November 2011

Li Po (Li Bai), Poet, "One of the Eight Immortals of The Wine Cup"

An Exploration Review

"I call myself the Green Lotus Man;

I am a spirit exiled from the upper blue....."

     This was Li Po (also transliterated as "Li Bai") speaking in verse "On Being Asked Who He Is (poem 41)", and as I first encountered this serene giant of Chinese poetry and culture who lived around thirteen hundred years ago and is ranked, at least among some Chinese, as one of the greatest poets of all time; I thought of the comparisons.  By some historians, he is compared to English poetry greats such as Keats, and to the Chinese we are told he is known as one of the "Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup".  A man of diverse careers-at one time poet, Taoist, court poet, hunted outlaw, errant knight of Chinese chivalry, a frequenter of taverns, known to women, wishing to be better known to women, then wanderer, war refugee, exiled, given amnesty and allowed to return and pass away (in a variety of different ways according to legends).

Tao Teh Ching as Translated by John C.H. Wu

A Brief Historical Impact

 

 

        Here in the Tao Teh Ching is an essential text for any student of China's rich cultural or philosophical milieu over any part of its history including contemporary China.  It is a text that has a wide and enduring influence beginning with its origination around the 6th century B.C.E.  It influenced the rise of Confucianism; it has at times been a full-fledged religion or religious movement.  It figures prominently in the Imperial Chinese period and becomes a player of sorts influencing political maneuvers influencing China, the Tibetans, the Koreans, the Xi Xi, and other tribal groups (Jurkans or Turks and the Huns who have significant historical impact on European civilization), hovering on the Mongolian border and towards the steppes surrounding China.