The greatest poet in China, 1310 years old

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In the autumn of 752 ad, Dufu, together with Gaoshi, Censhen, Chu Guangxi and other poets, ascended the tower of Ci’en Temple (big wild goose pagoda).

Each person wrote a poem. Other people’s poems are written with a clear sky and beautiful rivers and mountains. Only Dufu saw:

The Qinshan mountains are suddenly broken, and the Jingwei river cannot be found.

If you look down but look down, how can you distinguish the imperial state?

——Excerpt from “climbing the tower of Ci’en Temple with the princes”

Looking down from the top, there was an empty sky. Where could we tell where the imperial capital Chang’an was. This is actually a metaphor in poetry writing, expressing the poet’s political anxiety. He has a vague foreboding:

Chang’an may face a big mess.

This year, there were three years before the an Shi rebellion broke out.



? statue of Dufu, photo source / photo network


Dufu was only a small official and poet when he was alive. However, it did not prevent him from writing and reflecting on the decline of the Empire in its prosperous age tirelessly in his impoverished life, so as to become the most true and firm historical recorder of the times.

Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, said that poetry is more true than history. We will understand this famous saying in Dufu’s poems.

Dufu caught up with the great and unfortunate times. In the first year of the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty (712), Dufu came to the world, and died in the fifth year of emperor Dali of the Tang Dynasty (770). He experienced the whole process of the Tang Dynasty from prosperity to decline.

Dufu was about 11 years younger than Li Bai, but in the eyes of later generations, their poems seemed to be the product of two eras.

Li Bai’s poems, with their majestic grandeur, strange imagination, and boundless horizons, are indeed the works of genius that can only be produced in the prosperous age of the Tang Dynasty. The reality is the same. After the an Shi rebellion broke out, Li Bai experienced sadness in the last few years of his life, and few good poems came out. But Dufu, the whole focus of his poetry writing was after the outbreak of the an Shi rebellion. Although there were famous handed down works before, the overall style of depressed and worried about the world has not yet been formed.

Fengzhi, a modern poet, said that Dufu was a witness of two worlds: the Kaiyuan rule he experienced in his youth and the social order after his middle age, that is, after the outbreak of the an Shi rebellion, seemed to be two completely different worlds.

Suffering in troubled times, as well as the attitude of bravely facing and writing suffering, shaped a great poet.

As a result, Dufu’s road to fame was very bumpy. Throughout his life, he was almost unknown. In the third year of Tianbao (744), Du Fu, 32, met Li Bai in Luoyang, who had been given money by Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty. They were friends at first sight. At this time, Gao Shi and the three people travel together. The next year, Dufu met Li Bai again and they exchanged poems. But I never had a chance to meet again.

However, Dufu later wrote many poems for Li Bai, and Li Bai never wrote a poem for Dufu again. This relationship has become an academic gossip. One possible explanation is that the fame of the two people was obviously unequal when they were alive. Li Bai was a great poet who once made a big splash in Chang’an City, and Dufu was more like a fan who accidentally made friends with his idol. Naturally, there is full of worship in many poems.

According to the analysis of the American Sinologist Yu wensuo’an, although Dufu’s poems were highly praised during his lifetime, they are basically polite expressions and politeness in social occasions. It was not until the early nineteenthcentury, thirty or forty years after Dufu’s death, that Dufu became more and more famous because of the praise and constant imitation of Dufu’s poems by the leaders of poets in the Mid Tang Dynasty, such as Han Yu, Bai Juyi, Yuan Zhen, etc. After the Song Dynasty, Dufu finally established the status of the greatest realistic poet in history.

Therefore, Dufu we know now is quite different from his appearance and fate when he was alive. Let’s put it this way. If Dufu saw the popularity of the world after the Song Dynasty, he would probably be scared to death.

The real Dufu had a good time in his life except when he was young. He struggled at the bottom of the prosperous times all his life and cried in troubled times.

His friend, Li Bai, is famous


Gao Shi, a great poet in the world, later became a senior official. Only he, at the end of his life, was a little poet and a little official.



? portrait of Dufu in textbooks


It is reasonable for historians to regard the 24th year of Kaiyuan (736) of the reign of Zhang Jiuling as the watershed of the prosperous Tang Dynasty. For the decline of a prosperous age always begins with political corruption.

A contented emperor who had been in office for many years, surrounded by a group of courtiers who competed for power and profit and disregarded the hearts and minds of the world, the Dynasty basically wandered on the edge of chaos.

After a long period of prosperity, there will always be some messy things to end it.

During the ten years when Li Linfu, the prime minister, came to power, the decline of the Empire was covered up by dictatorship and lies.

In the sixth year of Tianbao (747), Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty ordered the world’s “one-way artists” to take the exam in Chang’an, and Dufu took the exam. Because Li Linfu wrote and directed a farce of “no one left behind”, all the scholars who took the exam were defeated.

The middle-aged job seeker who once wrote “will be the top of the mountain, see all the small mountains” and hoped to “send you to Yao and Shun, and then make customs honest” lived in Chang’an for a whole decade (745-755 years). He was depressed and had a very difficult life.

He has been trying unsuccessfully to establish the necessary relationship to serve in the imperial court. Finally, he ran around and presented three Fu articles to Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty. Finally, he got another chance to pass the exam. After passing the exam, he was informed to wait for the official position to be granted.

This wait is endless.

Historians speculate that Dufu and his social circle may be people who make Li Linfu, the prime minister, unhappy, so they never give him an official position. When Yang Guozhong, Li Linfu’s successor, came to power, Dufu was still not appointed.

In the 13th year of Tianbao (754), Du Fu, 42, wanted to follow Gao Shi’s footsteps and asked the famous general Ge Shuhan to enter the screen, but he was ignored.

That is, in this year, there was a heavy rainstorm and famine in Guanzhong that was covered by yangguozhong. In order to survive, Dufu was forced to lead his family north to Fengxian County (now Pucheng County, Shaanxi Province).

Perhaps it was a deliberate arrangement of fate. Dufu’s ten years of hard life in Chang’an opened a window for him to observe the truth of the imperial heyday. When other elite poets indulged in drunkenness, he wore coarse clothes and lined up with the poor in the capital to buy low-cost food. He drifted away from the group of romantic poets in the prosperous Tang Dynasty and began to examine the society with sober eyes.

At the end of Xianyang bridge, where there was a loud cry, he listened to the grievances of Zhengfu. He learned that Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty was so happy that he opened up a quarrel at the border. Yang Guozhong took the opportunity to claim credit and sent troops to Nanzhao to cover up his defeat. Behind this, countless families of the Empire were separated and the national economy was ruined:

The edge court bled into the sea, and the emperor of Wu did not intend to open the edge.

You don’t hear that the Han family has grown Jingqi in the 200 prefectures of Shandong Province.

Even if a healthy woman hoes and ploughs, there is nothing in the long mu of grass.

——Excerpt from soldier’s chariot

By the Qujiang lake with so many beautiful ladies, he watched the spring outing of yangguozhong’s brother and sister coldly from a distance. The wealth of the Empire supported the extravagance of the relatives’ family. The capital Chang’an has become their unbridled paradise. It is self-evident who is conniving at Yang’s Deception:

The white apples are covered with the snow of the poplars, and the green birds fly away with the scarves.

It is extremely hot and powerful. Be careful not to get angry with the former prime minister.

——Excerpt from “a beautiful woman”

Imperial politics was shrouded in lies. Dufu’s poems became the bravest and truest words of that era.

When Dufu returned to Chang’an alone from Fengxian, his appointment was finally given. The imperial court granted him the rank of Hexi lieutenant, but he refused: “if you don’t become Hexi lieutenant, you’ll be humbled by desolation.” The imperial court then assigned him to an official position in the prince’s residence – Bing Cao joining the army, which is similar to the low-level position of the guard of the arsenal. Forced to make a living, he accepted this official position far from his ideal.

At the end of the 14th year of Tianbao (755), Dufu went to Fengxian to visit his wife and children. As soon as I entered the house, I heard a cry – his little son was starving. His personal plight reminded him of the difficult years that the people at the bottom of the Empire were going through. He took up his pen and wrote a famous epic:

My old wife sent her to a different county, with ten mouths separated by the wind and snow.

Who can ignore it for a long time and go hungry and thirsty.

When I heard the wailing, my young son died of hunger.

I would rather give up a moment of mourning than sob in the lane.

He who is ashamed of being a father dies without food.

Do not know autumn harvest, poverty and haste.

Life is usually tax-free, and the name is not subordinate to the expedition.

The trace is still sour and pungent, and it calms people and consolidates the crumbs.

Meditate on the unemployed, because you want to guard your soldiers far away.

Worry about the end of Qi and the end of the south, but do not remove the hole.

——Excerpt from “chanting five hundred words from Beijing to Fengxian County”

In his poem, he said that as a father, he was ashamed to death that he had no ability to feed his children! This year’s autumn harvest was good, but who could have expected that poor people would still die of hunger. I’m still a petty official, and I can’t avoid such a tragic experience. The life of the common people is even more miserable – think of the farmers who have lost their land and have already lost their wealth; Think of the soldiers guarding the frontier. They are not short of food and clothing. When I think of these, my sadness is thousands of folds, higher than Zhongnan mountain, boundless

In this poem, he wrote a famous sentence through the ages, which profoundly revealed the social reality of the great disparity between the rich and the poor in the Tang Empire:

The wine and meat in Zhumen are smelly, and the road is frozen to death.

When Dufu wrote these poems, the disease of the empire finally disappeared.

An Shi rebellion broke out.



? Chengdu Dufu thatched cottage, picture source / photo network


Anlu mountain started a rebellion on November 9 in the 14th year of Tianbao (755), which became a dividing line in the history of the Tang Dynasty. But at that time, those arrogant and careless monarchs and ministers in the court did not realize that a new historical stage had arrived.

A few days later, the news of the rebellion spread to Chang’an. Prime Minister yangguozhong promised Emperor Xuanzong that the head of Anlu mountain would be sent to his Majesty in ten days.

Only Anxi Jiedu envoy fengchangqing was sober. On December 12 of the 14th year of Tianbao (755), 33 days after the army of Anlu mountain was launched, Luoyang fell. Fengchangqing was executed on the spot by tangxuanzong because he was defeated in the war. On his deathbed, he warned tangxuanzong: after my death, please don’t despise Anlu mountain, a traitor.

Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty did not accept Feng Changqing’s advice.

The famous general Ge Shuhan held Tongguan for half a year, and the rebels could not attack it for a long time. Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty constantly sent eunuchs to urge Ge Shuhan to leave the pass for a decisive battle. Ge Shuhan has repeatedly told the emperor that our army will fall into the trap of the rebels if it is light at this time. It will be too late to repent.

Tang Xuanzong did not listen.

On June 4 of the 15th year of Tianbao (756), Ge Shuhan “wailed out of the pass”. Five days later, he was defeated and captured.

When the bad news came, Tang Xuanzong and Yang’s group ran faster than anyone else.

On the night of June 13, Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty hurriedly fled Chang’an with the Yang Group. After ten days, Chang’an, which had no defense, was captured by the rebels.

On the way to escape, Prince Li Heng and the leader of the imperial guards, chenxuanli, manipulated “Mawei’s military advice” and sent people to instigate local elders to stop tangxuanzong, asking him to leave the prince to fight against the rebels and send more than half of his troops.

On the ninth day of July, Li Heng arrived in Lingwu (today’s Lingwu City in Ningxia), probably at his own instigation. Three days later, he was elected emperor by his entourage, who was Emperor suzong of the Tang Dynasty. From then on, Li Heng grasped the power of the Empire to fight against the rebels.

The an Shi rebellion was the result of evil policies and traitors in the late period of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang Dynasty. It sounded the death knell of the decline of the Empire. The banner of Anlu mountain is to kill the treacherous minister yangguozhong, so as to strive for legitimacy for his rebellious behavior. During Mawei’s admonition, the angry soldiers first killed yangguozhong and then hanged Yang Guifei. It can be seen that in the short years when Yang was in power, he has angered all social classes.

In essence, the war was triggered by the power struggle among the top officials of the imperial court. However, it was the owners of the Empire who paid for the war, regardless of their positions, status, wealth and wealth.

In the six months before the fall of Chang’an, with the intensification of the war, Dufu and his family moved north from Fengxian to Baishui (now Baishui County, Shaanxi), and then moved north from Baishui to Qiang village, Jiazhou (now the south of Fuxian County, Shaanxi). All the way around, very embarrassed.

In August of deyuanzai (756), Dufu said goodbye to his wife and children again and went to Tang suzong from Qiang village in Jiazhou. On the way, he was captured by the rebels and escorted to Chang’an. Dufu spent more than half a year in the rebel occupied Chang’an city. He wrote poems lamenting the repeated defeats of the Tang army and the decline of this great city.

According to historical records, after Anlu mountain occupied Chang’an, the princes and generals who failed to escape from Chang’an and their families “killed the babies” and even the babies. It was a massacre against members of the royal family and court ministers. Dufu, who was trapped in Chang’an, met an imperial grandson who narrowly escaped the massacre:

Nine horses die when the Golden Whip is broken, and their flesh and blood cannot run away together.

Green coral Jue under the waist, poor Wang sun sobbing at the corner of the road.

He refused to ask his name, but he begged to be a slave.

I have been running through thorns for a hundred days, and I have no skin on my body.

——Excerpt from “mourning the king and grandson”

Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty fled to Chengdu, leaving the princes and nobles to be exterminated by the whole family. Only one survivor was left in the market, with no skin left, begging for slavery. In Dufu’s eyes, no one can escape the bloodbath of Chang’an City, no matter how well dressed and well fed in the past. This is the epitome of troubled times.

In the spring of the second year of Zhide (757), Dufu missed his family, had no news of his wife and children for a long time, and was full of sadness. During the war, he wrote a poem about the common psychology of all survivors:

The country is breaking mountains and rivers, and the city is deep in spring.

When I feel it, I will cry. I hate other birds.

A letter from home is worth ten thousand dollars.

The white head scratching is shorter, and the muddy desire is more than the Zan hairpin.

——Spring outlook

Later, people in the Song Dynasty said that this was the first


Good poetry, but I can’t bear to read it when I think of the troubled times at that time.



? Huang Tingjian cursive wrote Du Fu’s poem to Helan


In the first month of the second year of Zhide (757), Anlu mountain was killed by his son anqingxu. The situation improved for the Tang Dynasty. In April, Dufu took advantage of the chaos to escape from Chang’an, crossed the confrontation between the two armies, and arrived at Fengxiang (now Baoji, Shaanxi) to go to Tang suzong.

Dufu had no news about his wife and children for more than half a year, but he did not go to his home in Qiang village of qiezhou for the first time. This is because he is still an official of the imperial court at this time. It is his duty to report to the Fengxiang government as soon as possible.

Emperor suzong of the Tang Dynasty granted him the official position of Zuo Shiyi. Although he was still a junior official of eight grades, he could directly advise the emperor. Dufu was devoted to his duty and did not return home after reporting for duty. He just worried about the situation at home in his poem:

Send a book and ask Sanchuan if he is at home.

BiWen Tong is in trouble and kills chickens and dogs.

Who can rely on the cottage in the mountain?

Destroy the decadent pine roots, and the earth is cold and the bones are immortal.

How many lives? Do you see each other?

Qin Cen fierce tiger field, I am in the first place.

It has been October since I sent a book.

When the news of Anti Terror comes, what can we do with an inch of heart?

——Excerpt from Shuhuai

He raised a helpless question. How many people are alive these days? Is it a dream to hope for family reunion? Because of this, he looked forward to the letter from home, but he was afraid that it would come, because it might be bad news.

But soon, Dufu, a leftist in Fengxiang, felt the current war, while the new Emperor Tang suzong put the consolidation of the throne in the first place.

Tang suzong made three moves in succession, each of which was full of imperial power:

First of all, Emperor suzong of the Tang Dynasty sent troops to wipe out the “rebellion” of his younger brother, Yongwang Li Ying. Li Bai was exiled because he followed Li Ying.

Secondly, the old ministers of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty were eliminated. The prime minister Fang Guan was demoted because he was the man used by his father, Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty, and was regarded as the Party of the supreme emperor. Dufu was originally an outsider, but he did not speak for Fang Guan. Although he was not convicted, he was regarded as a “real estate party” by Tang suzong. From then on, he was alienated and lost the opportunity to participate in the government.

Third, Tang suzong was eager to recover Chang’an and Luoyang to prove his ability and legitimacy. In order to recover the two capitals, he decided to put all his eggs in one basket. He did not hesitate to withdraw from the northwest frontier defense, and transferred elite troops to the Central Plains to fight against the rebels. He even asked Huihe to send troops to help the war at the cost of “on the day of conquering the city, the land, scholars and concubines returned to the Tang Dynasty, and the gold silk and children returned to Huihe”. He would rather lead wolves into the house and let the people in the city be plundered again, but also to recapture Chang’an.

In September of the second year of Zhide (757), Chang’an was recovered. However, it also missed the opportunity for the famous adviser Li Bi to suggest that Fanyang, the stronghold of the rebels, should be attacked directly. As a result, the an Shi rebellion was put off for several years.

For no reason in the world, there have been many years of separation.

After the recovery of the two capitals, Dufu wrote a long poem “washing soldiers and horses”, which implied that the emperor and officials in the imperial capital did not reflect on the disaster of war, but were immersed in a temporary victory. The war was not over yet, but emperor suzong of the Tang Dynasty had shown his authority and ability, so the courtiers fought for good luck and began to sing praises:

Every inch of land and sky is paid tribute, and strange auspiciousness and different auspiciousness are sent here.

I don’t know where the white ring came from, so I went back to the mountains and got a silver urn.

Hermits stop singing the music of purple Ganoderma lucidum, and poets interpret and compose the ode to Heqing.

——Excerpt from “washing soldiers and horses”

In this situation, the small officials concerned about the country and the people were unable to stop them. They could only give the faintest sigh, hoping that the war would be over soon and that the “clean washing of armour soldiers would not be used”.

At this time, Dufu had already been demoted from Chang’an to Huazhou (today’s Weinan, Shaanxi) as Si Gong and joined the army. There was really no room for the emperor to tell the truth.



? portrait of Du Fu, picture source / photo network


The battle of Yecheng, which began in September of the first year of the Qianyuan Dynasty (758), was finally defeated by the Tang army, which once again showed the hopelessness of the Tang Empire. After the war, Dufu was completely disappointed in the future of the Dynasty and no longer had any illusions about the resurgence of the Empire.

Yecheng (now near Anyang, Henan Province) is the gateway to Hebei. Neither the imperial court nor the Anshi rebels can afford to lose this battle. The Tang army besieged Yecheng with 600000 troops, which had only 70000 people, for half a year. Shi Siming saved the army with 130000 troops, and only one third of the Tang army was allied with the anqingxu rebels in the city. However, the Tang army was defeated miserably.

In fact, the defeat of this battle has nothing to do with the strength of the rebels. Everything is caused by Tang suzong’s suspicion of meritorious officials.

After the famous general guoziyi had pacified the two capitals, Emperor suzong of the Tang Dynasty once said to guoziyi, “my country is rebuilt by Qing.” On the surface, it was a speech of gratitude to those who had made contributions to the pacification of the chaos, but in his heart, he was very afraid that famous generals such as guoziyi and liguangbi had made great contributions to the cause, and it was difficult to control their weight.

After ordering guoziyi, liguangbi and other nine provincial envoys to besiege Yecheng, what emperor suzong of Tang still considered was not how to win the war and end the war, but how to disperse the power of these famous generals and avoid the domination of one family. This dark and narrow-minded emperor made an unimaginable decision to appoint Yu chaoen, an eunuch, to command 600000 troops.

The Tang army finally fell into chaos, like a plate of scattered sand, but was defeated by the rebels with a great number of superior troops.

Emperor suzong of the Tang Dynasty only played political balance to secure the throne, and did not pay attention to the life and death of the people in the world. Therefore, he missed every opportunity to completely quell the an Shi rebellion, and allowed the war to drag on for as long as eight years. When he died in April of the first year of Baoying (762), the an Shi rebellion still remained.

During the eight years of the an Shi rebellion, the population of the Tang Dynasty dropped by 36million. However, the deaths of civilians and soldiers are only cold numbers for the emperor who has only power in his heart.

However, behind the figures, there are living family tragedies. As Japanese director Takeshi Kitano said, the disaster was not the death of 20000 people, but the death of one person, which happened 20000 times.

In the war that affected the national movement of the Tang Dynasty, Dufu was almost the only recorder who paid attention to the individual destiny and the tragedy of life and death from beginning to end.

At the end of the first year of the Qianyuan Dynasty (758), when the imperial army besieged Yecheng, Dufu set out from Huazhou to visit his old residence in Luoyang. After February of the next year, the Tang army was defeated and suffered heavy losses. Dufu just returned to Huazhou from Luoyang. Along the way, the imperial court captured the soldiers in order to expand its forces, and countless families were separated from their families. The great catastrophe of the an Shi rebellion was passed on by the imperial court to the common people.

Dufu walked along the road from Xin’an to Shihao to Tongguan. He saw and heard all the cries of war and the shadow of death. As a witness, he recorded what he saw and heard along the way and wrote a disaster epic – “three officials and three departures”, which shocked the ages.

In his series of poems, the trauma caused by war to the people is no longer just cold numbers, but perceptible family tragedies.

Old men, young and middle-aged people and minors, men of different ages, were pushed to the battlefield by Ralph. After a large number of deaths on the battlefield, they left behind a large number of widows and orphans, including old widows who had been living in a deserted village, young widows with baby babies, and young daughters-in-law who had just married and were about to be widowed. An old mother dies without a son, and a baby has no father. In a few years, the so-called prosperous era will become a wasteland on earth.

Seeing that the officials of Xin’an County had seized the strong men and pulled away the underage men, there were cries of family separation along the road. Dufu could do nothing but comfort them and say:

Don’t let your eyes dry and your tears run down.

When your eyes are dry, you will see your bones. Heaven and earth will be merciless.

——Excerpt from Xin’an official

Put away your tears. Don’t hurt your eyes or your body. Heaven and earth are so merciless!

In the evening, when he slept in Shihao village, he saw the guards coming to Ralph in the middle of the night. The old man of the family quickly jumped over the wall and ran away. Dufu only heard an old woman open the door and cry to the guards:

Speech before listening to the woman: three men, ye Chengshu.

One man attached a book, and two men died in the war.

Those who survive and steal life, the dead are long gone.

There was no one in the room except the baby’s grandson.

There are grandmothers who have not gone, and there are no skirts left and right.

Although the old woman’s strength is weak, please return from the officials at night.

In response to the battle in Heyang, we still have to prepare for the morning cooking.

——Excerpt from Shi Hao Li

This is a poor family who made great sacrifices for the country. Two of the three sons died in Yecheng, and the only son left is still in the army. Even so, the government did not let the family go, so that the old man hid overnight, and the old woman had to be dragged to do logistics.

Along the way, I passed a lonely and desolate village, where more than 100 families went their separate ways because of the chaos of the world. The living have no news, the dead have turned to dust. The veteran who had just come down from the Yecheng battlefield returned to the village without relatives. It was too late to lament. The county officials would drive him to serve again. Before he left, he didn’t even have a person to say goodbye to:

There is no other home in life, why is it Li?

——Excerpt from no home

How can it be so difficult to be a common people in this world?

Dufu could see these specific tragedies, but did the decision makers of the Empire see them? See, do you care?

When Dufu wrote these tragic cases, he had deep contradictions and pain in his heart. On the one hand, he knew that this human tragedy was caused by the wanton war caused by the Empire’s high-level officials who ignored the hardships of the people. It was a naked man-made disaster. On the other hand, on the premise that the war is a foregone conclusion, only by putting down the rebellion as soon as possible can we remove the looting of the rebels and the disaster imposed on the people by the RAF of the imperial court. To end the war as soon as possible, the people can only continue to pay the price on the battlefield.

Facing this pair of contradictions, Dufu could only criticize the darkness of the imperial court and praise the patriotism of the people with tears. He felt extreme pain. The words “three officials and three departures” were like that


Sad and solemn.

After returning to Huazhou, the 47 year old Dufu revised the “three officials and three departures”. With a sad and powerless heart, he immediately abandoned his official position and bid farewell to the rotten imperial court.



? Chengdu Dufu thatched cottage, picture source / photo network


Some poets of the Tang Dynasty chose to abandon their official posts and live in seclusion, basically backed by rich family property and manor villas. Dufu had no such assets. His resignation was doomed to be a painful decision, and this pain will continue to affect him and his family.

According to historical records, the reason why Dufu abandoned his official position was that “Guan Fu was hungry and often abandoned his official position.” Because there was a famine in Gyeonggi, he resigned and left. Now it seems that this explanation is hard to make sense. Dufu’s rank is low and his salary is thin, but it’s better than having no source of income after he left the office.

Dufu, on the other hand, would rather take his family, poor and destitute, and go around looking for food, than be his junior official again. It can be seen that he is extremely disappointed with the situation in the DPRK. This may be the real reason why he made up his mind to abandon his official position.

In 759, the second year of the reign of Qianyuan, the Dufu family moved threeorfour times. Moving from Huazhou to Qinzhou (now Tianshui, Gansu Province), then to Tonggu (now Longnan, Gansu Province), it was not until the end of the year that we moved to Chengdu, Sichuan province that we settled down temporarily. It can be said that we were displaced and rootless. He decided to go to Tonggu at first because he got a letter from Tonggu County Magistrate, saying that there was a kind of potato here, so it was easy to solve the problem of eating. However, after Dufu left, he found that the situation was not so optimistic. He wrote in the seven songs of Tonggu:

There are guests, there are guests, there are beautiful words, with white hair hanging over your ears.

At the age of 20, I picked up the acorns and followed the sniper. It was cold and dusk in the valley.

You can’t return to the central plains without books. Your hands and feet are frozen and your flesh is dead.

Whine A Song Xi song has been sad, sad wind for me from heaven.

——Excerpt from seven songs of the same Valley

The “acorns” that Dufu, whose hands and feet were frozen, had been looking for was a kind of bitter chestnut that was extremely unpalatable. In Chuang Tzu’s Qi Wu Lun, the monkey’s sniper took this chestnut and gave it to the monkey to choose between “morning three” and “evening four”. Taking the fruit eaten by monkeys as food, it can be seen that the poet’s life is quite hungry and cold, and in a mess. So Dufu had to leave after living in Tonggu for more than a month and moved to Chengdu.

With the help of Yanwu, Jiannan Xichuan Jiedu envoy, Dufu served as Jiedu adviser, built a thatched cottage by the Huanhua River in the west of the city, and lived there. The famous song of thatched cottages broken by the autumn wind is about the destruction of this thatched cottage by the heavy storm and rain in August. The poet could not sleep all night, but what he thought was still the sadness of the whole family and country:

Thousands of buildings have been built to shelter the poor people all over the world, and the wind and rain are as stable as a mountain. Whoops! When I suddenly see this house, my house will be broken and frozen to death!

——Excerpt from the song of thatched cottages broken by autumn wind

In the last ten years of his life, Dufu had been wandering in Sichuan and Hunan and never returned to the Central Plains. Although he was far away from the political center, he did not put down his attention to his family, country and the world.

In the first year of zongguangde in the Tang Dynasty (763), when the eight year long an Shi rebellion finally ended with the suicide of Shi Chaoyi, the son of Shi Siming, Dufu showed a rare excitement in his life, dancing, singing and drinking, and wrote one of his happiest poems:

Outside the sword, it was suddenly heard that Ji Bei was collected. At first, tears filled his clothes.

But he saw his wife’s sorrow and his ecstasy.

You must drink when you sing in the daytime, and return home when you are young.

That is, from Baxia to Wuxia, then to Xiangyang to Luoyang.

——”Hearing about the official Army’s capture of Henan and Hebei”

He planned his way back to his hometown, but after a short excitement, the cruel reality came straight to him. The an Shi rebellion is over, but the war in the Central Plains has not stopped for a long time. The separatist regimes and one after another struggles have returned the poet to a depressed living state.

According to Yu wensuo’an’s analysis, after living in Chengdu, Dufu’s poems became more and more self-related. He was a poet who paid attention to basic issues. Just as he had asked “what is the majestic Mount Tai like” (how is Dai Zongfu), he turned to the question of “what is I like” when walking down the Yangtze River, and repeatedly sought answers from various forms and organisms of the river:

An official should be retired from old age.

What is floating like? The world is full of sand gulls.

——Excerpt from “travel at night”

He experienced two fractured times in his life, so that later he could only appreciate the sadness of life from the great changes in history, and also observe the great changes in history from the sadness of life. During the heyday of Kaiyuan, many of the literati and artists he had met and interacted with drifted like him in the small city between heaven and earth in the southwest in order to escape from the troubled times. He wrote them in poetry and his own wandering, leaving a very heavy and desolate chapter for a passing era.

In the fifth year of the Dali calendar (770), Dufu, who was in Tanzhou (now Changsha, Hunan), unexpectedly met liguanian, a famous musician in the Royal pear garden during the Kaiyuan period. At that time, Dufu once heard liguanian play in the palace of king Qi Li Fan and the palace supervisor Cui di. When the old people met, they felt sorry for each other and were filled with emotions. Dufu wrote “every year in the south of the Yangtze River in the guinian of Li” as a gift:

It’s common to see people in king Qi’s house. Cui jiutang heard it several times before.

It is the beautiful scenery in the south of the Yangtze River. I meet you again in the falling flower season.

——”Every Li Gui year in Jiangnan”

The poetry is full of prosperity and leisure, and people are changing, which makes people feel dejected. An era has been broken like this, let alone individuals!

When you say nothing at all.

Dufu was old, poor all the year round, mentally and physically exhausted, and afflicted with various diseases. It was easier for him to cry in his poems.

In the winter of that year, he died of illness on a boat from Tanzhou to Yueyang, ending his 59 year life. To his death, he wandered between Hunan and Hunan and never returned to his hometown.

“Second rate poets take poetry as their life; first-rate poets take life as their poetry.” Dufu was a little poet who was buried until his death. However, in the next era, it will be found that this miserable man who died in the winter of 770 A.D. is not only a “first-class poet”, but also “the greatest poet in China”.

In his book Dufu: the greatest poet in China, the historian Hong Ye said that Dufu was a filial son, a kind father, a generous brother, a loyal husband, a trustworthy friend, a dutiful official and a national who cared about his family.

And I want to say that his poems are more real than history.

Dufu was born in 712. He is 1310 years old this year. His poems have been circulating in the world for nearly 1300 years.

Things in the world are like a dream. May the spirit of this first-class poet who was down in the world be immortal!


[Tang] Dufu: complete works of Dufu, Shanghai Ancient Books Publishing House, 1996

[Song Dynasty] Ouyangxiu et al. New Tang Dynasty, Zhonghua Book Company, 1975

(British) cuiruide, Cambridge History of China’s Sui and Tang Dynasties, China Social Sciences Press, 1990

(US) Yu wensuo’an: Poetry of the prosperous Tang Dynasty, translated by Jia Jinhua, Sanlian bookstore of life, reading and new knowledge, 2004

Hong Ye: Dufu: the greatest poet in China, translated by Zeng Xiangbo, Shanghai Ancient Books Publishing House, 2014

Zha Pingqiu: Wei Chen, man’s father and poet — a textual research on Dufu’s deeds at the beginning of the an Shi rebellion, Journal of Anhui University (PHILOSOPHY AND SOCIAL SCIENCES), 2018, issue 2

Weigengyuan: Dufu: a history of poetry from everyday life, collection of studies on Dufu, 2012

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