Zhi Dun on Freedom: Synthesizing Daoism and Buddhism

Ellen Ying Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Zhi Dun was a well-known “gentleman-monk” during the Eastern Jin period. As an adept of Xuanxue, Zhi specialized in the method of exegesis concerning the Mahayanic understanding of prajna, based on the idea of “New Buddhist Mysteries”, a form of synthetic reconstruction of Buddhism and Xuanxue. In this chapter, I will explicate how Zhi’s appropriation of Zhuangzi’s idea of “free rambling” is influenced by his understanding of Buddhism, and how it marked Zhi’s argument on the relationship between Zhuangzi’s self-so-ness and the Buddhist doctrine of “the identity of emptiness with form.” For Zhi Dun, the Daoist idea of freedom, or “free rambling in the mysterious” should be understood as being fully engaged in the immediacy of individual things while at the same time having a non-attached mind during such dealing. I will conclude the chapter by contending that Zhi Dun has transformed “Daoist mysteries” into “Buddhist mysteries” when he uses the Buddhist concept of emptiness-qua-dependent-origination to understand the Daoist ideas of no-thing-ness, no-trace, and no-mind.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDao Companion to Xuanxue 玄學 (Neo-Daoism)
EditorsDavid Chai
PublisherSpringer Cham
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9783030492281
ISBN (Print)9783030492304, 9783030492274
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020

Publication series

NameDao Companions to Chinese Philosophy
ISSN (Print)2211-0275
ISSN (Electronic)2542-8780

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Philosophy
  • History

User-Defined Keywords

  • freedom
  • nothingness/emptiness
  • Zhi Dun
  • Zhuangzi
  • ziran


Dive into the research topics of 'Zhi Dun on Freedom: Synthesizing Daoism and Buddhism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this