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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Translation of Chuang Tzu in English
This is an amazing book. Mair explains his methods in his introduction; he claims that Chuang Tzu is a literary writer first and a philosopher second. As such, Mair aims to capture the inimitable style of Master Chuang, whom he claims created new ways of expressing oneself in Chinese. The resulting text is a fabulously refreshing collection of parables, which seems to...
Published on October 27, 2006 by Guy W. Salvidge

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not indispensable translation of the Chuang Tzu
The Chuang Tzu (rendered Zhuangzi in pinyin, which is becoming the standard transliteration these days) is second only to Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching in its popularity and veneration in the Taoist world. If you've not heard of or read this book before, you're in for a real treat! The first time I read the Inner Chapters of the Chuang Tzu was like a revelation--the thoughts and...
Published on April 23, 2008 by Elliot Knapp


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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Translation of Chuang Tzu in English, October 27, 2006
This review is from: Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu (Paperback)
This is an amazing book. Mair explains his methods in his introduction; he claims that Chuang Tzu is a literary writer first and a philosopher second. As such, Mair aims to capture the inimitable style of Master Chuang, whom he claims created new ways of expressing oneself in Chinese. The resulting text is a fabulously refreshing collection of parables, which seems to contain the essence of philosophical Taoism. Chuang Tzu has much to teach us about the utility of uselessness, the interchangeable nature of the large and small, and my favourite teaching, the futility of 'guarding against thieves.' Chuang Tzu explains in chapter 10 'Ransacking Coffers' that people who go to great lengths to guard against thieves are just preparing things for the 'great robber.' This seems to have something to say about the nature of capitalism, especially in this era of corporate takeovers and the like. Chuang Tzu is an antidote for modern life.

Mair includes the complete text of Chuang Tzu, not limiting himself to the 'Inner Chapters' (which are regarded as being actually written by Chuang Tzu). He includes the 'Outer' and 'Miscellaneous Chapters', many of which Mair claims are the equal or superior of the Inner Chapters. Each chapter is prefaced by a note giving context to the authorship of the chapter. For instance, Mair regards some of the chapters as being written by Confucianists who have somehow wormed their way into Chuang Tzu over the centuries.

This book compares favourably to other translations of Chuang Tzu I have read. My first exposure to Chuang came in Burton Watson's translation of the Inner Chapters, and while I have not read this book for many years, it was Watson who convinced me of the necessity to study this quasi-historical figure. 'The Essential Chuang Tzu' (Hammill & Seaton) was disappointing in comparison to this book. Thomas Merton's 'The Way of Chuang Tzu' is a nice little book, but not of the same calibre of this volume. In short, Mair's volume seems to me to be the definitive translation.

Chuang Tzu can change your life--quite literally--if you are willing and able to pursue a life of carefree wandering. It's a book not to be missed.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Available Translation Of This Toaist Classic, March 12, 2002
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This review is from: Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu (Paperback)
Though Burton Watson's translation comes a close second, this version is the absolute best English translation I have found. Mair includes the "rhyming prose" the poetry and lots of the zaniness that somehow gets passed over in other translations. For those wishing to have more notes Mair generously refers them to his writings in the Sino-Platonic Papers. Mair is second to none in his understanding of archaic Chinese and takes us back to the truly revolutionary collection of writings that Chuang Tzu really is.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not indispensable translation of the Chuang Tzu, April 23, 2008
By 
Elliot Knapp (Seattle, Washington United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu (Paperback)
The Chuang Tzu (rendered Zhuangzi in pinyin, which is becoming the standard transliteration these days) is second only to Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching in its popularity and veneration in the Taoist world. If you've not heard of or read this book before, you're in for a real treat! The first time I read the Inner Chapters of the Chuang Tzu was like a revelation--the thoughts and ideas expressed in these passages still resonate today for their acuity, humor, satire, stabbing profundity, and life-changing potential. Indeed, after better understanding the thought this book expresses, I felt like so many loose ideas and insights I'd gleaned from other philosophy, literature, music, and poetry had been tied up together and formulated into a concise and elegant package that is urgently relevant to every day life--pretty amazing for a text that is well over 2000 years old!

I recently finished reading Mair's translation of the Chuang Tzu--it was the third complete translation I've read, and while I found that it accurately conveys the spirit and ideas of the Chuang Tzu, it doesn't get my vote for best translation. As a side note, I chose Mair's Chuang Tzu translation after being very impressed by his excellent and illuminating rendering of the Tao Te Ching. As he states in his introduction, Mair's mission in translating the Chuang Tzu is to convey the fact that it is primarily a literary classic (as opposed to a philosophical classic), and rather than expose it to philosophical scrutiny, his desire is to provide the most philologically-accurate translation possible, attempting to translate both the exact words of the Chinese, but also the exact style of the writing (poetry vs. prose, etc.) in a way he feels hasn't been done by other translators. I think he succeeded in his mission, but that his success is not one that benefits readers of his translation in an extremely meaningful way.

The problem, I think, is that ancient Chinese is just so different from English that attempts to transfer the poetic and structural beauty of the Chinese to English are doomed to come up short. Although Mair sets off poetic passages in the text's formatting, this effect doesn't really enhance the writing or ideas, and it's tough to get a feeling for why the Chinese is so linguistically beautiful. Likewise, his goal of omitting ornamentation (e.g. a modern translator subbing "exclaimed" for the more boring and repetative [but accurate] "said") is noble, but really doesn't impact the force of the text. In my opinion, as long as the ideas and beauty of Chuang Tzu's thought is clearly expressed, the exact wording and accuracy of translation is not necessarily of paramount importance (it seems Chuang Tzu would agree, given his attitude toward the ultimate unreliability of language). Finally, Mair tends to translate the names of people and places into English (for example, he translates Lao Tan--Lao Tzu's given name--as "Old Longears"). These translations can be illuminating from an ideological perspective, but they tend to read very awkwardly and don't look like names on paper--I can't imagine a person named "Gorge Worker" or "Sir Square."

Nevertheless, Mair's translation is mostly very readable. Since modern understanding of ancient Chinese is so distant, the more translations you read of a book like the Chuang Tzu, the more likely you are to better understand all of its sections--there were numerous passages that I thought Mair rendered the most powerfully and insightfully out of all the translations I've read, and it was a worthwhile read for that reason alone. I do wish, though, that he had included footnotes or more in-depth introductions to each chapter. Especially with the Outer and Miscellaneous chapters, where the ideas and philosophy gets progressively more diluted with other traditions, some scholarly guidance really helps with understanding the text and enjoying it as much as the more readable Inner chapters.

If you haven't read the Chuang Tzu before, I'd recommend that you start with Burton Watson's Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings, which includes all the Inner chapters and most of the highlights from the rest of the book. If you're looking for your first complete translation, I'd go for Watson's The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, which is the same translation as his Basic Writings, but it includes the rest of the text as well. I find Watson's translation is the most accurate representation of the spirit imbued in the Chuang Tzu, the most flowing and beautifully-worded translation, and the perfect balance of commentary and uncluttered translation. If you're well familiar with the text and want to dive deeper into understanding it, A.C. Graham's difficult-to-read but very insightfully structured The Inner Chapters is the most academic translation I've read.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb translation but with a lack of notes, August 4, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu (Paperback)
It's a fresh and scholarly translation, but also potentially controversial, since a few sections of the text have been deleted (even from the Inner Chapters). The deletions are not noted in the main text (the general reader will be unaware of them) or clearly explained. They can be found in the "Deleted Passages" appendix at the end of the book. Some translations are unconventional, like "look after your parents" (Watson) in the beginnig of chapter 3, is translated by Victor Mair as "Nourish your inmost viscera"; it would be interesting to know why. I would look forward to another edition with notes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging text with lasting value, November 7, 2010
This review is from: Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu (Paperback)
A wonderful text and superb translation. Witty, literary, and thought-provoking, this is a book one can return to again and again over the years.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wandering is the Way, October 29, 2007
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This review is from: Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu (Paperback)
The scholarly background, philological care and sweet writing that Mair provides, allow the reader to decide for himself what to make of and what to do with, (the) Chuang Tzu.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Way is the path you are walking on., May 30, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu (Paperback)
Wandering on the Way is a collection of stories, some simple, others abstract, about characters and situations and ideas. The only thing anyone really owns is their integrity. The fisherman uses the net to capture fish, after he catches the fish the net is forgotten. The hunter uses a snare to trap rabbits. When the game is caught the snare is forgotten. The sage uses words to capture an idea. When he has captured the idea the words are forgotten. If you are interested in following the Tao, read this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You cheeky devil, December 20, 2011
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This review is from: Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu (Paperback)
This text was required for a course I was taking, so I ordered it and enjoyed it even after I was done using it for my academic puruits. Without the guidance of my professor I think I might have been lost in the whimsical nature of Chuang Tzu, my attention captured by the comical way in which he (or they, depending on how you look at it) introduces concepts and ideas in the stories. This particular translation is quite good, and easy to follow (although not as easy to truly understand the underlying concepts). It's not for the faint of heart, and probably not something that a beginner to the Tao or Japanese culture. But it's a nice collection. I dare you to buy it and read it, and dare you to find meaning reflected in your own life.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the Chuang tzu, May 16, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu (Paperback)
One trusts this is probably the best English translation there is of the Chuang Tzu. The Chuang tzu has a unique place in the world of spiritual writings; it breathes the air of freedom like nothing else. Not knowing ancient Chinese, however, the only thing I can say is that I am very happy with this translation.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars BORED, August 5, 2013
By 
George Fuller (Culver City, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu (Paperback)
Was excited to dig into this text, but found it aimless and frankly boring. I was following up from "The Way of the White Clouds" and other subject-related books, but this one landed with a thud. Already in my give-away box.
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Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu
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