The Peach and the Plum: Li Bai’s Poetic Nostalgia of Things Past

Project: Research project

Project Details


This is the first comprehensive study of the peach and the plum as poetic images in the works of Li Bai’s (701–762), one of the greatest Tang poets. Li’s response to the imperial invitation to the Tang capital Chang’an marks a zenith of his career. The peach and plum play an important role especially in his works composed during his stay there and thereafter. Although these images have long been beloved in traditional Chinese literature since early times, there has yet to be any scholarly work on how Li Bai inherited them and achieved new aesthetics. The project will study these images from interdisciplinary perspectives by examining Li’s innovation in writing on these traditional images imbued with his unique feelings and thereby assumed new aesthetic appeals.

The project is comprised of five topics, exploring respectively: 1) In what unique ways the images of peach and plum serve as poetic kennings in Li’s writing; 2) How Li builds his Peach Blossom Spring with unique meanings and features; 3) How Li’s Chang’an adventures shape his peculiar representation of nostalgia and the images of the peach and the plum; 4) How the peach and the plum change over time and how they contribute to the topos of the passage of time in Li’s poetry; 5) What common features Li’s poems share with some counterpart heroes in adventure literature of other cultures.

The investigation will be conducted from a broad range of perspectives. For example, it traces the tradition of writing about the two kinds of fruit/flowers in pre-Tang times, compares how other High Tang writers deal with them, and how the geographic and temporal changes bring about different poetic representations by Li. The research will take Li’s writings as central texts, numbering about 100 pieces in the genres of shi poetry, fu (rhapsody), xu (prefaces), and zan (encomium). In addition to consulting writings by other
writers, historians, religious figures, etc., the research will also consult creative and theoretical work on mythology, linguistics, poetics in Japanese and other Western languages. This broad horizon aims to conduct academic research in a wider context and make a way to open dialogues with other cultures.

The anticipated outcomes include three academic papers published in reputable journals and three presentations at international conferences. In addition, the project will make significant impacts on society through knowledge transfer activities such as public lectures and a book targeting the general readers.
Effective start/end date1/01/2431/12/26


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