“This article questions the traditional beliefs that the seven “inner chapters” constitute the earliest stratum of the Zhuangzi, that they already formed a coherent unit in the Warring States, and that they came from a single hand. After reviewing what is known about the early history of the Zhuangzi text, various arguments that have been made in support of early, coherent inner chapters, are examined. Taking the Shiji portrait of the Zhuangzi as the starting point, it is shown that Sima Qian’s description and use of the Zhuangzi already gives us reason to question the importance, or even existence, of the inner chapters in the Western Han. It is then shown that pre-Han and Han references to Zhuang Zhou, and parallels with the Zhuangzi text, do not necessarily even require (or support) the existence of most inner chapters, and certainly give no evidence that they were coherent and had any kind of canonical status. Though this does not constitute proof, it does give us reason to rethink the traditional beliefs about the authorship and structure of the early Zhuangzi text. In closing, the possibility of a Huainan Zhuangzi, and the role Liu An and his court might have played in the compilation of the inner chapters, is considered.”
This paper is excellent and should influence scholars’ views of the intellectual climate of Warring States era China and the text of Zhuangzi.
I also just ordered a new book I just discovered: The Dynamics of Masters Literature by Wiebke Deneke. The write-up at Harvard University Press reads:
“The importance of the rich corpus of “Masters Literature” that developed in early China since the fifth century bce has long been recognized. But just what are these texts? Scholars have often approached them as philosophy, but these writings have also been studied as literature, history, and anthropological, religious, and paleographic records. How should we translate these texts for our times? This book explores these questions through close readings of seven examples of Masters Literature and asks what proponents of a “Chinese philosophy” gained by creating a Chinese equivalent of philosophy and what we might gain by approaching these texts through other disciplines, questions, and concerns. What happens when we remove the accrued disciplinary and conceptual baggage from the Masters Texts? What neglected problems, concepts, and strategies come to light? And can those concepts and strategies help us see the history of philosophy in a different light and engender new approaches to philosophical and intellectual inquiry? By historicizing the notion of Chinese philosophy, we can, the author contends, answer not only the question of whether there is a Chinese philosophy but also the more interesting question of the future of philosophical thought around the world.”