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DO NOT CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION Hagop Sarkissian hss12@duke.


Dao Success, Dao Satisfaction, and the Yangist Theme in the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi
HAGOP SARKISSIAN Department of Philosophy Duke University Areas of specialization: classical Chinese thought; ethics; moral psychology


Readers often take Zhuangzi as providing guidance on how to live ones life.1 This, in spite of the fact that his writings contain detailed and sustained attacks on any claims to knowledge, questioning not just the objectivity of moral claims but also more fundamental valuations, such as those preferring physical health to disease, waking over dreaming, and even life over death. One would expect such a thoroughgoing skeptic to be tenuous in what he affirms (apart from the skepticism, that is). Zhuangzi, though, is far from tenuous. In the Inner Chapters one finds numerous passages advocating certain daos or ways of life over others. Indeed, such passages are as numerous as the skeptical ones. If the reader takes the skeptical passages seriously (as she should), then she might wonder why Zhuangzi would even bother with this business of affirming and denying. After all, the reader can simply employ Zhuangzis own skepticism and gainsay his assertions, knowing full well that Zhuangzi would have to acknowledge them as equally valid. If this is so, what is there to say on behalf of Zhuangzis prescriptions? How to resolve Zhuangzis bottomless skepticism with his invulnerable confidence (Graham 4)?

I According to some, the dilemma is a false one. David Wong, for example, suggests that we need not resolve this problem, because it hinges on an implausible claimnamely, that Zhuangzi was a theorist advancing certain (and rather dogmatic) skeptical theses. He believes this is a fundamental interpretive mistake. Wong does not deny that the Inner Chapters contain a number of skeptical theses and question the veridicality of our basic modes of access to the world. However, for Wong these are


moments, temporary moves in a larger game (Wong XX). He notes, for example, that most of the Inner Chapters probing passages end not with answerseven skeptical answersbut with more questions. He therefore denies that the purpose of the

Zhuangzi is to put forth a number of theses. Instead, the text serves to remind us that we are creatures whose questions far outrun our ability to answer them (X). The text thus enacts a process through which we call into question how we might know (or prove) our own particular perspectives or daos as being true (Wong XX). This

questioning forces us to adopt new perspectives that reveal new courses of inquiry; it does not put an end to this inquiry. Skeptical questioning of our current perspectives leads to more openness to new ones, but as the new ones loosen the grip of the old perspectives on us, we are aware that their grip on us is subject to loosening by still further new perspectives (Wong XX). The text is thus primarily interrogative and not declarative. Interrogative skepticism is a stance one adopts; doctrinal skepticism is a conclusion one deduces.2 Given Zhuangzis playfulness and his willingness to bring into question many of his own assertions, interpreting him as dogmatic in any way should be avoided. Thus, Wongs interpretation seems true to the text.3 Here, we can see one way out of the dilemma posed at the outset. If we deny that Zhuangzi was dogmatic in his skepticism, it seems we should also deny that he was dogmatic in his affirmations. Perhaps the guiding, affirmative passages can also be moments in the text, temporary assertions that can be questioned at any moment. Even so, we might ask why Zhuangzi is so un-skeptical regarding his own prescriptions. Whence his confidence? It is true that his assertions might be subjected to scrutiny, but


many of them are not. Why is he not skeptical, for example, about Cook Ding in chapter three (but does he really know how to nurture life?) or Confucius in chapter four (but should Yan Hui really fast his mind?)? If challenged, Zhuangzi might retract these assertions, or at least question them along with everything else. Yet he doesnt. This facet of his writings stands in need of explanation. In other words, even if Wongs interpretive framework helps us understand how Zhuangzi can make prescriptions without fear of self-contradiction, it leaves us wondering why he asserts what he does. I believe there is a unified and coherent way of making sense of his various prescriptions by focusing on the notions of dao success and dao satisfaction. My interpretation requires careful attention to the context of his writingsthe treacherous Warring States periodand the specific audience for whom he wrotehis peers in the shi class.4 In the analysis of his prescriptions that follows, it will be helpful to keep this context in mind, as it helps explain both his sobering perspective on the life of the moral reformer and his seemingly disjointed Yangist preoccupation with living out the years allotted by Heaven through withdrawing from political involvement.

II Among Zhuangzis peers were those involved in the business of social and political reform. They wandered from state to state seeking audience with rulers and those in positions of power to share their beliefs on the importance of virtue in government. Many passages in the Inner Chapters are directed at such reformers.


For example, in Worldly Business Among Men an innovative and flexible Confucius advises his star pupil Yan Hui on how to serve the malevolent ruler of Wei and reform his reckless ways. Throughout the dialogue Confucius has two goals in mind: to counsel Hui on how to avoid an untimely death, and to teach him how to achieve his goal of reforming the malevolent ruler effectively. Upon hearing of Yan Huis ambitious designs to reform the ruler, Confucius remarks, Hmm. I am afraid that youre simply going to your execution (66).5

Confucius reflects on Huis upcoming meeting and lays out a series of possible outcomes, none of them too appealing. morality he would only invite trouble. For example, if Yan Hui were to preach Make a pest of yourself and others will

certainly make pests of themselves in return. I rather fancy that someone is going to be a pest to you (67). Even if a ruler was actually interested in debating the merits of certain ideas, he might still have little need for the counsel of someone like Hui; such a ruler would have ideas dear to his own heart. At any rate, the ruler would have every advantage in any debate, given his actual power. Even if Hui could engage him in discussion, he would eventually have to yield. I am afraid that he will lose faith in your fulsome words, and so youll be sure to die at the tyrants hands (ibid). Confucius sums up his comments by invoking a historical anecdote, apparently germane to Huis predicament: Formerly Guan Longfeng was executed by Jie and Prince Bi Gan by Zhou. Both were men meticulous in their personal conduct but who, as

ministers, offended emperors by sympathizing with their subjects. Consequently their lords found in their meticulousness a reason to get rid of them. These were men who desired a good name (ibid). The implication is, of course, that Hui is also meticulous,


also concerned with the plight of the subjects, and so will also meet a similar fate. The first half of the dialogue, then, is aimed at cautioning Hui against the numerous pitfalls that lie ahead. But heres the rub. Hui is committed to pursuing his dao, the dao of the reformer. So while he might manage to preserve himself, evading death by

compromising his original goal of reforming the ruler would be unacceptable. For example, if Hui were meticulously impartial and diligently single-minded, the ruler might assent on the outside while remaining unmoved within. He will remain

obstinate and refuse to reform, outwardly agreeing with you but inwardly insensible. Whats the good of that? (68). Similarly, Yan Hui might avoid appearing self-serving or having ulterior motives, and remonstrate the king in an impersonal manner (say, by couching his advice in the words of sage kings in the past). Even if this would preserve his person, the efforts would be similarly ineffective: If you stick to the forms and dont get too familiar, even if youre stupid you will escape blame. But thats all that can be said for it. How would you succeed in making a new man of him? (68). In the end, Confucius tries to advise Hui on how to realize both of his goals preserving his person and of reforming the ruler. This is no easy task. Confucius is clear that any such strategy will require a responsiveness to the ruler that is not premeditated but instead spontaneous and unforced.

You are capable of entering and roaming inside his cage, but do not be excited that you are making a name for yourself. When the words penetrate, sing your native note; when they fail to penetrate, desist. When there are no doors for you,


no outlet, and treating all abodes as one you find your lodgings in whichever is the inevitable, you will be nearly there.

Shortly after this passage, we find Qu Boyu giving Yan He similar advice.

Be alert, on guard! Get your own person rightly adjusted! In your demeanour what matters is to get close, in your heart what matter is to be at peace. However, there are difficulties on both points. In getting close you dont want to be drawn in, and you dont want the peace in your hart to escape outside. If by your demeanour getting too close you are drawn in, it will be downfall, ruin, collapse, trampling. If the peace in your heart escapes outside, it will become repute, fame, a disaster, a curse

When he wants to play the child, join him in playing the child. When he wants to jump the fences, join him in jumping the fences. When he wants tro burst the shores, join him in bursting the shores. Fathom him right through, and be drawn into the unblemished in him...

You cant be too careful.(72)

Throughout the course of these dialogues, Zhuangzi displays an intimate awareness of the problems faced by reformers. On the one hand the reformers needed to be

submissive and compliant in order to gain access to rulers, but that would be of little use in reforming them. On the other hand, reformers would be inclined to faithfulness and


pride, having internalized their daos and being committed to the possibility of effecting widespread change. This would tend to make them less than reserved. And any number of missteps could lead to physical mutilation or execution. unimaginably cheap during the Warring States period. Life was

(Indeed, so futile was the

reformers dao that Zhuangzi has Confucius advise Yan Hui to fast his mind and rid himself of his former training and intentions altogether.) We should recognize that in such passages Zhuangzi is not derisive of either the reformers or their daos. In fact, Zhuangzi realized that most reformers would remain committed to their daos even when faced with skeptical arguments and improbable odds.

In serving parents there is no higher degree of filial conduct than to live contentedly wherever they may dwell, in serving rulers no fuller measure of loyalty than to perform tasks contentedly whatever they may be, and serving ones own heart no higher degree of virtue than, without joy and sorrow ever alternating before it, to know that these things could not be otherwise and thus be content with them as destiny. It is inherent in serving either as a son or as a minister that there is something which is inevitable. (70)

Zhuangzis occasional mocking of the reformers is often taken as signaling a complete rejection of their daos. But Zhuangzi does not mock the goals of the moral reformers. Instead, he is cynical at their prospects. Perhaps in a more orderly age such reformers


would be able to effect real change. Yet the prevailing circumstances of the Warring States period precluded this possibility.

When the Empire has guidance (dao) The sage can succeed in it. When the Empire lacks guidance (dao) The sage can endure in it. These days, good enough If he dodges execution. (75)

It was clear to Zhuangzi that the moral reformers had little hope of succeeding in their daos. Not only were prevailing circumstances inimical to their goals but they themselves were developing the wrong tools for the jobnamely, argumentative rigor and logical precision. In a sense, they were undermining their own efforts at

reformation. Argumentation, for Zhuangzi, was a dead-end road. In a well-known passage near the end of the second chapter, Zhuangzi suggests that argumentation hinges on arbitrary starting positions. Each person will appeal to her own positions in order to win the argument. Ultimately, though, all such appeals are question-begging, referring to prior decisions and norms to which the debaters are committed. Since everyone has such prior commitments and norms, appealing to them wont help. Even outside arbitrators settle matters based on the congruence of their prior commitments. In disputation, no position is rationally demonstrable over any other.


These observations can be harrowing for those who value argumentation or feel compelled to provide reasons or justifications for their own life choices. It is bad enough that one cannot rationally convince others. However, as Wong has noticed, there is something particularly troubling about not being able to convince ourselves of the superiority of our own way of living, about discovering the futility of any attempts at rational demonstration (Wong 5). Admittedly, not everyone is concerned with such demonstrations. (Cook Ding, who we discuss below, certainly wouldnt be.) And yet the reformers seemed steadfast in their belief that arguments could convince others, that disputation was a means of transformation. (Mozi, for example, found it incomprehensible that any should object to his doctrine of universal love upon hearing it.) Zhuangzi realized that they were pointlessly developing tools aimed at success in argument, which is not necessarily constructive in effecting change, the latter only possible through influencing rulers.

III In spite of his skepticism, and in spite of his intimate knowledge of the trouble with reform, Zhuangzi yet shows solidarity with the reformers. At times he advocates flexible daos (such as in the exchanges noted above). More often, he suggests adopting new ones altogether. Maybe the reformers could leave official life to roam free (like the daemonic man on Guyi Mountain), or grab a pole and go fishing (as Zhuangzi himself is purported to have done). Part of the rationale for advocating alternative daos was the brute fact that political participation during Zhuangzis lifetime was at best ineffective, at worst



suicidal. However, there is a story about Yao and Yu that suggests something more namely, that in an age of disorder the good intentions of talented individuals will come into the service of disorder. The road to hell is, by all accounts, paved with good intentions.

And formerly Yao attacked Zong, Zhi and Xuao, and Yu attacked You Hu, reducing their countries to empty wastelands of hungry ghosts and executing their rulers. There was no end to their calls to arms, no rest in their aspirations for great deeds. These men [Yao and Yu] sought after repute and deeds. Dont tell me you havent heard of them! A good name, a great deed, tempt even the sage. Do you think youre any better? (67)6

The point of this story is, I believe, to issue a warning to virtuous individuals: the more virtuous you are, the more trouble you can cause. This helps explain why so many exemplary figures in the Inner Chapters either refuse public office altogether or abandon it after a brief spell.7 In the first chapter, for example, Xu You rejects Yaos (rather flattering) offer of the throne (45). Xu You later says (in chapter six), that when Yao has already branded your hide with goodwill and duty, and snipped off your nose with his thats it, thats not, how are you going to roam that free and easy take-anyturn-you-please path? (91). In the fifth chapter Uglyface To is courted by Duke Ai for his singular talents and eventually made chief minister of Lu, only to resign a short while thereafter for unspecified reasons (79-80). The case of Song Rong also conforms to this pattern, though in an indirect way. Song Rong is praised because he refused to



be encouraged though the whole world praised him, or deterred though the whole world blamed him, was unwavering about the division between inward and outward and discriminating about the boundary between honor and disgrace. But then he soared no higher. The reason? He was too concerned about the world to break clean away (44). The useless, by contrast, faced no such problems, so we find them venerated throughout Zhuangzis writings. The most prominent of these useless exemplars is not a person but a tree. In the relevant story (72-73), Carpenter Shian authority on timberchastises his disciple for taking interest in a large but useless tree, as its wretched timber was summarily unfit for any conventional uses. Indeed, in

denouncing the tree he explicitly acknowledges the utility of its wretchedness: thats why its been able to grow so old. Later that night this old and useless tree visits the carpenter in his dreams and remonstrates him, pointing out the hazards of being usefulspecifically, for seeming useful to those in authoritative positions. Pear trees, orange trees, trees that bear fruits or berries, trees with fine-grained woods,

These are trees which by their own abilities make life miserable for themselves; and so die in mid-path without lasting out the years assignment to them by Heaven. These trees let themselves be made victims of worldly vulgarity. Such are the consequences with all things. (73)



In the very next passage, the lesson is brought to bear on human affairs directly. We are told that the most daemonic of men are made of poor substance and thus avoid the exploitative motives of others.

A tree an arms length or two round will be chopped down by someone who wants a post to tether his monkey, a tree of three or four spans by someone seeking a ridge-pole for an imposing roof, a tree of seven or eight spans by the family of a noble or rich merchant looking for a sideplank for his coffin. So they do not last out the years Heaven assigned them, and die in mid-journey under the axe. That is the trouble with being stuff which is good for something. Similarly, in the sacrifice to the god of the river it is forbidden to cast into the waters an ox with a white forehead, a pig with a turned-up snout or a man with piles. These are all known to be exempt by shamans and priests, being things they deem bearers of bad luck. They are the very things which the daemonic man will deem supremely lucky (74).

For many, Zhuangzis veneration of uselessness is largely instrumental; what he really values is the ability to survive. This is what gives rise to the interpretive dilemma: the preoccupation with longevity and living out the years allotted by Heaven seems in stark contradiction with the skepticism of lifes worth found in chapter two: How do I know that to take pleasure in life is not a delusion? How do I know that we who hate death are not exiles since childhood who have forgotten the way home? (59). The



apparent incongruity of his sentiments concerning life has confounded many interpreters. Yet there are grave problems in interpreting Zhuangzi as advocating uselessness or self-preservation, and it is far from obvious that the exemplary individuals of the Inner Chapters are concerned with prolonging life. Rather, as I have argued, it seems as though they are mindful of leading their lives without being subjected to the exploitative machinations of others (a fate that befell many moral reformers). It is one thing to wish to be left alone, to want to conduct ones life as one sees fit and in a way that prevents ones talents and good intentions from falling prey to malevolent forces. It is quite another to make the preservation of ones life tantamount. The latter is not a value that is embraced in the Inner Chapters. Moreover, we should notice something about the useless treeit was born useless; it was naturally ill suited to carpentry. The useless are lucky because they are never faced with the option of fulfilling their talents (i.e. cashing in on them), never tempted by the challenges associated with the development of their virtues. Was

Zhuangzi just so useless by nature, just so fortunate? All evidence to the contrary. Not only was Zhuangzi the most brilliant philosopher of his time, but his talents were also recognized by his contemporaries, and his services sought by rulers. Did Zhuangzi wish to rid himself of knowledge, handicap himself, or cripple his virtue? No. He simply saw the perils of public service and stepped away. And he is urging his peers to do likewise. Again, it is the dim prospects that are motivating Zhuangzis reflections on the reformer. (Put another way, there is little in the Inner chapters to indicate that



Zhuangzi would object to the reformers dao if prevailing circumstances were otherwise.) Zhuangzi was aware both of the fragility of life and the futility of efforts at selfpreservation. Physical deterioration, disease, mutilationthese could befall anyone at any time. In an apocryphal story from the outer chapters we find a younger Zhuangzi coming to this realization when he notices, during the course of a hunt, that the creature he is taking aim at is in fact stalking another, and this creature in turn is stalking yet another. This brings about a discomforting revelation: It is inherent in things that they are ties to each other, that one kind calls up another (118). If Zhuangzi ever were a Yangist hoping to preserve himself, he undoubtedly ceased to be one at this time.8 Put differently, Zhuangzi realized the futility of striving for self-preservation, and instead sought clarity and freedom. He did not advocate life-preserving daos simpliciter. He advocated daos that would afford satisfaction and success to their practitioners. There is a Yangist theme in the Inner Chapters, but it needs to be properly situated. Zhuangzi lived during a time of unprecedented social mobility, characterized by ambitions and desires. Rulers offered weighty incentives to virtually anyone who could help them further their goals of territorial expansion, and scholars (shi) were often tempted into officialdom through various aspirations: to rise above their station in the world, to achieve repute or fame, or to reform the rulers and restore order and harmony to the world. They would study and train in the hopes of being valued by those in power. Yet most of them met gruesome deaths at the hands of recalcitrant rulers or scheming peers, or found themselves enlisted toward advancing ends not of their own choosing. These realities served as the backdrop to Zhuangzis writings.



IV Is Zhuangzi missing the point? Cant the reformers dao be satisfying even if it is unsuccessful? Did learning not provide delight for its practitioners (as Confucius had once claimed)? Did training not provide continuous challenge? Did the reformers not lead their lives free of conscience and full of resolve owing to their faith in and commitment to their daos? Passages from the Analects and the Mencius, for example, suggest that the answers to all these questions would be in the affirmative. If this is so, then Zhuangzi comes perilously close to looking like the nave doves of chapter one, mocking the reformers out of ignorance of the virtues of their daos and their particular perspectives on life. Yet Zhuangzi is not speaking out of ignorance (as the doves and cicadas are). More importantly, there had been prolonged despair at the prospects of converting rulers and effecting societal change. The centuries before Zhuangzis arrival were a record of successive failures in transforming those in power, in producing just one sagacious ruler that might win the hearts of his people, of his neighbors, and (at the limit) of all-under-Heaven. The disputes of the scholarly class remained impotent in spite of their increasing argumentative and logical rigor. Ostensibly, the reformers goal was not to seek truth or hit philosophical bedrock but to effect social and political change. And yet the prolonged decline since the time of the sagacious Zhou rulers continued unabated as the scholarly class was set loose upon itself in fruitless competition to earn audiences with mulish rulers. Admittedly, there is nothing here that would deny a reformer satisfaction in his dao. The reformer might allow that his dao is



precarious and even that it does not seem to be effective while maintaining his satisfaction in the commitment to his dao. And yet we might wonder at the satisfaction to be had in a dao where risk and reward are so disproportionate. Now contrast the reformers situation with that of the lowly butcher of chapter three. The lowly butcher has mastered his skill through years of practice. For example, we are told that whereas good butchers need to sharpen their blades only once a year, the lowly butcher has gone nineteen years without sharpening his (64). Yet it is not his advanced skill but his deep satisfaction in his dao that strikers readers most. Indeed, the butcher is praised as knowing what matters in the nurture of life (Graham)or, better yet, knowing the secret of caring for life (Watson). As opposed to the scholars or moral reformers, the lowly butcher is observed as a model worthy of emulation rather than addressed as one who needs to rethink his dao. Such skilled individuals dont need to be addressed; they already practice satisfying daos.9 Zhuangzi presents the lowly butcher as a foil for the moral reformers. Not only is the lowly butcher supremely skilled in his dao, but he is also capable of succeeding at it and deriving satisfaction from it. His dao seems immune to the most important barriers to dao satisfaction that we encounter elsewhere in the Inner Chapters. First, the butchers dao does not have as one of its constitutive components the need to reform others or otherwise have them abandon their daos and adopt new ones. Second, years of practice allowed the butcher to achieve dao mastery; a few deft strokes and zoop!there falls the ox. Yet years of study and training did not afford anything of this sort to Zhuangzis peers; one misstep andoops!there falls the reformer. Third, the butchers faith in his own dao was not based on any (chimerical) rational



justifications, and the butcher didnt need to resort to disputation in order to have others see the merits of his dao; instead, he effortlessly carved his ox. Indeed, these various characteristics of the butchers dao shield him from the potentially debilitating skepticism that is leveled against others. Consider, too, Cripple Shu, who in spite of his physical handicap makes a modest living plying the needle and doing laundering clothers.

If the authorities are press-ganging soldiers the cripple strolls in the middle of them flipping back his sleeves; if they are conscripting work parties he is excused as a chronic invalid; if they are doling out grain to the sick he gets three measures, and ten bundles of firewood besides. Even someone crippled in body manages to support himself and last out the years assigned him by Heaven. If you make a cripple of the virtues within you, you can do better still! (74)

Again, even though Zhuangzi consistently refers to prolonged life in connection with the exemplary figures, his point is not that one should value prolonged life, or that one should pursue a dao of self-preservation, still less that being useless has intrinsic value. Cripple Shu does not seek longevity. Instead, his uselessness prevents him from

becoming entangled in the machinations of ambitious rulers, and he finds satisfaction in his simply way of living outside of the mainstream. Before concluding, we should note that Zhuangzis veneration of the lowly butcher, Cripple Shu and the various other individuals living outside the mainstream also signals his pluralism, his admiration for other perspectives on life and other ways



of living it, and his wish for greater appreciation of those who would otherwise be overlooked or undervalued in his contemporary world. Zhuangzi consistently suggests that such individuals are ignored at our own peril, that they afford perspectives that can stimulate awareness of the enormous variety of daos one can follow. The exemplary figures exemplify characteristics that the reformershis target audiencelacked, and would therefore find revelatory.

V Different as they are, then, the various unquestioned daos and prescriptions of the Inner Chapters are thematically united and coherent when considered through the audiences perspective, within the context of his contemporary world. Zhuangzi was not a solitary person who waxed poetically about an absolute perspective attainable through mystical praxis, but was rather a former member of the scholarly class sharing his insights with his peers. He recognized that many of them would not abandon their daos, either for failing to see the import of Zhuangzis clarity (ming) or because they were fated to filiality and officialdom. Nevertheless, he sought to goad themthrough his skeptical arguments and playful suggestionsto more satisfying lives. The question of adopting any of his prescriptions, however, is left to the readereven while his own advice is confident and clear. As for other men, it is for them to follow in his train; why should he want to make others his business? (77).

Duke University Durham, North Carolina




Graham, A.C. 1981. Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters. London: George Allen & Unwin.

Hansen, Chad. 1992. A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ivanhoe, Philip J. 1991. "Zhuangzi's Conversion Experience." The Journal of Chinese Religions, 19: 13-25.

Schwitzgebel, Eric.


Zhuangzis Attitude Toward Language and His

Skepticism. In Essays on Skepticism, Relativism, and Ethics in the Zhuangzi. Edited by Paul Kjellberg and Philip J. Ivanhoe. New York: SUNY Press.

Watson, Burton. 1968. The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu. New York: Columbia University Press.

Wong, David B. (2005). Zhuangzi and the Obsession with Being Right. History of Philosophy Quarterly 22(2): 91-107



Following the practice of many, I shall take Zhuangzi as the name for the author(s)

responsible for the first seven chapters of the Zhuangzi.


Wong credits the distinction to Paul K. Moser. Notice, too, that this allows Wong to account for the therapeutic effect of the text

namely, that it causes in the reader a skeptical attitude in generalwithout having to claim that Zhuangzi did not mean what he said, an argument put forward by Eric Schwitzgebel (1996).

According to (admittedly sketchy) historical accounts, Zhuangzi was at one time an

official of the state of Song in a place called Qi Yuan, literally Lacquer Garden (which may or may not have been an actual garden of some type). This fact alone tells us little about who he was or why he wrote. But it seems undeniablegiven his deep

knowledge of the contemporary intellectual milieuthat his writings and his thoughts were largely directed at his peers in the shi class. In any event, they would have been the only ones who were: a) literate, and b) properly positioned to assess his arguments.

All translations follow A.C. Graham (1981), with minor modifications. Unadorned

citations refer to the pages in Grahams translation. All italics are added for emphasis.

Earlier in the passage, the malevolent ruler of Wei is described as so careless and

reckless with his subjects that the number of dead filled the state to its borders as though it had been ravaged with fire and slaughter (66). In noting the devastation caused by Yao and Yu (heroes of the Confucians and Mohists, respectively), Zhuangzi is implicitly identifying them with this malevolent ruler in spite of their sagacity.



The exemplary figures are easy to locate. Simply look for individuals who are not

subjected to scrutiny or skepticism and chances are you will have found an exemplary figure.

For a discussion of this passage along these lines, see Ivanhoe (1991). Some might balk at the satisfaction to be had at hacking animal corpses day in and day

out for decades on end. Yet the dao of butchery is challenging enough to accommodate long-term growth and hence long-term satisfaction for the practitioner. While the butchers effortless motions reveal advanced skill, he must occasionally pause to navigate intricacies in the task at hand. The butchers dao, then, is both challenging and satisfying, both difficult to completely master and nonetheless satisfying to the practitioner. The success of the butchers dao is straightforward, even while the skilled execution of it requires commitment.