Book Review: ‘The Fate of Zhuangzi in Modern China’ by Liu Jianmei

At the South China Morning Post, Chow Chung-yan reviews The Fate of Zhuangzi in Modern China by Liu Jianmei, on the Taoist sage’s varying fortunes during the 20th Century. An English edition of the book, according to Liu’s preface, will be available soon.

It was not until the 1980s that the Chinese rediscovered their love for Zhuangzi as the mainland finally emerged from the mania of the Cultural Revolution and embraced the open-door policy. Individualism, freedom and transcendence beyond good and evil are back in vogue. Hence, Zhuangzi has become popular again.

In her new book The Fate of Zhuangzi in Modern China, author Liu Jianmei does a thorough job recounting the ebbs and flows of the poet-philosopher. Liu, who teaches contemporary Chinese literature at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, spent nearly 10 years writing her book after conducting exhaustive research into Chinese classics and modern Chinese literary works.

[…] Most importantly, the book provides a historical context that enables readers to understand why great masters such as Hu Shi would have such a radical read of Zhuangzi: Hu compared the ancient sage’s teaching to Darwin’s evolution theory. Indeed, every reading is a reconstruction and our understanding of a subject is always influenced by the greater historical and political environment we live in.

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