Monday, July 21, 2014

Poetic Folk Hero: Li Bai

Folk lore legend has it that starry-eyed poet Li Bai tried to kiss the reflection of the moon in the water next to his boat when he fell overboard and drowned. It has been said the poet had a penchant for liquor, which may have played a factor in his demise. He even wrote a poem before his death titled “Alone and Drinking Under the Moon.”

Poets and writers of both fiction and non-fiction tell stories. In one way or other they show us how the world looks, what works and how changes can be made. It is through this literary looking glass that the author’s society can be shared. Readers get to learn about specific traditions, beliefs and more. They come to find out what is considered beautiful and worthy in a particular culture as well as what is considered inappropriate and undesired.

Poems, it can be argued, are among the most metaphoric of literary forms. They are often dependent upon figurative language to convey a message (often a feeling or experience). Chinese poet Li Bai captured the world he lived in with very few words.

He lived during 701 to 263 AD he was given the title Poet Immortal during the Tang Dynasty for his whimsical and bright poetry. At an early age, guided by his mother who was of Turkish descent, he began his journey as a poet along with a study of Taoist discipline and ancient martial arts. He took all three with him on a nomadic trek through China’s natural landscapes in search of inspiration.

Li Bai, also known as Li Po (Bo), is credited with a thousand poems, of which thirty-four in the canonical 18th-century anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems. The poems celebrated the pleasures of friendship, the depth of nature, solitude, and the joys of drinking wine. Admired by many, including a famous Daoist priest, Wu Yun, he was to the Imperial County. There he befriended Emperor’s Ming Huang’s favorite royal consort Yang Guifei while offending the most powerful royal eunuch and, eventually others. He quickly fell out of favor and was exiled. It is believed that he was 62 when he drowned in a lake one night while reaching for the moon.
To read a translation of his work, click here.To learn more about last months folk heroine whom was also a well known author click here.

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