Sarah M. Allen,
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Li He (790-816) holds a place in China's poetic history somewhat outside the mainstream, but in every generation of readers there have been those who have found his intense and often cryptic lyrical visions irresistibly fascinating and utterly without parallel. He is renowned particularly for his lyrical reimaginings of song traditions from the ancient past, and his premature death, along with the otherworldly quality of many of his works, led later readers to view him as the emblematic cursed poet, whose fascination with ancient history, with ghosts, and with celestial and demonic beings seemed to presage the brevity of his own existence. Li He's style and diction are often idiosyncratic and even hermetic, and his work presents daunting challenges to readers wishing to follow the flights of his imagination, or simply to construe the basic sense of his language. This volume presents close translations of all of Li He's poetry, in facing-page format with the original texts, with explanatory notes on literary and historical references and difficult points of interpretation, along with endnotes briefly discussing textual variants and other technical matters. Taken together, these features will be a welcome aid to readers wishing to explore Li He's poetic worlds first-hand.