Tao Qian (T'ao Ch'ien, T'ao Yuan-ming) 365-427

Poet of the Eastern Jin dynasty and generally regarded as being one of the foremost pre-Tang poets. A native of Chaisang (present-day Jiangxi), Tao's family belonged to the Xi minority, and although it boasted some illustrious forebears was poor by the time of the poet's birth. Around the age of 30, Tao served in local government but resigned his post not long afterwards. Other postings followed, but these too were of short duration. He spent some 22 years in retirement, supporting his family by farming. 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. Tao is also renowned for two prose works, Taohua yuan ji [A Record of Peach-blossom spring] about a utopia untouched by the ravages of civilization and Wuliu xiansheng zhuan [Biography of Mr Five Willows].

Works available in English:

  • Gleanings from Tao Yuan-ming: Prose & Poetry (Roland C. Fang). Hong Kong:
       Commercial Press, 1980.
  • Tao the Hermit: Sixty Poems by Tao Chien (365-427) (William Acker). London
       & New York: Thames and Hudson, 1952.
  • The Complete Works of Tao Yuanming (Tan Shilin). Hong Kong: Joint
       Publishing Co., 1992; Taipei: Bookman Books, 1993.
  • The Poetry of T'ao Ch'ien (James Robert Hightower). Oxford: Clarendon, 1970.
  • The Selected Poems of T'ao Ch'ien (David Hinton). Port Townsend, Wash.:
       Copper Canyon Press, 1993.