Yuan Hongdao hated being an official and never enjoyed administrative duties. Here is how he wrote about it:|
"Indeed, the advantages of serving as an Educational Official are
just as you describe them in your letter, except that you don’t go
far enough and much more can be said of the matter. I think
back to that time when I was serving in Wu County and although
one could say that I had a sufficiency of wives and concubines,
fine clothes and rich food, I often didn’t get to see the former for
months on end, and as to the last, even the yellow croachers of
Tiger Hill that once I dined off tasted no better than mud. By
contrast, the apple cakes and sweetmeats that are now my simple
fare seem as if they come from the kitchen of an immortal. And,
although living within the confines of a temple affords one little by
way of peace and quiet, far better it is than living in that hall of
endless litigation; although the monks prove poor
conversationalists, more elegant by far are they than prisoners and
Yamen runners. All men strive for wealth and power, always to
be dissatisfied with what they achieve. Once one has really found
a place of retreat, however, nothing there is that one does not
have enough of."
"Its not that I am unwilling to be an official, but I can't help feeling that it simply runs against the grain of my heart!...
Being an official entails suffering; being a magistrate causes the most suffering of all. And if you're the magistrate of Wuxian, then the suffering is multiplied a million-fold, worse than the labors of ox and horse. Why? Because superiors visit you like gathering clouds, travelers stop by like drops of rain, papers pile up like mountains,an ocean of taxes in cash and grain must be collected: if you work and write morning and night, you still can't keep up with all of it! Misery, misery!"
(Quoted from Jonathan Chaves' Pilgrim Of The Clouds.)
1567 Born Yuan Hongdao
1592 passed Jinshi exam at 25 years old
1594 To Suzhou by water arrived 1595 Magistrate of Suzhou
1597 Returned to Peking, Educational Official
1597 Visited West Lake for the first time, to sit drinking in Lake Heart Pavilion as the autumnal rains washed the lake red with peach blossoms.
He paid calls upon the celebrated monk Zhuhong
1600 Secretary in the Bureau of Ceremonies in the Ministry of
Rites, three months then resigned
1608 Again back in the Capital to serve as Director of the Bureau of
1610 resigned returned home
At the age of 24 he took the 'jinshi exam and took an official position. However he quit out of boredom after a year and in 1593 went traveling. His travels resulted in his publishing a poetry compilation Jietuo ji [Collection of One Released]. His and his two brothers' poetry, which focused on clarity and sincerety, collected a following eventually known as the Gong'an school, the central belief of which was that good writing was a result of genuine emotions and personal experience. When one of Yuan Hongdao's brothers died in 1600 he retired to a small island in a lake to meditate and write poetry. The resulting work is Xiao Bitang Ji, Jade-Green Bamboo Hall Collection.