Sub­stance, Shadow and Spirit

Asian Geographic - - Front Page - By Tao Yuan­ming


The Great Pot­ter can­not In­ter­vene All cre­ation thrives of it­self. That Man ranks with Earth and Heaven, Is it not be­cause of me? Though we be­long to dif­fer­ent or­ders, Be­ing alive, I am joined to you. Bound to­gether for good or ill I can­not refuse to tell you what I know: The Three Au­gust Ones were great saints But where are they liv­ing to­day? Though P’eng-tsu lasted a long time He still had to go be­fore he was ready. Die old or die young, death is the same, Wise or stupid, there is no dif­fer­ence. Drunk, ev­ery day you may for­get, But won’t it shorten your life span? Do­ing good is al­ways a joy­ous thing But no one has to praise you for it. Too much think­ing harms my life; Just sur­ren­der to the cy­cle of things, Give your­self to the waves of the Great Change Nei­ther happy nor yet afraid. And when it is time to go, then sim­ply go with­out any un­nec­es­sary fuss.

Pub­lished in The Po­etry of T‘ao Ch‘ien by James Hightower, Claren­don Press, 1970 TAO YUAN­MING, also known as Tao Chien (365–427 AD), is widely con­sid­ered one of the great­est poets of the Six Dy­nas­ties Era (220–589 AD). In 405, af­ter the death of his sis­ter, he gave up his job as a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial and spent the rest of his life as a reclu­sive poet.

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