Li Ho Criticism - Essay

A. C. Graham (essay date 1965)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "Li Ho," in Poems of the Late T'ang, translated by A. C. Graham, Penguin Books, 1965, pp. 89-92.

[In the following excerpt, Graham discusses the central themes in Li Ho's works.]

Li Ho is the most remarkable case in Chinese literature of a poet recently rediscovered after long neglect. He does not appear at all in the most familiar anthologies, such as the eighteenth-century Three Hundred T'ang Poems. Although famous in the ninth century and never quite forgotten, he offended the conventionality of later taste by his individuality and its health and balance by his morbidity and violence. To see his peculiar qualities as virtues required the breakdown of traditional literary standards in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is now widely recognized by Chinese, Japanese, and Western readers alike that he is a major poet both in his own right and as a creative influence, the link between Han Yü, who discovered his talent when he was still a boy, and the masters of the ninth century, Tu Mu, who wrote the preface to his poems, and Li Shang-yin, who wrote his biography.

Li Ho continued the cult of 'strange' imagery, but turned it into something which is strange by any standards, not merely by those of the world's most sensible and temperate poetic tradition. He also continued Han Yü's experiments in Old Style versification, showing a taste for unorthodox rhyme schemes and for sequences of three or four quatrains rather than the standard eight-line form, the transitions between lines often so abrupt that he was credited with compiling his poems out of independently written couplets. These features he combines with an extreme compression more characteristic of the New Style verse of Tu Fu.

Li Ho's central theme is the transience of life, a subject which he treats as though no one before him had ever felt the drip of the water-clock on his nerves, in a wholly personal imagery of ghosts, blood, dying animals, weeping statues, whirlwinds, the will-o'-the-wisp—the last appears in many guises, 'ghostly lamps', 'cold blue candleflames', 'sinister fires', 'darkened torches', 'fireflies in the tomb'. He seems quite uninterested in any of...

(The entire section is 917 words.)

J. D. Frodsham (essay date 1970)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to The Poems of Li Ho, translated by J. D. Frodsham, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1970, pp. xiii-lxiv.

[In the excerpt below, Frodsham reviews the religious, social, and artistic influences on Li Ho's poetry.]

Unusual as Ho's work undoubtedly is, he is nevertheless very much of his time. He does not stand apart from it in the way, say, Blake and Smart stand apart from the eighteenth century. In a sense, his verse simply carries to an extraordinary degree qualities of intensity, floridity and deep-grained pessimism already highly characteristic of T'ang verse. Only in his development of the Ch'u Tz'u tradition can be really be called...

(The entire section is 7076 words.)

Burton Watson (essay date 1971)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "Later Trends in T'ang Poetry," in Chinese Lyricism: Shih Poetry from the Second to the Twelfth Century, Columbia University Press, 1971, pp. 169-96.

[In this excerpt, Watson assesses Li Ho's talent and poetic style.]

While the Chinese poetic tradition, led by men like Han Yü and Po Chü-i, moved in the direction of a simpler, more relaxed style, greater variety of subject matter, and more discursive or philosophical treatment, bringing it momentarily, as Graham notes [in Poems of the Late T'ang], much closer to our own, a young writer of promise named Li Ho (791-817) was busily forging ahead on a wholly different course. He has traditionally been...

(The entire section is 583 words.)

Edward H. Schafer (essay date 1973)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Goddess Epiphanies of Li Ho," in The Divine Woman: Dragon Ladies and Rain Maidens in T'ang Literature, University of California Press, 1973, pp. 104-14.

[In the following excerpt, Schafer examines Li Ho's treatment of the mythological figures of water goddesses and dragon women.]

It was Li Ho who took it upon himself to oppose the tendency to secularize the water goddesses and to humanize the dragon women of antiquity.

Because Li Ho is now at last in vogue, it would be pointless here to recapitulate the meager details of his biography, to refine appreciations of his writings, or even to attempt a superficial survey of his poetic work....

(The entire section is 2864 words.)

Kuo-Ch'ing Tu (essay date 1979)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "Li Ho's Kuei-ts'ai: An Evaluation of His Poetic Genius," in Li Ho, Twayne Publishers, 1979, pp. 121-31.

[In the excerpt below, Kuo-Ch'ing Tu surveys the characteristic features of Li Ho's poetry.]

[Li Ho's] poetic characteristics can be generalized as follows:

1) Li Ho's poetic worlds have three dimensions: the celestial world of immortals or divine spirits, the shadowy world of the dead, and the human world of reality. As a matter of fact, Li Ho lived an unhappy life of thwarted ambitions and constant frustration, and many of his works are strongly tinged with his sufferings at the hard hands of fate or his resentment against social...

(The entire section is 2582 words.)