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(both: jwäng-dzŭ), c.369–c.286 B.C., Chinese Taoist writer. Little is known about his life. He was a native of the state of Meng, on the border of present-day Shandong and Henan provinces, and is said to have lived as a hermit. The collection of essays attributed to him, called the Chuang-tzu, is distinguished by its brilliant and original style, with abundant use of satire, paradox, and seemingly nonsensical stories. Chuang-tzu emphasizes the relativity of all ideas and conventions that are the basis of judgments and distinctions; he puts forward as the solution to the problems of the human condition freedom in identification with the universal Tao, or principle of Nature. He is less political in his orientation than the earlier Taoist Lao TzuLao Tzu
, fl. 6th cent. B.C., Chinese philosopher, reputedly the founder of Taoism. It is uncertain that Lao Tzu [Ch.,=old person or old philosopher] is historical. His biography in Ssu-ma Ch'ien's Records of the Historian (1st cent. B.C.
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. He is also called Chuang Chou.


See his complete works, tr. by B. Watson (1968).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Born circa 369 B.C.; died circa 286 B.C. Author of the ancient Chinese classic Taoist treatise Chuang-tzu (c. 300 B.C.).

Very little is known about the life of Chuang-tzu. It has been established that he deliberately refused to occupy any civil service posts. His treatise, written in the form of parables, short stories, and dialogues, harshly criticizes Confucianism and the teachings of Mo Tzu and preaches fusion with the tao, a certain inexpressible totality of universal life. Chuang-tzu contrasts nature, in which the tao is embodied, with human beings and the world created by them—government, culture, and morality, all of which are based on force.


“Chuang-tzu chi shih.” In Chu-tzu chi-ch’eng. (Collection of Works of Ancient Thinkers), vol. 3. Peking, 1957.
In Russian translation:
Ateisty, materialisty, dialektiki Drevnego Kitaia. Introductory article, translation, and commentary by L. D. Pozdneeva. Moscow, 1967.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.



The classical Chinese philosophy of Taoism is a way of looking at the world in terms of a unified whole. The separate actions of the parts reflect and correspond to the larger actions of the whole. This union is depicted in the concept of the yin and the yang, the opposed yet inseparable “poles” of everything that is—male and female, positive and negative, up and down.

The dynamic link between opposites, in which yin is continually changing into yang and vice versa, is an appropriate perspective for understanding an oft-repeated story of Chuang-tzu, an ancient Taoist philosopher. It is said that Chuang-tzu once dreamed that he was a butterfly. Upon awakening, he asked himself if he was a man dreaming that he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that he was a man.

This story has frequently been cited in the context of discussions of the reality of the world as we experience it, as well as in discussions of the felt reality of dreams. With respect to the latter line of thought, it has often been observed that while we are dreaming we rarely question the reality of our dreams, accepting the most absurd situations as fact, until we awaken. And it is usually only from the perspective of waking consciousness that we can judge our dreams to have been bizarre or ridiculous.

As important as this point is, it nevertheless ignores the importance of Taoism as a perspective for understanding Chuang-tzu’s statement. While this ancient sage undoubtedly was remarking on the seeming reality of dreams, he was also picturing his waking self as a man and his sleeping self as a butterfly to a dynamic yang-yin relationship. As the seasons cyclically alternate from hot to cold and back again, as night alternates with day, and so on, so do we alternate back and forth between sleeping and waking. This being so, a Taoist might say, Why should we call one real and the other an illusion? Both seem to be necessary to human life, so why depreciate dreams (yin) at the expense of so-called waking consciousness (yang) This seems to be the deeper import of Chuang-tzu’s story.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Realizing this, Heidegger asked the host for a copy of Buber's translation of Chuang-Tzu. Not only was Heidegger aware of this text, he was familiar enough with it to know exactly where to locate a specific aphorism with which to illustrate the point he was trying, apparently unsuccessfully, to make using only Western philosophy (Parkes, 1987: p 105).
Taoist philosopher Chuang-tzu tells us, "The swamp pheasant has to walk ten paces for one peck and a hundred paces for one drink, but it doesn't want to be kept in a cage.
This book originated as a dissertation on how an early T'ang commentator, Ch'eng Hsuan-ying, explained the Taoist text, Chuang-tzu. Ch'eng was one of the scholars whom the early T'ang emperors brought to the capital and gave scholarly tasks, such as the peculiar project of translating the Tao te citing into Sanskrit.
Certain works and authors that were included under more general headings such as "Ching" (classics) and "Chutzu pai-chia" (The Various Masters and the Hundred Schools) and/or were presumably considered more philosophical or religious than literary have now been given the individual treatment they deserve, most notable perhaps is the entry on the Chuang-tzu. Also important is how areas of increasing recent focus -- feminist studies, popular, and religious literature -- are now reflected in this work.
`Do not be one-sided in your conduct, for this would be diverging from the Tao' (Chuang-tzu: II) (also recall Cheng Yi's pluralistic teaching on methods cited in the last section).
While his translation of Buber's commentary on and translation of selected aphorisms from the Taoist classic Chuang-Tzu and his threefold analysis of the historicity, heuristic value, and hermeneutic principle of Buber's approach enrich both sinological discourse and Buber scholarship, it is its contribution to a comparative hermeneutics that gives I and Tao a wider significance.
Or if so much cannot be given, then to enter as Chuang-tzu's butcher entered an ox - slipping completely through; each cut, sinew and fat, sharpening the knife.
"A Tao of Tao in Chuang-tzu." In Experimental Essays on Chuang-tzu, ed.
Lao-Tzu developed Chuang-Tzu's mystic spontaneity, in a manner that betrays a little man in an era of terrible events.
The celebrated choreographer was inspired by the Chinese philosopher-poet Chuang-Tzu's account of a dream he experienced in which he was a butterfly.