By a cruel irony of fate, sometimes some people are not born in the right place and the right position although their birthplaces and identities have always been other people's dreams. Their seemingly holy, noble, and dignified statuses sometimes disguised their personal feelings. Actually, they are reluctant to be born with a sliver spoons in their mouths.
Our team, will describe such a person, his name is Li Yu.
Li Yu, posthumously known as Prince of Wu, was a Chinese poet and the last ruler of the Southern Tang Kingdom from 961 to 975 during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period; he has been called the "first true master" of the ci form.
Li Yu's father Li Jing, the second ruler of the Southern Tang, died in 961. Li ascended the throne in 961, and immediately accepted a role subservient to the Song Dynasty to the north, and in many respects, was little more than a regional ruler in the face of the growing power of the Song Dynasty.
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Of the many other kingdoms surrounding the Southern Tang, only Kingdom of WuYue to the east had yet to fall. The Southern Tang's turn came in 975 when Song Dynasty armies invaded and took Li Yu and his family captive and brought them to the Song capital at present-day KaiFeng(it is in Henan province).
He was poisoned by the Song emperor Taizong in 978, after he had written a poem that, in a veiled manner, lamented the destruction of his empire and the rape of his second wife Empress Zhou the Lesser by the Song emperor. After his death, he was posthumously created the Prince of Wu.
As a matter of fact, his devotion to the arts is much more than to the domination to the country. He was endowed with the talent for writing not only poems of full with rhetorical flourishes but also with profound and thought-provoking. These poetic features were showed during different era of the country Li dominated. Li Yu devoted much of his time to pleasure-making and literature, and this is reflected in his early poems. However, his best-known poems were composed during the years after the Song formally ended his reign in 975. Li's works from this period dwell on his regret for the lost kingdom and the pleasures it had brought him.
He was one of the most controversial characters in Chinese history. Arguments among the historians and scholars in China have not been settled yet. However, one point can be affirmed, people are inclined to entitle him as the capable, influential man with many accomplishments in arts in Chinese history.
The ineffectual ruler:
We tried our best to collect materials of Li Yu on the internet. At the moment, we discovered a strange phenomenon: the vast majority of materials or remarks were inclined to praise him, and ignored the truth that he was totally a terrible emperor. Actually, he was a great poet, but we could not overlook his bad actions and influences on history. Instead of his amazing artistic talent, we were eager to provide a fair appraisal of him. Let's show you the dark side of him.
We would like to talk about his poem first. The public had a high pinion of his work. We studied and recited his poem when we were in middle school. Almost all of us believed that he was a perfect poem, his flowers of speech and painful words made people to forget to pore over his poem. Now, we wanted to analyze deeply. Viewed from the content, most of his work described his immoral way of life and tragic experiences when he was house arrested. It was too simple. From the practical significance, his work was short of progressive ideas and didn't have deep thoughts. On the contrary, the work expressed the extravagant life made a bad effect to contemporary society. One day a minister advised him to stop writing this kind of poem, because the minister's 7-year-old son wanted to have that "wonderful" life after he read the emperor's work. At that time, not only the minister's son, but a considerable mumble of people had been affected. We could not imagine that what a bad impact he brought to society.
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We considered that his greatest faults destroyed a country. There was no denying the fact that he was a milksop. Facing the struggle for power, he hided himself in the corner. When he held the power, he immediately wrote a paper to the Song dynasty to show that his country would go down without fighting. When the Song forces attacked his country, he should abandon his country and people, fled to a temple. What a week and useless emperor! He was also an irresponsible and selfish man. As an emperor, the most important things were to build up his country and protect his people. However, he did neither. The only thing he had knew was to play with concubines, enjoyed the lavish life. His extravagance had drained the country's fortune. Meanwhile, he never followed the suggestions form ministers; he even killed some loyal ministers who were brave to speak up. His habits and characters were doomed to ruin a country.
The excellent poet:
Li Yu has obtained top achievements in literature. To illustrate, his genius for writing and painting had make great impression on us. Handling writing brush skillfully gave rise to his vigorous strokes in calligraphy. Li Yu's paintings were so vivid which would bring you an immersed sense. Likewise, his poems had greatly broad the culture connotation and stature of poetry and those poems enriched the artifice of poetry as well.
In the event of Li Yu's style of writing poems, it could be distinct from two times with the year of 975 as a boundary. Li Yu's words in poem acted an elegant way at the onset. The contents of his poem in early times could be categorized in two aspects. One of them was grandeur imperial life and relationships between male and female. For instance, one of his representative poems named Pu Sa Man:
Pu Sa Man
Tang Wen Ting Yun
Fluffy willow catkins have piled up in South Garden,
Sad to hear the burst of early April shower so sudden.
Afterwards, the slanting sunrays,
And apricot flowers were scattered about fragrant.
Speechless, I touched up my sleep-drugged face.
A painted screen enclosed my bed and pillows.
At the close of the day,
In ennui, I learned against the doorway.
Another aspect was: Li Yu indicated strong sense of sadness due to the great pressure he had suffered from Song Dynasty and he felt so frustrated by oppressive realities. Another poem written by him called To the tune of joy of meeting proved his view.
To the tune of Joy of meeting
ã€€ã€€Poem by Liyu
ã€€ã€€Translation by yang zhi mingÂ
ã€€ã€€Up on the West Bower I have no word to share,
ã€€ã€€For I see a hook-like moon lingering there,
ã€€ã€€Being shackled in a deep chilly backyard,
ã€€ã€€A lonely Chinese parasol couldn't bear.
ã€€ã€€Oh, I fail to cut it apart,
ã€€ã€€Though I rack my brains so hard.
ã€€ã€€Is it the grief of parting,
ã€€ã€€That tortures my gloomy heart?
Li Yu's poems inherited the spirits from some famous poets in the late time of Tang dynasty, which made a big progress for creations of poetry. Li Yu's top social status determined not only by who he was but by his talent in poetry as well. He had expanded the field of poem's creation and his words in his poems are natural and concisely. Li Yu also exerted a new approach to his writing style. In general, poems in his time were more circumbendibus, ignoring what others saying, he clung to express his ideas without much thinking of using words. Unfortunately, Li Yu's poems were seldom to be handed down.
Our Team's points of view about this man:
We agree that Li Yu was a good poet but he was not a good king. He created a lot of poem. When we first came to know him, we think he was very intelligent and talented but he was not good at politic. Most of people thought his predetermined fate was a great tragedy. When he was young, he only wrote poem and fell in love with girls. Everyone knew he was reluctant to be a king and what he really good at was poem. Of course, he was doomed to lose his country and become a captive. When the conflicts triggered off the war between the two countries, he did utmost to safeguard his country. In that sense, we cannot deny the fact that he was accountable and responsible for the country he dominated. He was a king and he suffered a great sense of humiliation in front of his enemies. We also read a lot of reference books in which some scholars and critics commented that he was a generous and kind leader. He didn't want to punish the people in a very cruel way. After he died, his people didn't eat in honor of him. He was good at Calligraphy, painting and music. However, the greatest achievement is poem. At the beginning, the theme of his poem was solely confined to the luxurious and glamorous life in the palace. We think such poem was not in-depth at all. Because he only cared about his prosperous and carefree life, then he didn't make many contributions to the whole country. When his country gave in to the enemy, he wrote a lot of poem in prison. Most of them expressed the deep sorrows and sufferings he had endured when his country was vanquished. Under that circumstance, he was growing mature and came to realize the truth of life. Hence, the poems at that time were meaningful and thought-provoking. Before he came to power, we know he was not willing to be the leader, however, for the death of his brother, he was compelled to be the dominator. In conclusion, we think his merits outweigh these shortcomings. Frankly speaking, he was a good man; on top of that, he was singled-minded towards his wife although there are a large number of wives in the palace.
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We think that he was just born in the wrong place at the wrong time. The unfair fate just made a laughing a stock of himself. What a great tragedy!!!
He was the sixth son of the former emperor and he was an excellent poet indeed. Actually, he was brave enough to safeguard his country. He was a man of nerve. While, some of the people disliked him, we thought they didn't have a deep understanding of him.
In order to judge a person thoroughly, we need to have a criteria to weigh the importance of his or her achievements and fallacies. From we have already mentioned above, his achievements lied in his best qualities, for instance: kindness, generosity, sentiment single-minded, braveness, (a man of nerve), natural endowment which involves the trial of diction, writing styles and the enlightenment he handed on to us. As a matter of course, his achievements in literature pushed forward the developments of Ci, and established another style of writing poem.
While, his fallacies lied in, for instant: inability to dominate the country. From the comparison between his achievements and fallacies, we can easily perceive Li Yu as a good person.
Nowadays, his thought-provoking poems are selected to be a part of the Appreciation in Chinese Literature in our textbooks in Chinese courses in junior and senior high school. Although the era has changed into modernization, his poems can obviously strike the string of the common readers anywhere. Without doubt, he was an influential man, one of the greatest poets in Chinese history.
Let's just forget all about the fallacies he committed, and enjoy the literature images he created!