Chapter 19 in The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

Explains the 19th chapter in “The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu” from a Confucian perspective.

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The paper explains this chapter in the light of Confucian beliefs and philosophy which emphasize acceptance of the exterior world and great diligence in developing the inner world. The paper summarizes the stories from this chapter and demonstrates how they show long-standing Confucian aims of self-development through self-regulation, quiet discipline of the self and the senses, and a proper view of one’s place and roles in a material as well as a supernatural world that is beyond much human control or influence.
The chapter opens by reminding the reader that the person who has mastered life is a person who faces up to what must be accepted, who does not concern himself with what life cannot do, or over the things in life that knowledge cannot change. The reader is reminded that, the coming of life cannot be fended off, its departure cannot be stopped. (197) This is stated as a basic fact that ought to be kept in mind including in the midst of what seem to be dilemmas but which are really part of the same greater reality. Life, like the world, may not be ‘worth doing’. However, it cannot be left undone. (197) What at first seems a fatalistic, or stoical position, is replaced by an indication that Chuang Tzu recommends far more of the individual than apathy. Of course, the person who does not want to do anything can let his body fall apart and leave the world, as this will bring an end to entanglements. The person who is without entanglements, of course, can be upright and calm. (197) Chuang Tzu was perfectly aware that, if you abandon the affairs of the world, your body will be without toil. (197) However, what the learned person must try to do it is to maintain vitality and to go forwards in the world.

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