Meng Haoran

By most accounts, Meng Haoran, 孟浩然  (689/691–740), was a self-centered eccentric who cared only for wine and his poetry. But his poem Parting from Wang Wei reveals that he also cared deeply about friendships. His poem to Wang, loosely translated is, “Few are the friends to help on life’s journey? Dear friend, you are gone, and now, closing the door to my gate, I am alone.”

Meng also wrote several poems referencing happy times spent with Imperial Minister Zhang Jiuling, who held several important posts under Emperor Xuanzong.

He was likewise admired by fellow poets. Li Bai, a drinking buddy of Meng’s, wrote, “You chose pine-trees and clouds; and now, white-haired and drunk with the moon, flower-bewitched, sage of dreams – deaf to the Emperor’s ear.” Message to Meng Haoran. The claim of being ‘deaf to the emperor’s ear’ came from the fact that Meng passed up an invitation to the court, preferring to wine and dine with friends. This is the likely reason that he failed his imperial examination. A friend (Zhang Jiuling?) secured for Meng an invitation to the emperor, for which Meng composed a slightly sarcastic poem about failing the exam.

The result was predictable.

Until the age of 40, Meng spent his life in Hubei living off his well-to-do parents. A kindler, gentler version says that he remained at home to care for his ailing mother. Or perhaps, he was spurred to leave by his mother’s insistence that he make something of himself and go to the capital and take the imperial examination.

There is a dispute as to whether he passed or failed, but most authorities suggest that he failed, departed Chang’an, and left to become a Daoist hermit.

Meng’s death in 740 places him before the traumatic events of the An Lushan Rebellion.

Poem – The Dawn of Spring


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