Zhuangzi’s evaluation of qing and its relationship to knowledge

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


This paper articulates the relationship between knowledge and qing 情 in the Zhuangzi. I argue that Zhuangzi has a twofold view of qing, which is structurally similar to his view of knowledge. I start with Zhuangzi’s critique of Confucianism and Mohism, whose doctrines of learning generate emotional turbulence. Then I read Zhuangzi’s statement that ‘humans are without qing’ as avoiding emotional turbulence as well as rigid responses to the reality. Finally, I propose that Zhuangzi’s authentic emotions are attained by ceasing to be obsessed in inauthentic emotions, but this does not mean that ordinary emotions should be eliminated. This is like great knowledge is attained by ceasing to be obsessed in petty knowledge, but it does not prevent one from seeing and grasping things from ordinary perspectives. I conclude by pointing out the relationship between the twofold view of qing to Zhuangzi’s idea of detachment and indeterminacy.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalAsian Philosophy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Mar 2021

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 23603516). A draft version was presented at 21st International Conference on Chinese Philosophy at Bern, 2019. I thank organizers and participants who gave me feedback. I also thank Professor Andrea Sauchelli for his comments.


  • Zhuangzi
  • authenticity
  • emotion
  • knowledge
  • qing

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