On April 6, the BBC launched a documentary about poetry that sensationalized people around the world who are fighting the epidemic at home.
Its protagonist is not Shakespeare, but the poet Du Fu, who we know as “Poet Saint “.
Dubbed “China’s Greatest Poet”, he was introduced to the Western world in detail for the first time in a documentary.
One of the BBC’s most popular presenters, historian Michael Wood, visits China to retrace Du Fu’s steps in life.
From Gong Yi, Xi’an to Chengdu and Changsha, from birth to entering the government, from the heyday of a dynasty to a chaotic world, the poet’s life is traced back.
Another highlight of the film, the BBC brought in Sir Ian McKellen, a national actor and Gandalf’s character in The Lord of the Rings, to recite Du Fu’s poems, of course, in translated English.
McKellen has appeared in numerous Shakespearean plays, and this time he interpreted 15 poems, including “My Brave Adventures,” in a deep, elegant voice.
The film also invited Harvard University Sinologist Yu Wenxuan, Renmin University of China Professor Zeng Xiangbo, and Oxford University Dr. Liu Taotao to provide professional interpretations from multiple perspectives.
Du Fu is a household name in China, while in the West, Du Fu is little known. In the East he is immortal; in the West, few have heard his name…
How did the BBC introduce Dufu to the world?
The film puts Du Fu in a historical perspective and a comparative perspective.
Born in 712, the age of Beowulf in Britain, Du Fu lived through the violent fall of China’s brilliant Tang dynasty.
The BBC has given great recognition to the long tradition of Chinese poetry. China has the oldest living tradition of poetry in the world, more than 3,000 years old, older than Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.
“There is Dante, there’s Shakespeare, and there’s Du Fu.”
The BBC’s unstinting use of the word “greatest” to describe Du Fu is not only for China, but in the wider context of world literature, comparing him to Dante and Shakespeare.
Du Fu’s life has seen the rise and fall of the Tang Dynasty.
Du Fu was born into a family of bureaucrats with a long tradition, and after his birth, his family’s prestige was not as prominent as it used to be and gradually declined.
Born in the upper class of society, Du Fu naturally has a sense of mission to read poetry and books, use his pen as a sword, advise and serve the Emperor.
At that time, Du Fu was young and vigorous, as if the whole world was opening its arms to itself. in the “My Brave Adventures”:
When I was still only in my seventh year
My mind was already full of heroic deeds
My first poem was about the Phoenix
The harbinger of a sagacious reign
A new age of wisdom
When I was in my ninth year
I had already written enough poems
To fill a satchel
I was temperamental and I was already overfond of wine
I needed it to soften an uncompromising hatred of wickedness and hypocrisy
Exhilarated by wine, we cast our glances over the entire universe
And all vulgar worldliness dwindled into oblivion
The Tang dynasty was highly prosperous, and Du Fu’s literary inspirations could not be separated from the diverse art forms he had been exposed to as a child. He saw the performance of Gong Sun, the first dancer of the Tang Palace.
She is good at dancing swords and weapons, and her dance is unparalleled in the world. With a passionate stroke of the pen in his hand, Du Fu wrote, “Watching Gongsun’s Disciples Dance with Swords”:
When she bent back, you saw nine suns falling shot down by Yi, the god of archers
When she leapt, you imagined gods astride flying dragons in the clouds
When she advanced you expected thunder and lightning from a gathering storm
And when she stopped, you saw the soft light over a vast, calm sea
After a short time as an official and then losing confidence in his career, Du Fu met his best friend in life – Li Bai.
Two of the greatest souls in the history of Chinese literature have met. Li Bai, who is eleven years older than Dufu, is an endless source of inspiration for him.
After Li Bai’s death, Du Fu expressed his endless thoughts about him in “Dreaming of Li Bai”:
You’ve been in my dreams as if you know how much I miss you
I feel as if you are no longer mortal, the distance between us is so great
In the film, the Confucian “love of the country” is used to explain why Du Fu is always worried about the country and the people, and his concern for the people is reflected in the “Five Hundred Characters from Beijing to Fengxian County”:
Behind the red lacquered gates, wine is left to sour, meat to rot
Outside the gates lie the bones of the frozen and the starved
After leaving Chengdu, Du Fu experienced a short period of tranquility in the Baidi City and came to Changsha.
Changsha was a sanctuary for Dufu, like Casablanca in World War II.
In Changsha, he met a group of Northerners who had also come here for refuge.
Wood notes that at this time Du Fu has gained temporary stability, although life is still difficult, but he ushered in a period of his “most amazing creativity”, at the same time, in terms of aspirations “more and more close to Li Bai’s obsession with nature”.
However, because of a disturbance within the city of Changsha, Du Fu was again forced to flee, but by this time his health was already very bad. Eventually, he died at the age of 59 on a small boat from Tanzhou to Yueyang.
The great spirit of Du Fu
This less than an hour-long documentary is both an introduction to the great poet from China for the West and an attempt to find Du Fu’s connection to our lives in the present by visiting modern China.
Dufu, or poetry, is a kind of eternity lurking in the torrent of rapidly changing reality, providing us, especially those in epidemic crisis, with a constant source of belief.
And for the Chinese, Du Fu is “more than a poet. For generations he has been the guardian of the moral conscience of the nation.”
For more than a thousand years, Du Fu’s poems have continued to resonate with the Chinese people.
And now, Du Fu’s poems of worrying about his country and his people will be circulated in the wider world.