182. Ha Jin (writer) – the wild and tragic life of China's greatest poet, Li Bai

Episode of: Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

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Feb 16, 201948m
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182. Ha Jin (writer) – the wild and tragic life of China's greatest poet, Li Bai
Feb 16 '1948m
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Let’s start with a very old poem :

On the bank of Caishi River is Li Bai’s grave
Surrounded by wild grass that stretches to clouds.
How sad that the bones buried deep in here
Used to have writings that startled heaven and moved earth.
Of course poets are born unlucky souls
But no one has been as desolate as you.

When you think of an an ancient poet, what do you picture? Wandering? Drinking? A lot of ups and downs? That certainly describes the life of Li Bai, one of the most brilliant and beloved poets in Chinese history—a man of whom it is said that he drowned jumping into a river, drunkenly chasing the reflection of the moon.

In his beautiful new biography THE BANISHED IMMORTAL: a Life of Li Bai, the poet and author Ha Jin paints a vivid picture of this extra-vivid man—who suffered the double misfortune of living in interesting times and being interesting himself. Ha Jin is interesting too—a young soldier in China’s Cultural Revolution, he came to America as a grad student. Watching the Tiananmen Square Massacre on TV, he decided to stay in America for good.

Surprise conversation-starters in this episode:

Michael Hobbes on student debt

Ben Goertzel on panpsychism 

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