Tao, Yuan-ming 1 [ 陶淵明 ] (372-427 CE)
My yard is turning into a wilderness. It is time for me to go home to take
care of it. I no longer feel upset since I realize that it is not worthwhile to
enslave my mind to earn a living. Although I cannot change my past, I can still
pursue a new life. Let bygones be bygones! Fortunately, I have not gotten in too
deep. I resolve to correct my mistakes in the future.
The canoe glides lightly, driven by easy strokes. The breeze is blowing my
clothes. After landing at my home town, I ask a passerby for directions to my
home. It is dawn. I hate that the sunlight is not bright enough for me to hurry.
Upon seeing my house, I start to run with great joy as if I were bringing back
bountiful gifts for my family. The servants welcome me home and my child is
waiting at the door. The paths in my garden have become covered with many weeds.
However, the pine trees and chrysanthemums still endure. Holding my child's
hand, I enter the house. There is a crock brimming with wine. I pick up a
pitcher and a glass, and begin to drink. With tilted head, I study a branch in
my yard to amuse myself. By leaning against the southern window, I regain my
freedom. Now I finally realize that peace and happiness can also be found in a
small place like my room. Over time, I become fascinated with my daily walks in
the garden. Although my house has a door, it is often closed. I love to walk
with a cane and then take a rest as I please. Oftentimes I crane my neck to
enjoy the view. Clouds depart from mountain valleys without a destination. Birds
fly back to their nest after an exhausting day. It is getting dark. The sun has
almost set, but I still cherish the solitary pine tree 2 and linger,
reluctant to leave.
Since returning home, I have stopped socializing altogether. I have no
interest in advancing my station and feel no need to flatter and impress others.
The only social interaction I enjoy is conversing with my relatives. The joy I
derive from my zither and my books eliminates my sorrows. Farmers tell me that
Spring has arrived and we should cultivate the western field. Sometimes we drive a
curtained wagon, and sometimes we paddle a canoe. We might visit a deep canyon
or traverse a rugged mountain path. The trees are flourishing luxuriantly and
the spring trickles to start a river. I admire how everything adapts to the
season so well. This inspires me to think about what I should and should not do
with my life.
Let it be. How long can our bodies last in this world? Why don't we take it
easy and let things run their course? Where do we want to go? Why are we so
anxious? Wealth and power are not my desire. The heavenly village is beyond my
reach 3. I cherish a nice day to travel alone or go to my field with
a cane to weed and plant seedlings. Sometimes I go up to the east river bank and
shout to release my frustration. Sometimes I look out over the river and
improvise poetry. Since natural changes must lead to an end, why should I
hesitate to accept my destiny happily?
Qian and Yuan-liang were Yuan-ming Tao's alternate first names. He was a native
of Chai-sang City (present day Jiu-jiang-xian City of Jiangxi Province) in Xun-yang
County. His friends gave him a posthumous name, Jing-jie (integrity). His
character was noble and unsullied. He did not desire fame or fortune. Tao was
the Mayor of Peng-ze City, but he resigned his position shortly after he assumed office. He said, "I
should not bow for five bushels of rice and I will not serve base people in my
hometown with eagerness and enthusiasm." Of all the reclusive pastoral poets,
Yuan-ming Tao is the most famous.
A pine tree can endure the cold and remain green in winter, so it is used
to symbolize those who can endure hardship and stand unyielding in their
The chapter titled "The Heavens and the Earth" in Zhuang-zi [
莊子 ] written by Zhou Zhuang (ca. 369-286 BCE) says,
"Riding that white cloud, they reach the heavenly village."