Tao Yuanming

Tao Yuanming (traditional Chinese: 陶淵明; simplified Chinese: 陶渊明; pinyin: Táo Yuānmíng; Wade-Giles: T'ao Yüan-ming) also known as Tao Qian (simplified Chinese: 陶潜; traditional Chinese: 陶潛; pinyin: Táo Qián; Wade–Giles: T'ao Ch'ien) (365–427) was a Chinese poet of the Six Dynasties period (c. 220 - 589 CE). Tao Yuanming later changed his name to Tao Qian and is generally regarded as the greatest poet during the centuries between the Han and Tang dynasties. He is also the foremost of the "recluse" poets, or the poets who seem to have written their greatest work while in reclusion and/or those poets in whose poems the theme of countryside solitude particularly resonates.

In Tao Yuanming's poems can be found superlative examples of the theme which urges its audience to drop out of official life, move to the country, and take up a cultivated life of wine, poetry, and avoiding people with whom friendship would be unsuitable, but in Tao's case this went along with actually engaging in farming. Tao's poetry also shows an inclination to fulfillment of duty, such as feeding his family. Tao's simple and plain style of expression, reflecting his back-to-basics lifestyle, first became better known as he achieved local fame as a hermit. This was followed gradually by recognition in major anthologies. By the Tang Dynasty, Tao was elevated to greatness as a poet's poet, revered by Li Bai and Du Fu.

Han poetry foreshadowed some of Tao's particular symbolism and the general "returning home to the country" theme, but his poems, prose and style broke new ground and became a fondly relied upon historical landmark. Much subsequent Chinese painting and literature would require no more than the mention or image of chrysanthemums by the eastern fence to call to mind Tao Yuanming's life and poetry. Later, his poetry and the particular motifs which Tao Yuanming exemplified would prove to importantly influence the innovations of Beat poetry and the 1960s poetry of the United States and Europe. Both in the 20th century and subsequently, Tao Yuanming has come to occupy a position as one of the select group of great world poets.

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