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Discourse on Chuang Tzu: Expounding on the Dream of a Butterfly (1) (Volume 1) Paperback – January 16, 2017
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Master Hu Xuezhi provides invaluable commentary and annotations for those wishing to learn how The Chuang Tzu encompasses the entire spectrum of Daoist philosophy, including areas usually considered cross-over from Buddhism. His annotations help to uncover the historical context behind so many of Chuang Tzu's stories, and his explication of the myriad puns which run throughout the Chuang Tzu present additional layers of meaning in this text which few have been privy to without the guidance of a learned Daoist teacher such as Master Hu. His audience will gain, not only a deeper reading of the Chuang Tzu, but a study in the vast nuances of Daoist philosophy as they are taught to Master Hu's meditation students on Wudang Mountain and Kh'unlun Mountain.
--- Dan G. Reid, translator of The Ho-Shang Kung Commentary on Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching
Considered one of the canonical Chinese classics, The Book of Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu) is well-regarded for its proficient use of language, literary finesse and also for its obscurity. Translating Zhuang Zi from the ancient text to modern Chinese even presents difficulty for present day scholars and linguists.
It is therefore unsurprising that Western translations and research can often represent Zhuang Zi's writings rather one dimensionally. Either focusing on its satirical qualities against leading socio-political ideas of its time, such as Confucianism; as a work of early metaphysical or relativistic-skeptic philosophy; or, merely as a spiritual attitude that may be adopted to life, namely the action-avoiding, freedom-loving Daoist.
However, the work of Zhuang Zi carries all of these resonances, as well as coded information about Daoist meditation practice. The synergy and complexity of all these attributes within the text are often lost to the Western reader. What is so compelling about Hu's translation, is how hard it works to bridge these various components, by creating a discourse that engages Western understanding, and yet remains distinctly faithful to its Chinese origins. As an editor, I had to resist the inclination to impose Western logic on the concepts expressed here, of which are already significantly transformed by moving from one language into another.
This version spans two volumes of over 800 pages, attempting to provide as much historical, cultural and practical information as possible, whilst re-creating a sensitive and playful translation of the original text. Hu's annotations and commentary are heavily based on his knowledge as a teacher of Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, as well as his enthusiasm for the ancient Chinese language, thereby offering unique insight into the inherent wordplay and spiritual references within the text.
Undoubtedly, Discourse on Chuang Tzu will make an important addition to the library of anyone interested in a general understanding of Daoist ideals as: non-causative action, spontaneity or nature, however, there is also sufficiently fresh material for the knowledgeable reader to gain a deeper understanding into why The Book of Zhuang Zi carries so much spiritual gravity and how its teachings may be practised.
--- Eileen Pun; Poet published in Ten: The New Wave, Poetry Anthology (Bloodaxe Books, UK); Editorial team, Embracing Destiny in China (New World Press, Beijing)
About the Author
Hu Xuehi is a senior Taoist adept, and practitioner of internal alchemy, an herbalist and qigong healer, has helped people all over the world uncover their own internal medicine through the study of qigong. He spent a large part of his life seeking out true teachers of the Tao,meditating deep in the mountains and learning from rare texts of internal alchemy, as well as thoroughly studying the ancient works of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
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As a practitioner, Zhuang Zi’s importance to ‘the spiritual garden of the human being’ is further validated by Master Hu’s explanations and commentary. There are numerous levels of engagement that a person can have with this work, whether to clarify and refresh one's own reasoning process, or take it a step further and integrate Daoist ideas into one’s spiritual practice.
I have always been an avid reader, the first time I read Zhuang Zi more than a decade ago, I was enthralled by his use of parable. The sages and immortals as teachers was intriguing, even if slightly impenetrable… there was so much that I didn’t understand. Anyone reading this work for the first time, will appreciate having so many notes and illustrations to refer to. I would also suggest keeping an open mind, especially for Zhuang Zi’s superb sense of humour! A great case for not taking oneself too seriously. The reader is very well served by Master Hu’s version, as the spirit of the original is well preserved, much pleasure awaits you.
Having already been a fan of Chuang Tzu, who’s brilliance is not what we normally understand by ‘philosophy’, appealing not so much to the intellect but to the imagination. Readers expecting to find tedious and lengthy abstract treatises on Taoist ideas will instead find brief, witty and seemingly nonsensical anecdotes and dialogues. It is a collection of many materials, of varying quality and authenticity, often in the same passage. Hu’s version has insightfully worked through the text, and presents the best material, sacrificing neither rigor nor inspiration. I have already frequently pulled Discourse on Chuang Tzu from my shelf for a dose of Hu’s eminently wise and playful scholarship.
What’s I also really enjoy is the connection Hu makes between Neidan development, and the development of personal character – developing our virtue as part of the long inner journey. He guides the reader through the workings of the mind and the ego, using a great deal of what might be called Buddhist psychology, but does this in a very Taoist way by showing how Taoist masters such as Chuang Tzu have explained the very same concepts. In doing so, he also brings in a great deal of theory on virtues in Neidan.
Lastly, Hu really knows his ancient Chinese history, and is able to tell the reader more about so many of the characters in Chuang Tzu’s stories. Doing so helps him to reveal hidden nuances in the stories, much as he does with the puns and poetic devices that Chuang Tzu is well known to have used, yet which, to my knowledge, have not been explained in any other English commentaries.