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1:Though frosts come down
night after night,
what does it matter?
they melt in the morning sun.
Though the snow falls
each passing year,
what does it matter?
with spring days it thaws.
Yet once let them settle
on a mans head,
fall and pile up,
go on piling up
then the new year
may come and go,
but never youll see them fade away

translated by Burton Watson
From the book Ryokan: Zen Monk-Poet of Japan.
~ Taigu Ryokan, Though Frosts come down

2:was also renowned in Japan. Burton Watson says of ~ Bai Juyi

: "he worked to
develop a style that was simple and easy to understand, and posterity has
requited his efforts by making him one of the most well-loved and widely read of
all Chinese poets, both in his native land and in the other countries of the East
that participate in the appreciation of Chinese culture. He also, thanks to the
translations and biographical studies by Arthur Waley, one of the most accessible
to English readers". Today the fame of ~ Bai Juyi

is worldwide.
Name variants
Pinyin: Bó Juyì or Bái Juyì
Wade-Giles: Po Chü-i or Pai Chü-i
Zì : Lètian
Hào : Xiangshan Jushì
Zuìyín Xiansheng
Shì Wén (hence referred
to as Bái Wéngong )
~ Bai Juyi

often referred to himself in life as Letian, the older English transcription
version being Lo-t'ien, meaning something like "happy-go-lucky". Later in life, he
referred to himself as the Hermit of Xiangshan.
~ Bai Juyi

lived during the Middle Tang period. This was a period of rebuilding and
recovery for the Tang Empire, following the An Shi Rebellion, and following the
poetically flourishing era famous for Li Bo (701-762), Wang Wei (701-761), and
Du Fu (712-770). ~ Bai Juyi

lived through the reign of eight or nine emperors,
being born in the Dali regnal era (766-779) of Emperor Daizong of Tang. He had
a long and successful career both as a government official and a poet, although
these two facets of his career seemed to have come in conflict with each other at
certain points. ~ Bai Juyi

was also a devoted Chan Buddist.
Birth and childhood
~ Bai Juyi

was born in 772, in Taiyuan, Shanxi, which was then a few miles from
location of the modern city. Although he was in Zhengyang, Henan for most of
his childhood. His family was poor but scholarly, his father being an Assistant
Department Magistrate of the second-class. At the age of ten he was sent away
from his family to avoid a war that broke out in the north of China, and went to
live with relatives in the area known as Jiangnan, more specifically Xuzhou.
Early career
~ Bai Juyi

's official career was initially successful. He passed the jinshi
examinations in 800. ~ Bai Juyi

may have taken up residence in the western capital
city of Chang'an, in 801. Not long after this, ~ Bai Juyi

and formed a long
friendship with a scholar Yuan Zhen. ~ Bai Juyi

's father died in 804, and the young
Bai spent the traditional period of retirement mourning the death of his parent,
which he did along the Wei River, near to the capital. 806 was the first full year
of the reign of Emperor Xianzong of Tang. Also, 806 was the ~ Bai Juyi

appointed to a minor post as a government official, at Zhouzhi, which was not far
from the Chang'an (and also in Shaanxi province). He was made a member
(scholar) of the Hanlin Academy, in 807, and Reminder of the Left from 807 until
815, except in 811 when his mother died. He spent the traditional three year
mourning period again along the Wei River, and returned to court in the winter of
814, where he held the title of Assistant Secretary to the Prince's Tutor. It was
not a high ranking position, but nevertheless one which he was soon to lose.
While serving as a minor palace official, 814, Bei Juyi managed to get himself in
official trouble. He made a few enemies at court and with certain individuals in
other positions. It was partly his written works which lead him into trouble. He
wrote two long memorials, translated by Arthur Waley as "On Stopping the War",
regarding what he considered to be an overly lengthy campaign against a minor
group of Tatars; and he wrote a series of poems, in which he satirized the actions
of greedy officials and highlighting the sufferings of the common folk.
At this time, one of the post-An Lushan warlords (jiedushi), Wu Yuanji in Henan,
had seized control of Zhangyi Circuit (centered in Zhumadian), an act for which
he sought reconciliation with the imperial government, trying to get an imperial
pardon as a necessary prerequisite. Despite the intercession of influential friends,
Wu was denied, thus officially putting him in the position of rebellion. Still
seeking a pardon, Wu turned to assassination, blaming the Prime Minister
(another Wu, Wu Yuanheng) and other officials: the imperial court generally
began by dawn, requiring the ministers to rise early in order to attend in a timely
manner; and, on July 13, 815, before dawn, the Tang Prime Minister Wu
Yuanheng was set to go to the palace for a meeting with Emperor Xianzong. As
he left his house, arrows were fired at his retinue. His servants all fled, and the
assassins seized Wu Yuanheng and his horse, and then decapitated him, taking
his head with them. The assassins also attacked another official who favored the
campaign against the rebellious warlords, Pei Du, but was unable to kill him. The
people at the capital were shocked and there was turmoil, with officials refusing
to leave their personal residences until after dawn.
In this context, ~ Bai Juyi

overstepped his minor position by memorializing the
emperor. As Assistant Secretary to the Prince's Tutor, Bai's memorial was a
breach of protocol — he should have waited for those of censorial authority to
take the lead before offering his own criticism. This was not the only charge
which his opponents used against him. His mother had died, apparently caused
by falling into a well while looking at some flowers, and two poems written by Bai
Juyi — the titles of which Waley translates as "In Praise of Flowers" and "The
New Well" — were used against him as a sign of lack of Filial Piety, one of the
Confucian ideals. The result was exile: ~ Bai Juyi

was demoted to the rank of SubPrefect and banished from the court and the capital city to Jiujiang, then known
as Xun Yang on the southern shores of the Yangtze River in northwest Jiangxi
Province, China. After three years he was sent as Governor of a remote place in
Sichuan. At the time, the main travel route there was up the Yangzi River. This
trip allowed ~ Bai Juyi

a few days to visit his friend Yuan Zhen, who was also in
exile and with whom he explored the rock caves located at Yichang. ~ Bai Juyi

delighted by the flowers and trees for which his new location was noted. In 819,
he was recalled back to the capital, ending his exile.
Return to the capital and a new emperor
In 819, ~ Bai Juyi

was recalled to the capital and given the position of second-class
Assistant Secretary. In 821, China got a new emperor, Muzong. After succeeding
to the throne, Muzong spent his time feasting and heavily drinking, and
neglecting his duties as emperor. Meanwhile, the temporarily subdued regional
military governors (jiedushi) began to challenge the central Tang government,
leading to the new de facto independence of three circuits north of the Yellow
River, which had been previously subdued by Emperor Xianzong. Furthermore,
Muzong's administration was characterized by massive corruption. Again, ~ Bai Juyi


   1 Zen
   1 Poetry
   1 Buddhism - Though Frosts come down, #Ryokan - Poems, #Taigu Ryokan, #Buddhism
  translated by Burton Watson
  From the book Ryokan: Zen Monk-Poet of Japan.


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