Friday, 26 April 2013

莊周夢蝶

The print above depicts the best known dream in Chinese philosophy, which was recorded as follows:
"Zhuang Zhou dreamed that he was a butterfly, flying about enjoying itself. It did not know that it was Zhuang Zhou. In fact, it did not know whether it was Zhuang Zhou dreaming that he was a butterfly, or whether it was the butterfly dreaming that it was Zhuang Zhou. Suddenly he awoke, and was clearly Zhuang Zhou again. Between Zhuang Zhou and the butterfly there must be some distinction. This is a case of what is called the transformation of things."
The author of this passage, Zhuangzi, lived during the 4th century BC. The book that bears his name expounds a skeptical philosophy, in which life is limited, but knowledge has no limits. He has been called the greatest Taoist after Laozi, as well as the 'first anarchist', on account of his assertion that "Good order results spontaneously when things are left alone".

The dream has been interpreted in diverse ways. Most appealing to me personally is the interpretation that objects have no absolute representation, but rather appear differently under different states of consciousness.

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