Nature as social ideal : tensional voices in Taohuayuan ji bing shi

Yim Tze Charles KWONG

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsConference Paper (other)Other Conference Paperpeer-review


Secluded and unchanging, primitive and agricultural, tax-free and self-sufficient, small-scale and rural rather than grand and urban, “Peach Blossom Spring” (Taohuayuan) exists in natural rather than historical time, perpetuating in the happiness of peaceful simplicity rather than the “wisdom” of contentious sophistication. Taohuayuan reflects the semi-realistic yearning of Tao Qian (365-427) as social idealist, who takes Laozi’s (6th century BC?) idea of “small state and few people” (xiaoguo guamin) and the modified Confucian notion of “great unity” (datong) as basic elements of his vision, yet purges his ideal community of political and social hierarchy. Quietly but drastically “utopian” in orientation, Tao Qian’s prose and poem on Taohuayuan has inspired sympathetic resonances from other Chinese literati in later times.

Yet the question must arise as to why Taohuayuan has been portrayed twice, in both prose and verse forms. Is the poem an intensified lyrical reiteration of the prose piece, and where lies the work’s centre of gravity? As the crystallization of a universal yearning, how does Taohuayuan relate to, say, Western notions of utopianism? This paper offers a textual perspective on the existence of tensional (one may say conflicting) voices in Tao Qian’s work, and a comparative perspective on some basic notions of utopianism.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2015
EventBritish Association for Chinese Studies (BACS) Annual Conference 2015 - University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Sept 20154 Sept 2015


ConferenceBritish Association for Chinese Studies (BACS) Annual Conference 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
OtherThe conference was attended by 35 delegates from 16 institutions across the UK as well as 2 from institutions in the EU (Dublin and Amsterdam). In addition to 25 paper presentations from postgraduate students, the conference included talks from three keynote speakers:

Professor Ishikawa Yoshihiro of Kyoto University presented on the early global reception of images of Mao.
Professor Robert Bickers of the University of Bristol presented on the university’s Historical Photographs of China website.
Acclaimed novelist Xue Xinran addressed the audience about her charity’s ongoing work in mainland China as well as on her experiences as a writer.
Outside of the presentations networking opportunities were provided by coffee and lunch breaks, a wine reception and a conference dinner at the Riverstation Restaurant in Bristol.
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