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The Life and Experiences of the Famous Chinese Poet Li Bai

Time will inevitably create prodigies. Sooner or later, there will be a person most people will consider an anomaly. A freak of nature. Eventually, there will be a person that will rewrite history and will be studied centuries after their death. 

Such a phenomenon has been around since time immemorial. The presence of a genius is unavoidable, especially in art. After all, art is an expression. No matter what narrative is present in that era, it won’t change the medium of expression that a genius has. They were born to rewrite history. They are made to create work of art significantly ahead of their time that centuries later, it is still applicable. 

Today, we shall be witnesses to that kind of genius. Someone who is unprecedented in the field of Chinese poetry. Today, we will examine the life and work of art of a famous Chinese poet, Li Bai 李白 (Lǐ Bái).

Chinese Poet LiBai
Image from Internet

1. Who is Li Bai 李白?

Li Bai 李白 (Lǐ Bái) (701 — December 762), was a great romantic poet of the Tang Dynasty. He was literary known as Qinglian Lay Shi 青莲居士 (Qīng Lián Jū Shì), also known as the “Banished Immortal” 谪仙人 (Zhé Xiān Rén. Li Bai is a prolific poet that created timeless masterpieces. That is why he was acclaimed as the “Poetry Immortal 诗仙 (Shī Xiān)” by later generations.

2. Li Bai’s Life Experiences 

There are four major parts to Li Bai’s life: early genius, family resignation and travel, life challenges, and ending with a poem.

At an early age, people already noticed Li Bai’s prodigious skill in writing. Consequently, his family pushed him to study hard. At the age of fifteen, he has already arranged a portfolio of poems. The portfolio received national acknowledgment. It garnered attention from common people and celebrities alike. He received praises from prominent writers and celebrities. This age signified his prime as a literary figure. At such a young age, he was already a successful writer. However, like many geniuses, a little success is not enough. He craved for more. He thought of ways to perfect and polish his craft. That’s when he decided to change his lifestyle. 

In his relentless journey to seek inspiration, he lived in seclusion up in the mountains. He stripped away the inconvenience of socialization and settled. Consequently, he did short travels to Jiangyou, Jiange, and Zizhou. The experience was invaluable. It opened his mind to many insights and internal realizations, which he later applied to his poems.

 Away from the solace of the homestead, at age 18, he traveled to different destinations in China. He initially opted to live in the mountains and enjoy nature. 

At age 24, he decided to travel even further. After all, the world is humongous. To be a prolific writer, he needs to see the world with his own eyes. Consequently, Li Bai left his hometown to embark on a long journey that changed the cogs of this literary life. 

Li Bai traveled to many places during this time. However, after exhausting all inspiration from the place, he will move to another location. He maintained this pattern in his journey. Initially, his first destination was Chengdu. However, he did not stay long. After a short while, he traveled to Emei Mountain, and then Yuzhou 渝州 (Yúzhōu) by boat. Eventually, he decided to venture out of Shu 蜀 (Shǔ). It was during this time he met Meng Haoran 孟浩然 (Mèng Hàorán), the prime minister’s granddaughter. He was astounded and enchanted by her beauty. It was love at first sight. Eventually, they got married and settled in Anlu 安陆 (Ānlù).

Li Bai was ecstatic. However, the life of royalty didn’t suit him. After countless socialization with princes and ministers, he stopped. He settled to once again live in seclusion. At age thirty, he spent most of his days farming and studying. However, at age 34, after arranging another portfolio, his life was bound to change again.

After Li Bai presented his new poems Ming Tang Fu 明堂赋 (Míng Tang Fù) and Da Hunting Fu 大猎赋 (Dà Liè Fù) to Emperor Xuanzong 玄宗 (Xuánzōng) of the Tang Dynasty, he got acquainted with the prolific writers of the empire. This led to his summoning to the palace as an academic. During this period, he wrote works such as Qingping Diao 清平调 (Qīngpíng Diào). 

After the An Shi 安史 (Ān Shǐ) Rebellion broke out, Li Bai 李白 (Lǐ Bái) led his family to flee south to escape the rebellion. Later, he entered the Shogunate of Yong King Li Lin 永王李璘 (Yǒng Wáng Lǐ Lín) and was incarcerated for his involvement in Yong King’s rebellion.

At age 59, Li Bai received amnesty from the imperial court acquitting him of his charges. His freedom enabled him to spend the last of his days writing. However, at age 62, Li Bai contracted a terminal disease. while bedridden, he wrote the death bed song which Li Yangbing 李阳冰 published after Li Bai’s death. 

3. Li Bai’s Character

Li Bai led a full life. He was generous, chivalrous, and gentle. He viewed money as a means of socialization. That is why he dedicated his fortune to socializing and making friends. He loved writing with a drink at the side. It nullifies his sense which creates a better inspiration. His poem such as “Going into Wine”, “Difficult Journey”, and “Farewell School Shu Shu Yun at Xie Tiao Lou of Xuanzhou” was created this way. Along the way, he built a solid bond of friendship which he valued. He got to know He Zhizhang and Du Fu and forged a deep friendship with them.

4. Li Bai’s values

Li Bai was hedonistic. He loved life more than anyone. That is why he advocated for Taoism. He yearned for immortality and existence. In addition, he also subscribes to Confucianism and Buddhism.

Li Bai’s love of life doesn’t only apply to himself. He loved his people too. That is why he wanted to be a political figure and serve the country. He was a person with a great love for his people.

Li Bai was also spiritual. He had a close relationship with monks and temples. He often spends time with them learning about spirituality and meaning. He translates these lessons into his poems. That is why his masterpiece often showed the Buddhist concept of emptiness and the desire for purity and transcendence.

5. Li Bai’s works

Li Bai created numerous masterpieces throughout his lifetime. Among his most creative works is the Li Taibai Collection which has most of his drunk poems. This portfolio was handed down to posterity. People nowadays revere this collection for its variety and technical genius.

His representative works include “Looking at Lushan Waterfall,” “Difficult Journey,” “Difficult Road in Shu”, “Going into Wine”, “Early departure to Baidi City”, and many other poems. Li Bai李白 (Lǐ Bái) ‘s Cifu 词赋 (Cí fù), which has been a biography of song people, enjoys a very high status in terms of its pioneering significance and artistic achievements.

6. Explain The Knowledge Points

经历 (jīng lì) : experience, take, undergo

经 (jīng):  the first tone, classic works, pass-through

历 (lì): the fourth tone, history, calendar

诗仙 (Shī Xiān): Poetry Immortal

诗 (shī): the first tone, poetry, poem, verse, ode

仙 (xiān): the first tone, Taoist super-being, transcendent, immortal


Zhī yǒu jīng lì guò tòng kǔ, cái yǒu kě néng chéng gōng.

只 有  经 历过   痛 苦,才 有 可  能   成   功 。

Success is only possible after suffering.

Měi yí gè rén dōu yǒu bù tóng de rén shēng jīng lì.

每 一 个 人 都  有 不  同  的 人  生   经 历。

Every one has own life experience.

Lǐ Bái bèi hòu rén chēng wéi “Shī Xiān”

李白 被  后  人  称   为 “诗 仙” 。

Li Bai is praised as a “Poetry Immortal ” by later generations.


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