T'ao Ch'ien

T’ao Ch’ien (also known as T’ao Yüan-ming, 365–427 A.D.) was the first writer to make a poetry of his natural voice and immediate experience, thereby creating the personal lyricism which distinguishes ancient Chinese poetry and makes it seem so contemporary. T’ao gained a quasi-mythic status for his commitment to life as a recluse-farmer, despite poverty and hardship, and his poetry mirrors that life. Its unassuming surface reveals a rich philosophical depth. Virtually all major Chinese poets recognized in T’ao a depth and clarity of wisdom that seemed beyond them, a wisdom which also made him a figure honored in the Zen tradition.