Jun 25, 2018 in Research

The Similarities and Differences of Landscape Poetry Between Wang Wei and Li Bai

Wang Wei and Li Bai are two well-known poets of the Tang Dynasty. Despite their common origin, poets have both common and distinctive features in their poems that allow analyzing their personal qualities. At first glance, their poetry is almost identical. So did they really have so many differences? Probably, yes. Wang Wei and Li Bai are radically different poets, but there are also some similarities.

Both poets describe the landscape in their works or use them to draw details. At the same time, Wang Wei uses a realistic approach (Xi, 12), and Li Bai uses wide details that are often fantastic. For example, Wang Wei wrote: “I stand at the door of the cottage, listening to the singing of the cicada” and here is a sentence by Li Bai: “Then please probe me to write a million words, I will write out in a minute without stop.” The next difference is the aesthetic preference. Wang Wei poems are elegant; he drew a lot of attention to the scenery (Becker, & Hsiao, 165). Li Bai poems are focused on the appearance of the landscape. The character image is the next difference. Wang Wei often uses characters such as hermits and drunkards, while Li Bai uses fantastic creatures (fairy).

There are several reasons that may explain the difference in the style of both poets. First of all, Wang Wei is a delicate person, while Li Bai combines the image of the hero and an alcoholic (Chetty, 2015). Further, Wang Wei was a Buddhist, while Li Bai was a supporter of Taoism (Xi, 5). Finally, Wang Wei was calm and reasonable, and Li Bai constantly felt intense resentment.

In this paper, I have been exploring why Wang Wei and Li Bai are both similar and different poets. Li Bai uses images that are more fantastic, while Wang Wei was realist. Poets also use different characters in their poems. Works of Wang Wei are calm and elegant, and Li Bai wrote poems in heroic style. Consequently, the two poets have many differences.

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