Daoism and Cct

History and Sources

What other early sacred texts are especially important for Daoists?

A text known as the Zhuang Zi, named after the man whose disciples may have authored it, dates from about the fourth century B.C.E. The work is also known as the Divine Classic of Nan Hua, the town to which Zhuang Zi was believed to have retired. Zhuang Zi the Daoist philosopher (c. 389-286 B.C.E.) remains a relatively little-known figure. But the work that bears his name stands out as a foundational document in philosophical Daoism, whose interpretation of basic concepts also influenced many religious Daoists.

In addition to its bold attacks on the inadequacy of Confucian teaching, the Zhuang Zi presents essentially the same worldview as the Dao De Jing, especially the importance of non-effort (wu wei) or “unmotivated action” and its political implications. Zhuang Zi emphasizes the concepts of longevity and immortality that would later take on great significance for many religious Daoists. Perhaps more important is the concept of mental purification called “fasting of the heart.”

Zhuang Zi’s teaching has become an important element in Daoist mysticism, speaking often of a kind of oneness with the Dao. A Daoist philosopher named Lie Zi is likewise said to have penned a work that bears his name. That book, also known as The True Classic of the Expanding Emptiness, however, was almost certainly of a later time, and Lie Zi is probably a legendary figure. Containing materials of many different literary types, especially narrative forms such as anecdotes and parables, the book was probably compiled around 300 C.E. Its eight chapters arrange their literarily disparate materials thematically, addressing such topics as fate and human freedom, problems in establishing ethical standards, and the challenge of following the Dao. Here for the first time we hear of the Isles of the Blest, home of the Immortals. Like the Zhuang Zi, the later work speaks at length about the complete freedom experienced in becoming one with the Dao.


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