What is the Best Way to Read Zhuangzi?

Hackberry Tree

It’s summer time, which means some of us have more time to catch up on the things we miss. For my brother and I, we chose to revisit The Complete Works of Zhuangzi (2013) and found it more enjoyable than the first time we read it (in full). Additionally, we realized that some chapters are worth a deliberate pace while others are worth a mere glance.

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Following the Tao while Boxing

As readers may or may not know, Yang and I participate in our university’s boxing club and compete at the collegiate level. We have always liked boxing but I’m sure we never understood major aspects of the sport, such as intending to KO opponents or being driven by titles or recognition. Given that we follow the Tao, or at least try to do so, it makes little sense that we compete in boxing or box in general. If we want to follow the Tao and believe in the teachings of Philosophical Taoism, how then can we be said to follow the Tao and box?

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It’s Hard to Follow Certain Philosophies

This is the book Yang read. I would come to read it before going to college.
This is the book Yang read. I would come to read it before going to college.

Hui and I at first dismissed the notion that people do not change for philosophies (of the continental sort). Some who would discover meaningful ideas (for instance Stoicism) and attempt to adhere to them generally end up feeling unenthusiastic or forgetting the extremities of the ideas. By “some,” I know at least one.


I read an instance of a person changing for her philosophy. I read that the author was getting annoyed by her husband for the usual jokes, but she realized her petulance and changed her entire attitude. I was either incredulous or respectful to the post, but I do commend the author, if it actually happened.


But for those who find it hard to stick to a philosophy, I’ll use mine to rationalize the difficulty, the main suspect being that the philosophy is too different from the nature of people. For example, how could a hipster stop suppressing emotion for following Stoicism? However, I don’t know if anyone would be capable of straying from Zhuangzi’s philosophy.

Not Good is Not No Good

Scarecrow_in_Taipei
In logic, there is a fallacy (an instance of poor reasoning) called the straw man: contorting a proposition only for it to be “beaten” down. Scarecrow in Taipei by 陽炎.

A logical opposite is a sentence (I use sentence very loosely here.) that is the negation of its counterpart. In practice, logical opposition is generally inserting a “not” near the core of the sentence.

Zhuangzi could have been striving to be therapeutic or (its logical opposite) not therapeutic. 

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