It was at a wine party –
I lay in a drowse, knowing it not.
The blown flowers fell and filled my lap.
When I arose, still drunken,
The birds had all gone to their nests,
And there remained by few of my comrades.
I went along the river – alone in the moonlight.
Li Bai – The Solitude of Night
Li Bai (701 – 762), who lived during the “Golden Age of Chinese Poetry“, has been China’s most revered poet from his lifetime to the present. His poems revolve around the depth of nature, solitude, friendship, and the joys of drinking. His poetry is considered one of the “Three Wonders” of Chinese culture, the other two being the calligraphy of Bogao and the swordsmanship of Pei Min.
He claimed membership in the imperial family, but actually belonged to another family of the same name. He began composing poetry early in his youth, and left home at age 24 for years of wandering, during which he showed his poetry to numerous officials in the hope of getting a job as a secretary – a job title more significant in that period and context than it is today.
He had still not landed the desired job when he arrived at the Tang Dynasty’s capital at the age of 41. He did not get hired then either, but did gain acceptance into a group of distinguished court poets. He stayed in the capital for a few years, then resumed his wanderings at age 43. He was still not gainfully employed by age 55, when he landed an unofficial position as the poet of a military expedition led by one of the emperor’s sons.
Unfortunately for Li Bai, the prince was accused of treason and executed, and his hangers-on, including Li Bai, were arrested and imprisoned. In 758 he was banished to a remote province, but before he got there news arrived of a general amnesty, so he returned to eastern China. His wanderings came to an end in 762 when, drunk in a boat, he tried to seize the moon’s reflection on the water and drowned in a lake.