If you have not encountered Chuang Tzu before, you are in for a treat. He was the sage who stood apart from all others in Chinese history. He was a unique presence, a great mind like no one before or since.
The name “Chuang Tzu” (“Zhuangzi” in the Pinyin system) means Master Chuang. His full name was Chuang Chou (Zhuang Zhou), and he lived about 2,400 years ago, during the Warring States period. It was a time of death and destruction due to widespread warfare. It was also a time when many schools of philosophy emerged, perhaps as a response to the extreme chaos.
Chuang Tzu quickly distinguished himself and became well known for his deep understanding and sense of humor. His mastery was such that he could explain the Tao with simple stories. His humor was such that he could see the joy in ordinary things. He taught his students about “carefree wandering”— the path of moving through life with a free and happy heart, regardless of how turbulent the journey might be. He regarded this as the essence, or the Tao, of true happiness.
His teachings were collected in the classic known as Nan Hua Ching (Nan Hua Jing), and it had a tremendous impact on Chinese culture. Many common sayings and expressions in modern Mandarin trace directly back to it. The concepts and ideas within its pages are actively studied and appreciated today. As long as Chinese culture lives on, the legacy of Chuang Tzu will also endure.
Excerpted from The Tao of Happiness
Published by Penguin Random House in 2015