Events & Seminars

HUMA MPhil Thesis Presentation
Confucian Elements in the Zhuangzi (Friday 4 Sep 2020)


Zhuangzi has been regarded as a Taoist philosopher since the Han dynasty. However, he had never explicitly referred himself as a Taoist. In the past decade, the argumnet of a “Confucian Zhuangzi” has become a heated topic in the academia; more research studies on this topic have been done. Taiwan scholar Yang Rur-bin (2016) puts forward a view of “Zhuangzi in the Confucian field”. Some scholars even claimed that Zhuangzi was a true follower of Confucius. To review the argument, this thesis analyzes the “Confucian Elements” shown in the Zhuangzi, mainly, the image of Confucius portrayed in the book and rites, significant concept in Confucius’ philosophy.

Through textual analysis of the Zhuangzi, this thesis shows the portrayal of Confucius is complicated, even contradictory in different chapters of the book. Though sometimes appears as a wise Taoist teacher to preach important Taoist concepts, sometimes Confucius appears to be “unenlightened”. With all these different faces of Confucius, I argue that it is difficult to solely agree with Yang’s comment of a “basically positive” Confucius in the Zhuangzi.

The meaning and interpretation of rites in the view of Confucius and Zhuangzi are also investigated in this thesis. While Confucius values both the inner spirit and external practices of rites as a guideline of bahaviour to harmonize the society; Zhuangzi focuses mainly on the inner spirit, that is, to harmonize (“Qi”) it with the Way. The distinctive feature of Zhuangzi’s “Qi” can also be shown in his view and use of language. The last chapter of this thesis highlights his use of “goblet words” to illustrate how Zhuangzi realizes the limitations of language.

This thesis points out, the unique language style and Zhuangzi’s valuation of “Qi” with all things can distinguish Zhuangzi’s philosophy with Confucius’, and this uniqueness allows Zhuangzi to stand out from other Schools and establish his own philosophy.

Ms. Ning SO
September 1, 2020 (Tuesday)
2:00 pm
Zoom Meeting: