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Reading the «Chuang-tzu» in the T'ang Dynasty

The Commentary of Ch'eng Hsüan-ying (fl. 631-652)

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Shiyi Yu

The first comprehensive study of commentaries to the Chuang-tzu in the T’ang dynasty, this book explores the fascinating interaction between Taoism and Buddhism through a reading of the Chuang-tzu. Focusing on the commentary by the Taoist master Ch’eng Hsüan-ying (fl. 631-652), Shiyi Yu argues that, in competition with Buddhism, traditional Chinese thinking took a sharp turn in the early T’ang away from the influence of Taoist-minded philosophers in the Wei-Chin period. Characterized by being concrete and unambiguous in approaching the issue of transcendence, Ch’eng Hsüan-ying’s innovative reading of the Chuang-tzu led to a new emphasis on experience and knowledge. In both these respects, his reading has not only transformed the Chuang-tzu as constructed by previous readers, but also convincingly defended medieval Taoism as a set of practical beliefs that also were grounded in the metaphysics of the time.