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WANG WEI (699-761)

LI BO (701-762)

DU FU (721-770)

Poetry in Everyday Life

Robert Oxnam :: Under the Tang, the writing of poetry then became a feature of everyday life in China.

Stephen Owen :: What you begin to find is that poetry's use in society begins to extend into many areas that it had not been used before.

If you went to visit somebody, and the person wasn't home, you would leave a poem saying, "Visiting the recluse and not finding him in." When you went to parties, you were supposed to write poetry. When you went out as a group to visit some sightseeing spot, you wrote poetry. If a friend was leaving the capital and going on a journey, he and his friends would all go out a certain distance on the journey, stop, have a banquet and write poetry.


"At Yellow Crane Tower," by Li Bo

An old friend takes leave of the west at Yellow Crane Tower,
in misty third-month blossoms goes downstream to Yang-chou.
The far-off shape of his lone sail disappears in the blue-green void,
and all I see is the long river flowing to the edge of the sky.


Even though one often stresses the role of the poet examination poetry in spreading and raising the importance of poetry in the Tang, the real fact is that to participate in Tang society, to be invited to general so-and-so's house or minister so-and-so's house required that you be able to write a much better kind of poetry, less formal kind of poetry. It was a means that aided social mobility in a much broader scale than simply in the examination system.

Paul Rouzer :: Perhaps one of the most distinctive things about Chinese poetry as it was practiced in pre-modern times was the fact that everybody composed it. Basically all educated people who could read and write composed poetry at some time or another. And felt that it was a very important part of their education.