“On Reading the Classic of Mountains and Seas.” Chinese historian Xiaofei Tian has argued that any discussion of the Taoist nature poet must begin with a reading of his self-referential character Master Five Willows, whose “house is bare, the roof and walls hardly providing shelter,” but for whom reading is an ecstatic experience in which “he becomes so happy that he forgets to eat.” The Classic of Mountains tells the stories of 204 mythical characters as they traverse the topography of ancient China.
In the month of June the grass grows high
And around my cottage thick-leaved branches sway.
There is not a bird but delights in the place where it rests;
And I too—love my thatched cottage.
I have done my plowing;
I have sown my seed.
Again I have time to sit and read my books.
In the narrow lane there are no deep ruts;
Often my friends’ carriages turn back.
In high spirits I pour out my spring wine
And pluck the lettuce growing in my garden.
A gentle rain comes stealing up from the east
And a sweet wind bears it company.
My thoughts float idly over the story of the King Zhou
My eyes wander over the pictures of mountains and seas.
At a single glance I survey the whole universe.
He will never be happy whom such pleasures fail to please!