I was drawn to the garden this morning. As I turned the cool soil with my fingertips and planted a row of seeds, a light, fresh breeze played through the leaves of the trees at the forest edge, and ever so gently swung the graceful, hanging branches of a tall willow.
Dew drops hung on the grass tips, which were still wet where the sun hadn’t yet reached them. Birdsong filled the fresh spring air.
I was reminded of a story, in this quiet, blissful little morning corner of the world…which I will share with you today.
Peach Blossom Shangri-la
(As translated and proofed by Rick Davis and David Steelman)
During the Taiyuan era of the Jin Dynasty there was a
man of Wuling who made his living as a fisherman. Once
while following a stream he forgot how far he had gone.
He suddenly came to a grove of blossoming peach trees.
It lined both banks for several hundred paces and included not a
single other kind of tree. Petals of the dazzling and
fragrant blossoms were falling everywhere in profusion.
Thinking this place highly unusual, the fisherman advanced
once again in wanting to see how far it went.
The peach trees stopped at the stream’s source, where the
fisherman came to a mountain with a small opening through
which it seemed he could see light.
Leaving his boat, he entered the opening.
At first it was so narrow that he could
barely pass, but after advancing a short distance it suddenly
opened up to reveal a broad, flat area with imposing houses,
good fields, beautiful ponds, mulberry trees, bamboo, and the
The fisherman saw paths extending among the fields in
all directions, and could hear the sounds of chickens and
Men and women working in the fields all wore clothing
that looked like that of foreign lands. The elderly and
children all seemed to be happy and enjoying themselves.
The people were amazed to see the fisherman, and they asked
him from where he had come. He told them in detail, then the
people invited him to their home, set out wine, butchered a
chicken , and prepared a meal. Other villagers heard
about the fisherman, and they all came to ask him questions.
Then the villagers told him,
“To avoid the chaos of war
during the Qin Dynasty our ancestors brought their
families and villagers to this isolated place and never left
it, so we’ve had no contact with the outside world.”
They asked the fisherman what the present reign was.
They were not even aware of the Han Dynasty , let alone the Wei
The fisherman told them everything he knew in great
detail, and the villagers were amazed and heaved sighs.
Then other villagers also invited the fisherman to their homes,
where they gave him food and drink. After several days
there, the fisherman bid farewell, at which time some
villagers told him,
“It’s not worth telling people on the outside about us.”
The fisherman exited through the opening, found his boat, and
retraced his route while leaving markers to find this place
again. Upon his arrival at the prefecture town he went to
the prefect and told him what had happened. The prefect
immediately sent a person to follow the fisherman and look
for the trail markers, but they got lost and never found the
Liu Ziji of Nanyang was a person of noble
When he heard this story he was happy and planned
to visit the Shangri-la, but he died of illness before he
could accomplish it. After that no one else ever looked for
It was written in China in 421 CE, during a time of political instability and national disunity. The author, Tao Yuan Ming, was thought to be the greatest poet during the centuries between the Han and Tang dynasties, known as the Six Dynasties period.