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Instruction Dialogues in the Zhuangzi: An “Anthropological” Reading

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Carine Defoort.

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Defoort, C. Instruction Dialogues in the Zhuangzi: An “Anthropological” Reading. Dao 11, 459–478 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11712-012-9294-x

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Keywords

  • Zhuangzi
  • Anthropology
  • Instruction
  • Masters
  • Formal characteristics