Taoist Philosophy in Chinese Science Fiction: A Comparison between Zhuangzi and Broken Stars

Aiqing Wang(1*)

(1) University of Liverpool
(*) Corresponding Author


Chinese science fiction has been attaining global visibility since Liu Cixin’s trilogy entitled Remembrance of Earth’s Past. The trilogy’s English translator Liu Yukun has edited and rendered a science-fiction anthology that comprises sixteen novellas composed by fourteen Chinese novelists. Apart from a fecundity of imagination and richness of imagery-evoking depictions, narratives compiled in the anthology also epitomise Taoist philosophy conveyed in Zhuangzi, a Warring States (475-221 BC) treatise ascribed to an illustrious philosopher Zhuangzi. Philosophical constructs in the anthology can be exemplified by quintessential construals such as ‘non-action’, ‘resting in destiny’ and ‘self-so’, as well as mindset appertaining to temporal and aesthetic issues.  


Ken Liu; speculative fiction; time travel; non-action

Full Text:



Alter, A. (2019). Why Is Chinese Sci-Fi Everywhere Now? Ken Liu Knows. New York Times. 06 December 2019. https://cn.nytimes.com/culture/20191206/ken-liu-three bodyproblem-chinese-science-fiction/dual/.

Ames, R. T. (2001). The Local and the Focal in Realizing a Daoist World. In N. Girardot, J. Miller & X. Liu X (ed.) Daoism and Ecology: Ways within a Cosmic Landscape (pp. 265-322). Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Bai, S. (2016). Award-Winning Sci-Fi Writer Ken Liu On Labels, Authenticity, and Juggling Two Careers. NBC News. 8 March 2016. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/award-winning-scifi-writer-ken-liu-labels-authenticity-juggling-n533586.

Baoshu. (2015). 大时代 Dashidai [What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear]. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction March-April.

Barnwell, S. A. (2013). The Evolution of the Concept of De 德 in Early China. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Sino-Platonic Papers 235.

Bostrom, N. (2016). Are You in a Computer Simulation? In S. Schneider (ed.) Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.

Buswell, R. E. Jr & D. S. Lopez Jr. (2013). Buddhābhiṣeka. In The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (pp. 150). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Chan, A. (2000). The Daode jing and its tradition. In L. Kohn (ed.) Daoism Handbook (pp. 1-29). Leiden, Boston and Koln: Brill.

Chan, A. (2010). Introduction. In A. K. L. Chan & Y.-K. Lo (ed.) Philosophy and Religion in Early Medieval China (pp. 1-22). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Chan, A. (2018). Laozi. In E. N. Zalta (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/laozi/.

Chao, X. (2015). 陈楸帆: 对科幻创作, 着迷于介于不同类型间的模糊与 游离 Chen Qiufan: Dui kehuan chuangzuo, zhaomiyu jieyu butong leixingjiande mohu yu youli [Chen Qiufan: The creation of science fiction focuses on blurred boundaries between different types]. China Writer. 23 October 2015. http://www.chinawriter.com.cn/news/2015/2015-10-


Chen, N. (1997a). The Concept of Fate in Mencius. Philosophy East & West,47.4, 495-520.

Chen, N. (1997b). The Genesis of the Concept of Blind Fate in Ancient China. Journal of Chinese Religions, 25, 141-67.

Chen, Q. (2012). 未来病史 Weilai bingshi [A History of Future Illnesses]. 文 艺风赏 Wenyi Fengshang April-December.

Chen, Q. (2015). 开光 Kaiguang [Coming of the Light]. 离线•黑 客 Lixian•Heike [Offline•Hacker] January.

China Daily. (2015). China’s Arthur C. Clarke. China Daily. 24 August 2015. https://language.chinadaily.com.cn/2015 08/24/content_21688078_2.htm.

China Daily. (2019). Liu Cixin. China Daily. 18 April 2019. http://shanxi.chinadaily.com.cn/yangquan/201904/18/c_356401.htm.

Coutinho, S. (2016). Zhuangzi and Early Chinese Philosophy: Vagueness, Transformation and Paradox. London and New York: Taylor & Francis Group.

D’Ambrosio, P. J. (2016). Wei-Jin Period Xuanxue ‘Neo-Daoism’: Re-working the Relationship Between Confucian and Daoist Themes. Philosophy Compass, 11, 621-631.

Dong, M. (2020). 科幻作家陈楸帆: AI 写作时代的到来, 会终结科幻吗? Kehuan zuojia Chen Qiufan: AI xiezuo shidaide daolai, hui zhongjie kehua ma [Science-fiction writer Chen Qiufan: Will the arrival of AI era end science fiction?]. Beijing News. 28 August 2020.


Fan, J. (2019). Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds: A leading sci-fi writer takes stock of China’s global rise. The New Yorker. 17 June 2019. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/06/24/liu-cixins-warof-the-worlds.

Fraser, C. (2011). Emotion and Agency in Zhuangzi. Asian Philosophy, 21.1, 97-121.

Global Times. (2015). The future of Chinese sci-fi: An interview with China’s first Hugo Award winner: Liu Cixin. Global Times. 30 August 2015. https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/939761.shtml.

Graham, A. C. (1989). Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China. La Salle, Ill.: Open Court Publishing Company.

Gu, B. (2020). 宝树访谈: 科幻作家眼中的瘟疫 Baoshu fangtan: Kehuan zuojia yanzhongde wenyi [An interview with Baoshu: Plague in the eyes of a science-fiction writer]. China Writer. 14 April 2020.


Gu, S. (2013). 倒影 Daoying [Reflection]. 超好看 Chaohaokan [Super Nice Magazine] July.

Hansen, C. (2014). Zhuangzi. In E. N. Zalta (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/zhuangzi/.

Henriksen, E. (2019). Broken Stars Gives a Tantalizing Glimpse of All That Chinese Science Fiction Has to Offer. Tor. 25 February 2019. https://www.tor.com/2019/02/25/book-reviews-broken-stars-anthology-ken-liu/.

Kirkland, R. (2004). Taoism: The Enduring Tradition. London: Routledge.

Kohn, L. (2014). Zhuangzi: Text and Context. St Petersburg: Three Pines Press.

Kupperman, J. (1993). Zhuangzi on Skepticism, Skill, and the Ineffable Dao. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 61.4, 639-954.

Ivanhoe, P. J. (1996). Was Zhuangzi a Relativist? In P. Kjellberg & P. J. Ivanhoe (ed.) Essays on Skepticism, Relativism, and Ethics in the Zhuangzi (pp. 196-214). Albany: State University of New York Press.

Lenehan, K. (2020). Zhuangzi’s discourse on ‘contented acceptance of fate’and its relation to catastrophe. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 52(6),1-12.

Li, W. (2015). 中国科幻作家刘慈欣凭《三体》获雨果奖 Zhonguo kehuan zuojia Liu Cixin ping Santi huo yuguojiang [A Chinese sciencefiction writer Liu Cixin won a Hugo Award with The three-body problem]. BBC News. 23 August 2015.



Liu, C. (2009). 月夜 Yueye [Moonlight]. 生活 Shenghuo [Life] February.

Liu, K. (2016). Introduction: China dreams. In Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, Ed and Trans, Ken Liu. Tor Books.

Liu, K. (2019). Ed and Trans. Broken Stars: Sixteen Stories from the New Frontiers of Chinese Science Fiction. London: Head of Zeus.

Liu, X. (1994). Classifying the Zhuangzi Chapters. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Liu, X. (2015a). Did Taoism have a founder? Textual issues of the Laozi. In X. Liu (ed.) Dao Companion to Daoist Philosophy (pp. 25-46). New York and London: Springer.

Liu, X. (2015b). Zhuangzi’s Philosophy: A Three Dimensional Reconstruction. In X. Liu (ed.) Dao Companion to Daoist Philosophy (pp.193-220). New York and London: Springer.

Liu, X. (2015c). Textual issues in the Zhuangzi. In X. Liu (ed.) Dao Companion to Daoist Philosophy (pp. 129-158). New York and London: Springer.

Lynn, R. J. (2016). Trans. Zhuangzi: A New Translation of the Daoist Classic as Interpreted by Guo Xiang. New York: Columbia University Press.

Mair, V. (2000). The Zhuangzi and its impact. In L. Kohn (ed.) Daoism

Handbook (pp. 30-52). Leiden, Boston and Koln: Brill.

Moeller, H.-G. (2003). Idiotic Irony in the Zhuangzi. Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews, 30, 117-123.

Moeller, H.-G. (2004). Daoism Explained: From the Dream of the Butterfly to the Fishnet Allegory. La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing.

Myers, R. E. (1983). Introduction: Exploring the Exploration. In R. E. Myers(ed.) The Intersection of Science Fiction and Philosophy: Critical Studies (pp. ixxvi). Westport, Connecticut and London: Greenwood Press.

Nadeau, R. L. (2014). Asian Religions: A Cultural Perspective. Malden and Oxford: John Wiley & Sons.

Nylan, M. (1993). The Canon of Supreme Mystery. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Peerenboom, R. P. (1993). Law and Morality in Ancient China: The Silk Manuscripts of Huang-Lao. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Poo, M.-c. (2005). How to Steer through Life: Negotiating Fate in the

Daybook. In C. Lupke (ed.) The Magnitude of Ming: Command, Allotment, and Fate in Chinese Culture (pp. 107-125). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Radice, T. (2001). Clarity and Survival in the Zhuangzi. Asian Philosophy, 11.1,33-40.

Raphals, L. (2003). Fate, Fortune, Chance, and Luck in Chinese and Greek:A Comparative Semantic History. Philosophy East & West, 53.4, 537-74.

Raphals, L. (2005). Languages of Fate: Semantic Fields in Chinese and Greek.In C. Lupke (ed.) The Magnitude of Ming: Command, Allotment, and Fate in Chinese Culture (pp. 70-106). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Schneider, S. (2016). Introduction Thought Experiments: Science Fiction as a Window into Philosophical Puzzles. In S. Schneider (ed.) Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.

Schwartz, B. (1985). The World of Thought in Ancient China. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Shen, J. (2020). 科幻作家陈楸帆: 2020 思考了什么 Kehuan zuojia Chen Qiufan: 2020 sikaole shenme [Science-fiction writer Chen Qiufan: What I’ve thought in 2020]. China Youth Daily. 24 November 2020. http://www.chinawriter.com.cn/n1/2020/1124/c405057-31941687.html.

Shun, K.-L. (1997). Mencius and Early Chinese Thought. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Waley, A. (2005). The Way and Its Power: A Study of the Tao Tê Ching and Its Place in Chinese Thought. London and New York: Routledge.

Watson, B. (1968). Trans. The complete works of Chuang Tzu. New York: Columbia University Press.

Watson, M. (2015). Bao Shu. What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear.(Fantasy and Science Fiction Mar/Apr 2015). Best SF. 15 June 2015. http://bestsf.net/bao-shu-what-has-passed-shall-in-kinder-lightappear-fantasy-and-science-fiction-marapr-2015/.

Wong, D. B. (2005). Zhuangzi and the Obsession with Being Right. History of Philosophy Quarterly, 22.2, 91-108.

Wu, A. (2014). 宇宙尽头的餐馆腊八粥 Yuzhou jintoude canguan labazhou [The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: Laba Porridge]. 最小说 Zui Xiaoshuo [Zui Novel] May.

Wu, K.-m. (1982). Chuang-tzu: World Philosopher at Play. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Yu, X. (2021). 后人类时代的潮汕——陈楸帆科幻中的故乡书写 Hourenlei shidaide Chaoshan—Chen Qiufan kehuan zhongde guxiang shuxie [Chaoshan area in the post-human era—Hometown representation in Chen Qiufan’s science-fiction works]. Yangtze Jiang

Literary Review. 16 August 2021. http://www.chinawriter.com.cn/n1/2021/0816/c404080-32194049.html.

Zhang, D. (2002). Key Concepts in Chinese Philosophy. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

Zhang, J. (2016).《三体》《北京折叠》译者刘宇昆: 两次获得 “雨果 奖” Santi Beijing zhedie yizhe Liu Yukun: Liangci huode Yuguojiang [The translator of The three-body problem and Folding Beijing: Liu Yukun has won Hugo Award twice]. Huaxi Dushi Bao. 31 August 2016.


Zhang, R. (2014). 晋阳三尺雪 Jinyang Sanchixuan [The Snow of Jinyang].新科幻 Xinkehuan [New Science Fiction] January.

Zhao, Y. (2012). 科幻最高双奖得主刘宇昆: 受严歌苓影响写就东方色 彩 Kehuan zuigao shuangjiang dezhu Liu Yukun: Shou Yan Geling yingxiang xiejiy dongfang secai [Winner of the highest science-fiction award Liu Yukun: Oriental representation influenced by Yan Geling]. China Writer. 27 September 2012.



Zhao, Y. (2019). 中国当代科幻小说选集《碎星星》推出英文版 Zhongguo dangdai kehuan xiaoshuo xuanji Suixingxing tuichu yingwenban [The English version of contemporary Chinese sciencefiction collection Broken stars has been released]. Shenzhen Economic Daily. 27 February 2019. http://www.kaoping.org/news/201902/376469.html.

Article Metrics

Abstract view : 147 times
PDF - 1 times

DOI: https://doi.org/10.26714/lensa.11.2.2021.237-251


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Lensa: Kajian Kebahasaan, Kesusastraan, dan Budaya

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Lensa: Kajian Kebahasaan, Kesusastraan, dan Budaya is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0



Lensa: Kajian Kebahasaan, Kesusastraan, dan Budaya (Lensa)
p-ISSN: 2086-6100; e-ISSN: 2503-328X
Published by: Faculty of Foreign Language and Culture,Universitas Muhammadiyah Semarang


Member of: