We have seen how Li Po was intent on being himself—a hermit poet satisfying himself by creative activities and paying no attention to versification as a short cut to official honors. Completely dedicated to personal freedom and glorifying the liberating influence of the beauties of nature, he was unprepared to meet the challenges of political confusion and social injustice. As a consequence, the rebellion of 755 and its upsetting effects deepened his decadence into pessimism.

To Tu Fu, the shock of the rebellion was equally acute. Thus he sang:

When the tumultuous mutiny led by An Lu-shan in 755 broke out and spread into a huge conflagration, mid-eighth-century China, which had been rhapsodizing in the plenty and peace of an age of prosperity, was caught completely unprepared. The northern half of the empire was soonest aflame, both the capital at Ch’angan and the co-capital Loyang fell, and the dynastic superstructure was on the verge of complete disintegration. It was not until the inadequacy of the dynasty to cope with the situation had been clearly demonstrated and the assistance of alien tribes had been secured that the rebellion was subdued after years of strenuous effort. Even then, the prestige and power of the central government could not be restored and the peace and prosperity of the earlier reigns could not be revived.

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