Chuang-tzu: The Tao of Perfect Happiness—Selections Annotated & Explained

A fresh, modern translation of key selections from this timeless text opens up classic Taoist beliefs and practices with insightful commentary that highlights how you can live a more balanced, authentic and joyful life by following Taoist principles.

Translation & Annotation by Livia Kohn, PhD

5½ x 8½, 240 pp | 978-1-59473-296-6

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The timeless wisdom of this classic Taoist text can become a companion on your own spiritual journey.

The Chuang-tzu is the second major text of the Taoist tradition. It was compiled in the third century BCE and follows the lead of the best-known and oldest of all Taoist texts, the Tao-te-ching (Book of the Tao and Its Potency). Representing the philosophy of its main author, Chuang Chou, along with several other early Taoist strands, the text has inspired spiritual seekers for over two thousand years.

Using parable, anecdote, allegory and paradox, the Chuang-tzu presents the central message of what was to become the Taoist school: a reverence for the Tao—the “Way” of the natural world—and the belief that you are not truly virtuous until you are free from the burden of circumstance, personal attachments, tradition and the desire to reform the world. In this special SkyLight Illuminations edition, leading Taoist scholar Livia Kohn, PhD, provides a fresh, modern translation of key selections from this timeless text to open up classic Taoist beliefs and practices. She provides insightful, accessible commentary that highlights the Chuang-tzu's call to reject artificially imposed boundaries and distinctions, and illustrates how you can live a more balanced, authentic and joyful life—at ease in perfect happiness—by following Taoist principles.

“[A] lively English translation [and] earthy commentary from one of the world's most distinguished sinologists and Taoist scholars.... A welcoming introduction for the novice and a subtle revisionist interpretation that will not be lost on scholars.”

Robert Cummings Neville, professor of philosophy, religion and theology, Boston University; author, Boston Confucianism and Ritual and Deference

“[Kohn’s] most luminous work.... Brilliantly distills Taoist notions of self, death, dreams, fate, cosmos and happiness.... Whether seasoned Tao adept or beginner, this book is essential reading.”

—strong>Michael Winn, Healing Tao USA; co-author with Mantak Chia of seven books on Qigong

“n illuminating guide to this great classic of Chinese literature and thought by Livia Kohn, indefatigable explicator of the Taoist tradition.”

Victor H. Mair, professor of Chinese language and literature, University of Pennsylvania

“Wonderfully accessible ... transcribes the text’s subtlety and mystery for a broad readership.... Brings a fresh perspective to the work.”

Rodney L. Taylor, professor of religious studies, University of Colorado at Boulder; author, Confucius, the Analects: The Path of the Sage—Selections Annotated & Explained

“Reading this book is like attending a lecture by Professor Kohn. You get not only an interesting selection of Chuang-tzu texts, but also extensive commentaries infused with her personal touch. A perfect fit!”

Derek Lin, author, Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained

Introduction vii

Universal Patterns
1. Perfect Happiness 3
2. The Universe 17
3. Life and Death 33
4. Cosmos and Destiny 47

Body and Mind
5. The Self 61
6. Dreams 75
7. The Human Mind 87

8. Oblivion 103
9. Realizing Tao 119
10. The Perfected 137

The New Life
11. Uselessness 153
12. Natural Skills 167
13. In the World 179
14. When in Power 193

Suggestions for Further Reading 207