Brimming with mythical imagination, poetic sallies, and often ferociously witty remarks, the Zhuangzi is one of China’s greatest literary and philosophical masterpieces. Yet the complexities of this classical text can make it a challenging read. This English translation leads you confidently through the comic scenes and virtuoso writing style, introducing all the little stories Zhuangzi invented and unpicking its philosophical insights through close commentaries and helpful asides. Romain Graziani opens up the text as never before, showing how Zhuangzi uses the stories as an answer to Mencius’s conception of sacrifice and self-cultivation, restoring the critical interplay with Confucius’ Analects, and guiding you through the themes of the animal world, sacrifice, political violence, meditation, illness, and death.
In Graziani’s translation, the co-founder of Taoism emerges as a remarkable thinker: a dedicated disparager of moral virtues who stubbornly resists any form of allegiance to social norms and the only Warring States figure to improvise with the darkest irony on the weaknesses of men and their docile subservience to the unquestioned authority of language. For anyone coming to Chinese philosophy or the Zhuangzi for the first time, this introduction and translation is a must-read, one that reminds us of the importance of thinking beyond our limited, everyday perspectives.