Entering a Secluded Paradise by Mistake

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"Entering a Secluded Paradise by Mistake" is a Daoist anecdote, an allusion found in the Records of this World and the Netherworld ( 幽明錄 Youming Lu ). It is said that in the fifth Yongping year during the reign of Emperor Mingdi of the Han dynasty (A.D. 62), the scholars Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao from Shan county went to Tiantai Mountain in Zhejiang to pick husks, and did not know how they could return. During their 13 days on the mountain, they allayed their hunger with wild peaches. When they went down the mountain with cups to get water, they saw delicious turnip leaves floating on the brook and a box of benne rice flowing downstream. According to the evidence, they estimated that they were not far away from an inhabited place. So they crossed the river and a mountain. They saw two extraordinarily beautiful girls, who addressed them by name and scolded them for coming so late. Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao did not understand why the two girls knew their names. They felt both surprised and happy. The two girls led Liu and Ruan to their residence, and treated them with feasts. Then they drank liquor and made merry for half a year, until one day, the two scholars missed their hometown and requested to return home. The two girls were reluctant to part with them, but they accompanied the two out of the mountains. Back home, Liu and Ruan found that they already had seven generations of descendants. In the eighth year during the reign of Taikang of the Jin dynasty (A.D. 287), seeing the world was so turbid and feeling that this world was not even as human as the wild wonderland, the two scholars left their hometown secretly and went to look for the fairies of the former days. Zaju (a poetic drama) writers in the Yuan dynasty developed the legend into Entering a Secluded Paradise by Mistake, which addressed the girls encountered by Liu and Ruan as "fairies in the paradise". The story shows the indifference in time between the world and the wonderland. A half-year in the wonderland equals above a hundred years in this world. In addition, the story embodies ancient scholars' dissatisfaction with the dark reality.