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Zhuangzi and the Qin
The man and book 2
莊子 1

Zhuangzi, often considered as the greatest Daoist philosopher, is said to have lived 370 to 301 BCE, having been born in the town of Meng,4 somewhere in the vicinity of Shangqiu in eastern Henan province. However, few historical details are known, nor is it even certain that that the name refers to an historical personage. What little is known about him comes largely through the "Book of Zhuangzi", often referred to as "The Zhuangzi" or simply "Zhuangzi".

Likewise, although this site has many references to Zhuangzi (search), the book of Zhuangzi mentions the qin a number of times (listed), and many melodies seems to have been inspired by stories in this book (partial list below), it is rare to find suggestions that Zhuangzi himself ever played the qin.

Qinshu Daquan, Folio 15, Written Records, quotes six relevant selections from the book of Zhuangzi.

In addition, a number of specific qin melodies have a direct connection to Zhuangzi stories. In the following list, for those with the most easily recognizable connection of a story in the book of Zhuangzi the number of the relevant chapter is given.5

  1. Xiaoyao You (Carefree Roaming; title of the first chapter of Zhuangzi; 1 [逍遙遊])
  2. Dun Shi Cao (Withdrawing from Society; 1 [許由])
  3. Liezi Yu Feng (Liezi Rides the Wind; 1 [列子御風])
  4. Jie Yu Ge (Song of Jie Yu; 1 [接輿])
  5. Zhuangzhou Meng Die (Zhuangzi's Butterfly Dream; 2 [莊周])
  6. Shenhua Yin (Metamorphosis; prelude to the previous; 2)
  7. Kongtong Wen Dao (Discussing the Dao at Kongtong Mountainp; 11 [廣成子])
  8. Shen You Liu He (Spirit Roaming the Universe; 11)
  9. Cai Zhen You (Roaming to Gather the True; 14 [采真之遊])
  10. Zepan Yin (Marshbank Melody; 31)

    See also:

  11. Shenren Chang (Rhapsody of a Celestial; a shenren is mentioned in Chapter 1)
  12. Yasheng Cao (Melody honoring 顏回 Yan Hui, a disciple of Confucisu mentioned in several chapters of Zhuangzi)
  13. Xuan Mei; a concept mentioned in connection to Yan Hui in Chapter 4)

Another relevant title, the melody for which has not survived, is Zhuangzhou Du Chu Yin (Intonation of Zhuangzi Staying Alone).

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Zhuangzi 莊子 (370 to 301; see also Wikipedia articles)
31795.2 莊子 extensively introduces the book while .63 莊周 briefly introduces the man, giving his style name as 子休 Zixiu. He is also sometimes referred to as 蒙莊 Mengzhuang: "Zhuang from Meng", his birthplace. The brief account in Shi Ji Annal 63 (GSR VII/23) says he was a 蒙人 man from Meng who served as 蒙漆園吏 an official in Qiyuan ("Lacquer Garden") during the periods of 梁惠王 King Hui of Liang (r. 370 - 355) and 齊宣王 King Xuan of Qi (r. 342 - 324), turning down a job offer from 楚威王 King Wei of Chu (r. 339 - 329); the rest of the account concerns his writing. Zhuangzi is sometimes referred to as 蒙吏 Meng Official, 蒙莊 Zhuang of Meng, and 蒙叟 Meng Elder.

2. Book of Zhuangzi 莊子
31795.2 莊子 gives considerable detail. The Chinese text is available online is various places including wikisource and (together with the Legge translation) ctext.)

In addition, there have been numerous translations of the text. The ones I have used most often are these two,

  1. James Ware ("The Sayings of Chuang Tzu", Mentor Books, 196, though what I have is a useful dual language edition from the Confucius Publishing House in Taiwan, 1976)
  2. Victor Mair (Wandering the Way, University of Hawaii Press, 1994)

The other two formative Daoist classics, the Yi Jing and Dao De Jing, are listed here under Laozi and the Qin. By comparision, these have much less direct connection to spedific guqin melodies.

3. Image from an illustrated Liexian Zhuan.

4. Meng 蒙 (compare the birthplace of Laozi)
Zhuangzi's home town, Meng, is said to have been in either 楚 Chu or 宋 Song. At least three places in China have an Old Zhuangzi Village (莊子故里 Zhuangzi Guli) claimed to be Zhuangzi home town. One is near the modern town of 蒙城 Mengcheng, in northwest Anhui province about 160 km southeast of 商丘 Shangqiu in eastern Henan province. One is 東明縣 Dongming county, about 120 km northwest of Shangqiu in Shandong province. Perhaps the oldest claim (see GSR VII/23) is that of Shangqiu itself, which places it just northwest in nearby 民權縣 Minquan County. Zhuangzi is also sometimes known by the name of his supposed workplace, 漆園 Qiyuan, said to have been in Henan northeast of Kaifeng.

5. Qin melodies with particular connection to the book of Zhuangzi
For specific references search the bilingual ctext version.

Return to the Biographies or to the Guqin ToC.