Li Bai was a Tang Dynasty Poet. Using Ha Jin’s account of Li Bai’s life “Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai”, I mapped out Li Bai’s life. Please enjoy, and let me know of any mistakes.
Li Bai is so central to the popular conceptions of what Chinese culture is, his poems are often used to represent Chinese Poetry. His poems often are based in place, featuring descriptions of the places that he traveled. Li Bai’s poetry informs the cultural landscape of China, so mapping these poems provides insight into the spacial dimensions of popular Chinese culture.
Li Bai was born in Central Asia. His family were traders who operated along the Silk Road. At young age he traveled with his family to Sichuan. Point number 5 includes a beautiful poem written at E Mei Mountain.
Li Bai left the Sichuan basin in hopes of finding a government post, marking his first time on the North China Plain. Point number 8 includes perhaps Li Bai’s most famous poem.
Li Bai’s married a women from a relatively known family that was in decline. His wife was supportive of her husband. Ha Jin asserts that Li Bai loved his wife, but that his wanderlust made him an absent husband. This map illustrates that wanderlust. Point 9 uncovers Li Bai’s Taoist sensibilities ‘after I succeed I will return to my old woods.’ Leaving the public sphere while not yet in decline.
Time in Capital, and Second Wandering
At this point in Li Bai’s life, his poetry was quite famous. Famous enough that he was invited to serve in the royal court. His knowledge of foreign languages and culture eventually, and briefly, expanded his influence beyond poetry. His stay in Chang’An was brief. Point 17 includes a poem that laments the political situation at the time, and includes many place names
Li Bai marries into another famous family in decline. His new wife is a devout Taoist, and studies with a master in Mount Lu.
An Lu Shan Revolt
An Lu Shan was a general stationed in the North, near modern day Beijing. He revolted against Chang’An throwing the dynasty into disarray. In order to combat An Lu Shan, the dynasty fractures, so that once the northern revolt was put down, the remaining to factions were at odds. This period contains my favorite poem at point 1.
Li Bai’s later years seem rather sad. Points 4 and 5 account Li Bai’s return to places he knew before, but places that he now knew no one.