Peter Smith


smith peter pic








Peter Smith

DPhil candidate, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern  Studies



My inspiration to study grew out of an early interest in Daoism and Chinese culture. Following several trips to China, I returned to education as a mature student in 2015, taking a BA in Chinese (Modern and Classical) at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). I continued in this field at the University of Oxford where I completed an MSt in Traditional China. I developed an interest in the commentaries to the Zhuangzi while at SOAS and this has remained at the core of my studies ever since. While pursuing this I have also grown interested in the digital humanities and continue to explore the potential for this within my own work. Outside of my formal studies I enjoy engaging in aspects of journalism and publishing such as editing, typography, photography and layout. I currently volunteer as an editor for the Keppel Health Review

DPhil topic

My research is focused on commentaries to the Zhuangzi, a classic of ancient Chinese literature associated with Daoism. Often humorous and subversive, this text has inspired a range of responses throughout Chinese history. My thesis focuses on the Oral Explanations of the Zhuangzi by the thirteenth-century scholar Lin Xiyi. I argue that Lin’s exegesis marks a shift in the analysis and interpretation of the Zhuangzi. In order to demonstrate this, I will examine some of the distinctive and innovative features of his work. First, I will explore how Lin’s interpretation of the text was influenced by Neo Confucianism, Chan Buddhism and the general intellectual climate of the times. Evidence for this can be seen in his explicit use of Confucian, Buddhist and literary sources to explain the meaning of the text. Second, I will explore Lin’s distinctive approach to literary analysis of the Zhuangzi. His exegesis pays attention to the style of writing as well as the structure of sentences, passages and the text as a cohesive whole. My studies do not focus exclusively on doctrinal or literary concerns, but rather aim to situate Lin Xiyi within the broader field of commentary studies. While exploring the particularities of Lin’s work, I will consider what they reveal about the craft of commentary within the context of Chinese exegetical literature.