Zhuangzi and Friedrich have some fun
For those who have landed on my blog for the first time: Friedrich, that’s me – at least most of the time, but that’s another story. And first of all: only very few would understand a painting like the one introduced today as Daoist – and yet it is one of my best in this field . So I owe an explanation.
Westerners who become interested in Daoism usually encounter Laozi first . His only work, the Dao De Jing ( Tao Te Ching), is considered THE standard work of Daoism. However, I keep hearing that the book is soon put aside because it is too difficult to understand. Yes, I don’t think it’s the right book for newcomers to Daoism either. Much easier to understand, however, is Zhuang Zi , who is no less important. And, with his short, profound stories, which are also often very funny, he comes much closer to Western thought.
In this context, I ask the esteemed readers to also read the lower part of the article. Why? I would like to know if an article like this one today can basically help you to understand Daosimus more quickly and if there generally is enough interest in this topic. If so, I would write some articles on the subject shortly, covering various aspects of Daoism through painting. If there’s no interest, then there’s no point in me writing about it either, which is just as ok.
The Butterfly – Zhuangzi
In general, anyone who knows Zhuangzi also knows the butterfly’s story. May I repeat it as a reminder:
One night Zhuangzi went to sleep and dreamed that he was a butterfly. He dreamed that he was flying around from flower to flower and while he was dreaming he felt free, blown about by the breeze hither and thither. He was quite sure that he was a butterfly. But when he awoke he realized that he had just been dreaming, and then Zhuangzi asked himself the following question: “was I Zhuangzi dreaming to be a butterfly, or am I now really a butterfly dreaming that I am Zhuangzi?”
Of course, the story is about the dissolution of the dualist concept of subjective and objective. Not only does he soften the dividing line between subjective and objective perception, he even goes one step further by having Zhuangzi and the butterfly switch places, that is, swapping subject and object.
The Goldfish – Friedrich
Once upon a time, there was an old goldfish who suffered from rheumatism because of the damp, cold water. One night he dreamed that he had left his pond and lived like a bird in a tree, flying through the air and letting the summer wind blow through his feathers while he looked at the flowers from above. When he awoke…well, the rest of the story is clear.
When the painter finished this picture it was well past midnight and he went to bed. Now, at this point, it is still not entirely clear whether Friedrich was joking by paraphrasing Zhuangzi’s famous story or whether it is Zhuangzi who wrote this blog post and published it – IN THE VERY NOW 
Well, when I wake up again I might know….
 In general, what we associate with Taoist painting are paintings made with ink on rice paper, which use paint very sparingly. But as a painter of the 21st century, I allow myself to break new ground.
Recommended short article: https://carleycrow.wordpress.com/2016/12/01/daoism-in-chinese-art/
 Laozi (Chinese: 老子, commonly translated as “Old Master”), also rendered as Lao Tzu or Lao-Tze proper name Li Er, courtesy name Boyang, was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, the founder of philosophical Taoism, and a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions.
 Zhuang Zhou commonly known as Zhuangzi (莊子; literally “Master Zhuang”) was an influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BCE during the Warring States period, a period of great development in Chinese philosophy, the Hundred Schools of Thought . He is credited with writing—in part or in whole—a work known by his name, the Zhuangzi, which is one of the foundational texts of Taoism.
A famous work partly by his hand is also called “Zhuangzi“. In the course of the veneration of Zhuang Zhou as a Daoist saint in 742 under Emperor Xuanzong, it also received the honorary title “The True Book of the Southern Blossom Land” (南華眞經 / 南华真经, Nánhuā zhēnjīng, abbreviated 南華經 / 南华经, Nánhuājīng). Together with the Daodejing, it is regarded as the main work of Daoism, although a Daoist institution at the time of the Zhuangzi cannot be proven. The writing is regarded as one of the most beautiful, interesting, and difficult literary works in Chinese intellectual history
 “The simple goal of Zen is to be here and now. It is the only place and time we have to live, to play, eat, laugh, love.
Considered project for my readers
As indicated at the beginning, if there is a certain general interest, I would be glad to put together a few articles that deal with the topics of Dao and Zen. Why the two are often lumped together will become clear as the articles progress.
Today we started with Zhuangzi, most of all with the aspect of Subjective vs. Objective. If we have understood this topic fundamentally, we have already taken a big step into Daoism. By discussing and explaining other areas in further postings, ideally not only should the matter of Daoism become more understandable for the reader, but also the perspective on abstract painting should be enriched by one or the other facet.
Am I a Daoist or Zen Buddhist? The question does not arise, since these terms are meaningless. According to the motto: “The path is the goal” I have been on this path for around 50 years. Or I look at the flowers nearby. In any case, it’s a beautiful path that I wouldn’t want to miss. Of course, there are times when I meditate more, but my favorite philosophical practices are calligraphy and painting. Both are essential aspects of Daoism and Zen.
When I first came across Zen 50 years ago, it was a mind-blowing experience – although I understood next to nothing. And the same thing happened to me when I later read Lao Zi’s Dao Dejing for the first time. And I know a few people who have had the same experience. Since then, I have not only read a great deal about it and dealt with this area in great detail in my dissertation. Since then I have given several lectures and painted many pictures that work according to Daoist principles – even if this may not always be so clear at first glance.
Correctness of my statements?:
The term “correct” does not arise for the advanced Dao/Zen devotee, since there can basically be no right and wrong. We’ll get to that later on. My considerations can no more and no less only reflect MY state of consciousness and could therefore not be objectively correct – if we should still argue on this level. It is the sum of experiences made through reading, conversations with people who are more advanced than I am, meditation on the topic, and thus reflection. And most of all experiencing it in e.g the process of painting or calligraphy.
Even if I can’t offer any “truths”, I will try to cover the core issues in an understandable way. In a way, it would have been called “Dao for Blondes” 20-30 years ago 😊
So please let me know your thoughts. (There is no catch. The software is from wordpress and I can’t read any information apart from yes/no).
Some readers have already dealt with the topic of Daosimus to a greater extent. For some, it is still quite new and we have had different experiences and gained knowledge with it anyhow. Ideally, no one will be under-challenged and no one will be overwhelmed by these articles. If one or the other is incomprehensible, it doesn’t matter at all. Much will become clearer over time. I will also consciously refrain from being too academic. These are my personal considerations and understanding, but of course, they are not made out of thin air.
practical exercise with today’s painting
Actually, I initially had something else in mind with this painting: to paint a haiku picture. Haiku 俳句 is strictly a literary form. But it seemed appealing to me to transfer the essence of a Haiku to the painting in a new way. And unlike the Japanese form of Haiga 俳画, which is always part of a poem, a kind of illustration that cannot and does not want to be viewed as an independent image.
Ways to see the painting:
The nice thing about abstract painting is that it gives the viewer a lot of freedom to let their own imagination come into play. How this is seen from a traditional Chinese point of view would be another future blog post. My way of seeing it:
1) As already mentioned, this painting is about understanding that dualistic thinking is tricky and cannot lead to the highest level of knowledge (more next time). The picture plays with Zhuangzi’s considerations and reflections as stated above. In a playful way, I then furthermore swapped subjectivity and objectivity in relation to the characters Zhuangzi and Friedrich too.
2) Everything comes from nothing and is therefore contained in NOTHING. (This is one of the most difficult philosophical principles in Zen to understand at first.) A flower that appears out of nothing can bring forth fruit, and the seed of the fruit again contains both the tree and the nothing. It not only carries the entire life cycle of birth, life, and death, but also the highest principle: that it has an appearance (created from our thoughts), but is only part of the “absolute nothingness”.
Light and darkness are not opposites. Because they are interdependent, they are identical – as they are part of the same. Only our thinking makes the distinctions.
3) The tree too, like all manifestations, exists only in our consciousness. No consciousness – no tree. Only our consciousness creates thoughts and so we attribute properties and qualities to these thoughts, which, however, only arose from our thoughts and are therefore subjective. It’s raining: Me: “Too bad, I wanted to go on a trip”. Farmer: “Finally! We’ve waited that long.”
Another Daoist aspect is to show an object – like the tree here – in its essence and not in its appearance. Ideally, the “tree” should be abstracted in the depiction and yet have the very appearance of a tree.
I have already posted several articles on different principles of Chinese painting. You can find them under ART THEORY. I would like to particularly emphasize the following articles because they are helpful for what we are discussing today: Nothing, the Void (1), Zha Shibiao and Mu Qi’s 6 Persimmons.