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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


Tao Yuan-Ming's World of Life and Death

Vol. 38 No. 2   6/2008    


Tao Yuan-Ming's World of Life and Death


Yu Tsai









Key words

Life and death, Tao Yuan-Ming, coping with changes, understanding destiny, nature, ethics


  This paper explores how Tao Yuan-Ming, a poet whose existential conviction is based on the ideas of truthfulness, self-contentment, and return to nature, represents life and death in his poetry. The first section of the paper delineates the way in which Tao, in the cultural milieu of lamenting mortality prevalent in the Han and Jin dynasties, developed equanimity in the face of death. Through an analysis of his elegies and funeral orations, the second part deals with how Tao's sense of body and views on ethics embody the borderline between life and death. Through a structural analysis of his poem "Flesh, Shadow, and Spirit," the third section lays out his dialogue with the Buddhist views of life and death. The final section demonstrates how Tao integrates Confucian ethical obligations with the Taoist cosmology of energy transformation, creates an existential position of "attending to destiny and following the cosmic transformation," and develops a wisdom of life and death based on an understanding and recognition of the destiny Tao's view of life and death─unique in the history of Chinese poetry─and the conceptual innovations he made to the Confucian and Taoist traditions are highlighted through our examination of the dialogues between him and his fellow metaphysicians.



Author: Yu Tsai
Genre: Article
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