Myth, Mountains, and Meditation: A New Reading of the Poetry of Li Bai (701–62)

Project: Research project

Project Details


The proposed research project features an interdisciplinary approach and innovative methodology in the re-examination of a selection of Li Bai’s (701–62) poems from the perspectives of mythology and religious Daoism. The research of this Tang poet par excellence will make a contribution to a comprehensive picture of world literature, which is an indispensable component of the humanities.

The PI’s expertise in classical Chinese literature and Daoism forms a solid foundation for the research. Serious consideration of mythological and religious references has long been a trend in relevant scholarship but substantial research outcomes are yet to appear. Blurring the lines of disciplines, the project aims to offer new readings of Li’s works, selected for investigation by analyzing them in the light of Daoist meditative practice, the new trends in Shangqing Daoism (aka Maoshan School) in the Tang, and the mythological elements with their cultural significance. It will adopt philological and cultural perspectives by identifying and analyzing these new elements, which illustrate the novelty and creativity of this new poetic aesthetics. Existing scholarship in Chinese, Japanese, and Western languages will form an important foundation for the project’s examination of Li’s unique poetic style and ingenious use of religious elements in his self-image, which invites allegorical reading.

Li Bai played a double role, as a poet and a Daoist practitioner, in the culture of the Tang dynasty (618–907). However, most existing scholarship treats Li as a poet and seldom considers the Daoist backgrounds of his poetry and, even if so, they are discussed in a superficial manner. The proposed project will focus on a selection of about two dozen of Li’s poems and analyze them with reference to about six Shangqing Daoist scriptures, as well as some official and unofficial histories, and aim to reconstruct a more reliable picture of the poet as depicted in these poems.

The new approach and methodology of the planned research shall add freshness to Li Bai scholarship as well as the study of Tang culture. Conducted in English, the project aims to publish three academic articles in prestigious journals of sinological and literary studies. They will serve as a bridge that opens up dialogues between Hong Kong and the Western scholarly world by their anticipated impacts on relevant fields such as literature, religious studies, and cultural studies. The deliverables of the project will continue enhancing the PI’s scholarly profile, which will contribute to the strengthening of relevant scholarship in Hong Kong.
Effective start/end date1/07/1831/08/21


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