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The Book of Chuang Tzu

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  2,124 ratings  ·  127 reviews
A Chinese classic, the Chuang Tzu was written sometime in the 4th century BC, and consists of original teachings, stories, tales and jokes told by Master Chuang, as well as others which have coalesced round his name. It is considered second only to the Tao Te Ching, but the two books coundn't be more different. Where the Tao Te Ching is distant and proverbial in style, the ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 1st 1996 by Penguin Books (first published -350)
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Daniel Wright
Zhuangzi deliberately makes himself very hard to pin down, but here are some of the things that struck me.

1. Zhuangzi is the Diogenes to Confucius' Aristotle, to use a slightly fatuous analogy. He disclaims ambition and self-aggrandizement, and systems in favour of proverbs, anecdotes and clever subversion.

2. Zhuangzi delights in paradox. This one of the greatest pleasures in reading the book.

3. Confucius and other 'sages' appear in stories at various points, filling the purpose of sympathetic c
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lovely poetic stories exemplifying key Daoist concepts. Whereas the Tao Te Ching is pure symbolism and poetry, this is a collection of parables. That means its a lot more "concrete." As a result, it gets even more explicitly anarchist than Laozi at times, but it also gets even more explicitly bizarre (condemning listening to complex music for example). This has the famous Butterfly Dream parable in it, as well as the Turtle of Ch'u parable, which were both excellent. This is a good way for peopl ...more
This book is so quotable.

This is one of the best chinese texts I've ever read, and one of the most famous ones. It's probably the most fun to read too.

Zhuangzi (and the anonymous writers) talk about and poke fun at different philosophers and ideas of the time. He/they explain their philosophy through short stories and anecdotes, often featuring legendary chinese rulers and other characters.

Some of the most memorable passages have Confucious, probably the most praised philosopher and statesman
Nick Klagge
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it
I had built up this book so much in my mind, perhaps it was inevitable that I would be disappointed in it. I really wanted to like it. I've felt for a long time that I had some affinity with Daoist ideas--mostly from reading Dao De Jing, Smullyan's "The Tao is Silent," and Le Guin's "The Lathe of Heaven." I'm drawn to the attitude, similar to Hellenistic Skepticism, of withholding judgment on things going on around you, and I like the gentle but pronounced disdain for those things often held in ...more
Ben Smitthimedhin
“The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you've gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?”

I really do appreciate Chuang Tzu. I think he’s underrated (when compared to Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching), especially because he has a better s
Natty Peterkin
Nov 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Good, but overall it says little the Tao Te Ching doesn't say better.
Aurélien Thomas
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: taoism
Chuang Tzu was, with Lao Tzu, one of the main thinkers of Taoism. If Lao Tzu left us the Tao Te Ching, a poetical collection of verses, beautiful but, honestly, at time quite difficult to fully get, Chuang Tzu deepen his philosophy by taking a completely different approach: gathering stories and anecdotes portraying a whole set of historical or fictional characters, so as to shape a funny, original, and subversive anthology. The Butterfly Dream, the metaphor of the frog trapped in a well... They ...more
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chuang Tzu (more correctly rendered as Zhuang Zi) is perhaps the second most important figure in Daoism after (the possibly Mythic) Lao Zi. The book of Chuang Tzu (henceforth referred to as Zhuang Zi) is a collection of anecdotes, stories, and analogies of Zhuang Zi's teachings on how to achieve the Tao, or the way.
The Tao, Dao, or Way is essentially the same concept as found in Tao Te Ching (or Dao De Jing) but is elaborated more so, and as such, is more accessible.
The origin and precise canoni
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Understanding is not understanding” (302): such is Chaung Tzu’s flavour of scepticism. It goes far beyond Descartes’—to put them on the same spectrum would be like asking both Tom Cruise and a cucumber to audition for the same role. One might also say it goes far beyond what is healthy: when someone says a thing like, “It is dangerous to use any of your faculties” (222), it’s hard not to cry paranoia. Knowledge, to Chuang Tzu, seems to be by definition a deception.

And yet: it’s also hard to sa
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book of Chuang Tzu

He says what we hold dear for which we even commit our own life is often not Tao. Obsession with honor, wealth, power as well as knowledge blind our spiritual eyes to see true purpose and meaning of life.

Without intervention and supervision, spring follows winter. Day follows night. Flowers bloom. Form which every life springs up and through which we can peek what Tao is. In this sense, righteousness and benevolence, he warns, do more harm than good on balance: some disgui
Paul Haspel
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
The book that bears Chuang Tzu’s name was probably not all written by Chuang Tzu – chances are that it is something of a compilation, put together at least in part by a number of the great man’s disciples – but it is unquestionably Chuang Tzu’s book, and it is one of the seminal works of classical Chinese philosophy.

The name of Chuang Tzu might better be rendered as Zhuang Zhou, 莊子. But however one transliterates his name, he is one of the most important philosophers who ever lived. Living and w
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
It's ok. Not as insightful as the Tao Te Ching.
Russell Fox
I'm no scholar of East Asian or Chinese philosophy, though at one time I thought I would become such. What I did was become someone who has enough familiarity with Confucian thought, particular as it applies to social and political matters, to have been able to publish a couple of scholarly articles on the topic, do a few reviews of academic publications on the topic, and get invited to a few conferences in China. I'm lucky in all those regards, but my gaps of knowledge when it comes to the phil ...more
Bruno Oliveira
Nov 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt that I was a butterfly, flitting around and enjoying myself. I had no idea I was Chuang Tzu. Then suddenly I woke up and was Chuang Tzu again. But I could not tell, had I been Chuang Tzu dreaming I was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming I was now Chuang Tzu ?
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I liked the fact that I did not understand all of the arcane references. To me, that is proof of the authenticity of the translation. Unlike the Tao Te Ching, this work contains funny stories, and even moral admonishments. I bookmarked many passages which I will return to again and again in my feeble attempts to live my life in a manner that is in concord with nature.
Joe Green
Jul 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm gonna keep this short: I love this book so much I'm tempted to learn Chinese just so I can better get the true words of Chuang Tzu.

Those of you who have it marked as "to read", get on with it already, it's more than well-worth your time.
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the only work that within itself can explain Daoism. I found a lot myself already in here thus I feel resolved. The concept of actionless action makes me a lot more comfortable with the notion the Universe may be entirely predetermined.
Jan 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the foundational texts of Chinese culture. Find me a man who has forgotten words, and I will have a word with him.

Tom Meade
The Book of Chuang Tzu that can be reviewed is not the Eternal Chuang Tzu.
Patrick Stuart
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What do I think about Taoism (from this one book?)

I find it calming, there is much I like. It seems to have a very clear dark side, or at least dark-grey side which is there in the text but which most Western interlocurs seem to either not see or just keep quiet about.

Though that seems to go for the majority of religious when you actually read the text. The people living them are usually really living a complex synthesis of the better parts of scripture mixed with broadly pro-scial stuff that ma
Nov 30, 2013 added it
Shelves: philosophy, asian
(trans. Martin Palmer)

Cook Ting put down his knife and said, 'What your servant loves best is the Tao, which is better than any art. When I started to cut up oxen, hat I saw was just a complete ox. After three years I had learnt not to see the ox as whole. Now I practise with my mind, not with my eyes. I ignore my sense and follow my spirit. I see the natural lines and my knife slides through the great hollows, follows the great cavities, using that which is already there to my advantage. . . .'
The "Zhuangzi" has always been one of my favorite texts, thanks to the humor, the wild flights of fantasy, the imaginative stories and parables, the poetry of its language. And of course its philosophical stance, which is a combination of relativism and skepticism, bound together by an all-pervading holism. At the same time, it is one of the most influential works ever written in Chinese, both within the Chinese tradition (think of poets as Tao Yuanming, Su Dongpo, Yang Wanli etc, as well as Zen ...more
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, I read it again and again and see, that humankind did not learn essentially more within 2000 years
Peter Landau
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Perhaps a precursor to Zen and one of the founders of Taoism, Chaung Tzo’s book of stories, parables and whatnots boils down to an epic troll of Confucius.
Jacques Coulardeau

I am certainly not a specialist in Taoism. Yet this book offers some interesting elements for the standard Western reader who wants to open up to Eastern thinking.

First, the yin and the yang, too famous not to be known by everyone in the West where it is seen as some kind of equilibrium swing, swinging to the left and then swinging to the right, swaying to the east and then swaying to the west, or if you prefer to get out of this square quartet-presentation an
Alex Zakharov
Aug 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Oh crap, I woke up this morning and realized that the butterfly was dreaming me!!

Tasty little book, includes inner and outer chapters that can be read in any order. From what I understand the translation has been somewhat simplified for the Western reader by omitting at least some of the Chinese cultural references. That said Martin Palmer’s translation is considered to be pretty good overall.

I was primarily interested in checking the text out from a neuro-scientific and anti-enlightenment persp
Rowan Sully Sully
Having loved Lao Tze's Tao Te Ching around 4 years ago I chose to buy books by Confucius and Chuang Tzu. Confucius is the most well known of these three philosophers whilst Chuang Tzu's biggest claim to fame was his one dream in which he questions whether he is a man dreaming he was a butterfly or a butterfly now dreaming that he is a man (mentioned in Borge's 'New refutation of time').

First, I read The Analects by Confucius, and was largely underwhelmed. In comparison with the more radical elem
Zachary Littrell
This would've been such a slamdunk 5 stars, if this wasn't most definitely written by more than one guy under the name "Zhuangzi." One's a really smart, brilliant cookie. The other is a dull partypooper.

I really like Zhuangzi --he's a thoughtful, funny, frustrating, and anarchic old guy who's just tired of everyday BS. He tells confusing, entertaining nonsense stories and leaves it to the reader to figure out what the hell he's talking about. Some of my favorite stories:

* Zhuangzi uses a skull f
Kurt Douglass
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
As an American living in 2018, it is difficult to rate or review a book written in China over 2000 years ago. I am not sure I should.

It is a book that is deliberately esoteric and paradoxical, but full of parables, fables, anecdotes, aphorisms, and wisdom. It is more accessible and readable than the other great Taoist test, the Tao Te Ching. Chaung Tzu is a gifted - and often humorous - storyteller, and the simplicity of his narratives often belie the deep truths they convey.

To try to categori
Emily Carroll
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zhuangzi is one of the two foundational texts of Daoism. It is unique in Chinese philosophy because instead of teaching life lessons and rules, it teaches to be a carefree wanderer. It was also very unlike other philosophies because it was extremely fun to read…though somewhat confusing as well. For example, chapter two “On Equalizing Things” is like reading a more intense version of Alice in Wonderland. It repeats words multiple times and uses the same word to explain the opposite. Almost the e ...more
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庄子 or 莊子 Zhūangzi (c. 369 BC - c. 286 BC).
Zhuangzi, or “Master Zhuang” (also known in the Wade-Giles romanization as Chuang-tzu) was, after Laozi, one of the earliest thinkers to contribute to the philosophy that has come to be known as Daojia, or school of the Way. According to traditional dating, he was an almost exact contemporary of the Confucian thinker Mencius, but there appears to have been

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