, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 459–478 | Cite as

Instruction Dialogues in the Zhuangzi: An “Anthropological” Reading



There is a tendency in academia to read early Chinese masters as consistent philosophers. This is to some extent caused by the specific form in which these masters have been studied and taught for more than a century. Convinced of the influence that the form of transmission has on the content, this article studies the more fragmented parts of the book Zhuangzi—instruction scenes or dialogues—and more specifically their formal traits rather than the philosophical content conveyed in them. The focus is on one fragment in Chapter 7 which portrays Liezi, a shaman and Master Calabash. The persons and stages of the instructions scenes in the Zhuangzi seem to promote a non-teaching, in which the learner learns while the teacher does not teach. The non-availability of the teacher and his unwillingness to teach are, paradoxically, at the core of the teaching, although not presented as a valuable alternative.


Zhuangzi Anthropology Instruction Masters Formal characteristics 


  1. Allan, Sarah. 1997. The Way of Water and Sprouts of Virtue. New York: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  2. Billeter, Jean François. 2004a. Leçons sur Tchouang-tseu. Paris: Editions Allia.Google Scholar
  3. ____. 2004b. Etudes sur Tchouang-tseu. Paris: Editions Allia.Google Scholar
  4. Billioud, Sébastien & Joël Thoraval. 2007. “Jiaohua: The Confucian Revival in China as an Educative Project.” China Perspectives 2007.4: 4–20.Google Scholar
  5. ____. 2009. “Lijiao: The Return of Ceremonies Honouring Confucius in Mainland China.” China Perspectives 2009.4: 82–100.Google Scholar
  6. Black, Brian. 2007. The Character of the Self in Ancient India. Priests, Kings, and Women in the Early Upanishads. New York: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  7. Boys-Stones, George. 2007. “Physiognomy and Ancient Psychological Theory.” In Seeing the Face, Seeing the Soul. Polemon’s Physiognomy from Classical Antiquity to Medieval Islam. Ed. by Simon Swain, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Csikszentmihalyi, Mark. 2001. “Confucius.” In The Rivers of Paradise: Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus, and Muhammad as Religious Founders. Ed. by David Noel Freedman and Michael James McClymond. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.Google Scholar
  9. ____. 2004. Material Virtue: Ethics and the Body in Early China. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  10. Defoort, Carine. 2001. “Is There Such a Thing as Chinese Philosophy? Arguments of an Implicit Debate.” Philosophy East and West 51.3: 393–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. ____. 2006. “Is ‘Chinese Philosophy’ a Proper Name. A Response to Rein Raud.” Philosophy East and West 56.4: 625–660.Google Scholar
  12. ____. 2007. “The Creation of Confucianism: Confucius in the Zhuangzi” (paper presented at the conference on “Confucianism as Religion,” Leiden 23–25 May 2007).Google Scholar
  13. Eno, Robert. 1990. The Confucian Creation of Heaven: Philosophy and the Defense of Ritual Mastery. New York: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  14. Feldman, Richard. 1998. “Charity, Principle of.” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 10 Vols. Ed. by Edward Craig. London/New York: Routlegde.Google Scholar
  15. Foucault, Michel. 2001. L'herméneutique du sujet. Cours au Collège de France (1981–1982). Ed. by François Ewald, Frédéric Gros & Alessandro Fontana. Paris: Gallimard. Translated by Graham Burchell as The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1981–1982, New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005.Google Scholar
  16. Fu, Sinian 傅斯年. 2003. “The Forms of Writings of the Sources from the Warring States: A Brief Note 戰國文籍中之篇式書體:一個短記.” In Complete Works of Fu Sinian 傅斯年全集, vol. III. Ed. by Ouyang Zhesheng. Changsha: Hunan Jiaoyu Chubanshe.Google Scholar
  17. Graham, A.C. 1986. Chuang-tzu: The Inner Chapters. London: George Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  18. ____. 1990. The Book of Lieh-tzu. A Classic of Tao. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Graziani, Romain. 2006. Fictions philosophiques du Tchouang-tseu. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  20. Hadot, Pierre. 1987. Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique. Paris: Études Augustiniennes.Google Scholar
  21. Harper, Donald. 1996. Early Chinese Medical Literature: The Mawangdui Medical Manuscripts. London & New York: Kegan Paul International.Google Scholar
  22. Hsu, Elisabeth. 1999. The Transmission of Chinese Medicine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Huang, Jinhong 黃錦鈜. 1983. A Zhuangzi Reading Text 莊子讀本 . Taibei: San Min Publications.Google Scholar
  24. Kohn, Livia, ed. 2000. Daoism Handbook. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  25. LaFargue, Michael, trans. 1992. The Tao of the Tao Te Ching. A Translation and Commentary. New York: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  26. Lee, Thomas, ed. 2000. Education in Traditional China: A History. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  27. Levi, Jean. 2006. Les Oeuvres de Maître Tchouang. Paris: Editions de l’Encyclopédie des Nuisances.Google Scholar
  28. Lewis, Mark. 1999. Writing and Authority in Early China. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  29. ____. 2006. The Flood Myths of Early China. NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  30. Liu, Xiaogan. 1994. Classifying the “Zhuangzi” Chapters. Michigan: University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  31. Lloyd, Geoffrey and Nathan Sivin. 2002. The Way and the Word: Science and Medicine in Early China and Greece. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Mair, Victor, transl. 1994. Wandering on the Way. Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu. New York/Toronto/London/Sydney: Bantam Books.Google Scholar
  33. McCraw, David. 2010. Stratifying Zhuangzi: Rhyme and other Quantitative Evidence. Taipei: Academia Sinica.Google Scholar
  34. Melville, Herman. 1966. “Bartleby the Scrivener.” In Four Novels. Belgrade: Prosveta.Google Scholar
  35. Puett, Michael. 2003. “‘Nothing Can Overcome Heaven’: The Notion of Spirit in the Zhuangzi.” In Hiding the World in the World. Uneven Discourses on the Zhuangzi. Ed. by Scott Cook. New York: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  36. Rancière, Jacques. 1995. Le maitre ignorant. Mesnil-sur-l’Estréé: Fayard.Google Scholar
  37. Roth, Hal. 1991. “Who Compiled the Chuang Tzu?” In Chinese Texts and Philosophical Contexts. Ed. by H. Rosemont, Jr. La Salle: Open Court.Google Scholar
  38. ____. 1999. Original Tao. Inward Training and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Slingerland, Edward. 2003. Effortless Action. Wu-wei as Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Steiner, George. 2003. Lessons of the Masters. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Thoraval, Joël. 2002. “Expérience confucéenne et discours philosophique.” Perspectives Chinoises 71: 64–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Watson, Burton. 1968. The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Wu, Kuang-ming. 1982. Chuang Tzu: World Philosopher at Play. New York: Crossroad.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SinologyUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

Personalised recommendations