Reconstructing the Zhuang zi: Preliminary Considerations

Bumbacher, Stephan Peter

In: Asiatische Studien - Études Asiatiques, 2016, vol. 70, no. 3, p. 611-674

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    The received version of the text Zhuang zi can be traced to the fourth century AD when its commentator Guo Xiang has shortened by roughly a third and rearranged the text available to him. The version(s) current at that time were in all likelihood descendants of the text which Liu Xiang in the first century BC had prepared for the imperial library. The scant hints at his activity are discussed. As Liu Xiang also compiled own works that contain implicit Zhuang zi quotations, this allows to partially reconstruct the pre-Guo Xiang text. Some scholars assume that members of the court of Huai nan have produced a redaction of their own in the second half of the second century BC. While this cannot be excluded, evidence is presented that the transmission of the Zhuang zi text has not been influenced by the Huai nan scholars. The earliest explicit quotation of the text can be found in the Lü shi chun qiu of 239 BC. This source also contains a series of implicit quotations allowing to partially reconstruct the pre-Han Zhuang zi. Excavated bamboo slips lead to the identification of later insertions into the text. As the pre-Guo Xiang version survived into the Tang dynasty, a systematic search in a broad range of pre-Tang and Tang texts revealed lost pericopes as well as lost parts of pericopes and lost sentences.