Famous Chinese poetby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Du Fu was born near Luoyang, China in the early 700’s. Mr. Fu, like many other poets, came from a noble family that fell into relative poverty even though the family income was still eleven times that of the average family. Du Fu’s mother died when he was rather young, so he was partly raised by his aunt. His older brother died when Du Fu was young, he also had 3 half brothers and 1 half sister, which he often mentioned in his poems.
Nobody is really sure about Du Fu’s religious beliefs, although a few believe he might have been a follower of Nestorian Christianity. Such a claim is possible, since Nestorian Christianity had gained slight foothold in China during the previous century, but since Du Fu's poetry focused on the creation rather than creator, such a claim to his having a preference for Christianity is unlikely. A Nestorian was an adherent of Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople in the fifth century, who was condemned as a heretic for maintaining that the divine and human natures were not merged into one nature in Christ (who was God in man). Therefore, it was improper to call Mary the mother of God though she might be called the mother of Christ.
As the son of a minor scholar-official, Du Fu’s youth was spent on the standard education of a future civil servant: study and memorization of the Confucian classics of philosophy, history, and poetry. Around 735, Mr. Fu travelled to Chang’an to take a civil service exam, but he failed and went back to travelling. Around 740 tragedy struck the family, Du Fu’s father, Mr. Fu suddenly died. After the death of his father, Du Fu would have been able to enter the civil service, because his father was in the civil service, but instead he allowed one of his half brothers to take his place.
In 752 Mr. Fu married and by 757, they had five children, three boys and two girls. They were very busy with the children, seeing that they were having a new child every year for about five years. The Fu’s third child died as an infant in 755, the cause of which no one is quite sure. Beginning in 754 Du Fu began having respiratory problems, which were thought to be due to asthma.
Sometime around 762 Du Fu and his family traveled down the Yangtze River in hopes of moving back to his birthplace, Luoyang. But they were considerably slowed down by his ill health. He was suffering from a loss of eyesight, deafness, old age, as well as the asthma and malaria he contracted many years ago. They stayed in Kuizhou for almost two years. This time in his life was Du Fu’s last great expression of his poetic talent, during which he wrote nearly 400 poems. During the autumn of 766 Bo Maolin became governor of the region and he supported Mr. Fu financially. He also hired him as his unoficial secretary. During the Chinese spring of 768 Du Fu began to travel again. This time he got as far as Hunan province but unffortunately his frail, weak body could not hold out any longer. He eventually died in December of 770 at 59 years old. He was survived by his wife and two sons.
During his time on earth and even directly thereafter, Du Fu was not accredited as a great poet nor were his works appreciated. Like most poets the world only recognized him as a great poet after he was dead. Du Fu’s legacy still lives on in the hearts of many and we should never forget all that Mr. Fu contributed to the world of poetry. Below is an example of one of Du Fu’s poems which is typical of the Chinese focus on nature..
River moon go person only few feet
Lantern shine night approach third watch
Sand head overnight egret join curl peaceful
Boat stern jump fish splash noise
The moon's reflected on the river a few feet away,
A lantern shines in the night near the third watch.
On the sand, egrets sleep, peacefully curled together,
Behind the boat I hear the splash of jumping fish.