The reflection of the spirit of the age on the current philosophy of life was one dedicated to the breaking of all shackles in search of freedom and naturalism. We might use famous poem written by Tu Fu on the “Eight Immortals of Drinking” as a mirror in this regard:
飲中八仙歌 杜甫

This distinguished company, as we can readily see, was representative of high society; a prince royal, a prime minister, a Buddhist, a Taoist, poets and artists. On appearance, the conduct of this group seemed decadent, but decadence, in their case, was actually a protest against accepted rules and customs and a manifestation of a new kind of naturalism as expressed in a life philosophy.

The first of these eight immortals, Ho Chih-chang (659-744), was a leading figure in T’ang literature whose biography is worthy of our notice. A native of scenic Kueichi, close to Hangchow, he had enjoyed an immense reputation since young manhood. As he climbed up the hierarchical scale he succeeded in retaining his unconventionality. According to the Old T’ang Dynastic History (Chiu T’ang Shu), besides being romantic in nature and gifted in humorous discussion, he became even more untrammeled toward the end of his life, visiting out-of-the-way lanes and cities and scribbling rolls of poetry after intoxication.
Although he seldom revised his writings, his first drafts, were all readable. In 744, as he was suffering fits of dizziness, he memorialized the throne for permission to become a Taoist and to return to his native district where he would donate his own mansion as a Taoist temple. The emperor responded not only with permission but also with poems to bid him farewell. As he departed from the capital all dignitaries from the crown prince down saw him off. He died not long after his return home, in his eighty-sixth year. His life was a reflection of the age in that such an unconventional figure had commanded the profound respect of society at large, indicating that he had lived in a society of extreme liberalism made possible by the termination of authoritarian Buddhism and yet unhampered by anything like the new Confucianist Puritanism that was to rise in the eleventh century. It is, therefore; no coincidence that the remnants of Ho’s poetry, which was not carefully preserved, were indications of the liberal movement in poetry and its tendency to approximate the natural speech of everyday language.

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