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25
Wednesday
25 November 2020

Plucking the stars

Tonight I stay at the Summit Temple.

Here I could pluck the stars with my hand,

I dare not speak aloud in the silence,

For fear of disturbing the dwellers of heaven.

Li Bai, Chinese poet from the eighth century

Plucking stars, the fear of disturbing the dwellers of heaven: how magnificent. Yes indeed, Li Bai is considered to be one of the greatest writers of the Tang dynasty and, in his native country, he is still remembered as ‘the immortal poet’, even though the label goes beyond the honorary: the intellectual and reclusive Taoist led a very long life. His favourite topics were friendship, solitude, detaching from worldliness and inebriation. And, speaking of inebriation and having stars to pluck, legend has it that this great poet died when he drowned in the Chang Jiang river after falling from a boat while drunkenly trying to pluck the moon reflected in the water.

Poet on a Mountaintop, Shen Zhou, 1427-1509, Ming Dynasty artist