New Visions of the Zhuangzi
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New Visions of the Zhuangzi
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Edited by Livia Kohn
230 Pages
April 2015
ISBN 978-1-931483-29-2


A collection of thirteen essays on the ancient Daoist philosophical work Zhuangzi, this presents new angles and approaches. It overcomes the traditional division of schools in favor of topics, sheds new light on key philosophical notions, examines Zhuangzi’s relation to language, and explores issues of ethics, virtue, and personal perfection. In addition, it also applies modern neuroscience to its instructions, explores its vision of the ideal mind, and connects Zhuangzi’s teachings to issues of education and community relevant in contemporary society.

 Contents & Preface


This anthology is just what the doctor ordered: It is a prescribed antidote to the hardening of the categories that is the unfortunate consequence of much scholarship. Distinguished Daoism scholar Livia Kohn has recruited a cadre of authors who bring to life what the Zhuangzi itself announces as the highest wisdom of the ancients. That is, the shared theme among these very different essays is their sustained challenge to familiar deracinating boundaries—the application of severe ontological, existential, doctrinal, linguistic, spatial, temporal, normative, and logical distinctions—that would dirempt, fragment, and compartmentalize the unrelenting fluidity and recursiveness of the human experience.

—Roger T. Ames, University of Hawai’i

At least three reasons lie behind the importance of this book. First is the burgeoning of interest in Daoism in the West; Daoism is ever so much more portable outside of East Asian culture than Confucianism, although that too is subject to growing interest outside China. Second, the discovery of many important ancient texts over the last three decades, including Daoist ones, has called for a re-examination and re-interpretation of the classical Daoist texts and schools. Third, Livia Kohn, editor of the present volume, has just published the most masterful presentation and commentary on the Zhuangzi of our era. These three factors were present at the 9th International Conference on Daoist Studies, held at Boston University, which included not only most of these scholarly papers on Zhuangzi but also sessions on other topics. 

The excellent papers collected in New Visions of the Zhuangzi represent state-of-the art scholarship. They include: philologically acute historical studies on how to rethink Zhuangzi in the light of newly discovered texts; philosophical exegeses in relation to Laozi, Confucians, and Western philosophers; literary analyses of Zhuangzi’s rhetoric; a neuro-physiological analysis of Daoist meditation as based on Zhuangzi; and even a critical analysis of a Paris fashion show, whose dress designer made clothes to look like Zhuangzi’s misfits and uglies. 

The recent discussions of Chinese philosophy in relation to European philosophy have great merit; but they often have been spoiled by employing Western philosophical categories to identify Chinese points, for instance virtue ethics versus deontology (and some of that is here). But the antidote to this is for our scholarly community (thinking in English) to get on the inside of Chinese thinkers on their own, and only after that work toward integration. The sheer brilliance and diversity of these essays goes a long way toward bringing Zhuangzi to light in his own terms, or at least in such a diversity of terms that Western bias can hardly get off the ground. This book is a must for scholars and a delight for anybody else with a potential interest in Zhuangzi, and beyond that Daoism.

 —Robert Cummings Neville, Boston University