Zhuangzi glossary


Introduction to this project

Zhuangzi was a philosopher in fourth-century BC China, the primary author of a book also called Zhuangzi. His writings question both mainstream Confucian traditionalism and also attempts to replace it with a more rational system, for instance by the Mohists and by Zhuangzi's friend, the logician Huizi. But, though he was responding to the people of his day, the lessons of his writings seem to reach much further.

I have been fascinated by Zhuangzi since college but I gave up working on him a decade or two back because, frankly, I felt I lacked the spiritual depth to do him justice. The reason that I’ve taken him up again now is not because I think I’ve gained the necessary depth but because I am getting old and want to give it one last try. Also, since I am no longer in a position professionally where I have to pretend to understand when I don't, I hope that the opportunity to approach the text more honestly, hat in hand, so to speak, will help me learn.

I consider this to be a work-in-progress, hopefully for a long time. The reason to put it online is to get people’s help improving it, so let me spend the rest of this introduction clarifying some particular questions on which I can use feedback. Here is how to use this site and how to leave comments, if you care to do so and would be so kind. In addition to your ideas about the text, some of the questions I could use particular help with are: who the audience is; how much sense to make; how much background to fill in; balancing comments and links; dealing with onomatopoeia, rhymes, and hapax legomenoi; how literal to be; and, of course, editing and web design. If you feel like you need more context, here is a thumbnail history of the period and a statement about the text and authorship, which explains which sections I have included and which I have left out, since Zhuangzi is a very long book. And, just in case anyone is interested, here are some old papers about Zhuangzi I wrote over the years and never knew what to do with. This seems like as good a place for them as any. Thank you very much for visiting the site and I hope you enjoy it.


Paul Kjellberg