Five Wiliows Path & Tao Yuanming 陶渊明

Xi Qiji 辛棄疾 (1140–1207) said:

I have to believe that this old gentleman never really died. Even today he remains awe-inspiring and alive.

For me, it’s hard to tell how much time I spent on reading Tao’s poems in my life. Then I believed there would be a completely different artistic approach to visualize the poems. Now, during the chilly January in Massachusetts, hiding in my humble and warm third floor apartment, sipping the steaming new green tea, I turn on my Vista, log in “Land of Illusion” and freely land on the fountain in “Peach Blossom Shangri-la,” attach the poems onto a virtual cup of wine, create the images of falling peach blossoms, play the sounds of spring and birds… it is the place  reaching coherence of my imagined life in ancient time and physical being. I therefore built the Five Willows Path, located outside the South Entrance of Land of Illusion, which refers to Tao Yuanming(陶渊明), whose retired name is Mr. Five Willows.

The new film “Peach Blossom Shangri-la” has been developed during another transition period of my life. We have decided to move back to New York City. Honglei quit from his position as leading educator at the art center of New Bedford, I declined the offer from Northeast University for teaching Digital Media courses in summer and fall. We really need to get back to the track of a free live. While I have solely launched NY ARTS New Media & Net Art, built the network, and become affiliate of several experimental new media art organizations, non-profit or for-profit, I gradually realize that the key issue preventing me to make things grow is, I’m not excited by any new media artist’s work. The tangible relations of people, the difficulties of receiving funds can be my excuses for slowing down to realize all plans under considerations, but the truth is, I’ve immersed in my own creative space, and simply don’t care that much – will new media art boom in China? what Second Life artists’ role will be in the contemporary arts’ scene? those questions no longer bother me.

Yes, I withdraw into my inside world where incomparable energy is floating….

Yes, I’m fleeting to NYC, where I can

“built my hut within where others live,
But there is no noise of carriages and horses.
You ask how this is possible:
When the heart is distant, solitude comes.”

and my heart settled in “Peach Blossom Shangri-la”

Following poems have been included –

from Twenty Poems on Drinking Wine
Neither decline nor glory can last forever,
they are tied up with each other.
Shao Ping worked in the watermelon fields
wishing he were still the duke of Dongling.
Winter and summer come by turns.
The Way of life is also like that.
A wise man understands the essence,
he has no doubt about it.
Please give me a cup of wine fast–
I’ll hold it merrily as the sun dies out.

It is said good deeds will be rewarded
but consider Yi and Su in the Western Mountains.
Good or evil, expect no reward,
Why should one spout such empty words?
Rong tied his clothes with a rope at ninety,
Suffering more hunger and cold than when young.
Yet there is integrity in poverty:
a hundred generations will know their names.

—Translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping

note: Over 120 pieces of Tao’s writing have survived, many of them written in a philosophical vein. He was a precursor of a type of pastoral landscape poetry known as tianyuan shi, and favored themes such as drinking and rustic life. The Tang poetry was under the direct influence of Tao Yuanming. In the Song Dynasty, Tao Yuanming’s personality and works were held in very high esteem. Since the Song Dynast, “plainness” and “naturalness” have become the fixed attributes to Tao Yuanming’s poems, and Tao Yuanming has occupied an important place in the history of Chinese literature. Tao is also renowned for two prose works, Taohua Yuan Ji(挑花源记)[A Record of Peach-blossom spring] about a utopia untouched by the ravages of civilization and Wuliu Xiansheng Zhuan(五柳先生传)[Biography of Mr Five Willows]. web

3 replies on “Five Wiliows Path & Tao Yuanming 陶渊明”

Suggested theme:

Tao Qian (Tao Yuanming) poem:

I built my cottage among the habitations of men,
And yet there is no clamor of carriages and horses.
You ask: “Sir, how can this be done?”
“A heart that is distant creates its own solitude.”
I pluck chrysanthemums under the eastern hedge,
Then gaze afar towards the southern hills.
The mountain air is fresh at the dusk of day;
The flying birds in flocks return.
In these things there lies a deep meaning;
I want to tell it, but have forgotten the words.

Translation: Tr. Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping

Citation credit:

(from the same translator Tr. Tony Kline on

Young, I was always free of common feeling.
It was in my nature to love the hills and mountains.
Mindlessly I was caught in the dust-filled trap.
Waking up, thirty years had gone.
The caged bird wants the old trees and air.
Fish in their pool miss the ancient stream.
I plough the earth at the edge of South Moor.
Keeping life simple, return to my plot and garden.
My place is hardly more than a few fields.
My house has eight or nine small rooms.
Elm-trees and Willows shade the back.
Plum-trees and Peach-trees reach the door.
Misted, misted the distant village.
Drifting, the soft swirls of smoke.
Somewhere a dog barks deep in the winding lanes.
A cockerel crows from the top of the mulberry tree.
No heat and dust behind my closed doors.
My bare rooms are filled with space and silence.
Too long a prisoner, captive in a cage,
Now I can get back again to Nature.

Chinese Text:


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