Du Fu – the Sage of Poetry

du fu

Du Fu (杜甫) (712-770) is considered one of the greatest poets in Chinese history and was active during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). He is known for his profound and insightful poems that reflect the social, political, and cultural changes of his time.

Early Life and Career

Du Fu was born into a family of minor officials in Gongyi, Henan Province. His father was a minor official who had fallen out of favor with the imperial court, and as a result, the family experienced financial difficulties. Despite this, Du Fu was able to receive a good education and was an avid reader from an early age.

In 734, Du Fu passed the imperial civil service exam and was appointed to a minor position in the capital city of Chang’an. He hoped to pursue a career as a government official, but his ambition was thwarted when he failed the higher level exam in 735. Frustrated and disillusioned, he left the capital and spent the next several years wandering around the country, visiting different cities and meeting people from all walks of life.

During this time, he began to write poetry and soon gained a reputation for his talent. In 746, he returned to Chang’an and became a court official, but his tenure was short-lived.


Du Fu’s poetry is characterized by its depth, complexity, and beauty. His works cover a wide range of themes, including nature, politics, history, and philosophy. His poems often reflect his own experiences and observations of the world around him, and he frequently used his poetry to comment on the social and political issues of his time.

One of Du Fu’s most famous poems is “Ballad of the Army Carts,” which describes the suffering of the soldiers and their families during a military campaign against rebels in the south. The poem is a powerful indictment of the government’s policies and the toll that war takes on ordinary people.

Another of Du Fu’s notable works is “Spring View,” a contemplative poem that describes the beauty of nature and the transience of human life. The poem is often cited as an example of Du Fu’s ability to capture the essence of a moment and convey it in simple, elegant language.


Despite his talent, Du Fu never achieved the level of success he had hoped for in his lifetime. He struggled financially throughout his life, and his poetry was not widely recognized until after his death. Nevertheless, his influence on Chinese literature and culture has been immense.

Du Fu’s poetry is widely studied and admired for its depth, insight, and beauty. He is considered one of the greatest poets in Chinese history and has been an inspiration to countless writers and artists over the centuries.

In addition to his poetry, Du Fu is also remembered for his moral integrity and his commitment to social justice. He was a principled and courageous individual who spoke out against injustice and oppression, even at great personal risk. His legacy as a poet and a moral leader continues to inspire people today.

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