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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).



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 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.

References in periodicals archive ?
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.
As Chuang-tzu says, "The government of the enlightened king?
This book originated as a dissertation on how an early T'ang commentator, Ch'eng Hsuan-ying, explained the Taoist text, Chuang-tzu.
107), significantly contributes to the understanding of Chuang-Tzu within the context of comparative mysticism.
En una ocasion Octavio Paz dijo de Zhuang Zi, o Chuang-tzu, que no solo era un filosofo notable sino un gran poeta cuya obra oscila entre el concepto y la iluminacion sin palabras.
et passim), based on the misconception that Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu belonged to some kind of Taoist school, [8] and Legalism (pp.
Graham, Chuang-tzu: The Seven Inner Chapters and Other Writings from the Book Chuang-tzu [London: George Allen & Unwin, 1981], 260).
Este es el caso del agua que nos trae Octavio Paz, con el generoso deseo de compartir el placer que experimento al encontrar el pensamiento taoista de Chuang-Tzu y otros breves textos de clasicos chinos (algunos de ellos poetas que pertenecen al grupo llamado El bosquecillo de bambus).
Once we see, for example, that the name of the Empress Dowager's alleged lover means "Lustful Misdeed," we may be inclined to treat the entire story more like one of those lovely allegories in the Chuang-tzu [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (with such fabulous characters as "Nag the Hump" [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and "Fancypants Scholar" [pm][CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) [29] --and less like history wie es eigentlich gewesen ist.
See Chuang-tzu chi-shih (Peking: Chung-hua, 1961), 2.
Above, I suggested that the examiners had, in the case of this rhapsody, set a trap for the unwary exam candidate: the Chuang-tzu passage from which the title is taken says only that the "wooden gamecocks" do not respond when other cocks crow, and never mentions their own crowing.