Dynasty witnessed the overwhelming development of poetry, as is shown by the
Tang Poetry compiled by the later generations includes over 48,000 poems by more
than 2,200 poets. Taking the late-discovered poems into account, the number
exceeds 50,000, which is two or three times more than the total number of poems
left from the Eastern Zhou
Dynasty to the Northern
Dynasty. Among the numerous Tang poets, Li
Bai and Du
Fu are the best representatives of the zenith of Tang poetry.
Li Bai (7O1 -762), the most outstanding poet at the height of the Tang
Dynasty (618-907), is one of the great romantic poets after Qu
Yuan. He was later called the "poetic genius." Li Bai's life was full of
frustration and his thoughts were complex. Besides a great talent for poetry, Li
Bai had also an air of a swordsman, hermit, Taoist, and adviser. Notions of
Confucianism, Taoism, and chivalry were all embodied in his character.
His life philosophy was "rest on one's laurels."
Li Bai's extant works include more than 900 poems, which artistically recount
his own life, social reality, and the spirit of the high Tang Dynasty.
Li Bai had great political ambitions all through his life and he never
concealed his yearning for fame and honor in his poems, as in "Chant of Liang Fu
- A Small Hill," "Read the Story of Zhuge Liang," and "To Cai Xiong."
Li Bai revered the chivalrous spirit when he was young and wrote many poems
on this, like "Song of a Swordsman." Three years of political life in Chang'an
(today's Xian) exerted a great influence on his literary creation. He found that
his own political ideals contrasted sharply with the seamy sides of social
reality, which inspired him to write a series of famous poems to express his
frustrations, such as "Hard Goes the Way," "Ancient Poems," and "Drinking Alone
on a Cold Night - A Reply to Wang the Twelfth Among His Brothers."
Li Bai was a roamer throughout his life and traveled all
over the country, visiting many famous mountains and rivers. Therefore, many
poems praise the beautiful landscapes of the country, reflecting his uninhibited
character and strong desire for freedom. "Traveling to Tianmu Mountain in a
Dream: A Parting Song" is his most classic work.