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Chuang Tzu's untrammelled wandering and the Hsiang-Kuo commentary Liu, Bernard Tien-Chun

Abstract

The primary concern of my thesis is the translation of the first chapter, Untrammelled Wandering, in Chuang Tzu, and the Hsiang-Kuo commentary on this chapter into English. Understandably the main onus has been the deciphering and transcribing of arcane and abstruse passages. In the seminars my professors, a few kindred souls and myself have tried assiduously to unearth the meanings lodged in the Chinese sentences, sometimes quite forbidding sentences. The simpler parts were, with the guidance of the professors, quite easily dispensed with. But we have had difficulties negotiating with the really recondite portions. Textual corruption, of course, was the Ariadne's thread we on a few occasions resorted to. We finished about half of the reconnaissance in the seminars. I consummated the task in my subterranean cell. I have read all the available English translations of Chuang Tzu and depart significantly on certain key points from all the translators. Translations of ancient Chinese texts are, indeed, ofttimes interpretations and are ineluctably coloured by the translator's particular leanings. The Hsiang-Kuo commentary has only been attempted in partibus. It is decidedly more difficult to understand than Chuang Tzu proper. The commentators have injected, naturally, their own ideas and biases into their writing. At times they elaborate and expand rather freely what is only hinted at in the text. In the prologue I have tried to present Chuang Tzu's philosophy as succinctly as I could. An analysis of Untrammelled Wandering ensues. Since the Hsiang-Kuo commentary is a classic in its own right, I have attempted a study of the commentators and their milieu. I must say available works on the commentary in English do not abound. I relied, in the main, on secondary sources in Chinese. The chasm between ancient Chinese and English is really difficult to bridge. Furthermore Chuang Tzu's language is unique and poetic. It is doubly hard to capture his spirit and suggestiveness in English. I hope my translation does not entirely miss him. As to the Hsiang-Kuo commentary, it is more difficult to understand but easier to do justice to. It has been said, by a Ch'an monk, that it was Ghuang Tzu who wrote a commentary on Hsiang-Kuo. I do find, however, that from time to time the commentators' ideas do not entirely correspond with Chuang Tzu's original import. The definiteness and articulateness of the commentators, on the other hand, are quite meritorious and command praise.

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