Whenever we mention the concept of Tzu-jan* and its common English translation of nature, we too often mistakenly associate it with the notion of the natural world or nature as opposed to man-made civilization. The notion of Tzu-jan in this thesis is developed along the lines of Lao-Tzu’s philosophy as laid out in the Tao Te Ching, especially in connection with the relationship between mankind and the Tzu-jan.
Therefore we must initially consider the backdrop from which Lao-Tzu developed his thought and the focal points of Chinese philosophy as a starting point for our reflections. The starting point for all of Chinese philosophy begins with the concern for the human condition. It considers how people should best live with the resulting thought that is developed from this consideration not merely an abstract theory or doctrine, but something that should become applicable in the pursuit of the best possible life.
Lao-Tzu’s thought was a product of turbulent times and his reaction to them. The Tao Te Ching has thus become one of the classic books of Chinese philosophy and literature. Lao-Tzu nurtured his thought in creating an entirely new outlook to the problems that engulfed his world at the time, providing his and later generations with a completely new thought paradigm as well as a way of resolving age-old problems. Lao-Tzu provided us with a new notion of the ‘Tao’ which became the source of all creation as well as the constant standard in a world of flux. The Tao thus became a metaphysical concept. In developing this thought, Lao-Tzu also set forth the notion that ‘Man models himself after Earth. Earth models itself after Heaven. Heaven models itself after Tao. And Tao models itself after Tzu-jan.” Looking at this line, we see that mankind is placed on terra firm, and we model ourselves simultaneously after the earth and heavens; as the progression continues we thus see the link between mankind and the Tao, which in of itself is Tzu-jan.
In chapter two of this thesis, I take a look at the connotations of the term ‘Tzu-jan’ in trying to uncover Lao-Tzu’s meaning of the term. In the third chapter, I then proceed with finding the connection between Tao and Tzu-jan. This is because we can better understand mankind’s place in Tzu-jan through our place in the Tao, as mankind and Tzu-jan are inseparable. In the fourth chapter, I consider the meaning of Tzu-jan in the realm of human affairs through Lao-Tzu’s notions of ‘wu-wei’（無為）, quietness and weakness in coming to an understanding of the term’s value orientation. In trying to better gauge the meaning of the Tao in its role as a constant standard, we need to understand ‘reversal’(fan反) and ‘return’ (fu復) and the resulting view of life it gives. In the final chapter, we extend the meaning of Tzu-jan and consider Lao-Tzu’s thoughts on civilization as well as his reflections on taking action from which he developed the importance of ‘non-action’ or ‘wu wei’ （無為）. Finally as we are faced with a seeming impasse between humanity and Tzu-jan, I would like to offer possible solutions to help overcome this.
Keywords: Lao-Tzu, Tao, Tzu-jan, Mankind, Tao is Tzu-jan, Reversal (Fan反), Return (Fu復), Non Action (Wu Wei無為), Taking Action (You Wei有為)
* Tzu-jan 為劉述先中文「自然」的音譯直譯，參照劉先生 “The Chinese View of Nature, Naturalness, and Understanding of Nature”.（中國人的自然觀） 收入《中國文化研究所學報》，香港：香港中文大學，第13期（1982），頁238：「The Chinese term of which Nature is a translation is“Tzu-jan,” which first became an important concept in Tao Te Ching.」