Po Chu-I occupied several important government posts, rising to the presidency of the imperial board of wa. He wrote over 3,000 poems—brief, topical verses expressed in very simple, clear language. His poetry figures prominently in The Tale of Genji, the tenth century Japanese novel by Murasaki Shikibu. Po’s work gained wide popularity throughout East Asia. He continued to write despite partial paralysis and enjoyed great fame during his lifetime.
Poetry by Po Chu-I
translated by David Hinton
Po Chü-i (772-846 C.E.) is the quintessential Chinese poet. For although clear thought and depth of wisdom inform the work of all major Chinese poets (as opposed to the complexity and virtuosity often valued in the West), Po makes clarity itself his particular vision. Po Chü-i rose from humble beginnings to high government office, but he was always a recluse at heart and spent many years in relative seclusion. Although some of Po’s most famous poems are those of social protest, many of his finest are private and meditative. Trying to live fully in the moment, he could invest the most commonplace experience with remarkable depths––depths which can only be called spiritual, for they reflect Po’s deep interest in Taoist philosophy and his life-long devotion to Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist practice. Throughout the twelve centuries since his death, Po has been acclaimed as one of China’s greatest poets. But in spite of his preeminent stature, this is the first edition of his poems to appear in the West.