In olden days there was a wild traveler,|
They called him "Bannished Immortal".
The lowering of his brush
would startle wind and rain,
The poem finished
ghosts and spirits would weep.
(See Paula Varsano's translation of a portion of 'Twenty Rhymes Sent To Li The 12th')
Known as the 'Banished Immortal', Li Bo or Li Bai is one of China's most interesting characters. A facile versifier, a drunkard, a braggart, a knight errant, a Doaist, he played many roles during his lifetime and it is safe to say that there is not one Han Chinese that does not know him and most probably each one knows at least one of his may poems.
Born somewhere in the west, Gansu, Xinjiang, no one knows for sure, of mixed blood, perhaps Turkish, he grew up in Sichuan. In 725 he left home to travel. He lived in Hubei, and Shandong where he practised Daoism, and in the Jiangnan which is the area south of the Changjiang.
In 742 Emperor Xuan Zang gave him a position in the Hanlin Academy as a sort of versifier and court entertainer. This sumptuous period of his life ended in 744 when he lost his position. He spent most of the rest of his life traveling and living off of relatives, friends and others who cherished his entertaining personality and his soaring flowing poems.
Li Bai Chronology
701 Born somewhere in present day Xinjiang.
705 His family moved to Mianzhou, Sichuan. In his early 20s he lived the life of a knight-errant living by his sword.
726 Traveled in northern China
727 Married to daughter of retired prime minister at Anlu, where lived for next 8 years.
742 Went to Changan and was presented to Emperor Xuan Zang who showered him with favors. Appointed to Hanlin Academy and lionized by fellow scholar- officials. Drunken brawls in the baudy houses of Changan.
744 Left Changan under a cloud. Met Du Fu for first time in Luoyang.
745 Met Du Fu again, this time in Qizhou, Shandong Initiated into Daoism. Next ten years in northern and eastern China. Paid his way by entertaining his hosts.
755 An Lushan Rebellion. Li Bai in Jiangnan, away from danger.
757 Joined the entourage of Li Lin in Jiujiang, a prince who plotted a rebellion against the Tang, and floated down the Chanjiang. Li Lin was defeated by the royal forces and Li Bai was thrown in prison. Banished to Guizhou, but on the way there he was pardoned. Returned to Jiangnan.
762 Died in southern Anhui.