Li Bai's "Rhapsody on the Hall of Light": A Singular Vision of Cosmic Order

Nicholas Morrow Williams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Li Bai's "Rhapsody on the Hall of Light" offers a grand tour and exuberant depiction of the Mingtang, an edifice central to traditional theories of government and ritual. The poem has often been dismissed as belonging to the poet's juvenilia, but more likely reflects the ambition and self-confidence of his youthful prime. It has also been viewed with suspicion because of the Mingtang's associations with the interregnum of Empress Wu, but this only increases its interest for the modern reader. Comparison with its primary models, the epideictic fu of the Han dynasty, shows Li Bai's ability to transform his sources. He inserts his own flourishes within the cosmic order that the Mingtang represents, while recasting the edifice as a symbol of his own creative prowess. The article concludes with the first complete English translation of the "Rhapsody on the Hall of Light.".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-97
Number of pages63
JournalT'oung Pao
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2015

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • History and Philosophy of Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • fu poetry
  • Hall of Light
  • High Tang
  • Li Bai
  • Mingtang
  • rhapsody


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