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Selections from Zhuang Zi

Literary Chinese Prose



Collection of Literary Chinese
Prose


Selections from Zhuang Zi



Zhuang Zi 莊子 (369-286 BCE) was an influential Taoist philosopher who
lived during the Warring States Period 戰國時代. He was born in the City
of Meng 蒙城 in the state of Song. He lived during the reign of
King Hui of Wei 魏惠王 (reign 370—319 BCE).



Taoist philosophy 道家 is a school of thought based primary on the
books Dao De Jing 道德經 by Lao Zi 老子 and Zhuang Zi 莊子. Taoism 道教
as a religion is connected with Taoist philosophy but also includes
many Chinese folk traditions. Some modern writers do not identify
Zhuang Zi with Taoism.



Zhuang Zi's writings are collected into a book of the same name.
The English translations here are based on The Writings
of Chuang Tzu by James Legge (Legge, 1891) with both English and Chinese
made available online by the Chinese Text Project.




A Fabulous Bird


秋水


惠子莊子惠子:「莊子。」於是惠子國中莊子:「南方名為鵷鶵鵷鶵南海北海梧桐不止練實於是鵷鶵:『!』?」


From: The Floods of Autumn


Huizi was a minister in Liang.
Zhuang Zi went to see him.
Some one had told Huizi that Zhuangzi was come with a wish to supersede
him in his office.
Huizi became afraid, and instituted a search for the Zhuangzi thoughout
the state for three days
and three nights.
Zhuangzi went to see him and said, “There is a fabulous bird in the
south of China called a yuanchu.
Do you know it?”
Starting from the South China Sea the yuanchu flies to the Bohai Sea.
Now, if it does not find
Chinese parasol it will not rest. It will only eat bamboo seeds
[Cheng Xuanying says that lianshi are bamboo seeds.
Wu Tingxu says that lian is a loan character for practice.]
and only drink from the purest springs.
Once an owl caught a rotten rat. When the yuanchu went passing overhead
the owl looked up to it
and gave an angry scream.
Today, do you also wish to use the kingdom of Liang to frighten me with
a scream?
Yao Nai says that this language shows the vulgar nature of Zhuang Zi's
disciples.


Notes


This text selection is from the section 秋水 The Floods of Autumn in
Zhuang Zi. Liang was the capital of the state of Wei. The sections in
square brackets [] are additional annotations included in Fuller.
(Fuller, 2004, pp. 122-125) Fuller also gives notes and vocabulary on
this section of text.
See the entry for Zhuang Zi in the
References.
(Legge, 1891)




Dragging One's Tail in the Mud


秋水


莊子楚王使大夫:「境內!」莊子竿不顧:「三千廟堂之上?」大夫:「。」莊子:「。」


From: The Floods of Autumn


Zhuang Zi was fishing in the Pu River.
The king of Chu sent two second level ministers to him, with the
message, “I wish to burden you with the charge of my territories.”
Zhuangzi held his rod and, without looking around, said, “I have heard
that in Chu there is a spirit-like tortoise-shell, the wearer of which
died 3000 years ago. The king keeps it in his ancestral temple, in a
bamboo box covered with cloth. Was it better for the tortoise to die,
and leave its shell to be thus honoured? Or would it have been better
for it to live, and keep on dragging its tail through the mud?”
The two officers said, “It would have been better for it to live, and
draw its tail through the mud.” Zhuang Zi said, “Go then. I will keep on
drawing my tail through the mud.”


Notes


This text selection is also from the section The Floods of Autumn 秋水.
Fuller gives notes and vocabulary on this section of text.
(Fuller, 2004, pp. 126-129)




The Skull




莊子髑髏髐然有形因而:「夫子失理為此亡國斧鉞之誅為此不善父母妻子為此為此春秋?」於是髑髏



夜半髑髏:「辯士生人?」莊子:「。」髑髏:「四時從然天地春秋南面不能。」莊子不信:「使司命生子骨肉肌膚父母妻子閭里知識?」髑髏:「南面為人?」


From: Perfect Enjoyment


When Zhuang Zi went to Chu, he saw an empty skull, bleached but still
retaining its shape. Tapping it with his horse-switch, he asked it,
saying, “Did you, Sir, in your greed of life, fail in the lessons of
reason, and come to this? Or did you die, in the service of a perishing
state, by execution? Or was it through your evil conduct, reflecting
disgrace on your parents and on your wife and children?
Or was it through your hard endurances of cold and hunger?
Or was it that you had completed your term of life?”
Having given expression to these questions, he took up the skull, and
made a pillow of it when he went to sleep.



At midnight the skull appeared to him in a dream, and said,
“What you said to me was after the fashion of an orator.
All your words were about the entanglements of men in their lifetime.
There are none of those things after death.
Would you like to hear me, Sir, tell you about death?”
“I would,” said Zhuang Zi.
The skull resumed, “In death there are not (the distinctions of) ruler
above and minister below. There are none of the phenomena of the four
seasons. Tranquil and at ease, our years are those of heaven and earth.
No king in his court has greater enjoyment than
we have.”
Zhuang Zi did not believe it and said, “If I could get the Ruler of our
Destiny to restore your body to life with its bones and flesh and skin,
and to give you back your father and mother, your wife and children, and
all your village acquaintances, would you wish me to do so?”
The skull stared fixedly at him, knitted its brows, and said, “How
should I cast away the enjoyment of my royal court, and undertake again
the toils of life among mankind?”


Notes


The text is from the Outer Chapters Perfect Enjoyment . The
Overseer of Destiny 司命 is a Taoist immortal who kept ledgers of
allotted life spans.
Fuller gives notes and vocabulary on this section of text.
(Fuller, 2004, pp. 149-152)


Vocabulary Analysis


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This page was last updated on 2018-02-14.