I constructed Tao Hua Yuan Ji at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center in October of 2017. The book measures 13.8 x 21 feet and almost 5 feet high, and is inspired by Tao Yuanming, a Jin Dynasty (317-420) poet, who wrote of a traveler who came upon an isolated peach blossom valley beyond a cave where people seeking political refuge lived an ideal, harmonic life with nature and each other. Although villagers told the traveler not to tell of their location, he vainly marked his path and sent government officials who were unable to find it. To the Chinese, this story is metaphoric to an imaginary unattainable Utopia where the peach blossom symbolizes luck, love, and longevity, and to some – immortality.
The Zhuang people of Southwest Yunnan Province claim that they are the village depicted in Tao Yuanming’s story. I traveled there in 2008 and have not told anyone how to get there. Visitors were invited to enter the cave.