Zhuangzi glossary



The meaning and even the pronunciation of this character is uncertain. This is its first appearance in Chinese literature. Some say it is pronounced péng due to the 朋 péng component on the left-hand side. 朋 péng means "friend" or "peer." (See Analects 1.01.) 彭祖 péng zǔ, or Grandpa Peng's name at the end of the passage is prnounced the same way. Others associate  the 鵬 péng bird with the mythic 鳳 fèng ("phoenix"), said to be the greatest of all birds, whose appearance signifies the ascendence of a sage. Given the tendency of Ps and Fs to replace each other as pronunciations change of time, this association makes sense. It would also suggest that the name of the bird was originally pronounced similarly to the word 風 fēng, wind, hence my translation. Elsewhere in the text, as in the "the breath people blow at each other," below, and the Pipes of heaven in the beginning of chapter 2, wind illustrates the fundamental ambiguity of, among other things, language, the wind out of our mouths that means different things to different people.