Wang Zhihuan 王之涣

Wang Zhihuan 王之涣 (688-742) contributed two poems to the collection of 300 Tang Poems. The more famous of these is “Ascending Stork Tower”, a metaphor for how to get ahead in life. The second is “Beyond the Border,” which I have not yet translated.

Wang himself seems to have flown under the radar, that is there is not much historical information on him, other than his place of birth, Shanxi Province where the Stork Tower is located, and the dates he lived. That he lived only 54 years and avoided the disaster of the An Lushan Rebellion, that began a decade after his death, perhaps accounts for the small number of available poems.

There is, however,  an amusing story about Wang.

It is said that one day, when Wang was drinking at a wine shop with his friends and fellow poets, Gao Shi and Wang Changling, that singing girls sang several of their verses and none of Wang Zhihuan’s. His friends chided him for this oversight. Wang responded, saying they must wait until the most lovely of the girls sang. The loveliest girl appeared and, of course, sang Wang’s composition, though we do not know which one.