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on 21 August 2001
I read an old dusty translation of Xuang Tzu (Chuang Tzu) in Southampton library many years ago. It made me re-assess my understanding of philosophy towards life, though it was my first understanding of Taoism.
This version is much easier to understand and (as far as I know) is complete. There is another book (The Way of Chuang Tzu), which has a few of these stories within it in a more easily understood format (though not directly translated). However if you want a cheap comprehensive book of Chuang Tzu's writing this is the one to get. I re-read it regularly and always find it amusing and interesting. If I lost it I would buy it again.
There is a good introducion of Chuang Tzu and the texts. It comprises a series of stories which are both insightful and amusing. Some passages must be re-read to get an understanding of the meaning (and often after reflecting on them), but this is intrinsic within the work and not an effect of the translator.
I never found the Tao Te Ching very interesting - this is like an interesting version of it in story form with which I found a much stronger association (and actually helped me to understand the Tao Te Ching better).
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on 27 November 2012
The Chuang Tzu contains a diverse collection of anecdotes, stories, parables and dialogues. Together with the Tao Te Ching it can be considered the most important book of classical taoism.
There are many translations of the Chuang Tzu and this one is very readable, in modern accessible english. (I think the translations of James Legge and Thomas Cleary are also worth it.)

When I first encountered the contents of the Chuang Tzu, I thought it was quite confusing, unclear, incomprehensible; it did not appeal to me. Many years later, its appeal started to dawn on me.
Personally I don't think this is a book for beginners in the spiritual path; though people interested in philosophy might very well like it. When, along the way, one is getting enough of acquiring spiritual knowledge and of developing oneself, this book may become an inconspicuous friend.
The book is not pretentious, it is in an unexpected way not complicated. But because of our mindset, our acquired (western) mental culture, we are likely to have difficulties, I believe, to understand and to accept the wisdom in this book.
I think the Chuang Tzu offers a beautiful and pure form of Taoism; it is likely to give you joy and nurture your (deeper, natural) sanity. In contrast with the Tao Te Ching it is barely focused on politics; in contrast with the Taoist tradition of inner alchemy it is barely focused on methods (of spiritual practice).
I consider the underlying visions in the Chuang Tzu to be quite universal and I think it can be a valuable help in bringing to the fore one's own universal, unpronounced, transparent humanity, simple, impartial and shining.

I conclude with a quote:
"The knowledge of people is minor, and though minor it has to trust in that
which they do not know, to know what is meant by Heaven."
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on 19 August 2013
I've read several translations of the Chuang Tzu and consider this one of the best. It is widely regarded as the finest book in all traditional Chinese literature. Furthermore, it is endlessly engaging and stimulating. Confucius gets a bit stuffy at times, Chuang Tzu never.
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on 4 January 2013
How I would have loved to have known Chuang Tzu, though he no doubt would have punctured my ego on numerous occasions. Without doubt the man was, is, a genius, part of that wonderful period of global enlightenment that went from around 600 to about 300 BC. Once I accepted that this was not an expanded version of Lao Tse it was love all the way. What can I say more than that - go on, buy it, read it, fall in love with reality.
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on 25 June 2001
The Book of Chuang Tsu is the other great work of Taoism (as opposed to general Chinese masterworks) and is considerably different to the Lao Tzu/Tao Te Ching. It consists of short stories, often with Confucius and other legendary figures as participants - illustrating aspects of the Tao and of Chuang Tzu's thinking. (Or in the case of Confucius more often demonstrating what not to do.)
The stories are interesting, (and central) but if you are looking for an introduction to Taoism or the thinking of Taoism I'd recommend you read the Tao of Pooh first (Ben Hoffman).
As I have only read this version, I cannot comment with any authority on the merits of the translation. Though Martin Palmer is a bona fide thinker in that he is not a mere academic translating a text - he is someone who has feeling for the Tao. (He has written lots of other stuff which suggests this.) Which is a good thing.
There is much wisdom in this book, but it is not preachy. Recommending a classic of literature like this is like reviewing and recommending the Bible or any other ancient text. But it is not preachy, and expects nothing of you than to read it. This is what all good books are about. Recommended!
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on 26 April 2013
Excellent translation, along with useful information to contextualize some of the more obscure references, without trying to analyse what was the meaning behind it.
highly recommended
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on 2 June 2016
Chuang Tzu (more correctly rendered as Zhuang Zi) is perhaps the second most important figure in Daoism after (the possibly Mythic) Lao Zi. The book of Chuang Tzu (henceforth referred to as Zhuang Zi) is a collection of anecdotes, stories, and analogies of Zhuang Zi's teachings on how to achieve the Tao, or the way.
The Tao, Dao, or Way is essentially the same concept as found in Tao Te Ching (or Dao De Jing) but is elaborated more so, and as such, is more accessible.
The origin and precise canonization of this book is unsure, as Zhuang Zi often refers to himself in the third person, and it makes reference to Confucius and Lao Zi, who appear in the stories, however more as metaphorical figures rather than some actual historical account.
The translation is very good and readable, the only defect is that it insists on using the outdated and phonetically inaccurate Wade-Giles Romanization system. This may not be such a defect for those in the West who are using the book purely for scholarly or personal reasons, however try speaking with any Wade-Giles word the way it is phonetically rendered to a Chinese person, and you will not be understood.
Essentially, Daoism is an ascetic philosophy (or religion, depending on one's definition) and this book (the second most important after Tao Te Ching) is perhaps a better introduction to Daoism, and lays out the essentially ascetic philosophy of personal contentment, adaptation and harmony.
By no means an easy read, and a book that needs revisiting, and re-examining, but a very good book for those who want to further understand Daoism, or Chinese thinking in general.
Note however that the Daoist school of thought is very different, and in many ways, at odds with the Legalist school of thought (Confucius, Mencius) and as such gives one a different view of Chinese philosophy than the over reaching and all encompassing Confucian societal structure. However, essential reading for those who wish to understand the more spiritual aspects of Chinese thought.
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on 11 November 2013
If you want to enter the ineffable taoistic approach to life, this is a must. The translation is fluid and although probably some subtle chinese meaning is inevitably lost, the core of the experience is all here.
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on 27 August 2015
I am Chinese and own quite a few copies of Chuang Tzu, in original Chinese text and also English Translations. The English translations include Burton Watson, Fung Yu-lan, Thomas Merton, and now Martin Palmer. Of the four only Palmer and Watson are complete translations. I enjoy Palmer's version and consider it as good as the widely acclaimed version by Watson.
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I have only recently started to read about the Dao and books on it or by its great practitioners... and this particular one came across more a book on accepting ones place in life and venerating the emporer rather than a great philosophical treatise.
Within the text there are some fantastic nuggets of wisdom that really speak volumes but be warned the writing style is all over the place, which is not a bad thing.
I thought that the introduction could be considerably shorter as it quoted many phrases from the actual writings but didnt really add anything to them.
A good book, and worth reading.
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