the interposition of delay [to defer], the interval of a spacing and temporalizing that puts off until ‘later’ what is presently denied, the possible that is presently impossible. (Derrida 1973, 136; Cheng 1990, 20; Kamuf 1991, 61; Yeh 1983, 106).

Derrida’s central concept of différance is in many ways close to Dao in the Zhuangzi. 2 Like Dao, it designates “productive and primordial causality,” points to a “continuous process of scission and division,” and constitutes the infinite and active core of differing. It signifies the “indeterminate state of neutrality between activity and passivity;” yet it comprehends both in “an operation that is not an operation,” an action that is not an action, a word that is not a word, and so on (Derrida 1973, 137; Cheng 1990, 21). Encompassing both being and nonbeing, it is at the origin yet coexists, is soundless and shapeless, and manifests in a continuous transitional process (Cheng 1990, 23-26; Chien 1990, 41; Owens 1993, 267). As he says, Différance is not simply active. It rather indicates the middle voice; it precedes and sets up the opposition between passivity and activity. With its a, différance refers to what in classical language would be called the origin or production of differences, and the differences between differences, the play of differences. (Derrida 1973, 130; Kamuf 1991, 64; Yeh 1983, 107)

To activate différance, one must maintain openness, acknowledging that it is impossible to close the network, stop its continuous fabrication, or 2 The connection between différance and Dao is explored in Berkson, 1996, 120; Cheng 1990, 19-22; Chien 1990, 36-38; Graham 1989, 227; Owens 1993, 261-67; Shang 2006, 139-41; Shepherd 2007, 229; Yeh 1983, 106-14.


trace a margin around it. One must forget all thinking and let go—as in Zhuangzi’s oblivion and Heidegger’s Gelassenheit—to flow in free play, freely using myth, metaphor, paradox, and absurdity (Yeh 1983, 114, 117). Like Buddhist Mādhyamika allowing “both-and” as well as “neither-nor,” one no longer makes choices between different lines of thought but accepts that everything is neither self-caused nor other-caused, that all concepts and utterances reflect the originating factor in a multiple layer of mirrors (Chien 1990, 38; Magnolia 1984, 102, 105). Despite all these similarities, there is a profound difference in that “Derrida leaves us with only the negative picture, while the Zhuangzi opens up the potential of better living,” providing a soteriology, a way out, a new vision of what life could be like” (Berkson 1996, 120). Using deconstruction as destruction or demolition (Shepherd 2007, 235), “Derrida teaches a skillful form of reading in order to undermine, call into question, and subvert. Zhuangzi works to undermine rational modes of thought in order to allow one to reach a state of skillful living” (Berkson 1996, 221). The ancient Chinese thinker thus moves beyond the modern philosopher, toward “freeing the deconstructionist from getting stuck in the discourse of deconstruction so that he could experience Dao” (1996, 120) and come to live fully in skillful spontaneity.

Chapter Twenty-two Ethical Living Having attained a state of skillful spontaneity and experiencing the flow of life in accordance with his inborn abilities and the prevailing social circumstances, the perfected person in the Zhuangzi is also an ethical being, subscribing to certain key moral values and ideals (Møllgaard 2003, 348). At the center of these, representing the core of normativity and serving as the mainstay of all actions, is the greater universe, the cosmos itself—unlike in other ethical systems where state or society, family or self may be central (Lee 2000, 526-27; 2014). In the Zhuangzi, as much as in later Daoism, the universe functions in perfect harmony and is fundamentally good (Huang 2010b, 1053). Created in a series of transformations without a radical break (see Girardot 2009; Le Blanc 1987; Major 1993), it manifests itself in a wondrous combination of manifold forces that ideally work together to create superior harmony for the greater good of all. Thereby they constitute a cosmos of perfect goodness, described in ancient and religious sources as the state of great peace, when qi flows smoothly and communications are open on all levels—natural, spiritual, economic, physiological, and especially political and social (Kaltenmark 1979; Hendrischke 2006). The goodness of the cosmos is not originally an ethical goodness that can be expressed in sets of rules and enforced by laws and other restraints. It goes beyond human morality because it is cosmic and natural, and both cosmos and nature at times act in ways that look cruel and unjust to humans (Kohn 2004, 13). “Heaven and earth are not benevolent,” the Daode jing says (ch. 6); they do not have a set of values that can be defined or to which they can be held. Yet they contain an overarching blueprint of life, of which each being forms a particular aspect. In humans, the cosmic blueprint appears as inherent tendencies and circumstantial trajectories (Huang 2010a, 77; 2010b, 1060), manifestation of the forces of “nature, heaven, and Dao” we cannot change but relate to only by subordination (Schofer 2005, 284; Fox 2002, 85). Each being, “ontologically equal because it is formed as a result of a process of self- and mutu232


al transformation” (Ip 1983, 339), thus contains the universe in its core, the seed that allows it to become perfectly and uniquely itself. As all beings, including humans, share the inherent goodness of the cosmos (Wu 1982, 128), they feel a sense of well-being and inner harmony when they are fully connected to it, what the Zhuangzi calls perfect happiness. This inner well-being, moreover, can be described in ethical terms and specific virtues: it includes things like honesty, compassion, and respect. Morality thus forms part of the cosmic harmony the perfected embody, and their being in the world increases the ethical quality of life around them. Nevertheless, the perfected are not per se moral, but rather transmoral or supramoral, “moral fools” who do not make deliberate, conscious moral judgments (Moeller 2009, 35). Rather, spontaneously realizing “great benevolence,” they go beyond the demands of human society in a spontaneous sense of cosmic oneness (Chen 2010, 69; Kohn 2002a, 289). Later rules and precepts of the Daoist religion echo this cosmocentric approach (Weed 2011, 46). Although expressed most strongly as resolutions and mindful intentions, they serve to create an attitude that realizes the universal interconnectedness in everything one is and does. They acknowledge that while the cooperation of all things and beings in the universe constitutes its perfection and is its ultimate and most natural state, any particular individual or entity can realize its core Dao-nature to a greater or lesser degree (Kohn 2004, 13). Both the perfected of the Zhuangzi and accomplished Daoists of the later religion realize their Dao-nature to the utmost and, in skillful spontaneity, are naturally who they were meant to be (Liu 2006, 292). They spread the underlying goodness of all life wherever they go, making the world a better place.

Virtue Ethics To do so, they follow an ethical system best described as virtue ethics (Fox 2002, 80; Huang 2010b, 1049; Wong 2009, 568). This is one of three major forms of normative ethics, the other two being utilitarianism and deontology (Curry 2006, 29-39; Hursthouse 2012; Niebuhr 1999). The utilitarian or prudential position, also known as consequentialism, claims that people act morally because it is useful for them and for society. “Actions, institutions, and human characteristics should be judged by their tendency to maximize the highest good” (Van Norden 2007, 30). “It is, by and large, advantageous to be a morally upright person and disadvantageous to be an immoral one” (Green 1987, 95). The cost for breaking rules and precepts, both on the psychological and social (material) levels, is enormous. It is thus easier and more useful to comply.


Modern penal codes and prison systems rely on this concept, imposing harsh punishments for misdeeds in the hope that people will see their futility (Mabbott 1969, 15-30). Along similar lines, the ancient Buddhist propagation of the five precepts included a distinct set of benefits for laymen, such as wealth, good repute, self-confidence in public, an untroubled death, and rebirth in heaven (Keown 1992, 44-45). Unlike this explanation of moral behavior, the deontological viewpoint, also known as ethics of duty or divine command morality, emphasizes the belief in a superior deity or law. People act morally not because it is useful or advantageous, but because a divine agency, a root power of the universe, has so decreed. The rewards of morality, despite all apparent futility on this earth, are of a higher nature; the purpose of rules is beyond the limited faculties of human reason and perception to comprehend. Problems with this particular approach arise when the deity demands actions that are not only incomprehensible but even cruel and repulsive. At this point the devotion to the divine has to be tempered with human reason, and conflict arises (Idziak 1980). Unlike these, the Zhuangzi represents the position of virtue ethics. It engages the issue of a responsible self as the center of morality, asking “What is happening to me? What is most fitting for myself?” (Graham 1989, 190-92). The responsible self, then, involves admirable attitudes enhancing human flourishing (Van Norden 2007, 37), described as specific virtues and character strengths (Duncan 1995, 77; Huang 2010b, 1050). While the core virtues in classical Western ethics are temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice (Duncan 1995, 79-88; Van Norden 2007, 39; Weed 2011, 51), recent psychological research, focusing on issues of “authentic happiness” and “flourishing,” has defined core values as six virtues in specific dimensions of life that give rise to twenty-four character strengths (Seligman 2002; 2011). They are Virtues wisdom

Dimensions cognitive

courage humanity justice temperance transcendence

emotional interpersonal civic protective spiritual

Character Strengths creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective bravery, persistence, integrity, vitality love, kindness, social intelligence citizenship, fairness, leadership forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor/playfulness, faith/purpose

Covering the full spectrum of life, these virtues and character strengths provide the necessary backbone for individuals to fully flourish within their particular setting, protecting and enhancing their inborn gifts and allowing them to deal efficiently with social issues and situational obstacles. Many of the skilled masters and perfected in the


Zhuangzi exhibit such traits, their inner power or virtue being complete and shining forth within all the different circumstances they may encounter. Contemporary psychologists further determine the presence or absence of these traits with the help of a “Signature Strength” survey and other personality assessments that can be taken online (see Authentic Happiness.sas.upenn.edu). They ask participants to find several top strengths and among them look for two or three of the following: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

A sense of ownership (“This is the real me.”). A feeling of excitement when displaying it, especially at first. A rapid learning curve as first practiced naturally. A sense of continuous learning of new ways to use it. A sense of yearning to use it. A feeling of inevitability in using it (“Try to stop me”). A sense of invigoration rather than exhaustion when using it. The creation and pursuit of projects that revolve around it. Joy, zest, and enthusiasm, even ecstasy when using it. (Seligman 2002; Peterson and Seligman 2004).

The inner sense of rightness, joy, and enthusiasm people find when engaging in their top strengths closely matches the flow experience of Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi and what the Zhuangzi describes as perfect happiness and free and easy wandering. The more we excel at all of these strengths, therefore, the more we attain the intricate match of the heavenly and the human, the full realization of our natural talents, and the actualization of our best life. The key factor that allows this is awareness: of the plurality of possibilities, the multiplicity of viewpoints, the continuity of change, and the complexity of circumstances. This leads to appropriate decision making, so one can learn, train, and perfect oneself fully (Wenzel 2003, 117, 122; see also Huang 2010b, 1064; Lee 2000, 531; 2014; Perkins 2005, 333).

Ethics of Difference If I personally have the chance to recognize my inborn inclinations, enhance my character strengths, train to the fullest, and apply my arts fruitfully in accordance with situational dynamics, the least I can do is respect and support the same in everybody else (Huang 2010a, 77; Lee 2000, 512; Wenzel 2003, 123). This means that the most fundamental value when interacting with others in the Zhuangzi is tolerance and, by ex-


tension, respect and forgiveness.1 This leads to an ethics of difference with two key demands: accepting everyone and everything as unique; and acting for their good rather than for personal gain. The Zhuangzi never tires to extol the variety of life on the planet and the importance of uniqueness. Thus thoroughbred horses may run fast, oxen may be big, but they cannot catch mice like cats or raccoon dogs; an owl may see perfectly well in the dark, while others see best during daylight (ch. 17; W 180). Some creatures live in marshes, but people would get sick doing so; others live on trees, but humans would get scared; they live in houses, which others would find constricting (ch. 2; W 45). A duck’s legs are short while those of a crane are long, and any forceful attempt at changing that would only create hurt (ch. 8; W 100) (Huang 2005b, 403; 2010a, 77). In other words, nature knows what it is doing, the underlying blueprint of the universe arranges things to perfection, and we should not try to double-guess or change it. Just as “the acceptance of ethical diversity is part of the larger acceptance of the richness and diversity of the world itself” (Wenzel 2003, 116), our job is to be open-minded, adaptable, and flexible (Wu 1981, 148; Fox 2002, 86). We should cultivate reciprocal consideration of others, appreciation of variety, and respect for individual uniqueness (Fraser 2009, 439, 453). It is also our job to refrain from interfering in the decisions and actions of others. If we see a person in difficult circumstances, no matter how certain we are that we know what is best for them, we may make some suggestions but overall we need to stay out of their way. We have to allow them to find what works best for their inherent tendencies, “to make their own mistakes and find their own way” (Huang 2010a, 89). “It is wrong to do something for what we think is someone else’s good” (2010a, 74). The classic examples in the Zhuangzi are the Lords of the North and the South boring sensory openings into Hundun (ch. 7; W 97); the Marquis of Lu caging the rare seabird and honoring it with a feast (ch. 18; W 194); and Bo Le breaking horses to his will (ch. 9; W 104)—each causing the death of the subject they are hoping to honor (Huang 2010a, 75-76; 2005b, 404; Chen 2010, 99). Although Lady Li ended up enjoying her time in the Jin palace, it was wrong to abduct her, taking away her ability to make an autonomous decision on how to live (ch. 2; W 47) (2010a, 87; Lusthaus 2003, 171). We have to realize that we can never see the complete picture, step into another’s shoes, or second-guess the intentions of heaven. We have no firm grounds to value one thing over another as permanent standard 1

Tolerance is described in Fraser 2009, 452; Huang 2010b, 1058; Ivanhoe 1996, 208; Wenzel 2003, 116. On the value of “unconditional respect,”see Lee 2014, ch. 2; Wong 1984. For forgiveness in the Zhuangzi, see Cua 1977, 317; Møllgaard 2003, 357.


(Huang 2010a, 89-90). This is where relativism, skepticism, and perspectivism in the Zhuangzi play their role: not as philosophical positions in themselves but as tools toward ethical guidelines, as conscious, intellectual means of loosening the rigidity of preconceived thinking patterns, of the fixed mind (Wong 2005, 93; Lusthaus 2003, 194).

Situational Ethics Ethical living in the Zhuangzi thus means matching attitudes and actions to situations (Lee 2014, ch. 2; Møllgaard 2003, 349; Lundberg 1998, 214). The Liezi expresses it most clearly: Nowhere is there a principle which is right in all circumstances or an action that is wrong in all circumstances. The method we used yesterday we may discard today and use again in the future. There is no fixed right and wrong to decide whether we use it or not. The capacity to pick times and snatch opportunities, never be at a loss to answer events, belongs to the wise. (ch. 8; Graham 1960, 163-64; Cua 1977, 312)

Early Daoists thus espouse a situational ethics, a heterogeneity of values, which requires that we forget standard approaches and established moral distinctions, seeing each situation afresh.2 “Right action is an occasional determination within a particular concrete circumstance rather than a matter of principles” (Cua 1977, 313). Like a carefree child, we give our attention with ease and newness, but are not worried by it or match it to established norms. The moral imperative of the Zhuangzi is thus not the “golden rule” of the Confucians (as much as of the ancient Greeks, traditional Indian thought, and the Bible) (Wohlfart 2012, 24)—to avoid doing to others what one would not want to have done to oneself (Huang 2005b, 395-302; Liu 2006, 58-53-54; Nivison 1996a). Rather, they propose to “do for others in not doing for others,” encouraging people to connect to heaven and wander beyond the ordinary (Møllgaard 2003, 363; 2007, 118-19). Alternatively, it means applying the copper rule: “Do unto others what they would have us do unto them” (Huang 2005b, 394; 2010b, 1060), i. e., being virtuous toward nature and all beings (Ip 1983, 339). The ethical focus in this system is on the recipient of the action rather than the actor, the moral patient rather than the moral agent or appraiser (Huang 2010a, 72). Any action is judged not by some general principle or the attitude of its initiator, but “according to what it does to the recipient” (2010a, 73). A truly moral person in this understanding,

2 See Cua 1977, 311; Fox 2002, 81; Fraser 2009, 449; Graham 1989, 190; Huang 2010b, 1057; Lee 2000, 530


then, is “one who can match his or her tian with the tian of his or her moral patients” (Huang 2010b, 1059). Precluding any overarching or universal standard, this also implies an emphasis on equality, or at least equal opportunity (Cua 1977, 318; Huang 2010b, 1054; Lee 2000, 522). One should “treat all according to their natural tendencies, observe their inner nature” (Huang 2010b, 1059). It also means that we cannot act on another unless one accepts that this person equally acts on us (Møllgaard 2003, 361), that we should work to transform ourselves first before even thinking of transforming others (Billeter 1996, 875; 2008, 65), and that we should not intentionally harm another being’s life while accepting death as part of the natural flow (Huang 2010a, 90).

Freedom from Domination On a wider social and political level, the ethical demand for personal selfrealization translates into the ideal of freedom in three dimensions: freedom from external restraint and coercion on the part of others (negative); freedom to actively pursue one’s goals (positive); and freedom as autonomy or mastery over oneself (liberty), which includes the right to disengage from society (Duncan 1995, 17; Billeter 2010, 108). This means both liberation from conventional values (Fox 2002, 84) and the exercise of human rights (Lee 2007, 608; Ling 2012, 3).3 The main obstacle to freedom in any form is domination, the willful distortion of the inherent balance of life, the forceful twisting of individuals into directions not their own (Huang 2010a, 78; Billeter 2010, 77). This occurs most obviously through social and political dominance, the “unmitigated power exercised by those in command” (Lee 2007, 608). “For Zhuangzi, the realm of man is totally dominated by power,” leaving the people, “mutilated, punished, intimidated” (Møllgaard 2003, 359, 354).As the text says, “In the world today, the victims of the death penalty lie heaped together, the bearers of cangues tread on each other’s heels, the sufferers of punishments are never out of each other’s sight” (ch. 11; W 118). The Zhuangzi never tires to point out the dangers of social and political domination. It condemns violent excesses and, far from being passive and just acknowledging the occurrence of atrocities (“Hitler happened;” Hansen 1992, 290), it encourages resistance against being pulled into political games (Møllgaard 2003, 348). The more people are true to 3 Zhuangzi’s vision of freedom bears some resemblance to that of the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in that both see it as an absolute value and emphasize inner openness, equality, and social detachment. For a detailed discussion, see Liu 1994; 1988.


themselves and grow in their own unique way, the less they will accept domination by others and, by extension, political terror. The text thus praises masters who stay away from the lure of office and relax in their own so-being—the central characteristic of Zhuang Zhou in later Daoist hagiographies. Political power in the Zhuangzi is a burden on self and society. As if following Lord Acton’s (1834-1902) famous statement, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Wawrytko 2005, 92), it sees political power less in terms of concrete instances of domination than in principle as a danger to integrity and self-realization. Those who carry it are either corrupted by it or find a way to free themselves from it (Billeter 1996, 865-66; 2008, 57; Møllgaard 2003, 358-59; Wang 2004, 31; 2007c, 47). Political power as dominance is particularly insidious because it works stealthily by invading people’s minds (Van Norden 1999, 191-92). Internalized as “concern” or “worry” (you 優), it appears in the petty ways of social coercions and attachments, in ordinary thinking that creates the rigid patterns of the fixed mind, in customary judgments and prejudices that justify the social order and make people strive for social recognition and external goals (Møllgaard 2003, 350; Wu 1982, 127). Activated as consciously crafted, formal virtues, such as the classical Confucian values (Moeller 2004a, 116-17), this leads to feelings of shame or sin and makes people into “victims of their own willing, subjugated to their own intentionality” (Billeter 1996, 866; 2008, 59; Møllgaard 2003, 360)— thus the text’s injunction to practice mind-fasting, sit in oblivion, and “forget morality” (Blakeley 2008, 321; Cua 1977, 311; Møllgaard 2003, 357; Moeller 1004a, 119; Wu 1982, 121).

Sin and Guilt The French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, in The Symbolism of Evil, describes this internalized social power as the stage of “sin.” It succeeds a level typical for primitive cultures where evil is defined as “defilement.” Characterized by the relation between the individual and the cosmos (Douglas 1966, 81), defilement is controlled by a detailed system of interdictions and taboos, “minute prescriptions in domains that for us are ethically neutral” (Ricoeur 1967, 27). Sin, in contrast, signifies the development of a higher individual awareness while yet defining the person as a predominantly social being. The stage of sin brings forth “elaborate ritual, penal, civil, and political codes to regulate conduct” (Ricoeur 1967, 53)—the concomitant reflection of internalized morals in externally enforced laws (Henrich and


Henrich 2007, 70). Evil at this stage is a transgression against one’s fellow human beings and the dreaded punishment is social chaos or expulsion (Ricoeur 1967, 63). From the cosmic level of defilement, evil has emerged into the personal and communal. The taboo has been replaced by the code, the gods by the agents of society and law, the vague vindictive power of nature by social sanctions and the threat of being shunned. For the Zhuangzi, the way forward from this stage of sin is to recognize evil on two levels: as an inherent part of the natural processes, the necessary yin to every yang, and as “the result of man’s distortion of the universal harmony” (Bodde 1981, 287). Just like “wrong” is the necessary partner of “right,” evil is part of an intrinsic pair of opposites, the inherent complement of good, like the shady is to the sunny (Kohn 1997, 95). On the other hand, and more socially and ethically relevant, evil occurs in the distortion of natural balance, “when standards of excellence are set up and adhered to . . ., all of which prove to be ‘tangles’ to humaneness, which is destroyed thereby” (Wu 1981, 146), when uniqueness is put down in favor of an artificial set of “oughts” (Graham 2010). This kind of evil is not natural; created by society with its codes and laws, internalized as shame and sin, it is a hostile force, a powerful infringement on the subtlety of Dao. The Zhuangzi moves away from this by recovering the connection to the cosmos and, more importantly and more revolutionary in its time, firmly shifting the focus toward the inner life of the individual. Where defilement means orienting one’s actions to cosmic patterns and sin is the formalization of social virtues, the path to freedom lies in fully concentrating on one’s own personal traits, talents, and tendencies, and expanding those—as much as possible in alignment with cosmos and society but never wavering and never losing sight of one’s true inner center. With its central focus on the individual and personal self-fulfillment in perfect happiness, with its strong emphasis on mental factors determining reality, and with its relentless urge toward introspection and subjective awareness, the Zhuangzi thus shifted toward the individual as the locus of ethical decision-making. Western cultures, too, moved into this direction, giving rise to the stage that defined evil in terms of “guilt.” This brought the emergence of a delicate and scrupulous conscience, the recognition of personal responsibility for one’s own intentions and actions, and the acceptance of an inner rather than a cosmic or a social control of evil impulses (Ricoeur 1967, 100). Punishment was internalized in the unadulterated feeling that one deserves the worst and the powerful anxiety that comes with its anticipation (1967, 103). While the shift toward greater internalization thus led to the dominance of guilt in Western culture, the Zhuangzi’s profound disdain of all established standards, externally imposed values, power mongering, and petty customs created an awareness of their dangers and guided the Chi-


nese away from internalizing them as fully. As a result, Chinese culture— despite the strong impact of Buddhism with its fully developed guilt system—continued to function dominantly with sin and shame and remained free from the level of intense guilt common in India and the West (Benedict 1947; Eberhard 1967, 1-4; Kohn 2002b, 7).

A Community of Equals The ideal social connection in the Zhuangzi is that of friendship, the most equal and balanced among the five major relationships codified in Confucianism (Blakeley 2008, 321, 329; Lee 2014, ch. 3). Friendship lies between the direct, close reciprocity of kinship and the more complex, indirect reciprocity of acquaintances and strangers, allowing for intimacy without inescapable obligation or the codification of social norms (Henrich and Henrich 2007, 48; Ritchie 2010). In friendship, which “requires radical surrender” (Galvany 2009b, 54), “two individuals engage in a common project of mutual self-realization” (Duncan 1995, 30), respecting each other fully as “ends-in-themselves” (1995, 93), in mutual recognition and acceptance (Blakeley 2008, 320; Wong 1984, 173). Friends come together on the basis of common convictions and goals (Blakely 2008, 329). In the case of the Zhuangzi, this is the focus on realizing Dao (Lundberg 1998, 212), the “shared commitment to to the project of Daoist flourishing” (Lee 2014, ch. 3). This also involves the ability to “pay no attention to proper behavior, disregard personal appearance and, without so much as changing facial expression, sing in the presence of a corpse” (ch. 6; W 86; also ch. 33; W 373) (Galvany 2009b, 56). They ask essential questions such as, “Who can join with others without joining with others? Who can do with others without doing with others? Who can climb up to heaven and wander in the mists, roam the infinite, and forget life forever and forever?” (ch. 6; W 86). “Who can look upon nonbeing as his head, on life as his back, and on death as his rump? Who knows that life and death, existence and annihilation, are all a single body? I will be his friend!” (ch. 6; W 84; also ch. 23; W 257).4 Rather than being defined by social roles and conventional patterns (Galvany 2009b, 320-21), they are “friends in virtue” (ch. 5; W 74), “individuals who, having stopped dwelling on their own bodies and their own lives, are able to dwell in them in a more genuine fashion” (Galvany 2009b, 58; Graupe 2011, 86). They come together not for calculated awards or special benefits, conscious designs or planned expectations, 4

Discussions of this passage appear in Blakeley 2008, 318-19, 325; Galvany 2009b, 50; Graziani 2006, 187; Lundberg 1998, 212; Ritchie 2010, 9).


but in intrinsic joyfulness, forgetting self and other in mystical union (Lundberg 1998, 212, 214, 216). Being both with and not with each other (Blakeley 2008, 325), they disregard personal shortcomings—”The Master and I have been friends for nineteen years and he’s never once let on that he’s aware I’m missing a foot” (ch. 5; W 71) (Galvany 2009b, 52)—and always look out for each other, taking them food when needed (ch. 6; W 91) and offering them a lavish welcome when visiting (ch. 20; W 209). “Natural, spontaneous, and irrepressible,” their behavior “unabashed and unrehearsed” (Galvany 2009b, 53, 57), they live in ultimate altruism, approaching life in a non-ego-centered way and manifesting the virtues of compassion, love, and generosity in an overall openness to individual unfolding (Kohn 2004, 4). “Regardless of others’ behavior, they accept their needs and interests as their own” (Kirkland 1986, 70), thus reflecting the original goodness of the universe in their own actions and making the world a better place (Fox 2002, 84; Lee 2000, 524). As the Zhuangzi says, The friendship of a gentleman, they say, is insipid as water; that of a petty man, sweet as rich wine. But the insipidity of the gentleman leads to affection, while the sweetness of the petty man leads to revulsion. Those with no particular reason for joining together will for no particular reason part (ch. 20; W 215).

The ideal community for people coming together as friends, then, is small—all members know and relate to each other in reciprocal altruism, easily keeping track of others’ reputations and exchanged favors. Communities like this, with no more than 150 members, the established limit for successful group cohesion, actually existed in the Paleolithic, around 15,000 years ago. Reflected in the famous passage of the Daode jing that extols the value of small, isolated villages (ch. 80), they form the backbone of the primitivist ideal in ancient Daoism and represent a more organic, natural way of human congregation (Ritchie 2010, 5). They remain free from imposed social rules and contrived moral reasoning which, as recent studies have shown, is “an ad-hoc process tacked on after the fact to explain a person’s affective reactions, which in turn are simply somatic markers or ‘shortcuts’ for adaptive survival action paths” (Ritchie 2010, 3; citing Haidt 2007, 998; Damasio 1994). In other words, the Zhuangzi pursues a two-pronged approach to ethical living: an advanced internal awareness of personal traits—which leads to a pursuit of self-realization, an intensification of character strengths, a greater tolerance for others, and the demand for political liberty—combined with a return to simpler patterns of being in the world and more directly reciprocal forms of human interaction. Although much of the text speaks about individuals and their particular tendencies and actions, it has a profound social and political message that is as relevant today as it was in ancient China.

Chapter Twenty-three The Environment The social message of the Zhuangzi, with its emphasis on mutual recognition, respect, and acceptance among all people, also extends into the nonhuman and natural world, making it relevant to environmental ethics. Environmental ethics is a relatively new field of philosophical inquiry, concerned with values relating to the world beyond humanity, “prescribing an appropriate ethical response to ensure preservation or restoration of those values” (Light and Rolston 2003, 1), and “constructing a system of normative guidelines governing human attitudes, behavior, and actions toward the natural environment” (Ames 1989, 114). Its main focus is ecology, a word that literally means the “study” (logos) of “habitat” (eco), i.e., the science of the relationship between living things and their natural environment (Ames 2001, 265; Schönfeld 2011, 74). Applying conventional philosophical categories to emergent practical environmental problems and asking questions about the nature of nature and how to relate to it (Ames 1989, 113-14; Cheng 1986, 351; Ip 1983, 335; Jung 2011, 29), it is concerned with issues of wilderness, biodiversity, pollution, climate change, global warming, and various other elements of the ecocrisis of the planet. 1 Growing rapidly since its inception in the 1970s—heralded by the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 (Palmer 2003, 15)— environmental ethics can be divided according to five major approaches. The first is anthropocentrism. This considers human beings as the most significant entity of the universe, regards the world in terms of human values and experiences, and assumes humans to be the ultimate goal of life (Ames 1989, 141; Birdwhistell 2001, 29; Curry 2006, 42-43; Parkes 1989, 80). Critically also called human chauvinism, speciesism, or anthropoparochialism (Kim 2009, 1), this view sees the natural world as a resource to be used for human ends, believes humans to be capable of managing 1 See Curry 2006, 8-13; Gaard and Gruen 2003, 279; Goldin 2005, 75; Ip 1983, 334; Naess 2003, 266-68; Simmons 1993.



earth to perfection, especially with newly arising methods of science and technology (e.g., genetic engineering) (Budiansky 1995), and subscribes to the principle of sustainable development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own” (Palmer 2003, 16; Curry 2006, 47-50). Another approach is social ecology, which argues that human despoiling of nature is directly related to domination over other humans, represented as the universal social pattern of hierarchy—”the cultural, traditional, and political systems to which the terms class and state most appropriately refer” (Bookchin 1991, 68; see also Bookchin 1995). Human power structures are thus at the root of the treatment of nonhuman nature; they have to change first before the environment can be protected properly (Curry 2006, 50; Guttari 1955, 119). That is to say, the full realization of human rights (dignity, freedom, justice, and welfare) is essential in the attainment of environmental goals (Nickel and Viola 2003, 473). Ecofeminism, next, follows a similar thrust, arguing that the “master mentality” which causes environmental degradation is a core characteristic of the patriarchal or masculinist structures of human interaction. It focuses on the inherent pattern of domination pervasive in modern societies (Curry 2006, 95) that sees the female—as much as the natural world—as lowly, filthy, and dark, to be suppressed, controlled, and exploited (Birdwhistell 2001, 37). Language often conflates the two. For example, just like women are mothers and subject of sexual assault, so the environment is described as Mother Nature and its exploitation called “the rape of the wild” (Gaard and Gruen 2003, 287; Cheng 1986, 354). To counter the ongoing oppression and subordination of the natural world, ecofeminists accordingly work with a multi-systems approach, have a strong focus on women’s liberation, and aim for an overall cultural shift toward greater respect and equality (Plumwood 1993). A more biocentric approach, i.e., centered on life itself as a major value and on the respect for the good of other individual creatures, especially animals (Light and Rolston 2003, 10; Curry 2006, 61), appears in moral extensionism or “ethics of respect” (Curry 2006, 56; Taylor 2003, 74). It argues for the liberation of animals (Singer 1977) and animal rights (Regan 1983), works for the preservation of endangered species, and emphasizes the “interdependence of all living things in an organically unified order, whose balance and stability are necessary conditions for the realization of the good of its constituent communities” (Taylor 2003, 75). Based on the biological theory of evolution, this approach sees human beings as relatively recent arrivals among vibrant plant and animal communities, closely connected to and completely dependent on the ecological soundness and health of the latter (Taylor 2003, 77). As a result,


all living entities on the planet need to be treated with care and respect, supported in their particular expression and growth. Deep ecology, last but not least, is an expression of ecocentrism, where the system of environmental cooperation as a whole is the center of concern (Curry 2006, 44). It is a form of biospherical egalitarianism and organic holism that connects to chaos theory and the science of complexity with its principle of self-organization and understanding of a “holistic, participating universe” (Jones and Culliney 1999, 644, 646). Developed by the Norwegian thinker Arne Naess (Paper 2001, 6; see Naess 1991), it sees the flourishing of all life and species as having intrinsic value and their role in the earth’s community as interdependent and equal (Curry 2006, 45; Birdwhistell 2001, 39). The diversity of life is essential, and human beings have no right to diminish it in any way. Not only are there too many people on the planet, but their interference in the natural world is excessive; ideologies, politics, and methods must thoroughly change to shift the balance toward favoring the environmental equilibrium as a whole (Curry 2006, 72; Naess 2003, 264-65). The ultimate norm in deep ecology is “maximize Self-realization,” allowing all beings to unfold toward a large comprehensive Self (with a capital ‘S’) that “embraces all life forms on the planet (and elsewhere?) together with their individual selves” (Naess 2003, 271). Not only are all beings interdependent, but their realization is joined in universal symbiosis: for each being to realize itself more fully, it relies on the realization of others; at the same time, with each being becoming more fully itself, the universe as a whole becomes more whole (2003, 272).

Natural Processes The Zhuangzi most closely echoes the last two, the biocentric and ecocentric approaches. Not only is personal self-realization in accordance with one’s heaven-given inherent tendencies and circumstantial trajectories at the core of the text, closely matching the agenda of Deep Ecology, but it also integrates plants and animals in “coexistentialism” and generally has a deep admiration for nature (Chen 2010, 107; Jung 2011, 38). Going beyond the boundaries between species (chs. 2, 6; W 49, 83), it often notes that different beings have different needs, preferences, and standards (ch. 2; W 45; ch. 17; W 183) (Birdwhistell 2001, 29; Nelson 2009, 297; Perkins 2005, 336). Painfully aware of the intricate food chain of nature (ch. 20; W 218), it points to the close interconnectedness of all natural elements, emphasizing not only how they transform from one into another, but also how different environmental circumstances impact development (Goldin 2005, 81). For example,

246 / CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE The seeds of things have mysterious workings. In the water they become Break Vine, on the edges of the water they become Frog’s Robe. If they sprout on the slopes they become Hill Slippers. If Hill Slippers get rich soil, they turn into Crow’s Feet. The roots of Crow’s Feet turn into maggots and their leaves turn into butterflies. Before long the butterflies change and turn into insects that live under the stove; they look like snakes (ch. 18; W 195; Goldin 2003, 226)

Modern chaos theory describes this interconnectedness of species in terms of “fractal geometry” (Mandelbrot 1977), i.e., the fact that “intricate, repetitive patterns appear in the universe over a vast range of scale” and that “nature creates structure in a continuum of seamless dimensionality.” This tendency of nature “to develop an integrating structure” is close to the ancient concept of Dao, which too “creates perfect flair or fluency in its affinitive systems” (Jones and Culliney 1999, 645-46). In addition to chaos theory, the Zhuangzi—as much as ancient Daoist thought in general—in certain attitudes and concepts matches those of modern physics, biology, and environmental science (Capra 1991, 114). They share a deep appreciation of the inherent value of the nonhuman world, are essentially non-anthropocentric, and approach nature with childlike curiosity and enthusiasm (Barnett 1986, 310, 313). They are also equally aware of the natural pattern of complementarity or “protocosmic polarity” (Tong 2011, 95) that creates life in an ongoing process of never ending interchange (Ames 1986, 325; 1989, 119; Capra 1991, 147; Fox 2005, 49). Ancient Chinese texts express this in terms of yin and yang—active and resting, warm and cold, also expressed as “pure vitality and consummate matter” (Tong 2011, 96). Characterized as universal, relational, interdependent, relative, and creatively harmonious (Cheng 1986, 364; Capra 1991, 117), they move dynamically in the rhythm of the five phases (Ames 2001, 268; Tu 1989, 75), constituting an “extensive continuum of creative vitality” (Tong 2011, 96). Modern biologists find such polarity in the structure of human DNA; in the brain, whose left and right hemispheres have different tasks and natures yet work in close cooperation; in the autonomic nervous system, which divides into the sympathetic (active) and parasympathetic (resting) aspects that turn off and on in alternation; in the two sexes, male and female, that come together to create life; and so on (Barnett 1986, 302-04). Just like the classical Chinese symbol for yin and yang contains dots in each sphere, so there is an element of the other in each of the complementary pairs. Their interaction, moreover, is not “either or” but always “both and”—providing multiple sources of information and potentialities for action to the organism (Barnett 1986, 305). Nature and nurture, competition and predation, rise and fall, all work closely together in a balanced on-and-off, up-and-down mode. They are not fixed structures or firm categories, but inherent living processes (Cheng 1986, 353). The most complete and best way of being thus involves the complete in-


teraction of both aspects, the dynamic integration of all complementary systems (Barnett 1986, 306; see also Ames 2001, 268). Complementarity or polarity, moreover, manifests in the continuous process of reversion (fu 復), the cyclical pattern of growth and decline (Needham et al. 1956, 74-83). The Daode jing has: The myriad beings are alive, and I see thereby their return. All these beings flourish, but each one returns to its root. Return to the root means tranquility, it is called recovering life. (ch. 16; also chs. 25, 40) (Cheng 1986, 358)

Biologists and ecologists see this “unceasing movement of things on a continuum between extremes” (Ames 2001, 278) in the continued ordering and disintegration (entropy) of life, the organic chemical transformations in living matter, and the homeostatic processes of the healthy body (Barnett 1986, 301; Burneko 2004, 187). As part of this understanding, death in both Daoism and biology is seen as an “essential part of the process of organic change that includes life” (Barnett 1986, 307). No new life can come forth without death, without the reversion of living, pulsating, breathing entities to a resting, latent, inanimate state. On another level, both modern scientists and the Zhuangzi share a mode of gathering information. They rely on careful empirical observation, on the unbound, objective examination of phenomena with a clear mind (Sivin 1968, 38). For example, Zhuangzi speaks to Huizi about watching the raccoon dog as “it crouches down and hides, watching for something to come along; leaps and races east and west, not hesitating to go high or low-until it falls into the trap and dies in the net” (ch. 1; W 35). He, as much as modern scientists, uses the phenomenon itself as the ultimate arbiter of any situation or object and is highly suspicious of any interpretation and classification as one-sided and dependent on opposites (Barnett 1986, 309-10). Unlike ancient Daoists, modern biologists engage in experiments that manipulate nature in a controlled setting and rely on technological devices for measurements and enhanced observation. They relish vibrant debate and the spirited exchange of data and theories, often relinquishing simplicity for more complex explanations to match the natural patterns. They also prefer a mathematical model and material view of the world (Barnett 1986, 311-12), in contrast to Daoists who see the world also in mystical, spiritual, and numinous dimensions (Paper 2001, 17).


Belief Structure Another point that ecologists share with the Zhuangzi is the realization that our attitude toward other beings and the environment is “deeply conditioned by beliefs about human nature and destiny” (Paper 2001, 6), by constricted views of humanity and the narrative cultures develop about how to deal with nature (Birdwhistell 2001, 28, 24). Thus, the prevailing view of nature in the Western world is determined by the Biblical injunction in Genesis. And God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (1:26)

This gives human beings the right and even the duty to dominate and use animals and the natural world for their own purposes (White 1973; Cheng 1986, 354; Jung 2011, 29-30), making forests into timberland (see Harrison 1992) and leading to a relationship of conquest and control (Chen 2010, 108). Coupled with the pervasive use of science and technology and the belief in perpetual progress as part of the linear trajectory of history (Ames 1989, 141), in recent centuries this has led to the situation where an instrumental rationality has “objectified, mechanized, rigidified, dehumanized, and de-enlivened” (Cheng 1986, 353) nature and the human body, just as through colonialism Christianity and Western culture have come to dominate the rest of the world. Control, seen as the power to be like the deity and ultimately aimed at the ability to create, is central is the enterprise of the modern West: control of the flesh through conquering sexuality and passions; control of the mind through systematic training, education, and political propaganda; control of nature through agriculture and industry, doing away with wilderness and wild life while allowing nature to persist only in parks; control of the outer world by conquest of alien societies and the establishment of colonies; and control of all otherness though the increasing unification of world culture, the MacDonaldization of society (Foucault 1973). The current environmental crisis is thus predetermined by the belief system of the Western world. Ancient Daoists, although often romanticized as living “an ideal rustic life in small communities” (Paper 2001, 12), do not have any overall solution, nor do they offer specific research, political measures, or activist initiatives (Nelson 2009, 294). However, they do have some alternative


ways to contribute (Clarke 1997, 177).2 Most pertinently, they offer an archaic wisdom that sees life as universally interconnected or “interbeing” (Jung 2011, 31), values diversity as a fundamental condition for flourishing, and insists on the fundamental compatibility of all life forms as well as the need for humans to treat other species with respect (Birdwhistell 2001, 27, 32, 40; Elvin 1998, 3). For them, “nature is not a teleological realization of a fixed trajectory and end;” rather, “wayfaring itself forms the way,” i. e., living is more important than achieving (Nelson 2009, 298). Matching this overall pattern, Daoists see the world as aesthetically rather than logically ordered, understanding natural parity as the “noncoherent sum of all orders defined from the myriad perspectives,” so that none is superior or dominant (Hall 2001, 247; Ames 1986, 344; Chen 2010, 13; Jung 2011, 36; Yang 2007, 101). With cooperation as their central focus, they generalize principles from human experience rather than classifying experience according to theoretical models. Applying their ars contextualis, they move away from universal characteristics to see the uniqueness of the particular, examine everything in its concrete specific detail, and see a pleasing order in the relation of the one to the many—anarchic (not ruled by any one, single entity) and contingent (mutually dependent and interchanging) (Ames 1989, 114, 117, 136; 2001, 276, 279; Paper 2001, 7; Nelson 2013a, 179; Wong 2009, 578). Daoists thus pursue a norm-less, non-theoretical characterization of the modalities of human and other experience, encourage mirroring rather than controlling, and apply a language of difference and deference rather than of domination (Hall 2001, 248, 262). Daoist texts have no specific word that matches the modern concept of “nature,” but use tian or dao to refer to the natural processes of life. Tian, sky or heaven, is the generic term for all beings (wu); it signifies the origin and foundation of the world, and indicates its natural, spontaneous workings (Kim 2009, 5). People should follow tian, identify and accord with it, and place themselves in its center, but they can also be at odds to or alienated from it (Perkins 2005, 330). Dao is somewhat more abstract, denoting the “process of living and growing” as well as the “constituents and conditions of life” (Cheng 1986, 353). “Nameless, intangible, empty, simple, all-pervasive, eternal, lifesustaining, and nourishing” (Ip 1983, 338), Dao is often described with the metaphor of water, which matches its original meaning of “way” or “channel” and shows its placidity, fluidity, regularity, and rhythm (Ames 1986, 331, 337; 1989, 131; Needham 1956, 36-37). Dao is the “perfect force 2

The relevance of Daoism for modern environmentalism is also prominent in recent Chinese studies. See especially Cai 2007; Chen et al. 2010; Jiang 2006; Le 2005; Mao 2007; and Zhang et al. 1998. For a summary and discussion, see Schönfeld 2010.


for the fulfillment of life” (Kirkland 2001, 293), echoed in all beings through their inner power (de) (Ames 1989, 124; Ip 1983, 339). Multicentric and supportive of all (Weston 2004, 26), it provides an ethos that “conduces most fully to the expression of the integrity of each constituent particular,” deferring to all relevant “environing conditions to establish an efficacious and fruitful integration of all while at the same time fully disclosing the uniqueness of each particular” (Ames 1989, 135). Daoists thus believe in the “all-embracing nature of the spontaneously life-generating process” and see the cosmos as the unfolding of continuous creativity (Tu 1989, 68) in organismic, dynamic patterns of interlocking energy fields (Needham et al. 1956, 287; Jones and Culliney 1999, 653). Free from “distrust of the natural processes of life” (Perkins 2005, 335), their focus on continuity, wholeness, and dynamism, yet are “acutely aware that the world we live in, far from being the Great Unity (datong 大同) recommended in the classics, is laden with disruptive forces, including humanly caused calamities and natural catastrophes” (Tu 1989, 72). Degradation of the environment, therefore, is not a modern issue, but has a long history—the idea that the ancients were more in tune with nature is a myth (Nelson 2009, 295). The barrenness of Middle Eastern deserts was caused by overgrazing goats over millennia; the great North American prairies, originally forested, are the result of excessive use of slash and burn by aborigines; and even in the Pleistocene hunters and gatherers went into overkill, leaving large swathes of nature ravaged and permanently changed (Goldin 2005, 77). China, too, has experience environmental despoiling for millennia (Paper 2001, 13; McNeill 1998, 39). Already Mencius deplores the stripping of trees from Ox Mountain (11.8; Nelson 2009, 296), while the Liezi (ch. 5) and the Huainanzi (4.16; Major et al. 2010, 166) tell the story of Kuafu, whose never ending thirst caused the rivers to run dry (Birdwhistell 2001, 27; Elvin 1998, 2). The Zhuangzi bemoans the degree to which, under the rule of the so-called sage rulers of antiquity, the air was polluted, the light of sun and moon was fractured, the hills were stripped of trees, the streams were sluggish, and the seasons were upset. “Not a living thing was allowed to rest in the true form of its inner nature and destiny” (ch. 14; W 165; Birdwhistell 2001, 26).

Non-Interference To remedy this situation, Daoists propose to return to organic harmony, a stable, homeostatic order that—like a low-maintenance garden—”arises out of spontaneous, mutual adjustment among many elements and forces in a given system” (LaFargue 2001, 52; 1994, 160; Wong 2009, 581). Placing


priority on situation over agency, they define things not by their “absolute essence” but “correlationally at any given time” (Ames 2001, 269). Each part in the Daoist universe is unique; “each pattern is novel and site-specific” (Ames 2001, 277). Interacting with this multilayered and multifaceted world, then, requires tolerance, integrity, and respect (Fox 2005, 51), the application of wu or non-processes which are nonobjectified and encompass all existence, eliminating the need for control and the “instrumentalizing aspect of desire” (Hall 2001, 261). These include wuyu 無欲 (non-desire), the achievement of deferential desire, and wuzhi 無知 (non-knowledge), unprincipled, anarchic knowing (Nelson 2009, 304). The key concept in this context is another wu process, that of noninterference or nonaction (wuwei 無為), rendered variously as “natural action” (Sundararajan 2011, 58), “nonattached responsiveness” (Burneko 2004, 188), “non-coercive action” (Hall and Ames 2003, 44), “impartial, non-parochial action” (Goldin 2005, 79), “effortless, non-calculative responsiveness” (Nelson 2009, 296), or “perfect congruence” (Jones and Culliney 1999, 645). This is not inaction: “Given that Dao nourishes, sustains, and fulfills, Dao is invariably action-in-itself” (Ip 1983, 340). It is perpetual creativity where there is “nothing that is not done” (wubuwei 無不為). People, moreover, can be trained to enter and maintain a “steadfast congruence” with this “natural, unconscious, undirected action” of Dao, fully immersed in the cosmic flow while creating positive attractor fields from within (Jones and Culliney 1999, 645-47; Gleick 1988, 233). Just as Dao always acts in accordance with its own nature, so we should follow our own accord and connect to others and the natural world without imposing on them (Cheng 1986, 357). Practicing a “nonconfrontational style,” we should make changes gently, slowly, and consciously in alignment with naturalness and without dramatic effects (Liu 2001, 316-19). Careful about the interdependence of action and effect, noninterference means taking the most appropriate action under the circumstances (Liu 2001, 325, 332), letting go of preconceived notions and adjusting rapidly to all constituting factors. The opposite of mastery, control, and conquest, it means merging with nature’s flow and contributing to a new identity of the system from within (Jones and Culliney 1999, 647). “It is not what you think that matters but what you unthink, not what you do but what you undo” (Wawrytko 2005, 90). Working with viability, it means “recovering the innocence of childhood” combined with the adult powers of discrimination (Jones and Culliney 1999, 647), then “assisting nature to achieve masterly effects” (LaFargue 2001, 47; Wong 2009, 577). These include building houses that blend completely into the natural setting (Blofeld 1973, 116; Wawrytko 2005, 97), designing


gardens that enhance and highlight natural forms (Meyer 2001, 223), or training horses with gentle whispering to excel in their natural powers (Wawrytko 2005, 99). Science and technology in this understanding are not in themselves bad but need to be reconfigured so that they serve humanity and “contribute to the richness of life” (Cheng 1986, 369). Prosperity and wealth are beneficial, but in excess lead to great loss—just as an overemphasis on frugality will create waste (Wawrytko 2005, 95; Twist 2003). Harmony and balance being central virtues, non-interference is a synthesis of relaxing and doing, letting go and control, chaos and order, detachment and totalism (Burneko 2004, 184). Inevitably active, this means that we should remain on the edge of chaos, “functioning at the highest dynamic activity while still maintaining structure and integrity,” neither in total randomness nor in the frozen realm, neither frantic nor stoic, neither too yang nor too yin (Jones and Culliney 1999, 649). Resting in the calm center of the system, the pivot of Dao, we should serve as nature’s conduit, preserving balance in tension and allowing new levels of complexity to emerge, revert, and again emerge (1999, 650-51). We should be neither passive nor proactive, neither doing too much nor too little (Wawrytko 2005, 93). Doing too much—expressed with the word wei 為, which shows “a hand on an elephant” (2005, 92)—means being assertive and calculating, subjecting the natural world to gratuitous interference (Fox 2005, 55). Imposing heroically on natural processes to their detriment (Raphals 2001, 306)—like the farmer in the Mengzi who pulled up the sprouts in his field, hoping to “help the crop grow” (Galvany 2009a, 24)—this leads to building dams inappropriately, releasing insects into new habitats (Wawrytko 2005, 92-93), accumulating material goods far beyond one’s needs (Twist 2003, 43), or razing woodlands to build new developments then ironically called “The Woods” (Fox 2005, 55). Passivity or “not doing” (buwei 不為), on the other hand, reflects the conviction that any human action is too much: “Planet earth needs no savior as such, especially not ourselves” (Kirkland 2001, 289). The complexity of the universe being beyond human comprehension, we cannot judge or act on things that might be happening for a very good reason (Kirkland 2001, 291; Goldin 2003, 227). In this mode Zhuangzi accepts his wife’s death as part of the natural changes (ch. 18), neither seeing death as a disaster nor the extinction of a species as anything but a natural process. As a result, he might potentially sit by the riverside, seeing an infant floating by or a crane on its way to extinction without doing anything, just “watching the natural process at work” (Kirkland 2001, 288). However, following his thought to its logical conclusion, he himself is also part of the circumstances at any given time. Thus, should he become


aware of the child floating by and able to do something to save it, the situation would require his action—gentle and conscientious, but action nonetheless. To find the right balance, Daoists advocate self-cultivation and selfrealization, enhancing their inherent authenticity in contact with the deepest sources of creativity and allowing others to do the same (Burneko 2004, 185; Cheng 1986, 368; Raphals 2001, 307). In a step-by-step process of continuous “letting go” (Hawkins 2012, 10) and “cleansing their heart-mind” (Wawrytko 2005, 94), they free themselves from distractions and focus strongly on their inherent tendencies (Perkins 2005, 333). Thereby they gradually become “superconductors” of Dao, minimizing friction, conflict, or resistance (zheng 爭) and learning to “sustain signals with minimal loss of integrity” (Fox 2005, 53). In the process, they come to realize that, rather than atomistic and set in hierarchical structures, they are essentially net-like, interwoven, and relational—part of a universal webwork of equal connectivity (Birdwhistell 2001, 35; Ip 1983, 339; Nelson 2009, 297). A condensed dimension of the universe, Zhuangzi-type Daoists connect to “an abyss of energy and a cosmic capacity for intelligible order,” to patterns that resemble Jungian archetypes (Burneko 2004, 186). Developing a subtle awareness that allows them to attend to the totality of any given situation, they are spontaneously disciplined by their connection to the collective without yet relinquishing their individual uniqueness (Ames 1989, 139; Graham 2010, 11). The more they transform, moreover, the more they have a beneficent effect on the world around them (Kirkland 2001, 299); the perfected or sages perform the same role in society as Dao does in the cosmos (Burneko 2004, 185; Ip 1983, 341). As they “outgrow routinized language and ego-habituated preferences,” they become instrumental in the “genuinely sustainable globalization of earth” (2004, 189). For the world today, this means that a Zhuangzi-based attitude to the environment supports the new understanding of evolution (Chen 2010, 4). While the basic paradigm is still the “survival of the fittest,” the definition of “fittest” has changed from the strongest and most aggressive—those with greatest firing power—to the most cooperative, i. e., those who create the best networks, garner the most support from the community, and furnish the best living conditions for everyone (Wright 1994). The increasing appreciation of the interconnectedness of all life, furthermore, is leading to a fundamentally different way of understanding reality. This includes new perspectives in science, ecology, economy, cosmology, governing, agriculture, and education, among the other basic intellectual structures that support human activity. As humanity, with the help of science and technology, connects and globalizes to ever new


dimensions, at some point it will begin to act like one organism rather than as unrelated individuals and separate interest groups. We increasingly become planetary citizens, appreciating the ecological interconnectedness of all and seeing ourselves as an integral part of the system in which we live (Sounds True 2009), bringing Dao and heaven fully to bear.

Chapter Twenty-four In the World To move closer to this ideal state of global interconnectedness, we have to live in the world in a new, creative way, always pervaded by vital energy and in close relation to each other and the natural world, yet fully unique and completely ourselves. We come together in the world like players in a gigantic symphony orchestra or plants in a superb permaculture garden: each instrument has its own specific sound, each plant has its own characteristics; each player has his or her particular voice or melody, each organic growth forms in its own unique way. Yet they all come together and create beautiful, enthralling music, grow in mutually enhanced fertility to produce immeasurable richness. Just as both music and plants nurture humanity, all our actions should be pure nourishment all around: cosmically engaged, mutually supportive, and immensely personally fulfilling. The Zhuangzi outlines various ways toward this ideal state. First and foremost, it describes playfulness as the most fundamental attitude to life, opening the inner state of free and easy wandering and helping us attain perfect happiness (Wu 1982). Play as an activity that is done purely for its own sake means that we engage in life with the joy, spontaneity, freshness, and wonder of a child while retaining the knowledge and experience of an adult. It is pure activity, like the nonaction of Dao that pervades all. Our motivation for action in the world, next, should not be directed toward outward goals and gains but come from the inside. This is where the Zhuangzi speaks of uselessness—a shift in perception that not only allows us to see all beings in their unique setting and purpose. but also gives us the freedom to do things that are valuable to us but may seem far out, unproductive, or lowly in the eyes of society. Happiness comes from within—when spirit moves freely and the mind is in cosmic flow— and freedom means being fully oneself. The perspicacity to recognize the value of the useless and the courage to be or do the useless are essential to living our best life. 255


More concretely, the Zhuangzi also discusses politics and governance (Lee 2014, ch. 4). While there are many passages that extol the value of staying away from involvement and Zhuangzi’s disgust of political maneuvering is clearly evident, the text never becomes anarchic in the sense of decrying all order or administration. It accordingly allows for people to be lords, hold office, or serve in state administration, and gives advice on how best to do it: playfully and uselessly, without getting caught up in the rat-race for social accolades, material wealth, and other external gratifications.

Playfulness Playfulness, also called the “lusory attitude” (Suits 1978, 37), is a fun way of being, full of enthusiasm and exuberance, humor and laughter. A form of behavior that all higher species engage in, it is activated in play, an affective-behavioral system in its own right that encourages flexibility and opens venues to learning for enhanced survival (Garvey 1977, 6, 2728). Defined as a variety of pleasurable activities that are without extrinsic goals, play is spontaneous and voluntary, effortless and active, undertaken within set parameters and in a nonliteral attitude (Garvey 1977, 4, 7; Huizinga 1955, 5, 7; Mair 2010c, 91; Olson 2013, 247). More specifically, play is a free activity standing quite consciously outside ‘ordinary’ life as being ‘not serious’ but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly. It is connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained by it. It proceeds within its own proper boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules and in an orderly manner. It promotes the formation of social groupings that tend to surround themselves with secrecy and to stress the difference from the common world by disguise or other means. (Huizinga 1955, 13)

Play is a to-and-fro movement without any outside goal that renews itself in constant repetition. While not serious as a whole and with the main purpose of recreation, in the players’ experience it is very serious, involving specific risks and clear decision-making (Crandell 2010, 102, 107; citing Gadamer 1975, 91-97). Yet it is also controllable, measurable, limited, and has a clear outcome—matching the characteristics of the flow experience as described by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (1990). Further characteristics of play include absorption and lightness. Absorption means that the player loses himself in play, functioning in an “unconscious consciousness” (Crandell 2010, 110). Lightness indicates that it is effortless, lighthearted, thoroughly enjoyable, and refreshing (2010, 113). Close to the inherent mobility of nature, “all playing is a beingplayed” (Crandell 2010, 115). This, moreover, is ubiquitous, present in


practically all sectors of human culture. It is a way of establishing a new and independent cosmos within existing reality, of creating a magic circle out of the ordinary (Wu 1990, 385). Play suspends ordinary time. “In the ‘serious’ world it may be 11 a.m., on such and such a day, month, and year. But in the universe in which one is playing it may be the third round, the fourth act, the allegro movement, or the second kiss” (Berger 1969b, 72; Huizinga 1955, 8). Play also allows people to step into a new and different identity; it provides access to way of being that is deeply enthusiastic and joyful. The joy achieved in play suspends time further, so that we can glimpse eternity, timelessness, or transcendence (Kohn 1992, 18). The Zhuangzi takes these characteristics as the foundation of perfect happiness. Playfulness is its ideal attitude toward life: compliant and uncomplaining (Mair 2010c, 96), it makes people “walk without touching the ground” (ch. 4; W 58), “ride on clouds” (ch. 1; W 32), and generally float along with all different life experiences (Crandell 2010, 116). “Natural to the divine who in all respects is self-sufficient” (Sundararajan 2011, 62), it often comes with a smile—a universal reaction in the human species that in infants is triggered internally, then activated in response to social situations and unexpected events (Garvey 1977, 17). It also means engaging the inherent human sense of humor, the feeling that discrepancies or incongruities are comic, the ability to laugh with ease (Sellmann 1998, 165, citing Kundera 1986; Wu 1990, 382). It means that one can look at oneself from the outside and see one’s limitations, “reflecting the imprisonment of the human spirit in the world” (Berger 1969b, 87). It reveals a sense for the narrowness of one’s existence while at the same time opening the potential of other possible levels of being. Playfulness thus means being fully within one’s situation yet never entirely of it (Olson 2013, 255), maintaining the ability to joke and fool around, to laugh even—and maybe especially—when things get tough (Sellmann 1998, 167; Sundararajan 2011, 64). Zhuangzi singing at his wife’s death, the four friends cracking up when faced with disease (Crandell 2010, 109; Galvany 2009b, 50-52; Goldin 2003, 228)—laughter, as it releases endorphins in the brain and brings more oxygen into the body (Provine 2000), creates the shift into playfulness. A sign of joy and play, laughter appears under conditions of well-being and enhances good feelings within the person (Garvey 1977, 22). The benefits of laughter are well recognized by alternative health practitioners today and activated particularly in the increasingly popular practice of Laughter Yoga (www.laughteryoga.org)—where incidentally people practice laughing at just the kind of life-threatening, catastrophic situations Zhuangzi characters face. Engaging with the world in playfulness, it becomes our personal playground, where new and exciting adventures beckon every day, fan-


tastic opportunities open, and growth and joy never cease (Carlson and Kohn 2012, 162). We find that we are loveable, that there is nothing to fear, and that the world is fun. Seeing that life is not a contest to be won, we fully come to belong to the beneficent universe that protects all life, always at peace with who we are in any given moment (Donaldson 1993; www. originalplay.com). Whole, pure, and fun-filled in our spirit, we “respond to the world spontaneously, just as small children do. Like to the child, the world to us is always new and interesting” (Lash 1993). Like Zhuangzi’s butterfly, we are awakened to an ever-present possibility of changing back and forth (Wu 1990, 381). Relishing the transformations of life, we are free of all fear and hesitation, open to continuous journeying into new spheres and ways of being (Olson 2013, 251). This, in turn, leads to free artistry and unlimited creativity in a close match of life itself which is always spontaneous and always creative (Wu 1990, 393; Mair 2010c, 89). Creativity is the expression of cosmic oneness through unique individuality, combining preexisting modes and materials as well as inherent talents and trained skills. It arises best in relaxed, unpressured situations, such as a leisurely walk or play (Garvey 1977, 5). “Freedom and playfulness make it possible for leisurely thinking to come up with original formulations and solutions” (Csikszentmihalyi 1996, 138), “prompting us to perceive new affordances” (Wong 2009, 580). As we remain open to potential new ways of seeing and doing in perceptivity, we resonate with the larger harmony of the universe around us, employing all the multiple forms of intelligence nature provides (Gardner 1983).

Uselessness To do so fully, we must realize the value of uselessness. Utility (yong 用) and profit (li 利) are factors that all too often determine human interaction in society and nature, with people, animals, and plants. Soon they come to shape our perception and cause us to see only what we can use (Galvany 2009a, 90)—thus Carpenter Shi passes by a huge tree without even looking at it, realizing immediately that its wood is disintegrating (san 散), too porous to be of use (ch. 4; W 63; Kohn 2011, 156-59). 1 Thinking in terms of usefulness makes us strive for gain and fame, forget our true purpose, and gradually become an object among other objects. As a potentially useful object (or person), moreover, we are likely to suffer constriction or destruction. Thus, in ancient China “the cutting of 1

The story is discussed in Chen 2010, 60-61; Crandell 2010, 109; Galvany 2009a, 86-90; Major 1975, 266-67; Raphals 1992, 99; Svarverud 2006, 162-63; Wang 2004, 41-42; 2007c, 63-65.


trees was subjected to strict administrative regulation” (Galvany 2009a, 89), officials and courtiers had to observe innumerable rules, and formality pervaded many aspects of life. More radically, though, being useful in natural talents (cai 才) or abilities (neng 能) often meant death or disfiguration (Major 1975, 265): cinnamon, lacquer, and fruit trees are cut down to enhance their fertility, while catalpas, cypresses, and mulberries are made into timber (ch. 4; W 64-65); tigers and leopards are hunted for their skins (Vervoorn 1990, 56; Graziani 2006, 137). Prisoners of war have a foot chopped off so they can serve as watchmen, unable to run away (ch. 24; W 268), while young boys are castrated so they can serve in the inner quarters of the palace. But this is not the whole picture. In some cases, being useful is reason for survival, such as the goose that cackles is left alone, its non-cackling mate ending up in the pot (ch. 20; W 209; Major 1975, 272; Svarverud 2006, 166-67). It is, therefore, impossible to make a firm case for either being categorically useful or useless. More than that, even what renders a thing or person useless depends on the circumstances. Thus, having a physical handicap—useful for some palace services and thus harmful to life—can also render the person useless and save his life. Examples include Crippled Shu and other misfits who are “able to look after themselves and finish out the years heaven gave them” (ch. 4; W 66) as well as men who are classified unfit for military service and thus avoid the draft (Major 1975, 265; Svarverud 2006, 164). By the same token, the big tree that is useless for lumber becomes highly useful as the residence of the local earth god; the gourd that is too big to carve into utensils becomes a floating device; the salve that prevents chapped hands wins wars when applied in the right circumstances (ch. 1; W 34). In other words, what applies to all the categories of human thinking also holds true for notions connected to utility: usefulness depends on uselessness, and both are closely connected to specific circumstances of life. Faced with this dilemma, Zhuangzi says: “At first glance, I would prefer to be in a position between having and not having a practical use. Being between the two seems to be right, but it really wouldn’t be since I could never get out of entanglements” (ch. 20; W 209). That is to say, to evaluate all situations and circumstances in terms of utility would mean deep involvement and be exhausting and time-consuming. Zhuangzi’s solution is to move beyond “contingent uselessness” in the world of interdependent opposites to “absolute uselessness” where all utility is transcended (Major 1975, 272). As the text says, best connect to “Dao and inner power, floating and wandering freely. Be above praise and blame, now a dragon, then a snake; change in accordance with the times, never willing to stick to one thing” (ch. 20; W 209; Kohn 2011, 163). Absolute uselessness means to both be useless and think useless. Being useless can mean being too big or twisted to be shaped into any


particular object or bent to any specific purpose (Svarverud 2006, 160). It can also mean staying away from social entanglements, refusing invitations to serve in office (Major 1975, 273; Brindley 2010, 62; Chen 2010, 57), living anonymously in society, and remaining free from aspirations toward fame and gain (Vervoorn 1990, 58; Wang 2004, 42, 175; 2007c, 64). Activated thus, uselessness takes the subject-object dualism out of utility—one becomes useful only to oneself, invulnerable and unoffendable in relation to others, able to protect oneself in private, practice selfcultivation, and live out one’s natural life expectancy (Major 1975, 273; Svarverud 2006, 158; Vervoorn 1990, 64). Thinking useless means understanding one’s role in the greater scheme of life. The Zhuangzi describes this in terms of heaven and earth being expansive, “but any individual only using enough to put his feet.” Taking up any more space or expanding the space under one’s feet to dig a deep tunnel would render it useless (ch. 26; W 187; Kohn 2011, 153; Svarverud 2006, 165). As an illustration, it presents the story of a bird called Lazy Brain: It fluffs and flutters about as if it had no strength, flies only when pulled and supported, and roosts only when squeezed and pressed. When the flock moves out, it never takes the lead; when the flock retreats, it never is in rear. In feeding, it never takes first bite and is content to eat what’s left behind. For this reason, its progress is not broken, other creatures and people will not harm it: it escapes from afflictions. (ch. 20; W 213; Kohn 2011, 161)

Uselessness thus means that one rejects having purposes, goals, and uses in the world, not even trying to control outcomes by having an influence or effect on them, while gaining freedom from any form of worldly constrain—social, political, or otherwise (Brindley 2010, 62). It means seeing things in their proper perspective, understanding them in their interconnectedness and appreciating that categories and evaluations shift constantly: what may be useless to one person may be highly useful to another; what may appear useless today may turn out to be useful tomorrow. Laughing at the shenanigans of the world, accepting it for what it is, and refusing to get caught in its games of push and pull (Wu 1982, 123), realizing uselessness means doing what one is called to do internally, however much it may appear strange, unproductive, or lowly in the eyes of society. Being motivated by uselessness thus is the path to playfulness, nonaction, skillful spontaneity, free and easy wandering, and perfect happiness.


Society and Politics Being and thinking useless, living in a state of perpetual exuberance in playfulness, however, does not mean that one “seeks the way of the good-for-nothing” (Svarverud 2006, 162) or turns into an anti-social recluse who “leaves society altogether” and spends his life in “vegetative, unenlightened idleness” (Major 1975, 273-74). A traditional hermit like Boyi and Shuqi would think that “political issues are quite unimportant” (Moeller 2004a, 67), while “eremitism is the highest ideal” of living (Vervoorn 1990, 56) because it allows the individual to escape from the world’s pollution (Wang 2007, 171). This is not the idea in the Zhuangzi: not only are the majority of its stories dialogical and set in an active social setting, but if Zhuangzi himself had been a radical hermit, without any contact to the world, the text would never have been created (Pas 1981, 479). No, society is essential, just as interaction is at the core of playfulness and thus central to life—which is also why the chapter on “This Human World” (ch. 4) is at the very center of the Inner Chapters (Wang 2004, 24; 2007a, 15; 2007c, 38). “Society is a symbolic illustration of the natural principle of unity” (Wu 1982, 126). It is the concrete expression of the universal propensity for order (Wang 2004, 28; 2006c, 42). To establish a meaningful world, to feel integrated and in harmony with life, human beings have to organize random data into a systematic whole and set up structures that allow them to flourish (Kohn 1992, 18). As Geroge Lakoff and Mark Johnson put it, “Living systems must categorize” (1999, 19). This is evident already in the behavior of children who demand the reassurance that everything is in order; it appears in the establishment of proper family and business relationships, clearly defined administrative organization, specific areas for each individual, as much as in the application of social etiquette (Berger 1969b, 68). Society in the Zhuangzi is an expression of this propensity for order, grown “by natural development and the union of individuals and families” into an “organic whole” (Höchsmann and Yang 2007, 55-56; Graupe 2011, 83). As the text says, “Villages are formed by the union of the ten surnames . . . Here different individuals are brought together to form a common character” (ch. 26). Once social organization exists, however, the tendency is to let “the distinction-drawing practices that ground our judgment or action divide the world into distinct things or kinds of things to which we respond” (Fraser 2006, 535). This creates firmly set social structures and “fixed, inflexible patterns of behavior” (2006, 536), leading to “power, jealousy, and competition” (Dull 2012, 239). The establishment of regulations and controls, hierarchies and ideals of excellence (virtues) gives rise to swindling, robbery, flattery, and other pathological shackles (Wu 1982, 127). People


“practice benevolence and righteousness without any real sincerity, faking them when they are in fact mere instruments of raptor-like greed” and “efforts to do good become instruments of evil” (ch. 24; Kohn 2011, 195-97). The more work we put into fixing things, moreover, the more problems we create (Berkson 1996; Schwartz 1985, 231; Xu 2006, 281); the more people get involved with power games, the more dangerous they become “due to the unchecked nature of their desires” (Dull 2012, 235). While order as social structure thus forms an inherent part of human life, in its concrete expression needs to remain fluid and open to change. The vision in the Zhuangzi is accordingly that “we live more flourishing lives if we possess a kind of practical wisdom about the potential limitations” of ourselves and others, and adapt fluidly to them in all circumstances (Fraser 2006, 535). This means becoming comfortable with making mistakes—acknowledging their necessity as learning opportunities (Carlson and Kohn 2012, 148). The best way to do so, as Tim Harford points out, is by applying three basic principles: try new things, expecting that some will fail; make failure survivable, moving in small steps; and make sure you know when you have failed (2011, 224). Major dangers that stand in the way of adapting successfully are denial, refusing to acknowledge a mistake; loss-chasing, causing more damage while trying to hastily erase it; and hedonic editing, the subtle measures we take to convince ourselves that the mistake doesn’t matter (Harford 2011, 254). Working in this manner, adapting constantly to change within and without, society becomes a playground for the individual to “come home to himself,” to grow and thrive. Eventually all can mutually benefit each other while “serving the ruler as part of their destined course of life” (Wu 1982, 128-29). The ideal social game, moreover, is not the traditional win-lose, zero sum contest, where the winner takes all. Rather, it is a non-zero sum game, a win-win situation, where cooperation produces greater profits, all participants benefit in one way or another, and there is overall more to go around (Wright 2000).

Social Positions Within this framework, then, one may occupy several different positions. Free from any particular urge to serve in office and not born into a situation where being part of an organization is inevitable, it is best to stay away from government, enjoy one’s private life, and become a recluse of the mind (Wang 2004, 176). Thus Zhuangzi refuses the King of Chu’s offer, declaring that he prefers to “drag his tail in the mud” (ch. 17); he compares Huizi’s position as prime minister to a “half-rotten old rat” (ch. 17); and he insists that, having no desire to impress anyone, being poor is not a disgrace (chs. 20, 28; Chen 2010, 10-11). Similarly, Xu You emphatically


tells King Yao that he has “no use for the empire” (ch. 1); Liezi although poor decides that he does not want any official hand-outs (ch. 28); and Yan Hui, when Confucius suggests him that he get a job to relieve his poverty, insists that his meager income and simple pursuits are “enough to make me happy” (ch. 28; W 317). The key is to develop a clear judgment of personal desires and needs, opportunities and pitfalls. Given the historical situation where ruthless rulers “behave like dangerous animals in cages,” treating their subjects at their whims, so “their corpses lie around like rushes in a marshland” (ch. 4; Wang 2004, 28; 2006c, 42), it is also essential to be able “to read changing circumstances and understand how best to avoid potentially dangerous situations” (Dull 2012, 239). Notwithstanding these circumstances, it may well be that one’s personal needs and desires include the propensity for office life. It is entirely possible that one is born a gifted administrator and/or finds oneself in a situation where the obvious course is to serve in government or another big organization. At this point, the values of playfulness and uselessness come to the fore, lest one be pulled into the rat-race of achievement, fame, and gain (Chen 2010, 62). A positive example is Sunshu Ao who served as senior magistrate several times without indulging in luxury and was dismissed repeatedly without getting depressed. How did he do it? He says, All I do is understand that when a position comes to me, I can’t prevent it; when it goes away, I can’t stop it. Thinking of all gain and loss as impersonal events, I have no cause for depression. That is all. So how am I special beyond others? Also, I have no clue whether the honor resides in the position or in myself. If it is in the position, I have nothing to do with it; if it is in myself, the position is irrelevant. And now, my friend, I am going to take a leisurely walk, looking round in all directions. I really have no time to worry about whether people honor or despise me. (ch. 21; W 231; Kohn 2011, 203)

By the same token, Father Proper got more humble the higher his rank in the administration until he “stayed in the shadows and never walked far from the wall.” Ordinary people, in contrast, like the praying mantis in front of the chariot (ch. 4; Dull 2012, 235), get puffed up and self-important to the point where they have no sense of danger and run roughshod over social niceties, “calling their uncles by their first names” (ch. 32; W 359; Kohn 2011, 191). In other words, there is nothing wrong with taking an office or being active in society as long as we stay true to ourselves and don’t let extraneous aspects impinge on the essential.


When in Power Some people, moreover, are born into aristocratic families, inherit a fiefdom, or are so good at what they do that they reach a position of great influence. The Zhuangzi contains numerous passages where sagely characters give advice to rulers about how to treat the people, select employees, engage in warfare, and run the empire. Politics is an essential feature in the text, and the ideal government of the sage comes to the fore time and time again. In terms of general guidelines, it says: If a great sage were to govern the world, he would let people’s minds be easy and open, to have them create their own teachings and change their customs as needed. He would support them in eliminating all mental negativity and help them progress in realizing their unique ambitions. They would come to do things naturally in accordance with their essential nature, never knowing why or wherefore. (ch. 12; W 133; Kohn 2011, 193; see also ch. 7; Lee 2011, 13; Pas 1981, 487-88)

That is to say, in his mind transcending the world, self, and personal desires, such a ruler follows the naturalness of all things and, himself empty and void of self-awareness, with no desire for reputation or achievement, lets them be what they are made to be (Pas 1981, 488; Ames 1983, 44). The job of any ruler or government is, therefore, not to promote or block anything, but to let things happen and transform naturally and avoid getting in the way of the “spontaneous and harmonious natural order” (McCormick 1999, 331, 335). “In this sense, government does not present or lead public opinion or promote the public good, but enables and empowers people to realize themselves fully” (Xu 2006, 286). Organizational processes are useful and desirable insofar as they promote the healthy development of people and make the “authenticity of personal relationships” their primary concern (Harmon and Mayer 1994, 384). Governance is thus essentially conscientious management of the unique flourishing of all beings, human and otherwise (Wu 2007, 274). One fictional figure exemplifying this in the Zhuangzi is Emperor Hundun who treats all things equally well in “absolute kindness” (ch. 7). He lets the myriad things in the cosmos be, lets us be our self, and “congenially manages togetherness with people-power (demos-kratia)” (2007, 277-78). His royal hospitality toward the other rulers who end up boring him to death is nothing haphazard but essential to things, an expression of the “necessity of togetherness-management,” since we all exist as inherently interdependent (Wu 2007, 274; see also Wu 1998). This kind of management makes the ruler a “non-ruling sovereign” and gives true power to the people—power in the sense of self-determination rather than dominance (Wu 2007, 274-75; Ames 1983, 29; G. Chen 2012, 15).


To attain this kind of leadership in “spontaneous governance” (Xu 2006, 276), we must see things in their proper perspective and come to “value life above everything” (ch. 28; Kohn 2011, 205). Thus, when Han and Wei are fighting over a strip of territory, Master Hua tells the Han ruler to look at it from two angles, the universal and the personal. From the universal perspective, “the state of Han is far less significant than the whole world, and this piece of land you’re fighting over today is even less significant than the state of Han,” thus stimulating the realization that the contest is in fact rather petty. From the personal perspective, possession of the land would never justify the loss of a hand, again confirming that the fight is not worth the effort (ch. 28; W 311-12; Kohn 2011, 199). Another important factor in positive leadership is imagination— both localized or “perky” imagination that serves “rationally defined goals such as economic efficiency, technological advancement, or national security” as well as higher-level imagination that generates possibilities beyond traditional understanding and pragmatic “tinkering” (Xu 2006, 279-80; citing Farmer 2005, 9). This involves using creative ways both to determine specific outcomes and to re-imagine administration overall. In this context, the Zhuangzi provides some imaginative guidelines on how to test a potential future employee: Leaders, when seeking to employ someone, will send him on a distant mission to examine his loyalty and keep him in close proximity to examine his respect. They will make him deal with trouble to examine his management skills, ask his advice unexpectedly to examine his expertise. They will give him a tight deadline to examine his reliability, hand him some donation money to examine his kindness, and tell him about a dangerous situation to examine his resourcefulness. They will also get him to drink heavily to examine his clear-headedness and set him up in mixed company to examine his self-control. By using these nine tests, the unworthy employee is easily found. (ch. 32; Kohn 2011, 191)

In addition, imagination also means to explore and experience how certain administrative measures will change the world. To best do so, administration “should be evocative rather than declarative, tentative rather than affirming; it should rely less on rationalization and clear more room for intuition and freedom for exploring all possibilities including impossibilities not only within public administration boundaries, but also for individuals and the society” (Xu 2006, 285). Imagination challenges existing routines and prevents the fixation of procedures and attitudes. It also encourages independence in administrators. The key to success “is not to stick blindly to the official chain of command but to subvert it where necessary, not to seek unanimity but to listen to dissenters, and above all, not to rely on a top-down strategy but to decentralize and trust that junior officers will adapt, learning from each other and figuring out the best response to fast-changing local conditions”


(Harford 2011, 78). A key factor in the Zhuangzi itself, imagination in adaptation to change is open-ended and unlimited, and leads to questioning, skepticism, newness, and experimentation (Xu 2006, 279). The text itself becomes a model on how best to be in the world and deal with issues of polity and society. Going beyond government and social administration, the Zhuangzi’s advocacy of openness and flexibility, of seeing things from various perspectives and taking multiple levels of reality into consideration, is also highly applicable to the world of business. As recent developments have shown, corporations that foster human development and flourishing, that help those who work in them to live meaningful and fulfilling lives and create the conditions for successful adaptation and change, are overall more successful and longer-lasting than those focused solely on profit (Davis and Kohn 2009). Subscribing to the new ideal of corporate social responsibility (CSR), they “broaden allocation of economic profit to include work place balance, protection of the environment, and investment in community” (Egizii 2011, 195). Incorporating sustainable leadership principles and setting high standards of human resource management to the point of treating their employees as members of an “extended family,” such “values-based organizations” routinely outproduce the competition (Mitroff and Denton 1999). Happy people, that is, create a happy environment and are highly productive; folks at ease can engage in playfulness and let their imagination lead them to new heights of achievement. The vision of the Zhuangzi of unique, highly-trained and self-sufficient individuals, long-lived and healthy, inherently connected to and continuously supported by the universal flow, living in open societies that encourage personal flourishing and provide economic succor to all, is thus an inspiration for us all, growing today and creating tomorrow.

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Index accordance: and butterfly, 43; in Guo Xiang, 98-99; and nature, 161; and nonaction, 251; of perfected, 138, 147, 152; and skill, 213, 215; terms for, 195; and uselessness, 259 action: authentic, 15; in Derrida, 230; and emotions, 60; ethical, 237; and nonaction, 15-16; and skill, 212; of sage, 68; trained, 52 Acton, Lord, 239 administration: and body, 59; celestial, 105; feudal, 23, 46-47; and society, 75, 136, 256, 261 alchemy: internal, 113, 123, 134 Allinson, Robert E., 31, 186 Alt, Wayne, 181 Ames, Roger, 108 ancestor: and Dao, 115; Heaven as, 147 ancestors: and destiny, 104-5; and fasting, 126; and heaven, 81; versus oneness, 55; and politics, 46-47; ranking of, 53; and shamanism, 51; and spirit, 62 animal: delineation against, 185; return to, 35; and self, 41 animals: birds, 50, 162, 169, 235, 260; centipede, 36; cicada: 194-95, 209-10; and cultivation, 125; and Dao, 78; dragon, 259; dog, 162; elephant, 252; fish, 36-37, 68, 142, 147, 166, 170; goose, 259; horses, 6, 27, 63, 68, 75, 93, 164, 236, 252; magpie, 194; millipede, 210; monkeys: 038-39, 224-25; in Nietzsche, 207; ox, 1, 54, 211, 235; pigs, 109; raccoon dog, 174, 235, 247; rights of, 244; seabird, 235; slaughter of, 212; snake, 259; in stories, 171; tiger, 4; tree monkeys, 219; turtle, 122; and uselessness, 258; in Zhuangzi, 174; see also butterfly anxiety: and cognition, 151; disorder, 133; freedom from, 18, 83, 103, 148; in Kierkegaard, 205; in ordinary life, 12, 15, 19, 71; overcoming of, 83; versus play, 257; and stress, 34, 133; see also psychology aristocracy: ranks of, 46; in society, 263; in Zhou, 22 Aristotle, 29, 59, 168, 202, 217

arts: bedchamber, 120; and flow, 19; of gentleman, 5, 23; painting, 166-67; practice of, 163; Zhuangzi and , 158, 165-67, 217 authenticity: and action, 15, 212; in Chan, 144; and cultivation, 253; and destiny, 106; and mind-fasting, 126; of perfected, 148; and poets, 162; in Thoreau, 203; and virtue, 111 Avatamsaka sutra, 136, 141 awakening, 17, 41-43, 144-45, 168, 178 awareness: of change, 197; and community, 242; of dynamics, 218-19; focused, 35; and self, 187, 264; and skill, 214 Axial Age, 22, 29 Bach, Johann Sebastian, 87 Baizhongfu, 6 balance: 32, 39, 45, 64, 73, 82-83, 88, 147, 206, 238, 241, 245, 247, 253 Balfour, Frederic, 9 Bamboo Grove, Worthies of, 90 ,158, 161, 164 Ban Gu, 3, 6 Baopuzi, 114, 176-77 Bashō, 163-65 beauty: and arts, 166; and consciousness, 217; and ethics, 234; and mirror, 177; of music, 165; in ordinary life, 12; relativity of, 36; and virtue, 110 beginning: in Guo Xiang, 95; not yet, 52; and oneness, 84 Being and Time, 226 Being: and Buddhism, 139; and Dao, 29, 80; and free wandering, 16; in mysticism, 179, 184; in Heidegger, 227; in Kant, 204; in Rorty, 222; in structuralism, 229; see also Aristotle; substance being: and completion, 52, 55, 77; and emergence, 52, 55, 77; versus having, 151; and nonbeing, 29, 41, 77, 81, 94; and oneness, 84 Beishi, 6 Bernstein, Leonard, 213 Bian Que, 115 Bible, 7, 67, 237, 248 Billeter, Jean-François, 10, 18, 48 Bo Juyi, 157


316 / INDEX body: balance of, 73; calmness of, 73; in Chan, 142-43; cultivation of, 121; Daoist, 120; demands of, 12; and emotions, 59-60; as form, 63; freedom of, 14, 62; and friends, 241; in individualist chapters, 72; and longevity, 71; mind, 58, 121, 140, 145, 162, 197, 216; in mysticism, 182, 184-85; as object, 190; oblivion of, 127-28; as organism, 64-65; as process, 247; parts of, 197; personal, 61-62, 192; polarity in, 246; preservation of, 195; ritual, 58; and self, 188; sickness of, 57; and spirit, 69; Western, 65; like withered tree, 44, 126, 142 boundaries: overcoming of, 35, 38-39; and perception, 33; in play, 256; and self, 191, 197; between species, 42, 245; social, 202; in Xi Chao, 138 Boyi and Shuqi, 49 brain: and consciousness, 216; and emotions, 60; polarity in, 246; release of, 142; and self, 61; in a vat, 225; waves of, 48, 217 bronze: age, 22; inscriptions, 78, 81, 108; mirrors, 175 Buber, Martin, 226 Buddhism: in Axial Age, 22; bodhisattva in, 176-77; and deconstructionism, 231; dharma, 138; Dzogchen, 133; enlightenment in, 139-40, 143; guilt in, 241; Huayan, 141; koans of, 143, 169; Mādhyamika, 117-18, 139-41, 176, 231; Mahāyāna, 135, 141; mirrors in, 176; and oblivion, 131-34; and poetry, 161; precepts in, 234; on self, 196-97; and Tang Daoism, 117; Three Worlds in, 143; two truths in, 117-18, 139-40; Vinaya, 136; virtue in, 111; Yogacara, 176; zhai in, 129-30; and Zhuangzi, 89, 135-45; Zhuangzi in, 115-16; see also Chan, Zen butterfly: in Basho, 164; dream, 40-43, 225; effect, 154-55; as metaphor, 174; in Nietzsche, 207; and play, 258; in poetry, 157 Cao Cao, 112 Carlson, Edwin, 110 carpenter: Chui, 209; Mozi as, 26; Shi, 41, 258 Carson, Rachel, 243

categories: in dispute, 35; equalization of, 38-40; philosophical, 249; preconceived, 8, 22,35, 135,151, 182, 185, 221, 247, 259; and self, 190 see also mind, fixed Chan, Wing-tsit, 181 Chan: and art, 167; development of, 136; inheritance of, 144; and inner nature, 102; language in, 169-70; and Mādhyamika, 139; mind in, 151; in Ming, 145; mirror in, 177; and oblivion, 133; and perfected, 146; and skills, 55; and Zhuangzi, 141-45, 180, see also Zen change; adaptation to, 262; creative, 5, 20, 79, 164-65; and Dao, 79-80; and destiny, 106; and environment, 252; in Guo Xiang, 96, 99; and language, 230; and mysticism, 183; in nature, 252; and oblivion, 97-98; and origination, 196; and perfected, 148-49; in Sor Juana, 202; terms for, 197; and virtue, 111; in world, 266 chaos, 56, 160, 252 chapters: Inner, 6-9, 102, 115, 133, 157, 172, 182, 261; lost, 4-6; Outer and Miscellaneous, 6-8, 25; Qiushui, 34; Qiwulun, 26, 34, 172 Chen Baoguang, 122 Chen Guying, 206-7 Chen Tuan, 123 Chen Xiang, 75 Cheng Xuanying, 90-92, 116-18, 128, 173 Cheng, Chung-ying, 79 child: as benefit, 154; brain of, 217; death of, 41, 174; and Henry Miller, 154; and longevity, 50; in Nietzsche, 207; innocence of, 126, 201, 251; like, 24, 51, 150, 194, 237, 246; mind of, 190, 201, 208; and parents, 105-6; and perfected, 149, 150; and play, 181, 255, 258, 262; wonder of, 41, 186, 194 China: environmental degradation in, 250; Guangdong, 144; Guodian, 67, 70; Henan, 116; Jiangnan, 113; Jiangsu, 116; Jixia Academy, 48, 71; Jinzi, 48; Mawangdui, 3, 67, 119; Shandong, 112, 144; Sichuan, 112; Taiwan, 113 Chisholm, Robert, 188 Chong, Kim-Chong, 59 Chongyou lun, 94

INDEX / 317 Christianity: Catholic, 200-1, 226; Dominicans, 200; love in, 16; Protestant, 205 Chrysippos of Soli, 31 Chuci, 1, 51, 158 Cicero, 31 circumstances: definition of, 217-19; and ethics, 235-36; and skill, 214; and society, 263; and uselessness, 259; see also destiny; dynamics cities: Algiers, 229; Athens, 30; Baltimore, 222; Basel, 206; Beijing, 154, 207; Berlin, 205, 223; Bonn, 206; Burlington, 220; Cambridge, 223; Cambridge, Mass. , 221; Chang’an, 116; Chengdu, 96; Chicago, 220; Copenhagen, 205; Freiburg, 226; Göttingen, 226; Jurong, 113-14; Königsberg, 203; Kyoto, 4, 93, 142; Leuven, 200; Meßkirch, 226; Mexico City, 201; Naumburg, 206; New York, 220, 222; Paris, 200, 229; Philadelphia, 223; Princeton, 222; Stanford, 222; Vienna, 223 clarity: Great, 71; of mind, 45; and perfected, 149; and stillness, 73, 80 cognition: Being, 151; Deficiency, 155; and fasting, 126; in mysticism, 179; and oneness, 34-35; transformation of, 39 commentaries: by Buddhists, 136; history of, 89-92, 173; lost, 4-5; see also Cheng Xuanying, Guo Xiang community: and Daoism, 74, 248; and environment, 244, 253; ideal, 242; in primitivist chapters, 75 Confucianism: and bodymind, 57-58; and Buddhism, 135; definition of, 23-26; and destiny, 105; dispute in, 35; doctrines of, 26; fasting in, 126; golden rule in, 237; and great man, 156; and Guo Xiang, 89, 94; and hermits, 49; and inner nature, 103; mirrors in, 176; Neo, 66, 95, 177; and oblivion, 150; in poets, 159, 163; relationships in, 241; rhetoric against, 41; rules in, 45; and time, 129; on self, 194; skill in, 212 Confucius: and Axial Age, 22; on Dao, 78; on destiny, 219; disciples of, 47, 73; equanimity of, 39; life of, 7, 23-24; on office, 262; on self, 192; versus ugly man, 110; on virtue, 109; in Zhuangzi, 24-25

consciousness: and butterfly, 41-43; and emotions, 60; evolution of, 33-35; and failure, 262; and inner nature, 96; and language, 221-22; levels of, 216-17; map of, 155; and mind, 58; and need for order, 261; and objects, 190; of perfected, 148, 150; and philosophy, 226; and quantum physics, 65; reversal of, 38; and self, 185, 187; and skill, 214; and spirit, 62; structure of, 22829; and uselessness, 260; and virtue, 111; and wandering, 18; witness, 134; see also mind control: of environment, 248; of inner nature, 103; and mysticism, 178; and qi, 74; and schools, 76; in society, 261; release of, 251; and virtue, 108, 110 Cook Ding, 54, 62, 211-14, 220 cosmos, see universe creation: 005, 20, 79, 69-70, 80, 83-84, 88 creativity: continuous, 250; and education, 221; and governance, 265; and play, 258; and polarity, 246; and skill, 215; and universal energy, 255 Creel, Herlee G. , 180, 181 Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly, 19-20, 111, 235, 256 Cui Dahua, 7 Cui Zhuan, 90-91, 94 cultivation: of balance, 253; bigu, 121; body, 119-21; breathing, 119-20; Buddhist, 135; dancing, 51; Daoist, 66; and essence, 59, 73; and fasting, 129-30; Five Animals’ Frolic, 119-20; healing exercises, 119-21; of health, 12, 51, 119-21; of inner nature, 103; and meditation, 124-34; and mirror, 176; and skill, 213; and Twofold Mystery, 118; mystical, 185; of qi, 87; qigong, 119-20, 134, 213; self, 71-72, 194; Six Healing Breaths, 119; sleep, 123; of virtue, 110; yoga, 124, 134, 153 Da shier men jing, 138 Danto, Arthur C., 183 Dao: arts of, 70; as buddha-nature, 141, 143, 145; in Chan, 142; conductor of, 253; in Daode jing, 67; definition of, 7881; destruction of, 33; and différance, 230; experience of, 231; flow with, 20, 219; of friendship, 241; and Heidegger, 227; and individualism, 72;

318 / INDEX method, 23; and mind, 64; as mother, 53; and music, 87; in mysticism, 184, 225; -nature, 233; and oneness, 83-84; and perfected, 153; personal, 36; pervasion of, 80, 83, 127; pivot of, 81, 99, 115, 147, 173; as process of life, 249; in Sengzhao, 140; and skill, 54, 213, 216; and structure, 246; term of, 7; in Twofold Mystery, 117; as water, 249 Dao’an, 138 Daode jing: on blandness, 149; body in, 12, 58, 61; chaos in, 39; clarity and stillness in, 73; commentaries on, 4, 92, 94, 117-18, 144; on community, 242; compilation of, 3; on cosmology, 69; cultivation in, 124; on Dao, 78-80; in Daoism, 114; darkness in, 126; on destiny, 106; development of, 76; and destiny, 97; on ethics, 232; heaven in, 82; and Heidegger, 226; on music, 165; nonaction in, 14; oneness in, 84; and poetry, 157; and reversion, 247; sage in, 156; in Sanskrit, 117; on self, 193; spirit in, 138; thought of, 67-68; traces in, 100; and Twofold Mystery, 116; utopia in, 74; virtue in, 109; and Zhuangzi, 180 Daode zhenjing guangsheng yi, 116 Daode zhigui, 96 Daoism: ancient, 66; and Buddhist terms, 135; and Chan, 139; cosmology of, 66, 115; and destiny, 105; ethics in, 153, 232; and Heidegger, 226; history of, 112-13; mirrors in, 176; mystical, 181, 184-85; philosophy of, 4; in poets, 163; reactionaries in, 76; skilled practitioners in, 55; talismans in, 110; Three Caverns of, 113; today, 132-34; zhai in, 129-30 Daoshu, 120 Daoyin tu, 119 Daozang, 3 Daren fu, 158-59 Daren xiansheng zhuan, 158-60 death: and body, 63; and butterfly, 42; and emotions, 61; feigned, 105; in individualist chapters, 72; and oneness, 84; mourning after, 129; and perfected, 148; penalty, 238; and use, 259; see also life and death Dechongfu, 109-10

Defoort, Carine, 2 Deikman, Arthur, 150, 191 Democracy and Education, 220 Deng Lianhe, 17 Der Feldweg, 228 Derrida, Jacques, 143, 229-30 Descartes, Réne, 187 desires: abstention from, 251; and body, 59; in Chan, 143; control of, 137; and cultivation, 119; and inner nature, 96; and self, 190 destiny: acceptance of, 39, 55; and allotment, 96; and cultivation, 121; definition of, 104-7; and dynamics, 219; and ecology, 245; and ethics, 232; and flow, 20; in Guo Xiang, 97, 101; and heaven, 101; as mandate, 82, 104; in Meister Eckhart, 200; in Nietzsche, 208; and oblivion, 131; and perfected, 148; in poetry, 162; prediction of, 44; and skill, 210, 213, 215; term for, 7; and virtue, 111 destiny: and principle, 97-98, 238 Dewey, John, 150, 220 dialogue: 24, 47, 171-72, 199, 207, 226, 261; and self, 188; in Zhuangzi, 8, 27, 29, 3637, 46, 48, 54, 127, 143, 145, 170 dispute: Buddho-Daoist, 116; futility of, 35-36; in governance, 265; in Greece, 29; in Kierkegaard, 205; and language, 169, 173; in Mohism, 26-27; in science, 247; terms used in, 35 divination, 52-53, 78, 105 Dōgen, 212 Dongfang Shuo, 49 dreams: and awakening, 42; and consciousness, 40-42; in Hanshan Deqing, 145; interpretation of, 6; in Nietzsche, 207; of perfected, 148; in Sor Juana, 202 dreams: and illusion, 40-41, 139, 146, 19798, 223 Du Fu, 164 Du Guangting, 116 duke: Huan of Qi, 47, 212; Niuai, 43 Dunhuang, 117, 142 dynamics: versus agency, 251; and Dao, 78-79, 81; and ethics, 235, 237; in Heidegger, 228; and nonaction, 251; of reality, 218-19

INDEX / 319 dynasties: Han, 2-7, 49, 51, 53, 66, 69, 96, 112, 114, 115, 135, 158, 173, 175; Jin, 94, 158; Liang, 116; Ming, 6, 91-93, 144; Qin, 51, 53, 76; Qing, 166; Shang, 81, 85, 104, 108, 192; Song, 113, 120, 122-23; Tang, 113, 116-18, 120, 122-23, 139, 141, 157; Toba-Wei, 136; various, 6, 91-93; Warring States, 2, 7, 22, 26, 46, 48, 53, 66, 70, 105, 109-10, 180, 212; Yuan, 122; Zhou, 22-23, 46, 78, 81, 104, 108 Eckhart, Meister, 183, 200 education: Confucian, 24; in cosmologists, 69; and Dao, 78; and Dewey, 220; and environment, 254; and ethics, 235; methods of, 48; toward skill, 213 Egypt, 30, 111 Ein Winterabend, 228 Einstein, Albert, 86 emotions: anger, 34, 59-60, 144, 151, 190, 194; and boundaries, 39; in Chan, 143; and cultivation, 124; definition of, 5960; freedom from, 60-61; grief, 59, 61, 194; in Heidegger, 228; and inner nature, 103; laughter, 208, 256-57, 260; and longevity, 71; and meditation, 133; and music, 71; in philosophy, 226; in poetry, 162; and self, 190, 19495; in skepticism, 30; : in Stoicism, 31; as waste, 44 emperors: Huizong, 122; Ming, 135; Taizong, 116-17; Wu of Han, 52, 159; Xuanzong, 90, 114 emptiness: in Buddhism, 138-39; in Chan, 142; and cosmogony, 70; and Dao, 80; in Daode jing, 67; in Daoism, 115; and fasting, 125-26; and mind, 52; and mysticism, 185; in poetry, 159; and self, 194-95; in Xi Chao, 137; in Zhi Dun, 137 energy, see qi environment, see ecology Epictetus, 31 Erasmus, 200-1 Erdi zhang, 117 Erickson, Milton, 48 Erikson, Erik, 188 ethics: Buddhist, 136-38; Confucian, 24; copper rule, 237; divine command, 234; environmental, 243; and evil, 239-40; golden rule, 24, 192, 236; guilt,

240; in Guo Xiang, 94-96; and hermits, 49-50; integrity, 50; in Kant, 204; logic in, 234; Mohist, 26-27; and music, 71; of perfected, 153-54; right and wrong, 27, 33-34, 44, 148, 173; and skill, 212; in Stoicism, 31-32; and uncertainty, 45; and virtue, 109; in Zhuangzi, 23242; see also virtues evolution: and environment, 244; and laughter, 256; in new biology, 253; and self, 190; of world, 67; in Zhuangzi, 180 Experience and Nature, 150 experience: autotelic, 19; and mind, 60; mystical, 179-80, 181, 184, 186; in Nietzsche, 207; optimal, 19; peak, 151; and play, 256-57; primary, 190; pure, 150, 224; and self, 188; Zhuangzi on, 28 Fan Li, 49 fangshi, 51-53 fate, see destiny Fazang, 141 Fengfa yao, 137 fields: attractor, 155, 251; and Dao, 77; of grain, 39; sprouts in, 252; vibratory, 65 figures: Aitaituo, 110; Big Concealment, 127; Bo Le, 235; Buliang Yi, 128-29; Cheng of North Gate, 48; Cloud Chief, 127; craftsmen: 054-55, 75, 209; Crippled Shu, 55, 259; cripples, 55, 63, 11011; Father Proper, 107, 263; fisherman, 157-58, 164; frog in well, 36; Gengsang Chu, 47; Gourd Master, 48, 51-52, 64, 71, 87; Guangchengzi, 48, 62, 80, 85, 115, 126, 159; Hundun, 56, 164, 235, 264; Jie Yu, 55; Jixian, 51-52; Kuafu, 250; Kui, 36, 210; Lady Li, 36, 235; Lazy Brain, 260; Madman of Chu, 157; Master Hua, 150; Nanbo Zikui, 128-29, 145; Nanrong Chu, 47; outcasts, 26, 55, 110-11, 154; Pengzu, 50, 74, 84, 119; River God, 36; Sea, Eastern, 36; Shan Bao, 50; Shangqiu Kai, 152; Shushan No-Toes, 55, 110; Song Rongzi, 47; Sunshu Ao, 263; Tian Zifang, 47, 48; Wheelwright Bian, 54, 209; Woman Hunchback, 128-29, 145; Woodworker Qing, 54, 62, 209-10;

320 / INDEX Yancheng Ziyou, 129; Ziqi of South Wall, 44, 48, 128-29, 142, 164 flow: in activity, 22; balance in, 173; in Dao, 55; definition of, 19-20; and destiny, 97, 107; and ethics, 235; of existence, 44; and inner power, 111; in language, 172; and mind, 64, 125; and nonaction, 251; and oblivion, 150; of qi, 182; and perfected, 147; perfection of, 219; and playfulness, 256; in poetry, 164; and self, 191, 195; and dynamics, 217-19; and skills, 55, 210; and uselessness, 255 fluidity: of categories, 39; and Dao, 67-68, 86, 249; of language, 37, 170; of mind, 58, 64, 125; of reality, 98, 133, 218; of self, 189, 197; of self, 189, 197; in society, 184, 213, 262 Folly, 201 food: and Confucius, 24; desire for, 11, 72; of immortals, 50, 120, 126; offerings of, 213; production of, 22, 75; sacrifice of, 129; in society, 64; vegetarian, 129; Zhuang Zhou and, 1, 114 Foucault, Michel, 143, 229-30 freedom: in administration, 265-66; and Being-cognition, 151; and consciousness, 35; cosmic, 198; dimensions of, 18; in Guo Xiang, 99; and hermits, 50; kinds of, 238; and leisure, 17; as liberty, 72; in nature, 250; of perfected, 155; personal, 255; in poetry, 161, 163; and self, 197; social, 229, 266; and uselessness, 260; and wandering, 16 Freud, Sigmund, 188 Fromm, Erich, 151 Fu Xi, 84 Fu Yue, 5 Fukunaga Mitsuji, 4, 10, 94, 185-86 Fung, Yu-lan, 181 Gan Ji, 112 Gao You, 4 garden, 14, 144, 158, 250, 255 Ge Hong, 114-15, 177 Gelassenheit, 227, 231 Gerards, Gerard, 200 Giles, Herbert, 9, 43 Girardot, Norman, 56 Gladwell, Malcolm, 218 god: and consciousness, 217; and destiny, 105; of earth, 259; and ethics, 234;

faith in, 223; heaven as, 81; in Kierkegaard, 205; in Meister Eckhart, 200; and mysticism, 178; in poetry, 158; and self, 187; in Sor Juana, 202 Gongsun Long, 27, 48 goodness: cosmic, 21, , 153, 232; and destiny, 104; highest, 233; in Mencius, 26; of others, 235; and society, 262; in Sor Juana, 202 government: Confucian, 24; in Daode jing, 68; democratic, 29, 264; employment tests in, 265; and environment, 255; and great man, 156; with imagination, 265-66; and office, 263; and perfected, 153; of primitivists, 76; rulers in, 14, 71, 185, 238-39, 250, 264; for selfrealization of all, 264; sustainable leadership, 266; and world, 256; in Zhou state, 46 Graham, A. C., 8-10, 59, 181 Greece: and Axial Age, 22; ethics in, 237; gods of, 188; happiness in, 18; mysticism in, 178; philosophy of, 29-30, 180, 199; universe in, 83 Guan Lao-Zhuang yingxiang, 144 Guan Zhong, 47 Guanyinzi, 67 Guanzi, 47, 58, 60, 73 Guitian yuanju, 162 Guo Moruo, 17 Guo Xiang: and butterfly, 43; commentary of, 4, 89-90; editing of, 6, 7, 55; developments of, 116-17; on fish, 37; influence of, 136-40; on merging, 33; on oblivion, 127-29; on perfected, 153; and poetry, 161-62; thought of, 89-100 haiku, 163 Han Ying, 28 Han Yu, 163 Hanfeizi, 3, 28 Hansen, Chad, 31 , 36, 40, 57, 59, 78, 110, 180, 225 Hanshan Deqing, 144-45 Hanshi waizhuan, 28 Hanshu, 3 happiness: authentic, 234; and cultivation, 124; and ethics, 240; of fish, 3637; as flourishing, 234, 264; kinds of, 37; ordinary, 11-13; and play, 257; pursuit of, 18; questionnaire, 235; and self-transformation, 186-87; and skill,

INDEX / 321 216; in society, 266; and Stoicism, 32; and uselessness, 255; in uselessness, 260; Western, 18; in Zhi Dun, 137 Harford, Tim, 262 harmony: and environment, 252; and ethics, 232-33; and heaven, 82; and Kant, 204; in language, 172; and music, 161, 165; and perfected, 153; in poetry, 160; and qi, 86; and skills, 210, 216 Hawkins, David, 20-21, 155 He Xu, 75 He Yan, 94 He Zilang, 6 heaven and earth: before, 53; beginning of, 64, 80; center of, 99; in cosmology, 69-70; in Dao, 78; in Daode jing, 67, 106; definition of, 82-83; not ethical, 232; and great man, 156; harmony with, 15, 73; in Heidegger, 228; mirror of, 175; oblivion of , 97, 127, 150; and oneness, 83; in paradox, 28; qi of, 86; transcendence of, 159; and uselessness, 260 heaven: acting through perfected, 151-52; as ancestor, 147; ascension to, 123; and blandness, 149; definition of, 8182; and destiny, 104-5; and flow, 20; harmony with, 126; versus the human, 18, 21, 35, 71, 75, 77, 97, 101, 103, 132, 147, 215, 235; intentions of, 235; man of, 146; matching of, 238; and mind, 64; and mysticism, 181; as nature, 249; and perfected, 156; in people, 2; piping of, 44, 86, 165; prepersonal, 217; and self, 195; and skills, 54, 215; storehouse of, 62; texture of, 212; tianjun/tianni 82, 173; and tree, 174; and virtue, 109 Heidegger, Martin, 143, 226-28, 231 Hengxian, 70 Hermans, Hubert, 188 hermits: in ancient China, 49-50; Basho among, 164; knights as, 47; in poetry, 159; and society, 261; and uselessness, 260 Hou Wailu, 17 Hsiao, Paul Shih-yi, 226 Hua Tuo, 119 Huainanzi, 3, 5, 14, 28, 43, 57, 63, 70, 84, 85, 250

Huangdi neijing suwen, 59 Huangdi yinfu jing, 120 Huangdi, see Yellow Emperor Huangshi gong, 51 Huapu, 166 Hui Shi, see Huizi Huineng, 144, 177 Huizi: chapter on, 6; as dialectician, 1; and fish, 36-37; and fixed mind, 57; and observation, 247; in office, 47, 262; as thinker, 28 Hume, David, 187 Husserl, Edmund, 226 Huxley, Aldous, 179 identity: and Being-cognition, 151; in Buddhism, 196-97; and butterfly, 41; and change, 197; in China, 191; consciousness of, 139; cosmic, 249; and Daoism, 133; and destiny, 107; and emotions, 59; empirical, 225; and emptiness, 137; in Guo Xiang, 98; and mysticism, 182, 185; and play, 257; and self, 188; transformation of, 169; and uselessness, 259 immediacy: in arts, 165; in Basho, 165; and Being-cognition, 151; in Buddhism, 144-45; in experience, 218, 224; and meditation, 132-34; and perfected, 146; and skills, 215 immortality: in ancient China, 50; and cultivation, 121; drugs for, 158; and mirrors, 176; and perfected, 152-53; in poetry, 159; and Zhuangzi, 122-23 India: and Axial Age, 22; Brahman, 184, 196; ethics in, 237; guilt in, 241; mysticism in, 183-84; Sanskrit, 135; self in, 196-97; thinkers of, 139 inner nature: definition of, 102-3; and ecology, 245; and ethics, 234; and evil, 240; in Guo Xiang, 96-97, 101; and Meister Eckhart, 200; observation of, 238; and perfected, 148; preservation of, 75; and skills, 55, 210, 213; and virtue, 108-9; in Zhi Dun, 137 Islam, 20 Iyengar, B. K. S., 124 James, William, 188, 221 Japan, 163-65 Jaspers, Karl, 22 Jingdian shiwen, 90, 93 Jinlu dazhai qimeng yi, 130

322 / INDEX Jinshu, 89 Jinxue jue, 163 Jiude song, 158, 160 Jizang, 117-18 Johnson, Mark, 261 journey, see wandering joy: and cultivation, 124, 138, 194; of dead, 41; in Erasmus, 200-1; and ethics, 99, 235; excessive, 59-60, 107; and flow,13, 20, 235; in friendship, 57, 242; through music, 161; and oblivion, 150, 242; of perfected, 49, 123, 148, 154; and playfulness, 255, 257; and self, 190; and skill, 216; terms for, 201; and training, 214; and wandering, 16, 21, 50, 216 Juana, Sor, 201-2 Juanzi, 49 Judaism, 224, 226, 229 Jullien, François, 65, 218 Jung, Carl, 41, 218, 253 Kaiti xujue yishu, 117 Kaitian jing, 69 Kant, Immanuel, 187, 203-4 Kegan, Robert, 190 Kierkegaard, Søren, 168, 188,205-6 kings: ancient, 168; and heaven, 81; Hui of Liang, 1, 25, 28, 47, 71; power of, 108; Wei of Chu, 1; Wen, 49; Wu, 41, 49; Xuan of Qi, 1, 212; Yao, 47, 49, 262; of Zhou, 46; Yu, 49; Zhuang of Chu, 47, 107, 122, 262 knights, 22-23, 29, 47 knowledge: acquisition of, 145; and butterfly, 40; in Chan, 142; in Daoism, 44; and Dao, 79; definition of, 38; elimination of, 98; and ethics, 237; in Greece, 29-30; in Heidegger, 227; in Kant, 204; and language, 35, 221-22; limitations of, 224; and meditation, 133; and mind, 58; and mysticism, 181-83; in Nietzsche, 206; and oblivion, 132; overcoming of, 139; perfect, 33-34, 44, 149; and self, 188; and skills, 214-15; in Sor Juana, 202; transcendent, 196; unknowing, 147, 251 Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 204 Kumārajīva, 136, 139 Kunxue jiwen, 5 Lakoff, George, 261

language: and brain, 21 and calligraphy, 166-67; of Chan, 136, 143; conditioning of, 38; and consciousness, 224, 229; crazy, 140; and Dao, 79; in Derrida, 229-30; and dominance, 244; and equalizing, 39; and fantasy, 34, 168; and fish, 37; and fixed mind, 57; in Heidegger, 228; and hermeneutics, 199, 230-31; and hypnosis, 48; irony, 30, 169, 171, 206; in Kierkegaard, 205; and knowledge, 38, 52; and Mohism, 26; oblivion of, 162; parables, 171-72, 207, 211; paradoxes, 38, 143, 169, 231; and reality, 221-22; semantics, 170; types of words, 171-73; in Zhuangzi, 168-74 Lankavatara sutra, 176 Laozi: as bodhisattva, 144; as hermit, 49; biography of, 67; deified, 112; disciples of, 47-48; emigration of, 3; and immortals, 123; transformations of, 176; works of, 7; in Zhuangzi, 25 Legge, James, 9 Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm von, 179 Lévi-Strauss, Claude, 228 Li Bai, 157, 164 Li Quan, 120 Li Zehou, 17 Liang Qichao, 17 Liangshi, 6 Liexian quanzhuan, 123 Liexian zhuan, 49 Liezi, 47-48, 51-52, 149, 212 Liezi, 6, 64, 69, 71-72, 94, 150, 153, 209, 213, 237, 250 life and death: and destiny, 44, 106,207-8; as dream, 145-46; flowing in, 210, 212; overcoming of, 32, 52, 65, 81, 114, 129, 142, 148, 152, 185; and universe, 65, 79, 164, 201, 241 life: in Buddhism, 138; and dream, 42; goal of, 18, 20-21; in Guo Xiang, 98; in Heidegger, 227; and inner nature, 102; and language, 172; levels of, 42; meaning of, 20; in simplicity, 32, 67, 137, 143, 162, 213, 215, 227; as top value, 264; trouble in, 12-13 Lifton, Robert Jay, 188-89 Liji, 55, 126 Lin Xiyi, 91, 164 Lin, Shuenfu, 10

INDEX / 323 Linji, 143 Lishi zhenxian tidao tongjian, 122 Littlejohn, Ronnie, 25 Liu An, 3, 4, 6-7 Liu Jun, 94 Liu Ling, 158, 160 Liu Xiang, 3, 6 Liu Xiaogan, 3, 8-9, 17 Liu Yiqing, 93 Liu Zongyuan, 158 Locke, John, 187 longevity: and Cook Ding, 211; cultivation of, 73, 121; and immortality, 50; and individualist chapters, 71-73; of hermits, 50; and knights, 47; and mysticism, 185; and oneness, 85; and skill, 213; and uselessness, 259 Lord Lao, 112 Lotus sutra, 136 Lü Buwei, 3 Lu Deming, 90-92, 93 Lü Shang, 49 Lu Xiujing, 130 Luan Da, 52 Lüliang Falls, 209, 213 Lundberg, Brian, 181 Lunyu, 23-24, 83, 192 Lüshi chunqiu, 3, 5, 28, 72, 85, 88 Lusthaus, Dan, 44-45 Macintyre, Alasdair, 218 Makeham, John, 24 Marcus Aurelius, 31 marquis: Wen of Wei, 47; Wu of Wei, 47 Maslow, Abraham, 151 meditation: and brain, 21 ; Buddhist, 138, 141-42; forms of, 134; and immortality, 50; and mysticism, 181, 186; and oblivion, 132; practice of, 224; and self, 194; see also cultivation Mencius: 1, 25, 103, 250 Mengsun Cai, 61, 147 Mengzi, 25, 60, 88, 95, 192, 252 Merton, Thomas, 15, 53, 124, 148 metaphors: allegories, 170-71; butterfly, 41; cicada, 173-74; computer, 110, 215, 225; fish, 37; garden, 255; and heaven, 82; in Heidegger, 228; and language, 172; loom, 192; for mind, 64; mirror, 71, 139-40, 166, 175-77, 249; mother, 53 , 78, 82; in Nietzsche, 207; and philosophy, 231; potter’s wheel, 82, 84,

89, 173; of self, 189, 194; symphony, 255; uncarved block, 75, 146, 175; water, 67, 147, 249; wheel, 81; in Zhuangzi, 175-77 military: and craftsmen, 54; in Daode jing, 68; dynamics in, 218-19; and fangshi, 51-52; and government, 46-47, 50; and perspective, 265; and uselessness, 259 Miller, Henry, 154 mind: as abyss, 64; and attention, 194; automatization of, 214; and body, 216; in Chan, 142; and change, 197; and concern, 239; concentration of, 19, 64, 71, 111, 126, 128, 131, 133-34; 211, 214-15; in Daode jing, 68; in Daoism, 115; like dead ashes, 44, 60, 126, 142; and destiny, 107; distinctions of, 140; and drunkenness, 63, 146, 160, 201, 210; and ego, 188, 193, 215; and emotions, 60; and equalization, 32, 39-40, 60; equanimous, 45; fasting, 60, 12526, 133; fixed, 36, 41, 57-58, 147, 221, 237, 239; flexible, 41; freedom of, 149; and friendship, 241; heart, 58-59, 103, 253; intention, 15, 58, 111, 124; and intuition, 215; and judgment, 30, 38, 60, 62, 186; mechanical, 57, 215; and memory, 43, 58; in Mencius, 25; merging, 33, 35, 44, 64, 128, 145; as mirror, 139-40, 175-77; in mysticism, 179, 185; no-mind, 98, 125, 140, 161; obstructions of, 15; and oblivion, 127-28, 131; and oneness, 84; open, 235; and ordinary thinking, 34-39, 45, 239; overcoming of beliefs, 30; patterns of, 52; peace of, 100; perception, 26, 99, 145, 183-84; projections of, 118; and qi, 87; and reason, 204; and skepticism, 30; and skill, 210-11, 214-15; as spirit, 62; states of, 138; stillness of, 139, 151; in Stoicism, 31; theory of, 187; and trance, 44, 128; tranquility of, 125; transformation of, 186; in Twofold Mystery, 117; and virtue, 108; and will, 58; in Xi Chao, 138 Mingjian jing, 176 Mirror of Nature, 222 Moeller, Hans-Georg, 43 Mohism: 23, 26-27, 35, 41, 45, 82, 129 Møllgaard, Eske, 79 Moriae Encomium, 201

324 / INDEX mountains: Baodu, 114; Gushe, 50; and hermits, 49; Hua, 123; Lao, 144; Mao, 113; Tiantai, 161; Wutai, 144 Mozi, 7, 26-27, 78 music: and arts, 165; chanting, 145; Confucian, 23-24; and contentment, 73; and Dao, 70-71, 78; drumming, 15, 61, 75; and freedom, 161; and inner nature, 103; as metaphor, 255; and oblivion, 127; and poetry, 160; and qi, 86-87; and senses, 15; and skill, 214; in world, 72; Zhuangzi like, 181 Mystery Learning, see Xuanxue mysticism: definition of, 178-79; and philosophy, 199; and science, 247; social dimension of, 155; types of, 183-85 myth: 47, 110, 169, 207, 228, 231; heroes of, 56, 69, 75, Nabokov, Vladimir, 10 Naess, Arne, 245 Nāgārjuna , 139 Nan Yangsheng lun, 94 Nanhua zhenjing zhushu, 95 Nanhua zhenjing, 90, 114, 122 Nanshi, 6 narratives: and emotions, 60; forms of, 168, 170-71; in Greece, 30; of self, 189; on skills, 209; on Zhuang Zhou, 122-23 naturalness, see spontaneity Nature, 202 nature: alignment with, 16; and body, 63; in Chinese, 249; and consciousness, 217; and Dao, 79-81, 233; and ethics, 235; as female, 244; harmony with,32, 251, 255; and heaven, 81-82; in Inner Chapters, 102; law of, 6; love of, 203; and music, 166; and nurture, 247; and oneness, 83; and philosophy, 222-23; operation of, 173; and play, 256; in poetry, 162; pollution of, 243; process of, 250; and reason, 204; and self, 195; in Sor Juana, 202; in Thoreau, 202; and yin-yang, 85; wandering in, 161 Neiye, 60, 73, 74, 87, 103 Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 206-8 Nirvana sutra, 138 nonaction: as attitude, 15; and blandness, 149; in Buddhism, 139-40; in Chan, 141, 143; and Dao, 80, 95; in Daode jing, 67-68; definition of, 13-16; in Derrida,

230; and dynamics, 219; and environment, 250-52; and friendship, 241; and Heidegger, 226-28; versus inaction, 251-52; and Kant, 204; and knights, 47; and mysticism, 182; original, 138; and play, 255; and ruler, 71; and skill, 55; versus skillful spontaneity, 216; versus technical action, 77; in Twofold Mystery, 117-18; and wandering, 18 object: self as, 187, 189-91, 192; use of, 258 oblivion: as affliction, 150; and arts, 166; in Basho, 165; in Chan, 142, 144; and consciousness, 35; in Daoism, 115-16; of ethics, 239; in Guo Xiang, 97-98; and mysticism, 182, 18; and perfected, 146; in poetry, 162-63; and qi, 87; of self, 193-96; sitting in, 127-29; and skill, 210; in Xi Chao, 138; twofold, 98, 118 office: and government, 47; prime minister, 1, 47; reaction to, 107; rejection of, 1-2, 25, 72-73, 122-23, 262; in society, 262-63; tests for, 265; in world, 256 oneness: versus ancestors, 53; and butterfly, 41; in Chan, 144; and consciousness, 217; and creation, 69; and creativity, 258; and cultivation, 124; definition of, 83-85; in deep ecology, 245; great, 70; in Heidegger, 227; mystical 178-79, 182-83, 186; and oblivion, 127; in practice, 73; primordial, 56-57; and qi, 86; of sage, 44; and unity, 101 order: and Dao, 79-80; and destiny, 104; and equalization, 39; propensity for, 261; and qi, 86; in universe, 253; and yin-yang, 85 Origin and Goal of History, 22 Otto, Rudolf, 183 Outliers, 218 Ouyang Xiu, 163 Paleolithic, 242 Panruo wuzhi lun, 140 Paz, Octavio, 10 Pei Wei, 94 Peirce, Charles Sanders, 221-25 Peng Meng, 71 perfected: behavior of, 151-54; and Chan, 143; in Daoism, 115; definition of, 14647; and destiny, 107; and great man,

INDEX / 325 156, 158-60; in Guo Xiang, 99-100; harmony of, 138; ideal of, 266; and immortals, 122; invulnerability of, 100, 138, 146, 152-53, 260; kinds of, 155-56; mind of, 45, 126, 175; in Nietzsche, 208; and oblivion, 132; and Rorty, 223; and self, 196; and trees, 174; wandering of, 44 perfection: of awareness, 218-19; in nature, 235; of self, 196; of skill, 213, 215; in Sor Juana, 202; in Tao Yuanming, 162 Persia, 22 perspective: and governing, 265-66; multiple, 170; of sage, 45; and self, 195; transformation of, 185; unique, 36; and uselessness, 260; and wandering, 16; zero, 44 philosophy: aesthetics, 249; analytic, 180, 223; anarchy, 249, 251; anthropocentrism, 243; biocentrism, 245; causation, 217-18; chauvinism, 243; coexistentialism, 245; communism, 207; comparative, 199; consequentialism, 26; \contemporary, 220-31; deconstructionism, 206, 228-31; deontology, 233; dualism, 81, 83-84, 99, 118, 124, 127-28, 211, 260; ecocentrism, 245; ecofeminism, 244; egalitarianism, 245, 264; and environment, 243; existentialism, 206; fatalism, 20, 180; linearity, 79, 151, 168, 180, 217, 225, 248; logic, 29, 139, 224-25, 229, 249; metaphysics, 35, 7880, 83, 86, 94, 139-40, 182, 198, 205; moral extensionism, 244; nihilism, 180, 197, 206; ontology, 26, 42, 75, 139, 179, 196, 198, 228, 232; perspectivism, 31, 180, 207, 237; phenomenology, 225-26; pragmatism, 221-22; of presence, 43, 106; prudential ethics, 233; relativism, 31, 35, 139, 180, 230, 207, 237; of self, 187; semiotics, 221-22, 229; skepticism, 29-30, 28, 180, 237; sophism, 28-29; speciesism, 243; Stoicism, 31-32; structuralism, 228; transcendent idealism, 204; utilitarianism, 233; Western, 199-208, 217, 220-31 physics: and body, 65; chaos theory, 79, 245; and ecology, 246; gnomon, 81;

and perfected, 154-55; and qi, 86; quantum, 65; and self, 189 Plato, 29 playfulness: as core value, 255; definition of, 256; in Erasmus, 201; and ease, 39; and flow, 19; and governance, 266; and happiness, 18-19; and mysticism, 181; in Nietzsche, 208; in office, 263; in perfected, 150; in society, 262; today, 21 Pleistocene, 250 poetry: and drunkenness, 160-61; and Heidegger, 228; Japanese, 163; on mirror, 177; of Sor Juana, 202; in Zhuangzi, 157, 169, 171 politics: and community, 14, 242; Daoist, 66; and dominance, 238-39; dynamics in, 218-19; and environment, 248; and liberty, 18; and mysticism, 185; and primitivists, 74-76; renunciation of, 50; survival in, 264; in world, 256 potency, see virtue power: absolute, 46, 239; authentic, 20; and environment, 244; and exorcism, 6, 52, 176; imperial, 219; inner, 101, 108-11, 235; internalized, 239; magical, 100, 152-53; mongering, 240; political, 156, 238-39, 264; social, 239; structures, 261; true, 264; and uselessness, 259; will to, 208 Prajnaparamita sutra, 139, 176 Protagoras of Abdera, 29 Proteus, 188 psychology: Core Health, 21, 101, 110; and emotions, 60; of emptiness, 137; and ethics, 233; of flow, 19-20; hypnosis, 48; and inner nature, 102; Jungian, 41; laughter, 30; of mistakes, 262; and oblivion, 127, 133, 150; of office holding, 263; and perfect moment, 21, 151; of perfected, 147-49, 151; and philosophy, 221; of play, 256-58; of self, 18891, 194, 198; of skill, 215; of stress, 34, 148; and virtue, 109, 111; and virtue ethics, 234-35 Puett, Michael, 59 Putnam, Hilary, 224-25 Pyrrho of Elis, 30 qi: in arts, 166; circulation of, 73-74; and cosmogony, 70; and cultivation, 125; and Dao, 79; definition of, 85-88; and

326 / INDEX emotions, 59; flow of, 60, 182; and heaven, 82; and inner nature, 10, 103; and knowledge, 147; and matter, 246; in Mencius, 25-26; and mind, 64, 125; and music, 71; in mysticism, 184-85; and oblivion, 127; and skill, 210-11, 214; swallowing of, 121; transformation of, 182; of universe, 44, 65; and virtue, 109 Qifa yaomiao zhijue, 121 Qu Yuan, 1, 51, 164 reality: absolute, 139; interconnected, 254; and language, 169-70; mirror of, 175; and mysticism, 184; propensity of, 218-19; and self, 186, 194-95; in semiotics, 222; stable, 36; structure of, 225 reason, see knowledge relationships: in Confucianism, 24, 241; friendship, 241-42; and happiness, 21; in Mohism, 27; to nature, 245; and order, 261 religion, popular, 6, 136, 176 Ren Jiyu, 7 Rhetoric, 168 Ricoeur, Paul, 239 ritual: in Buddhism, 145; in Chan, 141; Confucian, 23-24, 58; and Dao, 70-71; and fasting, 126; and inner nature, 103; and oblivion, 127; popular, 51; of purgation, 130; and self, 192; shift in, 53; specialists, 51-54; see also sacrifice; shamanism Robinet, Isabelle, 181 Rorty, Richard, 222-23 Roth, Harold D., 4, 184 Ruan Ji, 158-60 Russell, Bertrand, 179, 223-24 Ryle, Gilbert, 188 sacrifice, 47, 126 sage: actions of, 152; and Buddhism, 140; in Daode jing, 68; government of, 264; in Guo Xiang, 99-100; knowledge of, 31, 38; as mirror, 175; in mysticism, 185; and perfected, 146; and poetry, 157; as ruler, 14, 25, 84; Shun as, 49; wandering of, 44; and world, 155 Sandong qunxian lu, 122 Sangzi, 114-15, 122 Sankara, 180 Sanlun xuanyi, 117

Sartre, Jean-Paul, 188 Saussure, Ferdinand de, 229-30 schools: agriculturists, 75; anarchists, 66; Celestial Masters, 112-13, 130; Complete Perfection, 113; cosmologists, 69-71; Daoist, 113; dialecticians, 23, 27-28, 37; Great Clarity, 113; Great Peace, 112; Great Scope, 3; hedonists, 66, 102, 161; Highest Clarity, 113-15, 130-31; Huang-Lao, 8, 9, 66; individualists, 66; Legalists, 22, 70; of Names, 27; Numinous Treasure, 113, 130; pluralists, 66, 69-71; primitivists, 66, 74-76, 102, 213; syncretists, 66, 69-71; of Tillers, 75; Twofold Mystery, 90, 116-18; in Warring States, 23; in Zhuangzi, 8 Schwartz, Benjamin, 79, 181 science: chaos theory, 154-55, 189, 246; and control, 248; on community, 242; and cultivation, 21; and Daoism, 24647; entropy, 247; and environment, 243-45, 252; geometry, 79; kinesiology, 20, 155; mathematics, 223; methods of, 247; and philosophy, 221-23; see also physics self: and butterfly, 41, 43; cosmic, 179, 193; cultivation, 53; in deep ecology, 245; deification of, 53; doubt, 182; and ethics, 233; in friendship, 242; and Henry Miller, 154; illusion of, 41; image of, 61; and karma, 131, 137, 161, 198; in Kierkegaard, 205; laugh at, 257; loss of, 142, 191; in Meister Eckhart, 200; and mistakes, 262; in mysticism, 179, 182; no-self, 139, 145, 169, 196-97; oblivion of, 128, 163, 215; observing, 150, 191, 192; parts of, 188; preservation of, 190, 194, 259-60; realization in relationships, 241; responsible, 234; and skill, 210-11; in society, 263; terms for, 191-92; transcendence of, 19; transformation of, 48, 185-87; true to, 196, 263; and world, 264; in Zhuangzi, 193-96 Seligman, Martin, 234-35 Sengzhao, 139-40, 177 senses: and body, 12, 58; and consciousness, 33-34; and Dao, 79-80; deprivation of, 127; and inner nature, 103; in Mencius, 25; and mind-fasting, 125-

INDEX / 327 26; and mysticism, 182; openings of, 56; of perfected, 148; as robbers, 121; and skill, 210; transcendence of, 159 Sextus Empiricus, 30 shamanism, 1, 51-54, 52-53, 158, 193 Shang, Geling, 80 Shangqing hanxiang jianjian tu, 177 Shanhai jing, 4 Shankaracharya, 183 Shaoweng, 52 Shen Dao, 71, 195 Shennong, 75 Shenxian zhuan, 115 Shenxiu, 177 Shi Tao, 166 Shiji, 1, 5, 7, 27, 51, 67, 122-23, 158 Shijing, 157 Shishuo xinyu, 93-94 Shuowen, 54, 63, 81, 85 Siku quanshu, 90 Silent Spring, 243 Sima Biao, 5, 90-91 Sima Chengzhen, 131, 177 Sima Qian, 1, 5 Sima Tan, 23 Sima Xiangru, 158-60 skills: versus cultivation, 77; and Dao, 78; examination of, 265; inspired, 54; and means, 139; natural, 55, 209; and spontaneity, 209-19; technical, 52; see also techniques Smart, Ninian, 180 society: alignment of, 240; in antiquity, 22; as body, 64; body in, 61-62; and Chan, 143; and change, 112; and community, 3, 242; cooks in, 212; corporate responsibility in, 266; and Dao, 79; definition of, 261; and destiny, 106; dynamics in, 218-19; and ecology, 243-48; as game, 262; great peace in, 100, 132, 232; in Guo Xiang, 99-100; laws in, 239-40; liberty in, 23839; living in, 260-63; mutual respect in, 235; and mysticism, 185; norms in, 223; and oblivion, 131; peace in, 232; and perfected, 153-56; and philosophy, 23; and population, 245; and poverty, 1, 111, 200; in primitivist chapters, 74-75; relationships in, 241; revolution in, 208; rules in, 233, 240; and self, 188-89, 190, 194, 198; and sin,

239-40; and Sor Juana, 202; status in, 12-13; and uselessness, 259-60; values in, 27; and virtue, 109-10; and wandering, 17; of Zhou times, 46-55 Socrates, 22, 30, 171, 206 Sorajjakool, Siroj, 15-16 spirit: and creativity, 215; cultivation of, 73, 121; in Daoism, 115; definition of, 62; and drunkenness, 63, 146, 160; flow of, 65; and form, 102; man, 74; in mysticism, 182; and oblivion, 127-28, 131; in perfected, 149, 151-52; and playfulness, 257; and self, 188, 193, 196; and skills, 210-11; term of, 7; transformation of, 186; as water, 70; and world, 98 spontaneity: versus artificiality, 77; in arts, 165; in Buddhism, 138; in calligraphy, 167; in Chan, 141, 143; and change, 197; in Daode jing, 67; and flow, 19; in governance, 264; in Guo Xiang, 94-95; and heaven, 82; in Heidegger, 227; and inner nature, 96; and nature, 32, 161; and Nietzsche, 208; and nonaction, 14; of perfected, 147, 150; and playfulness, 255-56; in poetry, 162; and qi, 86; and self, 193; skillful, 55, 209-19, 232-33; versus techniques, 213; in Thoreau, 202; and virtue, 109; in wandering, 16; in Zhi Dun, 136 Stace, W. T., 183-84 stages: of consciousness, 33-34; of creation, 69-70; in mysticism, 179, 182; of oblivion, 128, 131; reversal of, 34; of self-transformation, 185-86; in semiotics, 222; of transmission, 145; in Twofold Mystery, 117-18; of wandering, 17 states: Cai, 24; Chen, 24; Chu, 1, 46, 103; Han, 46, 264-65; Liang, 46; Lu, 23; Meng, 1; Qi, 46, 48, 149; Qin, 46; Shu, 46; Song, 1, 28; Teng, 26, 75; Wei, 46, 264-65; Wu, 54; Yan, 46; Yue, 28; Zhao, 46 structure: of consciousness, 228-29; and environment, 246, 252; harmony of, 253; and order, 261; of power, 244; of reality, 225 Su Dongpo, 157, 164

328 / INDEX substance: of arrangement, 39; and Dao, 79; and function, 94; of self, 187, 188, 196; underlying, 29, 43 sun and moon, 44, 53, 83, 147, 159, 251 Sun Chuo, 160-61 Sun Fengyi, 90 Sun Simiao, 91, 96, 120 Suzuki, Shunryu, 142 Symbolism of Evil, 239 Taiyi shengshui, 70 talismans, 109-10 Tan Sitong, 17 Tanjing, 177 Tao Hongjing, 113, 115-16 Tao Yuanming, 160, 162-63 techniques: in cosmologists, 69; and craftsmen, 54-55; and Dao, 70; and Gourd Master, 52; rejection of, 53; versus self, 77; versus skills, 212-13, 215; training in, 54-55 technology: and Daoism, 226; and ecology, 248; and environment, 252; in Heidegger, 227; iron-age, 22; and self, 189 temples: Kōzanji, 4, 93; Tayuan si, 144; Xihua guan, 117 text: authorship of, 2, 6; chapters of, 3; dating of, 8; editions of, 4-6, 90; layers of, 6-9; translations of, 9-10; history of, 2-3; modern Chinese editions of, 10; postface to, 6-8, 93-93; readings of, 180-81 Theaetetus, 29 Thoraval, Joel, 2 Thoreau, Henry David, 202 Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 206-7 Tian Pian, 71 time: and cultivation, 121, 129; and destiny, 106, 219; and environment, 252; and heaven, 82; and mysticism, 178; in Nietzsche, 208; in play, 257; and skill, 210; synchronicity, 218; understanding of, 44 Timon, 30 traces: in Daode jing, 100; in Guo Xiang, 95; later use of, 117; in Yan Zun, 96; in Zhi Dun, 137 Tractatus logico-philosophicus, 224 training: in arts, 166; in Chan, 143; and Dao, 78; and nonaction, 251; and skills, 54-55, 210, 214

Trakl, Georg, 228 transcendence: and butterfly, 42; and Guo Xiang, 99; and language, 172; and perfected, 150; and self, 193, 196; in Sor Juana, 202; Western, 79 transformation: and butterfly, 40, 42; chemical, 247; ethical, 238; in metaphors, 174; in nature, 246; in Nietzsche, 207; and no-self, 197; and play, 258; self, 185-86, 191, 233; spiritual, 31, 42; and uselessness, 259 trees: destruction of, 250; as metaphor, 174; talking, 168; use of, 258-59 union, see oneness uniqueness: appreciation of, 38; in collective, 253; and environment, 24950; and growth, 255; and inner nature, 101-2; and oblivion, 128-29; and skill, 213, 215 universe: aspects of, 77-88; connection to, 21; and consciousness, 217; default setting of, 101, 147; and ethics, 232; and great man, 156; and heaven, 81; and mind, 64; in poetry, 162; polarity in, 246; positive, 15; reversion in, 247; and self, 189; and virtue, 109; as web, 173 usefulness: and ethics, 233; in office, 263; rejection of, 25; in Thoreau, 203; value of, 255, 258-60 Vimalakirti nirdesa, 136, 138, 139 virtue: and Dao, 70, 101; in Daode jing, 6768; definition of, 7, 108-11; ethics, 234-35; friends in, 241; and meditation, 133; and perfected, 147, 151-53; and qi, 87; in Stoicism, 31 virtues: altruism, 242; as causing evil, 261; benevolence and righteousness, 1112, 24, 26, 47, 57, 104, 109, 127, 192, 261; compassion, 25, 242; Confucian, 12, 24, 239; and character strengths, 234; in Daode jing, 68; in Daoism, 130, 232; and destiny, 104; and dynamics, 219; and fixed mind, 57; forgiveness, 234-35; and Guo Xiang, 89, 94, 96; harmony as, 251; humility, 32, 49, 107-8, 148-49, 154, 164, 200, 203, 234, 263; in Kant, 204; in Kierkegaard, 205; and knights, 47; Mohist, 26; and oblivion, 127; of perfected, 154; in poetry, 159, 161; of sage, 45; and self, 192-93;

INDEX / 329 tolerance, 39, 99, 235; and virtue, 1089 Walden, 202-3 wandering: of Basho, 164; and butterfly, 42; ecstatic, 6, 17, 51, 115, 152, 159-60, 162; and ethics, 235; in Europe, 11; free and easy, 11, 16-18, 123, 201, 216; in Guo Xiang, 99-100; and Heidegger, 227-28; and hermits, 50; and mysticism, 181; in nature, 158, 161-62; in Nietzsche, 207; of perfected, 154; and play, 258; as saunter, 203; and skill, 210; of soul, 51; and swimming, 209; in uselessness, 259; see also flow Wang Bi, 4, 67, 94, 165 Wang Bo, 17 Wang Fuzhi, 4, 92 Wang Ni, 47 Wang Shizhen, 123 Wang Songnian, 122 Wang Wei, 157-58 Wang Xizhi, 166-67 Wang Yangming, 177 Wang Yinglin, 5 Wangming, 142 water: and cosmogony, 70; and Dao, 67; ferryman on, 209; and mind, 64; and oneness, 84; and qi, 85; see also metaphors Watson, Burton, 10 wealth: personal, 3, 188, 205; in society, 22, 27, 129, 156, 219; as value, 4, 12-13, 25, 39, 106, 154, 194, 234, 252, 256, Wenxuan, 90 West: control in, 248; Enlightenment in, 14, 187; mysticism in, 183-84; philosophy in, 199-208; Reformation in, 201; self in, 187-91; see also Greece Wetering, Ian Willem van de, 142 Wieger, Léon, 9 Wilber, Ken, 217 Wilhelm, Richard, 9 Winnicott, Donald, 188 wisdom: ancient, 2, 69, 249; in Buddhism, 137, 140, 177, 179; in Daode jing, 67, 70; and ethics, 234; and happiness, 11, 1415, 69, 112; of heaven, 57, 70, 132; ordinary, 12-13; practical, 171, 262; and perfected, 153; and skills, 56; and tranquility, 132; in Twofold Mystery,

118; unlimited, 122; among virtues, 106, 110, 234 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 143, 223-25 women: attraction to, 110; beauty of, 73; death of wife, 61; erudition of, 201-2; and environment, 244; and Nietzsche, 206; as shamans, 51 Wong, Eva, 132 world: dangers of, 152-53; escape from, 160-61; globalization of, 253, 254; improvement of, 154-55; living in, 255-64; in mysticism, 179; oblivion of, 128-29; and self, 264; and society, 261; uselessness in, 260 Wright, Arthur, 180 Wu Guang, 49 Wu Yun, 5, 177 Wu Zixu, 5 Wu, Kuangming, 9, 42 Wuchu jing, 177 Wugan wen, 130 Xi Chao, 137-38 Xi Kang, 158, 160-61, 164 Xiang Xiu, 89-90, 93-94, 120, 158, 160-61 Xianyuan bianzhu, 122 Xie Lingyun, 160-61 Xing zi ming chu, 103-5 Xixin ming, 142 Xu Wugui, 48, 219 Xu You, 47, 49, 72, 262 Xuandu guan jingmu, 116 Xuanpin lu, 123 Xuanxue, 4, 89, 136 Xuanyuan shizi tu, 122 Xunzi, 28, 105 Yan Fu, 17 Yan Hui, 25, 47, 73, 107, 127, 262 Yan Yuan, 47, 212 Yan Zun, 96 Yang Guorong, 17 Yang Zhu, 8, 15, 71-73 Yang, Rur-bing, 182 Yangsheng lun, 161 yangsheng, see cultivation; longevity Yangxing yanming lu, 120 Yearley, Lee, 183, 204 Yellow Emperor, 48, 53, 59, 69, 80, 84, 126, 129, 159 Yijing, 4, 69, 83, 92, 117, 156, 159 Yin Xi, 3, 49, 67 Yinjiu diwu, 162

330 / INDEX Yinshu, 119 yin-yang: and biology, 246-47; and cosmology, 68-69, 95; and Dao, 79-80; and environment, 252; and evil, 240; and five phases, 246; in Guo Xiang, 99; in mysticism, 184; and oneness, 85; and qi, 86; school of, 23 Yuan Shuzhen, 121 Yuanyou, 158-60 Yuelun, 161 Yuzi, 115 Zaehner, R. C., 183 Zen: and butterfly, 41; cooks in, 212; and oblivion, 133; and poetry, 163-64; see also Chan Zeng Zao, 120 Zeno of Citium, 31 zhai, 126, 129-30 Zhang Daoling, 112 Zhang Liang, 51 Zhang Tianyu, 123 Zhang Zhan, 94, 213 Zhangjiashan, 119 Zhao Daoyi, 122 Zhao Mengfu, 122 Zhao Xiangzi, 152 Zhaoyin shi, 165-66

Zhen’gao, 113, 116, 122-23 Zhengguan, 141 Zhenzi, 120 Zhi Dun, 136-37 Zhiyan zong, 120 Zhou Tongdan, 7 Zhu Xi, 91 Zhuan Xu, 84 Zhuang Zhou qijue jie, 120-21 Zhuang Zhou: as bodhisattva, 144-45; conversion of, 194-95; in Daoism, 11415; exercises of, 120; as hermit, 49; as immortal, 122-23; life of, 1-2; in poetry, 157; and politics, 239; rejection of office, 72; school of, 66, 76; stories on, 8; as thinker, 4; title of, 122 Zigong, 47 Zilu, 47 ziran, see spontaneity Zishu, 163 Zoroaster, 22 Zuikan, 142 Zukav, Gary, 20 Zuo Si, 165 Zuowang lun, 131-32 Zuoyou ming, 136