Li Bai (Li Po) (c. 705-762) Taoist Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty (618-907). He used traditional literary forms, but his exuberance, the boldness of his imagination, and the intensity of his feeling have won him recognition as perhaps the greatest of all Chinese poets. Although he was mostly concerned with higher themes, he is also remembered for his celebratory verses on drinking.
The Tang dynasty has been acclaimed the Golden Age of Chinese poetry, bequeathing the works of 2,000 poets ranging from emperors and scholars to peasants, monks, and courtesans.
Li Bai, an adherent of the philosophy of Taoism, along with Du Fu, a follower of Confucianism, were the two most distinguished poets of the era. The Tang poets benefited by a legacy from their predecessors of many new devices and techniques in prosody, as well as a great variety of styles and types of poetry.
Li Bai, however, was daring enough to create a new world with his unbridled imagination and bursting vitality. His rich work, celebrating wine, women, and the beauty of nature, is characterized by a fairy-tale beauty and musicality unattained by other poets.
As poet laureate at the court of Emperor Xuanzong from 743 to 745 he was directly involved with both the Emperor and Yang GuiFei. During his time there he wrote three poems about the favorite concubine, one of which, in comparing her with a past beauty, was deemed insulting, leading to his expulsion from the court.
A member of the minor nobility, he was born in the province of Sichuan. He spent much of his life as a wanderer and student of Taoist philosophy. The poet was reputedly drowned while trying to kiss the moon’s reflection from a boat.