Li Bai

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A cup of wine, under the flowering trees;
I drink alone, for no friend is near.
Raising my cup I beckon the bright moon,
For he, with my shadow, will make three men.

Li Bai (701–762), also known as Li Po, was a Chinese poet living during the Tang Dynasty. Called the Poet Immortal, Li Bai is often regarded, along with Du Fu, as one of the two greatest poets in China's literary history.

Quotes[edit]

  • 花間一壺酒,獨酌無相親。
    舉杯邀明月,對影成三人。
    月既不解飲,影徒隨我身。
    暫伴月將影,行樂須及春。
    我歌月徘徊,我舞影零亂。
    醒時同交歡,醉後各分散。
    永結無情遊,相期邈雲漢。
    • A cup of wine, under the flowering trees;
      I drink alone, for no friend is near.
      Raising my cup I beckon the bright moon,
      For he, with my shadow, will make three men.
      The moon, alas, is no drinker of wine;
      Listless, my shadow creeps about at my side.
      Yet with the moon as friend and the shadow as slave
      I must make merry before the Spring is spent.
      To the songs I sing the moon flickers her beams;
      In the dance I weave my shadow tangles and breaks.
      While we were sober, three shared the fun;
      Now we are drunk, each goes his way.
      May we long share our odd, inanimate feast,
      And meet at last on the Cloudy River of the sky.
    • "Drinking Alone by Moonlight" (月下獨酌), one of Li Bai's best-known poems, as translated by Arthur Waley in More Translations From the Chinese (1919)


  • 床前明月光,疑是地上霜。
    舉頭望明月,低頭思故鄉。
    • Before bed, the bright moon was shining.
      Now, I think the ground has a frost covering.
      I raise my head … to view the bright moon,
      Then I lower my head … and I think of home.
    • "Thoughts on a Still Night" (静夜思); in Jean Ward's Li T'ai-po: Remembered (2008), p. 99


  • 對酒不覺暝,落花盈我衣。
    • I sat drinking and did not notice the dusk,
      Till falling petals filled the folds of my dress.
    • "Self-Abandonment" (自遣), as translated by Arthur Waley (1919)


Her robe is a cloud, her face a flower;
Her balcony, glimmering with the bright spring dew,
Is either the tip of earth's Jade Mountain,
Or a moon-edged roof of paradise.
  • 云想衣裳花想容,春风拂槛露华浓。
    若非群玉山头见,会向瑶台月下逢。
    • Her robe is a cloud, her face a flower;
      Her balcony, glimmering with the bright spring dew,
      Is either the tip of earth's Jade Mountain,
      Or a moon-edged roof of paradise.
    • "A Song Of Pure Happiness I" (清平调之一)


  • 問余何意棲碧山,笑而不答心自閒。
    桃花流水窅然去,別有天地非人間。
    • You ask me why do I dwell in these green mountains,
      But I smile without a reply, only an easy mind.
      The river flows away silently, bearing the fallen peach blossoms,
      Here is another world, but not the world of men.
    • "Question and Answer in the Mountain"


  • From the walls of Baidi high in the colored dawn
    To Jiangling by night-fall is three hundred miles,
    Yet monkeys are still calling on both banks behind me
    To my boat these ten thousand mountains away.
    • [33] "Through the Yangzi Gorges"


All the birds have flown up and gone;
A lonely cloud floats leisurely by.
We never tire of looking at each other—
Only the mountain and I.
  • All the birds have flown up and gone;
    A lonely cloud floats leisurely by.
    We never tire of looking at each other—
    Only the mountain and I.

    The birds have vanished down the sky.
    Now the last cloud drains away.
    We sit together, the mountain and me,
    until only the mountain remains.
    • [38] "Alone Looking at the Mountain", as translated by Sam Hamill


  • 镜湖三百里,菡萏发荷花。
    五月西施采,人看隘若耶。
    回舟不待月,归去越王家。
    • On Mirror Lake outspread for miles and miles,
      The lotus lilies in full blossom teem.
      In fifth moon Xi Shi gathers them with smiles,
      Watchers o'erwhelm the bank of Yuoye Stream.
      Her boat turns back without waiting moonrise
      To royal house amid amorous sighs.
    • Ballads Of Four Seasons: Summer (子夜四时歌 夏歌)


  • 處世若大夢,胡爲勞其生?
    • Since life is but a dream,
      Why toil to no avail?
    • "A Homily on Ideals in Life, Uttered in Springtime on Rising From a Drunken Slumber" (c. 750), in A Golden Treasury of Chinese Poetry: 121 Classical Poems (1976), p. 115
    • Variant translation by Arthur Waley: "Life in the World is but a big dream; I will not spoil it by any labour or care."

Quotes about Li[edit]

  • Li Po's style is swift, yet never careless; lively, yet never informal. But his intellectual outlook was low and sordid. In nine poems out of ten he deals with nothing but wine or women.
  • The world acclaims Li Po as its master poet. I grant that his works show unparalleled talent and originality, but not one in ten contains any moral reflection or deeper meaning.
    • Po Chü-i (about A.D. 816), as quoted in Arthur Waley's The Poet Li Po (1919)
  • With a jar of wine, Li makes a hundred poems,
    He sleeps in an inn of Ch'angan city.
    The Emperor sent for him and he'd not move,
    Saying, "I'm the God of Wine, Your Majesty!"

External links[edit]

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