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His fellow poet Du Fu counted him to the group of Chinese scholars that he called the "Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup" in a poem. Li Bai is often regarded, along with Du Fu, as one of the two greatest poets in China's literary history. Today we know about 1,100 of his poems.
The first translations in a Western language were published in 1862 by Marquis d'Hervey de Saint-Denys in his Poésies de l'Époque des Thang. The English-speaking world was introduced to Li Bai's works by a Herbert Allen Giles publication History of Chinese Literature (1901) and through the liberal, but poetically influential, translations of Japanese versions of his poems made by Ezra Pound.
Li Bai is best known for the extravagant imagination and striking Taoist images in his poetry,and for his great love for . He spent much of his life travelling. People tell the story that he fell from his boat when he tried to embrace the reflection of the moon, and therefore drowned in the Yangtze River.
Biography[change | edit source]
|Pinyin:||Lǐ Bái or Lǐ Bó|
|Wade-Giles:||Li Po or Li Pai|
|Korean:||이백 or 이태백|
|[[Chinese style name|Zì 字]]:||Tàibái 太白|
|[[Chinese style name|Hào 號]]:||Qīnglián Jūshì 青蓮居士|
One of Li Bai's most famous poems is Drinking Alone by Moonlight (月下獨酌, pinyin: Yuè Xià Dú Zhuó), which is a good example of some of the most famous aspects of his poetry—a very spontaneous poem, full of natural images. Li Bai actually wrote several poems with the same title; Arthur Waley's version of the most famous reads:
- 花間一壺酒。 A cup of wine, under the flowering trees;
- 獨酌無相親。 I drink alone, for no friend is near.
- 舉杯邀明月。 Raising my cup I beckon the bright moon,
- 對影成三人。 For her, with my shadow, will make three men.
- 月既不解飲。 The moon, alas, is no drinker of wine;
- 影徒隨我身。 Listless, my shadow creeps about at my side.
- 暫伴月將影。 Yet with the moon as friend and the shadow as slave
- 行樂須及春。 I must make merry before the Spring is spent.
- 我歌月徘徊。 To the songs I sing the moon flickers her beams;
- 我舞影零亂。 In the dance I weave my shadow tangles and breaks.
- 醒時同交歡。 While we were sober, three shared the fun;
- 醉後各分散。 Now we are drunk, each goes his way.
- 永結無情遊。 May we long share our odd, inanimate feast,
- 相期邈雲漢。 And meet at last on the Cloudy River of the sky.
Influence[change | edit source]
Li Bai is influential in the West partly due to Ezra Pound's versions of some of his poems in the collection Cathay, such as The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter. In the east he influenced poets like Mi Fei in the Song Dynasty.
A crater on the planet Mercury has been named after him.
Poetry Style[change | edit source]
Li Bai is best known for his beautiful and witty poetry possessing romantic descriptions of nature, and opinions on ethics and mortality. He was famous among both nobles and commoners in his time, and is thought of one of the four best poets during the Tang Dynasty. He is also well known for his Taoist beliefs and rebellion against Confucian teachings through his writing.
Early Life[change | edit source]
Li Bai was probably born in Central Asia (though the exact location is unknown), where his ancestors had lived in banishment since around the 7th Century. Growing up in a relatively poor family with a merchant father, Li Bai didn’t receive any formal education as a child. Despite this, he had always been skilled with the art of words even as a young boy. In 705 Li Bai’s father moved the family back to Mien-chou in Szechwan. It was their that he spent the majority of his early childhood. As Lai Bai grew up he became developed his sword fighting skills and spent his teenage years traveling all of Szechwan as a knighterrant until age 25, when he traveled to Central China. In 727, Li Bai traveled to A-lu in Hupei, and married the daughter of the retired prime minister. There, continued to explore the natural world where he lived.
Travels[change | edit source]
In 735, Li Bai traveled North to the Yellow River, and East to the Yangtze River. In 742, he traveled to Chang’an, and was presented to the Emperor. The Emperor showered Li Bai with compliments, and thought highly of him. He gave Li Bai a position at the Hanlin Academy. Li Bai received a lot of attention from fellow scholar-officials. He is also very well known for often getting excessively drunk with 7 other officials in city taverns. This earned them the title “The Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup.” In 744, Li Bai left the grand city of Chang‘an, bored with material luxuries of city life. A year later, he met up with Tu Fu, another one of China’s best poets of the time, in Loyang. It was here that he also became a Taoist, a decision that would change the rest of his life. After settling his family down in Loyang, he departed on another ten year journey wandering around Northern China. During this time, his poetry reflects his shift in interest to Toasm rather than his youthful topics of knightly behaviors and gallantry. An-Lu rebellions shook the Tang’s foundation. While famous and well known, Li Bai started to struggle with problems like lack of money and property.
Philosophy[change | edit source]
Li Bai’s poetry reflects the state of low feeling one experiences when he finds his life is wasted, and talents unused. To drown his own sorrows, Li Bo became very drunk very often, until it became a lifelong habit. Wine, however did help him write. While he was drunk, Li Bai was able to compose beautiful verses without restraint. Without anything holding him back, Li Bai’s finest poems were composed with much spontaneity and imagination.
References[change | edit source]
- D'Hervey de Saint-Denys (1862). Poésies de l'Époque des Thang (Amyot, Paris). See Minford, John and Lau, Joseph S. M. (2000)). Classic Chinese Literature (Columbia University Press) ISBN 978-0-231-09676-8.
- Pound, Ezra (1915). Cathay (Elkin Mathews, London). ASIN B00085NWJI.
- Waley, Arthur (1919). "Drinking Alone by Moonlight: Three Poems," More Translations from the Chinese (Alfred A. Knopf, New York), pp. 27-28. Li Bai wrote 3 poems with the same name; Waley published translations of all three.
Bibliography[change | edit source]
- Cooper, Arthur (1973). Li Po and Tu Fu: Poems Selected and Translated with an Introduction and Notes (Penguin Classics, 1973). ISBN 978-0-14-044272-4 .
- Hinton, David (1998). The Selected Poems of Li Po (Anvil Press Poetry, 1998). ISBN 978-0-85646-291-7 .
- Waley, Arthur (1950). The poetry and career of Li Po (MacMillan Co., New York, 1950). ASIN B0006ASTS4.
- Weinberger, Eliot. The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry. (New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2004). ISBN 0-8112-1605-5. Introduction, with translations by William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, and David Hinton.
Other websites[change | edit source]
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Li Bai|
Online translations (some with original Chinese, pronunciation, and literal translation):
- www.chinese-poems.com 20 Li Bai poems, in Chinese using simplified and traditional characters and pinyin, with literal and literary English translations by Mark Alexander.
- etext.lib.virginia.edu 34 Li Bai poems, in Chinese with English translation by Witter Bynner, from the Three Hundred Tang Poems anthology.
- Complete text of Cathay, the Ezra Pound/Ernest Fenollosa translations of poems principally by Li Po (J., Rihaku) together with public domain recordings (MP3) of the same.
- "Li Bai drinking alone (with the moon, his shadow, & 32 translators)" is a comprehensive collection of translations of this poem by an anonymous blogger. Retrieved April 15, 2007.
- 27 Recordings of "Drinking Alone by Moonlight," from the LibriVox website. Retrieved July 1, 2007.
- Spanish Translations of the Poetry of Li Bai (Li Po) by Raúl Racedo, Argentina.
- Das Lied von der Erde: The Literary Changes – synopsis of original Chinese poems, Bethge's translations and Mahler's changes
- New English translations of Li Po with traditional characters in Zone Magazine.