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WANG WEI (699-761)

DU FU (721-770)

Li Bo, the "Outsider" Poet

Robert Oxnam :: Li Bo [Li Po in Wade-Giles romanization], also called Li Bai, is a second very well-known poet of the Tang, who endeared himself to readers as a free spirit with a unique persona.

Paul Rouzer :: He grew up in southwestern China in Sichuan, probably from a merchant family. He was not terribly educated at first.

And when he traveled to the capital of the Tang dynasty, he found that he did not have the poetic training or the cultivation that many of the members of the elite Confucian class did at that particular time.

Stephen Owen :: The Tang was an aristocratic society, and Li Bai was a nobody. He was someone with no real family background. He got an education, but it wasn't the right sort of education.

And Li Bai essentially had to sell himself. And he traveled through China introducing himself to people, presenting himself as this wild free, eccentric. And people in power in China liked to keep a couple of these around. It was considered sort of nice to have one. They entertained you. They were supposed to be wild and free, and so this was very much his self image.

Paul Rouzer :: Li Bo deliberately exaggerated that particular quality of himself as an outsider. Unlike most of his contemporaries, who tended to write about poetry and its links to society, to politics and so forth, the continuing attraction of the Confucian life of service, Li Bo violently rejected those particular aspects, and instead embraced many other aspects — popular culture, Daoism, popular religion, all of the things which the supposed Confucian gentleman tended to avoid in his own daily life.

"Summer Day in the Mountains," by Li Bo

Lazily waving a fan of white feathers,
stripped naked here in the green woods.
I take off my headband hang it on a cliff
my bare head splattered by winds through pines.