SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute


Professor Liu Xiaogan (Chinese University Hong Kong)

Date: 22 February 2011Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 22 February 2011Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 4421

Type of Event: Seminar

(Open to graduate and research students only)

Required pre-sessional readings:

Read the chapters “Xiaoyaoyou” 逍遙遊and “Qiwulun” 齊物論 of the Zhuangzi 莊子 with the commentary (zhu) by Guo Xiang 郭象 (d. 312) which is known under titles such as Guo Xiang zhu Zhuangzi 郭象注莊子, Guo zhu Zhuangzi郭注莊子, Zhuangzi zhu莊子注, Nanhua zhenjing zhu南華真經注 etc. and available in numerous reprints. Guo Xiang’s annotations are also integrated in later exegetical work on the Zhuangzi as first commentarial level to which a further commentary is added, see e.g. Guo Qingfan’s 郭慶藩 (1844-1896) Zhuangzi jishi 莊子集釋 (1894). For details see Harold D. Roth: “Chuang tzu”, in: Michael Loewe (ed.): Early Chinese Texts (Berkeley: Society of the Study of Early China, 1993), 56-66

In addition to the transmitted version with Guo Xiang’s glosses, the following translations are recommended:

  • Graham, A.C.: Chuang-tzu: The Seven Inner Chapters and Other Writings from the Book Chuang-tzu. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1981.
  • This translation can be complemented by A.C. Graham’s Chuang-tzu. Textual Notes to a Partial Translation (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1982) or Harold D. Roth’s A Companion to Angus C. Graham’s Chuang Tzu (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003).
    Mair, Victor H.: Wandering on the Way, Honolulu: Hawai’i University Press, 1998.
    Watson, Burton: The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu. New York: Columbia University Press, 1968.

Questions for discussion (voluntary presentations on these questions are highly encouraged)

  1. Do you think chapter one prefers the greatness than smallness? What is your ground and evidence? Someone think chapter one promotes the view that the greatness and smallness is equal. Do you agree with this position? Why?
  2. Do you think chapter two prefers the view that everything is equal therefore the distinction between the greatness and smallness in chapter one is false. Do you think chapter two negates the view of chapter one? What is your position and why you take the position?
  3. Does the themes of chapter one and two conflict each other? How should we deal with this inconsistency between the two chapters? Are there any methodological issues and implications for Chinese philosophical studies in coping with this apparent conflict of the two chapters?
  4. The passage in chapter two in which Zhuangzi discusses, among others, the respective best place to live for eels, monkeys, and humans is often regarded by Zhuangzian scholars as expressing a view of skepticism and/or relativism. What is your take on it?

Liu Xiaogan 劉笑敢is currently the director of the Research Centre for Chinese Philosophy and Culture, and a professor at the Department of Philosophy, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). Before joining CUHK, he taught and conducted research at Peking University, Harvard, Princeton, and the National University of Singapore.

He is the author, editor, and contributor of numerous books and journals in Chinese and English, including Laozi Gujin 老子古今 (The Laozi from the ancient to the Modern: comparative studies of the five versions, including introductory analyses and criticism), Classifying the Zhuangzi Chapters, Daoism and Ecology, Companion to Daoist Philosophy (in progress) and “From Bamboo Slips to Received Versions: Common Features in the Transformation of the Laozi” (Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 2003).

He has received awards and prizes for teaching and research excellence in Beijing, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Quite a few of his works have been translated into English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.


Bernhard Fuehrer,

Sponsor: London Confucius Institute