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Zhuangzi

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  • Dates: c. 370-301 BCE?
  • Other Names: 荘 (Zhuāng Zhōu)
  • Chinese/Japanese: 荘子 (Zhuāngzǐ / Soushi)

Zhuangzi is a prominent Chinese philosopher, perhaps the second-most prominent figure in Taoism after Laozi himself. The author of a text known simply as "the Zhuangzhi," he is described by historian Sima Qian as having lived during the reigns of King Hui of Liang (370-319 BCE) and King Xuan of Qi (319-301 BCE). This chronology would make him a contemporary of Mencius. Among his many sayings and teachings, Zhuangzhi is perhaps most famous for waking from a dream and questioning whether he was a man who had dreamed of being a butterfly, or if he was a butterfly, now dreaming of being a man.

Details of Zhuangzhi's life are scant. Sima Qian describes him as a native of Meng, and as having served at some point as an official in the lacquer garden, though the details of this description, too, are quite vague. It remains unclear where Meng might have been, though some have suggested it may have lay within the state of Song, ruled by the descendants of the emperors of the Shang Dynasty.

Of the thirty-three chapters of the text which bears his name, Zhuangzhi is believed to have himself written the first seven. Following these so-called Inner Chapters are fifteen Outer Chapters, and eleven Miscellaneous Chapters, said to have been written by multiple, later, individuals.

References

  • "Transformation and Transcendence in the Zhuangzi," Sources of Chinese Tradition, 95.
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