Guo Xiang's commentary of the Zhuangzi's imputed words and its implication on explaining metaphor

  • Dongyu XIE

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


This thesis discusses how Guo Xiang’s Commentary (hereinafter referred to as “the Commentary”) shapes our understanding of the Zhuangzi in regard to the usage of imputed words (yuyan 寓言). In order to discuss it, two issues have to be examined first: imputed words in the Zhuangzi, and comparison of the Commentary’s and the Zhuangzi’s usages of imputed words. As for the first issue, I argue in Chapter 1 that imputed words, echoing the Zhuangzi’s indeterminacy, can be regarded as metaphors. The rhetoric and persuasive purposes of imputed words help these words serve as purveyors to allow readers to perceive implicit meanings and understand unfamiliar concepts that are usually difficult to be articulated with direct language. However, there is always a gap between readers’ perception and author’s intended meaning, and I use Gricean account to examine imputed words to prove it. As for the second issue, I argue in Chapter 2 that Guo Xiang uses less imputed words in the Commentary, and he introduces new concepts to articulate the original texts. I hold that Guo’s interpretation may guide readers to understand the Zhuangzi relatively straightforwardly, but Guo also promotes his own philosophical views in the Commentary, and the new concepts he introduces are not necessarily mirroring Zhuangzi’s original implicit meaning, which is not acceptable. The final chapter discusses the reason why Guo uses this interpretive approach and how the Commentary influences people’s understanding of the Zhuangzi. In this chapter, I examine the Commentary in the scope of intellectual history of Han Dynasty and Wei-Jin Dynasty, and relate it to contemporary scholars’ views as well. To conclude, I hold that Guo’s approach is unacceptable, not only because it deviates from Zhuangzi’s intended meaning, but also because it fails to “balance the ‘teaching of names’ and the ‘self-so’”.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Philosophy
SupervisorWai Wai CHIU (Supervisor)

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