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The Book of Lieh-Tzu: a Classic of the Tao (Translations from the Asian Classics) Hardcover – 30 Apr 1990

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Hardcover, 30 Apr 1990
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Columbia University Press Morningside Ed edition (30 April 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231072368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231072366
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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"The "Lieh-tzu" ranks with the "Lao Tzu" and "Chuang Tzu" as one of the most eloquent and influential expositions of Taois philosophy. This definitive translation by Professor Graham does full justice to the subtlety of thought and literary effectiveness of the text." -- Burton Watson --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

A.C. Graham is Professor Emeritus of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Among his many translations and writings are Chuang-tzu: the Seven Inner Chapters and Other Writings from the Book of Chuang-tzu and Reason and Spontaneity. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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The theme of this chapter is reconciliation with death. Read the first page
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 May 2001
Format: Paperback
Just about everyone knows about Lao-Tzu and his Tao Te Ching. Not so many know of Chuang-Tzu and his crazy wisdom. But fewer still seem to move on to the work of Lieh-Tzu. Written much later than the other works, it seems somehow less distant and an easier intro for the Western mind. While the tone has been described as darker, there's nevertheless a large helping of typically Taoist humour.
I'm ignorant of ancient Chinese, so I'm not really qualified to discuss the ability of the translator - but I do know that the result is easy to read, enjoyable, and seems to me to capture the spirit of the ol' wind-rider, Lieh-Tzu.
To those interested in what comes after Lao-Tzu and Chuang-Tzu, here is the answer - highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
good old chinese wisdom and philosophy on virtue and morality and doing good deeds,this is what the world needs today,highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Taoism and the reasonable use of reason. 3 July 2001
By tepi - Published on
Format: Paperback
THE BOOK OF LIEH-TZU : A Classic of the Tao. Translated by A. C. Graham. 192 pp. New York : Columbia University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-231-07237-6 (pbk.)
A. C. Graham tells us, in his informative Introduction to the present book, that Taoism, which attained maturity in the 3rd century B.C., is "the greatest philosophical tradition of China after Confucianism." Modern scholars are inclined to think that its three key texts were composed in the following order : 1. the Chuang-tzu; 2. the Tao Te Ching (or the Lao-tzu); 3. the Lieh-tzu. The latter, which is the least well-known in the West, is "a collection of stories, sayings and brief essays grouped in eight chapters, each loosely organized around a single theme" (p.1) :
1. Heaven's Gifts (reconciliation with death); 2. The Yellow Emperor (the Taoist principle of action); 3. King Mu of Chou (the idea that life is a dream); 4. Confucius (the futility of the Confucian faith in knowledge); 5. The Questions of T'ang (the universe is infinite in space and time); 6. Endeavour and Destiny; 7. Yang Chu (a chapter on Hedonism "so unlike the rest ... that it must be the work of another hand"); 8. Explaining Conjunctions (the effect of chance conjunctions of events).
Just why the Lieh-tzu isn't so well known I don't know, since it can at times be every bit as sublime as the Lao-tzu, and every bit as joyous and funny as the Chuang-tzu, while the true spirit of Tao is present throughout (except perhaps in the spurious seventh chapter). Since it's also, in some ways, a more approachable text, it would make a good entry point for newcomers to philosophical Taoism.
Graham is one of the West's greatest sinologists and his translation reads very well indeed. I often get the feeling from Graham, however, that he is prevented from fully appreciating the sublimity and what to me is the self-evident truth of philosophical Taoism because he remains trapped in a Western mindset that blinds him to these.
On the one hand he is prepared to concede that "Taoism coincides with the scientific world-view at just those points where the latter most disturbs Westerners rooted in the Christian tradition - the littleness of man in a vast universe; the inhuman Tao which all things follow, without purpose and indifferent to human [desires]; the transience of life; the impossibility of knowing what comes after death; unending change in which the possibility of progress is not even conceived; the relativity of values; [etc.]" (p,13).
On the other hand Graham tells us that : "The Taoist ... cannot be a 'philosopher' in the Western sense, establishing his case by rational argument; he can only guide us in the direction of the Way by aphorisms, poetry, and parable. The talents he needs are those of an artist and not of a thinker" (p.11).
What Graham fails to note is that NO philosopher has ever "established his case by rational argument" because, as is proved every day, rational argument leads only to further rational argument and can never lead to truth. The Taoist would see Graham's "rational argument" as a futile and _excessive_ use of reason, in contrast to his more _reasonable_ use of reason, but to suggest, as Graham does, that because of this the Taoist is not a real "thinker" seems simply a piece of Western ethnocentrism, though Graham's blind spot prevents him from realizing this.
Graham's Introduction, apart from misleading the reader on this essential point, is a fine piece of writing, and his translation is up to his usual high standards. Those who are new to Taoism will probably find it far easier to read and considerably more illuminating than much of what passes for 'philosophy' in the modern world, while those who already know their Chuang-tzu and Lao-tzu will no doubt find it quite enjoyable too. As the third important classic of philosophical Taoism, it becomes a valuable text we would be unwise to overlook.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
unknown taoist classic 3 April 2001
By Kris Kincaid - Published on
Format: Paperback
the "liehtzu" is the least known of the three most important texts of ancient taoist philosophy (the other two being the "tao te ching" and the "chuangtzu") and easily the most accessible. the "liehtzu" doesn't display much of the rambling riddles of the "chuangtzu" and lacks the beautiful, oblique poetry of the "tao te ching," instead choosing to illustrate taoist thought by means of parables and stories. easily the best and most readable guide to a rather slippery philosophy, expertly translated by the always reliable a.c. graham. it's lovely, inspirational, and i've worn my copy thin.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
One of the three Taoist must-reads 13 Dec. 1999
By Medievalist - Published on
Format: Paperback
Not as beautifully terse and refined as the Tao Te Ching, but not as ramblingly verbose and unfocused as Chuang Tzu. This translation does not purport to be definitive but the selection of vignettes included gives a nice feel for the Tao and relates it effectively to confucianism and pragmatism. The original is still very popular in China, of course, but as I only read English I can only compare this to other translations... I found it to be both enjoyable and thought-provoking.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An outstanding Taoist contribution 1 Feb. 2005
By wiredweird - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Graham has given us a very readable, enjoyable English version of a major Taoist work. Lieh Tzu followed Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu as the third major Toaist writer, at least as Western readers understand.

This can't be read wholly at face value, as Graham explains. Lieh often co-opted Confucius as a spokesman for Lieh's teachings, a standard technique when reference to the old sages was required. Graham gives plenty of notes showing where that happened, and how. Lieh also took over some of Chuang's teachings, but in Lieh's own way. That was a time when many competing schools fought against each other, but none could fight against the ancient sages or the dominant Confucians - it wasn't subterfuge, but accomodation of Lieh's views to his reading audience.

This is a readable, but often contradictory text. Graham starts each chapter with a bit of explanation. I do wish that he had more clearly set his commentary off from Lieh's text, though. Graham makes up for that lack of clarity by showing which parts of the text were most likely later accretions. For many reasons, these old Chinese texts are often the writing of many hands, not all of whom agreed with each other, and Graham helps us unwind which writing is which.

Through it all, Lieh's voice dominates. He is serene and practical. He often spins tales of immortals flying through clouds and living on dew, but more often describes ferrymen or shepherds. He preaches submission to The Way, but the book also describes a hedonsitic fatalsim - if destiny has already declared my future, then why should I not drink and be merry? This is where Graham's notes are most helpful, in sorting out which is the original text from and which parts were added by unknown authors.

If you have already read the Chuang Tzu, I strongly recommend Lieh. Lao Tzu was a poet, Chuang Tzu was a story-teller, but Lieh Tzu was very earth-bound and practical Graham has done a good job of making the work accessible, while giving the scholar room to study Lieh more deeply.

-- wiredweird
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Yellow Emperor Learns How to Dream 25 Sept. 2005
By Robert Moss - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In The Book of Lieh-tzu - the third and least-known of the Taoist classics (with the Tao Te Ching and the book of Chuang-tzu) - dreaming is quite literally the royal road to knowledge of higher worlds, and the preferred path into the afterlife.

The most interesting material on dreams is a story of a dream journey by the Yellow Emperor and the collection of tales in the chapter titled "King Mu of Chou".

The Yellow Emperor found in a dream what he had been unable to find in meditation and ascetic practice - full access to a spiritual realm beyond the setting sun, whose inhabitants "ride space as though walking the solid earth". Winged by his knowledge, he reputedly "rose into the sky" at the end of his reign.

The story of King Mu is an interesting variant on the theme that "life is a dream". Holding on to the sleeve of a powerful magician, he travels to an amazing pleasure-palace above the clouds and enjoys himself there tremendously for "twenty or thirty years" before the magician invited him to go to a higher place, which he finds terrifying (because he is clearly not ready!). He is hurled back into his own palace to find only seconds of ordinary time have elapsed.

Instead of dismissing the dream journey as illusion, the author leads us to reflect that the dream world is no less real (or unreal) than the physical world and that for many of us the great game is to approach all experience as if it might be a dream - and have the malleability and magic of the dream world.
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