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Tao Yuanming: Return to Gardens and Fields: Five Poems: No. 1

This poem was probably written around 406 AD, shortly after Tao had left government service for good.   This was the fifth, and last, time Tao had quit a government position.  This time, The final straw was when his immediate supervisor came to visit him atthis office.  Tao’s associates tried to persuade him to change his clothes into something more appropriate for a superior.  This same superior had also just appointed his own sister to a government position.  This nepotism angered Tao very much.

Tao now wants to try to live off-the-grid, so to speak, and engage in subsistence farming. He talks with the local people about how to plant and harvest. There are five poems under this one title, so I will post each section separately.


[updated September 2022]

Return to Gardens and Fields: Five Poems: No. 1

归 园 田 居:五 首
少 无 适 俗 韵
性 本 爱 丘 山。
误 落 尘 网 中
一 去 三 十 年。
羁 鸟 恋 旧 林
池 鱼 思 故 渊。
开 荒 南 野 际
抱 拙 归 园 田。
方 宅 十 余 亩
草 屋 八 九 间。
榆 柳 荫 后 檐
桃 李 罗 堂 前。
暧 暧 远 人 村
依 依 墟 里 烟。
狗 吠 深 巷 中
鸡 鸣 桑 树 颠。
户 庭 无 尘 杂
虚 室 有 余 闲。
久 在 樊 笼 里
复 得 返 自 然。
Gui Yuan Tian Ju: Wu Shou


Shao wu shi su yun
Xing ben ai qiu shan.
Wu luo chen wang zhong
Yi qu shi san nian.

Ji niao lian jiu lin
Chi yu si gu yuan.
Kai huang nan ye ji
Bao zhuo gui yuan tian.

Fang zhai shi yu mu
Cao wu ba jiu jian.
Yu liu yin hou yan
Tao li luo tang qian.

Ai ai yuan ren cun
Yi yi xu li yan.
Gou fei shen xiang zhong
Ji ming sang shu dian.

Hu ting wu chen za
Xu shi you yu xian.
Jiu zai fan long li
Fu dei fan zi ran.

Return to Live in the Garden and Fields: Five Poems: No. 1


I can almost do without the comfortable and everyday things of people
My temperament is to love the native hills and mountains.
A mistake to drop down into the middle of the net of worldly affairs
Gone, and have been away for thirteen years.

Caged birds long for old-growth, virgin forests
Pond fish yearn for old and deep mountain pools.
On reclaimed wasteland, bordering the open country to the south
I will embrace and return to the vegetable fields.

Around my house I have more than ten mu
Thatched roof and eight to nine rooms.
Elm and willow trees shade the rear eaves
Peach and plum trees filter the sunlight in the front hall.

Long and far away are the village people
Frail or abandoned houses inside the haze and mist.
Dogs bark among the deep and narrow streets
Chickens squawk amid mountain top mulberry trees.

My front courtyard and door without any hanging foodstuffs
Near empty rooms provide more than enough leisure.
For a long time I was inside the cage
Once again, obtain and return to what is natural and spontaneous.



1. Line 7 has the words “open country”. The Chinese character is ye (). This has been a well-used word by Chinese poets for centuries. It literally means land that is outside the city walls and gates.  Refer to the category “Artistic and Philosophical Foundations” on this website for details regarding this character-word.

2. A mu (亩) is about 1/6 of an acre, or about 0.17 acre. So ten mu is approximately 1.7 acres.

3. The last line talks of what is natural and spontaneous. The two Chinese characters form a compound word ziran (自然). This word also appears throughout ancient Chinese literature, and expresses the thoughts and feelings of the Daoists Laozi and Zhuangzi.


Commentary and Context:

Caged birds, the net of worldly affairs, and pond fish refer to those who feel obligated to work for the emperor as a government official.  Tao’s description of frail or abandoned houses reflects the local countryside that has been devastated by years of civil war and strife. Hanging foodstuffs could be things like onions, garlic, rice and sorghum. Tao has made the final decisions to forgo the money and pain of working for emperor, and instead embrace, what turned out to be, a life of poverty, seclusion, and want.

未经允许不得转载:STUDY IN CHINA GLOBAL (SCG) » Tao Yuanming: Return to Gardens and Fields: Five Poems: No. 1
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