Tu Fu’s poetry shows three stages of development and progress in chronological order: (1) poems written before the great rebellion, (2) poems written during the rebellion and its aftermath, and (3) poems written toward the end of his life after his relocation in Chengtu.

Tu Fu’s life in the first period was that of “donkeyback riding for thirty years.” Even after his elevation to an official post following his submission of the three fu compositions, his poverty seemed to have persisted. But in spite of his poverty ge always retained his bountiful humor, the kind of humor which was ingrained in him and was never consciously or artificially cultivated. Frequently, while the themes of his poetry were serious in the extreme, a few lines would precariously border on the pattern of limericks.

While he was facing poverty while holding a lowly position in Ch’angan, his most intimate friend was Chêng Ch’ien, a doctor in the Kuang-wên Kuan, or the Hall of Liberal Arts. Between the two of them there were frequent exchanges of verses written in mutual friendly ridicule, of which the following is an exmple:

 戲簡鄭廣文虔,兼呈蘇司業源明 杜甫



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