top of page
  • coppelia223

The Life of a Recluse-Reading Tao Qian’s Two Poems to Liu Chengzhi

In this short paper, I examine Tao Yuanming's 陶淵明 unqiue understanding and practice of reclusion (yin 隱) through the reading of his two poems to Liu Chengzhi 劉程之, a famous recluse of his time.


In the Song shu 宋書, Tao Yuanming’s 陶淵明 (365-427 C.E.) biography appears in the section of “The Hidden and Disengaged” (“Yinyi” 隱逸).[1] In Jin shu 晉書, his biography was placed in the same section by Fang Xuanling 房玄齡 (579-648 C.E.).[2] In Shi pin 詩品, Zhong Rong 鐘嶸 (468? -518? C.E.) acclaimed Tao as “the ancestor of yinyi poets.”[3] Together with Liu Chengzhi 劉程之 (?-? C.E.) and Zhou Xuzhi 周續之 (377-423 C.E.),[4] Tao is known as one of the Three Recluses of Xunyang (Xunyang san yin 尋陽三隱). The title of yinshi 隱士 has been attached to Tao for as long as his works are admired and studied. In English, the term yinshi is variously rendered as “hermit,” “eremite,” and “recluse.” The three English words are synonyms, all of which means “one that retires from society and lives in solitude, especially for religious reasons.” The definition requires an etymological explanation. The word hermit comes from Greek eremites, literally “person of the desert.” The Greek eremites is a derivative of eremia, which means “a solitude, an uninhabited region, a waste.” The English word eremite, which has the same root as hermit, is a learned form of hermit and has become widely accepted for its poetic and rhetorical use since the seventeenth century. The word recluse comes from Late Latin reclusus, which means “confinement, prison; convent, monastery.” Two characteristics of the lifestyle of hermits, eremites, and recluses can be summarized: solitary and religious. The English translations of the Chinese term yinshi can be confusing, especially when they are applied to different types of yinshi throughout Chinese history. There are about a dozen of synonyms of yinshi in literary tradition, including Disengaged Persons (yimin 逸民), Disengaged Scholars (yishi逸士), Scholars-at-Home (chushi處士), High-minded Men (gaoshi高士), Lofty Recluses (gaoyin高隱), Lofty and Disengaged (gaoyi高逸), Remote Ones (youren幽人), Hidden Ones (yinzhe隱者), and so on. The same figure can easily obtain three or four titles. Do the different terms accurately capture the nuanced differences of different rationales and lifestyles of yinshi? More importantly, what does the terms mean to Tao Yuanming?

In legendary antiquity, Xu You 許由 rejected Yao’s 堯 offer for him to rule over the entire realm and ran off to the mountains for the rest of his disengaged life.[5] According to Berkowitz, Xu’s reaction has been an exuberant expression of individualistic endeavor and freedom from worldly taint and constraint, rather than as a negative epitome of flagrant egoism and irresponsibility-not to speak of disrespect for authority. As he also points out, reclusion in traditional China encompassed several divergent rationales and lifestyles, many of them largely antithetical to those evinced in the story of Xu You. At base, however, the touchstone of the man in reclusion was conduct and personal integrity manifested in the unflinching eschewal of official position.[6] A similar view is offered by Aat Vervoorn: for whatever reason a hermit turns away from the world, and whatever lifestyle he takes up as a result, he can probably be called a hermit only if his actions follow from a moral decision rather than merely pressures of circumstance.[7]

In this paper, I plan to study Tao Yuanming’s rationales and lifestyles as a yinshi through the lens of his poetic exchange with Liu Chengzhi, his contemporary and supposedly like-minded friend. Specifically, I will carefully read two poems: “Matching a Poem by Liu, Prefect of Chaisang” (“He Liu Chaisang yi shou” 和劉柴桑一首) and “In Return for a Poem by Liu, Prefect of Chaisang” (“Chou Liu Chaisang yi shou” 酬劉柴桑一首). First, I will discuss the close connection between the two poems with “Summoning the Recluse” (“Zhao yin” 招隱), written by Zuo Si’s 左思 (d. 306 C.E.), the renowned Western Jin 晉 scholar official and rhapsody (fu 賦) writer.[8] Then, I will look into the relationship between Tao Yuanming and Liu Chengzhi’s. Lastly, I will summarize the characteristics of Tao Yuanming’s reclusive life. The study aims to examine Tao’s ideas of yin from a small angle but hopefully clarify the vague term-yinshi, which is associated with Tao.

1. Connection with Zuo Si’s “Summoning the Recluse”

In Shi pin, Zhong Rong says that Tao Yuanming’s poems are originated from Ying Qu 應璩 (190-252 C.E.), and carry with Zuo Si’s literary force.[9] They do not just share the literary force; Tao and Zuo had similar views on yin. The first line of “Matching a Poem by Liu, Prefect of Chaisang” says, “By hills and marshes, long was I summoned.” The word “summon” (zhao 招 or zhao召) reminds us of the poetic tradition of “summoning the recluses.” The recluse-summoning poems existed as early as in the Verses of Chu (Chu ci 楚辭). The poem titled “Zhao yinshi” (“Summoning the Recluses” 招隱士) describes the dreadful environment of the mountains where the recluses live. Surrounded by dangerously steep crags and the torrential river, the recluses live with roaring tigers and crying apes. In the end of the poem, the narrator calls out to them: “Do return, noble young men! The mountains are not to stay for long!” (wang sun xi gui lai; shan zhong xi bu ke liu. 王孫兮歸來!山中兮不可久留!)[10] Taking up the same theme, Zuo Si’s two pieces of “Summoning the Recluse” approaches it from a drastically different perspective. In the two poems, the protagonist, presumably Zuo Si himself, goes into the woods to summon the recluse. Instead of persuading the recluse to come back to the secular world by describing the horrible living situation in the mountains, the protagonist is attracted by the peace and beauty of the natural scenery. He hesitates but finally settles down somewhere close to nature. More than a century later, Tao Yuanming echoed him in his own voice. Although Tao’s two poems do not explicitly adopt the subject of recluse-summoning, the clues are clear when we compare the poems by both writers.

“Summoning the Recluse”[11]


杖策招隱士 Leaning on my staff, I summon the recluse,

荒塗橫古今 Since ancient times the overgrown path has lain here.

巖穴無結構 The cave in the craigs is bare of criss-cross beams,

丘中有鳴琴 But among these hills is the sound of a singing lute.

白雲停陰岡 White snow still lies on the mountain’s shadowy side,

丹葩曜陽林 Red petals flare on the sunny side of the woods.

石泉漱瓊瑤 A stony spring washes over precious jade,

纖鱗或浮沉 Delicate fishes are swimming in its depths.

非必絲與竹 No need of strings, or bamboo instruments,

山水有清音 When mountains and waters give forth their pure notes.

何事待嘯歌 Why bother now to whistle or to sing,

灌木自悲吟 When bushy trees are humming mournfully?

秋菊兼餱糧 Autumn chrysanthemums are food enough for me,

幽蘭間重襟 The lonely orchid I wear as a buttonhole.

躊躇足力煩 My feet are tired from all this pacing about,

聊欲投吾簪 I would like to throw my hatpins clean away.


經始東山廬 I built my hut near the eastern mountains,[12]

果下自成榛 Where nuts fall down and grow into hazel-trees.

前有寒泉井 In front of it is a well of icy water,

聊可瑩心神 In which one can refresh one’s heart and soul.

峭蒨青蔥間 Among these fresh and brilliant blues and emeralds,

竹柏得其真 Bamboo and cypress realize their true nature.

弱葉棲霜雪 Their tender leaves are hung with frost and snow,

飛榮流餘津 But from their soaring verdure water drips.

爵服無常玩 Rank and robes are but uncertain pleasures,

好惡有屈伸 You must bend or stretch as times are good or ill.

結綬生纏牽 Knotting the girdle may tangle you in troubles,

彈冠去埃塵 Tapping your hat remove you from dirt and dust.[13]

惠連非吾屈 Hui and Lian are not my idea of humility,

首陽非吾仁 Nor Mount Shouyang my idea of humanity.[14]

相與觀所尚 Let us compare the different ideals we have,

逍遙撰良辰 On a fine day, I’ll go wandering with a carefree heart.[15]

“Matching a Poem by Liu, Prefect of Chaisang”[16]

山澤久見招 By hills and marshes, long was I summoned;

胡事乃躊躇 In what matters that I pace about?

直為親舊故 Only because of my friends and relatives,

未忍言索居 I have not borne to speak of solitary life.

良辰入奇懷 The fine day suddenly entered my mind,

策杖還西廬[17] Leaning on my staff, I went back to my hut in the west.

荒塗無歸人 On the overgrown path no one was returning;

時時見廢墟 Time and again I saw deserted sites.

茅茨已就治 My thatched cottage is already repaired;

新疇復應畲[18] The new fields should again be plowed.

谷風轉淒薄 If the valley wind turns chill and drear,

春醪解飢劬 Spring ale relieves hunger and toil.

弱女雖非男 Although a little girl is not a boy,

慰情良勝無 As a comfort, much better than none.

栖栖世中事 Bustling are the affairs of the world,

歲月共相疏 In years and months, we estranged with each other.

耕織稱其用 Plowing and weaving supply my needs;

過此奚所須 What do I require beyond these?

去去百年外 On and on, when my Hundred Years goes by,

身名同翳如 Body and name will vanish altogether.

“In Return for a Poem by Liu, Prefect of Chaisang”[19]

窮居寡人用 My desolate dwelling has few visitors;

時忘四運周 At times I forget about the circling of seasons.

櫚庭多落葉 In my courtyard, there are many fallen leaves;

慨然知已秋 Feeling touched, I realize autumn is here.

新葵鬱北墉[20] Fresh cluster mallows grow thick by the north wall;

嘉穟養南疇 Fine grain is raised in southern field.

今我不爲樂 If I do not make merry now,

知有來歲不 How to know there will be another year?

命室攜童弱 I ask my wife to take the children by the hand;

良日登遠遊 On this nice day we set out for an outing.

The first line in “Summoning the Recluse” 1 informs us of the theme of the piece: “Leaning on my staff, I summon the recluse.” Turning to “Matching a Poem,” Tao’s first line was an utter reply: “By hills and marshes, long was I summoned.” In the summoning or being summoned, “leaning on my staff” (ce zhuang 策杖 or zhuang ce 杖策) is a common imagery. Next, Zuo Si depicts the “overgrown path” (huangtu 荒塗) that one has to pass in his journey in search for the recluse, while Tao uses the same word, huangtu, to describe the overgrown and no-returning-people path that he has to pass in order to get home. At the end of “Summoning the Recluse” 1, the protagonist gets tired of pacing about in the woods and would like to throw his hatpins clean away. To echo that, Tao expresses his mentally frustrating “pacing about” (chouchu躊躇) when called by the mountains.

In “Summoning the Recluse” 2, the protagonist builds a hut close to nature. After profusely depicting the beauty of nature, Zuo expresses his opinions of yin. In his view, rank and robes are but uncertain pleasures, and one must bend or stretch as times are good or ill. In other words, when the time is good, one comes out to serve, when the time is not suitable, one should withdraw and practice yin. Then, he responds to Confucius’s comments on various yinshi. Confucius says, “As for not lowering one’s disposition and not humiliate one’s body, isn’t it referring to Boyi and Shuqi?” He further comments, “Liu Xiahui and Shaolian have lowered their dispositions and humiliated their bodies. Their speeches accorded with ethics; their actions accorded with considerations. That is all this is!”[21] Zuo Si does not agree that Liu Xiahui and Shaolian humiliated themselves, nor does he agree that Boyi and Shuqi are model yinshi. The fame and reputation gained by Boyi and Shuqi are not in Zuo’s favor. The humiliated bodies of Liu and Shaolian in Confucius’s eyes are not to be shunned for Zuo Si. Instead, he believes in “stretching and bending” according to the right time. When we look at Tao Yuanming’s ideas of yin, we will notice the agreements. It is not a good time for him to “stretch,” so he “bends” in his reclusive world. Also, in his opinion, names and bodies are both insignificant, because “On and on, when my Hundred Years goes by, body and name will vanish altogether.”

Lastly, “a fine day” (liangchen 良辰 or liangri 良日) is important to both writers. When faced with unresolved issues or personal puzzlement, all they need is a fine day where they can set out for a journey. In “Summoning the Recluse” 2, Zuo Si decides to “go wandering with a carefree heart” when a fine day comes after realizing the different opinions held by him and others. In “Matching a Poem,” Tao returns to his hut when a fine day suddenly entered his mind. In “In Return for a Poem,” after lamenting the passing of days, Tao decides to go for an outing with his family on a fine day. The Zhuangzi term xiaoyao 逍遙 in Zuo Si’s line matches well with Tao Yuanming’s dream of freeing oneself from fame and body and eventually depending on nothing.

2. Tao Yuanming’s interaction with Liu Chengzhi

Liu Chengzhi’s biography is not available in any official Standard Histories. According to a brief account of him in the Biographies of the Lofty Worthies in the Lotus Society (Lianshe gaoxian zhuan 蓮社高賢傳), Liu withdrew to Mount Lu 廬山 (in modern Jiangxi Province 江西省) in 402. At about the same time, the other yinshi of the Three Recluses of Xunyang, Zhou Xuzhi, had already gone to Mount Lu to study with the famous Buddhist monk Huiyuan.[22] The two poems written by Tao are supposedly his replies to Liu Chengzhi’s invitation for him to join the Buddhist cult. The dating of the two poems is problematic, but scholars have agreed that they were written after Tao resigned from his last post- magistrate of Pengze 彭澤 in 405 and returned home.[23] Pengze is a small county located in what is now modern northern Jiangxi on the south bank of the Yangtze River. It was only about thirty miles from his home in Chaisang, his natal place. Liu Chengzhi once held the position of magistrate of Chaisang, and therefore would at least be a familiar name to Tao Yuanming. The question is, were they friends? How close were they? The two questions, although essential for us to read the two poems, are impossible to answer. Still, reading between the lines will tell us a few things about how Tao Yuanming interacted with and felt about Liu. His views concerning Liu, the other yinshi, will be crucial to understand Tao’s own expectations of a reclusive life.

The second couplet of “Matching a Poem” is a direct and only response to Liu’s invitation: “Only because of my friends and relatives, I have not borne to speak of solitary life.” The excuse, which is put in an apologetic tone, is not based on Tao’s “own wish”. Based on the two lines, if Tao was alone, he would no doubt join Liu. However, he was forced to stay in the mundane world for friends and relatives. The word “friends and relatives” (qinjiu親舊), when translated literally, means “those who he is close to and familiar with.” Apparently, Liu Chengzhi did not belong to the group. After the perfunctory reply, Tao goes on to talk about his peaceful life. He just renovated the house and plans to plow the new field. As life goes on, he feels more and more isolated to the worldly affairs. He tells Liu that he is satisfied with the current life when he can supply his needs with plowing and weaving. The rest of the eight couplets in “Matching a Poem” does not mention Liu’s invitation. Rather, Tao’s attention is completely on his reclusive life in retirement. It is the same case with “In Return for a Poem.” In this piece, no one would think of Liu Chengzhi if his name was not in the title. If Tao still cared to give a reason for rejecting Liu’s request in the previous poem, then he cares nothing about explaining himself for his thoughts and acts here. The five-couplet poem talks about his happy life as a common farmer. He does not associate himself with many people and enjoys the ever-changing season. Autumn is here, he admires the cluster mallows and fine grain grown by himself. He is not hesitating in making merry, so he picks a fine day to set out for an outing with his wife and sons. If we were Liu Chengzhi, we would very well understand Tao’s message by now-My life is happy, and I will never join you. Although there is no outright rejection, the omission of Liu Chengzhi and his invitation, almost too obvious to be intentional, is a quick and cold brushing-off.

In “Matching a Poem,” a line reads, “Although a little girl is not a boy, as a comfort, much better than none.” Many have argued that it refers to Liu Chengzhi’s newborn girl. Tao tries to comfort him for not being able to have a son instead. The argument is not sound primarily because of two reasons. First, the Accounts of Mount Lu (Lushan ji 廬山記) written by Chen Shunyu 陳舜俞 (1026-1076 C.E.) records that before passing, Liu ordered his son to pile up dirt to make a tomb instead of using a coffin. The fact that Liu had a son is confirmed by other sources as well.[24] Second, the context makes it impossible for Tao to offer his consolation in the middle of the poem. The previous couplet talks about Tao’s enjoyment of drinking after labor work, and in the next couplet, Tao speaks of his estrangement with the bustling world. The couplet in discussion would not fit in. The other argument, which is much more valid, is that “the little girl” refers to a kind of ale, probably coarse or with lower quality. It is a Win-Jin 魏晉 tradition to use metaphors to refer to different kinds of ale. For example, the clear ale was called sages, while the muddy ale was called worthy men.[25] In A New Account of the Tales of the World (Shishuo xinyu 世說新語), it is recorded that Duke Huan 桓公 had a secretary who was specialized in identifying ale. The good ones were referred to as Retainer of Qingzhou 青州, while the bad ones were referred to as Inspector of Pingyuan 平原.[26] People from the Wei-Jin were fond of ranking and giving names to ale, Jingjie 靖節 was also the same.[27] Additionally, in the previous couplet, Tao says, “spring ale relieves hunger and toil.” It is natural to continue to conversation on drinking. When this line is understood without taking Liu Chengzhi into account, it becomes even clearer that Tao had almost no interaction with Liu in the poem.

The lack of interaction is apparent, and I would further argue that Tao did not want to associate himself with Liu at all. Liu’s style of yin is religious and seclusive, which matches perfectly with the English translations of yinshi. It did not interest Tao. Liu was a celebrity of the region and previous governor of Tao’s hometown. It was natural and otherwise impossible for Tao not to acquaint himself with Liu. Also, it would be a social obligation to respond to Liu. Still, Tao’s aloofness is explicit in the two poems.

3. Characteristics of Tao’s Reclusive Life

It has been said that religious pursuit is not a characteristic of Tao’s reclusive life, then what is the ideal reclusion for him? In this section, I will answer the question from two aspects.

First, Tao’s reclusive life is not solitary. In his direct response to Liu’s invitation, Tao says that he has not borne to speak of “solitary living” (suoju 索居). In “In Return for a Poem,” Tao uses the word “desolate dwelling” (qiongju窮居) to describe his living situation. A dwelling can be desolate, but it does not mean the resident is all by himself. The same phrase appears in the sixth piece of “In Praise of Impoverished Gentlemen” (“Yong pinshi” 詠貧士) where he praises the recluse Zhang Zhongwei 張仲蔚 (?-?), who is fond of “living in poverty.”[28] The poor state of the actual residence is a common theme in Tao’s poems. A synonym “poor” (pin 貧) is often used by him. Here are two examples:

“The Eighth Month of 416: Harvest in the Field Hut at Xiasun” (“Bingchen sui bayue Zhong yu xiasun tianshe huo” 丙辰歲八月中於下潠田舍穫):[29]

貧居依稼穡 Living in poverty relies on sowing and reaping.

“Drinking” (“Yin jiu” 飲酒) 15:[30]

貧居乏人工 Living in poverty, I am short of hands.

In addition to “living in poverty,” Tao likes to describe his life as “idle” (xian 閒). The phrase “living in idleness” (xianju 閒居) appears frequently in his poems. The following examples will tell us of Tao’s perception of his living situation.

“Drinking” Preface:[31]

余閒居寡歡 Living in idleness, I have few pleasures.

“Drinking” 10:[32]

息駕歸閒居 I stopped my cart and returned to live in idleness.

“Taking a Leave during the Seventh Month of the Year 401, Written at Tukou at Night while Returning to Jiangling” (“Xinchou sui qiyue fujia huan Jiangling ye xing Tukou” 辛丑歲七月赴假還江陵夜行塗口):[33]

閒居三十載 For thirty years, I have lived in idleness.

“Miscellaneous Poems” 10 (“Za shi” 雜詩):[34]

閒居執蕩志 Living in idleness keeps my wild ambition down.

“In Praise of Impoverished Gentlemen” 2:[35]

閒居非陳厄 Living in idleness is not a “crisis in Chen.”[36]

“On Account of Ale” (“Shu jiu” 述酒):[37]

閒居離世紛 Living in idleness departs from world’s disorder.

From all the examples above, we can see that Tao’s idea of yin is not equal to solitary living. It may be too quick to conclude that he does not mind living in poverty because the definition of “being poor” in his time is not universal. Nevertheless, it is a simple life without lavish spending or glamorous residence. More importantly, he would not indulge himself in realizing an ambition but rather depart from world’s disorder. It is a lifestyle he preferred as well as the state of life he was in.

The second aspect of my answer focuses on the details of Tao’s simple and idle reclusive life. We have already read about Tao’s description of his happy life in his poems to Liu Chengzhi, and a few points should be emphasized. Tao wrote profusely about his farm work in other poems. Although we should not assume that he did all kinds of labor work as a peasant, we have to acknowledge that he was fond of farming and by no means a layman. In “Matching a Poem,” he speaks of the need to reclaim the land in the spring, which is a real concern of a farmer. In “In Return of a Poem,” he expresses his joy when seeing the fresh cluster mallows grow thick by his garden wall. In his “On Stopping Ale” (“Zhi jiu” 止酒), he says, “My favorite food stops with garden cluster mallows.” (hao wei zhi yuan kui 好味止園葵).[38] It is apparent that Tao genuinely enjoyed the small-scale self-provision. As he says, “Plowing and weaving supply my needs, what do I require beyond these?” Also, his habit of drinking after toil is far from scholarly or gentlemanly but rather down-to-earth. Family life is also indispensable to Tao’s reclusive life. He tells Liu Chengzhi that he is obligated to stay with his family, and thus rejected Liu invitation. However, we can see in “In Return of a Poem” that Tao takes his family, wife, and children, out for a journey on a fine day. He views the activity as a part of “making merry.” If he enjoys spending time with his family, then there is nothing obligatory.


The tradition of yin goes back to the late Spring and Autumn 春秋 and Warring States 戰國 period.[39] From then to Tao Yuanming’s time, the expectation of a yinshi had developed over time. The practices of Xu You, Boyi, Shuqi differ drastically from that of the yinshi from Tao’s generation. Even in the small group of The Three Recluses of Xunyang, Tao’s practice should not be compared to that of Zhou Xuzhi and Liu Chengzhi. Still, the English translations of yinshi: hermit, eremite, and recluse are applied to all. The greatest problem of the practice is not about differentiating various types of yinshi. Rather, the implications behind the translations can be misleading and confusing. The English terms emphasize two significant features of yin: religious and solitary. As discussed, Tao’s idea of yin is neither religious nor solitary. On the one hand, he did not want to follow Liu Chengzhi and Zhou Xuzhi to take on religious pursuit. On the other hand, he enjoyed living together with his family in the countryside. In Tao Yuanming’s mind, yin is to be away from worldly affairs and to cut off ties with people who are not like-minded. Planting, drinking, and going on an outing with his wife and sons please him, even if the residence is desolate, life impoverished. After all, body and fame will both vanish when the time comes. When we look back at the requirement set by Vervoorn, we will not be able to say with confidence that Tao’s actions “follow from a moral decision rather than merely pressures of circumstance.” Similarly, Berkowitz’s argument that “the conduct and personal integrity of yinshi are manifested in the unflinching eschewal of official position” is also not sound in the case of Tao Yuanming. The Tao Yuanming we can see from the two poems is just a simple person, far away from the glamours but taxing past, who prefers to enjoy his idle life.

[1] Tao Yuanming, also known as Tao Qian 陶潛, is style-named Yuanliang 元亮. The sobriquet Mr. Five Willows (“Wuliu xiansheng” 五柳先生) is obtained because his residence was surrounded by five willows. See Shen Yue 沈約 (441-513 C.E.), Song shu (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1974), 93.2286-91. [2] See Fang Xuanling, Jin shu (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1974), 64.2460-63. [3] See Zhong Rong, Shi pin (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe 上海古籍出版社, 1987), 1487.196. [4] Zhou Xuzhi is known for possessing great erudition in Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist thoughts and his repeated rejection of official employment. His biography can be found in “Yinyi” of the Song shu. Liu Chengzhi, style-named Zhongsi 仲思, is also known as Liu Yimin 劉遺民. It is said that after retiring from office and moving into the mountains, Liu named himself Yimin, literarily “The Abandoned Person.” A brief account of him can be seen in Huiyuan’s 慧遠 (334-416 C.E.) “Liu gong zhuan” 劉公傳. See Shen, Song shu, 93.2280-81; see also Yuan Xingpei 袁行霈, Tao Yuanming ji jian zhu 陶淵明集箋註 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2003), 136. [5] For the story, see Huangfu Mi 皇甫謐 (215-282 C.E.), Gaoshi zhuan 高士傳 (Shanghai: Shanghai zhonghua shuju, 1936), X. [6] See Alan J. Berkowitz, Patterns of Disengagement - The Practice and Portrayal of Reclusion in Early Medieval China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), xi-xii. [7] See Aat Vervoorn, Men of the Cliffs and Caves (HK: The Chinese University Press, 1990), 4. [8] Zuo Si, style-named Taichong 泰沖, is most famous for his fu piece “Three Capitals” (“San du fu” 三都賦). For his biography, see Fang, Jin shu, 62.2375-77. [9] See Zhong, Shi pin, 1487.196. [10] See Hong Xingzu 洪興祖 (1090-1155 C.E.), Chu ci bu zhu 楚辭補註 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2006), 232-34. [11] The translation of the two poems is a modified version of Frodsham’s translation. See Xiao Tong 蕭統 (501-531 C.E.) comp., Wen xuan ⽂選 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1986), 19.1027-28; see also J. D. Frodsham, An Anthology of Chinese Verse-Han Wei Chin and The Northern and Southern Dynasties (Oxford: At The Clarendon Press, 1967), 94-5. [12] When Zuo Si moved to the eastern part of Luoyang 洛陽 (the capital city of the Western Jin, in modern Henan Province 河南省), he composed “Building My Hut Near the Eastern Mountains” (“Jing shi dongshan lu shi” 經始東山廬詩). Hence, the word dongshan lu 東山廬 is not translated literally as “Eastern Mountain Hut.” See Xiao, Wen xuan, 1028. [13] “Knotting the girdle” and “Tapping the hat” refer to building connections in different ways for practical reasons, especially to obtain or advance in governmental employment. The Han shu 漢書 says, the Western Han 漢 official Xiao Yu 蕭育 (76-3 B.C.E.) made friends with Chen Xian 陳咸 (fl. 15 B.C.E.) and Zhu Bo 朱博 (d. 5 B.C.E.). It was well-known. In the past, there were Wang Yang 王陽 (d. 48 B.C.E.) and Gong Yu 貢禹 (124-44 B.C.E.). Therefore, there was a saying in Chang’an 長安: “Knotting the girdle, then Xiao and Zhu; tapping the hat, then Wang and Gong.” See Xiao, Wen xuan, 19.1028. [14] Hui and Lian refer to Liu Xiahui 柳下惠 (720-621 B.C.E.) and Shaolian 少連 (?-?), respectively. Shaolian’s identity is unknown, while Liu is known for being employed as a government official for three times but also dismissed from his post for three times. He was revered by Confucian scholars for his loyalty and strong sense of responsibility to serve the government. Mount Shouyang is the mountain where the brothers Boyi 伯夷 and Shuqi 叔齊 ran off to and starved to death when they failed to stop King Wu of Zhou’s 周武王 (1076-1043 B.C.E.) military campaign and the subsequent fall of the Shang 商. The couplet is a response to Confucius’s comments on these recluses in the Analects (Lun yu 論語), which is discussed in later parts of the paper. [15] The term xiaoyao 逍遙, often translated as “free and easy,” comes from Zhuangzi 莊子. The chapter “Free and Easy Wandering” (“Xiaoyao you” 逍遙遊), which primarily talks about the status of being independent for things and people, has become a familiar piece to Daoist thinkers and all scholars. [16] Hereafter referred to as “Matching a Poem.” See Yuan, Tao Yuanming jian zhu, 135-42. [17] A variant for the word ce 策 is qie 挈, which is adopted by almost all scholars, including Yuan Xingpei, Lu Qinli 逯欽立, Gong Bin 龔斌, and Wang Shumin 王叔岷. It means to take up or to lift. See Lu Qinli, Tao Yanming ji 陶淵明集 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979), 57-8; see also Gong Bin, Tao Yuanming ji jiao jian 陶淵明集校箋 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1996), 119; see also Wang Shumin, Tao Yuanming shi jian zheng gao 陶淵明詩箋證稿 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2007), 166. [18] A variant for the word ying 應 is jiu 舊, which is adopted by Yuan Xingpei. If we follow the jiu reading, then the sentence would mean, “The new fields have already been turned into reclaimed lands.” See Yuan, Tao Yuanming jian zhu, 139. [19] Hereafter referred to as “In Return for a Poem.” Ibid., 142-44. [20] A variant for yong墉 is yong牗, which means windows, which is used by Yuan Xingpei and Wang Shumin. Tao Yuanming might have adopted the word yong 墉 from the line in Lu Ji 陸機’s (261-303 C.E.) “Garden Cluster Mallows” (“Yuan Kui” 園葵): “Fortunately inherited the inner strength of the lofty wall.” (xing meng gao yong de 幸蒙高墉德). See Xiao, Wen xuan, 3.1369. [21] See He Yan 何晏 (d. 249 C.E.) comm., Lun yu ji jie 論語集解, Sibu congkan 四部叢刊, 9.16a-b. [22] See Yuan, Tao Yuanming jian zhu, 137. [23] For a summary of the dating problem and its scholarly discussion, see Gong, Tao Yuanming ji jiao jian, 121-22. [24] As summarized by Gong Bin, there are three arguments about this couplet. The other one proposes that “the little girl” refers to Tao’s own daughter. This is unlikely to be true because Tao is known to have five sons but no daughter. See Gong, Tao Yuanming ji jiao jian, 124. [25] Ibid. [26] Qingzhou, located in modern Shandong Provine 山東省, had a commandery called Qi 齊. Its homophone 臍 means navel. The capacity of good ale can reach as far as the drinker’s navel. Pingyuan, also located in Shandong, had a county called Ge 鬲. Its homophone 膈 refers to diaphragm-the layer of muscle between the lungs and the stomach. The capacity of bad ale can only reach somewhere between the lungs and the stomach. See Yang Yong 楊勇, Shishuo xinyu jiao jian 世說新語校牋 (HK: Xianggang dazhong shuju 香港大眾書局), X. [27] Jingjie is the posthumous name of Tao Yuanming. [28] Zhang is a recluse who lived in the Jin Dynasty. His biography is only available in Gaoshi zhuan. See Huangfu, Gaoshi zhuan, X; for the line in “In Praise of Impoverished Gentlemen,” see Yuan, Tao Yuanming jian zhu, 375. [29] Ibid., 231. [30] Ibid., 269. [31] Ibid., 235. [32] Ibid., 258. [33] Ibid., 193. [34] Ibid., 358. [35] Ibid., 366. [36] The “crisis in Chen” refers to the story of Confucius when he and his disciples were on the way to the State of Chen and the State of Cai 蔡. When Confucius was not welcomed by the State of Chu 楚, they decided to promote his thoughts elsewhere. When they reached the wilderness between Chen and Cai, they fell sick and ran out of food. The phrase came of Mencius 孟子. See Zhao Qi 趙岐 (108-201 C.E.) annt., Mengzi, Sibu congkan, 14.6b. [37] See Yuan, Tao Yuanming jian zhu, 290. [38] Ibid., 286. [39] See Vervoorn, Men of the Cliffs and Caves, 229.


Berkowitz, Alan J.. Patterns of Disengagement - The Practice and Portrayal of Reclusion in Early Medieval China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.

Fang Xuanling 房玄齡. Jin shu 晉書. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, 1974.

Frodsham, J. D.. An Anthology of Chinese Verse-Han Wei Chin and The Northern and Southern Dynasties. Oxford: At The Clarendon Press, 1967.

Gong Bin 龔斌. Tao Yuanming ji jiao jian陶淵明集校箋. Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe 上海古籍出版社, 1996.

He Yan 何晏. Lun yu ji jie 論語集解. Sibu congkan 四部叢刊.

Hong Xingzu 洪興祖. Chu ci bu zhu 楚辭補註. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2006.

Huangfu Mi 皇甫謐. Gaoshi zhuan 高士傳. Shanghai: Shanghai zhonghua shuju, 1936.

Lu Qinli 逯欽立. Tao Yanming ji 陶淵明集. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979.

Shen Yue 沈約. Song shu 宋書. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1974.

Vervoorn, Aat. Men of the Cliffs and Caves. HK: The Chinese University Press, 1990.

Wang Shumin 王叔岷. Tao Yuanming shi jian zheng gao 陶淵明詩箋證稿. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2007.

Xiao Tong 蕭統. Wen xuan ⽂選. Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1986.

Yang Yong 楊勇. Shishuo xinyu jiao jian世說新語校牋. HK: Xianggang dazhong shuju 香港大眾書局.

Yuan Xingpei 袁行霈. Tao Yuanming ji jian zhu陶淵明集箋註. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2003.

Zhao Qi 趙岐. Mengzi 孟子, Sibu congkan.

Zhong Rong 鐘嶸. Shi pin 詩品. Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1987.

2 views0 comments


bottom of page