Chuang Tzu is the name of a great Chinese philosopher who lived around the fourth century BCE in the Meng province, present-day Henan. Chuang Tzu is also the title of a work regarded as the foundational text of Taoism. Central to it is the belief that only by understanding the Tao (the Way of Nature) and dwelling in its unity can we achieve true happiness and freedom, in both life and death.
One of the most well-known and striking images from the Chuang Tzu is “The Butterfly Dream” — a parable that questions whether we can know anything to be real.
Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn’t know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was a Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.
Here’s an audiobook recorded by the Igloo Central Station which includes “The Butterfly Dream” as well as a small selection of other stories from the Chuang Tzu.
CHUANG TZU SELECTED STORIES
translated by Burton Watson
5:55 “The perfect man has no self, the holy man has no merit, the sage has no fame.”
9:44 Huizi and Zhuangzi, 1st dialogue
13:57 The piping of heaven
18:36 Questioning Distinctions
21:06 This and That
32:32 Wang Ni: “Owls and crows crave mice”
34:53 Reckless words to listen to recklessly
40:20 The Butterfly Dream
41:37 Butcher Ting
46:06 Confucius and Yan Hui, dialogue
55:16 Zigao, Duke of She and Confucius, dialogue
1:03:47 Carpenter Shi and the useless tree
1:09:23 The madman of Chu
1:10:42 Sign of virtue complete
1:18:49 Ai Taituo, The ugly man of Hue
1:23:48 If virtue is preeminent…
1:25:30 Huizi and Zhuangzi, 2nd dialogue
1:27:45 The true man of ancient times
1:33:50 Hiding the world within the world
1:37:00 The woman crookback
1:39:42 “What should I have to resent?”
1:51:56 “I am improving!”
1:53:15 Father? Mother? Heaven? Man?
1:56:35 How to rule the world
1:58:55 The shaman
2:03:58 The Death of Hundun