In 815 the Chinese poet-official Bai Juyi, having offended the audiorities by his outspoken criticisms of government policy, was dismissed from his position at court and shunted off to an insignificant post in the Yangzi region far to the south, a virtual sentence of exile. Not long after arriving at his new post, he wrote the following poem entitled “Reading Zhuangzi”:
Leaving homeland, parted from kin, banished to a strange
I wonder my heart feels so little anguish and pain.
Consulting Zhuangzi, I find where I belong:
surely my home is there in Not-Even-Anything land.
As a result of his sudden reversal of fortune, Bai was abruptly separated from almost everything that defined life for a Chinese gentleman of his class: native region, extended family (his wife was allowed to accompany him into exile), public office. In terms of traditional values, he had in effect been stripped of his identity, his reason for being. One would expect him to be totally crushed by such a turn of events. And yet, to his own surprise, as