Confucian propriety without inequality: A Daoist (and feminist) re-construction. Asian Philosophy (2024
This work is a thought experiment in re-interpreting the virtue of li or ritual/propriety for the contemporary, multi-cultural, world. Using Zhuangzi, the Lunyu, and Zhongyong as my primary points of departure, I re-interpret the Confucian ideas of hierarchy in terms of the Daoist conception of harmony. Many scholars today argue that Confucianism has a relational ontology, yet at the same time, we find that Confucian values can and do lead to rigid and harmful traditions that have historically oppressed marginalized groups like women. As such, I re-imagine what li might look like if we take relational ontology seriously, Drawing from Zhuangzi, I argue that Confucian harmony and order do not necessarily arise out of hierarchy, and that harmony, the most primary goal of li and of the Confucian project, can be best attained through propriety that is influenced by Daoism and feminist values such as equality.


“Freedom In”: A Daoist Response to Isaiah Berlin. Dao 22, 255–275 (2023)
In his seminal essay “Two Concepts of Liberty,” Isaiah Berlin categorized freedom into positive or negative liberty: “freedom to” or “freedom from.” He provided a powerful critique against the metaphysical nature of positive liberty, arguing that it is oppressive, in contrast to the conception of negative freedom, defined as lack of interference. Meanwhile, conversations around the concept of freedom in Daoist philosophy often hover around categorizing it as either positive liberty in its spiritual form—what Berlin calls the “retreat to the inner citadel”—or a type of negative liberty, being free from society’s interference. In this work, I argue that it may instead be more fruitful to explore the Chinese commentarial tradition for two reasons: (1) the problem of Berlin’s liberalist framework is problematic due to its inherently Anglo-European context, and concurrently, (2) there have been rich discussions of the sociopolitical aspects of the Zhuangzi 莊子, especially by its leading Chinese commentator GUO Xiang 郭象, which have not been accounted for. Drawing from GUO Xiang, I render a reading of the concept of “free and easy wandering” (xiaoyao 逍遙) in the Zhuangzi as it directly relates to self-realization (zide 自得) and having no heart-mind (wuxin 無心), which makes for a more holistic understanding of freedom as self-determination. In particular, I argue that freedom in the philosophy of the Zhuangzi can be more aptly understood as “freedom in,” which is more viable and just than both “freedom to” and “freedom from.”


““The Possibility of Moral Cultivation in the Ontological Oblivion: A Re-exploration of Hongzhou School of Chan Buddhism through Guo Xiang,” Philosophia (vol. 22:1, 2021)
Chan Buddhism as we know it today can perhaps be traceable to what is known as the Hongzhou school, founded by Mazu Daoyi.
Although it was Huineng who represented an important turn in the development of Chan with his iconoclastic approach to enlightenment as sudden rather than gradual, it was in Huineng’s successor, Mazu, where we saw its complete radicalization. Specifically, Mazu introduced a radicalized approach of collapsing substance (體 ti) and function (用 yong), as well as principle (理 li) and phenomena (事 shi), into a complete overlap. As a result of this radicalization, the Hongzhou lineage received some strong criticisms, the most important of which was possibly by Guifeng Zongmi, of the Heze lineage. Zongmi criticized Mazu for his supposed antinomianism, claiming that Mazu’s approach completely stunts moral and religious cultivation. Due to their commitment to “suchness” rather than deliberate theory, however, Hongzhou never bothered to answer Zongmi’s critique. As such, it is the goal of this article to utilize Guo Xiang’s philosophy as a tool to understand the implicit Hongzhou response to Zongmi. As I shall demonstrate, his philosophical enterprise shares the same ontology of absolute oblivion which Hongzhou was also predicated upon and is, therefore, a possible alternative to understanding what could have been the Hongzhou response to the alleged antinomianism.
““Guo Xiang’s Ontology of Zide 自得: Self-realization Beyond the Binary Self.” Monumenta Serica: Journal of Oriental Studies (vol. 69:1, 2021)
This article aims to investigate Guo Xiang’s notion of zide (self-realisation) through the framework of his non-linear and non-binary model, which was the result of his successful amalgamation of Confucian and Daoist ideals at a chaotic but also syncretic time in the historical development of Chinese Philosophy. A Neo-Daoist, Guo Xiang tried to distance himself from primitive escapism, but this has led scholars to misunderstand him as a fatalist. Looking at his ontological construction of what consists as zide, however, reveals a profound image of the autonomous self who is, simultaneously and on equal levels, both self-sufficiently independent and in possession of a unified sense of oneness with the universe. This conception of self-realisation thus goes beyond a binary self that is constantly torn between the causal empirical reality and autonomous self-determination.



“The Equal Onto-Epistemology of the 'Equal Discourse of Things' (齊物論 Qiwulun) Chapter: A Semantic Approach.” Tetsugaku: International Journal of the Philosophal Association of Japan (vol. 2, 2018), 282-295.
The齊物論 Qiwulun chapter is perhaps the most controversial and difficut chapter of the Zhuangzi, not only philosophically speaking, but also semantically so. Indeed, precisely because of this semantic difficulty that the chapter proves to be more philosophically challenging. The title itself holds some controversy on whether it should be read as 2-1 or 1-2: the first option being that it is a discussion of the ontological equality of things, while the other option yields to the interpretation that it is an equalizing of the different schools of thought and their discussions thereof, making it a matter of epistomological relevance and an account on the matter of Truth. Needless to say, several sinologists who have translated the text for the Anglophone world have translated this differently. It is thus my aim in this article to shed a fresher Anglophone understanding through translating the chapter as “Equal Onto-Epistomology” which I support by translating—for brevity’s sake—three subsequent passages in Qiwulun which I believe aptly captures three key claims in it, specifically those with regard to philosophy of language, value, and over-all non-relative onto-epistomology. I will then provide a blow by blow interpretation.
What this leads to is the philosophical implication that Zhuangzi was a realist, as he does acknowledge an appropriate position among myriad views: that of the whole as found in the particular, that is, the “fulcrum of Dao,” or 道樞 daoshu. Zhuangzi thus was a realist not only in the sense that he is not beholden to the idea of a romantic Oneness which universalizes all, but also, in the sense that he maintained that there’s an objective world – even though we can’t know it fully, complex and ever-changing as it is.


《易經》與和諧的人之教化:從王弼和韓康伯注中重讀《易經》的宇宙本體論及人的地位 in 治氣養心之術:中國早期的修身方法 (The Arts of Ordering the Body and Developing the Mind: Early Chinese Self-Cultivation Methods), Edited by Paul Fischer. Shanghai: Fudan University Press, 2017, 36-49.
This study is particularly interested in the metaphysics and cosmology of the Yi Jing as it tries explore the configuration of the cosmos in order to find man’s place in it. Indeed, according to Willard Peterson in his commentary of the Xi Ci, the implicit question, which the said 5th and 6th Wings are trying to address, is that: “Given that flux is characteristic of the realm of heaven-and-earth, and within it the realm of human society undergoes movement, then how are we to cope with, or even dwell within, our confusing world of change?” It is thus the very aim of this study to explore these assumptions on a metaphysical basis in order to find what the Yi Jing teaches us about man’s place in the cosmos, and eventually his path towards cultivation. In order to do this, the first part of the article will deal with the metaphysics of the text, that is, the problem of the One and the Many as taken up by the Yi Jing, for it through an analysis of the nature of the cosmos that we may find the underlying emphasis on harmony, which shall be discussed in the next section, specifically that of the heaven-earth-man triad, eventually arriving at the cultivation of man as a creative activity that we ourselves make, for it is this notion which brings humanity back to the center of the cosmos, challenging the contemporary world-view which dwarfs man under the banners of classical science and technology. The philosophy of the Yi Jing, thus, is a nudging reminder of a stalwart humanism which, as On-Cho Ng would put it, “redeems us from the sterile scientific worldview that magnifies our insignificant smallness in the cosmos – a mere speck in geological time, a sheer conglomeration of minute atomic activities,” but also and perhaps more importantly so, from the hedonism which positions the individual man as the center of the universe and arbiter of his own fate, that also so strongly pervades today’s consumerist society.


“The Butterfly Dream and Zhuangzi’s Perspectivism: An Exploration of the Differing Interpretations of the Butterfly Dream against the Backdrop of Dao as Pluralistic Monism.” Kritike: An Online Journal of Philosophy (vol. 10:2, 2016), 100-121.
The Butterfly Dream is probably one of the most well-known anecdotes in philosophical literature, and as such, it has both enjoyed and suffered from several interpretations and misinterpretations. There are much more interpretations of the Butterfly Dream than this study can gloss over, but for the sake of brevity: I divide the two approaches according to how they view the characters in the plot. Specifically speaking, the first group, which for convenience I will call the egoistic thesis, views the plot in such a way that Zhuangzi is Chuang Chou, and that the butterfly is an imagined representation of the mind, while the second group, which for convenience I will call the monistic thesis, holds that Zhuangzi is different from Chuang Chou as well as the butterfly, hence supposing that the butterfly dream is an entirely distinct reality. Albeit seemingly crude, this provides a simple yet insightful view of the premises that prevent one approach from compromising with the other, as well as the crossing over of one interpretation into another which belong to the same approach. Moreover, this approach will allow me to better fulfill the overarching aim of this study, which is to contextualize a specific rendition of the monistic thesis against the backdrop of the philosophy of the Inner Chapters and its notion of Dao as a whole such that the Zhuangzi will emerge more aptly as a perspectivist. In other words, the Butterfly Dream points to what Hans-Georg Moeller terms as “a structure of presence” which, if viewed against the context of Zhuangzi’s philosophy, shows the paradox of the absolute unity but also the absolute singularity of all things.


“The Cultured Man as the Noble Man: Jun zi 君子 as a Man of Li 禮 in Lun yu 論語.” Kritike: An Online Journal of Philosophy (vol. 9:2, 2015), 177-192.
The aim of this article is to show the Confucian virtue of li as the highest embodiment of the Jun zi as found in the Lun yu. While ren remains the most primary and most important of the virtues, it is an inner goodness which can only find its expression or manifestation in the virtue of li, while such manifestation is made possible only through an external ontological ideal that is the virtue of yi. As such, the interplay of ren and yi, which finds its harmony in li, is made possible only through the embodiment of li as a dynamic moral principle given substance by ren and given form by li, and perfected by the Jun zi.