THE COMPLETE WORKS OF CHUANG TZU. Translated by Burton Watson. 397 pp. New York and London: Columbia University Press, 1968 and reprinted.
Anyone who may be coming to Chuang Tzu for the first time is in for a treat. Although Chuang Tzu is sometimes described as the most brilliant of all Chinese philosophers, what we find in him isn't what we normally understand by 'Philosophy' and isn't technical at all.
His appeal is not so much to the intellect as to the imagination, and he chose as a vehicle for his philosophical insights, not tedious and lengthy abstract treatises, but brief and witty anecdotes and dialogues and tales. His humor, sophistication, literary genius, and philosophical insights found their perfect expression in his brilliant fragments, and once having read them you never forget them.
Not much is known about Chuang Tzu, other than that he seems to have lived around the time of King Hui of Liang (370-319 B.C.). The received text of his book, which is sometimes referred to as 'the Chuang Tzu' (CT), is made up of thirty-three Chapters. Most scholars seem to feel that the CT is a composite text, and that only the first seven - the Inner Chapters - plus a few bits from the others are Chuang Tzu's own work, the remainder being by his followers.
Among the better known of his translators, all of them excellent, are Arthur Waley, Lin Yutang, A. C. Graham, and Burton Watson, though only the latter two translated the complete text. An abridged version of Watson's complete translation was later made available for those who only want to read the Inner Chapters.
The present book, 'The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu,' was first published in 1968. After an interesting 28-page Introduction, which includes bibliographical information, Burton Watson's very fine translations follow, all of which have been set out as prose and lightly annotated. The book is rounded out with an Index.
Watson has always struck me as an eminently civilized scholar and as a brilliant translator. His many translations from Ancient Chinese Literature are of uniformly high quality, and are well worth collecting as they are books one often returns to. Enthusiasts will certainly want to add the present gem to their collection.
Excellent work! I have read on numerous occasions and from numerous sources that Burton Watson's Chuang Tzu is the best one out there and this book is no disappointment! The text is clear and holds well to the original, he includes helpful footnotes at the bottom of the page instead of at the end in a huge appendix. The footnotes themselves are even extraordinary, they include notes on why he translated as he did for those who can read chinese, and can be very helpful with some of the more esoteric passages. His footnotes can even be humerous, making you feel a little better about being totally lost in some of the latter chapters! A wonderful book that I recommend to everyone!