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Something Wonderful from the Start of the First Millennium

I Return to the Place I was Born

From my youth up I never liked the city.
I never forgot the mountains where I was born.
The world caught me and harnessed me
And drove me through dust, thirty years away from home.
Migratory birds return to the same tree.
Fish find their way back to the pools where they were hatched.
I have been over the whole country,
And I have come back at last to the garden of my childhood.
My farm is only ten acres.
The farmhouse has eight or nine rooms.
Elms and willows shade the back garden.
Peach trees stand by the front door.
The village is out of sight.
You can hear dogs bark in the alleys,
And cocks crow in the mulberry trees.
When you come through the gate into the court
You will find no dust or mess.
Peace and quiet live in every room.
I am content to stay here the rest of my life.
At last I have found myself.

— Tao Yuan Ming (Tao Qian) Chinese, 365-427

About Tao Yuanming – In the Spring of 405, Tao Yuanming was serving in the army, as aide-de-camp to the local commanding officer. The death of his sister together with his disgust at the corruption and infighting of the Jin Court prompted him to resign. As Tao himself put it, he would not “bow like a servant in return for five pecks of grain” (為五斗米折腰), a saying which has entered common usage meaning “swallowing one’s pride in exchange for a meager existence”. ‘Five pecks of grain’ was among other things the specified salary of certain low-rank officials. Certainly, Tao Yuanming’s salary as Penze County Magistrate was far higher than five pecks, so this was a symbolic expression. For the last 22 years of his life, he lived in retirement on his small farmstead.

[HT: Nancy W.]

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • EX-Californian Pete January 12, 2021, 10:37 AM


    That poem hits me deeply in many ways, as it so accurately describes the joys of returning to one’s roots, as I have done.
    “Peace and quiet live in every room.
    I am content to stay here the rest of my life.”

    That sums it up perfectly.

  • Auntie Analogue January 12, 2021, 12:02 PM

    In short: Avoid crowds.

  • Genji January 12, 2021, 6:32 PM

    From the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon:

    “The way in which carpenters eat is really odd. The moment the food was brought, they fell on the soup bowls and gulped down the contents. Then they pushed the bowls aside and finished off the vegetables. … They all behaved in exactly the same way, so I suppose this must be the custom of carpenters. I should not call it a very charming one.”

    So there you go, Deplorables. You were Deplorable back in Heian-kyo and you still are.

  • James O'Neil January 13, 2021, 9:38 AM

    & yes, you can go home again Tom Wolfe, sometimes you just gotta figure out where home has moved to.

    Mine moved from Florida’s piney woods up here to the top of the world.