Kuo Mu-Juo(郭沫若)`s Li Po and Tu Fu(李白與杜甫), published in Peiping in November 1971, has attracted wide scholastic attention. The reason is that, firstly, the author is one of the leading figures in the political as well as literary world of Communist China, and, secondly, the work is a landmark in that it radically detracts from the sensational fame of Tu Fu in line with the Cultural Revolution which took place in July 1966.
Tu Fu commanded the highest respect of the public before the Cultural Revolution. Fung Chih(馮至)`s Biography of Tu Fu(1953, 杜甫傳) and Siao Ti-fei(蕭滌非)`s A Study of Tu Fu(1957, 杜甫硏究) may be said to be two remarkable works on Tu Fu authored by young Scholars under the influence of Ma Tse-tung(毛澤東)`s cultural policy. Owing to these works, the greatness of Tu Fu was widely recognized and the socialistic ideas in Tu Fu`s poetry were well recognized and highly valued. Tu Fu, who lived more than 1, 200 years ago, gives an impression of having been reincarnated for the Communist Party of China. Anthologies of Tu Fu`s Poems and studies on Tu Fu have been published one after another in various parts of China, thereby accelerating the movement to establish Tu Fu as the greatest of the Peolpe`s Poet.
Amid this fanfare, in 1962, Communist China hosted a large international meeting to commemorate the 1m 250th year of birth of Tu Fu, where foreign scholars were also invited. Kuo Mu-Juo was the chairman of this gathering. In his opening address, Kuo praised Tu Fu as the greatest poet that China had ever produced. After the meeting, foreign scholars were invited to take part in a sightseeing tour by airplane over memorial places related with Tu Fu. According to Togi Zen-maro,(土岐善), a Japaness scholar who participated in the event, a library in the City of Chengtu(成都) was dedicated to the exclusive study of Tu Fu, and The Collage of Wanhoa(涴花草堂記) where Tu Fu used to live was made into a sanctuary.
But, to our surprise, this fanfare in honor of Tu Fu was suddenly toned down after the Cultural Revolution of 1966. The hero of 10 years ago now had become an object of bitter criticism. What was the reason for this sudden change? Was it because the stability attained by better living conditions led to favoring the romanticism of Lo Po? At any rate the key to solve this problem should be found in The Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung which is cited in the preface of Kou`s work:
With regards to the literary works of the past, the first thing for us of the proletariat class to have in mind is to examine what attitude the author had toward the people and whether or not the works had any progressive consciousness in the proccss of history. Literary criticism should be based on this examination.
Kou is apparently stressing the importance of democratic and revolutionary themes in literary works, which he thinks is a prerequisite to the development of new culture of the nation. This criterion set forth by Kou is sure to have played a major role in the defamation of Tu Fu, whose personality contained some aspects to be criticized from such a viewpoint. Tu Fu showed a strong consciousness of social commitment, respect for lineage and fame, and abundant patriotism. He wrote also many poems dedicated to the rulers.
This personality of Tu Fu`s is compared by Kuo with that of Li Po who enjoyed nature and showed a strong repugnance to those who sought after favors of the rulers by flattery or bribery. The spear of Kuo`s attack on Tu Fu is especially directed to Tu Fu`s life as a landlord, who had servants and considerable land holdings including orange orchards. Tu Fu was very generous to poor farmers who sometimes stole fruits from his orchards. But according to Kuo, This generosity of Tu Fu`s is but a hypocrisy. And he appreciates Li Po`s participation in an uprising, saying that the action was really demccratic and revolutionary. To discredit Tu Fu, who was honored with the title of People`s Poct, on the grounds of his
Buddhist faith, his admiration of the literati class and his participation in social affairs is to do him wrong. For his strong patriotism and genuine affection toward the common people unquestionably prove such an assessment untenable. But Kuo blames the young scholars for not having rooted out he seed of Confucianism from their hearts. Kuo points out that more than 21 percent of Tu Fu`s poems are related with drinking, while only 16 percent of Lo Po`s poems deal with the same theme. In any case, Kuo Mu juo`s Li Po and Tu Fu is a warning to the prevalent view which has held Tu Fu in the highest respect. The study is a distorted work written under the influence of the Cultural Revolution. It is simply shocking to observe that such a great difference can occur in the view of Tu Fu within a period of 10 years, and the work was written by no less a renowned poet of modern China than Kuo Mu Juo.
But the question of who is more excellent, Li Po or Tu Fu, has been a source of constant controversy Throughout the ages and is not likely to come to an end. Sometimes Tu Fu is admired and Li Po is rejected, and other times vice versa. Li Po is admittedly a genius never to be reached by human efforts, while Tu Fu is a poet who has proved the capacity of human efforts. On account of this capacity of Tu Fu`s, students of poetry have made intensive studies of Tu Fu.
In Korea, the attempts to delve into Tu Fu were largely confined to doing it : indirectly, that is, by studying the works of Lu You(陸遊) and Su Shih(蘇轼) of Sung(宋)`s representative poets. Thus an Annolated Version of Tu Fu`s Poetry in Korean(Tu-Si-On-Hae : 杜詩偐解) was published. The present Korean scholarship involving literature in Chinese characters is a continuation of this approach. This trend signifies that the Korean poetry in Chinese during the Yi Dynasty, which had been strongly influenced by Chinese poetry, was elevated to the level of the poetry of Tang which served to purify emotion rather that to that of Sung which sought after reason. Especially, Li Po was a poet of genius hardly to be emulated whereas Tu Fu was read because of his accessible personality.
In short, opulent, magnificent, lofty and gorgeous pure verse overpowered ineffable, eccentric, sharp-edged, vivid and carafty poetry,
Thus the complete works of Tu Fu have been republished with annotations in five different versions including Chan-Ju-Pul-Lyu-Tu-Si(纂諸分類杜詩 : Poctry of Tu Fu Classified and Annotated) rendered in bronze-type printing in A. D. 1434-Similarly, ten different versions of U-Ju-Tu-Yul(虞註杜律) and Cho-Ju-Tu-Yul(趙註杜律). Containing selections of annotated poems including the version of A.D. 1471 have been republished.
Furthermore, the rhyme-based edition of Tu-Yul-Pun-Un(杜律分韻), which has been required reading for youths aspiring to take the civil service examinations, has been preserved in ten different versions including that of A.D. 1796. This sort of scholastic vogue climaxed in the publication in A.D. 1481 of Tu-Si-On-Hae, and the demand for Tu Fu has grown to such an extent that even now the edition of A.D. 1632 is being sold as an item of rarity at second-hand book-stores in Korea.
Judging from all this, one may draw yet another comparison between Li Po and Tu Fu: In contrast with Li Po who only had one annotated edition of his complete works republished, Tu Fu`s anthology is being cherished as being next in importance to the scriptures of Confucianism, the state ideology of the Yi Dynasty.
This scholastic tradition is still kept alive in modern times so that a considerable number of studies have been published including my own Tu-Si-On-Hae-Pi-Ju(杜詩偐解批注 : Tu-Si-On-Hae with a Critical Commentary, 1958)and The Influence of Tu Fu`s Poetry on Korean Literature(杜詩研究 : 1970). In this manner, the literature of extravaganza of Li Po who sang of pleasures of wining and of atolling the moon has taken root in the form of poems and songs actually sung by a broad spectrum of the general public, whereas the literature of realism of Tu Fu who sought after reality has been preserved down to this day as a treasury of learned poetry which has been widely utilized in academic circles.
As we know, Tu Fu`s poems were translated into the vernacular Korean and were also adopted as one of the subjects for the state examination during the Yi Dynasty. However, it is to be noted that, in spite of this, Li po was never slighted. As Lo Po can by nomeans attain to the artificiality of Tu Fu`s, so Tu Fu can never reach the inspiration of Li Po`s Preference of Li Po or Tu Fu is but a Personal matter. In this respect, I have a strong doubt whether such a delicate issue should really be used in politics for ideological campaigns.