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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


Pushing a Door until Its Pivot Falls into the Socket: Master Hanshan’s Commentary on the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi

Vol. 34 No. 2   3/2004


Pushing a Door until Its Pivot Falls into the Socket: Master Hanshan’s Commentary on the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi


Shuen-fu Lin









Key words

commentary on the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi, “Interpreting the Zhuangzi with the Zhuangzi”. Ming Dynasty Buddhism, Hanshan Deqing, Xuelang Hongen, Zhu Xi, Wang Yangming, hermeneutics, New Criticism, poststructuralism


Hanshan Deqing 憨山德清 (1546-1623) was one of the four eminent monks who sparked the revival of Buddhism in the late Ming. One of the most learned men and prolific authors of his age, he left to posterity an enormous body of writing ranging from exegeses on sutras and classical texts, “dharma words”, discursive and descriptive essays, inscriptions, prefaces, colophons, autobiography, letters, and poetry. Among his collected works are important commentaries on the Dao De jing (aka Laozi) and the Zhuang-zi, one of which along would have won him a place in Chinese intellectual history.

        Hanshan regarded the previous exegeses on the Laozi and Zhuangzi as the exegetes’ own Laozi and Zhuangzi, not what the texts’ original authors would have produced (人人老莊, 飛老莊老莊). His own commentaries can thus be seen as an effort to interpret the Daoist canons without imposing external frameworks. Focusing on the Commentary on the Inner Chapters of the zhuangzi 莊子內篇, this paper attempts to deconstruct hanshan’s commentarial work in the contexts of Hanshan’s essentially Buddhist hermeneutic practice. Late Ming culture (especially in the aspect of the “synthesis of the three teaching”[三教合一]), and the long tradition of exegeses on this Daoist classic. Despite Hanshan;s claim to originality in “using the this Daoist Classic”. Despite Hanshan’s claim to originality in “using Zhuangzi to interpret Zhuangzi” (以莊解莊), his commentary actually incorporates elements long-existing within the Zhuangzi commentarial tradition with his own ideas about life, culture, and spiritual cultivation as well as his own direct encounter with the Daoist text. The traditional elements include some basic assumptions about the Zhuangzi and the strategies of interpreting this text with reference to Buddhist and Confucian ideas. Even the strategy of “using the Zhuangzi to interpret the ZHuangzi” has a history of being a part of the methodology of those scholars since the Song Dynasty who have viewed the Zhuangzi as a great work of prose literature. This paper argues that Hanshan’s sophisticated synthesis of traditional interpretations with his original insights is an important event in the history of commentaries on the Zhuangzi.



Author: Shuen-fu Lin
Genre: Article
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