Bai, Ju-yi 2 (772-846 CE)
The luxuriant grass spreads across the prairie
It withers and flourishes once a year.
Prairie fires can never destroy it completely;
It grows again as the Spring winds blow.
Its fragrance extends to the distant ancient road;
Its bright greenness nestles by the ruins of an old city.
I see another noble friend off on his journey;
The lush grass waves as though saying an emotional farewell.
1 This poem describes the great strength of grass' life cycle. It shows that
nature continues to produce without resting. It also reveals that grass connects
people in different spaces and time.
2 Le-tian was Ju-yi Bai's alternative first name. In his late years, he
called himself "Xiang-shan (fragrant mountain) Ju-shi (the Buddhist laity)" or
"Zui-yin (improvise poetry when intoxicated) Xiang-sheng (mister)". His
ancestral home was in Xia-gui City (present Wei-nan City in Shaanxi Province).
His family was an eminent clan in Tai-yuan City (in present Shanxi Province).
After he died, the emperor honored him by giving him a posthumous name "Wen
(writer)". Therefore, later generations called him "Bai-wen-gong ('gong' means duke)". Bai
passed the Advanced Exam in 800 CE. He was given the position of Editor in the
Department of Confidential Documents and Official Dispatches. Later, he was an
advisor and then the Official Promoting Virtue. Because he offended influential
officials, he was demoted to the position of official in charge of military
affairs in Jiang-zhou City. In the beginning of the Chang-qing Period, he was
the Mayor of Hang-zhou City. In the beginning of the Bao-li Period, he was the
Mayor of Su-zhou City. Later, he was appointed as the Minister of Punishments.
Bai was a great poet, essayist, and literary theorist. He promoted a new
style of poetry and argued that poetry should continue the legacy of the
Bible of Poetry: beautiful and sharp. His poetry bravely revealed the dark
side of society and featured simple language. Whenever Bai completed a poem, he
would go to the countryside to find a common old woman or a young child, and
then read his poem to them. If they could not understand the poem, he would
revise it until they could. His practice of using simple language made his poems