Free Essay On Tao Yuanming’s Vision Of Life As A Farmer
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Tao is a popular Chinese poet who lived between 365 BC and 427 BC. His full name is Tao Yuanming. In some literatures he is also known as Tao Qian and or Tao Chien. Because he uses a Chinese name, the family name or last name comes first. In his case, the family name is Tao. Tao lived in a period where China had Six Dynasties, specifically the dynasties starting from the Han and ending in Tang dynasties.
What makes Tao popular among other poets is that majority of his works have been written while he was in reclusion. Reclusive poets are those who write their work, or in this case their poems while they are in solitary confinement, away from the typical businesses, jobs, and hurdles that an average human encounters. Some of the most common spots for reclusion are farms and villages that are located far away from the most populous parts of a busy city. Because of this trend in location selection among reclusive poets, which well includes Tao Yuanming, the most commonly applied theme among reclusive poets have something to do with nature, solidarity, or in Tao’s case, farming. Whenever Tao finds attempts to find solidarity, he goes to a faraway farm. Of course, it goes without saying that the farms he goes to are those that are quiet; places where he can sit quietly, meditate, and think about the words he is going to select for his next poems.
There is, in fact, a more specific classification for poets who engage in poetry conceptualization and writing in countryside settings or those in farms and gardens; they are called Fields and Gardens poetry poets. Another way to describe these poets is that they are the ones who connect with nature, only that they connect with the domesticated form of nature and not the ones that are naturally occurring.
More than 130 poems and other works of literature authored by Tao survive up until today, despite the number of years that have passed since he died. If there is one common thing among all of his published and surviving works, that would be their association to farming or rather idyllic pastoral life, and even drinking.
As mentioned earlier, this may be attributed to the fact that he is a fields and gardens poet and so majority of the ideas that his brain generates have something to do with farms or the lifestyle that he practices whenever he goes on for a writing journey. Some of the most popular activities depicted in the idyllic pastoral life he wrote about in his poems include farming during the day and resting during the night, often even during the afternoon.
For Tao, at least based on his poems, being a farmer does not automatically mean pushing one’s self to the limit physically during working hours. For him, a farmer is someone who knows how to manage and control his own time; one who knows how to schedule his own activities. This is why farming, dinking, and being idle were some of the most common activities he mentioned in his works.
Reading Tao’s writings would make one realize how relaxing and revitalizing it would be to stay in a farm and do nothing besides enjoying one’s self, doing a little bit of farming work, and then drinking and lying down in a farming bed several hours before the day finally ends.
Superlative examples of idleness in the life in the fields are fairly common in Tao’s poems, so common that a reader who has read a significant number of his works would come to think that Tao is an advocate of farm tourism because it really seems he is enticing the audience, or in this case, his readers, to leave their busy and stressful life in the city and then later on start to live a life in the countryside or better yet in farms with huge fields, cultivating a life of poetry, wine drinking, and of course, farming, and at the same time avoid the distractions that environments with a lot of people often have.
Some of Tao’s critics may argue that what he is basically advocating to his readers is a mindset where one gets paid to go for pleasure first before fulfilling one’s responsibility such as providing for the food and other needs of the family, among other responsibilities of a typical man or woman. Critics who use these arguments to blast Tao’s works are either misinformed or they just have not read the collection of Tao’s works at all. Apart from advocating a life of farming, chilling, and basically doing nothing,
Tao shows in his work how living in the farm could easily solve a lot of an average person’s problems, particularly his problems when it comes to providing money to buy food, which is the only viable option in cities and town centers. Farmers do not need a lot of money to buy food because the food, most of the time, can already be harvested from the fields. Therefore, aside from depicting an idyllic pastoral life, Tao also teachers his readers how to be a responsible person, one that does not trade the pleasures of solidarity or living in a farm for the sense of fulfillment that being able to prove for the needs of one’s self and his family.
Because of his style in writing poems and the practicality of his advices when it comes to life, he has been recognized in their local community as the town hermit, or rather, the farm hermit. Perhaps one of the greatest factors behind his fame in the local farming community where he stayed most of the time, was his knowledge when it comes to living a basic lifestyle—one that does not provide everything that a person wants but certain provides everything that a person needs .
What he teaches and depicts in his poems is basically the essence of living a normal and simple lifestyle. Thanks to his simple and plain style of using ideas related to fields and farms and how to incorporate them in a person’s life, he grew more popular and by the time a new dynasty started (Tao lived during the Six Dynasty era in China) he was regarded as the poet’s poet.
Below is an excerpt from one of Tao’s poems entitled: Written on the Ninth Day of the Ninth Month of the Year
The myriad transformations
Unravel one another
And human life
How should it not be hard?
There was none but had to die,
Scorches my very heart.
What is there I can do
Only enjoy myself
Drinking my unstrained wine.
I do not know
About a thousand years,
Rather let me make
This morning last forever
Despite these theories, one thing is for sure. Tao is a person who likes to write about farming and he seems to be enjoying doing so. It also appears that it is in farms and fields where he finds his enjoyment for some reason he do not know. However, perhaps the strongest point of argument in his poem when it comes to farm and field living is the fact that people have basically lived in farms and fields for thousands of years not worrying how to live in an urban community or a city. He basically uses this reasoning to encourage people not to change their direction and still decide to live a simple life instead of a complicated one that they would most likely have if they still choose to live in the city.
Reading is undeniably one of the most important aspects of Tao’s life as a farmer. It is important to note that Tao lived in a time when people had no other means of spending their extra time like we do today. One of the most common hobbies in his time was reading books. There were no computers or any other high technology device during that time and so for people like Tao who had a lot of free time, they had limited options where to spend their extra. In Tao’s case, one activity that particularly got his attention was reading. Reading was among his favorite activity even during his childhood. During typical days, he would read a lot of books, especially those that discuss Confucianism and Taoism.
Chinese society categorizes people’s social status using a hierarchical system during Tao’s time and it so happened that he was born in a common family. And so despite being smart, intelligent, and knowledgeable when it comes to a lot of things, he was practically discriminated and looked down upon by the members of the families from higher hierarchical classes and those at the imperial court. When he grew up and became able-bodied, he served from a couple of years as an official.
That was the time when he got enlightened about the dark side of living in official circles and the evil of living an urban life. As a result of that reevaluation, he resigned from his position and went back to nature until the time of his death. He shifted from being an official to a farmer in the countryside. His life was pretty much self-supporting.
He did not rely or depend on anyone for help or assistance despite being technically unemployed because with the things that he could get from his farm, he can already provide for himself and even for a family, or even a much larger population. in fact, he was so prosperous, although not when it comes to money, that he could even afford to drink wine and do nothing during certain parts of a day or even week.
For him, living in a farm in countryside is the best alternative for people who want to live a tranquil life . This is mainly because the farm has so many things to offer that one can almost start to live a carefree life. However, a farmer’s wage compared to that of an average working class man may be very low to none and this is why most farmers including Tao has been considered as poor. They have to really work their fields if they want to be able to eat and provide for themselves. Another thing on the good side is that farming allows farmers like Tao who also doubles as a poet during some parts of his day, to be relaxed and carefree.
Taking care of plants and flowers is one of the highlights of a typical day for Tao . One flower he grew very fond of during the years he was a farmer was the chrysanthemum. He planted a lot of this flower around his house and all over his farm. During his free time, he would closely watch and observe the flowers as if they have a life on their own.
He also liked to drink wine very much especially after his scheduled tasks for the day are already done or if there simply is nothing to do at all. Tao grew very much accustomed to this kind of lifestyle to the point that he lost track of himself and forgot that a person who lives in the farm must be self-supporting or else, he would die of hunger because there basically is no one supporting him or paying him wages.
Over the years, Tao appeared to be more and fonder of this kind of carefree lifestyle that during his late years in the countryside, what he had was his farm and an impoverished life. There was even a case wherein his friends got no choice but to send him money so he could buy food and other necessities but because of his unsustainable lifestyle, despite living in a farm, he spent all of those grants o wine, which practically yielded him nothing but drunkenness.
Tao’s existing poems can be categorized into three classes: poems that are about drinking; about his expressions during his lengthy stay at the countryside farms; and pastoral poems. If there is one common denominator among his works that survived, however, that would be the inherent feel of each poem and the simplicity of their lines and structure, which can be comparable to a life in a farm—simple, unsophisticated, but nonetheless relaxing and tranquil. Tao Yuanming is the pioneer of pastoral poems.
Today, it is believed that he has the largest and perhaps the most popular collection of pastoral poems. One of the most popular works of his under this category is The Five Poems of Returning to the Life of Farmers. In this work, he described how one can easily appreciate the simple trace of life by living in a farm; how one can easily enjoy living in a farm; and how simple life was designed to be that living a life in the farm seemed to be the only option.
In a way, Tao’s decision to go back to the farm at perhaps at a period of his prime can be seen as a form of resignation to and or retreat from the utopian way of life which is what most people have started to appreciate during his time. However, for Tao, things were a little bit different. For him, life does not have to be stressful, complicated or even filled with dark realities as what he experienced when he served as an official during his prime years. His poems may also be interpreted as a form of criticism towards a utopian society or a utopian way of life .
Because of the inherent nature of the poems he wrote, a lot of people has started to consider Tao as a Taoist. Examining his work closely, poetry experts were able to discover 49 allusions to the Zhuangzi and 21 to the Liezi, both of which are prominent Taoist resources. There were, on the other hand, some experts who believed that he was also Confucian at least based on the words inscribed in his works.
Just like many poets, Tao has his own share of critics. Some of the comments about him include the spare and limpid style of his poetry. On the positive side, however, most people appreciate his poems, especially the pastoral ones for their sincerely true and traditional nature that basically verbalizes inspirations from one who is supple and relaxed. His words can never be perceived to be similar to that of a typical farmer because when a person reads his poems that person immediately feels what type of person the writer is: a fine and a relaxed one.
Today Tao Yuanming’s literary works are collected in anthologies and is still considered as a great part of Chinese history and literature. His poetry, style, and even lifestyle have influenced a lot of future generation poets and even ordinary people. Even his fondness to wine and wine drinking was seen as a form of inspiration to many despite the fact that his affection to wine was perhaps one of the causes of his demise.
Living in a farm like what Tao chose to do can be rewarding, simple, and complicated all at the same time. His vision of living a life in the farm successfully materialized in his lifestyle. Unfortunately, there were things that he were not able to control such as his apparent addiction to wine and the feeling of being drunk after drinking it. If it was not for his apparent wine addiction, nobody could really tell whether he would have lived longer or even wrote more poems. Nonetheless, this only shows how a supposedly simple farm life can be complicated by lack of discipline and extreme love for writing poems and doing other literary works. In Tao’s case, he managed to do everything he wanted because of the freedom that living in a farm offers. However, he became too free that he began to do things that ruined his health and even his finances. In the end, he was able to write more poems not because of his discipline but because of the high level of freedom he got from living in the farm instead of in the city.
Even after considering all of these factors, however, Tao can still be considered as a renowned and highly influential poet because even after many years, decades, and even centuries after his death, his legacy as one of the pioneers of pastoral poetry still remains, thanks to the people who preserved the more than one hundred poems and literary works he authored.
He also carried over his favorite hobby: reading when he started his life as a farmer. And of course, Tao envisioned himself writing while being a simple and tranquil farmer. These are basically all of the things he envisioned about life as a farmer. And when it comes to death, being a Tao (Dao), he views nature including death, as a normal part of life and so he did not fear death.
Brittanica Encyclopedia. "Tao Qian." Brittanica Encyclopedia (2015).
Cultural China. "Tao Yuanming." History and Literature (2015).
World Heritage Encyclopedia. "Tao Yuanming." Project Gutenberg (2015).
Yao, W. "A Brief Introduction to Tao Yuanming." Chinese Literature (2015).
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