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Tao Yuanming: Return to Live in Gardens and Fields: Five Poems: No 4

Return to Live in Gardens and Fields: Five Poems: No.4

其 四
久 去 山 泽 游
浪 莽 林 野 娱。
试 携 子 侄 辈
披 榛 步 荒 墟。
徘 徊 丘 垄 间
依 依 昔 人 居。
井 灶 有 遗 外
桑 竹 残 朽 株。
借 问 采 薪 者
此 人 皆 焉 如 ?
薪 者 向 我 言:
死 没 无 复 余。
一 世 异 朝 市
此 语 真 不 虚!
人 生 似 幻 化
终 当 归 空 无。
Qi si

Jiu qu shan ze you
Lang mang lin ye yu.
Shi xie zi zhi bei
Pi zhen bu huang xu.

Pai huai qiu long jian
Yi yi xi ren ju.
Jing zao you wei wai
Sang zhu can xiu zhu.

Jie wen cai xin zhe
Ci ren jie yan ru ?
Xin zhe xiang wo yan:
“Si mo wu fu yu.”

Yi shi yi zhao shi
Ci yu zhen bu xu!
Ren sheng si huan hua
Zhong dang gui kong wu.


Return to Live in Gardens and Fields: Five Poems: No. 4

For a long time left mountain pools to do government work
Old growth forests and wilderness gives me pleasure without having to dress up.
Take by the hand, sons and nephews by age-rank order
Walk up and down separate ridges and levees.
People in former years lived here, leaving behind traces of their lives
Still have the outside stones of forgotten wells and cooking stoves
Mulberry trees and bamboo damaged and run-down, only stumps remain.

As a pretext, I ask the woodcutter
“What has become of all of these people?”
The woodcutter turns to me and says:
“The dead disappear without any thing remaining, or a chance to recover.
These words are true, not empty or false.
Human experience is like an illusion that eventually dissolves.
Accept that we must return to the Empty Being-Without-Form.”



Mountain pools:  The beauty, seclusion, and serenity of mountains

Age-rank-order:  Children were referred to by their birth dates.  It was an important clan and cultural distinction. Perhaps here, Tao had the youngest at the front of the line closest to him, while the older and oldest of the children were bringing up the rear.



Tao is taking a walk through a country that has been ravaged by warfare, abandonment and neglect.

Woodcutters often appear in ancient Chinese poetry, along with fishermen and herders.  They are metaphors for the simple rural lifestyle that many of the poets hoped to escape to.

The final two characters (words) in the poem are loaded with meanings and implications: 空 ( kong) and (wu).  Kong appears throughout much of traditional Chinese poetry and can mean empty, or emptiness, as in the Doctrine of Emptiness in Buddhism.  But more likely Tao is pointing to the emptiness of Laozi in his Dao De Jing.  One of the characteristics of the Dao is emptiness.  From Chapter 4 of the Dao De Jing: “The Dao is empty like a cup, yet it cannot be filled.  How profound!  It appears not to exist, but it does exist.”  And from Chapter 11: “Make holes for doors and windows to create a room.  Must have these empty spaces for the room to be useful.  Therefore, things with substance have advantages and benefits.  While that without substance creates usefulness and purpose.”

Wu literally means without.  The best definition for wu that I have come across is from the translation of the Dao De Jing into English by Wang Keping.  Most often the English translation for wu is non-being.  This is misleading as the question is not about existence, to be or not to be, but rather is it about whether something is manifested, expressed, explicated, unfolded; or whether it is hidden, implicated and enfolded.

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