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Du Fu: Later Life

Du Fu: Later Life


By May of 756, Du Fu had taken his family from Fengxian to Baishui. Shortly thereafter, An Lushan launched his rebellion and invasion from the north, coming close to Baishui. Du and his family were compelled to flee. Their new home was the Qiang village outside the town of Luzhou. By this time emperor Xuanzong had fled to Sichuan, and now his son, Suzong, had assumed the throne. Du decided to travel to the capital to meet the new emperor and seek a government position. Instead his was arrested and placed into a house arrest situation inside one of the city’s temple.

In April of 757, Du escaped from his confinement and fled to Fengxiang. After writing a criticism of imperial policies with other intellectuals, he was again arrested. But this time his was placed inside a government prison. The current government policy forbade execution, so Du and the others were eventually released, having made a promise to never publicly criticize the emperor again. From the capital he went sent far away to the city of Wozhou.

By the year 759, Du quit his government position and traveled to the far west. The trip from the province of Gansu to Sichuan was a long one. He wrote many poems on this journey.

Du settled in the town of Cao Tang. Here some friends helped him build a house, which was finished in 762. The next two years were relatively calm in this remote area. Despite financial support from his friends, inside Du was sad and anxious. Also in this year, a new emperor took the throne, Daizong. This was a time of factional infighting and violence throughout the empire. These power struggles even reached the distant province of Sichuan. It was so unsafe for Du and his family, that for the next two years they moved through three different places.

In 763 the imperial armies retook the provinces of Hebei and Henan. This allowed Du to return to the city of Chengdu in Sichuan. He then received a government summons to work in the capital city of Chang’an. His departure was delayed as he waited for the rivers to rise, so that the boats could travel. During this time he met General Yan, who wanted Du to remain in Chengdu and work for him. Du agreed to do this, however the next year General Yan died. Du began his travels to the capital to assume his new position. Along the way he became ill and had to recoup in the city of Kuizhou near the Changjiang.

It was in Kuizhou, now called Fengjie, where Du bought forty mu of marginal land. He was also given a small orchard of tangerine trees by the local mayor to help support him financially. Unfortunately because of all of the fighting in the country, there was no was no one to help him cultivate his orchard, and there were not enough customers. Being inflicted with diabetes, Du again tried to secure a government position. But Du’s health continued to deteriorate. During these two years, 765-767, Du Fu wrote many poems. He wrote many reminiscing about the old masters, including Meng Haoran, who also supported himself with a family orchard of tangerines.

After New Year’s of 768, Du Fu decided to try again to journey back to Chang’an and his nearby ancestral hometown. Along the way, in the city of Jiangling, he ran out of money. Then he met some old friends who helped him get further along his journey. Two more times Du had to stop because he ran out of money. And two more times old friends helped him. In the city of Henyang his old friend and benefactor died. Du was forced to move on. After going five days with no food he finally arrived in the area of an uncle’s house. But the stress of traveling, the hot weather and humidity on the rivers was too much for Du. He died in the year 770.

An Lushan: General and leader from the north who invaded the capital cities of Loyang and Chang’an in the year 756.  This armed rebellion changed China forever.

Xuanzong: Emperor of the Tang Dynasty from 712-756.  Overthrown by An Lushan.

Chengdu: Major city and now capital of the Sichuan Province.

Changjiang: Literally means “the long river”.  Westerners may know it as the Yangzi River.

Chang’an and Loyang: Ancient capital cites during the Tang Dynasty.

未经允许不得转载:STUDY IN CHINA GLOBAL (SCG) » Du Fu: Later Life
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