Other literary forms

(World Poets and Poetry)

Du Fu (dew few) is known primarily for his poetry. The 1,450 poems he wrote have been collected through the years in frequently revised and reprinted anthologies and collections such as Quan Tang shi and The Jade Mountain.


(World Poets and Poetry)

Born during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the classical period in Chinese literary history, Du Fu was one of four poets whose greatness marked the era. Some fifty thousand poems from that period have survived, the large number resulting primarily from the talents of Du Fu; Wang Wei{/XRefMOA} Du Fu>Wang Wei, basically a nature poet; Bo Juyi, a government official whose poetry often reflected official concerns; and Li Bo, probably the best known of all Chinese poets, a poet of the otherworldly or the sublime.

Du Fu sums up the work of all these poets with the wide range of topics and concerns that appear in his poems. Known variously as “poet-historian,” “poet-sage,” and “the Master,” Du Fu may be China’s greatest poet. His “Yue ye” (“Moonlit Night”) is perhaps the most famous poem in Chinese literature. His more than fourteen hundred extant poems testify to his productivity; the range of topics in his poetry and the variety of verse that he employed constitute Du Fu’s main contribution to Chinese literature.

One of Du Fu’s major contributions to Chinese literature was his extensive occasional verse—poems inspired by a journey or by a mundane experience such as building a house. Many of Du Fu’s occasional poems were addressed to friends or relatives at some special time in their lives. Distant relatives who held official positions and achieved distinction would receive a laudatory poem. These poems could also be...

(The entire section is 570 words.)

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Examine the concept of re in poems of Du Fu other than “A Fine Lady.”

Show how Du Fu uses observation of the natural world to cast light upon human disorders.

Comment on tributes to quietness in Du Fu’s poems.

What are the most specific Confucian values in Du Fu’s poetry?

Does any century in Western history reflect social and political problems similar to those described in Du Fu’s poetry?


(World Poets and Poetry)

Chou, Eva Shan. Reconsidering Tu Fu. 1995. Reprint. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Chou examines the styles and techniques of Du Fu’s poetry as well as his literary legacy. Contains some translations of poems. Bibliography and index.

Davis, A. R. Tu Fu. New York: Twayne, 1971. General and concise, addressing simply the often complicated problems of form and theme.

Du Fu. The Selected Poems of Du Fu. Translated by Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. A collection of Du Fu’s poems, translated into English by a noted specialist on China. The introduction provides a great deal of biological and background information.

_______. The Selected Poems of Tu Fu. Translated by David Hinton. New York: New Directions, 1989. A collection of Du Fu’s poetic works, translated into English.

Hawkes, David. A Little Primer of Tu Fu. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1967. Written for readers who know little Chinese. The volume contains the texts of thirty-five of Du Fu’s poems in Chinese characters and Pinyin romanization, with descriptions in English of titles, subjects, and poetic forms followed by exegeses and translations. Can be employed as a very useful textbook.

Hung, William. Tu Fu: China’s Greatest Poet. New York: Russell and Russell, 1969. The most valuable study in English. Clear and highly readable, it includes a volume of notes and incorporates translations of 374 poems.

McCraw, David R. Du Fu’s Laments from the South. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1992. An examination of Du Fu’s travels in Sichuan and his poetic output. Bibliography and indexes.

Pine, Red, trans. Poems of the Masters: China’s Classic Anthology of T’ang and Sung Dynasty Verse. Port Townsend, Wash.: Copper Canyon Press, 2003. A collection of poetry from the Tang and Song Dynasties that includes the work of Du Fu. Indexes.

Seaton, J. P., and James Cryer, trans. Bright Moon, Perching Bird: Poems by Li Po and Tu Fu. Scranton, Pa.: Harper & Row, 1987. This work, part of the Wesleyan Poetry in Translation series, features the works of Li Bo and Du Fu, two Tang poets. Provides some information on Tang Dynasty poetry.

Seth, Vikram, trans. Three Chinese Poets: Translations of Poems by Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1992. A collection of poems by Du Fu, Li Bo, and Wang Wei. Commentary provides useful information.