Yearning: Li Po (Li Bai)


I am endlessly yearning to be in Chang’an.
Insects hum of autumn by the gold brim of the well;
A thin frost glistens like little mirrors on my cold mat;
The high lantern flickers; and deeper grows my longing.
I lift the shade and, with many a sigh, gaze upon the moon,
Single as a flower, centred from the clouds.
Above, I see the blueness and deepness of sky.
Below, I see the greenness and the restlessness of water.
Heaven is high, earth wide; bitter between them flies my sorrow.
Can I dream through the gateway, over the mountain?
Endless longing
Breaks my heart.

Li Po (701-762 / Chu / Kazakhstan)

Li Bai (Chinese: ; pinyin: Lǐ Bái; Wade–Giles: Li Pai (rare), 701 – 762), also known as Li Bo (Wade-Giles: Li Po; pinyin: Lǐ Bó), was a major Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty poetry period. Regarded as one of the greatest poets of the Tang Dynasty, often called China’s “golden age” of classical Chinese poetry, Li Bai was both a prolific and a creative poet, as well as one who stretched the rules of versification of his time. Around a thousand extant poems are attributed to him today.[1] Thirty-four of his poems are included in the popular anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems. In the area of Chinese cultural influence, Li Bai’s poetry has been much esteemed from his lifetime through the present day. His influence also extends to Japan and the West through many translations, adaptations, and much inspiration
The illustration is Emperor Minghuang, seated upon a terrace, observing Li Bai write poetry. Retouched print, ink and color on woodblock. From the seventeenth century and in the British Museum since 1928. Via Wikimedia.

About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
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2 Responses to Yearning: Li Po (Li Bai)

  1. bakdor says:

    I like your posting of the Li Po poem. Thank you for sharing. Have you come across any Chinese poems written by people outside of China, especially Canada, US or Europe before 1970?

  2. layanglicana says:

    Thank-you for commenting, bakdor. The short answer to your question is ‘no’, but I am not an expert on Chinese literature. However, the question is more complicated than it looks at first sight. The earliest translator of Chinese poetry that I know of is Arthur Waley (1889-1966) – see – who translated poetry written I suppose by Chinese poets in China. You are asking about the Chinese diaspora? In England, Leeds University is known to have a good Chinese department, you could try and track down someone there and ask them? Sorry I can’t be more helpful. Good luck!

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