Peach Blossoms of Shangri-La

Peach Blossom Shangri-la (Tao Hua Yuan Ji)
By Tao Yuanming [1]

During the Taiyuan era [2] of the Jin Dynasty [3] there was a
man of Wuling [4] who made his living as a fisherman. Once
while following a stream he forgot how far he had gone. He
suddenly came to a grove of blossoming peach trees. It lined
both banks for several hundred paces and included not a
single other kind of tree. Petals of the dazzling and
fragrant blossoms were falling everywhere in profusion.
Thinking this place highly unusual, the fisherman advanced
once again in wanting to see how far it went.

The peach trees stopped at the stream’s source, where the
fisherman came to a mountain with a small opening through
which it seemed he could see light. Leaving his boat, he
entered the opening. At first it was so narrow that he could
barely pass, but after advancing a short distance it suddenly
opened up to reveal a broad, flat area with imposing houses,
good fields, beautiful ponds, mulberry trees, bamboo, and the
like. The fisherman saw paths extending among the fields in
all directions, and could hear the sounds of chickens and
dogs. Men and women working in the fields all wore clothing
that looked like that of foreign lands. The elderly and
children all seemed to be happy and enjoying themselves.

The people were amazed to see the fisherman, and they asked
him from where he had come. He told them in detail, then the
people invited him to their home, set out wine, butchered a
chicken [5], and prepared a meal. Other villagers heard
about the fisherman, and they all came to ask him questions.
Then the villagers told him, “To avoid the chaos of war
during the Qin Dynasty [6], our ancestors brought their
families and villagers to this isolated place and never left
it, so we’ve had no contact with the outside world.” They
asked the fisherman what the present reign was. They were
not even aware of the Han Dynasty [7], let alone the Wei [8]
and Jin. The fisherman told them everything he knew in great
detail, and the villagers were amazed and heaved sighs. Then
other villagers also invited the fisherman to their homes,
where they gave him food and drink. After several days
there, the fisherman bid farewell, at which time some
villagers told him, “It’s not worth telling people on the
outside about us.” [9]

The fisherman exited through the opening, found his boat, and
retraced his route while leaving markers to find this place
again. Upon his arrival at the prefecture town he went to
the prefect and told him what had happened. The prefect
immediately sent a person to follow the fisherman and look
for the trail markers, but they got lost and never found the
way.

Liu Ziji [10] of Nanyang [11] was a person of noble
character. When he heard this story he was happy and planned
to visit the Shangri-la, but he died of illness before he
could accomplish it. After that no one else ever looked for
the place.

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Translator’s Notes
[1] Chinese nature poet, c. 365-427. This prose story is
one of the poet’s most well-known works.
[2] 376-396.
[3] 265-420 (actually two sequential dynasties, the
“Western” and the “Eastern”).
[4] A place in present-day Hunan Province.
[5] “…set out wine, butchered a chicken”: A stock phrase
meaning to entertain a guest lavishly.
[6] 221-206 B.C.
[7] 206 B.C. to A.D. 220.
[8] A.D. 220-265.
[9] The villagers would just as soon keep their existence
secret.
[10] A retired scholar of the Jin Dynasty.
[11] A place in present-day Henan Province.

This translation is based on the SiKuQuanShu text with
editorial emendations and punctuation by the translators. It
was done by Rick Davis (Japan) with help from David Steelman
(Taiwan).

richardjheby

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