Above: The poet Du Fu
The poems of Du Fu (AD 712-770), the exemplary realist poet in the history of Chinese literature, mirror the social outlook of the once prosperous Tang Dynasty in decline. Du’s poems are rich in social content, and have a distinct epochal character and a definitive political inclination. Du Fu’s poetry fervently appeals to the nation in the uplifting spirit of self-sacrifice. Du Fu was, therefore, called the “The Sage of Poetry” and his poems are praised as “epic poetry.”
Du Fu wrote more than 1,000 poems throughout his life, the famous ones included Three Officers, Three Partings, A Song of Chariots, A Song of Fair Ladies and A spring View. Du Fu’s poetry offered great sympathy to commonpeople and revealed the sharp contradiction between exploiter and exploited in feudal society. “Wine and meat rot behind vermilion gates,while on the roadside, people freeze to death” has been a line indelibly inscribed in the minds of generation after generation of Chinese people. A spring View and Upon the News of the Recapture of Henan and Hebei by the lmperial Armies shows the poet’s great love for his motherland. A Song of Chariots and A Song of Fair Ladies not only praise the people’s desire to serve the country, they also expose the malfeasance of a warlike ruling class. Some of Du Fu’s poems focus on describing scenery or reflecting the love between couples, among brothers and friendsl yet they were also infused with the poet’s deep feelings for the motherland and the people. In short, Du Fu’s poetry is an artistic recounting of the turn in the fortunes of the Tang Dynasty. In the history of Chinese literature, Du Fu’s poetry is unmatched in its rendering of enlightenment and elegance.
In writing poems, Du Fu often hid his subjective feelings behind objective description. For example, in A Song of Fair Ladies, he did not denounce Lady Yang and her brother’s want on way of life directly but described their finery and diet in great detail, which implicitly unveils the poet’s attitude.
The language in Du Fu’s poems is simple, easy and natural. Du Fu was good at accentuating a character’s personality through soliloquy and common sayings. He was particularly skillful at the detailing of characterization, best illustrated in the paragraph describing the wife and children in Expedition to the North. The style of Du Fu’s poetry can be summarized as deep, implicit and modulated in tone.
All of these merits establish Du Fu’s status as “The Sage of Poetry” in a history of more than 3,000 years of Chinese literature. via: people.chinese.cn
From wiki: Below is an example of one of Du Fu’s later works, To My Retired Friend Wei (Chinese: 贈衛八處士). Like many other poems in the Tang it featured the theme of a long parting between friends, which was often due to officials being frequently transferred to the provinces.
人生不相見， It is almost as hard for friends to meet
動如參與商。 As for the morning and evening stars.
今夕復何夕， Tonight then is a rare event,
共此燈燭光。 Joining, in the candlelight,
少壯能幾時， Two men who were young not long ago
鬢髮各已蒼。 But now are turning grey at the temples.
訪舊半為鬼， To find that half our friends are dead
驚呼熱中腸。 Shocks us, burns our hearts with grief.
焉知二十載， We little guessed it would be twenty years
重上君子堂。 Before I could visit you again.
昔別君未婚， When I went away, you were still unmarried;
兒女忽成行。 But now these boys and girls in a row
怡然敬父執， Are very kind to their father’s old friend.
問我來何方。 They ask me where I have been on my journey;
問答乃未已， And then, when we have talked awhile,
兒女羅酒漿。 They bring and show me wines and dishes,
夜雨翦春韭， Spring chives cut in the night-rain
新炊間黃粱。 And brown rice cooked freshly a special way.
主稱會面難， My host proclaims it a festival,
一舉累十觴。 He urges me to drink ten cups —
十觴亦不醉， But what ten cups could make me as drunk
感子故意長。 As I always am with your love in my heart?
明日隔山嶽， Tomorrow the mountains will separate us;
世事兩茫茫。 After tomorrow - who can say?
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