Li Po, also known as Li Bai, was a Chinese poet who lived from 701 to 762 AD. He was a fellow poet of Du Fu, and the pair are often considered to be the two greatest poets in the history of Chinese literature. Over 1,000 poems that Li Po wrote during his lifetime still exist today. Li Po was a man of wealth and spent much of his life traveling. In fact, many accounts of his life have him traveling through China for a great part of his time on earth.
Although Li Po's poems were all penned well over a millennium ago, they were not available to most parts of the western world until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Marquis d'Hervey de Saint-Denys created the first translation of Po's poems into a Western language with his book Poésies de l'Époque des Thang, a French publication that was released in 1862. The first English translation of Li Po's poems was published by Herbert Allen Giles in his text titled History of Chinese Literature, which was made available to the reading public in 1901.
The poet Ezra Pound also translated Li Po's works. However, Pound translated Po's works from Japanese translations rather than their original Chinese versions. Furthermore, Pound took some liberties with the translations in order to highlight or create more politically influential meanings.
Po's poems are marked by the poet's powerful, sometimes wild imagination. His works are also known for the Taoist imagery that Po presents within then. Li Po the man is often remembered for his great love of liquor. In fact, he is said to have drowned in the Yangtze River while, on an night time cruise along the water, he was drunkenly inspired to embrace the moon's reflection on the surface of the water. However, some scholars and historians believe that he died at his own hands. This hypothesis is often argued by pointing to Po's farewell poem, which is read as a suicide note.
During his lifetime and as a historical figure, Li Po was and is often thought of as a genius. After an interview with Li Po in 720, Governor Su Ting agreed with this assumption. Po was only 19 years old at the time of the meeting. His abilities to craft poems quickly and effortlessly are legendary. Of course, the most powerful testament to Li Po's genius is the fact that his poems are still being read, taught, and revered today.