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Tao Yuanming

Tao Yuanming (365-427), a native of Caisang of Xunyang (today's southwest of Jiujiang in Jiangxi Province), was born in a family of a downfallen eunuch. He had served as an official for several years, and later abdicated his post. He led a reclusive life after rejecting the life of an official, and made rural life the major subject of his creation and was, thereby, called a pastoral poet.

At a time when poems written in excessively ornate language and strictly imitated forms, yet empty of content, achieved dominance in poetry circles, Tao Yuanming carried on the tradition of Yuefu folksongs and formed his own simple and natural style, opening up a new vista for classical poetry. Moreover, he further refined the forms of the five-character poem.

Many of Tao Yuanming's poems reflect his disgust of the negative of social reality and a strong love for the quiet and simple life in the countryside. In Back to Nature he compares officialdom to a net and life in official circles to that of a "caged bird" and a "pounded fish" and the recluse's life is likened to "breaking the birdcage" and "returning to nature."

Disappointment with the real world drove Tao Yuanming to construct an ideal world in his poems, as in his Peach Blossom Spring, which evokes from his imagination the form of a utopian society.

Apart from his landscape poems, Tao Yuanming's works, which cover various subject matters, also include poems lauding warriors, poems full of love for the nation, and poems revealing his wish to hide from the world.

Tao Yuanming often drew his materials from the surrounding landscape and his daily life and used simple language to write them out. His poems, therefore, sound natural and sincere, conceived in tranquillity and peace.

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