Tsai Chin Chung – The Dao of Zhuangzi

Title: The Dao of Zhuangzi: The Harmony of Nature
Author: Tsai Chin Chung
Translator: Brian Bruya
Year: 1997

The Dao of Zhuangzi is my first encounter with Taiwanese cartoonist Tsai Chin Chung and his attempts to present Eastern philosophy to a modern audience, using both unique illustrations and text adopted from the original source text. I have read quite a bit of Zhuangzi before, but I didn’t quite lke this book.

The author sets out to explain Zhuangzi in context, a foreword that would be suitable for any scholarly text on Zhuangzi, but is completely out of synch with the rest of the book (which is fairly light-weight). It would be a good introduction for those already familiar with ancient Chinese philosophers, but feels almost pointless even for me (I’m not an expert, but I have at least studied the subject before).

However, a foreword is only a foreword, what about the rest of the book? It’s basically an adaption of the original text, but simplified and presented in the form of a comic. I have difficulties deciding what I think about the style, it’s great in some ways (especially his way of drawing people), but in others not that interesting. Overall, though, I must admit that the book is pleasant to read.

The stories themselves are also different to comment on as a whole, because some of them are brilliant and others just confusing, with a summary at the end (not written by Zhuangzi, but rather a comment by the author of The Dao of Zhuangzi) that sometimes seem to saysomething completely different from the story it’s supposed to summarise. This is of course in itself not a fault of the author, but it makes me wonder if this method is good for making people understand Zhuangzi’s philosophy. It feels shallow, without much commentary or explanation and with overly simplified moral lessons, not at all the impression I had of Zhuangzi before.

To round off this review, I think The Dao of Zhuangzi fails to achieve what it sets out to do. The foreword is too complicated and the actual text is overly simplified. This is not a very good combination, but since it’s still aesthetically pleasing, I will give it two and a half snails anyway.

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