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The Book of Chuang Tzu (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 6, 2007

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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Chinese --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

The Taoist author named Chuang-tzu is estimated to have lived in the fourth century BCE, between 399 and 255 BCE. Martin Palmer is Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture. Currently he is working with the China Taoist Association on a project to protect the main Taoist sacred Mountains of China.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (April 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014045537X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140455373
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Trancelucence on June 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
As a long-time Chuang-Tzu enthusiast, I thoroughly enjoyed this translation. I imagine this would be very enjoyable to the general reader; I have read many commentaries on the meaning of Chuang-Tzu's philosophy (Victor Mair's, Allinson's, Wing-Tsit Chan's, A.C. Graham's, etc.) so my perspective is "biased" in particular way- I like the absurdity and relativistic notions, sort of a Lewis Carroll point of view. This translation fits in with my predilictions nicely. I like Burton Watson's translation too, I find the two complement each other nicely.

Chuang-tzu takes some pondering, and any translation that makes it too simple is doing the reader an injustice. This one captures all the irony and absurdity, yet leaves plenty of room for befuddlement. It contains ALL the chapters, not just the inner ones. Highly recommended! I keep this by the bed along with the Watson translation and The People's Guide to Mexico, another perennial favorite.
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79 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Charles Pinney on March 14, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great version of the Chuang Tzu containing all of the Inner, Outer and Miscellaneous chapters. Martin Palmer begins the book with a well written and educational preface and introduction going into the details of his translation and the Taoist concepts and ideas in the book.
He states: "The Book of Chuang Tzu is like a travelogue. As such, it meanders between continents, pauses to discuss diet, gives exchange rates, breaks off to speculate, offers a bus timetable, tells an amusing incident, quotes from poetry, relates a story, cites scripture."
"And always listen out for the mocking laughter of Chuang Tzu. This can be heard most when you start to make grand schemes out of the bits, or wondrous philosophies out of the hints and jokes. For ultimately this is not one book but a variety of voices swapping stories and bouncing ideas off each other, with Chuang Tzu striding through the whole, joking, laughing, arguing and interrupting."
Indeed the Chuang Tzu does all these things. Providing a fascinating and enlightening glimpse, using heavy doses of humor and wit, into the path of Tao. Experience is all.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Laurie on December 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
Since I am not a scholar of classical Chinese, it would be ridiculous for me to express a preference for one translator of Chuang-tzu over any other. I like Burton Watson. I have no complaints about this Penguin: all translations from Ancient Chinese are interpretive, the language was so ambiguous. But Burton Watson was like a voice speaking to you, whereas this is a shade official and anonymous. However, you can only get Watson's complete Chuang-tzu in the big, ugly, expensive hardback. The paperback has only the "Inner Chapters" (the original core of the book?) plus a few extra ones. The best bits, sure, but all Chuang-tzu should be read. So the Penguin has to be first choice.

A.C. Graham is for the completist. Scholars have long known that "Chuang-tzu" is a composite, written by several people at different times. So Graham has rearranged his version in order of who wrote what, when and where (in his opinion.) Most readers will find this unhelpful, pedantic and annoying.

Sometimes I try to list my 10 favourite books and this is always near the top. Several philosophers have called it the greatest book of philosophy ever, but it's hardly philosophy in the usual sense. No technical terms, no paragraphed arguments, no subtly distinguished shades of meaning. Instead, wonderful and sometimes preposterous stories, anecdotes, stray thoughts. The reader is left to fill in many blanks. Chuang-tzu doesn't have a "philosophical system".

He prefers questions to answers. He likes to upset assumptions and open the mind to new vistas. Men consider a beautiful woman attractive: but if a deer sees her, it runs away; if a fish sees her, it swims away. People are afraid to die and desperately hang onto life: yet we know nothing bad about death, we know many bad things about life.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Bao Pu on April 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
I prefer Burton Watson's translation to Palmer and Breuilly's, especially after reading parts in the Chinese text. But Palmer and Breuilly won't steer U wrong though. No, this is a decent translation of the entire text, which is not a common sight! Only Burton Watson, James Legge, and Victor Mair have put out complete Zhuangzi translations. AC Graham's translation is also quite good.
embrace simplicity
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Michael Fridman on January 8, 2004
Format: Paperback

Chuang Tzu is considered to have been a follower of the Taoist school of thought, influenced by Lao Tzu. However, we know much more about Chuang Tzu. He can be said to fit the classic ideal of a Taoist as a carefree ascetic with a sense of humour living in the forest in harmony with nature. This is certainly the portrayal of him in the book.

It is unclear who wrote the work and many authorities consider only the first few chapters as authentic. That's why it's good to get a translation that covers all the chapters as from reading them it's possible to get the feeling that even if are were a forgery, they are a worthwhile, beautiful forgery.

What is Chuang Tzu's philosophy? This is a question that has plagued people from religious Taoists to scholars for ages, because there is no definite answer but a number of strands. However, he is certainly a critic of contemporary society in terms of what he sees as a life that is too complicated. He is critical both of language as a means of pinning down concepts and civilisation in terms of corrupting people by creating rigidity. Many see him as a moral relativist, but I think he was just an advocate of a simplicity and "naturalness" and thought that moral labels only tended to make people more immoral.

The other concept I loved was wu-wei or "non-action". Unlike the cryptic nature of it in the Tao Te Ching, here, Chuang Tzu shows us through a series of misfits, cripples, ascetics and the like - all of whom figure as characters in his stories. Many of them survive and thrive through some kind of skill they've developped which doesn't require much intellectualising. When they're lost in their work (say trapping cicadas), they are happy and achieve success by not struggling, hence wu-wei.
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