Li Po, Li Bo


Li Po, Li Bo, Li Bai

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Chinese: 李白, lived 701 – 762

also known in the West by various other transliterations, especially
Li Po, or Li Bai, is a major Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty poetry period.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

Ri Haku り‐はく【李白】"Plum White" meaning of the Characters

Matsuo Basho choose his pen name toosei 桃青 Tosei, "Peach Green", out of respect for his favorite Chinese poet.
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

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. Li Po, Li Bo .


Waterfall at Lu-shan

Sunlight streams on the river stones.
From high above, the river steadily plunges--

three thousand feet of sparkling water--
the Milky Way pouring down from heaven.

Li T'ai-po
tr. Hamil

The Cold Clear Spring At Nanyang

A pity it is evening, yet
I do love the water of this spring
seeing how clear it is, how clean;
rays of sunset gleam on it,
lighting up its ripples, making it
one with those who travel
the roads; I turn and face
the moon; sing it a song, then
listen to the sound of the wind
amongst the pines.

Spring Night in Lo-yang Hearing a Flute

In what house, the jade flute
that sends these dark notes drifting,
scattering on the spring wind that fills Lo-yang?
Tonight if we should hear the willow-breaking song,
who could help but long for the gardens of home?


I sat drinking and did not notice the dusk,
Till falling petals filled the folds of my dress.
Drunken I rose and walked to the moonlit stream;
The birds were gone, and men also few.
tr. Waley
source : Daruma Museum Forum

Unter dem Vollmond
einsam zechend (I)

Im Blütendickicht und voll Wein der Krug.
Einsames Zechen, denn es fehlt ein Freund.
Ich heb den Becher: wink herbei den Mond.
Mit meinem Schatten sind nun drei vereint.

Und kann der Mond auch seinen Durst nicht löschen,
Folgt mir der Schatten doch im Augenblick.
Hab ich den Mond, den Schatten als Gefährten,
Gleicht dieser heitren Frühlingsnacht mein Glück.

Ich sing ein Lied, da schwingt der Mond im Kreise;
Ich tanze, daß der Schatten wirbelnd springt.
Noch bin ich nüchtern, und wir sind beisammen.
Dann kommt der Rausch, der uns die Trennung bringt.

Könnt ich mit dir, der Dinge ledig, wandern,
In Ewigkeit, vom Sternenglanz umringt.

(Übertragen von Günther Debon)

Drinking alone
with the moon

An arbour of flowers and a kettle of wine:
Alas! in the bowers no companion is mine.
Then the moon sheds her rays on my goblet and me,
And my shadow betrays we're a party of three!

Though the moon cannot swallow her share of the grog
And my shadow must follow wherever I jog,
Yet their friendship I'll borrow and gaily carouse,
And laugh away sorrow while springtime allows.

See the moon - how she glances response to my song;
See my shadow - it dances so lightly along!
While sober I feel, you are both my good friends;
When drunken I reel, our companionship ends.

But we'll soon have a greeting without a goodbye,
At our next merry meeting away in the sky.

(Transl. by Herbert A. Giles)

We Three

One pot of wine amid the Flowers
Alone I pour, and none with me.
The cup I lift; the Moon invite;
Who with my shadow makes us three.

The moon then drinks without a pause.
The shadow does what I begin.
The shadow, Moon and I in fere
Rejoice until the spring come in.

I sing: and wavers time the moon.
I dance: the shadow antics too.
Our joys we share while sober still.
When drunk, we part and bid adieu.
Of loveless outing this the pact,
Which we all swear to keep for aye.

The next time that we meet shall be
Beside you distant milky way.
(Transl. by Arthur Waley, 1919)


Guenther Debon
was my professor for Chinese Language at Heidelberg Universtity.

I am grateful to have the chance to introduce him to you here.

Günther Debon - Wikipedia


They ask me why I live in the green mountains.
I smile and don't reply; my heart's at ease.
Peach blossoms flow downstream, leaving no trace
- And there are other earths and skies than these.

. If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!   


Ri Haku Sake from Shimane, Japan
Cheers, Li Po san.

島根県松江市 李白酒造


Selected Poems of Li Po,
edited and translated by J.P. Seaton. Shambhala, 2012

Li Po (701-762), who is also sometimes known by other names such as Li Bai, is held to be one of the very greatest Chinese poets, from the golden age of poetry in the Tang dynasty. Not much is known about his life, though J.P. Seaton makes the best of what there is in a jocular introduction. Born in a remote area, somewhere on the borderlands of China, Li Po traveled a good deal, enjoyed distinguished company and patronage, including that of the emperor, and experienced some dramatic reverses. Famously, he drank a lot as well.

The classic story about the poet's death is that he fell into a pond and drowned trying to embrace the moon while he was drunk. He is often paired with the other great poet of the age, Tu Fu (712-770), with whom he was on friendly terms. Li Po cuts a more colorful and romantic figure, though some critics consider Tu Fu to have been more influential. There are some poems from Li Po addressed to his friend included here.

Arthur Waley, whom Seaton mentions in his account of Li Po's life, was one of the earliest to suggest that Chinese poetry was more about friendship than romantic love. Where the first section of five in the book is mostly about drinking, the second contains many poems about parting from friends, particularly other poets. Like Waley, Seaton renders the poems into English in unrhymed and fairly lucid versions. Sometimes he produces elegant lines, such as this sort of stretched alexandrine: "Of what there is that may give joy I bid you take, and taste."

If Li Po saw himself as "a Taoist Immortal banished from Heaven," Seaton updates him for modern times with references to Robin Hood and Timothy Leary. As a scholar of Chinese he is able to explain many things about the poems in the notes that follow, including the approach that he has taken to translation. His use of italics for stress, even in the poems, is a little irritating sometimes, but his versions of the poet are much better than the other two I have on my shelves.
source : Japan Times, October 2012


Haiku and Senryu

盃に 三つの名を飲む 今宵かな

with a sake cup
I drink to the three names
this fine evening

Matsuo Basho drinking with Li Po !

ryuumon no hana ya
joogo no tsuto ni sen

Basho drinking sake at the Dragongate Falls in Nara


"As an individual, Li Po was free-spirited. He took an unusual path in life and career. Well-traveled at a young age, he didn’t bother to take the Chinese civil service examination which was viewed as the only way to elevate one’s social status and guarantee their prosperity. He dared to challenge authority, and loved a good bottle of wine and making friends. His nonconformist personality characteristics continue to stand as a model for me to emulate.

As a poet, Li Po is one of the most loved Chinese poets and his poems are widely taught in schools, memorized by children, and constantly recited on all sorts of occasions. The first poem I ever memorized was his “Thoughts in Night Quiet,” the best known of all Chinese poems, especially among Chinese living overseas:

Seeing moonlight here at my bed,
and thinking it's frost on the ground,

I look up, gaze at the mountain moon,
then back, dreaming of my old home.

-- translated by David Hinton

When I was six, my father recited this poem to me with watery eyes. At that time, he hadn’t seen his family for two decades since he came to Taiwan in 1949, with the defeated Chinese Nationalist Army. I memorized the poem and didn’t fully reflect upon its meaning in my heart and mind. Little was understood about the suffering endured by my father and his generation due to the Chinese Civil War. It was not until the seventh year since I emigrated to Canada that I’d experienced this pang of nostalgic longing explored in Li’s poem through the moon imagery – a symbol of distance and family reunion – portrayed in simple and evocative language. Since then, every time when I thought of my parents, my family, and my hometown, I recited “Thoughts in Night Quiet,” which is not only Li’s poem but also mine.

More importantly, some of the recurring themes in Li’s poems appeal greatly to me, such as dreams, solitude/loneliness, and the passage of time, and they become the key motifs of my work. His skillful use of language, his great sensibility toward imagery, and his deep insights into the human condition through a Taoist lens capture nuanced human experience, which is the main goal I want to achieve in my writing."

autumn moonlight
slips into the attic window . . .
thinking of Li Po

Chen-ou Liu, Canada

Moon and related kigo


moonlit night
reading between the lines
of Li Po's poem

This haiku alludes to one of Li Po's most famous poems,
Drinking Alone in the Moonlight.

For further information, read
. . . Li Bai drinking alone
"Li Bai drinking alone (with the moon, his shadow, & 42 translators)".

Chen-ou Liu

Related words

***** ***** Personal Names used in Haiku

Du Fu, Tu Fu

***** Introducing Japanese Haiku Poets 



Unknown said...

I have never expect to meet Rihaku 李白here.
I bow your earnest study on Eastern culture.


Gabi Greve said...

Thanky you, Sakuo san.
Before I learned Japanese, I studied Chinese language ... many years ago ...

Gabi Greve / Joys of Japan said...

Waking From Drunkenness on a Spring Day (春日醉起言志)

處世若大夢, Life in the world is but a big dream;
胡爲勞其生. I will not spoil it by any labour or care.
所以終日醉, so saying, I was drunk all the day,
頹然臥前楹. lying helpless at the porch in front of my door.
覺來盼庭前, when I awoke, I blinked at the garden-lawn;
一鳥花間鳴. a lonely bird was singing amid the flowers.
借問此何時, I asked myself, had the day been wet or fine?
春風語流鶯. the Spring wind was telling the mango-bird.
感之欲嘆息, moved by its song I soon began to sigh,
對酒還自傾. and, as wine was there, I filled my own cup.
浩歌待明月, wildly singing I waited for the moon to rise;
曲盡已忘情. when my song was over, all my senses had gone.

Li Bai (701-762)

(shared by Steve Weiss, Joys of Japan)