By Alan Watts and Al Chung-Liang Huang
This book is a 1975 non-fiction book on Taoism and philosophy, and is Alan Watts' last book. It was published posthumously in 1975 with the collaboration of Al Chung-liang Huang, who also contributed a preface and afterword, and with additional calligraphy by Lee Chih-chang.
This short book (five chapters, with a Preface, Bibliography, etc.) provides a distillation of Watt's view of Taoism accompanied by historical information. Linguistic issues are highlighted and calligraphic samples of many of the cited Chinese texts are included. As described in Huang's Preface, Watts had planned two further chapters showing how Taoism could be "medicine for the ills of the West," but these were unwritten at the time of Watts' death in 1973.
A gaily highhanded, epicurean book, as Watts was increasingly inclined to produce in his later years, and boxed in as it is between collaborator Al Chung-liang Huang's worshipful and pained fore- and afterwords, it is a gem to remember Watts by.
As Huang explains, the text was allowed to write itself, in the spirit of the Tao, which means in practice that a footnote can be omitted and the interpretive tendency is latitudinarian; and Watts takes care to beg off as a scholar ("... meticulous explorations of cultural anthropology have their virtue, but I am more interested in how these ancient writings reverberate on the harp of my own brain, which has, of course, been tuned to the scales of Western culture" – la!).
Yet there is a flamboyant and fascinating display of learning (more interesting than the fine Western tuning, which pulls its strongest signals from the 1960's) and complex indications of a personality that seems to have resisted inner pacification.
Lively, sweeping momentum, with ideograms by Huang, bibliography and streamlined notes. Good introduction to the Tao.
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