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T'ang Studies 18-19 (2000-01) A Better View of Li Bai's "Imitating the 'Fu on Resentment'" MICHELLE SANS UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO Li Bai *8 (701-762?) wrote numerous poems that drew on the verses of antiquity, but we know from Duan Chengshi's f~~:ct (ca. 803-63) Youyang zazu @fWJ~~].l that he wrote only three ni :mI, or "imitations," offu, and that all three found their inspiration in rhapsodies included in the Wen xuan :X~. One of these three he was never satisfied with and burned, which left only his "Ni 'Bie fu'" • 3U ~j\("Imitating the 'Fu on Separation''') and its companion piece, "Ni 'Hen fu'" :fMJIH~tt("Imitating the 'Fu on Resentment")-both "imitations" of rhapsodies by Jiang Yan iI%t (445-505).2 By the time the Qing scholar Wang Qi £:EiU(16961774 ) edited Li Bai's work and wrote his commentary, only the latter fu was extant. Perhaps because it is an oddity within what constitutes a small and neglected category of Li Bai's poetry3 or because the 1 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981),2.93. 2 For the former, see Wen xuan )(~ (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1986), 16.750-59;for the latter, Wen xuan 17.744-49. 3 Only eight fu by Li Bai are extant. Of those, only two have been translated into English. In addition to providing a thorough and comprehensive study of Li Bai's "Da peng fu" *JI~~i\: Paul W. Kroll conveys in his translation the particular genius of thisfu; see Kroll, "U Po's Rhapsody on the Great P'eng-bird," Journal of Chinese Religions 12 (1984): 1-17. In his introduction, Kroll points out the undeserved neglect with which even Tang specialists have treated Li Bai's rhapsodies . He suggests that Li Bai's fu, along with Tang fu in general, have been slighted primarily due to "the common misconception that fu compositions are not 'poetry' but 'prose.'" For a fine translation, though without notes, of Li Bai's "Jian'ge fu" ~Uf¥H!ttsee Elling Eide, Poems by Li Po (Lexington, Kent.: Anvil Press, 1984),4; rpt. in The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature, 41 Sans:Ii Bats "Ni 'Henfu"' word Ilimitate" puts readers off, "Ni IHen fu'" has been largely ignored by both Western and Chinese scholars. To my knowledge it has not been translated into English.4 In Chinese sources it receives little more than a perfunctory mention, simply identified as one of Li Bai's eight surviving rhapsodies or as one of the many compositions he wrote in the style of the ancients. Even Tang Xu Jj~ft in an essay explicitly devoted to Li Bai's poems of imitation, says very little about this atypical work beyond the obvious-that it is fashioned after Jiang Yan's "Hen fu" and that, unlike Li Bai's many yuefu which "appropriate titles of old" but otherwise offer something new, "Ni IHen fu'" intentionally imitates a specific poem.s I would argue that ifNi IHen fu'" also offers something new. While there is no denying the title of Li Bai'sfu, we should not be misled by it. Not only is ifNi IHen fu'" as much a reply to Jiang Yan as it is a tribute, it also has a tone and manner that can only belong to Li Bai. While the merits of the poem are amplified by their associational connections with the earlier poem, Li Bai's rhapsody must be read on its own terms for its compression and precision of language, its poetic vigor, and its ability to carry emotional weight. There are few clues within this rhapsody to suggest when Li Bai wrote "Ni IHen fu,'" but there has been some speculation ed. Victor Mair (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1994), 437-38, with some geographical notes added. 4 There is a German translation by Erwin von Zach in his "Lit'aipo's Poetische Werke, Buch I," Asia Major 3 (1926): 429-32. 5 Tang Xu remarks that "Deng Jinling huangfengtai" :1b'iI:~mlIGI("Climbing Jinling's Phoenix Tower") which pays tribute to Cui Hao's ffiM (d. 754) short poem, "Huanghelou" ji~tm ("Yellow...


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