Part 3 . . . . (Part 4.3 – - – Part 4.2 – - – Part 4 – - – Part 2 – - – Part 1)

Zhuangzi 莊子


Traditionally, the second most significant classical-era (pre-Han) Daoist is Zhuangzi. Sima Qian 司馬遷, in the 63rd chapter of the Shiji 史記 (Laozi Hanfei Liezhuan 老子韓非列傳), identified Zhuangzi as Zhuang Zhou 莊周, a man from Meng 蒙 who lived circa 370–300 B.C.E., (which is around the same time the Laozi seems to have begun to be written and compiled). Sima said Zhuangzi’s written works amounted to over a hundred thousand words and owed much to the teachings of Laozi (老子之言).[1] He criticized the followers of Confucius (孔子之徒), clarified “the methods of Laozi” (老子之術) and castigated the Ru and Mo (儒、墨). Sima also wrote that he was an official at a “lacquer garden” (Qi Yuan 漆園), of which nothing is known.[2]

While some scholars are doubtful of or disbelieve everything Sima Qian says about Zhuangzi,[3] we really have no way to know where he obtained his information.[4] He may have obtained accurate accounts from archives located around what is now China, through which we know he travelled. Nonetheless, Sima recognized that Zhuangzi was well-educated, that there was apparently little that he didn’t have insight into and reported that no scholars in his day were immune to his criticism. Many scholars have noted his exceptional ability in writing and his familiarity with current philosophical discourse and folklore. The creativity demonstrated in his parables, fables, satirical anecdotes and analogies is unparalleled in ancient China. Judging by the fact that many chapters either quote or show familiarity with the sayings from the Laozi, and use Lao Dan as an authoritative spokesperson, Zhuangzi and/or some of the anonymous authors[5] seemed to have been members, or mingled with members, of a lineage, community or environment where such views were somewhat popular. The Lao Dan anecdotes are found in no other texts and may have been created by these authors, taking advantage of Lao Dan’s seniority and assumed superiority over Confucius.[6]

Perhaps the best source of information regarding Zhuangzi is the text Zhuangzi itself, although the veracity of it cannot be verified. In it, he is said to have been poor[7] and married with one or more children. [8] We find him living in the state of Song 宋,[9] in which perhaps Meng 蒙 was located, and travelled to Wei 魏 / Liang 梁[10] Lu 魯,[11] and Chu 楚.[12] He may in fact have lived in Chu as well, as one of the most well-known stories about him involves the Chu King Wei 楚威王 (r. 339-329 B.C.E.) sending messengers to him bearing gifts and requesting his services. Zhuangzi famously rejects the offer, preferring his freedom.[13] Disciples (弟子) are mentioned in a couple of chapters,[14] including a follower named Lin Qie 藺且.

Jordan Paper observed that while the “author of the early strata of the Zhuangzi, from his education, literacy, and concerns, was clearly from an aristocratic background,” he nevertheless appears to have had a lifestyle “only marginally above the peasant.” Paper also describes him as “asocial,” meaning that he apparently had little social function and “strong disinclination for government service, the elite occupation of the time.” Instead, he sees Zhuangzi as one who was “prone to ecstatic experience, had zero experiences [mystical union] and discussed them with terminology based on remnants of the earlier xian [僊] shamanism.”[15] We will return to the question of mysticism later.

Angus C. Graham wrote, “The Inner chapters, permeated by an obsession with the life of Confucius, invite the suspicion that their author must have been brought up as a Confucian, but nothing in the anecdotes supports the conjecture except for a single, anomalous, reference to Zhuangzi wearing Confucian dress.”[16] He goes on to suggest Zhuangzi may have begun as a Confucian, turned to Yangism, then met, and was influenced by the “Logician” Huizi 惠子, and then “dropped out.”[17]

Whether or not Graham is correct about Zhuangzi’s Confucian upbringing, throughout the text Confucius, Confucian ideals and Confucian paragons of virtue like Yao and Shun are mocked, denounced or denigrated.[18] The Ru[19] and Mohists 墨 are mentioned repeatedly as being in opposition to each other, as well as to the author(s).[20] Zhuangzi clearly did not associate himself with either of these groups, and in this was similar to the authors of the Laozi and Hanfeizi.[21] As for Yang Zhu 楊朱 (c. early 4th century B.C.E.?) or his “Yangist” followers, they are in fact criticized in Zhuangzi 8, 10 and 12.[22] A number of stories in the Zhuangzi involve conversations between Zhuangzi and Huizi (Hui Shi 惠施, c. latter 4th century B.C.E.), a philosopher and minister who was later classified under the label Mingjia 名家, “Logicians,” or “Naming specialists.”[23] Many have concluded that they were friends, even though Huizi is constantly criticized and ridiculed.[24] Criticism of disputation, engaged in by Huizi, Mohists, Yangists and the Ru, appears in chapters 2, 8, 10, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, and 24.[25] It does appear, however, that Zhuangzi was positively influenced by Yangists and Logicians.[26]

“Below the Heavens” (Tianxia 天下), the 33rd and last chapter of the Zhuangzi provides us with a select history of thought of pre-Qin China. In addition to the “scholars of Zou and Lu” (鄒、魯之士), who were learned in the six classics and who were undoubtedly Ru 儒, (but not necessarily Confucians), the author mentions Mo Di 墨翟 and a number of named and unnamed Mohists. He also discusses Song Xing 宋鉼[27] and Yin Wen 尹文, Peng Meng 彭蒙, Tian Pian 田駢 and Shen Dao 慎到, (with special attention to Shen Dao). The author then discusses Guan Yin (Xi) 關尹 and Lao Dan 老聃. Followed by Zhuang Zhou 莊周 and then Hui Shi 惠施.[28] With reference to the part about Guan Yin and Laozi, Graham maintains that the “syncretist [author] sees Laozi and Zhuangzi as belonging to separate schools” and that he “does not yet have the idea of a ‘Daoist school,’ which first appears in the classification of the ‘Six Schools’ by Sima Tan.”[29] While the author gives no hint that Zhuangzi learned anything from Laozi, as Sima Qian did, he does not suggest they belonged to “separate schools.” We will return to this later. While many of the thinkers the author discusses are grouped together, Zhuangzi is treated alone, though perhaps this should not be surprising, since it is found in the book bearing his name.

Many philosophers are missing from this account, most notably Confucius (and his followers). Other than the Zhuangzi, only texts by Laozi, Tian Pian and Guan Yin are listed in the Hanshu Yiwenzhi under Daojia 道家, while the others occur under the Mojia, Mingjia, Fajia or not at all. Regarding Zhuangzi, the author begins with a number of questions, which seems to be indicative of Zhuangzi’s questioning and skeptical attitude:

Blank and barren, without form! Changing and transforming, never constant!
Dead? Alive?
Standing side by side with Heaven and Earth?
Moving along with the spiritual and luminous?
So confused – where is it all going?
So oblivious – where has it all gone?
Since all the ten thousand things are inextricably netted together around us, none is fit to return to.
These were some aspects of the ancient arts of the Way.
Zhuang Zhou got wind of them and was delighted.
He used ridiculous and far-flung descriptions, absurd and preposterous sayings, senseless and shapeless phrases, indulging himself unrestrainedly as the moment demanded, uncommitted to any one position, never looking at things exclusively from any one angle. He considered the world sunken in the mire, incapable of conversing seriously with himself, so he used spillover-goblet words for unbroken extension of his meanings, citations of weighty authorities for verification, words put into the mouths of others for broad acceptance.

He came and went alone with the quintessential spirit of Heaven and Earth but still never arrogantly separated himself off from the creatures of the world, for he refrained from judging things right and wrong and thus was able to get along with worldly conventions. Although his writings are a string of strange and rare gems, their intertwining twisting will do one no harm. Even though his words are uneven, their very strangeness and monstrosity is worthy of contemplation. For his overabundance was truly an unstoppable force.

Above he wandered with the Creator of Things, below he befriended whoever could put life and death outside themselves, free of any end or beginning.
As for the Root, he opened himself broadly to its vastness, abandoning himself to it even unto the very depths.
As for the Ancestor, he may be said to have attuned himself to it, thereby transcending things.

Even so, he was able to respond to every transformation, and thus was unattached to things. His guidelines are inexhaustible, giving forth new meanings without shedding the old ones. Vague! Ambiguous! We have not fully grasped him yet.[30]


Zhuangzi is described as an open-minded author, who wrote in a wild and challenging way. He was intimate with Heaven and Earth, wandered with the so-called “maker of things” above, and was attuned to the “Ancestor” or “Root.” He befriended those who entertained no anxieties with regards to life and death and responded to the many transformations in life, being unattached to things and events.

We don’t know if the author knew Zhuangzi, although it would seem his account is based on reading the text. This characterization of Zhuangzi accords to some extent with those found in the Hanfeizi and Hanshi Waizhuan, as we shall soon see. Esther Klein believes that the author of this chapter “wanted to create a place for Zhuang Zhou in an intellectual genealogy,” and that it reads like “an attempt to market the Zhuangzi to a wider audience.”[31]

One might expect more about Zhuangzi from the text, but as Mark Edward Lewis notes, the Zhuangzi “is distinctive in the minor role given to its eponymous master.”[32] There is not one, but many teachers in the book, including Confucius, Lao Dan, the Yellow Emperor, Liezi, Prince Mou of Wei, the Robber Zhi and “unknown sages; hermits, fishermen, butchers, and insect catchers; men whose legs have been chopped off; and finally figures who are nothing more than emblematic names such as ‘Do-Nothing-Say-Nothing,’ ‘Wild-and-Witless,’ or ‘Great Ignorance.’”[33]

Like the author of Zhuangzi 33, Xunzi 荀子 (c. 310-230 B.C.E.) discusses (and criticizes) Mozi 墨子, Songzi 宋子, Shenzi 慎子, Huizi 惠子, Zhuangzi and also Shenzi 申子.[34] He writes: “Zhuangzi was blinded by the natural and was ignorant of humanity.” (莊子蔽於天而不知人). As a result, he characterized Zhuangzi’s way (dao) as merely “relying on (what occurs naturally)” (Yin 因). Xunzi felt that Zhuangzi and the others had grasped “one corner of the Way” (道之一隅), but that was all. Thus they deluded themselves and others.[35] A passage in Xunzi 17 (Tianlun 天論) also seems to be a critique of what Xunzi considered Zhuangzi’s position, that is, “casting aside humanity and yearning for Nature” (錯人而思天).[36] Confucius was the only expert (Jia 家) he believed was not so deluded. There is, in fact, a stressing of the natural (Tian 天) over the artificial/human (Ren 人) in the Zhuangzi, for example, in chapters 5 and 17. But there are also passages which recommend a balance, such as chapter 6. What seems to be the case for Zhuangzi and his followers is that Tian has normative priority over a subordinate Ren, but one should not attempt to eliminate one’s humanity. Although Xunzi was not an unbiased critic, we cannot be too quick to dismiss his opinion. It may be more likely that it was Zhuangzi’s students or followers which attempted to resolve this “conflict” and argued for a balance.[37]

It should be said that Xunzi’s comments on Zhuangzi do not indicate that he read any part of a Zhuangzi text. He might simply have heard of Zhuangzi’s views anywhere during his travels, such as in Qi, Qin, Zhao or Chu. Indeed, he may even have met the elder Zhuangzi near the end of his life.[38] Nonetheless, Xunzi says nothing more about him, and talks much more about other philosophers like Mozi and Songzi.

After denouncing Ji Liang, Huizi, Songzi and Mozi (季、惠、宋、墨), Hanfeizi[39] (c. 280–230 B.C.E.) criticizes Wei Mou, Zhang Luzi, Zhan He, Tian Pian and Zhuangzi (魏、長、瞻、陳、莊), whose abstruse teachings are said to accomplish nothing.[40] What is noteworthy is that Wei Mou 魏牟, Zhang Luzi 長盧子, Tian Pian 田駢, and Zhuangzi 莊子 are all grouped together under the Daojia rubric in the Hanshu Yiwenzhi. If a work by Zhan He 瞻何(詹何) was to exist, I suspect it would have likely been grouped under Daojia as well. Zhan He (as Zhanzi 瞻子) is the “master” who gives advice to Wei Mou in Zhuangzi 28[41] and appears (as Zhan He 詹何) in the Huainanzi and Liezi giving advice consistent with that espoused in the Laozi and Zhuangzi.

In the early Han, Zhuangzi is mentioned in Han Ying’s 韓嬰 Hanshi Waizhuan 韓詩外傳[42] as one of ten “philosophers” who “throw the empire into disorder and lead the ignorant masses astray, causing them in their confusion not to know wherein lie truth or falsehood, order or anarchy” (以亂天下,欺惑眾愚,使混然不知是非治亂之所存者). Though their learning is “varied and extensive” (雜博), “they do not follow the teachings of high antiquity, nor do they model themselves on the Former Kings. They attribute to the ancient past the doctrines which they make up, and devote themselves to being clever” (然而不師上古,不法先王,按往舊造說,務自為工).[43] Both Hanfei and Han Ying are not completely unfair to what we find in the Zhuangzi, though they apparently fail to appreciate the Zhuangzi’s skeptical and questioning attitude and approach to the issues of the day.[44]


The Zhuangzi text we have today is an abridgement made by Guo Xiang 郭象 (c. 250–312 C.E.) of 33 pian 篇, (“chapters,” “books,” see below). Sima Qian does not say how many chapters there were comprising his copy of the Zhuangzi, and he only mentions three: chapters 10: Qu Qie 胠篋, 29: Dao Zhi 盜跖 and 31: Yu Fu 漁父, and also a fictional character, “Master Gengsang of Weilei,” who appears prominently in chapter 23: Gengsang Chu 庚桑楚.[45] Seeing that he did mention numbers of pian for other texts, for example, Laozi, Mengzi, and Shenzi, the fact that he didn’t for the Zhuangzi (or Xunzi or Hanfeizi) may suggest there were not clear divisions in the copy he saw.[46] By the time of the Hanshu 漢書 (finished c. 110 C.E.), there were 52 pian,[47] which was probably Liu Xiang’s 劉向 creation. (See below) Sima also appears to have believed that Zhuangzi was the sole author of the text, although, as we shall see, the text undoubtedly is the work of many authors.

Most of these authors of the Zhuangzi were the most creative of the pre-Han period: no one else used blatantly fictional parables. Many authors utilized myths and legends in their written and oral teachings. But whereas Qu Yuan 屈原 (c. 340 – 278 B.C.E.) et al., for example, made ample use of mythology in the Chuci 楚辭, they do not seem to have invented characters or used historical people in blatant parodies. It seems that some Zhuangzi authors simply used the name of Yao, Confucius, Laozi, the Yellow Emperor or even the infamous robber Zhi, but the content of the dialogues and events were completely fictional, and likely not intended to be taken too seriously. Parodies of Confucius in the Zhuangzi would not have fooled anybody into thinking that he actually stood for the things he does in these stories.[48]

Victor Mair feels it obvious that one man did not write the entire Zhuangzi, based on contradictory ideological materials and uneven literary quality.[49] He believes some material comes from Zhuangzi’s followers (“Daoist factions”) but who had “doctrinal differences” from Zhuangzi and each other, due to being influenced by other schools of thought. He also believes it contains the work of “non-Daoist thinkers who recognized the enormous appeal of Master Zhuang and wanted to appropriate part of his popularity to advance their own programs.”[50] Further, he believes that the Zhuangzi text we have today contains a number of commentaries that are now mixed in the text.”[51]

Angus Graham felt that “Zhuangzi left behind only disjointed pieces, mixed up perhaps with his disciples’ records of his oral teaching, and it was a Syncretist editor of the second century B.C.E. who devised the headings, grouped the relics under them, and relegated the unusable bits to the Mixed Chapters [Zapian].”[52] Lin Shuen-fu 林順夫 takes issue with this view, as he believes that the chapters contain an ‘inner logic’ which he seems to believe that only the author could achieve.[53] He writes: “the ‘pieces’ [of chapter 1] are not just disjointed thoughts and notes on the theme of soaring above the restricted viewpoints of the worldly that Zhuangzi jotted down at various times in his life. If this were the case, there would not be any sense of order in which these pieces are arranged and related to each other. Although the chapter does not follow the logical organization of ideas in an argumentative essay, it does have an intricate logic of its own in the unfolding of ideas.”[54] But, how do we know this is Zhuangzi’s doing? It is much more likely that this is Guo Xiang’s doing, as Russell Kirkland has argued.[55]

Similarly, while Mark Edward Lewis is correct that the Zhuangzi “is distinctive in the minor role given to its eponymous master,”[56] it’s hard to say whether this was a strategy to avoid the weakness of a single author representing but one perspective on things.[57] This is surely an effect of the compilation, but is this a self-conscious strategy by Zhuangzi, or later compilers? It is possible that Zhuangzi set the example of not using the same characters in his numerous parables and others followed. It is remarkable that his friends and followers didn’t write down more stories about him, even fictional ones, or, if they did, that they didn’t find their way into the received text.

Liu Xiaogan 劉笑敢 believes the first seven “Inner Chapters (Neipian )” are the work of Zhuangzi and the rest by followers in the first half of the 3rd century B.C.E.[58] Some evidence that Liu presents involves the use of three linguistic compounds that only began to be used in the 3rd century B.C.E. – Daode 道德, Xingming 性命 and Jingshen 精神. These do not appear in the Inner Chapters, but appear elsewhere in the text. But as Chris Fraser points out in his review of Liu’s book, they also don’t appear in 12 other chapters, including the ones mentioned by Sima Qian in the Shiji, but which Liu (and others) believe are later works. Fraser suggests that the usage of the three 3rd century compounds “could be due to differences in content and style, which lead the Anarchist and Huang-Lao writers to use the three phrases far more often than the Inner chapters and Transmitters writers, who use them rarely or not at all.”[59] Esther Klein also says “we cannot entirely rule out deliberate archaisms” by a later writer/editor.[60] Surely we can imagine 3rd or 2nd century authors who preferred to write in an older style, avoiding using compounds such as the ones mentioned. More importantly, Paola Carrozza has cautioned that the “argument based on terms which ‘could not exist before a certain date’ should be used prudently, because many works of this ancient period have been lost, and we do not have a clear picture of the history of lexical variations in the last centuries B.C.E. It is doubtful whether it is possible to establish with certainty when a term began to be used, to ascertain its changes in meaning from text to text, and when it became obsolete.”[61] For example, of the books listed under Daojia in the Hanshu Yiwenzhi, only a fifth of them still exist. Further, as recently discovered excavated manuscripts affirm, many more texts were written that did not survive and did not make it into the imperial libraries. So, not only is our copy of Zhuangzi missing material that its Han Imperial edition had, but all of our extant pre-Han texts represent a small number of the total written. Liu may no doubt agree with this, however I feel this takes much of the impact out of his theory. Liu musters other evidence to support his dating theories, but these all are based on too many assumptions and speculations.

Chad Hansen has argued that we should approach the text as representing the work of participants in the linguistic or “philosophical community” of Warring States China, that we should “interpret any particular sentence, chapter, or book the way a representative member of that community should (as entailed by its norms).” By doing this, we would be preserving “coherence within a community’s whole discourse.”[62a] This certainly has merit, though lumping thinkers/texts from all over “China” into a whole may be problematic, especially when we have but a fraction of that discourse available to us. One wonders how much familiarity Hansen has with other “communities” in existence in the Warring States period, such as the religious ones.[62b] I think that the uniqueness of both the content and style of writings in the Zhuangzi call for some caution with regards to assigning membership in any one community.

A theory I’d like to put forth involves a more detailed look into Warring States writing habits and production of texts. Naturally, it’s speculative, but worth thinking about.[63]

Authors in the Warring States era jotted down sayings by their teachers, parables, verses and mini-essays on dried bamboo strips (zhujian 竹簡 or jian 簡), between 15 – 40 cm long and ½ – 1 cm wide. These were tied together with silk, leather or hemp strings and rolled into scrolls (ce 冊/策): “fascicles.” A present pian 篇, “chapter” of the Zhuangzi consists of one or more ce, and all the pian of one collection are usually called Shu 書, a “book.” In the case of the current Zhuangzi, groups of pian have been lumped together as the Neipian 內篇, “Inner Chapters,” the Waipian 外篇, “Outer Chapters” and the Zapian 雜篇, “Miscellaneous Chapters” by some unknown editor.[64]

In the Zhuangzi, some of these were likely written by Zhuangzi, though repeated copying, (which includes scribal errors and “corrections”), editing and rearranging of the material makes it impossible to know what he wrote. No authors signed their work. Bits of his writings may be scattered throughout the present text. Efforts to narrow it down through philosophical analysis are of some merit,[65] though we presume too much if we maintain that his work will be completely coherent in vocabulary, style and philosophy. The text may contain writings from his early twenties to his late seventies or may contain first drafts and final polished drafts. We should not presume that all of his writings are mature and insightful. For that matter, we should not assume that a later contributor couldn’t have written the most insightful material, (see Klein below), nor should we assume that pieces of writing that do show coherence must be written by the same author.

Other parts of the Zhuangzi were perhaps written by friends, acquaintances, admirers, followers, students, etc. Zhuangzi and his friends may have exchanged things they had written and made copies for themselves. Some of these people probably developed, extended and perhaps refined Zhuangzi’s teachings as they responded to new social and philosophical developments. Over time many of these pieces of writing accumulated in someone’s collection or, more likely, in several collections, especially those of students, who in turn may have had students of their own who maintained and copied the materials. Some of the writings may have been written by people quite removed from Zhuangzi and his immediate circle. We could imagine a friend or follower receiving a “non-lineage” member’s writings and, finding them agreeable, made a copy and added it to the anthology.[66] The actual authors may not have considered themselves followers of Zhuangzi or knew their work would end up in this anthology. Angus Graham acknowledged that there is “no evidence of an organized school of Zhuangzi surviving his death … [yet] Certainly there was a tradition of thinking and writing in the manner of Zhuangzi in the third and probably second century BC, whether through personal or merely written influences.”[67] A lineage of sorts, perhaps an “advocacy group,” as the Brooks’ call them,[68] presumably compiled and preserved this material.

Another factor we must acknowledge is that Zhuangzi, his friends, and followers may have shared many of their ideas and stories orally, and that people likely wrote them down as they remembered them. In fact, variations of a number of stories are found throughout the text. Nevertheless, the fact that the text has very few phrases like “Master Zhuang said: …” may suggest that his “lineage” was more textual than oral.[69] The Zhuangzi is not the Analects. Many of the authors of the Zhuangzi preferred to put their “teachings” into the mouths of others. Passages in the Zhuangzi that have parallels within and without this text may not have all been taken from writings but from memory. The versions that we find in the Zhuangzi may be an original wording or may come from somewhere else, whether heard or read. The famous story of “Cook Ding” (Pao Ding 庖丁) in chapter 3 is an example of a story that seems to have been popular,[70] but we don’t know if the version in the Zhuangzi (which happens to be the longest, the most colourful and the most interesting) was the inspiration for the others. It may be that the version in the Zhuangzi was based on a (simple) story the author had heard.

If excavated texts like the Laozi, Yijing 易經 and Ziyi 緇衣 are any indication, pre-Han versions of a transmitted text like the Zhuangzi were likely organized quite differently and had numerous textual variants. Li Ling 李零 argues that

Most ancient texts were formed from fragments (separate sections and loose sentences), written at various times, and when circulated often lacked a unified form; because of this the possibilities of rearrangement and recombination were great, and embellishments also were many; splitting apart or joining together was haphazard, and survival or loss was transient … Add to this (the fact that) ancient texts were not widely circulated, that private and official collections were always two separate channels (for textual transmission), and that titles and number of sections sometimes changed

早期的古書多由“斷片” (即零章碎句)而構成,隨時所作,既以行世,常常缺乏統一的結構,因此排列組合的可能性很大,添油加醋的改造也很多, 分合無定,存佚無常 … 上古書印行不廣,私藏和官藏一直是兩個渠道,書名和篇卷構成也 時有變化[71]

They seem to have grown in size over time also, as more material was added, (authentic or not). William Boltz maintains that “early manuscripts – chiefly, but not exclusively, tomb manuscripts – are made up of zhang-sized pieces [章], and the corresponding transmitted texts, by and large, are different assemblages of those pieces with such subtractions or additions from other sources as an editor might wish to make.”[72] Further, he adds “It seems likely that texts were composed and recomposed actively as they were used by teachers, masters, students, and disciples…”[73] The Zhuangzi is thus what Paul Fischer calls a “polymorphous text,” which involved “several authors, redactors, and editors working on various editions of a loosely-defined ‘text’ over a period of decades or centuries prior to the text assuming a more or less stable condition.”[74] Fischer also considers the Zhuangzi a “heterogeneous text,” being the work of several authors.[75]

Another factor to consider is what happened when the bamboo texts got worn out and broke apart. William Boltz suggests that when a bamboo text came apart (or, “raveled”), “individual phrases or lines might be introduced throughout the piece for reasons of euphony, stylistic balance, or perhaps because of a misunderstanding of the original sense on the part of the latter scribe,” or perhaps “wholly independent accounts might become interwoven, begetting a new, hybrid document. Such re-weaving with its gratuitous additions of new material might occur several times, further distorting the primary content on each occurrence. The end result of such a process of textual alterations would be a composite and thoroughly heterogeneous work of diverse provenances, and of uncertain internal uniformity.[76]

The introduction to the Hanshu Yiwenzhi states that Liu Xiang 劉向 (c. 77—8 B.C.E.) was responsible for the “classics and their commentaries, masters’ texts, poetry and song” (經傳諸子詩賦). When he and his son Liu Xin 劉歆 (c. 30 B.C.E.—23 C.E.) put together authoritative editions of the texts in the imperial archives, they acquired numerous copies, which were oftentimes only partial copies, or rather, consisted of different collections of fascicles. They would likely have had to deal with broken slips (斷簡) and disorganized chapters (散篇), which they would then have to repair (修), compare/collate (校), organize (條) and put in sequence/edit (編) into what they considered the correct order and content.[77] Although we have no account of his editorial work on the Zhuangzi text, we have accounts of his work on others, such as the Xunzi, Guanzi, and Liezi. For example, W. Allyn Rickett translates the preface to the Guanzi:

The Commissioner of Water Conservatory for the Eastern (Metropolitan Area) and Imperial Counsellor First Class (Liu) Xiang, says, “The books of Guanzi which Your Servant has collated consisted of 389 bundles (pian) in the palace, twenty-seven bundles belonging to the Imperial Counsellor Second Class Bu Gui, forty-one bundles belonging to Your Servant, Fu Can, eleven bundles to the Colonel of the Bowman Guards Li, and ninety-six bundles in the office of the grand historian, making a total of 564 bundles of books inside and outside the palace. In collating them, he (Liu Xiang) has eliminated 484 duplicate bundles and made eighty-six bundles the standard text. He has written them on bamboo slips cured over fire so copies can be made.[78]


We can imagine a similar situation with regards to the Zhuangzi, where numerous editions were gathered up, all with different numbers of pian (if it was even divided into pian). The edition Liu made was what the Chinese call a bonaben 百衲本, a patchwork collation of the “best” versions of the various passages. One of their source texts may have been a proto-Zhuangzi compiled by scholars working with Liu An 劉安 (c. 180 BC – 122 B.C.E.) at Huainan 淮南 in the mid-2nd century B.C.E.[79] It is very doubtful that the various proto-Zhuangzi’s from the collections of followers, family and others were identical, so compilers and editors like Liu Xiang (and others before him) selected what they thought was not only most authentic but also most interesting to preserve. Esther Klein notices that “the abridgement made by [the later editor] Guo Xiang reflects interpretive and philosophical judgements—but not an accepted tradition regarding the authenticity of the different parts of the text.”[80] The collections the editors looked at may have contained unrelated writings but that seemed to fit with their developing idea of what the text is saying.

The Zhuangzi undoubtedly went through the hands of many editors who did this.[81] As time went on, the text became more and more fixed in content. Some editors would have done nothing more than copy (寫) the material, but some, like Guo Xiang, did much more.[82] More recently, Angus Graham has rearranged the Zhuangzi text and translated only about ¾ of it. Lin Shuen-fu asks, “is it valid for Graham to restore what he regards as the ‘corrupt’ Inner Chapters purely on what he considers as ‘internal grounds’ without any hard external evidence?”[83] Lin thinks no, though this is exactly what Guo Xiang did with the whole text 17 centuries ago.[84] Guo Xiang removed some 30% of the text, reducing the text to 33 chapters.[85] Whether he started from a text identical to Liu Xiang’s redaction is unknown, though it may not have been.[86] Guo asserted that the text he encountered contained some work by lesser minds, that “some [material] resembled the Classic of Mountains and Seas, some resembled the books on dream divination, some came from (the court of) Huainan and some expounded on Forms-and-Names” (或似《山海經》,或似《占夢書》,或出淮南,或辯刑名). Finding this material lacking in profundity (無深奧) and obfuscating what he considered Zhuangzi’s ideas (意), he removed it.[87] Graham points out that Guo “may be suspected of having tacked the more interesting parts of discarded chapters on to the ones which he retained.”[88]Christopher Rand also points out that there are good reasons to believe that Guo’s Zhuangzi has since been altered,[89] and Klein also says Wang Shumin 王叔岷 argued that “the received text differs considerably even from Guo Xiang’s version.[90]

Graham believed the opening conversation of Liezi 列子 5, “Questions of Tang” 湯問, is from the earlier edition of the Zhuangzi.[91] Ronnie Littlejohn has recently argued that most of the second chapter of the Liezi derives from the older 52 chapter Zhuangzi text, including passages that were edited out by Guo Xiang.[92] He wonders, along with Livia Kohn, that many of these passages were removed because of their “superstitious” nature. He writes, “One thing that seems clear from the passages above is that they all give a good deal of attention to the powers of the Daoist master and they strain credulity in ways that Guo Xiang may have thought to be so obviously offensive to scholarly intellectuals as to be discardable.”[93] Liu Xiaogan discusses two passages from the Hanfeizi that may derive from lost passages of the Zhuangzi.[94] The Huainanzi, (c. mid-second century B.C.E.) appears to quote this text over two hundred and fifty times, though never cites Zhuangzi or the Zhuangzi as its source.[95] Wang Shumin located eleven passages from the lost Zhuangzi that are presently in the Huainanzi, and suspects there are more.[96] Additionally, we should notice that Guo excised material dealing with the “forms and names” practice (Xingming 刑名), which was also embraced by those Sima Qian identified as Huang-Lao: Shen Buhai, Hanfei, Emperor Wen, and others; so it would seem that the larger Zhuangzi text Guo Xiang edited did contain some significant political philosophy, something it has often been noted to lack.[97]

Many modern scholars accept Graham’s assertion that only the Neipian are the work of Zhuangzi himself, and yet Graham never seems to have questioned this “widely recognized” view.[98] This is despite his observation that these pian are the result of later selection and editing.[99] Mark Edward Lewis believes that compilers of these chapters did not share this opinion, however, for they contain three stories about Zhuangzi narrated in the third person.[100]

Esther Klein, in her enlightening paper “Were there ‘Inner Chapters’ in the Warring States?” notices that Sima Qian, the first person to acknowledge written works by Zhuangzi, does not quote or allude to any material found in the Neipian, nor are there any textual parallels between the Shiji and the Neipian.”[101] Furthermore,

Even if we agree that the inner chapters are stylistically and philosophically coherent and representative of the work as a whole, it does not follow that Zhuang Zhou wrote them. It is true that part of a compilation can become coherent and representative because it was first written by a single person, and then served as the inspiration for the rest of the text. Yet it is equally possible that the most coherent and representative part of a compilation can be produced by an editor who had access to the entire work and selected from it (and/or was inspired by it to create) a coherent and representative subset. If, as I argue, the proto-Zhuangzi materials were an incoherent mélange of multi-authored texts, a hypothetical editor could have chosen strands of thought he wished to emphasize, while still preserving the rest due to a conservative (or syncretic) instinct.[102]

And again,

… the philosophical sophistication of the inner chapters Zhuangzi seems no guarantee of an early date, and might even militate against one. Perhaps a person would even have to ‘think through’ the rest of the Zhuangzi before arriving at the intellectual territory of certain of the inner chapters.[103]

Chris Fraser has also expressed a similar view in a blog post from 2008, where he considers the possibility that

… an unknown editor (or editors) at some point set off the inner scrolls from the others, designated them “inner,” and gave them three-word thematic titles, which none of the other scrolls have. Clearly, these seven had a special status to that editor. One plausible explanation of this status is that he thought they were written by Zhuang Zhou. In rebuttal, however, there are other plausible explanations too. If the editor did his work before the Han dynasty, then he lived in a culture in which people didn’t sign their work and hadn’t developed a concept of “authorship” or “ownership” of a piece of writing. So authorship may not have been a concern for him. (And he might have believed, as parts of the Zhuangzi contend, that a true sage leaves no trace of himself behind.) He may have lacked any reliable information about the authorship of the scrolls (we don’t know when the “inner” scrolls were first identified as such). The designation “inner” might indicate only that the editor personally considered this material the highlights of the fifty-two scrolls he’d collected. For all we know, he or someone before him recopied bits from different scrolls to form these seven. Perhaps he/they rearranged material around these seven topics in order to capture what he/they considered the gist of the collection or to present the parts of most interest to the likely audience.[104]

I wholly agree with Esther Klein that the most appropriate way to analyze the text is section by section and not chapter by chapter, and definitely not Inner and Outer chapters.[105] However, it might be useful to see what scholars like Graham and others have said about the authorship and dating of the rest of the material in the text, aside from the Neipian. Here is a brief summary:

As for the Waipian 外篇, “Outer Chapters,” the current chapters 8 through 22:

8 Pianmu 駢拇, 9 Mati 馬蹄 and 10 Qu Qie 胠篋 – Graham labels these the work of a “Primitivist” and dates them to circa 208 – 202 B.C.E. and adds “Probably we should think of the Primitivist as an exponent of Laozi’s ideal of government, only incidentally interested in Zhuangzi.”[106] Harold Roth believes the Primitivist author did not write at the beginning of the Han as Graham argued, but was at the court of Lü Buwei in Qin (Xianyang 咸陽) in the mid-3rd century B.C.E.: “it is much more likely that the Primitivist formed his ideas in dialogue with the Yangists at the court of Lü Buwei than that he came across them in written form forty years later in some other place.”[107] Liu Xiaogan labels these the work of an “Anarchist School” Wujunpai 無君派, in addition to 11a and (Graham’s Yangists’ work [see below]) chapters 28, 29, 31.[108] Liu believes that all of the current Zhuangzi was completed before 240 B.C.E.[109] Qu Qie 胠篋 is one of the chapters Sima Qian identified as Zhuangzi’s work.

11 Zai You 在宥 – Graham: first part is by the primitivist and the latter parts by the Syncretist (see below). Liu thinks this is the work of the Anarchist School.

12 Tiandi 天地, 13 Tiandao 天道, 14 Tianyun 天運, and 15 Keyi 刻意– Graham regarded these the work of “Syncretists” living in the early Han Dynasty.[110] In Chinese Texts and Philosophical Contexts[111] he addressed Harold Roth’s view that the “final stratum” of the Zhuangzi (i.e., the syncretists), along with the Huainanzi corresponds to Sima Tan’s Daojia, (as described in Shiji 130[112]) and that the court of Huainan was likely to have been to place the text was first compiled. Graham agrees, but does not agree with those who suggest that it should be seen as Huang-Lao, but rather a “Laozi-centred syncretism.”[113] He adds: “Of early Han centres of learning in which Zhuangzi might be compiled, the Huainan is no doubt the most suitable that we know, and the date is about right … a very attractive conjecture.”[114] Liu sees these as the work of a pre-Qin “Huang-Lao school,” Huang-Lao pai 黃老派,” along with the latter part of 11, plus 16 and 33.[115] Liu perceives that the Huang-Lao group “is tolerant and adopts Confucianist and Legalist concepts into the Daoist system,” whereas Zhuangzi, his “Transmitters” and “Anarchists” denigrate the Confucians and Mohists.[116] The existence of a pre-Qin Huang-Lao school is based on Sima Qian’s retrospective labeling of pre-Qin thinkers.

16 Shan Xing 繕性 – whereas Liu also assigns this to the pre-Qin Huang-Lao school 黃老派,[117] Graham finds it “unrelated to anything elsewhere in the book.”[118] Graham does find it “Primitivist in tone,”[119] however, and Roth agrees.[120] Henry G. Skja believes it to be a syncretist author, possibly Huang-Lao.[121]

17 Qiu Shui 秋水, 18 Zhile 至樂, 19 Da Sheng 達生, 20 Shanmu 山木, 21 Tian Zifang 田子方, 22 Zhi Beiyou 知北遊 – Graham labels these the “School of Zhuangzi,” and Liu the “Transmitters School” Shu-Zhuang-pai 述莊派, (as well as 23-27).[122] He also finds the Transmitters school to have the most parallels with the Inner Chapters.[123] Steve Coutinho believes chapter 1 is developed in chapter 17, chapter 3 is developed in chapter 19 (like Graham) and chapter 6 is developed in chapters 18 (like Graham) and 22.[124] He seems to assume that this supports Graham’s hypothesis that Zhuangzi’s followers wrote these later chapters. While there are some thematic and conceptual links, it is interesting that chapter 1 has no parallels with chapter 17, chapter 3 has no parallels with chapter 19 and chapter 6 has no parallels with chapters 18 or 22. Alternately, could not Zhuangzi himself have written these later in his life, as developments of his own?

As for the Zapian 雜篇, the “Miscellaneous Chapters,” the current chapters 23 – 33:

23 Gengsang Chu 庚桑楚, 24 Xu Wugui 徐无鬼, 25 Ceyang 則陽, 26 Waiwu 外物, 27 Yuyan 寓言 (+ 32: Lie Yukou 列御寇) – Graham calls these “ragbag” chapters, “quite heterogeneous, much so badly fragmented as to suggest that they have been assembled from broken or misplaced slips in other scrolls. Some of this material looks like Zhuangzi’s own writing, and bits of it can be fitted with varying degrees of plausibility into mutilated parts of the Inner Chapters.”[125] Liu believes chapters 23 – 27 are also the work of a “Transmitters School.”[126] Harold Roth regards the second part of chapter 23 as “a collection of eleven different fragments with no discernable link to one another except for their being distillations of general Daoist wisdom. These fragments could have been added to an original narrative by the Syncretist compilers in the second century B.C. or to an original short chapter by Guo Xiang from material he wanted to save from chapters he was deleting.”[127]

28 Xiangwang 讓王, 29 Dao Zhi 盜跖, 31: Yufu 漁父 – Graham labels these “Yangist,” that is, the work of Yang Zhu’s followers or lineage, and dates circa 200 B.C.E. Roth adds, “there are virtually no mystical elements to these [Yangist chapters] … [which] prevents them from being classified as ‘Daoist,’”[128] which, however, begs the question of why all “Daoists” have to be mystical. Liu sides with Zhang Dainian 張岱年, Qian Mu 錢穆 and Feng Youlan 馮友蘭 that the Yangist element is Daoist.[129] Whatever the case, there certainly are Yangist-sounding things found throughout the entire Zhuangzi which indicate a concern with self-preservation and non-involvement with dangerous enterprises,[130] and these chapters appear to exemplify this trend. Liu labels these the work of the “Anarchist School,”[131] (along with 8, 9, 10 and 11a).[132] Both Dao Zhi 盜跖 and Yu Fu 漁父 were considered to be Zhuangzi’s works by Sima Qian.

30 Shuojian 說劍 – Arthur Waley once acknowledged that this chapter is the only one that lacks a commentary by Guo Xiang and “was probably added between the 4th and 7th century [C.E.] by someone who wrongly identified the Zhuangzi of this story with the Daoist.”[133] Graham found the chapter to be closest to his “Yangist” group,[134] whereas Guan Feng believed it to be “the work of a philosopher named Zhuang Xing 莊幸 that was erroneously added due to the similarity in name with Zhuangzi.”[134a]

32 Lie Yukou 列御寇 – This is one of Graham’s “ragbag” chapters, and Liu, his “Transmitters School.”[135]

33 Tianxia 天下 – Graham identifies this as the work of an early Han dynasty Syncretist, whereas it belongs to Liu’s “pre-Qin Huang-Lao school.”[136]Guan Feng thought it had been written at Huainan by Liu An.[136a]


Earlier we saw that Zhuangzi and/or his followers criticized the Ru 儒, “literati,” Confucius and his disciples, and the Mohists 墨. They do not, however, mention the Confucians Mengzi 孟子 (c. 370–290 B.C.E.) or Xunzi 荀子 (c. 310–230 B.C.E.), and only twice mention Mo Di (Mozi).[137] They do not mention well-known pre-Qin thinkers Zou Yan 鄒衍, Shang Yang 商鞅, Shenzi 申子, or Hanfei 韓非. This suggests the authors were either not familiar with these thinkers or their written works, or not interested in them, though we cannot be sure.[138]

In contradistinction to the Ru and Mohists, the authors do not speak with approval of the culture heroes King Wen, King Wu, Yao, Shun, and Yu and generally avoid the Confucianized term Junzi 君子. They do not emphasize the virtues of Ren 仁 and Yi 義 and do not quote the Odes or the Documents, (with or without approval), which was common with these two groups. All of these characteristics they share with not only the Laozi, but also with Shen Buhai, Shen Dao, Shang Yang and Hanfei.[139] Consequently, even though the Zhuangzi certainly shows that the authors were somewhat well-informed about many important people and events of the past, they seem to have operated in a different tradition.

A number of modern scholars have argued that although texts such as the Mengzi and Zhuangzi (and Mengzi and Laozi) do not actually mention each other, they were still “talking,” and addressed the views expressed in each other’s tradition/texts.[140] For example, in his review of Brook Ziporyn’s 2009 translation of the Zhuangzi, Bryan van Norden says the book would be better if he had acknowledged how the text “implicitly criticizes his older contemporary Mengzi in a number of passages,” and he cites Paul Kjellberg as one who does.[141] However, only one of the several Kjellberg mentions is somewhat strong: the passage in chapter 2 which reads, “the sprouts of benevolence and duty and the pathways of right and wrong are all snarled and jumbled” (仁義之端,是非之塗,樊然殽亂), which bears some resemblance to a passage in which Mengzi mentions the “sprouts of benevolence” (仁之端), the “sprouts of duty” (義之端) and the “heart of right and wrong” (是非之心), which itself is said to be a “sprout of wisdom” (智之端) (3.6/2A6). Even this example could simply be a coincidence or be a common phrasing.

The author of Zhuangzi 15, entitled “Finicky Ideas” (Keyi 刻意), identifies a number of other groups of people in his day:

(1) self-righteous ascetic recluses: the “men of mountains and valleys” (山谷之士)
(2) wandering moralists: the “men who seek to bring peace to the world” (平世之士)
(3) career-minded political advisors: the “men of the courts” (朝廷之士)
(4) recluses: the “men of the rivers and seas” (江海之士)
(5) seekers of longevity or immortality: the “men who ‘guide and pull’” (道引之士) through breathing and physical exercises.[142]

The author posits the kind of person who could realize all of the goals of the aforementioned men but without any of their contrived methods. Associated with such sages (聖人), we find the concepts of quietism, emptiness, non-intervention, tranquility, purity, etc. ( 恬惔, 寂, 漠, 虛無, 無為, 靜, 精神, 純粹), of a spirit that is unimpaired (神不虧), following Nature’s patterns (循天之理), etc. This resembles Sima Tan’s Daojia 道家 (and possibly Huang-Lao 黃老): all the pros and none of the cons of competing groups, some Laozi influence, conforming to Nature’s Way and nurturing one’s vital energies and spirit. While not associating himself with these groups, this does not mean other authors of the Zhuangzi did not. For example, Graham points out that Zhuangzi himself seems to fit the description of the fourth group, as seen in the story about the Chu king requesting his services.[143] The wandering moralists might be referring to the Confucians and Mohists and the political advisors men like Shenzi, Shang Yang and Hanfeizi.

In a discussion with Huizi in chapter 24, Zhuangzi identified other groups existing in his day: the Ruists 儒 (Literati, Confucians), Mohists 墨, Yangists 楊 and Bingists 秉.[144] These were groups that Huizi debated with and which Zhuangzi himself apparently did not associate himself with.[145]

And finally, as mentioned earlier, the author of Zhuangzi 33 did not explicitly associate Lao Dan and Zhuangzi; that is, he did not seem to see them as forming the core of a Daoist school or see Zhuangzi as an admirer of Laozi’s. Xunzi mentions Zhuangzi in chapter 21 and Lao Dan in chapter 17, but there is no indication they are connected in any way.[146] Sima Qian, however, grouped the biographies of Laozi, Zhuangzi, Shen Buhai 申不害 and Hanfei 韓非 together in one chapter and proclaimed that Zhuangzi based himself on the words of Laozi and that Shen and Hanfei, although they also specialized in “(matching) form and name (刑名),”[147] were ultimately based on Huang-Lao 黃老, (the teachings of) Huangdi and Laozi. In the Huainanzi we find Laozi and Zhuangzi connected, although the text does not indicate that Zhuangzi knew of or was influenced by the Laozi. Huainanzi 12 presents many didactic anecdotes and caps them with a quotation from the Laozi. A number of these anecdotes are found in the Zhuangzi.[148] In the Huainanzi postface, the “techniques of Lao and Zhuang” (老、莊之術) are mentioned in connection with this chapter.[149] Laozi and Zhuangzi are connected as well in the Hanshu 72, where we read of Zhuang Zun 莊遵 (a.k.a. Yan Junping 嚴君平 and Yan Zun 嚴遵), who “leaned on the Laozi and Zhuang Zhou” (依老子、莊周) in his teachings, as well as taught the Laozi (授《老子》),[150] although in the Hanshu‘s “Treatise on Literature (藝文志),” only Wenzi 文子 and Yuan Yuan 蜎淵 are identified as disciples of Laozi.

In my next blog I will explore further connections between the Laozi and the Zhuangzi, as well as look at other related texts, such as the Guanzi 管子 (esp. Neiye 內業), Hanfeizi 韓非子, Huainanzi 淮南子, Lüshi Chunqiu 春秋左傳, and the so-called Huangdi Sijing 黃帝四經. We will also look at Yang Zhu 楊朱, Shen Buhai 申不害, Shen Dao 慎到, Song Xing 宋鉼, and Tian Pian 田駢.

[1] The present 33-chapter Zhuangzi has approximately 70,000 words.

[2] Perhaps Zhuangzi’s familiarity with the abusive and mutilatory process of making lacquer from the lacquer tree supplied the analogy for his famous insight into the dangers of being useful. See Zhuangzi 4. On the other hand, perhaps this is simply a place-name and has nothing to do with lacquer or gardens.

[3] E.g. Russell Kirkland, Taoism: The Enduring Tradition, Routledge, 2004, 35, 222-3 n23; Victor Mair, “Introduction and Notes for a Complete Translation of the Chuang Tzu,” Sino-Platonic Papers, No. 48, 1994, xix-xx.

[4] This is true of just about everybody he wrote about.

[5] See below.

[6] See Angus Graham’s “The Origins of the Legend of Lao Dan” in Studies in Chinese Philosophy and Philosophical Literature, 1986.

[7] Zhuangzi 20 and 26.

[8] Zhuangzi 18.

[9] Zhuangzi 32. The Tang commentator Yan Shigu 顏師古 also locates him in Song in his Hanshu Zhu 漢書注. Chapter 14 contains a conversation with a high official of Shang 商, which some believe refers to Song.

[10] Zhuangzi 17 and 20.

[11] Zhuangzi 21, although he implausibly visits Duke Ai of Lu 魯哀公, who reigned in 494-467 B.C.E. Thus, it is either entirely fictional or the name of the Lu ruler is a mistake.

[12] Zhuangzi 18.

[13] Zhuangzi 17, 32 and Shiji 63.

[14]> Zhuangzi 20 and 32.

[15] The Spirits Are Drunk, SUNY, 1995, p. 154. He follows Graham and others in seeing the first 7 chapters, the Neipian– Inner Chapters, as the early strata, by Zhuang Zhou.

[16] Chuang-Tzu: The Inner Chapters, Hackett, 2001, p. 117 (originally published by Allen & Unwin, 1981). The anecdotes he refers to are found in the Inner, Outer and Miscellaneous chapters.

[17] Ibid. p. 118. For Yangism and Huizi, see below.

[18] E.g., chapter 14 has Zhuangzi denouncing the Confucian sage-rulers Yao and Shun and the entire body of “Confucian” virtues. Parodies of Confucius also abound, with him espousing views not likely to be authentic.

[19] Although many Confucians may have been Ru, not all Ru were Confucians. It is a term that refers to experts or teachers of ritual and the soon-to-be “Classics.” See To the Origins of Confucianism: The ru in pre-Qin times and during the early Han dynasty. Peter Lang publisher, 2003 by Nicolas Zufferey or “Classics Without Canonization: Learning and Authority in Qin and Han” by Michael Nylan in Early Chinese Religion: Part One: Shang Through Han (1250 BC – 220 AD), pp. 735-41.

[20] E.g., chapters 2, 11, 14 (the words of Lao Dan!), 22, 24 (along with Yangists 楊 and Bingists 秉), 24, 29 and 32.

[21] While the Laozi does not mention the Ru and Mohists explicitly, the Hanfeizi does.

[22] Yang Zhu is also famously criticized in the Mengzi (6.9/3B9, 13.26/7A26) as well as by Hanfei, though not mentioned by name (e.g., Hanfeizi50).

[23] Hanshu Yiwenzhi 漢書 藝文志.

[24] E.g., Chapters 1, 5, 17, 18, 24, and 26. Chapter 24 tells of Zhuangzi encountering Huizi’s grave and expressing disappointment that his intellectual sparring partner was gone. Cf. Hui Shi (Stanford)

[25] Mark Edward Lewis’ Writing and Authority in Early China, SUNY, 1999, p. 398-9 n151.

[26] Brian Hoffert finds these two the most important influences on Zhuangzi (“Chuang Tzu: The Evolution of a Taoist Classic,” PhD diss., Harvard, 2001).

[27] Songzi 宋子, a.k.a. Song Rongzi 宋榮子.

[28] There is also a quick mention of Logicians Huan Tuan 桓團 and Gongsun Long 公孫龍 before returning to Hui Shi. There is some reason to believe that the section after Zhuangzi, on Huizi was originally from some other part of the text, though Graham doesn’t subscribe to this view (“How Much of the Chuang Tzu did Chuang Tzu Write” in Harold Roth’s A Companion to Angus C. Graham’s Chuang Tzu, University of Hawai’i Press, 2003, p. 101. Graham’s original paper was written in 1979.)

[29] Chuang-Tzu: The Inner Chapters, p. 282. Wing Tsit Chan found it noteworthy that the author did not connect Laozi and Zhuangzi, though he did believe they fit together better than with anyone else (A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy, Princeton University Press, 1973/1969, p. 177-8).

[30] Brook Ziporyn’s translation, modified, from Zhuangzi: The Essential Writings with Selections from Traditional Commentaries, Hackett Publishing, 2009, p. 123-4.

[31] “Were there ‘Inner Chapters’ in the Warring States?” in T’oung Pao 96, 2011, p. 323.

[32] Lewis, p. 89.

[33] Ibid. p. 90.

[34] Xunzi 21: Jiebi 解蔽. Shenzi 申子 is Shen Buhai 申不害, whose biography is found in the same Shiji chapter as Laozi, Zhuangzi and Hanfeizi.

[35] Cf. John Knoblock, Xunzi Vol. III, Stanford University Press, 1994, p. 102-3.

[36] Cf. Knoblock’s Xunzi Vol. II, Stanford University Press, 1990, p. 20-1.

[37] Steve Farmer has argued for this process occurring in many texts, including the Laozi, in a number of papers, including “Neurobiology, Stratified Texts, and the Evolution of Thought: From Myths to Religions and Philosophies,” 2006, p. 34 ff., found HERE Jung H. Lee also endorsed this view in his paper on the Syncretist authors (of parts of the Zhuangzi) in “The Way of Poetic Influence: Revisioning the ‘Syncretist Chapters’ of the Zhuangzi” in Philosophy East and West, 58.4, 2008.

[38] Sima Qian also reports that Xunzi regarded Zhuangzi and his ilk as expounding nothing but loquaciousness (猾稽), thereby disordering the mores of the day (亂俗) in Shiji 74.

[39] Assuming he wrote this chapter.

[40] This passage is quite corrupt, with numerous interpretations possible. I have followed Chen Qiyou’s 陳奇猷 generally-accepted emendation of 狀 to 莊. (Tian Pian 田駢 was also known as Chen Pian 陳駢.)

[41] Also found in the Lüshi Chunqiu and Huainanzi.

[42] Chapter 4.22, partially derived from Xunzi 6: “Countering the Twelve Masters” Fei Shier Zi 非十二子.

[43] Translation by James R. Hightower in his Han shih wai chuan: Han Ying’s illustrations of the didactic application of the Classic of Songs, Cambridge, 1952. The ten “philosophers” are Fan Sui 范睢, Wei Mou 魏牟, Tian Wen 田文, Zhuang Zhou 莊周, Shen Dao 慎到, Tian Pian 田駢, Mo Di 墨翟, Song Xing 宋鈃, Deng Xi 鄧析 and Hui Shi 惠施. The translation should perhaps be rendered in the past tense, though perhaps we should understand the author to be referring to the continuing influence of these men. In Xunzi 6, the twelve “philosophers” are Tuo Xiao 它囂, Wei Mou 魏牟, Chen Zhong 陳仲, Shi Qiu 史鰌, Mo Di 墨翟, Song Xing 宋鈃, Shen Dao 慎到, Tian Pian 田駢, Hui Shi 惠施, Deng Xi 鄧析, Zi Si 子思, and Mengzi 孟軻.

[44] Again, though, we should not dismiss their criticism without considering that they knew him better than we do; we, who rely on a text perhaps very different from the one they may have seen.

[45] See Klein, p. 318-19 n53.

[46] See Klein p. 316.

[47] Hanshu Yiwenzhi漢書 • 藝文志.

[48] But, the same may not be the case of the lesser-known Laozi.

[49] Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu, Bantam Books, 1994, p. xxxv.

[50] Ibid. p. xxxvi-xxxvii.

[51] Ibid. p. xxxviii.

[52] Chuang-Tzu p. 29.

[53] “Transforming the Dao: A Critique of A.C. Graham’s Translation of the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi” in Hiding the World in the World, SUNY, 2003, ed. Scott Cook, p. 269.

[54] Ibid. p. 283.

[55] Taoism: The Enduring Tradition, Routledge 2004 (2005), p. 34 ff.; Cf. p. 174-5.

[56] Lewis, p. 89.

[57] Ibid. 90.

[58] Classifying the Zhuangzi Chapters, University of Michigan Press, 1994.

[59] Asian Philosophy, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1997, p. 156. Liu seems to admit this on p. 15-16. “Anarchists,” “Huang-Lao,” and “Transmitters” are labels Liu uses to identify Zhuangzi’s lineage(s).

[60] Klein p. 312.

[61] “A Critical Review of the Principal Studies on the Four Manuscripts Preceding the B Version of the Mawangdui Laozi” in B.C. Asian Review 13, 2002, p. 57.

[62a] “Guru or Skeptic? Relativistic Skepticism in the Zhuangzi” in Hiding the World in the World, SUNY, 2003, p. 132.

[62b] Eric Sean Nelson has also criticized Hansen for this (“Questioning Dao: Skepticism, Mysticism, and Ethics in the Zhuangzi” in The International Journal of the Asian Philosophical Association 1.1, 2008, pp. 8, 15-16.

[63] Edwards Shaughnessy’s Rewriting Early Chinese Texts, (SUNY, 2006) provides much information on the processes described below, though I did not rely heavily on it.

[64] Christopher Rand details different groupings or divisions, such as those of 4th century redactors/commentators Sima Biao 司馬彪 and a master Meng 孟, whose editions also included a 4th section called Jie Shuo 解說 (“Chuang Tzu: Text and Substance” in Journal of Chinese Religions 11, 1983, p. 10).

[65] Victor Mair addressed this, saying “The Zhuangzi is, first and foremost, a literary text and consequently should not be subjected to excessive philosophical analysis. Unfortunately, this is practically the only way that scholars have viewed the text during this century. In my estimation, this distorts its true value. What is more, the Zhuangzi is not merely a literary text; it is actually an anthology or compilation of literary texts. Hence it is even less susceptible to systematic philosophical analysis.” (Wandering on the Way, p. xlv)

[66] While Kai Vogelsang’s “Textual bibliography of Ch’ing dynasty books” in Asiatische Studien, 56.3 deals with the textual production process of the Qing dynasty, from an author’s first draft to the printed final copy, it nonetheless sheds light on the situation centuries earlier in China as well. (Cf. Bart Ehrman’s talk “Misquoting Jesus, Stanford Lecture, How the Bible Got Tainted” 2 of 10, 3 of 10 and 4 of 10

[67] Chuang-Tzu p. 116.

[68] Bruce and Takeo Brooks The Original Analects, Columbia University Press, 1998, p. 7.

[69] David Schaberg senses that the Zhuangzi is “a collection of materials for persuasions, entertainments, and other verbal presentations” (“Economies of Scale in Zhuangzi,” an unpublished paper (p. 11), quoted in Wiebke Denecke’s The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought from Confucius to Han Feizi, Harvard University Asia Center, 2010, p. 237.

[70] See my earlier post: Chinese Butchers.

[71] Jianbo gushu yu xueshu yuanliu 简帛古书与学术源流 (Excavated ancient texts and the origins and development of scholarship), (北京: 三联书店, 2004), p. 198, quoted and translated by Paul Fischer on pages 164-5 of his PhD Dissertation: “The Formation of the Shi Zi” University of Chicago, 2007.

[72] “The Composite Nature of Early Chinese Texts” in Text and Ritual in Early China, University of Washington Press, 2005, p. 58-9.

[73] Ibid. p. 61.

[74] “The Formation of the Shi Zi” p. 4 n4.

[75] Ibid. p. 4 n4 and 9 n10.

[76] “The Structure and Interpretation of Chuang Tzu: Two Notes on Hsiao Yao Yu” in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 43.3, 1980, p. 532. Just like in the Zhuangzi, where we encounter different versions of the same basic story or event, Boltz concludes “The likeliest explanation for the presence of two different versions of the same basic story in the received text of the Mengzi [3A4 and 3B9] is that the text we have drew on two separate sources and included the same story from both. A careful reading and analysis of the first of these two accounts will suggest that even the sources that the compiler(s) of the Mengzi drew on were themselves composite in origin.” (“The Composite Nature of Early Chinese Texts” p. 63)

[77] The Chinese words given are actually found in the Hanshu and other works.

[78] Guanzi vol. I, Cheng & Tsui Company, 2001, p. 7; trans. adapted from P. van der Loom “On the Transmission of Kuan tzu,” T’oung Pao, 41, 1952, 360-61. Cf. p. 24-27. Regarding Liu Xiang’s work on the Xunzi, see John Knoblock’s Xunzi Vol I, Stanford University Press, 1988, p. 105 – 109.

[79] See Christopher Rand’s “Chuang Tzu: Text and Substance” p. 7-8. Harold Roth supports the hypothesis about the earliest Zhuangzi being compiled at the court of Huainan and a number of other scholars find it quite plausible (e.g., Guan Feng 關鋒, Victor Mair, Angus Graham). Rand also observes that “there are no quotations [in the Huainanzi] from what are now the last five chapters of the Zhuangzi, and only two isolated references from the ends of two other chapters now incorporated into the Zapian [雜篇, i.e., chapters 23-33]. It would appear that the contents of the present Zapian were not available to or collected by the Huainan scholars (p. 8 n10).” As we have seen, Sima Qian had seen chapters from the Zapian, so perhaps his edition was larger than that assembled at Huainan.

[80] Klein, p. 304. Likewise, Liu Xiang probably did not remove any material he thought incongruous with what he considered Zhuangzi’s thought, since, with regards to the Yanzi for example, he wrote: “There are also those parts which disagree somewhat with the learning of the Classics, as if they were not the words of Yanzi. I suspect that they were produced by sophists of a later age, but again I did not dare to abandon them” (又有頗不合經術,似非晏子言,疑後世辯士所為者,故亦不敢失). (Stephen W. Durrant “Yen tzu ch’un ch’iu 晏子春秋” in Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide, The Society for the Study of Early China, 1993, p. 484.)

[81] Harold Roth worries that if true, “we should all have less confidence that the text we now have of the thirty-three chapters that survived Guo Xiang’s excision is an accurate reflection of those chapters in the original recension” (“Colophon” in A Companion to Angus C. Graham’s Chuang Tzu, University of Hawai’i Press, 2003, p. 188). We should also consider that there may never have been a single original recension. William Boltz cautioned that “virtually all of the pre-Han texts in the transmitted corpus have passed through the hands of Han editors and in that process have undergone editorial alteration and revision to an extent that we generally cannot fathom …whatever authority we may want to ascribe to the transmitted pre-Han corpus, we must not lose sight of the fact that the received versions of these texts may present a Han perspective, in the harshest terms we may call it a Han distortion, of the pre-Han world they purport to record.” (“Myth and the Structure of the Shyy Jih” in Asiatische Studien 56.3,2002, p. 574)

[82] Klein reports that “Wang Shumin [王叔岷] provides a slew of examples to support his hypothesis that Guo Xiang meddled severely with the inner chapters,” p. 306 n17.

[83] Hiding the World in the World p. 217.

[84] Paul Goldin similarly criticized Hackett Publishers in their reprint of Graham’s book. He writes, “In his textual notes, [which are not included in the reprint], Graham explained that some of his changes to the text were ‘tentative,’ but no one would guess this from the translation itself – and now that the translation has gone through two editions, these ‘tentative’ emendations have quietly taken on all the authority of the printed word.” (Early China 28, 2003, p. 203). One can’t help but suspect that this exact same thing has happened countless times over the past 2000 years.

[85] As found in the postface, found in Japan. Lu Deming 陸德明 (ca. 550 – ca. 630 C.E.) reported that both Sima Biao 司馬彪 and (master) Meng 孟 commented on 52 chapter Zhuangzis: Rand p. 10, Klein p. 303.

<[86] There were a number of “bibliocausts” in the latter Han dynasty, including the burning of the imperial library ordered by Dong Zhuo 董卓. See Tsuen-hsuin Tsien’s Written on Bamboo and Silk, University of Chicago Press, 1962, p. 15-16). Cf. The Treatises of Later Han: Their Author, Sources, Contents, and Place in Chinese Historiography by B. J. Mansvelt Beck, Brill, 1990, pp. 46-50. One wishes he had given more details and evidence for his statement “The Scriptures circulated outside the capital, their transmission never being compromised by what happened in Luoyang or Chang’An” (p. 48).

[87] Cf. Rand p. 13 for full translation and Klein p. 304 for more discussion.

[88] Chuang-Tzu p. 27. Harold Roth reports that Ma Xulun 馬敘倫 in his Zhuangzi yizheng 莊子義證, (Shanghai, 1930) also suggested this (“Who Compiled the Chuang Tzu” in Chinese Texts and Philosophical Contexts: Essays Dedicated to Angus C. Graham, Open Court Publishers, 1991, p. 116)

[89] Rand, p. 14-15.

[90] In the preface to his Zhuangzi Jiaoshi [莊子校釋] (1947), p. 302 n3.

[91] Disputers of the Tao, Open Court Publishers, 1989 (1995), p. 79.

[92] Riding the Wind With Liezi: New Perspectives, Ronnie Littlejohn and Jeffrey Dippman, eds., SUNY, 2011, p. 31-49.

[93] Ibid. p. 43.

[94] Liu, p. 54-6.

[95] Charles Le Blanc, Huai-Nan Tzu: Philosophical Synthesis in Early Han Thought, Hong Kong University Press, 1985, pp. 83-85.

[96] Huainanzi yu Zhuangzi 淮南子與莊子 in Zhuangzi jiaoshi 莊子校釋, 1972, disclosed by Roth in “Who Compiled the Chuang Tzu” p. 118. Alternatively, perhaps, there are passages in the Zhuangzi that were taken from the Huainanzi.

[97] This does not mean, however, that this material was written by Zhuangzi.

[98] “How Much of Chuang Tzu did Chuang Tzu Write” in Harold Roth’s A Companion to Angus C. Graham’s Chuang Tzu, University of Hawai’i Press, 2003, p. 58, originally published in 1979. Liu Xiaogan, Bruce and Takeo Brooks, and a few others have noticed this before.

[99] E.g., Chuang-Tzu p. 27, 29, 94. Chris Fraser, in his review of Liu Xiaogan’s book, points out that “The theory that the tripartite division of the Zhuangzi chapters is related to their authorship is relatively recent, dating back only to the Qing dynasty scholar Wang Fuzhi 王夫之 (1619–1692 A.D.)” (Asian Philosophy, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1997, 159 n2)

[100] Lewis, p. 61. Liu has tried to explain this (p. 18-21), but Klein has countered (p. 313-14).

[101] Ibid. p. 331. The authors of the Huainanzi do draw from the Zhuangzi Neipian, but Harold Roth adds: “the viewpoint of the authors of the Huainanzi is clearly different from that of the Inner Chapters of Zhuangzi. They have the Syncretists’ concern for government that Zhuangzi would have disdained. And when Zhuangzi material is used it is often in a context that is alien to the man who wrote the ‘Inner’ Chapters … This suggests a strong influence from the Zhuangzi, but not yet any clearly identifiable viewpoint associated with the text, most certainly not one determined primarily from the ‘Inner’ Chapters.” (“Who Compiled the Chuang Tzu” p. 118-19) A similar case exists with the Lunyu of Confucius: John Makeham pointed out that none of the passages that quote Confucius in the Xunzi are found in the Lunyu and less than a third of those in the Mengzi appear in the Lunyu (“Between Chen and Cai: Zhuangzi and the Analects” in Wandering at Ease in the Zhuangzi, 1998, p. 92). Perhaps neither the Zhuangzi Neipian nor the Lunyu represent the earliest material of or by these men.

[102] Ibid. p. 310.

[103] Ibid. p. 324.

[104] Manyul Im’s Chinese Philosophy Blog. Similarly, regarding the Mozi, Fraser writes that “we cannot safely attribute to Mo Di himself all of the views expressed in the core doctrinal books, nor, a fortiori, those advanced in the rest of the anthology. A more defensible stance is that the doctrinal essays collect together texts by an unknown number of anonymous Mohist writers, which develop, refine, or extend basic themes or ideas first set forth by Mozi. But the available evidence is so limited that we have no rigorous way of determining which of the detailed statements in these texts, if any, represent Mozi’s own views and which are extensions, revisions, or entirely new ideas introduced by his followers. Moreover, even if we had some reliable means of picking out the founder’s original statements, the other, later material might well prove to be of greater interest.” Mohism (Stanford)

[105] See Klein p. 317. Jie 節 is the Chinese term for the word “sections” used above.

[106] “How Much of the Chuang Tzu Did Chuang Tzu Write” in A Companion to Angus C. Graham’s Chuang Tzu p. 86. One may wonder if the author was interested in Zhuangzi at all.

<[107] “Colophon: An Appraisal of Angus Graham’s textual Scholarship on the Chuang Tzu” in A Companion to Angus C. Graham’s Chuang Tzu, p. 206. Paul Goldin has argued that this is stretching things far too much (Early China 28, 2003, p. 212). Hagop Sarkissian has written an interesting paper exploring this primitivist’s philosophy, “The Darker Side of Daoist Primitivism” in the Journal of Chinese Philosophy 37.2, 2010 pp. 312-329.

[108] Liu, p. 142.

[109] Ibid. p. 82.

[110] “How Much of the Chuang Tzu Did Chuang Tzu Write” in A Companion to Angus C. Graham’s Chuang Tzu p. 96.

[111] Open Court, 1991, edited by Henry Rosemont Jr.

[112] In Roth’s “Who Compiled the Chuang Tzu” p. 116-120. See Part one of this blog series

[113] P. 280. Graham’s view of what constitutes “Huang-Lao” is somewhat questionable. He understands it as a “much narrower syncretism, based primarily on Laozi and Legalism,” as seen in the Mawangdui boshu (a.k.a. Huangdi Sijing 黃帝四經) and chapters 5 and 8 of the Hanfeizi. (Chinese Texts and Philosophical Contexts: Essays Dedicated to Angus C. Graham, Open Court Publishers, 1991, p. 280)

[114] Ibid. p. 283.

[115] Liu, p. 130, 134. Benjamin Schwartz also believes this material represents Huang-Lao (The World of Thought in Ancient China, Harvard University Press, 1985, p. 216).

[116] Ibid. p. 168.

[117] Liu, p. 130, 134.

[118] Chaung-Tzu p. 28.

[119] A Companion to Angus C. Graham’s Chuang Tzu p. 99.

[120] A Companion to Angus C. Graham’s Chuang Tzu p. 210.

[121] “How to Interpret Chapter 16 of the Zhuangzi” in Wandering at Ease in the Zhuangzi, 1998, pp. 101-124.

[122] Liu p. 121.

[123] Ibid. p. 169.

[124] “Zhuangzi” on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2004.

[125] Chuang-Tzu p. 28.

[126] Liu p. 121.

[127] A Companion to Angus C. Graham’s Chuang Tzu, p. 189.

[128] Zhuangzi (Stanford)

[129] Liu p. 168.

[130] E.g., in chapters 3, 4, 6, 19, 20, 23, etc.

[131] Liu, p. 142.

[132] Paul Goldin has exposed the flimsiness of this category called “Yangists” in his review of Graham’s (second edition) Chuang-Tzu in Early China 28, 2003, pp. 204-211.

[133] Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China, Doubleday, 1956/1939, p. 200.

[134] Chuang-Tzu p. 244.

[134] Reported in Roth’s “Who Compiled the Chuang Tzu” p. 82.

[135] Liu p. 121.

[136] Liu p. 130, 134.

[136a] Reported in Roth, “Who Compiled the Chuang Tzu” p. 81.

[137] In chapters 29 and 33.

[138] Shang Yang, Shenzi and Hanfeizi were political theorists and so their works may have been limited to those circles.

[139] Stories about Yao, Shun, etc. do appear in these other texts, but they are not the moralizing stories we find in the Confucian and Mohist texts. Yang Xiong 揚雄 (53 B.C.E. – 18 C.E.), in his Fayan 法言 mentioned that Zhuangzi, Shenzi and Hanfei were alike in “opposing and making light of the sages” (乖寡聖人).

[140] E.g., Chad Hansen, Bruce and Takeo Brooks, Bryan Van Norden, and Wiebke Denecke.

[141] China Review International, Vol. 16, 2009. Kjellberg’s translation found in Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, 2nd ed., Hackett Publishing, 2005, edited by Bryan van Norden and Philip Ivanhoe.

[142] These people, who “pant, puff, hail, sip, and spit out the old (breath) and inhale the new” (吹呴呼吸,吐故納新) are regarded as “Genuine Persons” (Zhenren 真人) in Huainanzi 7 and from there connected with Daojia 道家 by Wang Chong in his Lunheng 論衡, chapter 49. (Zhenren 真人 is a term first found in the Zhuangzi, and is one of the terms signifying a real sage.)

[143] Chuang-Tzu p. 264.

[144] Brook Ziporyn, (following Burton Watson?), writes of the last group, the Bingists: “Traditionally identified as the followers of the logician Gongsun Long [公孫龍]. Some scholars have also suggested that this could be a distorted reference to followers of Song Xing [宋鈃, a.k.a. Song Bing 宋鉼 and Song Rongzi 宋榮子] or the proto-Daoist/Legalist Tian Pian [田駢].” (Zhuangzi: The Essential Writings, Hackett Publishing, 2009, p. 103 n1).

[145] The matter of Yang Zhu/Yangists will be explored later.

[146] Although, he does not say they are not connected. Xunzi also does not associate Huizi 惠子 with Zhuangzi, who, as evidenced in the Zhuangzi, seems to have been a close acquaintance.

[147] Sima Qian’s father referred to Xingming as Mingshi 名實: “(matching) Names to Realities.”

[148] Since the present-day edition of the Zhuangzi has lost around 30% of its content in the hands Guo Xiang, perhaps some of the other anecdotes in Huainanzi 12 derive from the earlier edition of the Zhuangzi. For example, Huainanzi 12.20, 12.25, and 12.34 in the numbering system used in The Huainanzi, by John S. Major, Sarah A. Queen, Andrew Seth Meyer and Harold D. Roth, Columbia University Press, 2010. Recall that Wang Shumin has found 11 passages in the Huainanzi that came from the 52 chapter Zhuangzi that are no longer in the extant Zhuangzi text.

[149] Huainanzi 21, Yao Lüe 要略.

[150] The text reads 嚴周, which equals 莊周, because 莊 was tabooed in 57 C.E., the reign of Han Xiao Mingdi 漢孝明帝. It is interesting that Zhuang Zun’s student, Yang Xiong 揚雄 (53 B.C.E. – 18 C.E.) linked Zhuangzi to Hanfei in chapter 3 of his Fayan 法言, to Hanfei, Shenzi and Zou Yan in chapter 4, to Zou Yan again in chapter 6, and to Yang Zhu in chapter 8.