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The Early Modern European (non) Reception of the Zhuangzi Text

Abstract: This essay draws attention to the neglect of a key foundational text of Daoism, namely the Zhuangzi in early modern European discourses about China. It traces the contrasting Jesuit interaction with Confucianis m as opposed to Buddhism and Daoism in order to emphasize how a text like the Zhuangzi was unable to be assimilated with the Catholic mission of accomodationism. It contrasts the non reception of the text in early modern Europe with its later popularity fo llowing publication of full English translations at the end of the nineteenth century. It argues that the early neglect and later explosive discovery of the Zhuangzi in the West can tell us much about shifts in intellectual history, specifically the misapp ropriations and misunderstandings of Daoist traditions as filtered through the European mind.

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