Li Bai

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Li Bai (Chinese: 李百; Hanyu pinyin: Lǐ Bái), sometimes called Li Po, was a famed Chinese poet. He produced thousands of poems; over 1000 remain today.


Early life

It is not known when Li Bai was born, but it is known that his grandfather was Li Chengqian, the oldest son of Emperor Taizong. His mother died shortly after he was born, and he was raised by his aunt. He had an elder brother, who died young. He also had three half brothers and one half sister.

As the son of a minor officer, his youth was spent studying for the civil servant exams. He later claimed to have produced creditable poetry by his early teens, but they are now lost. Around 725, he took the civil service exam, which he failed, probably because he did not have many connections in the capital. He accepted a position as an officer of the imperial guards, which he held until around 735. Afterwards, he spent several years traveling around Shandong and Hebei. Most of his great works were from this time.

Career and Death

In 746, he moved to the capital and took the civil service exam a second time. However, all the candidates were failed by the prime minister, probably to protect his reputation. He petitioned the emperor directly in 751, receiving a position as Registrar of the Left Commandant's office. He held that position until his death in 762, when he fell into the Yangtze while drunkenly trying to embrace the reflection of the moon.

Further reading

  • Hinton, David (1998). The Selected Poems of Li Po (Anvil Press Poetry, 1998). ISBN 978-0856462917 .
  • Seth, V. (translator) (1992). Three Chinese Poets: Translations of Poems by Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu. (London: Faber & Faber). ISBN 0-571-16653-9.
  • Varsano, Paula M. (2003). "Tracking the Banished Immortal: The Poetry of Li Bo and its Critical Reception" (University of Hawaii Press, 2003). ISBN 978-0824825737