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Full Access Were there “Inner Chapters” in the Warring States?

A New Examination of Evidence about the Zhuangzi

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Were there “Inner Chapters” in the Warring States?

A New Examination of Evidence about the Zhuangzi

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This article questions the traditional beliefs that the seven “inner chapters” constitute the earliest stratum of the Zhuangzi, that they already formed a coherent unit in the Warring States, and that they came from a single hand. After reviewing what is known about the early history of the Zhuangzi text, various arguments that have been made in support of early, coherent inner chapters, are examined. Taking the Shiji portrait of the Zhuangzi as the starting point, it is shown that Sima Qian's description and use of the Zhuangzi already gives us reason to question the importance, or even existence, of the inner chapters in the Western Han. It is then shown that pre-Han and Han references to Zhuang Zhou, and parallels with the Zhuangzi text, do not necessarily even require (or support) the existence of most inner chapters, and certainly give no evidence that they were coherent and had any kind of canonical status. Though this does not constitute proof, it does give us reason to rethink the traditional beliefs about the authorship and structure of the early Zhuangzi text. In closing, the possibility of a Huainan Zhuangzi, and the role Liu An and his court might have played in the compilation of the inner chapters, is considered. Cet article met en question les conceptions traditionnelles suivant lesquelles les sept “chapitres intérieurs” constituent la strate la plus ancienne du Zhuangzi, formaient déjà un ensemble cohérent à l'époque des Royaumes Combattants, et étaient de la même main. Ce qu'on connaît de l'histoire ancienne du texte du Zhuangzi est passé en revue, puis sont examinés les divers arguments qui ont été avancés en faveur de l'ancienneté et de la cohérence des chapitres intérieurs. Partant du portrait du Zhuangzi dans le Shiji, il est démontré que déjà la description et l'usage du texte par Sima Qian nous invitent à nous poser des questions sur l'importance, voire l'existence, des chapitres intérieurs à l'époque des Han occidentaux. Puis il est constaté que les références à Zhuang Zhou sous les Han et avant, ainsi que les parallèles avec le texte du Zhuangzi, ne supposent pas nécessairement (ni ne confortent) l'existence de la plupart des chapitres intérieurs, et ne suggèrent certainement pas que ceux-ci formaient un ensemble cohérent et avaient un quelconque statut canonique. Si ces faits n'ont pas valeur de preuve, ils invitent à s'interroger sur les conceptions traditionnelles concernant l'auteur et la structure du texte primitif du Zhuangzi. En conclusion sont considérés la possibilité d'un Zhuangzi originaire de Huainan ainsi que le rôle qu'auraient pu jouer Liu An et sa cour dans la compilation des chapitres intérieurs.

Affiliations: 1: University of Illinois at Chicago


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