Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Berger, Douglas


This dissertation presents a detailed explanation of Hanshan Deqing's commentary on the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi. I argue that the notion of the Sage is the overarching theme of Hanshan's commentary on the Inner Chapters. I trace this theme through each of the seven Inner Chapters and explain the significant role it plays in understanding the message of the Zhuangzi as well as in revealing the unity and coherency of the Inner Chapters. I argue that a dissertation on Hanshan's commentary is of value for two primary reasons. First, it offers a thematically unified and coherent reading of the Inner Chapters. Secondly, by focusing on the theme of the Sage, Hanshan's commentary highlights the importance of social and political concerns in the Zhuangzi and thereby demonstrates that the issues of skepticism, relativism, and mysticism, which are so important in many Western readings, were not foremost in the minds of many Chinese commentators. In chapter one, I examine Hanshan's commentary on chapter one of the Zhuangzi, which provides a general overview of the entire Inner Chapters. I introduce the theme of the Sage and explain that in order to perfect the substance of the Sage, one must find nourishment in the body of the Dao and via a process of cultivation learn to forget the self, forget merit, and forget name. Highlighting the primary characteristics of the Sage, namely no self, no merit, and no name, I demonstrate how one or more of these characteristics are emphasized in each of the six remaining chapters. For example, in chapter two, I analyze Hanshan's commentary on chapter two of the text and illustrate how the attachment to the self, which Hanshan characterizes in terms of an attachment to the body and a failure to awaken to the Dao, gives rise to the many verbal disputes over right and wrong. In chapter three, I begin with Hanshan's commentary on chapter three and emphasize the theme of forgetting the self by noting that the skill of nourishing life requires one to cultivate the Dao and avoid pursuing merit and fame in an attempt to embellish the body. In the latter half of chapter three, I explore Hanshan's commentary on chapter four of the text and emphasize the social and political aspect of the text by explaining the manner in which the Sage carries out his responsibilities to a ruler. Chapter four examines Hanshan's commentary on chapter five of the text. I discuss several stories about disfigured and deformed individuals, who, according to Hanshan, embody the primary characteristics of the Sage, for they have succeeded in forgetting the physical form and awakening to the Dao, dispelling any interest in merit and fame, and have acquired the ability to transform others in a noncoercive, nondeliberate manner. In chapter five, I discuss Hanshan's commentary on chapter six of the text and further explore the characteristics of the Sage. I argue that this chapter not only reiterates the need for personal cultivation, highlighting once again the significance of attaining the Dao as well as the burden of having a body, but it also illustrates the personal fruits of this cultivation, namely enabling one to deal with death and illness with equanimity and calm. Finally in chapter six, I explore Hanshan's commentary on chapter seven and illustrate the social and political implications of perfecting the substance of the Sage, for if the timing is right and the situation is fitting, the Sage will accede to his great function of serving as the Enlightened Sovereign. The Sage rectifies himself via a process of personal cultivation whereby he positions himself in the unfathomable homeland of the Dao and in turn spontaneously transforms others via nondeliberate action.




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