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Poet Li Bai

Poet Li Bai

Li Bai

Li Bai (701-762) was born in Suiye in Central Asia. His ancestors had been banished there by the Sui rulers. At five-years-old, Li Bai moved to Sichuan with his father, who was probably a rich merchant. When young, he studied not only Confucian classics, but also works of other schools. In his twenties, he first traveled far and wide in Sichuan, and then he started a long journey to Central, East and North China.

He did not sit for the civil service examination, for he looked down upon it. But he wished to become an official. When he was 42, he was recommended to Tang Xuan Zong, the emperor at the time, who ordered him to go to Chang'an. Li Bai stayed there for three years and was bitterly disappointed. During the years of An Lushan's rebellion, he joined the staff of Prince Li Lin. Later, because Li Lin tried to seize power and failed, Li Bai was exiled to Yelang. On his way to Yelang he was freed by an amnesty. He went to East China and died in Dangtu, Anhui, at the age of 62.

He wrote as many as 900 poems. Some of them describe the life of the people; some describe the magnificent scenery he saw; others express his own wishes and sorrows. His poems are characterized by unusual imagination and free and direct expression of feelings. That is why he is called a romantic poet.

At dawn I left Baidi towering in the midst of colorful clouds,
And reached Jiangling a thousand Li away in a day.
The screams of monkeys on either bank went on and on,
While my light boat passed by ten thousand hills.

Satisfaction and admiration will fill our hearts when we read such beautiful and dashing lines. They are so colorful, so musical, and so impressive. The image in the poem – a boat rushing down the gorges – is just a description of the poet himself.

Revised June 13, 2011