Zhuangzi, also known as Chuang Tzu, was a Chinese Daoist sage, mystic and philosopher (even considered to be a mythological figure by some) who probably lived in 300 BCE, somewhere in the state of Song during the Zhou Dynasty.

Zhuangzi is best known for the book with the same name, which is attributed to him. He is also known for his famous parable about being a man who wakes from a dream, in which he was a butterfly and then does not know if he is himself again (a man) or a butterfly who dreams that he is a man.

The two most important philosophers of Daoism, Lao Tzu and Zhuangzi can be said to have laid the foundation for the Daoist philosophy with their respective writings. According to legend, Lao Tzu wrote the book Dao de Jing which in many ways was about the unfathomability and magnificence of the Dao. According to tradition he wrote it when he was urged by a border guard just as he was leaving the country to escape the hustle and bustle of civilization. Though Zhuangzi isn’t as well-known as Lao Tzu, he is nevertheless considered to be even more important when it comes to developing Daoism into a complete philosophy. It is worth to point out that like Buddhism, Daoism is a religion and philosophy of life that lacks gods as neither Lao Tzu nor Zhuangzi placed any great importance on gods or rituals in their writings; they were much more fascinated and interested in the inner spiritual core of man in relation to the mystical powers of the impersonal cosmos they found themselves in.

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Unlike Confucianism, Daoism avoids and distances itself from society and culture, as is best exemplified by the life of Lao Tzu himself, while emphasizing the wisdom and beauty of nature. Man is happiest and healthiest when he lives in harmony with the Dao. Thus Daoism is in many ways about observing and learning from the way of nature and subsequently modeling your character and life according to it, while at the same time unlearning the psychological conditioning of the society and culture you were brought up in.

A basic concept within Daoism is wu-wei, which is commonly translated into non-action, action without effort, action without intention or even action without action. What is meant by wu-wei is that one should not try to force things and that one should live spontaneously. When you try to manipulate nature or your own nature through your sense of will, you’ll inevitably end up disturbing the inherent harmony and peace present in the Dao. Instead, Daoists try to follow nature’s own path, much like running water that follows the law of least resistance. In other words, the Dao is pure spontaneity, and also without cause and purpose, at least as we understand those two things. The Dao simply is what it is, while effortlessly giving birth to innumerable worlds, as a plant or flower grows and blooms without effort.

Another interesting thing about the Daoist philosophers is that they sought intuitive insight and immediate experience of life, an experience where the boundary between the separate self and the outside world was blurred or even erased. Traditional knowledge derived from the intellect alone was often shunned by Daoists, an intellect which they regarded to be far too limited and unreliable to be of any real use for the existential fulfillment of man.

In this article I’ve compiled a handful of insightful quotes from Zhuangzi, enjoy!

You will always find an answer in the sound of water.
Zhuangzi

Rewards and punishment is the lowest form of education.
Zhuangzi

Forget the years, forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home!
Zhuangzi

Life comes from the earth and life returns to the earth.
Zhuangzi

Those who realize their folly are not true fools.
Zhuangzi

To stop leaving tracks is easy. Not to walk upon the ground is hard.
Zhuangzi

Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.
Zhuangzi

Great wisdom is generous; petty wisdom is contentious.
Zhuangzi

Words are for meaning: when you’ve got the meaning, you can forget the words.
Zhuangzi

A frog in a well cannot conceive of the ocean.
Zhuangzi

There is order in chaos, and certainty in doubt. The wise are guided by this order and certainty.
Zhuangzi

Cherish that which is within you, and shut off that which is without; for much knowledge is a curse.
Zhuangzi

The wise man knows that it is better to sit on the banks of a remote mountain stream than to be emperor of the whole world.
Zhuangzi

I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.
Zhuangzi

I know the joy of fishes in the river through my own joy, as I go walking along the same river.
Zhuangzi

How do I know that enjoying life is not a delusion? How do I know that in hating death we are not like people who got lost in early childhood and do not know the way home?
Zhuangzi

The wise man looks into space and does not regard the small as too little, nor the great as too big, for he knows that, there is no limit to dimensions.
Zhuangzi

Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.
Zhuangzi

Men honor what lies within the sphere of their knowledge, but do not realize how dependent they are on what lies beyond it.
Zhuangzi

Those who seek to satisfy the mind of man by hampering it with ceremonies and music and affecting charity and devotion have lost their original nature.
Zhuangzi

He whose mind is thus grandly fixed emits a Heavenly light. In him who emits this heavenly light men see the true man.
Zhuangzi

We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.
Zhuangzi

If water derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind! The mind of the sage, being in repose, becomes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation.
Zhuangzi

During our dreams we do not know we are dreaming. We may even dream of interpreting a dream. Only on waking do we know it was a dream. Only after the great awakening will we realize that this is the great dream.
Zhuangzi

All existing things are really one. We regard those that are beautiful and rare as valuable, and those that are ugly as foul and rotten The foul and rotten may come to be transformed into what is rare and valuable, and the rare and valuable into what is foul and rotten.
Zhuangzi

The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you’ve gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?
Zhuangzi

You and Confucius are both dreaming, and I who say you are a dream am also a dream. Such is my tale. It will probably be called preposterous, but after ten thousand generations there may be a great sage who will be able to explain it, a trivial interval equivalent to the passage from morning to night.
Zhuangzi

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.
Zhuangzi


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This was written for you, the earnest seeker for truth and full existential understanding. Anyone that is sufficiently open to new insights is welcomed to participating in this adventure through what humanity has discovered to be great spiritual truths.

Though humanity and its members have passed through thousands of years and many ages of contemplations and understandings, these following teachings I deem to be the pinnacle of all that wisdom.

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