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What is Laozi's Ziran? Ancient Texts and Modern Implications

A talk by Liu Xiaogan

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
10367 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

It is a generally accepted that ziran (“naturalness”) is an essential concept in the Laozi or Daoism. However, the meaning of ziran in the Laozi isless clear. Does it refer to the natural world? Or does it characterize the biological world? Is it a description of biophysical nature? Or a primitivist state? Perhaps it is Thomas Hobbes' “state of nature”? Or is it opposed to human civilization? Or is it useful for improving human social life? Can we accept all of these ideas as equally “creative” understandings or interpretations of ziran? This lecture tries to present a new interpretation based on a close textual analysis of the Laozi, including a comparison of the received versions and recently excavated bamboo and silk versions of the text.

In addition to textual and historical approaches, the lecture will also discuss the possible implications and application of the concept of ziran in modern society, a world full of value conflicts.

Liu Xiaogan (PhD, Beijing University) is Professor of Philisophy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research interests include the hermeneutical tradition in Chinese philosophy; Daoism; pre-Ch'in philosophy; ancient literature, bamboo slips and silk scriptures. Among his publications is Taoism and Ecology: Ways within a Cosmic Landscape, co-editor and contributer (Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions, 2001).

1947年河南生人,在天津讀小學,1968年到內蒙古插隊落戶,1973年入讀內蒙古師範學院中文系,1978年考入北京大學哲學 系師從張岱年讀研究生,1985年獲博士學位並留校任講師、副教授。1988年赴美國,先後於密西根大學、哈佛大學、普林斯頓大學東亞系、宗教系、哈佛燕 京學社任訪問學員、講師、研究員。1993年赴新加坡國立大學中文系任高級講師、副教授,2001年起擔任香港中文大學哲學系教授,後出任中國哲學與文化 研究中心主任。

Richard Gunde
310 825-8683

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies

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