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NTU Philosophical Review

Issue 55, March 2018

Foong-Ee Pong
Pages 69-99

Self-Transformation Through Reading the Zhuangzi: A Dao-Embodying Pose Based on the Notion of Amplitude

This article shall explicate the theory and praxis of how to live with others under conventional norms in the Zhuangzi. The theoretical aspect is explicated by analyzing the amplitudinal quality of the movements performed by two types of characters─a bodily deformed figure (the ideal person) and a ritually formed figure (his foil). The main difference between the two is the absence of chengxin (成心,the completed heart-mind) in the former and its presence in the latter. A person restricted by chengxin adheres strictly to conventional norms in order to avoid criticism. By contrast, a person not restricted by chengxin deals with these norms in an adaptive and creative manner. Because of this difference, the movements of a person restricted by chengxin have a narrow amplitude, and so they exhibit inflexibility and stubbornness, while the movements of the ideal person have a wide amplitude and therefore manifest flexibility and creativity. The key to self-transformation is, then, to live without the restriction of chengxin, to concretely exhibit such flexibility concerning norms. To approximate such a state, one can adopt the practical strategy of what I call “Dao-embodying posing”. Roughly put, in imitating the wide amplitude manifested in the movements of the ideal person, one gains flexibility in social interaction and creativity in one’s own life.

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