Tuesday, April 2, 2019

“The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai” by Ha Jin

In college, I was part of the first two classes in Chinese history, courtesy of Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon and their recognition of the People’s Republic. Interest in all things Chinese had surged, and my university offered the history classes. As a senior, I had rank to get into the classes. 

What surprised me was how much we learned, not only about history, but about Chinese literature. The reason was that to know the country’s history, you had to know the country’s literature. And my history class was the first place I learned about the poet considered the greatest in Chinese history, Li Po, or, as he came to be known after the Anglicized Chinese was changed, Li Bai. 

Li Bai lived from 701 to 762 A.D. during the Tang dynasty, when China was already an ancient society. An indication of his longstanding popularity, which survived dynastic change, wars, and revolutions, is that Mao Zedong loved his poetry and Li Bai’s poems are still recited by Chinese schoolchildren today. 

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

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