唐诗 Poetry of the Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty witnessed the zenith of Chinese ancient poetry, with many renowned poets and famous works appearing over a period of less than 300 years. Some 50,000 poems and the names of 2,300 poets of that period remain widely known today.
The best-known poets of the Tang Dynasty are Li Baia (701-762 AD) and Du Fub (712-770 AD).
Being unconstrained and most talented, Li Bai traveled all over China. With lofty sentiments and powerful imagination, he created many poems in praise of its magnificent mountains and mighty rivers. He also showed deep concern for state affairs, refuting corrupt politics, or expressing his wishes for the realization of his lofty aspirations. Some 900 poems of Li Bai have been preserved, of which the most famous are Invitation to Wine, The Sichuan Road, and Watching the Waterfall at Lushan.
When Du Fu was young, he visited many scenic spots and places of historical interest. Later, he lived among the poor at the bottom of society. His turbulent experiences enabled him to know better the darkness of human society and people's sufferings. In his poems, he boldly exposed the rottenness of the feudal court, profoundly portrayed people's miserable lives and the social upheavals of the day. About 1,400 of his poems have been preserved today, of which the best-known are Looking out on Spring, Ballad of the Army Carts, The Conscripting Officer at Shihao, The Conscripting Officer at Tongguan, The Conscripting Officer at Xin'an, Farewell to My Husband, Farewell to My Old Wife and Farewell of a Lonely Soul.
Eminent poets of the Tang also include Wang Wei, Bai Juyi, Li He, Li Shangyin, to name but a few.
Chinese people are very fond of Tang poetry, and even children can recite some from memory, such as Thoughts in the Silent Night by Li Bai, Good Rain on a Spring Night by Du Fu, etc. Verses like "if you want to widen your view three hundred miles / Go up one more flight of stairs", "Do you not see the Yellow River pouring from the sky" are often quoted. The book of Three Hundred Tang Poems is a bestseller at home and abroad, making Tang poetry also part of the world treasury of great verse.
Here are two examples:
Thoughts in the Silent Night Li Bai
Beside my bed a pool of light
Is it hoarfrost on the ground?
I lift my eyes and see the moon,
I bend my head and think of home.
Short Impressions Du Fu
From vivid green willows
Comes the call of two orioles;
A file of white water birds
Rises into the clear blue heavens; as if
Held in the mouth of my window
Are the mountains ranges with
Their snows of many autumns;
Anchored by our gate are
The long distance boats of Wu.