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A Toast for Men Yun-Ch’ing

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Illimitable happiness,
But grief for our white heads.
We love the long watches of the night, the red candle.
It would be difficult to have too much of meeting,
Let us not be in hurry to talk of separation.
But because the Heaven River will sink,
We had better empty the wine-cups.
To-morrow, at bright dawn, the world’s business will entangle us.
We brush away our tears,
We go—East and West.

Source: Fir-flower Tablets: Poems Translated from the Chinese (Houghton Mifflin, 1921)
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A Toast for Men Yun-Ch’ing

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  • Also known as Du Fu, Tu Fu is considered with Li Po to be one of China’s greatest poets of the Tang dynasty. Tu Fu was born to a minor scholar-official in Henan Province. His mother died while he was young, and an aunt helped raised him. Though he studied for the civil service exam to become a civil servant like his father, Tu Fu failed to pass and spent many years traveling. His early poems thread together incidents from his travels and personal accounts of the hardships he endured; he also wrote poems to or about Li Po.
    Tu Fu petitioned the government for an official position and was appointed registrar in the crown prince’s palace, though the An Lushan Rebellion of 755 prevented him from occupying the post. The rebellion, which lasted for nearly eight years, severely disrupted Chinese society. In these years, Tu Fu led an itinerant life,...

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