He Zhizhang

He Zhizhang (賀知章; ca. 659–744) was born in coastal Zhejiang Province and had the good fortune to die before the An Lushuan Rebellion.

Reading Li Bai’s poem, “The Road to Shu is Difficult,” the older He Zhizhang exclaimed, “You have descended as a spirit from the heavens,” earning Li Bai the sobriquet, “The Immortal”.

He Zhizhang, along with seven others, including Li Bai, were joined as Immortals of the Wine Cup, poets who drank heartily and loved poetry. He Zhizhang negotiated the difficulties of the Imperial Court, holding various positions in the capital of Chang’an. As his career was ending, he served the Emperor Xuanzong’s son, who would have to deal with the An Lushuan Rebellion, becoming the new Tang Emperor Suzong.

Ill and in his eighties, He resigned his office and became a Taoist priest (daoshi).

Coming Home (Returning Home) is one his better known poems.

Young I left, old I come home,
In speech unchanged, but hair too thin to comb.
Unknown to boys and girls I meet, so
Politely they ask, “From where do you come?”

He returned home to his native village where he lived briefly before dying. Presumably, he wrote this poem in the brief time that remained to him.

Fellow poet Du Fu named him one of the Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup.

Zhizhang rides his horse, but reels
As on a rocking ship, and
Should he, bleary-eyed tumble in a well
Would he, lie there, sleeping very well