Utopias IV

The utopia that conforms to the way of the hermit and solitary can be found in the short tale of Tao Chien called “Cherry Blossom Spring.” In this story, a traveler lost in a forest comes to a cave entrance and follows it, emerging on the other side into an ideal place where people work, rest, and coexist without violence, power, or rank, a place where food is plentiful, disease unknown, and wants reduced to the patterns of nature. The traveler is delighted and tells the people of this hidden valley that he must return at once to announce his wonderful discovery to the world. No, protest the people, don’t tell anyone, for unworthy people with unworthy motives will come and their society and values will corrupt and ruin them. But the traveler will not listen. In a moment he has retreated through the cave and back to the forest, eventually finding his way to the city and his compatriots. A troop of the curious quickly forms and they go straight to the forest. But after a long and futile search, the cave cannot be found. They give up, wondering if they have been duped by the traveler.
Such a society is Tao Chien’s own mountain village, an ancient Chinese hamlet that welcomed hermits and recluses without prejudice. Tao Chien, in reclusion from government service, a farmer with his family, imagined his village — and, perhaps, his eremitic life — in a perpetual cherry blossom springtime, the most beautiful season of the year.