In the end, Yuanming provides readers with a sort of “Daoist Utopia” (Chiang, pg. 97, 2009). A paradise such as a utopia is an imaginary world that does not exist, and therefore can only be had in one’s dreams. Chiang writes about utopias and paradise saying, “Their common function is to articulate our dreams for a better state of existence. In so doing, they also reflect our dissatisfaction with the status quo and our desire to transform, transcend, or escape from it. In articulating desires, paradise and utopia often differ in how each constructs not only ways of desire-fulfillment but also ways of desiring. To make a contingent distinction: a paradise is primarily a religious or mythical vision of happiness, which promises immortality, everlasting youth, supernatural power, religious salvation, divine grace, and/or other heavenly bliss and earthly pleasures.” Yuanming provides the template for how he goes about achieving his Utopia, and therefore serves as a much needed gateway to allow others to discover their own paradise. One’s personal paradise is so vital because it does what the physical human body cannot, which is provide the perfect environment for peace and tranquility that seemingly lasts forever in the holder’s mind.
Additionally, Li Bai’s self-imagination of grandeur is aided by his immense love for wine, taking the audience on drunken tales that allow an escape from the discontent of life in society. His poems create fantastic depictions of dreams which delve heavily into themes of isolation, sorrow, and mysticism. Sad but steadfast in his ideas, Li Bai uses wine as a conduit to bring nature alive, begging the moon to be his friend, all the while seeking a detachment from the realm of men.
These two are compared with Li Qingzhao, who employs alcohol in her poems as an inciting tool to describe either the isolation and wandering she sought out in nature or the grief she experienced while her husband was away. The use of wine magnifies her emotions and often indicates the fleeting role of time in her works, which plays into the Neo-daoist effort to distance oneself from public life. In her case, both pleasure and pain are motivating factors in her alcohol-induced emotional outpourings.
Chiang, S. L. (2009). Visions of happiness: Daoist utopias and grotto paradises in early and medieval Chinese tales. Utopian Studies, 20(1), 97–120. Kibin. (2021). The individual presence and expression in the literary works of tao qian and du fu. Li, Qingzhao, Kenneth Rexroth, and Ling Zhong. Li Chʻing-Chao, Complete Poems / Translated and Edited by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung. New York: New Directions, 1979. Ph.D., O. S. (1997). An Anthology of Chinese Literature: Beginnings to 1911 (Revised ed.). W. W. Norton & Company.
https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/A_1928-0323-0-27 https://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/july/qingzhao-chinese-poet-071614.html https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/53231 Tao Qian. (2020, June 19). New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Tao_Qian
Hongshou, C. (1650). Returning Home [“Returning Home” from the hand scroll Scenes from the Life of Tao Yuanming by Chen Hongshou, Qing dynasty, dated 1650, ink and color on silk, Honolulu Museum of Art accession 1912.1]. Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu , Hawaii, United States of America. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Returning_Home_from_%27Scenes_from_the_Life_of_Tao_Yuanming%27_by_Chen_Hongshou.JPG Bunchō, T. (1812). Tao Yuanming Seated Under a Willow [Shown here is an illustration of Tao Yuanming sitting under a Willow. If you look closely, he is eyeing the gourd that contains his wine.]. Philadelphia Museum Of Art, Philadelphia , Pennsylvania, United States of America. https://www.philamuseum.org/collection/object/275857 Hongshu, C. (1650). Filling Wine [“Filling Wine” from the hand scroll Scenes from the Life of Tao Yuanming by Chen Hongshou, Qing dynasty, dated 1650, ink and color on silk, Honolulu Museum of Art accession 1912.1]. Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Filling_Wine_from_%27Scenes_from_the_Life_of_Tao_Yuanming%27_by_Chen_Hongshou.JPG Emperor Minghuang, seated upon a terrace, observing Li Bai write poetry. (1600). [Emperor Minghuang, seated upon a terrace, observing Li Bai write poetry. Retouched print, ink and color on woodblock. From the seventeenth century and in the British Museum since 1928.]. British Museum, London, England, UK. https://www.photo.rmn.fr/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&IID=2C6NU0W1L6KR