Zhuangzi glossary




胡蝶 húdié means "butterfly." Technically, 蝶 dié means "butterfly" and 胡 hú can refer to the 'barbaric' Hu people or be used basically as a question mark. Probably it is used here as a loan for the closely related word, 蝴 hú, which seems in fact to mean "butterfly" and nothing else. There are not enough uses of any of these terms in the Pre-Qin and Han literature compiled by the Chinese Text Project to make a confident determination: it is likely an innocent loan but one can't help feeling the author used 胡 hú instead of 蝴 hú on purpose.

Occurrences in CTP:

胡蝶: 8 times: 6 in Zhuangzi (five of which are the dream); twice in Liezi.

蝴蝶: 1time: in Zhuangzi.

蝴 2 times: 1 in Zz and once in the Former Han History.

蝶: 12 times: all in Zhuangzi and Liezi.