Peach Blossom Spring (translation)


"Peach Blossom Spring" (桃花源 táohuāyuán) is a famous passage – in fact the preface to a longer poem – by Tao Yuanming, from the Six Dynasties period at the turn of the 4th century AD. The story has almost mythical status in China. Here's the original text, along with a rather lovely reading of it with an erhu playing the background. And below is a translation, courtesy of Dean Barrett, a writer based in Bangkok.


"At the close of the fourth century AD, during the Taiyuan era of the Jin dynasty, a certain fisherman lived in the village of Wuling. One day, so engrossed in exploring the stream of a river, he failed to notice how far he had travelled.

Suddenly, the fisherman saw that he had chanced upon a forest of peach trees in full bloom lining both banks of the river for a great distance. Within this peach orchard, there were no other trees.

A myriad of scented petals floated gently downward, lining both sides of the river. The exquisite beauty of the scene, as well as the perfumed fragrance of the peach blossoms, filled the fisherman with awe. Anxious to see how far this scene of enchantment extended, the fisherman quickly continued onward. He found that the forest of peach trees ended at the source of the river, at the base of a mountain. And within this mountain was a narrow opening illuminated by a shaft of light.

The fisherman tied up his boat and struggled to squeeze through a passage so narrow that a man could only with great effort continue on. But when at last he had crawled out the other side, he found himself looking out upon vast farmland and imposing farmhouses, fertile fields, beautiful lakes, mulberry trees and bamboo groves. The fields were divided by footpaths, cocks crowed, dogs barked, and the dress of the inhabitants at work or at leisure was not unusual. Both young and old seemed cheerful and content.

The people were naturally astounded by the unexpected appearance of the stranger. Once the fisherman had answered their many questions, the people invited him into their homes, brought out their wine, prepared a chicken and feasted him. Word of his arrival spread quickly, and soon all within Peach Blossom Spring gathered to welcome the visitor.

The people spoke of how their ancestors, during the tumultuous upheavals of the Qin dynasty (221–208 BC), had gathered their wives, children and neighbours and fled to this hidden world. Since then, no one had left and they had had no contact with anyone from outside.

The people then asked about the world the fisherman lived in now. He gave them a detailed account but soon realised they had not even heard of the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), let alone those which had followed. When the fisherman had finished his description of the world outside Peach Blossom Spring, the people sighed deeply, full of sorrow over the misfortunes of humanity.

Each family in turn invited the fisherman to a feast in their home, and treated him with gracious hospitality. After several days, when he decided the time had come to depart, he was told that “there is no need to discuss what you have seen here with outsiders,” and the fisherman returned to his boat.

On his return journey, the fisherman did his best to mark his way. When reaching his home, he immediately reported his discovery to the district magistrate. The magistrate sent men to accompany the fisherman in the hope of discovering this mysterious community. But the fisherman could find no trace of the markings he had left, became disoriented, and the search was abandoned.

An acclaimed scholar and recluse heard of the fisherman’s discovery and planned his own expedition, but fell ill and died even before setting out. Henceforth, no further attempts were ever made to find Peach Blossom Spring."

Now check back in a couple of days to find out what happens when Dean set out to find Peach Blossom Spring himself ...