Tao, Yuan-ming [ 陶淵明 ] (365-427 CE)
We did not know where he came from. We did not know his name. There were five
willow trees beside his house, so we called him Mr. Five-willow-trees. He was
quiet and did not speak much. He did not envy those with fame or wealth. He
loved to study, but he hated to go into details. When he had an epiphany from
reading a book, he often forgot to eat his regular meals. He loved wine, but he
was poor, so he could not drink frequently. His relatives and friends understood
his condition; sometimes they would prepare wine and invite him to drink. Once
he started drinking, he would consume all the wine he could, looking forward to
becoming drunk. After he was drunk, he would leave as the whim struck him. He
never allowed considerations of etiquette or tradition to change his mind. The
walls in his house were worn down and could not shelter him from wind or sun.
His rough clothes were darned and patched. In his kitchen the bamboo bowl
and the gourd ladle 2 were usually empty. However, he was quite
content with what he had. He often wrote essays to amuse himself. The essays
showed his moral philosophy, but he did not care about success. He lived this
way all his life.
Hermit Lou Qian said, "Do not worry about poverty; do not rush to pursue
power and wealth." Does his description apply to Mr. Five-willow-trees? Given
that he drank wine and spoke poetry to fulfill his ideals, shall we consider Mr.
Five-willow-trees a follower of Emperor Wu-huai-shi? Shall we consider him a
follower of Emperor Ge-tian-shi 3?
A bamboo bowl was a small container to hold cooked rice.
A gourd ladle was a gourd cut in half used for drinking water.
3 Wu-huai-shi and Ge-tian-shi were ancient emperors of
China. Their leadership was based on their service rather than conquest or
social structure. For example, they taught people to farm, prevent floods, and
use herbs as medicine. Therefore, their people could fully enjoy nature and