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Disagreements on the Interpretations of the Zhuangzi - Essay Example

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Disagreements on the Interpretations of the Zhuangzi

These differences can be summed up in presenting two modern analyses and interpretations of some parts of the Zhuangzi, with emphasis on the governing forces that shape and control the universe. For writer Erica Brindley, she interprets the Zhuangzi as the driving force and endless source of power that moves the universe and is above even Heaven itself is the Dao ?, which is “an upright way”, “a method”, “a path”, or “a truth”.1 The Dao allows the proliferation of diversity, thus any kind of method is considered acceptable as long as it is in line with the truth, making it a cyclical or a circular concept. Meanwhile writer Michael J. Puett interprets Heaven or Tian ? as the apex in the universal hierarchy and governs laws initiating changes and transformations, similar to patriarchy as a social order.2 Because the two authors read and interpreted the Zhuangzi using two different terms with differing ideologies, there are disagreements between the two, wherein Brindley’s interpretation of the Zhuangzi shows that the universe has a cyclic nature accessible through transcendence, while Puett’s interpretation states that the universal hierarchy is linear with Heaven at the apex, and man must live in balance with it without having to enter transcendence. Comparisons of the Two Interpretations of the Zhuangzi Brindley’s interpretation of the Zhuangzi gives a greater emphasis on the Dao as the all-encompassing, dynamic, unbounded and limitless driving force that shapes the cosmos and initiates its constant transformations.3 This is due to how she explains some ideas in the Zhuangzi using the Dao as the major influence. For example, she interprets the Dao to be impersonal, thus when a person unites with it, the perception of the self ceases to exist and becomes indistinguishable through emptiness, Wu ?. Thus this person does not act of his own accord anymore, because the self is no more. A passage from Zhuangzi mentions the impersonality of the Dao: “The Way has its reality and its signs but is without action or form. You can hand it down but you cannot receive it; you can get it but you cannot see it (Zhuangzi 6.9).”4 The idea is similar to Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am”, but instead it becomes I no longer am, and thus my thoughts are not mine.5 This turns thoughts from something personal to something that is not from the person, thus being impersonal. On the other hand, Puett’s interpretations of the Zhuangzi gives more emphasis on Heaven to be the one governing all changes that happen in the universe, and that humans must strive not to work against it, but rather follow its patterns.6 This is because resisting or controlling these changes makes people resentful, and will turn into an endless cycle of dissatisfaction, whereas allowing changes to happen as fate brings one pleasure and peace. This can be further explained using a passage from Zhuangzi: “Such things from time to time may happen to come your way. When they come, you cannot keep them from arriving, but when they depart you cannot stop them from going (Zhuangzi 16.5).”7 By allowing things to happen according to the patterns of Heaven and forgoing all, man can easily live in peace. Another disagreement between Brindley’s and Puett’s interpretations of the Zhuangzi is on how normalcy or humanity is defined. For Brindley, what the universe creates that man does not see normal are the products of how the Dao allows diversity to exist in the cosmos, while for Puett anything that exists in nature, regardless of whether humans consider it normal or not are still the products of the will of Heaven and are thus “heavenly”. The two texts both mentioned the following passage from Zhua ...Show more


Various analyses on the content of the Book of Zhuangzi can be attributed to how the original Chinese verses were written, and interpretations of the text will depend on the readers’ experiences, beliefs, and backgrounds…
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Disagreements on the Interpretations of the Zhuangzi
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