Yangsheng 養生 as ‘making a living’ in the Zhuangzi

Kevin J. Turner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


The story of the butcher Pao Ding is one of the best known from the Zhuangzi 莊子. The key concept in this story is yangsheng 養生. This has been understood as involving the preservation of life through various methods of cultivation. However, one insightful perspective has yet to be considered: work. This article sets the stage for understanding yangsheng in terms of work by appealing to Western and Eastern understandings thereof. It then locates the Zhuangzi in contemporary discourse on yangsheng showing that it rejects that concerned with regulating the senses in search of life and accepts that concerned with the activities constitutive of livelihoods. This article then analyzes the relationship between sheng 生 and xing 性 to show that yangsheng is best understood as ‘making a living’ that emerges in the process of individual and collective lives as they unfold in various contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-63
Number of pages14
JournalAsian Philosophy
Issue number1
Early online date8 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy

User-Defined Keywords

  • Pao Ding
  • work
  • xing性
  • yangsheng養生
  • Zhuangzi


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