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Zhuang Zi — Great Philosopher of Taoism in Chinese Culture

Zhuang Zhou (about 369 BC — 286 BC), respected as Zhuang Zi (or Chuang Tzu) or Nanhua Zhenren, courtesy name as Zi Xiu or Zi Mu, was a great philosopher of Taoism in Chinese culture.

He was also one of the most influential and extraordinary writers in Chinese history, who presented his insightful, brilliant ideas through romantic fables and fantastic imaginations. 

Besides having worked as an official for a short while when he was young, Zhuang Zi spent most of his life freely in the countryside. 

When a powerful king invited him to be prime minister of the State Chu, one of the strongest regimes during the Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC), Zhuang Zi rejected firmly. 

Gold Currency (Ying Yuan) of the State Chu — Nanjing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

As an absolute freedom pursuer, Zhuang Zi didn’t want to get involved in political issues. 

On the contrary, he was more like a brilliant observer that viewed the secular world from an exterior perspective.  

He traveled around, appreciated exceptional views, chat with wise people that he appreciated, and wrote beautiful articles. 

From the fabulous nature and mysterious universe, Zhuang Zi found more advanced wisdom, and a bigger, more beautiful world.

 

Main Ideas of Zhuang Zi

  • Everyone in the universe is equal, and can in the end reach to an integrate harmoniously.

 

Human and animal, life and death, humble and noble, they are all the same from a bigger perspective. 

 

Therefore, strict etiquettes and hierarchy from Confucianism ideology are strongly disdained.

  • People should try to abandon man-made rules, including political ideas, universal values, etiquette, and hierarchy; these are designed to suppress the human nature.

  • There is no ghost or spirit; dead is dead.

 

Hence, an elaborate funeral is not necessary; people should come from and go back into nature simply.

 

  • Physical death is not scary or sad, the ideological death is; because ideas can last forever. 

 

The most mournful thing for a person is a desperate and dead heart.

  • Value and follow nature and humanity. 

 

Everyone should try to appreciate the beauty around them, freely and independently; that is the only way to achieve genuine happiness.

 

Like birds singing in the sky, or fishes swimming in the water, or human being integrating with nature. 

 

  • Everyone has their own limitations and shortcomings, so there’s no need to be negatively influenced, because of other people’s comments or achievements.

 

Knowing and embracing this fact is a good way to obtain inner peace. 

 

  • Everyone has an ability or some hobbies to cheer themselves up; knowing how and when to make use of it is an important path to happiness. 

 

  • The best circumstance is that someone has the ability to find happiness whenever and wherever.

 

One doesn’t need to wait for certain people or events, nor reach a specific stage or material condition.

 

That is the highest spiritual state that human beings could achieve. 

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