Material fetters and spiritual transcendence : Zhuang Zi and environmental thought

Document Type

Book chapter

Source Publication

Environment, Modernization and Development in East Asia: Perspectives from Environmental History

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



Palgrave Macmillan UK


In basic earthly terms, the environmental question is a matter of maintaining Nature in a balanced state of health and harmony, of preserving the inherent integrity of the environment and its capacity to support all forms of life and matter emerging in a transformational process. From the early days of civilization, however, human beings have locked themselves in a spiral of deepening materialism, engendering and exacerbating environmental problems through ever-intensifying activities of overproduction and over-consumption. While animals also cause damage to the environment out of existential needs like grazing and loosening soil, few living things have gone beyond Nature’s capacity to heal and rebalance itself, and none has damaged Nature in the gratuitous manner of human acts of needless and pointless extravagance. It is obvious that the environmental crisis cannot be addressed on the material level alone, for mankind’s material overindulgence is itself rooted in a deeper spiritual disorder.



Publisher Statement

Copyright © Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2016. Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

Additional Information

ISBN of the source publication: 9781349848034

Full-text Version

Publisher’s Version



Recommended Citation

Kwong, Y.-t. C. (2016). Material fetters and spiritual transcendence: Zhuang Zi and environmental thought. In T.-j. Liu, J. Beattie (Eds.), Environment, Modernization and Development in East Asia (pp. 251-269). doi: 10.1007/978-1-137-57231-8_11