Daode Jing and Zhuangzi are two classical texts that reveal some concepts of Daoism. Though, these two texts are quite different in their orientation. Daode Jing is concerned with sociopolitical roles people should have.1 However, Zhuangzi is concerned with mental perceptions. According to this text, everything is relative and the good and the bad can hardly be identified.
According to Zhuangzi, there can be no right viewpoint as every opinion is right in its own perspective.2 The truth is the combination of all perspectives. At the same time, the two texts share many concepts. For instance, the two texts are concerned with rightful behavior. The two texts teach the way to remain virtuous. However, these ways are portrayed a bit differently.
Thus, Daode Jing shows the way of becoming a sage, or rather dwells upon the importance of this way.3 Zhuangzi is more concerned with individual ways. According to this text, one should not strive for being sage or pursuing political career. According to Zhuangzi, it is more important to strive for being rightful and understanding oneself.
It is necessary to note that the two scholars present the texts from quite different perspectives. The most evident difference is the focus of the two scholars. Liu concentrates on interpretation of the texts and the philosophy of the texts.4 The scholar provides interpretations of the major concepts of the texts, with a few references to the works’ creation or creators.
The scholar presents a synthesis of major concepts. However, Kohn does not only reveal major concepts of the texts. The scholar provides information on the history of the texts’ creation. The scholar also provides information on the way the texts were interpreted in different periods. Of course, Kohn also presents major concepts and core values revealed in the texts.
Remarkably, both scholars agree that interpretation of the two texts is a really difficult issue as the texts are quite ambiguous and were rewritten (and rendered) many times. Therefore, the two scholars admit that the texts may have different interpretations. It is also necessary to note that the two scholars mention certain interpretations of the two texts.
The cosmos is central to the philosophy of Daoism. The cosmos was seen as a perfect universe where every element is balanced.5 In other words, the cosmos is harmony itself. According to Daoism, people are a part of the cosmos. It is necessary to note, that people are not superior or inferior to other creations of the universe. More importantly, each individual should strive to live in harmony with the rest of the world.
Everyone should try to understand the secrets of the cosmos to better integrate into it. More so, people live to gain this kind of knowledge, according to Daoism. This concept explains the Daoist obsession with immortality, longevity and health. Daoists believed that people are mortal and are incapable of gaining the necessary knowledge within their short lives.
Therefore, they tried to live longer lives to be able to gain more knowledge and to understand more secrets of the universe. Physical exercise was regarded as a tool to achieve this goal. Wise men tried to remain healthy and did exercise. Of course, healthy lifestyle was seen as a virtuous way of living. Notably, healthy lifestyle is also close to the core value of Daoism, i.e. harmony. People living in harmony with nature and themselves cannot abuse anything, be it eating, exercise or relaxation.
Kohn, Livia. Introducing Daoism. New York, NY: Routledge, 2009.
Liu, J. An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy: From Ancient Philosophy to Chinese Buddhism. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006.
1. Livia Kohn, Introducing Daoism (New York, NY: Routledge, 2009), 33.
2. Ibid, 36.
3. Ibid, 36.
4. JeeLoo Liu, An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy: From Ancient Philosophy to Chinese Buddhism (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 140.
5. Livia Kohn, Introducing Daoism (New York, NY: Routledge, 2009), 85.