Thursday, September 11, 2008


Zhenren is a Chinese term that first appeared in the ''Zhuangzi'' meaning "Daoist spiritual master", roughly translatable as "Perfected Person". Religious Daoism mythologized ''zhenren'' to rank above '''' "transcendent; immortal" in the celestial hierarchy, while Chinese Buddhism used it to translate ''arhat'' "enlightened one".

Linguistics of ''Zhen'' 真

The common word ''zhen'' 真 "true; real; authentic" is linguistically unusual. It was originally written with an ideogram depicting "spiritual transformation". It originated in the Daoist ''Dao De Jing'' and does not appear in the early Confucian .


The archaic Chinese character 眞 was reduced into 真, which is the Traditional Chinese character, Simplified Chinese character, and Japanese Kanji. This modern character 真 appears to derive from ''wu'' 兀 "stool" under ''zhi'' 直 "straight", but the ancient 眞 has ''hua'' 匕 "upside-down person; transformation" at the top, rather than ''shi'' 十 "10". This antiquated ''zhen'' 眞 derives from Seal Script characters , It is tentatively identified in the earlier Bronzeware script and unidentified in the earliest Oracle bone script.

Xu Shen's ''Shuowen Jiezi'' , the first Chinese dictionary of characters, gives Small seal script and ''Guwen'' forms of ''zhen'' 眞, noting origins in Daoism. It defines 眞 as "A ''xian'' transforming shape and ascending into Heaven" , and interprets 眞 as an ideogram with 匕 "upside-down person", 目 "eye", and ∟ "conceal" representing the ''xian'' plus 八 representing the conveyance. In Coyle's interpretation,
The etymological components suggest ''transforming'' to a ''higher'' level of character, thus genuineness is to be conceived as fundamentally transformational, that is, as an ongoing process of change. As Wang Bi's commentary to the ''Yijing'' suggests, ''zhen'' is in "constant mutation." By envisioning a new image, it appears, with ''zhen'', the writers of the ''Laozi'' and ''Zhuangzi'' wanted to distinguish their teaching from others.

Duan Yucai's ''Shuowen'' commentary confirms that ''zhen'' originally depicted a Daoist ''zhenren'' and was semantically extended to mean ''cheng'' 誠 "sincere; honest; true; actual; real". It explains the ideographic components in Daoist ''xian'' terms, 匕 for ''hua'' 化 "change; transformation" , 目 for the "eyes; vision" in ''neidan'' practices, ∟ "conceal" for invisibility; and it notes three traditional ''xian'' conveyances into the heavens .

Duan differentiates two semantic sets of words written with the ''zhen'' 真/眞 phonetic element and different . The first words basically mean ''chongshi'' 充實 "real; solid; substantial; substantiate; fill out; strengthen".
*''tian'' 塡/填 "fill in; fill up; stuff; block"
*''tian'' 鎭 "weigh down; press upon; control"
*''tian'' 闐 "full; abundant; rumbling sound"
*''zhen'' 瑱 "earplug; earring"
*''zhen'' 縝 "fine; close woven; careful"
*''cao'' or ''shen'' 愼 "careful; cautious; circumspect"
The second set of words basically mean ''ding'' 頂 "crown ; top; tip; summit; prop up; fall down".
*''dian'' 顚/顛 "top of the head; fall on the head; totter; tumble"
*''dian'' 巓/巔"mountain peak; summit; fall down"
*''dian'' 傎 "topple; overthrow; fall"
*''dian'' 蹎 "stumble; trip; fall"
*''dian'' 癲/厧 "crazy; demented; epileptic"
*''zhen'' 槇 "tip of a tree; fallen tree"


The Modern Standard Chinese pronunciation of 真 is ''zhēn'' "true; real". Reconstructed Middle Chinese and Old Chinese pronunciations include ''ty?n'' < *''t?y?n'' , ''t?i?n'' < *''tjien'' , ''t?i?n'' < *''tien'' , or ''t?in'' < *''tin'' .

Tōdō envisions that the original "upside-down ''zhenren''" ideograph pictured a sacrificial victim ''zhen'' 眞 "falling into; fitting into" a burial pit being ''tian'' 塡 "filled in", and proposes an etymon of *''TEN'' "completely full; stuffed" .

Schuessler's etymological dictionary cites Ming Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty transcriptions of ''t?in''. It suggests etymological connections with ''bden-pa'' "true" and possibly Chinese ''zhēn'' 貞 "divination, divine; test; verify; faithful; loyal".


The root word of ''zhenren'' is ''zhen'' 真 "true; real; factual; genuine; authentic; actual; really; truly; indeed", which has a special Daoist meaning of a person's "true, original, undamaged character".

The ''Hanyu Da Zidian'', which lists meanings in order of historical development, defines 15 for ''zhen'':
# 古代指实授官职为真。
#通“填 ”。
According to this historical dictionary of Chinese characters, the first occurrences of ''zhen'' are in Daoist classics. The ''Dao De Jing'' uses it in meaning 2 and the ''Zhuangzi'' uses ''zhen'' in meanings 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8.

''Zhen'' 真 "true; real" originally occurs three times in the ''Dao De Jing'' , where Coyle says,
t is employed as a special term to contrast with the transitoriness and superficiality of "man-made" formalities. In this novel approach, "genuineness" is not understood as any sort of "unchanging reality," but rather has to do with change and "cultivation." The first time we encounter ''zhen'' in the ''Inner Chapters'' is in the context of the flux and interrelatedness of life and death, where "genuineness" is something ever-present, yet without any apprehensible fixed "identity".

One of these three ''zhen'' usages describes ''Dao'' "Way" and the other two describe '''' "integrity; virtue".
How cavernous and dark! Yet within it there is an essence. Its essence is quite real; Within it there are tokens.

The greatest whiteness seems grimy. Ample integrity seems insufficient. Robust integrity seems apathetic. Plain truth seems sullied.

Cultivated in the person, integrity is true. Cultivated in the family, integrity is ample. Cultivated in the village, integrity lasts long. …

Daoist usages of ''zhenren'' 真人

While the ''Dao De Jing'' has the first occurrences of ''zhen'' "true; real; etc.", the ''Zhuangzi'' has the first recorded usages of ''zhenren'' "true person". Later ''zhenren'' meanings are found in Buddhist and other texts.


The ''Zhuangzi'' has 66 occurrences of ''zhen'', 19 of them in the compound ''zhenren''. Burton Watson translates it as "True Man", and notes "Another term for the Taoist sage, synonymous with the Perfect Man or the Holy Man." The most descriptive ''zhenren'' passage repeats it 9 times.
There must first be a True Man before there can be true knowledge. What do I mean by a True Man? The True Man of ancient times did not rebel against want, did not grow proud in plenty, and did not plan his affairs. A man like this could commit an error and not regret it, could meet with success and not make a show. A man like this could climb the high places and not be frightened, could enter the water and not get wet, could enter the fire and not get burned. His knowledge was able to climb all the way up to the Way like this.

The True Man of ancient times slept without dreaming and woke without care; he ate without savoring and his breath came from deep inside. The True Man breathes with his heels; the mass of men breathe with their throats. Crushed and bound down, they gasp out their words as though they were retching. Deep in their passions and desires, they are shallow in the workings of Heaven.

The True Man of ancient times knew nothing of loving life, knew nothing of hating death. He emerged without delight; he went back in without a fuss. He came briskly, he went briskly, and that was all. He didn't forget where he began; he didn't try to find out where he would end. He received something and took pleasure in it; he forgot about it and handed it back again. This is what I call not using the mind to repel the Way, not using man to help out Heaven. This is what I call the True Man. …

This was the True Man of old: his bearing was lofty and did not crumble; he appeared to lack but accepted nothing; he was dignified in his correctness but not insistent; he was vast in his emptiness but not ostentatious. Mild and cheerful, he seemed to be happy; reluctant, he could not help doing certain things; annoyed, he let it show in his face; relaxed, he rested in his virtue. Tolerant, he seemed to be part of the world; towering alone, he could be checked by nothing; withdrawn, he seemed to prefer to cut himself off; bemused, he forgot what he was going to say. …

Therefore his liking was one and his not liking was one. His being one was one and his not being one was one. In being one, he was acting as a companion of Heaven. In not being one, he was acting as a companion of man. When man and Heaven do not defeat each other, then we may be said to have the True Man.

Guo Xiang , the earliest known ''Zhuangzi'' editor and commentator, explains this passage.
The ''zhenren'' unifies Heaven and man, and levels the myriad extensions. The myriad extensions do not oppose each other, and Heaven and man do not overcome each other. Thus being vast he is one, being dark he is omnipresent – he mysteriously unifies the other with his own self.

Watson's "True Man of ancient times" and "True Man of old" translate ''gu zhi zhenren'' 古之真人, which the ''Zhuangzi'' uses 7 times. For instance, this contrast with the ''shenren'' 神人 "holy person"
Therefore the Holy Man hates to see the crowd arriving, and if it does arrive, he does not try to be friendly with it; not being friendly with it, he naturally does nothing to benefit it. So he makes sure that there is nothing he is very close to, and nothing he is very distant with. Embracing virtue, infused with harmony, he follows along with the world – this is what is called the True Man. He leaves wisdom to the ants, takes his cue from the fishes, leaves willfulness to the mutton.

Use the eye to look at the eye, the ear to listen to the ear, and the mind to restore the mind. Do this and your levelness will be as though measured with the line, your transformations will be a form of compliance. The True Man of ancient times used Heaven to deal with man; he did not use man to work his way into Heaven. The True Man of ancient times got it and lived, lost it and died; got it and died, lost it and lived. Medicines will serve as an example. There are monkshood, balloonflower, cockscomb, and chinaroot; each has a time when it is the sovereign remedy, though the individual cases are too numerous to describe.

Another ''Zhuangzi'' chapter depicts ''zhenren'' as oblivious to punishment.
Governing is a difficult thing. To dispense favors to men without ever forgetting that you are doing so – this is not Heaven's way of giving. Even merchants and peddlers are unwilling to be ranked with such a person; and although their occupations may seem to rank them with him, in their hearts they will never acquiesce to such a ranking. External punishments are administered by implements of metal and wood; internal punishments are inflicted by frenzy and excess. When the petty man meets with external punishments, the implements of metal and wood bear down on him; when he incurs internal punishment, the yin and yang eat him up. To escape both external and internal punishment – only the True Man is capable of this.


The ''Huainanzi'' mentions ''zhenren'' "true person" 11 times. One ''Huainanzi'' chapter uses ''zhenren'' to describe a spiritual state in which "closing the four senses" results in one's '''' 精 "essence" and '''' 神 "spirit" returning to the ultimate Daoist ''zhen'' 真 "truth".
Hence the spiritual faculties will be hidden in the invisible world, and the spirit will return to the Perfect Body . … The spirit fills the eye, so he sees clearly; it is present in the ear, so he hears acutely; it abides in the mouth, and so the person's words are with wisdom; it accumulates in the mind, so his thoughts are penetrative. Hence the closing down of the Four Senses gives the body rest from troubles, and the individual parts have no sickness. There is no death, no life, no void, no excess; in such a condition of spirit, like the diamond, it will not wear away; such are the characteristics of the Perfect Man.

A second chapter uses ''zhenren'' to describe Fu Xi and Nüwa.
Drifting aimlessly, they led the ghosts and spirits and ascended the Nine Heavens, where they paid court to the Lord as the Sacred Gate and remained reverently silent in the presence of the Great Ancestor. Even then, they would not extol their own merit, or trumpet their own fame. , they concealed within themselves the ''Tao'' of the True Man and thereby followed the unchanging course of Heaven and Earth. How was this ? With their ''Tao'' and ''Te'' they communicated with what was on high, whereas their knowledge of factual matters was obliterated.

A third ''Huainanzi'' chapter contains what Le Blanc considers "the ''locus classicus'' for the True Man's ability to return to the origin."
He who can return to that which produced as if he had not yet acquired form, we call him a True Man. The True Man is he who has not yet begun to differentiate himself from the Great Unity .

Le Blanc describes how the ''Huainanzi'' synthesizes the "other-worldly" ''zhenren'' "True Man" with the "this-worldly" ''shengren'' "Sage"; "In pre-Han works, the expression "''chen-jen''" seems to be found only in works of Taoist inspiration and always refers to the quasi-mystical and contemplative strand of Taoism." He concludes.
The point of the two ''Huai-nan tzu'' fables seems to be that in times of peace the True Man does not reveal his inner greatness. This is a Taoist tenet consistent with the ineffability of ''Tao''. So, petty men of limited scope and skills deride the True Man, who is untrained in any particular skill. But in periods of imminent chaos the True Man suddenly manifests world-shaking power and completely overwhelms his detractors.


The southern ''Chuci'' , which has Daoist elements although not strictly a "Daoist text", uses ''zhenren'' in two poems. ''Yuan you'' "Far-off journey" contrasts it with ''xian''.
I honoured the wondrous powers of the Pure Ones,
And those of past ages who had become Immortals.
They departed in the flux of change and vanished from men's sight,
Leaving a famous name that endures after them.

''Shou zhi'' "Maintaining Resolution" also uses it, translated here as "Immortals".
I visited Fu Yue, bestriding a dragon,
Joined up in marriage with the Weaving Maiden,
Lifted up Heaven's Net to capture evil,
Drew the Bow of Heaven to shoot at wickedness,
Followed the Immortals fluttering through the sky.


The Daoist ''Liezi'' uses ''zhenren'' in two chapters. The first usage refers to the ''Zhuangzi'' saying ''zhenren'' slept without dreaming.
A dream is something that comes into contact with the mind; an external event is something that impinges on the body. Hence our feelings by day and our dreams by night are the result of contacts made by mind or body. it follows that if we can concentrate the maid in abstraction, our feelings and our dreams will vanish of themselves. Those who rely on their waking perceptions will not argue about them. Those who put faith in dreams do not understand the processes of change in the external world. "The pure men of old passed their waking existence in self-oblivion, and slept without dreams." How can this be dismissed as an empty phrase?

The other chapter usage concerns the politician Zi Chan 子產 . He was able to govern the state of but not control his brothers who loved wine and women – but were secretly ''zhenren''. Zi Chan asks the Daoist sage Deng Xi 鄧析 how to "save" them, but misunderstands Deng's answer and admonishes his brothers with Confucianist morality and bribes, "Hear my words. Repent in the morning, and in the evening you will have already gained the wage that will support you". His brothers reply,
Long ago we knew it and made our choice. Nor had we to wait for your instructions to enlighten us. It is very difficult to preserve life, and easy to come by one's death. Yet who would think of awaiting death, which comes so easily, on account of the difficulty of preserving life? You value proper conduct and righteousness in order to excel before others, and you do violence to your feelings and nature in striving for glory. That to us appears to be worse than death. Our only fear is lest, wishing to gaze our fill at all the beauties of this one life, and to exhaust all the pleasures of the present years, the repletion of the belly should prevent us from drinking what our palate delights in, or the slackening of our strength not allow us to revel with pretty women. We have no time to trouble about bad reputations or mental dangers. Therefore for you to argue with us and disturb our minds merely because you surpass others in ability to govern, and to try and allure us with promises of glory and appointments, is indeed shameful and deplorable. But we will now settle the question with you. See now. If anybody knows how to regulate external things, the things do not of necessity become regulated, and his body has still to toil and labour. But if anybody knows how to regulate internals, the things go on all right, and the mind obtains peace and rest. Your system of regulating external things will do temporarily and for a single kingdom, but it is not in harmony with the human heart, while our method of regulating internals can be extended to the whole universe, and there would be no more princes and ministers. We always desired to propagate this doctrine of ours, and now you would teach us yours.

Zi Chan is perplexed and speechless, so he goes back to Deng Xi who explains, "You are living together with real men without knowing it. Who calls you wise? Cheng has been governed by chance, and without merit of yours."


The little-known Daoist text ''Wenzi'' has 17 occurrences of ''zhenren''. For example, this context echoes ''Zhuangzi'' in defining ''zhenren'' as sleeping without dreaming.
The Way molds myriad beings but is ever formless. Silent and unmoving, it totally comprehends the undifferentiated unknown. No vastness is great enough to be outside it, no minuteness is small enough to be inside it. It has no house but gives birth to all the names of the existent and nonexistent. Real people embody this through open emptiness, even easiness, clear cleanness, flexible yielding, unadulterated purity, and plain simplicity, not getting mixed up in things. Their perfect virtue is the Way of heaven and earth, so they are called real people. Real people know how to deem the self great and the world small, they esteem self-government and disdain governing others. They do not let things disturb their harmony, they do not let desires derange their feelings. Concealing their names, they hide when the Way is in effect and appear when it is not. They act without contrivance, work without striving, and know without intellectualizing. … Therefore real people deliberately return to essence, relying on the support of spirit, thus attaining completeness. So they sleep without dreams and awake without worries.

Later Daoist texts

According to Daniel Coyle,
From the period of the Han to the Six Dynasties the ''zhenren'' took on a more religious significance, becoming one of the linchpins of "Daoism." Movements of alchemy, life-prolonging techniques, and the quest for "immortality" flourished, yet most mystical allusions remained firmly ground in the ''Zhuangzi''. From the Zhuangzian perspective, the ''religious'' experience becomes a personal rapture that elevates one from the microcosmic to an altogether macrocosmic perspective – a perspective that affirms continuity as the fabric of unity – that somehow binds one to the totality of existence in a personal integration and affirmation of all.

Daoists applied the honorific title ''Zhenren'' to their sages. Zhou Yishan 周義山 was called Ziyang Zhenren 紫陽真人 "True Person of Purple Yang", a name later applied to Zhang Ziyang 張紫陽, author of the ''Wuzhen pian'' .

Miura notes that religious Daoism associated the ''zhenren'' with the ''xianren'' "transcendent; immortal" and quotes the ''Ziyang zhenren neizhuan'' 紫陽真人內傳 "Inner Biography of the True Person of Purple Yang" that there are upper, middle, and lower degrees of ''xian'', with ''zhenren'' occupying the upper rank in the celestial bureaucracy.

Other usages of ''zhenren'' 真人

After originating in early Daoist texts, the ''zhenren'' "true person" was semantically expanded to mean Buddhist ''arhat'' and miscellaneous senses such as "honest person".

Buddhist texts

Chinese Buddhists adapted ''zhenren'' 真人 to translate the loanword ''arhat'' or ''arahant'' "one who has achieved enlightenment", which was also transcribed as ''aluohan'' 阿羅漢 or ''luohan'' 羅漢. Buddhist usage contrasts ''zhenren'' "arhat" with ''niren'' 逆人 "contrary person; hateful person; unprincipled person".

The oldest example is the Tang Dynasty Buddhist dictionary ''Yiqie jing yinyi'' 一切經音義 "Pronunciation and Meaning in the ''Tripitaka''" , edited by Xuan Ying 玄應.

Chinese ''zhen'' "true; etc." was used to translate various other Buddhist expressions. ''Mantra'' "instrument of thought" translates as Chinese ''zhenyan'' 真言 "true words" and ''Shingon'' Buddhism. ''Tathata'' "thusness, suchness, the unconditioned, unchanging reality" is Chinese ''zhenru'' 真如 "true resemblance" and Japanese ''shinnyo'' .

Secular texts

Chinese authors used ''zhenren'' "true person" to name sage-rulers, honest people, a star, an evolutionary term, and proper names.

''Zhenren'' can mean "heaven-sent ruler". Beginning around the end of the 1st century BCE, says Miura , "the idea spread that a ''zhenren'' who had received the Heavenly Mandate would appear to renew the world." Emperor Guangwu of Han was called Baishui Zhenren 白水真人 "True Person of the White Water", and Cao Cao of the Kingdom of Wei was also called a ''zhenren''. The Records of the Grand Historian may have a classical precedent for this meaning. It records that the "First Emperor" Qin Shi Huang was fascinated with ''xian'' immortality and decided to call himself ''zhenren'' rather than the homophonous ''zhen'' 朕 " I, we". The emperor summoned the Daoist practitioner Lu Sheng 盧生 who said, "The ''zhenren'' enters water but does not get wet, enters fire but does not get burned, flies among the clouds, and has a length of life equal to that of Heaven and Earth" . The ''Taipingjing'' 太平經 "Scripture of Great Peace" contrasts the ''zhenren'' who rules on earth with a ''shenren'' 神人 "divine person" who rules in heaven.

''Zhenren'' can mean "honest person; well-behaved person", nearly synonymous with ''zhenren'' 貞人 "person of high moral standing and integrity" and ''zhengren'' 正人 "honest/loyal man; gentleman". The earliest recorded example is the ''Book of Han'' biography of Yang Yun 楊惲 . This meaning is expressed in the idiom ''zhengren mian qian bu shuo jia'' 真人面前不說假 "don't tell lies in front of a true/honest person".

Among Traditional Chinese star names, ''Zhenren'' 真人is a literary reference to Gamma Ursae Majoris, near the Big Dipper.

In modern Chinese terms of human evolution, ''zhenren'' means "true human" as distinct from other primates.

Zhenren is a proper name of characters in Chinese folklore , Chinese mythology , and Chinese literature . Note that Japanese 真人 can be pronounced ''shinjin'' in the Daoist sense and Masato or Mahito as a .

''Zhenren'' interpretations

Generations of Western researchers have struggled with translating and explaining the Daoist technical expression ''zhenren''.


''Zhuangzi'' translators and scholars have variously rendered ''zhenren'' 真人.
*"Divine Man" — Frederic H. Balfour 1881
*"true man" — James Legge 1891, Yu-Lan Fung 1933, Victor H. Mair 1994
*"pure man" — Herbert Giles 1926
*"God's Man" — James R. Ware 1963
*"True Man" — Burton Watson 1968, A.C. Graham 1981
*"Perfected Person" — Lee Yearley 1983
*"Perfect Man" — Toshikiko Izutsu 1984
*"realized beings" — David McCraw 1995
*"Authentic Person" — Roger T. Ames 1998, James D. Sellmann 1998
*"Genuine Person" — Daniel Coyle 1998
Note the diachronic improvements of these ''zhenren'' translations. In Chinese, ''ren'' 人 means "person; people; human" and not "man", which is ''nan'' 男 "man; male"

Ames explains his rationale for translating ''zhenren'' as "Authentic Person".
The common translations of ''zhenren'' – "True Man" or "Real Man" – belies the fact that etymologically ''zhen'' implies both "authenticity" and "transformation." That is, whatever the human exemplar might be, he or she is one who is able to express personal integrity and uniqueness in the context of a transforming world. The choice of "authentic" to translate ''zhen'' is calculated. With the same root as "author," it captures the primacy given to the creative contribution of the particular person. It further registers this contribution as what is most fundamentally "real" and "true."It is because of the primacy of the "authorship" of the "authentic person" in creating human order that "there must be the Authentic Person before there can be authentic knowledge."

Coyle prefers "genuine" over "authentic",
"Authentic person" works well, conveying the idea of "authorship," but it connotes an idea of "human agency" that Zhuangzi is trying to avoid. "Genuine person" seems to work best as it carries the least amount of "philosophical" baggage. Etymologically, "genuine" comes from the Latin ''genuinus'', "natural," which is akin to ''gignere'', to beget , and thus connotes a processionality necessary to any Zhuangzian interpretation.

There are semantic advantages to English translations of ''zhenren'' as a "Person" who is "Perfected", "Realized", or "Genuine". Another possibility is "Actualized Person" in the psychological sense of self actualization.


Morgan provides an early description of the ''zhenren''.
he Perfect Man of the Taoist system, always acts in the spirit of ''wu wei'', of apparently doing nothing. He withdraws from the active arena of affairs and retires into seclusion and does not interfere in public agitations and turmoil; but, as we have already seen, their influence is very effective. The silence they observe carries out the Tao of ''wu wei'', which is of priceless value. But merely learned persons do not appreciate this method nor understand the value of the ''wu wei'' method: and they engage in purposeless discussions and the vanity of words.

In recent years, scholars of Daoism have been reevaluating the ''zhenren'' ideal.

Yearley characterizes the ''zhenren'' in terms of skepticism from a "radical Zhuangzi" framework, intraworldly mysticism, centered responsiveness, the "mind as a mirror" image, subtle detachment, and viewing life as an "esthetic panorama."

Izutsu says "he Perfect Man is in every respect a Perfect image of Heaven and Earth, i.e., the Way as it manifests itself as the world of Being". He analyzes the ''zhenren'' in terms of "unperturbedness", flexibility, and ''wu wei''.
Such being his basic spiritual state, the Perfect Man perceives in the whole world nothing to disturb his cosmic balance of mind, although he does notice accurately all things that happen to him and to others. He does participate in the activities of the world together with all other men, yet at the same time, at the very core of his heart, he remains detached from the clamor and bustle of the world. Calmness and tranquility are the most salient features that characterize both the inside and outside of the Perfect Man.

Fox believes ''zhenren'' inspire us to immerse ourselves into the world and not to detach ourselves into the transcendental Dao.
Therefore it can be said that the ''Zhuangzi'' describes the behavior and attitude of what we might call the "perfectly well-adjusted person," someone who is perfectly at ease in all situations. It is not clear, however, if Zhuangzi thinks that everyone ''should'' be like this, or that everyone ''could'' be like this, or that ''anyone'' could be like this. To generalize in this fashion would itself be inconsistent with the nonformulaic personality of the text. Instead, the text simply presents us with strange and unsettling, though ultimately fascinating and compelling, stories that disturb our balance and force us to adjust. In this way, reading the text becomes a transformative project in itself.

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