Bai Juyi

Following the Yellow River westward from Zhengzhou, you arrive in Luoyang, which is also one of the seven major ancient Chinese capitals. With a history of over 4,000 years, Luoyang boasts such historical sites as the Longmen Grottoes, the White Horse Temple, the Museum of Ancient Tombs, and the Bai Garden.

The Bai Garden, Bai Yuan, refers to the mausoleum of Bai Juyi, an outstanding poet of the Tang Dynasty who lived between 772 and 846. Bai Juyi led a miserable life in his early days, became an official later, but was dismissed from his post and displaced, spending the last 18 years of his life in Luoyang. After his death, he was buried in the Dongshan Hill in Longmen, Luoyang.

Two years after Du Fu died, another great poet was born. Bai Juyi (772-846), the son of a petty official, was born in Xinzheng, Henan. He spent his youth wandring about to escape wars, and was often cold and hungry. He was successful in civil service examinations, became an official, and worked in the central government for about 15 years. Then because he was disliked by those in power, he was sent ot work in Jiangzhou, Hangzhou and Suzhou. Later he moved to Luoyang, where he died at the age of 75.

Bai Juyi wrote more poems than any other Tang poet-nearly 3,000. Many of them deal with important social and political problems, and show signs of Du Fu’s influence. He also wrote many lyrics expressing his personal feelings. His two long narrative poems-"The Everlasting Sorrow” and “The Song of a Pipa Player"-are among the best known.

Many of his poems have deep meaning, and they are written in simple and plain language, which ordinary readers can understand. The following are a few lines from “The Old Man with a Broken Arm”:

In the south and in the north of my village people wept sadly;
Children were parting from parents and husbands from wives.
Everyone said that in battles against the southern tribes,
Of ten thousand men sent there not one returned.

The poem clearly shows the poet’s opposition to battles against border tribes, which caused miseries to both Han and tribal poeple.

In “The Song of a Pipa Player” there are these lines describing the beautiful music produced by a Pipa (a musical instrument):

Strong and loud, the thick string sounded like a sudden shower;
Weak and soft, the thin string whispered in your ear.
When strong and weak, loud and soft sounds were mixed,
They were like big and tiny pearls falling on a jade plate.

“Rain at Night”
North of Solitary Mountain Temple
and west of Chia Pavilion
the water’s surface is flattened
by the wet feet of clouds.
Early warblers dart and flutter,
squabbling amid warm trees;
around someone’s house new swallows
peck mud for their nests.
Wildflowers will soon flourish
enough to overwhelm one’s eyes,
but now the shallow grass
barely submerges a horse’s hooves.
I love the east lake most--
I don’t come this way often enough;
in the shade of green willows
lies White Sand Embankment.