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Miscellaneous 1

Tao, Yuan-ming (365-427 CE)


Human life has no roots.
It drifts like dust on a path between fields.
A human body is different from a heavenly one 2.
People scatter like dust blown by the wind.
As we settle on the ground,
We should treat each other like brothers
Even if we are not relatives.
We should enjoy ourselves on an occasion of celebration
And share our wine with neighbors.
Our best years will not return.
Morning comes only once each day.
We should strive to fulfill our dreams.
Time does not wait for us.


A man should have lofty aspirations.
I wish I could be unaware that I am getting old.
My family and relatives live in the same village and assist each other.
At dawn I prepare wine and music for the day.
The wine in my cup never runs dry.
I loosen my belt to enjoy myself to the utmost.
I often go to bed early and rise late.
I am not like a contemporary official
Whose mind is filled with ice and burning charcoal 3.
After one hundred years one will return to a mound 4.
What is the use of vanity?


The sun and the moon are reluctant to slow their paces.
The four seasons press upon each other.
The chilly wind brushes withered branches.
Fallen leaves cover the long road.
My feeble body declines with age.
My black hair turned gray a long time ago.
My white hair is a sign that there are not many days left for me.
My home seems like a hotel that shelters me as a traveler.
I feel like a guest about to leave the hotel.
Where is my destination?
It is my family graveyard by Lu Mountain.


I love being a farmer rather than an official.
Although I work hard on my farm,
I frequently suffer cold and hunger
And have to eat rice husks and drink the dregs of wine.
I do not wish to live a life with more than necessities.
I only wish that my family could eat its fill.
I would be content
If my family could have coarse cloth to prepare for winter
And linens to accommodate to the scorching sun.
I lament that even this small wish cannot be fulfilled.
Everyone else is properly provided for.
It is only I who does not know how to make a living.
A man with integrity often suffers hardship in his life.
I should enjoy life with wine
Rather than lament my doomed fate.


I live freely and leisurely at home.
Time flies and will not wait for us.
I recall that my previous jobs never allowed me to rest.
I had to frequently take a curtained carriage ride to the eastern cliff.
It is cloudy as though the incense smoke of musk fills the sky.
The chill arouses my sorrow.
Time continues its regular pace.
I have lived in this world for a long time.
I used to fervently devote myself to my plans for our country.
Now I am no longer interested in working for a corrupt government.
I had worked for the government for more than ten years.
I felt as though I had been a slave to my superiors.
Small trees have grown up to hide my home.
My best years seem to have elapsed in a moment.


1 In poem 7 and poem 10, Tao expresses his viewpoints about home. Two videos follow. The title of the first is "Little Lambs Desire to Go Home"; the title of the second is "My Home Is on the Other Side of the Mountain".

2 Great Parinirvana Sutra says that a person has two bodies: a heavenly body and a human body. The former lasts forever and never changes; the latter changes with age and does not have much meaning.

3 Ice and burning charcoal are opposite terms just like integrity and corruption. Thus, "one's mind is filled with ice and burning charcoal" means "one's deeds do not match one's words". In other words, the officials during Tao's time accepted corrupted jobs by compromising their ideals.

4 "Mound" refers to the mound over a grave.