On Parting, Separation and Longing in the Chinese Poetic Tradition

Maja Lavrač


The article introduces two conventional themes, namely, parting and separation imbued with longing in the Chinese poetic tradition of the Tang period (618–907). It focuses on the interpretation of selected Tang poems written by the famous poets Wang Wei, Li Bai, Du Fu, Du Mu, Bai Juyi and Li Shangyin. Parting from an old friend, who was usually also a fellow official at the court in the then capital Chang’an (now Xi’an), was a common occasion for versification. More than half of the poems presented and discussed in the article illustrate this poetic genre, since the cult of friendship played an important role in everyday life in traditional China.

In addition to parting poems, the article deals also with the second conventional theme: separation and longing between husband and wife. This topic, too, was often transformed into poems expressing the helplessness and despair of one of the partners due to a long-time absence of the other. Despite all the suffering, there is always hope of a reunion eventually.

Both groups of poems are permeated with feelings of sadness and melancholy embodied in a simple, yet elegant language. Linguistic simplicity is a significant feature of the traditional Chinese poetry which culminated in the Hight Tang, i.e. in the eighth century.


Chinese poetic tradition; friendship; parting; separation; longing

Full Text:



Chang, E. C. 2007. How to Read a Chinese Poem. A Bilingual Anthology of Tang Poetry. North Charleston,South Carolina: BookSurge Publishing.

Cheng, F. 1982. Chinese Poetic Writing. With an Anthology of Tang Poetry. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Barnstone, T., Barnstone, W., Xu, H. 1989. Laughing Lost in the Mountains. Selected Poems of Wang Wei. Beijing: Chinese Literature Press.

Deng, Shaoji 邓绍基, Shi, Tieliang 史铁良. 1992. Tangshi sanbaishou唐诗三百首. (Three Hundred Tang Poems). Dalian: Dalian chubanshe.

Feinerman, J. V. 1979. The Poetry of Wang Wei. [PhD diss.] New Haven: Yale University.

Frankel, H. H. 1976. The Flowering Plum and the Palace Lady. Interpretations of Chinese Poetry. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Hawkes, D. 1990. A Little Primer of Tu Fu. Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Herdan, I., trans. 1981. 300 Tang Poems. Taipei: Far East Book Co.

Johnson, S. M., trans. 2000. Fifty Tang Poems. San Francisco: Pocketscholar Press.

Lavrač, M. 1999. Onkraj belih oblakov. Daoistična in budistična simbolika v poeziji kitajskega pesnika Wang Weija. Maribor: ZaložbaObzorja.

Lavrač, M. 2000. Tradicionalna kitajska ljubezenska poezija. – Azijske in afriške študije, št. 2, let. IV, 16-25.

Lavrač, M. 2001. Li Bai and the Power of Expressiveness. – Asian and African Studies, Vol. 1-2, Year V,148-157.

Owen, S. 1981. The Great Age of Chinese Poetry. The High Tang. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Owen, S., ed. and trans. 1996. An Anthology of Chinese Literature. Beginnings to 1911. New York, London: W. W. Norton & Company.

Shi, Chunnian 石椿年, Meng, Guangxue孟广学. 1973. Tangshi sanbaishou jinyi 唐诗 三百首今译 (Three Hundred Tang Poems. New Translation). Tianjin: Tianjin guji chubanshe.

Wagner, M. L. 1975. The Art of Wang Wei’s Poetry. PhD diss., Berkeley: University of California.

Watson, B. 1971. Chinese Lyricism. Shi Poetry from the Second to the Twelfth Century. New York: Columbia University Press.

Whincup, G. 1987. The Heart of Chinese Poetry. New York: Doubleday.

Xu Yuanzhong, Bei-Yei Loh, and Juntao Wu., eds. 1991. 300 Tang Poems. A New Translation. Hong Kong: The Commercial Press.

Yip, W. 1976. Chinese Poetry. Major Modes and Genres. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.

Yu, P. 1980. The Poetry of Wang Wei. New Translations and Commentary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Internet References

Bai, Juyi. Grass (in Chinese). – http://ts300.5156edu.com/html/162.html (03.01.2015).

Du, Fu. Moonlit Night (in Chinese). – http://ts300.5156edu.com/scall/z88s31c8285.html (03.01.2015).

Du, Mu. Given in Farewell (in Chinese). – http://ts300.5156edu.com/scall/z31s30c8863.html (03.01.2015).

Li, Bai. Seeing Off a Friend (in Chinese). – http://ts300.5156edu.com/html/112.html (03.01.2015).

Li, Bai. Seeing Meng Haoran Off to Guangling (in Chinese). – http://ts300.5156edu.com/scall/z29s25c14604.html (03.01.2015).

Li, Bai. Spring Longing (in Chinese).– http://ts300.5156edu.com/scall/z68s47c13746.html (03.01.2015).

Li, Shangyin. For Someone In the North On a Rainy Night (in Chinese). – http://ts300.5156edu.com/scall/z96s66c17429.html (03.01.2015).

Wang, Wei. Song of Wei City (in Chinese). – http://ts300.5156edu.com/scall/z45s37c31016.html (03.01.2015).

Wang, Wei. Farewell (in Chinese, 1st poem). – http://ts300.5156edu.com/scall/z45s37c31016.html (03.01.2015).

Wang, Wei. Farewell (in Chinese, 2nd poem). – http://ts300.5156edu.com/scall/z52s73c30937.html (03.01.2015).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.12697/IL.2015.20.2.10


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

ISSN 1406-0701 (print)
ISSN 2228-4729 (online)