Li Po

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Li Po

Li Po (lē bô), Li Pai (lē bī), or Li T'ai-po (lē tī-bô), c.700–762, Chinese poet of the T'ang dynasty. He was born in what is now Sichuan prov. Most authorities believe that he was a Taoist; Li Po's unconcern for worldly preferment and his love for retirement was expressive of both Taoism and the delicate romanticism found in his poetry. An early period of patronage by the court was followed by banishment in 744. He spent the next decade traveling through E and SE China. After the An Lu-shan rebellion (755–57) he was exiled because of associations with a rebellious member of the imperial family. He soon received amnesty and spent his remaining years traveling along the Chang (Yangtze). Legend maintains he drowned while drunkenly embracing the moon's reflection; however, scholars believe he died from cirrhosis of the liver or from mercury poisoning due to Taoist longevity elixirs. About 1,100 of his poems are extant. Although they include many conventional verses expressing thoughts on actual events, Li Po is best known for his pieces describing voyages through imaginary landscapes, invoking exotic Taoist images and powerful emotions of fear or exhilaration. He uses strange diction and rhyme, as well as hyperbole and playfulness, typically feigning a wish to forget rather than confront reality. He preferred older poetic forms such as songs or ballads and long, tonally unregulated “old-style” verse, introducing to them various personae, including his own cultivated persona of a wild, self-obsessed poet. In Pinyin, his name is romanized as Li Bo, Li Bai, or Li Taibo.


See translations by E. Eide (1984) and S. Hamill (1987); biography by A. Waley (1950).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Li Po


(Li T’ai-po). Born 701; died 762. A Chinese poet of the T’ang era.

Li Po spent his childhood and adolescence in Szechwan province. He refused to take the examinations necessary to acquire an official position. He traveled about the country (721–738) and wrote poetry, creating majestic pictures of mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and bamboo groves. The hyperbolic, cosmic images of Li Po’s landscape poetry reflected his desire to rise above mundane life.

In his youth, Li Po was attracted to Taoism, which he interpreted as the doctrine of man’s freedom from the shackles of Confucian ritual, and praised the Taoist recluses. He wrote of the difficult life and bravery of the soldiers along the borders and of military campaigns that ruined the peasants and took thousands of lives. The poet was received with honor at the court of the emperor, who conferred on him the highest scholarly rank. But court life quickly disillusioned him. In 744 he left the capital Ch’ang-an.

In Lo-yang, Li Po met the poet Tu Fu and traveled with him. Li Po’s poems of this period are filled with indignation at the coarseness and arrogance of the aristocracy and at the cruelty of public officials. During the An Lu-shan uprising against the emperor (756) the poet was in the service of Prince Li Ling, who later also opposed the emperor. As a supporter of the prince, Li Po was exiled to Yeh-lang; he was pardoned three years later.

The poetic heritage of Li Po comprises over 900 poems; the “Ancient Times” series, poetry in the yüeh-fu folk-song genre, quatrains, and fu, or rhythmic prose, were among them. The majority of these works were written in simple language and lack false ornamentation. Li Po did much to democratize Chinese poetry and his works exerted a tremendous influence on the development of T’ang and later of Sung poetry. Li Po ranks among the greatest poets in world literature.


Li T’ai-po ch’üan chi, vols. 1–20. Shanghai, 1908.
Li T’ai-po ch’üan chi, vols. 1–4. Peking, 1957.
In Russian translation:
Izbrannaia lirika. Moscow, 1957.


Konrad, N. I. [Introductory article] in Tri tanskikh poeta. Moscow, 1960.
Fishman, O. L. Li Bo: Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo. Moscow, 1958.
Eidlin, L. “Poet velikogo naroda.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1962, no. 12.
Li Po yen-chiu lun wen-chi. Peking, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Li Po

, Li T'ai-po
?700--762 ad, Chinese poet. His lyrics deal mostly with wine, nature, and women and are remarkable for their imagery
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005