Chuang-tzu > Text: Classic of Nan-hua


Introduction to Chuang-tzu
aka Nan-hua chen-ching

Chuang-tzu is the author of the homonymous book. According to the experts' opinion in classical Taoism, the book Chuang-tzu is "the most important because the essential thought and attitude of the ancient Taoists become approachable mainly due to it". (Max Kaltenmark: Lao-tzu and Taoism.)

The book subsists until today as a long text in prose which is divided in 33 chapters distributed in internal chapters (I-VII), external chapters (VIII-XXII), and miscellaneous chapters (XXIII-XXXIII). According to tradition, only the internal chapters are Chuang-tzu's work, while the other two parts of the text are attributed to the disciples and successors of Master's school.

Since the Tang dynasty his book is called The Classic of Nan-hua (Nan-hua chen-ching).

Chuang-tzu represents, according to experts' opinion, a quite unusual praised and unanimously appreciated literary genius. He is first of all the fable writer of the Taoism. His thought expresses in fables, short stories which bring together a great imaginative force, a sarcastic sense of humor and a defamatory and polemic diatribe which sometimes culminates by impertinence. As regards this the following remarks represent the most pertinent judgment:

    He discussed... using strange and mystical expressions, wild and extravagant words, and phrases to which no definite meaning could be assigned. He constantly indulged his own wayward ideas, but did not make himself a partisan, nor look at them as peculiar to himself. Considering that men were sunk in stupidity and could not be talked to in dignified style, he employed the words of the cup of endless application, with important quotations to substantiate the truth, and an abundance of corroborative illustrations. (Chuang-tzu, Book XXXIII, chap. 6, translation by Legge).

Let's add that in this book we find the chief point of the Taoist subject matter from Tao-te ching, but in an amplified form and exemplified with abundant and enlightening short stories.

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