Wang Wei was an artist par excellence, never losing sight of his creative talents in watercolor painting while he was writing poetry, thus deserving the praise of posterity in its saying that there was always a picture in his poems. A great lover of natural beauty and enjoyer of leisurely living in his county villa, he was also a devout Buddhist. His love of meditation of scenic beauty, and of pictorial art, is thoroughly reflected in his poetry, thus founding the school of nature poets. Before we examine his nature poetry, let us look at his ballads, which were extremely popular in his lifetime. Since is narrative poems written in the style of ballads were all carefully dated, three of his masterpieces were written before he was twenty-one. In him we see the key of the development of T’ang poetry as Wang Wei trained himself in his younger days as a narrative poet in conformity with the pervading tradition of the so-called new yüeh fu. He left this kind of composition for pure lyrics in the latter part of his life. Similarly, the trend of T’ang poets was first to seek liberation and training in yüeh fu and finally to outgrow this type. The following are among Wang Wei’s best loved shorter poems.
 送別 王維
 失題 王維
 終南別業 王維
 山居秋暝 王維
 竹里館 王維
 酬張少府 王維

Wang Wei’s life was enriched by a younger contemporary whose poetry wa more varied and more romantic. Li Po (701?-762?), who was claimed as a native son by many different regions, was born in present-day Shantung Province. All his life a seeker of freedom and a lover of wine, he had joined various groups in living as a recluse. We have noted before that to Tu Fu, Li Po was one of the great Immortals in Wine Drinking. According to the T’ang dynastic History, he was, on one occasion, so completely drunken that he forgot all the basics of court manners and went so far as to order a commander of the imperial guard and a favorite of the emperor to remove his boots.
Even the unconventional Emperor Hsüan Tsung felt offended by this violation of etiquette and decreed his dismissal. Later, during the An Lu-shan rebellion, he joined the staff of an imperial prince who had been plotting for political independence, and after the collapse of that princely court, Li Po was sent into exile to the far southwest to the country of Yeh Lang. After his eventual parole, he died of intoxication on his way back to the capital. Around the life and death of Li Po so many stories were spun by posterity that probably not a single one was reliable, including the one saying that he lost his ife by plunging into the river in an attempt to grasp the reflected moon, which he felt was even more beautiful than the real one.

Probably more than any single individual, Li Po was the epitome and summation of his age, spending his life variously as he did in running away from the crowd to the mountains and forests, in drinking to intoxication at wine shops and the imperial court, in practicing alchemy to attain physical immortality, and in wandering in scenic areas close to rivers and lakes. Distinctly different from his contemporaries who sought eagerly to elevate themselves in the official hierarchy by advertising their talents in poetry writing, Li Po persistently sang in praise of freedom.

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