Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Utopia: 桃花源记








Throughout Chinese history, scholars and officials – people weary of social interaction and aware of the futility of human endeavour - would retire from towns and return to nature.

Hardly one to downplay the literary significance my own circumstances, I can relate to this. Not unlike Tao Qian 陶潜 – the pre-Tang poet who gave up a life of officialdom in exchange for a simple pastoral dream, I often feel torn between ambition and a desire to retreat into solicitude.

My progress in Beijing stymied by one of this summer’s less-convenient China visa runs – a £423 air ticket back to London, I have spent two weeks at home earning money on the farm to pay for a flight back to Peking. Fencing the paddocks round the pond and beside the main barn’s lean-to has kept me very busy, though very agreeably so.

Tao Qian's "Return to the Countryside":

种豆南山下

草盛豆苗稀

晨兴理荒秽

带月荷锄归

道狭草木长

夕露沾我衣

衣沾不足惜

但使愿无违

I sow my beans below the southern hills,
Though grasses flourish, the sprouting beans are scarce.
I rise at dawn to clear the wasteland up,
Beneath the moon I carry back my hoe.
The path is narrow, the trees and grass grown tall,
My clothes are dampened by the evening dew.
Yet dampened clothes are nothing to begrudge,
If only my desires can be fulfilled.



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