UBC Theses and Dissertations
Bai Juyi (Bai Lo Tian) 易居白 772-846AD Tang Dynasty poet, midst everyday life, musings on the ordinary, influences of the not so obvious Naismith, Earl George
Bai Juyi (易居白, 772-846AD) was one of the greatest scholar-intellectuals and poets of China‘s Tang dynasty period (朝唐, 618-907 AD). He is generally considered to be one three most outstanding poets of his day, alongside Tu Fu(杜甫712-770) and Li Bai(李白 701-762). Arguably, he was by far the most popular amongst the general population. The aim of this thesis is to describe the poet‘s life, using as much as possible his own poetry and prose to provide a lens for Bai‘s sensitivity to those socio-cultural forces, particularly Buddhism, that powerfully influenced his desire to be effective and of value to his society and his family while seeking inner peace and tranquility. The ideological flux of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism permeated Bai‘s entire spiritual and psychological being, warring with a continual awareness of his self-proclaimed political and administrative incompetence. These ideologies are discussed in the context of the poet‘s life. His inner and outer life is regarded, indeed scrutinized, through the poet‘s own words as he candidly and poignantly deals with the great issues of loyalty and service to the sovereign, compassion for the sufferings of the common people, responsibility to family and friends, and the insatiable and driving need to write poetic verse. Buddhism reached its peak as a social force during the mid-Tang period around the reign of Empress Wu (武后reign period 684-705, lived 609-705). The evolution of Chan (禪) and other variant forms of Mahayana Buddhism is briefly studied while citing the monumental contributions of Fazang (法藏643-712) of the Hua Yan School (華嚴) and Hui Neng (慧能638-713) of the Chan School. Bai‘s own philosophical interests and religious proclivities seem derivative of his times. The influence of these ideological fluxes and social tensions, coupled with a growing awareness of his own mortality, is clearly evidenced in Bai Juyi‘s poetry and memorials. His temple poem You Wu Zhen Si Shi (詩寺真悟遊) will be examined closely to reflect some of these impressions.
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