Forgetfulness and Flow: “Happiness” in Zhuangzi’s Daoism

Ellen Y. Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


In this paper, I will approach Zhuangzi’s notion of happiness or a well-lived life by ascribing to his concepts of forgetfulness and flow. The paper aims to show that Zhuangzi’s idea of flow, from an experience-process perspective, resembles a certain aspect of the flow defined by Csíkszentmihályi’s motivational psychology, but it is more complicated and more difficult to be conceptualized due to the employment of negative expressions in his philosophy. Zhuangzi’s claim that “The perfect happiness is derived from the absence of happiness” designates two key arguments: (1) Happiness cannot be designed and measured, and (2) There is no single fixed notion of happiness and meaning-making. In conclusion, I attempt to show that flow experiences, in the context of Zhuangzi’s Daoism, point to a fluid and creative mind that transcends the rigidity of conventional mores and life patterns so that a person can respond to the world of flux more effectively and happily.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-84
Number of pages8
JournalScience, Religion and Culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


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