, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 90-114
Date: 10 Feb 2011

Is Li Bai a romanticist? —Understanding an old poet through a new concept


In the 20th century, the most frequently used critical term in Li Bai studies is “romanticism.” Li Bai is regarded as a romantic poet and his poetry is typical of romantic writing. But nowadays, the usage of these terms has been under attack. It is considered to be alien to the nature of classical Chinese literature. The most influential volume of Chinese literary history edited by Yuan Xingpei, which is published seven years ago, pays little attention to this term in the chapter on Li Bai. Are Western critical ideas really inappropriate in understanding Chinese classical literature? Can we imagine a wholly purified criticism that depends only on native Chinese critical terms without any Western impact? As modern readers, how can we understand our literary past? These questions have been under discussion for a long time ever since the modernity of Chinese literary criticism has become a major topic in modern literary studies. Reconsidering the establishment and spread of the concept “romanticism” in the study of Li Bai, will offer us some good answers to those questions.

Translated from Wenxue yichan 文学遗产 (Literary Heritage), 2008, (3): 45–55
Liu Ning 刘宁, Associate Professor in Institute of Literature, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, obtained her PH. D. of literature from Peking University in 1997. Her academic interests lie in poetry and prose in Tang-Song China and Confucian classics. Her published works include Tang-Song zhiji shige yanbian yanjiu 唐宋之际诗歌演变研究 (Poetic transitions in Tang-Song China), Wang Wei Meng Haoran shi xuanping 王维孟浩然诗选评 (Selected poems of Wang Wei and Meng Haoran, with innotationintroduction and comments), and Chunqiu Zuozhuan xue shi gao 春秋左传学史稿 (A history of the study on Chunqiu and Zuozhuan).