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20091029-930 Tu Fu and Li Po (Group 4)

Page history last edited by Brian Quigley 14 years, 4 months ago


Today in class we discussed the difference between the "narrative" and "lyric" styles of poetry.  To better understand the differences between the two, an analogy was drawn between the term "bullet time" and the two styles of poetry structure.  A narrative poem is like a film or novel that is long and tells a story, whereas a lyric poem is shorter and pertains to one specific moment with consideration of that moment.  With a narrative poem, the writer is concerned about where the bullet came from and where it is going; conversely, lyric poems are more concerned with where the bullet is at a specific point in time.


The two poets that we discussed in class today were Li Po ("Li Bai") and Tu Fu ("Du Fu"), who both wrote during the T'ang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Li Po and Tu Fu were poets of the same era that had only that one tract of common ground between them; each held their own religious views and past life experiences.  Tu Fu is the more serious poet, with a central theme of politics in his poetic works centered around Confucianism.  Confucianism is about learning, social norms, relationships between friends, and relationships between children and parents. On the other hand, Li Po's work is much more easy going when compared to the writings of Tu Fu.  Li Po's poems are somewhat playful in nature, and it can be determined through his works that Tu Fu likes wine and enjoys focusing on nautre. Li Po believed in the religious philosophy of Taoism, wherein the focus of life is placed on nature, health and liberty.




 (Image Left: Symbol of Confucianism; Image Right: Yin-Yang, a symbol of Taoism)





Song of P'eng-ya 


"And I make this vow to you,

That forever I will be your brother, your kin." (Line 37)


This is an important passage in the Song because of its relationship to Confucianism. The central theme of Confucianism is similar to the idea of metis. The relationship between family and friends is very important in confucianism and here Tu Fu is telling his friend that he is forever in debt since he helped him out by feeding and clothing his family.


My Thatched Roof 


"The children from the village to the south

made a fool of me, impotent with age,

Without compunction plundered what was mine

before my very eyes,

Brazenly took armfuls of thatch,

ran off into the bamboo" (Line 11)


-This passage is similar to the earlier one about respect. The poet this time is very old, we know this because he makes a reference to his staff. The storm came and the kids from the neighboring city stole the straw and top even though they saw the old man and he asked them to stop. They disrespected him by disrespecting their elders, which in the confucian time is very important.


Ballad of youth 


"When fallen flowers are trampled all under,

where is it he will roam?

with a laugh he enters the tavern

of a lovely Turkish wench." (Line 5)


-This passage can be interpreted two different ways; the author may find humor in this question because he is unaware of his own mortality, or he believes that nature will take its course and there is no sense in fighting it.




Taoism - Philosophical or religious traditions and concepts typical in East Asian culture. The word Tao (sometimes written as Dao, depending on context) traditionally means "path" or "way", or basically the "flow of the universe." Taoist beliefs emphasize the Three Jewels of the Tao: Compassion, Moderation, and Humility. Taoist's focus for the most part on nature, health, longevity, wu wei, liberty, and spontaneity. The idea of "wu wei" refers to the belief of taking action by inaction; basically letting nature take its course.


Meritocracy - A system of government based on merit; it allows anyone who passes a government examination to become a government official and further their career based on contributions to the government.


Confucianism: Chinese system based on the concepts of learning, education, ritual, norms, relationships between friends, and relationships between child and parents (filial piety).


Bullet Time: A type of photography used in multimedia that consists of a digitally enhanced simulation of variable speed, first seen in the movie Blade (1998) and coined by Warner Bros. with the movie The Matrix.  This term is used in our class to coorelate the difference between lyrical and narrative poem structure.







Comments (1)

Brian Croxall said

at 5:52 pm on Nov 3, 2009

Your notes for our discussion of Chinese lyric poetry are generally good. I appreciate the visual elements that you added to the notes, although since we didn't discuss the symbols for Confucianism or Taoism in class it might have been handy for you to explain them to your classmates. (I assume everyone has seen a Yin-Yang symbol before, but they might not know that it is linked to Taoism.) Your summary is generally good; I was surprised to not see it broken up into 2 or 3 paragraphs and to not get more on the Chinese poets. It's especially strange that you tell me in the summary that Tu Fu is linked to Confucianism but that you don't mention Li Po's Taoism at all. I know that you don't have space for everything in these summaries, but you need to be as complete as possible. Your passages are chosen well, and you discuss the first two adequately. More could have been done on Li Po's poem to make it still more plain how the reading works and how it is related to Taoism. You've got all the right terms for the definitions. The biggest problem for all of these notes as I see it is that there should have been a more detailed discussion of Confucianism and Taoism. Between the summary and the definitions, you get most of the bases covered, but not entirely.

Still, these are small matters and on the whole the notes are admirable.

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