嚴遵這樣的宇宙論，主要上承《老子》、《莊子》與《淮南子》，他的「道體虛無」 思想又下開王弼以「無」釋「道」的思想，他的「萬物自生」 講法又影響郭象。所以《指歸》實可為先秦《老》、《莊》與魏晉玄學之間的銜接問題提供一種思考方向。又因為：《指歸》思想不只承先啟後，同時又具有特定的漢代思想特徵，所以實可作為先秦《老》、《莊》到魏晉玄學之間過渡時期的一種思想形態之例示。;In the history of thought, the discussions on the Dao and the cosmology in the Laozi Zhigui (The Essential Meaning of the Laozi, abbreviated hereafter as Zhigui) are inherited from the pre-Qin Laozi and Zhuangzi, and are transmitted to the Wei-Jin dark teaching, that is, they stand as a shift going from the thoughts of the former toward the letter. Yan Zun is concerned with human life, but in his teaching of the “inter-relation between heaven and humans” Dao is the method for pacifying human life. The method of knowing the Dao is the “response” (ganying). From the observation of the totality of things Yan Zun realizes the “one”, and then from the cosmology traced back in the statement that “Dao gives birth to one” (Laozi, Ch. 42) he infers the Dao. And then, from the “one”, he develops a system of cosmological thought. The discussion on human affairs by Yan Zun derives from the Dao or the cosmology; therefore, if we want to determine the position and value that the Zhigui has in the history of thought, the best approach is to consider in it the discussion on the Dao and the cosmology. Thus, the main investigation of this dissertation is the discussion of the Dao and the cosmology in the Zhigui, as well as the method of realization of the Dao, the response.
This dissertation tries to demonstrate that the transformation of the qi cosmology is based on the Daoist concept of naturalness (ziran). It is because Yan Zun discusses the function of the qi in the process of cosmological creation so that his cosmology is called the “transformation of the qi” (qihua) cosmology. And it is because the object of human “response” is the “emergence of the ten thousand things” as well as the human emergence itself so that his response theory is “natural heaven-and-human response” and not “mystical heaven-and-human response” theory. The meaning of the “response” is “firsthand experience” and not “logical inference”. Not only in his cosmology, but also in his theory of human affairs he emphasizes the “returning to the root” (fanben), “non-action” (wuwei) and naturalness (ziran); thus his cosmology and theory of human affairs are strictly Daoist. Therefore it can be shown that Yan Zun’s cosmology is a cosmology that uses the experiencing of the naturalness as a method to develop a Daoist transformation of the qi cosmology, which can by styled “a natural Daoist transformation of the qi cosmology”.
The cosmology that Yan Zun develops is inherited from the Laozi, the Zhuangzi and the Huainanzi. His teaching that the substance of the Dao is empty is transmitted to Wang Bi who claims that Dao is nothingness; his theory of self-creation of the ten thousand things also influenced Guo Xiang. Thus, Zhigui is a link between the pre-Qin Laozi and Zhuangzi and the Wei-Jin dark teaching, providing a direction of the line of thought. Moreover, the thought of Zhigui does not only continue from the past to the future, also it contains peculiar characteristic of the Han dynasty thought, so it can be considered as a true example of a kind of thought of a transitional period between the pre-Qin and Wei-Jin Daoist thoughts.