The Butterfly as Companion

Meditations on the First Three Chapters of the Chuang-Tzu

By Kuang-ming Wu

Subjects: Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Paperback : 9780887066863, 512 pages, February 1990
Hardcover : 9780887066856, 512 pages, March 1990

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Table of contents


by Robert Cummings Neville



Companion to the Butterfly
Preliminary Meditations
A. Invitation by a Butterfly
B. Why Companion, Not Commentary
C. Conversation with a Roadside Skull
D. The Poetic Chuang Tzu

Chapter One
Hsiao Yao Yu
Soaring—And Roaming
The Kuo Hsiang Text
Translation with Glosses
Meditations—Three Readings
A. The Stories
B. Roaming, Laughing
C. A Close Look

Chapter Two
Ch'i Wu Lun
Things, Theories—Sorting Themselves Out
The Kuo Hsiang Text
Translation with Glosses
Meditations—Four Readings
A. Survey
B. A Detailed Look
C. What All This Means
D. Philosophy and "Things Even-ing ThemselvesOut"

Chapter Three
Yang Sheng Chu
Nourishing Life—Its Inner Principle
The Kuo Hsiang Text
Translation with Glosses
Meditations—Three Readings
A. Coherence and Interrelations
B. Segments and Words
C. Our Understanding of the Message

The Butterfly as Companion
Inconclusive Meditations
A. Meaning
B. Irony
C. Play
D. "Companion"




Conversion Table: Wade-Giles to Pinyin

Thorough, serious, yet fun to read, this is a translation of the text and an exposition of the philosophy of Chuang Tzu the Taoist of ancient China.


Chuang Tzu's first three chapters are arranged into free verse (in Chinese, in the original word order) and translated, nearly word-for-word, with extensive critical glosses vis-a-vis over fifty Chinese, Japanese, and Western commentators. The exegetical, philosophical, and contemporary implications of these chapters are then meditated upon. Here, in Chuang Tzu's world, all strivings are a play, parodying stories and arguments; each plays off of and refers to the others.

Chuang Tzu lived during the third and fourth centuries B. C. Historically, he is the foremost spokesman for Taoism and its legendary founder, Lao Tzu. It was mainly due to the influence of Chuang Tzu that Indian Buddhism was transformed in China into Ch'an into the unique vehicle we usually call by its Japanese name, Zen.

This is the most thorough presentation to date of the Chuang Tzu's poetic beauty, philosophical insights, and unity.

Kuang-ming Wu is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.


"The aim of the meditation is to bring the reader to understand Chuang-Tzu as a contemporary philosopher as well as an ancient Chinese thinker, yet never is there a blurring of historical distance and context. Wu moves back and forth between China and the Western traditions as if that were easy, like the butterfly's fluttering with which his book begins. The breadth of Wu's scholarship and his calm possession of it are breathtaking. "—Robert Cummings Neville