The Debate over Xing in the Outer Chapters of the Zhuangzi

Wai Wai CHIU*

*Corresponding author for this work

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


Contemporary discussions of xing are often inspired by the Confucian tradition, but recent studies have brought the Zhuangzi 莊子 to the table as a viable alternative. In this essay, I present three different accounts of xing 性 in the Outer Chapters: (1) the primitivists who emphasize body vitality and simple life, (2) the Huang-Lao 黃老 school that emphasizes the balance among different things and the overall cosmological order, and (3) skill stories that look at individual skill masters rather than people in general or the role of the human species in the cosmos, entertain only the descriptive dimension of xing, and cast doubt on the normative status of xing. These three accounts can be read as responding to each other, and each shares certain themes with the Inner Chapters in different ways. Together, they demonstrate the complexity of the Zhuangzi’s view on xing and complicate attempts of cross-textual comparison.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Sep 2022

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).


  • Zhuangzi
  • 莊子
  • Outer Chapters
  • xing
  • nature


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