By Tau Yuan Ming
Tau Yuan-ming (365-427 A.D.) became a Chinese bureaucrat after a
life of poverty, but he lasted only eighty-one days before tiring of his duties.
He returned home to farm, tend chrysanthemums, drink, and write poetry.
He wrote a story of a utopian society that lived beyond a spring in a peach
grove. Less well known than the story is his ''Poem of the Peach Spring.''
The society that Tau Yuan-ming described lived in harmony yet
violated basic tenets of Confucianism, which encouraged devotion to
authority and to the state. Tau Yuan-ming responded more to Taoism, which
often opposed the social stability and conformity of Confucianism. ''Poem
of the Peach Spring'' condemns those frantic individuals who cannot accept
patterns of nature-who seek self-improvement over the appreciation and
enjoyment of the natural world.
"Poem of the Peach Spring" is composed in five-character lines,
employing parallelism between couplets. This poem is typical of Chinese
poetry in that allusion makes the poem very condensed. Some of Tau Yuan
ming's allusions are to works as distant from his day as his is from ours.
The First Emperor referred to in ''Poem of the Peach Spring,'' Shih
Hwang Ti (259-210 B.C.), is well known for his attempt to wipe out all
previous history through burning books, scholars, and peasants. He is the
scale in Chinese history against which tyranny can be measured: Mao
Tse-tung once boasted he had destroyed more books and scholars than even
the First Emperor.
POEM OF THE PEACH SPRING
In the age when the First August Emperor violated heaven
Sages hid themselves from the world.
As Hwang and Chi in their times went to Shang Mountain,
These went to the Peach Spring.
Their footprints were buried as in mist,
The paths of their coming, weeds and waste.
Together they furrowed and sowed their land
And rested with the setting sun.
Mulberry and bamboo drooped with shade,
Beans and millet were cultured in proper times.
In spring the silkworms yielded long silk,
And the ripeness of fall brought no king's taxes.
The roadways lost, travel to Peach Spring was forgotten.
Together geese and dogs cackled and barked.
The ancient rituals were performed,
And the old clothing was worn.
Children ran singing through the land,
While grey-haired ones roamed to visit.
From luxuriant grass one knew calm seasons
From failing trees, the fierce wild times.
No histories were kept, no chronicles,
But years grew from their seasons.
In harmony there was enough that pleased.
Why would they fret for knowledge?
Their traces of wonder were hidden for five centuries,
Until the age I discovered the divine borders.
Their sincerity was not my flippancy,
So I returned and left the land to its solitude.
Now I demand of those restricted and restless:
What do you know more than noise and dust- the world?
I wish to walk on wind,
In high places raise my search for harmony.