Zhuangzi (Chuang-tzu, “Master Zhuang” late 4th century BCE) is the pivotal figure in Classical Philosophical Taoism. The Zhuangzi is a compilation of his and others’ writings at the pinnacle of the philosophically subtle Classical period in China (5th–3rd century BCE).
The only account of the life of Zhuangzi has been drawn from anecdotes within the Zhuangzi itself. Zhuangzi is traditionally credited as the author of at least part of the work bearing his name, the Zhuangzi. This work, in its current shape consisting of 33 chapters, is traditionally divided into three parts: the first, known as the “Inner Chapters”, consists of the first seven chapters; the second, known as the “Outer Chapters”, consist of the next 15 chapters; the last, known as the “Mixed Chapters”, consist of the remaining 11 chapters.
This wide range of views of Zhuangzi stem from the style of the text. Zhuangzi’s prose style is its own distinctive literary treasure. The central feature is the parable, typified as a discussion between imaginary or real interlocutors. Typically short, pithy, and amusing, his tales are both accessible and philosophically seductive—they both entertain and make you think. His style of writing with its parables and conversations both accessible while at the same time drawing the reader into deeper considerations.