Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chuang Tzu 莊周

(Zhuangzi)

369 – 286 BCE

In a very real way, all of Chuang Tzu’s writings are a commentary on the Tao Te Ching. And by far, the best. Many consider him to be like Plato was to Socrates, like Paul was to Jesus, like Mencius was to Confucius, like Ashoka was to the Buddha… responsible for spreading the message of their teacher to the bigger world. Ridiculing rigid Confucian principles, he champions the sense instead of the words, the non-thought lineage, and true wisdom in daily life. His teachings emphasizing the interdependence of all things both inspire and foreshadow our modern ecological perspective.

Eras

Sources

Zhuangzi

Unlisted Sources

The Man of Tao

Quotes by Chuang Tzu (91 quotes)

“To act without needing a reason… to ride the current of what is – this is the primal virtue.”

Chapters: 2. The Wordless Teachings

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“Achievement is the beginning of failure. Fame is the beginning of disgrace.”

Chapters: 2. The Wordless Teachings

Themes: Success Failure Fame

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“Those who are skilled toil, and those who are clever worry. Meanwhile, those who do not possess such abilities seek nothing and yet eat their fill. They drift through life like unmoored boats.”

Chapters: 34. An Unmoored Boat

Themes: Wu Wei

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“All things are good and acceptable. That is why all things – a blade of grass or a hundred-foot pine, a leper or a legendary beauty, a national hero or a traitor – are equal in the Tao.”

Chapters: 62. Basic Goodness

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“Can you stop looking to others and focus on your innermost self? Can you return to the beginning of the world and be like a newborn baby?”

Chapters: 76. The Soft and Flexible

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“Chuang Tzu dreamed that he was a butterfly. When he woke up he wondered if was Chuang Tzu dreaming he was a butterfly or now a butterfly dreaming it was Chuang Tzu.”

from The Way of Chuang Tzu

Chapters: 49. No Set Mind

Themes: Dream Butterfly

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“Chuang-tzu’s wife died. When Hui-tzu came to offer his condolences, he found him pounding on a tub and singing… Chuang-tzu said, ‘The same process that brought her to birth, in time brought her to death, as naturally as fall turns into winter and spring into summer... if I went around wailing and pounding my chest, it would only show that I didn’t understand the first thing about reality.’”

Chapters: 52. Cultivating the Changeless

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“Don’t chase after people’s approval. Don’t depend on your plans. Don’t make decisions; let decisions make themselves.”

Chapters: 20. Unconventional Mind

Themes: Conformity

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“Everyone wants to be first, while I alone want to be last, which means to endure the world’s disgrace.”

Chapters: 78. Water

Themes: Competition

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“Forget the years, forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home.”

Chapters: 11. Appreciating Emptiness

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“Give up wanting to be important; let your footsteps leave no trace.”

Chapters: 27. No Trace

Themes: No Trace

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“Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.”

Chapters: 9. Know When to Stop

Themes: Happiness

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“He who awaits his time, who submits
When his work is done,
In his life there is no room
For sorrow or rejoicing.”

Chapters: 23. Nothing and Not

Themes: Patience

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“If we are content with whatever happens and follow the flow, joy and sorrow cannot affect us. This is what the ancients called freedom from bondage.”

Chapters: 44. Fame and Fortune

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“Judgments of right and wrong are what I am calling feelings. What I call having no feelings is when people do not harm themselves inwardly by likes and dislikes but always go by what is natural and not try to add to life.”

Chapters: 22. Heaven's Door

Themes: Appreciation

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“Lao-tzu said everyone else seeks happiness. He alone saw that to be incomplete was to become whole.”

Chapters: 22. Heaven's Door

Themes: Happiness

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“No self is true self and the greatest man is nobody.”

Chapters: 13. Honor and Disgrace

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“Not to understand is profound; to understand is shallow. Not to understand is to be on the inside; to understand is to be on the outside.”

Chapters: 38. Fruit Over Flowers

Themes: Openness

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“not-doing is the opposite of inaction. Because acting without effort, each job does itself in its own time.”

Chapters: 29. Not Doing

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“Nowadays I see with my whole being not with my eyes. I sense the natural lines, and my knife slides through by itself… I stand there and let the joy of the work fill me.”

from Zhuangzi

Chapters: 28. Turning Back

Themes: Skillful Means

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“The ancients ruled the world by doing nothing. This is the Virtue of Heaven — Heaven moves without moving.”

Chapters: 37. Nameless Simplicity

Themes: Virtue Wu Wei

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“The man of spirit hates to see people gather around him. He avoids the crowd… There is nothing to be gained from the support of a lot of half-wits who are doomed to end up in a fight with each other.”

Chapters: 51. Mysterious Goodness

Themes: Fame Hate

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“The Master achieves success, yet he never does a thing… People don’t see him as a leader since he lets them find their own way”

Chapters: 30. No War

Themes: Success Strategy

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“The Master understands that there is nothing to understand.”

Chapters: 9. Know When to Stop

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“The petty thief is imprisoned but the big thief becomes an investment banker (Chuang Tzu used ‘feudal lord’).”

Chapters: 53. Shameless Thieves

Themes: Crime

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“The purpose of a fish trap is to catch fish, and when the fish are caught, the trap is forgotten. The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten. Where can I find a man who has forgotten the words, so that I can talk to him?”

Chapters: 19. All Methods Become Obstacles

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“The reality of the Tao lies in concern for the self. Concern for the state is irrelevant, and concern for the world is cowshit. From this standpoint, the emperor’s work is the sage’s hobby and is not what develops the self or nourishes life.”

Chapters: 54. Planting Well

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“The sage has no goal and people are transformed. He doesn’t talk but people are taught, doesn’t act but everything is done, speaks without intention and even beggars in the street benefit.”

Chapters: 7. Lose Yourself, Gain Your Soul

Themes: Wu Wei

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“The sage is the world’s greatest weapon but not one that is known to the world.”

Chapters: 36. The Small, Dark Light

Themes: Wisdom Anonymity

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“The sage’s mind is so still, it can mirror Heaven and Earth and reflect the 10,000 things.”

Chapters: 10. The Power of Goodness

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“The sound of water says what I think.”

Chapters: 8. Like Water

Themes: Music Water

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“The Tao begins in the relation between man and woman, ends in the infinite vastness of the universe.”

Chapters: 25. The Mother of All Things

Themes: Sex Marriage

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“The wise of old thought nothing about loving life or hating death... They accepted what was given with delight and when it was gone, gave it no more thought.”

Chapters: 46. Enough

Themes: Letting Go

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“The wise take Heaven as their ancestor, virtue as their home, and the Tao as their door and escape change.”

Chapters: 47. Effortless Success

Themes: Virtue Change

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“Those who govern and follow the Tao are like the high branches in a tree; people don’t notice them and wander in freedom like deer in a forest. 3:14”

Chapters: 17. True Leaders

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“To act without needing a reason… to ride the current of what is – this is the primal virtue.”

Chapters: 2. The Wordless Teachings

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“Water is for fish and air for men. Natures differ, and needs with them. Hence the wise men of old did not lay down one measure for all.”

Chapters: 61. Lying Low

Themes: Water Belief

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“What a fool you are! You have the greatest treasure in the world inside you and yet you go around asking other people for help…”

Chapters: 50. Claws and Swords

Themes: Travel

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“what a lot of fuss and upheaval the benefactors of humanity have caused.”

Chapters: 18. The Sick Society

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“When an archer is shooting for nothing, he has all his skill… But the prize divides him… He thinks more of winning than of shooting – the need to win drains him of power.”

Chapters: 44. Fame and Fortune

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“When asked by two high officials from the king to become the prime minister, ‘Give my compliments to His Majesty and tell him that I am happy right here crawling around in the mud.’”

Chapters: 26. The Still Rule the Restless

Themes: Humility

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“When Lao Tan and Yin Hsi heard of people who considered accumulation as deficiency, they were delighted.”

Chapters: 81. Journey Without Goal

Themes: Consumerism

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“When springs dry up, fish find themselves in puddles spraying water on each other to keep each other alive. Better to be in a river or lake and oblivious to one another.”

from Zhuangzi

Chapters: 18. The Sick Society

Themes: Inscrutable

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“When the knowledge of bows and arrows arose, the birds above were troubled… When the knowledge of argument and disputation multiplied, the people were confused.”

Chapters: 65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

Themes: Confusion

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“when the mind is open and free of its own thoughts, life unfolds effortlessly and the whole world is filled with light”

Chapters: 21. Following Empty Heart

Themes: Openness No Trace

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“When your mind is transparent to the depths and your words and actions are one, the whole world becomes transparent.”

Chapters: 24. Unnecessary Baggage

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“Where is Tao? There is nowhere it is not to be found… It is in the ant… It is in the weeds… it is in this turd… Tao is great in all things, complete in all, universal in all, whole in all.”

Chapters: 35. The Power of Goodness

Themes: Taoism

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“where there are machines, there are bound to be machine worries; where there are machine worries, there are bound to be machine hearts. With a machine heart in your breast, you've spoiled what was pure and simple”

Chapters: 80. A Golden Age

Themes: Technology

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“Life and death are nothing to the true people of Tao, nothing can touch them.”

from Zhuangzi

Chapters: 7. Lose Yourself, Gain Your Soul

Themes: Death and Dying

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“To start from nowhere and follow no road is the first step.”

from Zhuangzi

Chapters: 5. Christmas Trees

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“Abandon your plan… respond to the demands of inner truth… and war will end by itself!”

from Zhuangzi

Chapters: 30. No War

Themes: War Truth

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“Prisoners to the world of objects, they are pressed down and crushed by fashion, the market, events, public opinion… never do they recover their right mind.”

from Zhuangzi

Chapters: 11. Appreciating Emptiness

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“Where would the gardener be if there were no more weeds?”

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Gardening

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“a sage doesn't allow like or dislikes to get in and do him harm - he just lets things be the way they are”

Themes: Desire Pleasure

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“Birth and death, profit and loss, success and failure, health and sickness – the Master maintains his balance... he lets things go through their changes and stays focused on what is real.”

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Health Middle Way

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“The universe and I exist together, all things and I are One.”

Themes: Oneness

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“Why are you running away from yourself and seeking for things outside?... What good is this?”

Themes: True Self

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“When there is no more separation between 'this' and 'that,' it is called the still-point of Tao. At the still point in the center of the circle, one sees the infinite in all things.”

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“Do not let the artificial obliterate the natural; do not let will obliterate destiny; do not let virtue be sacrificed to fame”

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“The one who thinks he does not know is profound, the one who thinks he knows is shallow.”

from Zhuangzi

Chapters: 1. The Unnamed

Themes: Moral Freedom

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“What he saw as One was One, and what he saw as not One was also One... better to forget both and lose oneself in the Tao.”

from Zhuangzi

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“How can speech be so obscured that there should be a distinction of right and wrong? Can we, or can we not, distinguish it from the chirping of young birds?”

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Moral Freedom

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“Like a person whose senses function properly each in its own field but do not cooperate with one another, philosophers emphasize one particular aspect and hold on to it... philosophy is thus cut up and falls apart.”

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Philosophy

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“Poetry serves to communicate the hearts and hopes of men.”

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Poetry Hope

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“Reality is ever elusive and formless, all life is constant change.”

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Change Reality

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“Each denying what the other affirms and affirming what the other denies brings us only confusion.”

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“Those who say they would have good government without its correlate, misrule, do not understand the great principles of the universe, nor the nature of all creation.”

Themes: Government

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“Perfect kindness does not concern itself with kindness... Kindness that has fixed objects loses its integrity.”

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Kindness

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“The words of arguments are all relative. To reach the absolute, the truth, we have to harmonize opposites and follow their natural evolution.”

from Zhuangzi

Chapters: 2. The Wordless Teachings

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“Fame destroys virtue and easily becomes an evil weapon, only something to beat people down with—not anything that can bring true success.”

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Fame Success

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“That which is added to and does not increase, is taken away from and does not decrease... fathomless like the sea, inexhaustible; it sustains and gives life to all creation.”

from Zhuangzi

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“Give a ceremonial bath to your mind!
Light comes from darkness, predicables from the formless, life springs into existence without a visible source, disappears into infinity.”

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“The wise do not rejoice when they succeed or lament when they fail because they know that conditions aren’t constant”

from Zhuangzi

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“Like small hills that pile up and become a mountain, like streams that flow into one another and become a great river; the good leader unites all and makes a unified effort and a unified nation possible”

from Zhuangzi

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“People usually look at things from their personal point of view and therefore miss the truth.”

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Egolessness Truth

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“Like water that becomes clear when left alone, the wise make no plans and casually adjust themselves to events.”

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Simplicity

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“Learn how to govern your own mind and the universe will take care of itself.”

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Mind

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“The master uses his skill to harmonize with both sides which makes all things equal. This is called 'walking on two paths at once.'”

from Zhuangzi

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“Where can I find someone who has penetrated beyond words? That's who I'd like to have a word with.”

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“Do not ask whether the Principle is in this or in that; it is in all beings. All proceeds from It and is under its influence. It is in all things, but is not identical with beings, for it is neither differentiated nor limited.”

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“With unbridled fancies, facetious language and sweet romantic nonsense, he [Chuang Tzu] gives free play to his spirit without restraint. He mingles with conventional society and does not despise the things of the universe or quarrel about what others regard as right and wrong.”

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“The Queen Mother of the West realized the Dao… ...and took up her seat at Shao kuang. No one knows her beginning; no one knows her end.”

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“Destruction of Tao and character in order to strive for humanity and justice—this is the error of the sages.”

from Zhuangzi

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“He who knows he is a fool is not the biggest fool; He who knows he is confused is not in the worst confusion.”

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“While he does not follow the crowd, he won't complain about those who do... The man of Tao remains unknown.”

from The Man of Tao

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“He does not struggle to make money and does not make a virtue of poverty. He goes his way without relying on others and does not pride himself on walking alone.”

from The Man of Tao

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“when there is excellence of character, physical appearance is forgotten. When people do not forget what to forget, but forget what not to forget, this is really forgetting.”

Themes: Forget Memory

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“Complete people have no self, spiritual people have no merit, saintly people have no name.”

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“Beware when the so-called sagely men come limping into sight.”

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“When we understand we are at the center of the circle, and there we sit while Yes and No chase each other around the circumference.”

Themes: Paradox

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“The sage is full of anxiety and indecision in undertaking anything, and so he is always successful.”

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Success Openness

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Quotes about Chuang Tzu (11 quotes)

“Chuang Tzu is not concerned with words and formulas about reality, but with the direct existential grasp of reality in itself. Such a grasp is necessarily obscure and does not lend itself to abstract analysis.”

Thomas Merton 1915 – 1968 CE

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“Chuang Tzu is not only a remarkable philosopher but also a great poet.”

Octavio Paz 1914 – 1998 CE
Persuasive poet and convincing social commentator

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“Chuang Tzu was a deep thinker and a brilliant writer. He could be magnificent and grandiose, outrageous and funny, sharp and acerbic, dreamy and playful, sober and earnest, serene and unruffled. The inner meanings of his allegories have been pondered for centuries... [he] had the audacity to lay bare the root of the human condition”

Thomas Cleary 1949 CE –
from Essential Tao

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“I like Chuang Tzu because he is what he is, not concerned with words and formulas about reality, but with the direct existential grasp of reality in itself. Immediately going to the heart of things, his philosophy is profoundly original and sane. I think i may be pardoned for consorting with this Chinese recluse who shares the climate and peace of my own kind of solitude, who is my own kind of person.”

Thomas Merton 1915 – 1968 CE via Shan Dao
from The Way of Chuang Tzu

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“Chuang Tzu felt the sorrow of man's short life on this earth and was fascinated by the mystery of dearth. He constantly expressed this feeling with the gifted pen of a poet... What was philosophy in Lao Tzu often became poetry in the younger Taoist disciple.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE
from Wisdom of Laotse

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“Chuang Tzu scoffed a the glitter of success, lambasted the great... What was philosophy in Lao Tzu became poetry in Chuang Tzu.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE
from Wisdom of Laotse

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“With unbridled fancies, facetious language and sweet romantic nonsense, he [Chuang Tzu] gives free play to his spirit without restraint. He mingles with conventional society and does not despise the things of the universe or quarrel about what others regard as right and wrong.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE
(Zhuangzi)

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“While Lao Tzu spoke in aphorisms, Chuang Tzu wrote long, discursive philosophical essays. While Lao Tzu was all intuition, Chuang Tzu was all intellect. Lao Tzu smiled; Chuang Tzu laughed. Lao Tzu taught; Chuang Tzu scoffed. Lao Tzu spoke to the heart; Chuang Tzu spoke to the mind. Lao Tzu was like Whitman; Chuang Tzu was like Thoreau. Lao Tzu was like Rousseau; Chuang Tzu was like Voltaire.

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE
from Wisdom of Laotse

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“One of the qualities I most treasure in Chuang Tzu is his sense of the spontaneous, the uncapturable. This makes it easy to follow in his footsteps. Since there are no footsteps, all you an follow is what he himself followed: the Tao.”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

Themes: Conformity

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“Chuang Tzu has been called a mystical anarchist and... offers a whole world of irreverence and subversion... because he has freed himself from his own beliefs. What he subverts is conventional thinking, with its hierarchies of judgment, its fors and againsts, its delusion that life is random unfair, and somehow not good enough,”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

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“After Lao Tzu, the greatest of the early Taoist philosophers. The work that bears his name contains some of the most imaginative examples of early Chinese writing and includes numerous quotes from the Tao Te Ching.”

Red Pine 1943 CE –
( Bill Porter)
Exceptional translator, cultural diplomat
from Lao-Tzu's Taoteching

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