Returning Home and Wine-Drinking Song

Returning Home and Wine-Drinking Song

Ben Wang’s 2021 Fall Course


Tuesday, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
October 5 – December 7
10 sessions (20 hours)
$540 member / $580 non-member
(plus a $30 non-refundable registration fee)
*This class is taught in English.

A native of Jiangxi province, Tao Yuanming 陶淵明 (365-427), also known as Tao Qian, of the Eastern Jin dynasty (317-420), is one of China’s greatest poets after Qu Yuan (343-278 BC) and before Wang Wei (761-762) – much in the latter’s poetry echoes in essence the timelessness of Force of Nature, as it’s emphasized in the works of Tao Yuanming. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that all the Chinese poets after Tao were more or less inspired by him in both spirit and style.

Profoundly influenced by the life and works of China’s first known poet Qu Yuan (屈原, 340-278 B.C.), whose poetic works are the fountainhead of Chinese culture, seven centuries before Tao, and also (influenced) by the quintessence of Daoism of Detachment and Buddhism of Compassion, Tao Yuanming’s poetic works possess a peaceful, gentle and reclusive mood (an adamant and uncompromised objection to corruption and inefficient governance, notwithstanding). They extol the joys and rewards of forsaking worldly desires, returning to Nature and tending to the land to acquire a calm existence of simplicity and austerity, a life rich of poetic carefreeness and joie-de-vivre found in a mind-set that is liberated from materialism or any vain pursuit of common pleasures of the flesh.

Living the life of transience on a cool and clear autumn day, a lone cloud floating calmly by, here and there some wise old pines, blossoming chrysanthemums, slender bamboos in their verdant silence, distant purple mountains silhouetted against the deep blue sky – all of which taken in with a heart of languorousness, Tao Yuanming’s view on life and his works stress the significance of a spiritual purity and serenity in a zen-inspired existence that was singularly his.

Of all Tao’s memorable poems and poetic prose works, Returning Home歸去來辭, reigns undisputedly as his towering epic masterpiece, and the other, Wine-Drinking Song (Number 5) 飮酒詩(五), one of his most graceful and languorous pentasyllabic poems of antiquated style in Chinese literature, will be studied and discussed in the Fall semester. — Ben Wang.



Ben Wang: Senior Lecturer in Language and Humanities at China Institute, Co-Chair of Renwen Society of China Institute, retired Instructor of Chinese at the United Nations Language Program.  A published writer on classical Chinese poetry and others, Ben Wang is an award winning translator both from Chinese into English and vice versa; He taught Chinese and translation at Columbia University, New York University, Pace University and City University of New York between 1969 and 1991.

Ben Wang teaches and lectures on the Chinese language, calligraphy, and classical Chinese literature, including the Book of Songs, the Songs of the South; Han, Tang and Song poetry; Yuan and Ming poetic dramas; Story of the Stone of the Qing; classical Kunqu Drama and Beijing Opera; Literati Painting. Ben Wang’s lectures on and translations of Kunqu dramas have been reviewed and acclaimed three times in the New York Times by the Times’ music and drama critic James Oestreich as “magnificent,” “captivating,” and “colorful.”

Since 1989, Ben Wang has lectured (extensively on the above-mentioned subjects)at Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Barnard, Williams, U.C. Berkeley, New York University, Bates, Colby, Hamilton, Middlebury, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. Mary’s College in California, the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art, United Nations, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, ABC Nightline, the BBC, among other academic and cultural institutions.

Latest publications in English:

  1. Forlorn in the Rain: Translation and Annotation of Selected Classical Chinese Poetry and Others; Published by Foreign Languages Publishing Bureau, Beijing, China: Oct. 2018
  1. A series of 4 books on the Forbidden City in Beijing, China:
    1. We All Live in the Forbidden City
    2. This Is the Greatest Place!
    3. Bowls of Happiness
    4. What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor?

    (Published by China Institute and Released by Tuttle Publishing; 2014, 2015, the series has garnered 9 US book awards, as of September 2016.)

  1. Laughter and Tears: Libretti from Highlight Scenes of 26 Classical Poetic Kunqu Dramas; Published by Foreign Languages Publishing Bureau, Beijing, China: 2009.

(January 2019)

6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Instructor: Ben Wang