The Springhead in a Blooming Peach Grove 1

Wang, Wei    (700 A.D.-761 A.D.)

A fishing boat chasing water loves the mountain in spring.
The peach flowers lining both shores sandwich the ancient ferry crossing.
Because the red trees are everywhere,
The fisherman does not know how far he has traveled.
After he reaches the end of the green creek,
He suddenly encounters a fellow human being.
Seeing him enter a cave, the fisherman follows stealthily.
After they pass a deep, quiet and winding path,
An expanse of flat land suddenly appears.
At a distance the fisherman sees a tree with clouds gathering around its top.
Nearby he enters a neighborhood where flowers and bamboo trees surround every house.
Local people ask him where he comes from.
The fisherman relates to them the history since the Han dynasty 2.
Still dressed in the style of the Qin dynasty,
They are amazed that China has changed so much.
They live together at Wu-ling-yuan 3
And cultivate fields and gardens outside of our material world.
The moon is bright;
The blinds of windows under the pine trees look serene.
The sun rises behind the clouds;
Roosters crow and dogs bark.
After the local people hear of a worldly guest 4 from outside,
They are so surprised that they come thick and fast to see him.
They compete to invite him to their houses
And ask about the current condition of the town
That their ancestors left behind a long time ago.
At dawn people in the alley open their doors to sweep garden paths.
At sunset fishermen and lumberjacks return home by boat.
Their ancestors came here to avoid Qin's tyranny.
After they found this paradise, they decided not to return.
In this canyon who can know of a world outside?
For people outside who see this place at a distance,
It seems only a cloudy and empty mountain.
The fisherman now realizes that this unbelievable enchanted land is real.
However, thoughts f friends and family make him miss his hometown.
After he returns home, he decides to visit here again
Even though there are mountains and waters in between.
The fisherman is confident that he will not get lost.
Who could imagine that the mountains and valleys look completely different now?
All he can remember is that last time he traveled a long distance on the mountain
And followed a zigzag path along the green creek to reach the misty peach grove.
In Spring, waters covered with peach flower petals are everywhere.
He cannot find the right direction to the heavenly springhead.

1 This poem was adapted from Yuan-ming Tao's essay, "The Springhead in a Blooming Peach Grove". According to a comment on his own poetry, Wang wrote this poem at the age of nineteen. It was 720 A.D., a time when China's economy was prosperous and the society was peaceful. This situation was different from the political chaos during Tao's lifetime. Therefore, the ideal society of Tao and that of Wang are different. Tao's essay presents an ideal society close to nature and without political corruption, while Wang's poem presents a Zen style paradise.

2 The ancestors of the local people arrived at Wu-ling-yuan after escaping from the tyranny of the Qin dynasty, a dynasty immediately preceding the Han dynasty.

3 Wu-ling-yuan (yuan means springhead), a.k.a. Tao-hua-yuan (tao means peach; hua means flower), was located at present day Tao-yuan County in Hunan Province.

4 People at Wu-ling-yuan considered themselves to be living in an enchanted land. Therefore, they called a person from outside a worldly guest.