Oscar Wilde’s review of the Zhuangzi

Relating to CC102′s study of Confucius, and Prof. Wiebke Denecke’s lecture on Confucian China, is the Zhuangzi, a compilation of wisdom teachings much like the Dao De Jing. After scrupulous analysis of Herbert A. Giles’s 1889 translation, Oscar Wilde comes to the following conclusion in his review:

It is clear that Chuang Tzu is a very dangerous writer, and the publication of this book in English, two thousand years after his death, is obviously premature, and may cause a great deal of pain to many thoroughly respectable and industrious persons. It may be true that the ideal of self-culture and self-development, which is the aim of his scheme of life, and the basis of his scheme of philosophy, is an ideal somewhat needed by an age like ours, in which most people are so anxious to educate their neighbors that they actually have no time left to educate themselves. But would it be wise to say so? It seems to me that if we once admitted the force of any one of Chuang Tzu’s destructive criticisms we should have to put some check on our national habit of self-glorification; and the only thing that ever consoles man from the stupid things he does is the praise he always gives himself for doing them.

Those interested in reading Wilde’s full response can find it here.

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