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Affinity of Mindscape and Landscape in Tao Qian and Emerson

Abstract

This article compares the reclusive ideal extolled by Chinese poet Tao Qian (T’ao Ch’ien or Tao Yuan Ming) and the solitude that Ralph Waldo Emerson regards as a prerequisite to self-trust. Tao Qian and Emerson are fathers of Chinese and American pastorals respectively. Both the Chinese poet and the New England sage disparage the social, economical, and political pressures that curtail individual spirit and enforce conformity. Both deem nature to be at once salubrious and edifying, and discern correspondences between ecological and moral well-being. Their differences are no less pronounced. Tao Qian, who considers the countryside to be essential to solitude, is content to lead a self-effacing pastoral existence. Emerson, who sees nature as ancillary to the divine spark within each human being, avers that the enlightened soul can find solitude anywhere. While Tao Qian believes that he can only be true to his high-minded nature by literally removing himself from the world of affairs, Emerson never shirks his responsibility as a public intellectual and continues to weigh in with a piece of his mind concerning pressing social and political issues.

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