Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings
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Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings

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4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  1,417 ratings  ·  41 reviews
The basic writings of Chuang Tzu have been savored by Chinese readers for more than two thousand years. And Burton Watson's lucid and beautiful translation has been loved by generations of readers. Chuang Tzu (369?-286? B.C.) was a leading philosopher representing the Taoist strain in Chinese thought. Using parable and anecdote, allegory and paradox, he set forth, in the b...more
Paperback, 159 pages
Published January 1st 1950 by Columbia University Press (first published -350)
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Tim
This book contains the "inner chapters," not the entire Chuang Tzu, but generally considered the essential and least corrupt chapters. It's one of my favorite books, and after reading Watson's translation I'm unable to read anyone else's - it's wonderful (and there are quite a few weak versions, and weaker paraphrases). Of the Chinese classics I've read this is not only the most subtle and profound, it's sometimes absolutely hilarious. His parodies of Confucianism are a riot, his magical unreali...more
Adam
Feb 20, 2010 Adam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in Taoism
Recommended to Adam by: Freshman Studies
I found this to be a nice discussion of Taoism, worlds easier to extract meaning from than the Tao Te Ching, though not quite as clear as the Tao of Pooh. It has all the trappings of ancient philosophy: parables, dialogues, and very poor logical constructions (though, unlike in Plato, these are essentially irrelevant for Zhuangzi; the point is never expressed in logical terms, but rather by illustration in analogy and parable).

The parables are somewhat repetitious, both in tone and in ideas, an...more
Joseph
I've read this a number of times and I've read other translations ... for me Burton Watson is the best ... the humor shines through and the language Watson uses in his translation is clear and precise. He also provides useful footnotes which are located on the same page as the text

Here's a famous sample using the famous cleaver illustration: "However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I'm doing, work...more
Jess
I almost felt like putting this on the "fantasy" shelf, so much of it was so purely fanciful. Chuang-tzu is, in the words of my prof, "a wild literary ride." Daoist in affiliation, this book is actually pretty drastically different from Lao-tzu's, and much more of the mystical side. The only reason why it's at 4 and not 5 stars is the lack of cohesiveness which plagues these +2000 year old texts. It can be a little hard to focus your attention at times when the thing is jumping all over the plac...more
Gregg
Ursula K. LeGuin's "Lathe of Heaven" has a few quotes by Chuang Tzu inside; namely the one about a man dreaming he's a butterfly, who when waking questions if he's now a butterfly dreaming he's a man. This book is a collection of mind-bending parables about imaginary creatures, arguments between philosophers from different times, and places that don't exist.
Opzonbee
As a Chinese,the time(Spring and Autumn Periods)Chuang Tsu,Sun Tsu,Lao Tsu,etc lived is always fascinating to me,it's one of few periods in the long history that actually make me proud.Of course,Chuang Tsz is a must read for me,though I find it difficult and I haven't finished it in the years,the ideas Chuang Zhou brought in his works inspired me so much that I mentioned him here and there from time to time.What he said more than 2000 years ago always remind me that out of the suffering and mean...more
Hieu Cao
I don't understand several first chapters; however, the text gradually makes sense by itself. Chuang Tzu attempts to show us a perspective completely different from conventional thinkings but perfectly harmonious. A must-read!

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03/12/2011, Sat
This is my second reading. I will make some statements about my insights gained from this book:
- All 'words' are relative but points to one absolute truth of nothingness.
- There must be something in order to have nothingness.
- Life as well as the whole wor...more
Neil
Zhuangzi has been labeled a "Taoist" since the 2nd century B.C., but what the hell does that mean? Sima Qian started this whole thing of calling Laozi and Zhuangzi "Taoists", like they shared the same world view and argued the same ideas. Wrong! Laozi and Zhuangzi really need to be taken as separate representations of different ways of thought, distinct not only from each other but from the wave of "Confucians" (another label courtesy of Sima Qian in the 2nd century BC) to come after Confucius h...more
William Cheek
Feb 10, 2010 William Cheek rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Them that likes to think a bit
It doesn't matter what your worldview is - Chuang Tzu is good food for the mind.

The basic allure is in the concept of casting off...everything. Our deepest thoughts and considerations are almost always blocked by certain premises that we are unable to see through. Chuang Tzu escapes these barriers, in a thrilling and powerful way.

At its basic level, The Way according to Chuang Tzu is not anchored in anything. Physical circumstance, metaphysical reality - these do not, well, MATTER. The Way is a...more
Tony duncan
After reading the Tao Te Ching, I discovered Chuang Tzu and it blew me away. This was an actual historical person that is documented and these are his writings.

The main thing is that his points are made in a style that is completely n harmony with the philosophy. Some of the passages are very funny, and the emotional connection fo the humor makes the point being made affect you. It is the connection to the idea, and the making it a part of oneself, rather than the intellectual understanding that...more
bryce
Mar 18, 2007 bryce rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kung-fools
the good word...
4th century BCE... comedian, poet, story teller, and trickster..
a book i continually aspire to understand and hold myself to,
With a satchel of quirky stories... he single handedly undermined the institution of rational thought in ancient China..
(who knows if that's true.. it just has a ring to it...)

Burton Watson... is an excellent translator, a famous scholar... ive read four other translations.. only his manages to begin to capture all the multitudes... (though others are be...more
Myles
Apr 22, 2008 Myles rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: philosophy kids and eastern religion types.
in a nutshell, this book offers a fairly loose translation of the Chuang Tzu, and offers a bit of philosophical difference from the works of Confucius. The book is sometimes a bit difficult to grasp, until you remember what the prologue suggests doing, and then the tales of pages begin, once again, to come together as they were intended to do.

Personally, I think that Confucius had a better way than the Chuang Tzu.

Then again... maybe it's just the frame of mind that I read it from?

all in all- w...more
D.G. Barrett
May 09, 2014 D.G. Barrett rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys thinking, not thinking, or thinking about thinking.
My personal favorite translation.
Eva Shang
Very trippy. I opened to the first page and was immediately confronted with a story about a bird who became a pig who became a flower. But once you get into it and understand it intuitively, its stories and principles about the "Dao" or the flow of nature, will just begin to make sense to you. That said, sometimes, you'll still want to put your head down and cry from baffled confusion, but overall, it's a good read that leaves you with a greater sense of connection to the world and nature and Da...more
Richard F. Schiller
"Is the man dreaming of the butterfly, or is the butterfly dreaming of the man?" With questions like this, Chaung Tzu proves himself to be every bit of Lao Tzu's disciple. Interesting to note that Chuang Tzu essentially had bits of solipsism in his work thousands of years before Westerners like T.S. Eliot incorporated it into works like "The Wasteland". Daoism is still my favourite philosophy.
Joe
I reads me some Chuang Tzu to get by.

The style might seem fragmented, but it's not--it swerves powerfully and purposefully. There's a definite poetic logic at work in how shorter, unrelated (and sometimes inane) seeming anecdotes are juxtaposed. That's to say, in order to reveal the radically simple, Chuang Tzu utilizes wonderfully complex/diverse strategies.
John
excellent translation of an essential taoist text. roughly contemporary with tao te ching. watsons introduction provides good (if brief) historical and cultural context.

translating from chinese is tricky and a good translation is essential. this is it. very readable, and watson also provides notes for every difficult-to-translate or uncertain passage.
Wushi
A worthwhile book if you are interested in the Taoist tradition. Most people think that the only text for taoists is the Tao Te Ching, but this translation of the collected writings of Chuang Tzu is perhaps more elucidating about the nature of the Tao than even the Tao Te Ching. An extremely quirky set of wisdoms.
Frosh
Of all the Spring and Autumn and Warring States classics, this is my favorite as the most inventive, radical, and philosophically wild of the bunch, which is saying a great, great deal, as they are all impossibly inventive, radical, and philosophically wild in, well, a "hundred" different ways.
Pe0m
This translation is excellent. As another translator of this material I can say that there are very few places where any interpretation other than Watson's own could be preferred. His ability to express an ancient Chinese meaning in excellent English prose in unexcelled.
Jeremy
A little odd at points, but definitely very insightful and it's a very quick read so I would certainly recommend it to anyone remotely interested. The fact that its over 2200 years old and still in print is a testament in and of itself, there's plenty to be gained.
Méadhbh
My poor head. Why do I subject myself to this? There's stuff like 'I know that you know that I know that you don't know that I know that the fish are happy because I am standing on a bridge.' My brain is bleeding a little right now.
Susannah
I am constantly in the state of re-reading this book. Gospel for the dissatisfied over-achiever.
Thom Foolery
I first read this translation as part of a graduate seminar on Laozi and Zhuangzhi, in spring 1999, with Dr. Yi Wu.
Victoria
I cannot vouch that this is the translation I read years ago, so I can't review this particular book.
Chuang Tzu was more profoundly influential for me than any other writer/ thinker.
Dan
I think reading Chuang Tzu is like eating cholesterol-lowering food for your mind.

Makes me want to devote more time to quiet reflection. What a strange thing to be considered a luxury.
Kate
Eh, not as good as the Tao Te Ching. It is an interesting read all the same, but it is a bit too heavy on the story-telling and too light on the philosophy for me.
Joshua
A much tougher read than the Tao Teching. FIlled with wonderful surrealist stories about finding the Tao. Will read it again soon.
Dave
Fabulous. Along with Freud's The Future of an Illusion, maybe one of two books to seriously and significantly alter my adult worldview.
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“Words are not just wind. Words have something to say. But if what they have to say is not fixed, then do they really say something? Or do they say nothing? People suppose that words are different from the peeps of baby birds, but is there any difference, or isn't there? What does the Way rely upon, that we have true and false? What do words rely upon, that we have right and wrong? How can the Way go away and not exist? How can words exist and not be acceptable? When the Way relies on little accomplishments and words reply on vain show, then we have rights and wrongs of the Confucians and the Mo-ists. What one calls right the other calls wrong; what one calls wrong the other calls right. But if we want to right their wrongs and wrong their rights, then the best to use is clarity.” 15 likes
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