Zhuangzi and the Butterfly

Zhuangzi was a Taoist sage who lived during the 4th century BCE. His butterfly dream poem is among the most famous passages in ancient Chinese literature.  In this poem, he writes about a dream that he had of being a butterfly, flying about enjoying itself. It did not know that it was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he awoke, and was Zhuangzi again. He did not know whether it was Zhuangzi dreaming that he was a butterfly, or whether it was the butterfly dreaming that it was Zhuangzi.

Butterfly Dream

All day long, he floated on the breeze
Without a thought of who he was or where he was going.
When he awoke, Zhuangzi became confused.
“Am I a Man”, he thought,
“who dreamed that I was a butterfly?
Or am I butterfly, dreaming that I am a man?
Perhaps my whole waking life is
but a moment in a butterfly’s dream!
This is a story of transformation”

One thought on “Zhuangzi and the Butterfly

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  1. Zhuangzi is one of my favorites, I enjoy it so much and whenever I reread it I always get fresh insight. It never gets old to me. There’s so much about it that compliments Laozi, I think any Taoist can benefit in understanding by pairing them.


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