Shigeyoshi Obata (essay date 1922)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Introduction,” in The Works of Li Po, the Chinese Poet, E. P. Dutton, 1922, pp. 1-22.

[In the following introduction to the first volume of Li Po's work rendered into English, Obata offers details of the poet's life that informed his verse.]


At the early dawn of medieval Europe China had reached the noontide of her civilization. Indeed, the three hundred years of the Tang dynasty beginning with the seventh century witnessed a most brilliant era of culture and refinement, unsurpassed in all the annals of the Middle Kingdom. And the greatest of all the artistic attainments of this period was in literature, and particularly in...

(The entire section is 5992 words.)

Arthur Waley (essay date 1950)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: The Poetry and Career of Li Po, George Allen and Unwin, 1950, pp. 31-49.

[In the following excerpt from his full-length study of Li Po's life and career, Waley examines a selection of verses from the poet's most productive years, most likely 745-753.]

It will be convenient to discuss here the question of [Li Po's] four successive wives. Wei Hao tells us that by his first wife, Miss Hsü, he had a daughter and a son named Bright Moon Slave. This is a child-name and as Wei Hao does not give his adult name, Bright Moon Slave probably died young. The first wife also died young, and it was perhaps to give Li Po a change of scene after her death that his friend Yüan...

(The entire section is 4785 words.)

Burton Watson (essay date 1971)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Li Po,” in Chinese Lyricism, Columbia University Press, 1971, pp. 141-53.

[In the following excerpt from his full-length study of Chinese lyric poetry, Watson discusses several examples of Li Po's work, classifying individual poems according to their traditional form and observing that the poetry is notable “less for the new elements it introduces than the skill with which it handles old ones.”]

The first thing to note about Li Po's poetry, particularly in comparison to that of Tu Fu, is that it is essentially backward-looking, that it represents more a revival and fulfillment of past promises and glory than a foray into the future. In the matter of...

(The entire section is 3974 words.)

Arthur Cooper (essay date 1973)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Li Po,” in Li Po and Tu Fu: Poems Selected and Translated with an Introduction and Notes, Penguin Books, 1973, pp. 22-37.

[In the following excerpt from his translation and study of the poetry of Li Po and Tu Fu, Cooper sketches the details of Li Po's life and provides a general overview of the poet's techniques, style, and artistic concerns.]

Although nowhere near as fortunate in that respect as Shakespeare, not a great deal is really known about the life of Li Po.1 Even the place of his birth, information regularly made available in the most minor Chinese biographies, and its date have been, at least until recently, the subjects of much...

(The entire section is 4273 words.)

Elling Eide (essay date 1973)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “On Li Po,” in Perspectives on the T’ang, edited by Arthur Wright and Denis Twitchett, Yale University Press, 1973, pp.367-403.

[In the following essay, Eide discusses three neglected poems by Li Po—“My Trip in a Dream to the Lady of Heaven Mountain,” “Lu Mountain Song,” and “Song of the Heavenly Horse”—and comments on aspects of these poems, including techniques used and facts expressed, that other critics have overlooked.]

Although Sinology is a field crowded with men and issues still untouched by the hand of modern scholarship, even Sinologists are often astonished to discover how little work has been done on the T’ang...

(The entire section is 11462 words.)

Paul W. Kroll (essay date 1986)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Li Po's Transcendent Diction,” in Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 106, No 1, 1986, pp. 99-117.

[In the following essay, Kroll elucidates some of Li Po's more opaque poems “in light of their precise Taoist diction and imagery.” Nearly a hundred substantive footnotes have been excised from this abridged version of Prof. Kroll's article, as have his more technical discussions of linguistic and prosodic matters and all Chinese characters. For the complete article, see Journal of the American Oriental Society,Vol. 106, No 1, (1986): 99-117.]


Of the several areas of Li Po scholarship still awaiting...

(The entire section is 11416 words.)

David Young (essay date 1990)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Li Po,” in Five T'ang Poets, Oberlin College Press, 1990, pp. 45-52.

[In the following introduction to the Li Po section in his translation of the works of five T’ang poets, Young remarks on Li Po's sense of intoxication, freedom, and adventure, and discusses the poet's distinctive treatment of traditional themes.]

He seems half-man, half-myth. The personality that informs the poems and that is haloed by a long tradition of deep affection may once have been less than legendary, but it can never have been ordinary. The Chinese have valued Li Po for his gaiety, freedom, sympathy and energy for so long that he has become a sort of archetype of the bohemian...

(The entire section is 1594 words.)

Paula M. Varsano (essay date 1992)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Immediacy and Allusion in the Poetry of Li Bo,” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 52, No. 1, June, 1992, pp. 225-61.

[In the following essay, Varsano contends that Li Po's deliberate use and manipulation of traditional poetic conventions plays an important role in his success as the quintessentially “immediate” poet who seems to respond spontaneously to the world around him, apparently unconstrained by the dictates of tradition.]

The ideal of spontaneous expression—poetic expression as the unmediated, untransformed verbal manifestation of emotion—has remained a constant in Chinese poetic discourse ever since its first declaration in the...

(The entire section is 13663 words.)