27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 12 February 2007
Perhaps the first and most important point to make is that this is an excellent translation of the Inner Chapters.
There are an awful lot of books about Taoist thought and practice available in the marketplace, ranging from the profound to the absurd. A. C. Graham's work has clarified concepts that other titles barely addressed in any satisfactory manner, and his examples are always supported by helpful quotations and sound references.
One of the most important issues Graham highlights is Chuang-Tzu's open acceptance and preparation for death which seriously challenges the claims that Taoist thought has always been concerned with the Quest for Immortality (and its associated alchemical/sexual/magical practices).
I would also highly recommend Graham's translation of Lieh Tzu.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 2011
" ... How is one to do equal justice to Chuang-tzu as a philosopher and as a poet? Most versions show a bias towards one side or the other. A primarily literary translator (such as Giles or Watson) will probably have some liking for the Taoist view of life but also a Taoist distaste for the analysis of concepts, without which he cannot select and manipulate his English equivalents effectively. More intellectual translators (such as Legge, or the great historian of Chinese philosophy Fung Yu-lan, who published a version of the Inner chapters) are inclined to neglect the literary aspect as though it were mere decoration of the ideas. But a Taoist is a thinker who despises thoughts, yet values, and finds the imagery and rhythm to convey, any spontaneously emerging process of thinking which he senses is orienting him in the direction of the Way. My own private final test of whether translation is really working is whether it catches any of the extraordinary rhythmic energy of Chuang-tzu's writing, not merely for the lift of the heart which it gives but because to lose it falsifies the pace and shifts and stresses of his thinking.
In the Chinese original the thinker and the poet are one." Page 33
"Cook Ting was carving an ox for Lord Wen-hui. As his hand slapped, shoulder lunged, foot stamped, knee crooked, with a hiss! with a thud! the brandished blade as it sliced never missed the rhythm, now in time with the Mulberry Forest dance, now with an orchestra playing the Ching-shou." Page 63
" ... With his outrageous opinions, reckless words, extravagant formulations, he was sometimes too free but was not partisan, he did not show things from one particular point of view. .. He thought that `spillover' saying lets the stream find its own channels, that `weighty' saying is the most genuine, that saying `from a lodging-place' widens the range. Alone with the quintessential-and-daemonic in heaven and earth he went to and fro, but was not arrogant towards the myriad things. He did not make demands with a `That's it, that's not', and so he got along with conventional people.
Although his writings are extraordinary there is no harm in their oddities. Although his formulations are irregular, their enigmas deserve consideration. What is solid in them we cannot do without. Above, he roamed with the maker of things; below, he made friends with those for whom life and death are externals and there is neither end nor beginning. As for the Root, he opened it up in all its comprehensiveness, ran riot in the vastness of its depths; as for the Ancestor, it may be said that by being in tune he withdrew all the way back to it. However, when one assents to transformation and is released from things, the body has not exhausted its pattern, having come it will not be shaken off. Abstruse! Obscure! A man who did not succeed in getting it all." Page 283
New to Chuang tzu? Read Graham for the exhilaration he brings. Long familiar with Chuang tzu? Read Graham to refresh your vital energy.