12:20 AM

LI PO...

The great Chinese poet Li Po was born to a family of minor nobility in the province of Szechwan. He was attached for some time to Imperial Court of the Tang Dynasty. Under Li Po's patron, Emperor Hsuan Tsung, China exprienced a golden age in terms of art and literature.

Hsuan Tsung, who was known as Ming Huang, the "Brilliant Emperor," created an environment in which writers and authors could live and flourish, and Li Po was joined at the royal court by other poets, including the great Tu Fu.

By 750, however, Li Po tired of the bustled activity in the palace and decided to travel throughout China and experience life in rural areas and small towns. Most of his remaining life was spent wandering about with "the Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup," a roving band of drunken poets. It should be noted that the numeral "eight" is important in Chinese literature and art, appearing in "The Eight Basic Strokes," and "The Eight Trigrams."

According to legend, Li Po drowned during a drinking bout when he tried to embrace the reflection of the moon in the Yellow River.

Whatever can be said of his lifestyle and the embarrassing way he died, Li Po was a great poet, whose writing have been influential to Chinese literature. The purity, subtlety and conciseness of his intimate, hedonistic lyrics have rarely been equaled. He is commonly described as the greatest Chinese poet. There are English translations of the poems by Shigeyoshi Obata and Florence Ayscough and Amy Lowell.