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The Book of Chuang Tzu

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  1,850 ratings  ·  107 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,
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
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
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 pr
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 ba
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
Natty Peterkin
Nov 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Good, but overall it says little the Tao Te Ching doesn't say better.
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.
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 sense of
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
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
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:

The Ni>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 ...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.

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
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 advan
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
Chris Carlisle
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great philosophical book that compiles some of the greatest Daoist sayings by one of the founding Daoist masters; Master Zhuang, otherwise known as Chuangtzu and Zhuangzi. This is a book that one can come back too many times to clean new insight into life itself. Every chapter is on a new subject that can inspire, enlighten, and inform one in life, some have stories that may just make you smile. There are many great philosophical sayings in this book and it has a lot of historical context. I l ...more
Aug 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read the James Legge translation of Zhuangzi because it was the only version I could find in print which also contained the underlying Classical Chinese text. And I feel guilty complaining about the style of a Victorian-era Scotsman. (I had to look up the Scoticism "leal" for "loyal"!) Yet, here we are.

Zhuangzi (especially the so-called "Inner Chapters") I rate five stars, but the stilted 19th century translation I regret to rate only three.
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is quite a read. Gradually you realize that many stories emphasize the same basic ideas.
The fact that you had to ignore that Kongzi was explained 20 times as Confucius and the many notes on names that were in my opinion unimportant for an understanding of the deeper meaning of the story, was a bit irritating.
Aaron Sommers
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I stumbled upon Chuang Tzu during a careless search of Taoist poetry. Now that I’ve read this book I can safely say that it’s best to stumble upon such work—prose that’s vivid but stark, accessible yet impenetrable, and useful yet worthless. Perhaps we’re all just butterflies dreaming of this world. I recommend this book to every person whose ever doubted the people who judge.
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zhuangzi is the most accessible source of Chinese philosophy and the religious origins of Daoism. It is also probably the oldest humorous book every written. This translation is notable because it takes great care to translate peoples names, a source of insight missing from many other translations.
Eric Farr
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This seemed like a great translation, though this is my first exposure to the text. I understood some of it, but I was fascinated by all of it and often found myself delighting in a particular phrase. The Key Terms section at the end was vital for helping me piece together what I just read.
C Settles
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Burton Watson is the gold standard for Zhuangzi translations. All others defer or refer to him. This book contains not only the inner chapters, those that are reliably attributable to Zhuangzi the person, but also the outer chapters. I bought this because I was constantly finding passages being cited and wanted to be able to read the full chapter for context. A must have reference.
Pleasantly profound and perpetually perplexing. It’s not food for thought, it’s s whole buffet! For free!
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