Zhuangzi

Zhuang Zi (369B.C-286B.C.), with the given name as Zhou, was an influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century B.C. during the Warring States Period, corresponding to the Hundred Schools of Thought philosophical summit of Chinese thought. Zhuang Zi was the representative of Taoism. He was a native of the state of Meng, on the border of present-day Shan dong and He nan provinces, and is said to have lived as a hermit, "to be intoxicated in the wonder and the power of Nature.". He was also the most brilliant of the early Taoists and the greatest prose writer of his time. According to Shi ji ,the book of Grand History written by Si ma Qian (145-90 B.C.), Zhuang Zi was a contemporary of King Hui of Liang state(370-319) and King Hsüan of Qi state(319-301). Therefore, he was also the contemporary of Mencius (372-289 B.C.). He left behind with the classic Zhuang Zi, which is after his name.

Legend has it that Zhuang Zi declined the honor of being prime minister to King Wei of Chu state(339-329 B.C.), saying that he much preferred to be a live tortoise wagging its tail in the mud than a dead one venerated in a golden casket in a king's ancestral shrine. The story is apocryphal, but it is highly illustrative of the mentality of the Taoist mystic, who cared more for personal freedom than for high office. 

The most well-known story about Zhuang Zi called "Zhuang Zi dreamed he was a butterfly" (Zhuang Zhou meng die in Chinese). The story goes like this: Once Zhuangzi dreamt that he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things. Base on the analysis of the image of butterfly in Zhuang Zhou's butterfly-transforming dream, it shows that Zhuang Zi takes images as a kind of path and means to acquire" Tao", therefore attaining the aesthetic state of" Wandering in absolute freedom".

The Book
The classic is composed of 33 chapters. The traditional view is that Zhuangzi himself wrote the first 7 chapters (the "inner chapters") and his students and related thinkers were responsible for the other parts (the "outer" and "miscellaneous" chapters).

Zhuang Zi is fond of using to explicate his ideas. When reading Zhuang Zi (the book), readers are able to get hold of the primary message provided they explore along Zhuangzi's path of thought. This path winds through all his writings, and reflects his constant preoccupation with the Dao (the Way in English) of attaining spirited emancipation and independent personality. These two aspects of the Dao can be identified with the two sides of the same coin termed as absolute freedom. The freedom as such is assumed to facilitate human fulfillment that is conceived of as the ultimate telos for life. All this is largely grounded on a sincere and supra-utilitarian attitude toward the pursuit of spiritual transcendence. Keeping this keynote in mind, one will find it less perplexing when trying to pinpoint what Zhuangzi claims as "a happy and boundless excursion" by searching through his philosophizing saturated with thought-provocative fables. The famous articles in Zhuang Zi are A Happy Excursion, On Leveling All Things and The Preservation of Life. The Preservation of Life is one of the even widely read articles today.

Zhuang Zi’s philosophy is the arguing that our life is limited and the amount of things to know is unlimited. To use the limited to pursue the unlimited, he said, was foolish. Zhuang Zi's greatness laid in his bringing early Taoism to its full completion. While he was true to the Taoist doctrine of wu-wei (refraining from action contrary to Nature), he extended the Taoist system and carried out metaphysical speculations never heard of by the early Taoists. The philosophy of Chuang Tzu, as characterized by its emphasis on the unity and spontaneity of the Tao, its assertion of personal freedom, and its doctrine of relativity of things, is essentially a plea for the "return to Nature" and free development of man's inherent nature. It is in fact a kind of romantic philosophy that favors anarchistic individualism and condemns Confucian virtues and institutions--a philosophy, in short, that idealizes the state of natural simplicity marked by no will, no consciousness, no knowledge.

Quotes:

"Rewards and punishment is the lowest form of education".

"Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness".

"I know the joy of fishes in the river through my own joy, as I go walking along the same river".

"If water derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind! The mind of the sage, being in repose, becomes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation".

"We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away".

"Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate".