"Unmoving Clouds" is the title of one of Tao Yuanming's poems. It says: "Thick and dusty unmoving clouds, misty and drizzling rain. All eight realms are gloomy and dark; who set obstacles on the smooth roads?" "Thick and dusty" indicates dense cloud cover. "Unmoving clouds" indicates that the clouds are still. "Misty" means foggy and unclear. "Realms" indicates the external appearance. "Eight realms" are beyond the eight directions. We usually talk about the four directions—east, west, north, and south; together with southeast, southwest, northeast, and northwest, there are eight directions. "Eight realms" indicates the vast and extensive regions beyond the eight directions. "All ... are gloomy and dark" means they are all the same, dim and hazy. Tao Yuanming thought that the regions beyond the eight directions were all gloomy and dark.
"Who set obstacles" on very good and smooth roads? In such a fine world with such a fine human race, who has set up so many barriers and created so many evil offenses, making people suffer and bringing disasters down upon them? Reading between the lines of Tao Yuanming's poems, you can see how deep his anger and sorrow were! Living in such a dark age, with a mind full of deep anxiety, despair, and sorrow, how did Tao Yuanming acquire peace and balance in body and spirit? What was his spiritual journey like?
Gong Zizhen said: 'Tao Qian liked to talk about Jing Ke in his poems. Refer to his loud songs in 'Unmoving Clouds.'" He said that when we read Tao Yuanming's poems, we always hear the 'loud songs' in his "Unmoving Clouds"—so loud, so sad, and so indignant! Gong Zizhen said, "Don't believe that poets are content with the simple life. They are two parts fame and one part rhythm." We all know that Tao Yuanming cut through the reins of fame and the rope of wealth, that these things had no hold over him. What is more, he even saw through the matter of life and death.
He said, "Whatever is meant to end must end. Don't be concerned about it." In "Return," he wrote: "I enjoy being what I am without any doubts." It seems that he was at peace. However, Gong Zizhen said that he was not peaceful by nature, that he could calm down only after an inner struggle filled with contradictions and suffering. Thus Gong Zizhen said:
"Don't believe that poets are content with the simple life. They are two parts Liangfu and one part Sao." You shouldn't believe that Tao Yuanming's mind was absolutely calm, like placid water without any ripples. In fact, he still carried "two parts Liangfu and one part Sao" in his mind! What is meant by "two parts Liangfu and one part Sao"? There is a story in Chinese history. During the Three Kingdoms period, the prime minister who assisted Liu Bei was Zhuge Liang. Before Zhuge Liang met Liu Bei and was employed by him, he liked to recite a poem called the "Song of Liangfu."
There are various explanations of the "Song of Liangfu," which can generally be classified into two basic kinds: The first is that it is a kind of song people sing at funeral services. The second explanation has to do with a famous scholar in the Eastern Han Dynasty named Zhang Heng, who was both a literary man and a scientist (he invented a celestial globe and a seismometer, and also wrote poetry).
Zhang Heng wrote a series of poems entitled "Four Concerns." In the first poem, he said,
The person I am thinking of is at Mount Tai.
I want to follow her, but Mount Liangfu is dangerous.
Zhang Heng says, "The person I am missing is at Mount Tai, and I wish to go there, but on the way to her place is a huge mountain called Liangfu, which is very dangerous and hard to climb over. What was Zhang Heng trying to say here? Who he was missing? Who was he looking and yearning for? The poem is totally metaphorical. It expressed his wish to be employed by the emperor. Liangfu represents the forces of evil which obstructed worthy officials from being employed.
To be continued