On the Mountain of the Hermits

Yi Xin Tong, Winnie Wong
2021 Critical Times  
This is an open access arti cle dis trib uted under the terms of a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). 334 One of the most trea sured tropes in the Chi nese lite rati tra di tion is the scholar's deci sion-in the face of an objec tion able polit i cal regime-to with draw from civic duties. The fourth-cen tury poet Tao Yuanming retreated to Mount Lu (Mount Hermi tage) for a life in seclu sion, chang ing his name to Tao Qian (The Hidden). His poetry reflecting on this dis en gage ment
more » ... me the touch stone for cen tu ries of lit er ary, poetic, and artis tic expres sions of schol arly abju ra tion. Retreating to the moun tains is the geo graph i cal dem on stra tion of the stra te gic power of vis i ble silence and com mit ted refusal. In the twen ti eth cen tury, despite its geo graph i cal remove, Mount Her mi tage was not dis con nected from the polit i cal upheav als of the cen tury or the appro pri ative pol i tics of retreat. Western mis sion ar ies, offer ing a new vision of the after life, established a sum mer resort there, nam ing it Guling, for "cooling." They departed before the Jap a nese inva sion, and left behind their Euro pean-styled build ings to be recolonized and reinhabited. During its stra te gic mil i tary retreat known as the Long March, the Chi nese Communist Party bat tled Republican forces near one of its lakes. During the Great Leap Forward and through the Cultural Revolution, three Party ple nums made life and death deci sions from its cool and lofty heights. Today, Mount Lu is a protected tour is tic reserve, a four-hour drive from the city of Wuhan. Even with its sto ried her i tage as a place of iso la tion, it is also just a mountain town contending, like so much of China and the rest of the world, with the unequal move ment of peo ple from vil lage to town to city, with envi ron men tal deg ra da tion and cor re spond ing nos tal gia for the nat u ral, and with the pan demic
doi:10.1215/26410478-9093134 fatcat:k6kifkdybjb6rmfcbr264mmxs4