Guo Xiang’s account of ideal personhood : Self-fulfillment without the admiration of sages

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Guo Xiang’s philosophy of life, presented in the Commentary on the Zhuangzi, is sometimes characterized as advocating that people should follow their inborn qualities and be content with their given social positions. It is thus criticized as implying a form of passivism and conformism. This paper analyzes Guo’s account of ideal personhood and argues that although Guo does not think that everyone should become a sage or mystic, he allows everyone engage in self-cultivation. This is because one is advised to attain self-fulfillment through following one’s spontaneous tendency (xing 性), which is not equal to inborn qualities and does not preclude learning. Furthermore, since only the existence of sage ruler can ensure that people attain self-fulfillment completely, in reality people are not required to conform to the status quo.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-393
Number of pages17
JournalAsian Philosophy
Issue number4
Early online date20 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

The work described in this essay was substantially supported by a grant from the Research Grant Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China [LU 13600721].

Publisher Copyright: © 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Zhuangzi
  • Guo xiang
  • xing
  • self-cultivation
  • sagehood


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