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China's drunken superstar poets

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China's drunken superstar poets
« on: October 19, 2012, 01:21:07 PM »
Li Bai and Du Fu: China's drunken superstar poets

By Carrie Gracie BBC News, Beijing

China's two favourite poets were born 1,300 years ago, at the beginning of the 8th Century. The language has changed so little that they remain easy for modern Chinese people to read, and their themes are still relevant today - from friendship, love and landscape to the stench of political corruption.



Kaiser Kuo, a founder of China's first heavy-metal band, is probably one of the very few rock musicians, in any country, who draws inspiration from a poet born in 701AD.

"He was quite a drunkard... and writing some of his best poetry apparently, while completely inebriated. You know, he's wild and associated with a kind of unbridled revelry, and yeah that's part of why I love him," says Kuo.

He is talking about Li Bai, a poet born in Central Asia, who became a wandering superstar poet in China, known as "the fallen immortal" or "the immortal of wine".

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Re: China's drunken superstar poets
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2012, 01:26:40 PM »
Every Chinese person learns poems by Li Bai, and the country's other favourite poet, Du Fu, from childhood.


Li Bai raises glass to the moon Li Bai looks to the moon -
and the bottom of a wine glass - for inspiration


"They are as important in Chinese literary history as Shakespeare is to people in Britain," says historian Yuan Haiwang, author of This Is China: The First 5,000 Years.

"I remember when my son was only a baby held in my arms, I began to teach him some of the poems, like every other parent does, even though of course he couldn't remember all of them.  But that's what the Chinese do."

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Re: China's drunken superstar poets
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2012, 01:31:05 PM »
As a Chinese person living in America, far from home, Yuan particularly likes one poem by Li Bai, about the moon:

Moonlight in front of my bed

I took it for frost on the ground

I lift my head, gaze at the mountain moon

Lower it, and think of home.


"The moon in China has a special meaning. And when it's full, that represents the fullness and reunification of the family," says Yuan. "So that poem struck the deep core of my heart whenever I miss my family."

The moon also symbolises poetry and dreams, so it's fitting that it plays a role in Li Bai's death - the story is that he drowned in a river when he tried to embrace the moon's reflection.

"He was drunk, presumably," says translator Burton Watson.  "He was drunk a good deal of the time."

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Re: China's drunken superstar poets
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2012, 01:38:15 PM »
Drunkenness didn't have negative connotations for an 8th Century poet - it was the route to divine inspiration.  Li Bai and Du Fu were both heavy drinkers, even though in other ways their lives were very different.

Li Bai was a huge celebrity, showered with honours because of his genius.  Du Fu, on the other hand, aspired to a career as a civil servant, but he failed the exam and was too prickly to network his way into a good post.

Then came a rebellion led by a general, An Lushan, and eight years of civil war.  Du Fu fled the Tang capital, Xian, only to be captured and then to wander as a refugee and exile until the rebel general was assassinated by his own son, and everyone could go home.

more at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19884020

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Re: China's drunken superstar poets
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2012, 01:52:44 PM »
my favorite li bai (or li po) poem:

The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chokan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?

At sixteen you departed,
You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me. I grow older.

If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Cho-fu-Sa.
         
                                    -Li Po
                                    (translated by Ezra Pound)


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Re: China's drunken superstar poets
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2012, 01:58:38 PM »
βυγσαψ

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Re: China's drunken superstar poets
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2012, 02:05:22 PM »
a du fu poem:

Reply to a Friend's Advice    

Leaving the Audience by the quiet corridors,
Stately and beautiful, we pass through the Palace gates,

Turning in different directions: you go to the West
With the Ministers of State.  I, otherwise.

On my side, the willow-twigs are fragile, greening.
You are struck by scarlet flowers over there.

Our separate ways!  You write so well, so kindly,
To caution, in vain, a garrulous old man.

                                                     -Du Fu
                                                     (translated by Carolyn Kizer



Although he wrote in all poetic forms, Du Fu is best known for his lǜshi, a type of poem with strict constraints on form and content [as shown by this example]. (wikipedia)

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Re: China's drunken superstar poets
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2012, 02:05:51 PM »
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