Cui Hao – A Prominent Poet Related to Yellow Crane Tower

Cui Hao

Cui Hao (崔颢) (704-754) was a prominent Chinese poet during the Tang Dynasty. He was born in Bianzhou, which is modern-day Kaifeng, Henan. His ancestral home was in Boliang Anping, present-day Anping County in Hengshui, Hebei. Cui Hao was a member of the renowned Boliang Cui family, a prestigious and influential aristocratic clan in the Tang Dynasty.

Although he was born into a prominent family, Cui Hao did not immediately rise to high office within the imperial bureaucracy. He started his career as the County Officer of Fugou in Xuzhou but did not hold prominent positions for a significant period. Despite this, he later embarked on extensive travels throughout the realm, gaining diverse experiences that would shape his poetic vision.

During the reign of Emperor Xuanzong, in the Tianbao era, Cui Hao served as a censor (监察御史), which was a position responsible for supervising the government and reporting on corrupt officials. He eventually rose to the rank of Sī Xūn Yuányè Láng (司勋员外郎), a relatively modest official position. Cui Hao continued to serve in this role until his death in 754, during the 13th year of the Tianbao era.

Cui Hao achieved significant recognition for his literary talent. In 723, he passed the imperial examination for the Jinshi degree, a high-level examination that qualified him for government service. He subsequently held the position of Taipu Sì Chéng (太仆寺丞), an administrative role in the Imperial Stables, during the Tang Kaiyuan era.

Cui Hao’s poetry exhibited distinctive features that evolved over his career. His early works primarily focused on themes related to women and domestic life, characterized by a lighter and more frivolous style that depicted aspects of the upper-class lifestyle. However, his later poetry predominantly centered on the themes of the borderlands and frontier life. This phase of his work featured a more robust and energetic style, reflecting the rugged and challenging experiences of the military and frontier.

One of Cui Hao’s most celebrated poems is “Yellow Crane Tower” (《黄鹤楼》), which left a profound impression on the famous Tang poet Li Bai. Legend has it that Li Bai was so moved by Cui Hao’s poem that he couldn’t continue writing and remarked, “In front of such a scene, words cannot be written; Cui Hao’s poem is above.” This famous poem is a testament to Cui Hao’s ability to capture the beauty and grandeur of nature in his verses.

Cui Hao’s poetry has been preserved in various collections. “The Complete Tang Poems” (《全唐诗》) includes 42 of his poems, although the original collection is no longer extant. There are edited collections like “The Collected Works of Cui Hao” (《崔颢集》), which contains two volumes, and “The Works of Tang Poets” (《唐人集》) that also feature his poems. Cui Hao’s enduring legacy lies in his poetic contributions, particularly his evocative verses on nature, borderland life, and the famed “Yellow Crane Tower” poem that continues to resonate with readers to this day.

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