Dao
, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 463-486
Date: 09 Oct 2011

Two Notions of Freedom in Classical Chinese Thought: The Concept of Hua 化 in the Zhuangzi and the Xunzi

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Abstract

This essay is an attempt to sketch out two contrasting notions of freedom in the Zhuangzi and the Xunzi. I argue that to understand the classical Chinese formulations of freedom we should look at the concept of hua 化 (transformation or to transform). It is a kind of freedom that highlights the moral and/or spiritual transformation of the self and its entailments on the connection between the self and various domains of relationality. The Zhuangzian hua is the transformation of the self in such a way that the self becomes supremely attuned to the complexity of the world and can thus navigate various domains of relationality with extraordinary grace, ease, and efficacy. The Xunzian hua is the transformation of the self so that the self can extend its relationality to include the entire world and transform it from a raw and uncouth world to a civilized one through ritual practices.