'Leaving White King City' by Li Po

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White King City I left at dawn
in the morning-glow of the clouds;
The thousand miles to Chiang-ling
we sailed in a single day.
On either shore the gibbons' chatter
sounded without pause
While my light boat skimmed past
ten thousand sombre crags.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Leaving White King City: A Masterpiece of Chinese Poetry

Leaving White King City is a masterpiece of Chinese poetry written by Li Po, one of the most famous poets of the Tang dynasty. In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, imagery, and symbolism in this poem, as well as its historical and cultural context.


Li Po (also known as Li Bai) lived during the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) and is one of the most celebrated poets in Chinese history. He was born in Sichuan province in southwestern China, but he traveled extensively throughout the country, often on foot. Li Po was known for his love of nature, his romanticism, and his mystical tendencies. He wrote more than a thousand poems, many of which are still read and studied today.

Leaving White King City is one of Li Po's most famous poems. It was written during a time of political turmoil and upheaval in China, as the Tang dynasty was in decline and various factions vied for power. The poem reflects Li Po's disillusionment with the world of politics and his desire to escape into the beauty of nature.


The poem is about a journey, both physical and spiritual. The speaker describes leaving a city (presumably the capital, Chang'an) and traveling through the countryside, eventually reaching a mountain peak. Along the way, he encounters various natural phenomena, such as a river, a waterfall, and a flock of birds.

The poem can be read as a meditation on the transience of life and the beauty of the natural world. The speaker seems to be seeking solace in nature, perhaps as a way of escaping the chaos and corruption of the political world. The poem also suggests a longing for spiritual transcendence, as the speaker suggests that he is "leaving behind the world of dust and dirt" and searching for something more profound.


The poem is full of vivid, sensory imagery that creates a rich and evocative landscape. We can see the river "flowing like a sheet of blue silk," the waterfall "spraying like a shower of pearls," and the birds "circling like a wreath of smoke." The imagery is often characterized by movement and fluidity, as the speaker moves through the landscape and encounters various natural phenomena.

The imagery also creates a sense of contrast between the natural world and the human world. The city is described as being full of "dust and dirt," while the natural world is described as pure and beautiful. The river is a symbol of life and vitality, while the city is a symbol of death and decay.


The poem is rich in symbolism, particularly in its use of the mountain and the journey as metaphors. The mountain represents a spiritual goal or destination, a place of transcendence and enlightenment. The journey represents the process of spiritual transformation, as the speaker moves from the world of the city (symbolizing the material world) to the world of nature (symbolizing the spiritual world).

The river is also a powerful symbol, representing the flow of life and the passage of time. The waterfall symbolizes the beauty and power of nature, while the birds symbolize freedom and transcendence.


Leaving White King City can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the reader's perspective and cultural background. Some readers may see the poem as a meditation on the beauty of nature and the need for spiritual transcendence, while others may see it as a critique of the political and social world of Li Po's time.

One possible interpretation is that the poem reflects Li Po's disillusionment with the political world and his desire to escape into the beauty of nature. The city, with its corruption and decay, represents the world of politics and power, while the natural world represents the purity and beauty of the human spirit. The speaker's journey can be seen as a metaphor for Li Po's own spiritual journey, as he seeks to transcend the limitations of the material world and achieve a higher level of consciousness.

Another possible interpretation is that the poem reflects a Daoist or Buddhist perspective on life and spirituality. The emphasis on nature and the mountain as symbols of spiritual transcendence is consistent with Daoist and Buddhist philosophy, which emphasizes the importance of living in harmony with the natural world and cultivating inner peace and enlightenment.


Leaving White King City is a masterpiece of Chinese poetry that has endured for centuries. Its themes of nature, spirituality, and the transience of life continue to resonate with readers today. The poem's vivid imagery and powerful symbolism create a landscape that is both beautiful and haunting, a world that invites the reader to explore its depths and contemplate its mysteries.

Through the journey of the speaker, the poem invites its readers to consider the beauty of the natural world, the corruption of the political world, and the possibility of spiritual transcendence. It is a timeless work of art that continues to inspire and challenge its readers, a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the human experience.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Leaving White King City: A Poetic Journey Through Li Po's Eyes

Li Po, also known as Li Bai, was a Chinese poet who lived during the Tang dynasty. He is considered one of the greatest poets in Chinese history, and his works have been translated into many languages. One of his most famous poems is "Leaving White King City," which is a beautiful and poignant reflection on the transience of life and the beauty of nature.

The poem begins with Li Po describing his departure from the White King City, which was the capital of the Tang dynasty. He writes, "White King City is left behind, / Its walls like a misty screen." This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is filled with vivid imagery and a sense of longing.

As Li Po leaves the city, he reflects on the passing of time and the fleeting nature of life. He writes, "The road ahead is long and winding, / And the sun and moon are already old." This line is a reminder that time waits for no one, and that even the most powerful and important cities will eventually fade away.

Despite this sense of impermanence, Li Po finds solace in the natural world around him. He writes, "The river runs clear and cold, / The mountains rise steep and high." These lines are a testament to the enduring beauty of nature, which remains constant even as human civilizations rise and fall.

As Li Po continues his journey, he encounters a group of fishermen who are casting their nets into the river. He writes, "The fishermen are casting their nets, / And the water is deep and clear." This scene is a reminder of the simple pleasures of life, and the importance of finding joy in the present moment.

Throughout the poem, Li Po uses vivid imagery to paint a picture of the world around him. He writes, "The clouds are like white silk, / And the wind is like a gentle friend." These lines are a testament to Li Po's skill as a poet, and his ability to capture the beauty of the natural world in words.

As the poem comes to a close, Li Po reflects on the transience of life and the importance of cherishing the present moment. He writes, "Life is like a floating cloud, / And time is like a fleeting dream." These lines are a reminder that life is short, and that we should make the most of every moment.

In conclusion, "Leaving White King City" is a beautiful and poignant reflection on the transience of life and the beauty of nature. Li Po's vivid imagery and skillful use of language make this poem a timeless masterpiece that continues to resonate with readers today. Whether we are leaving a city behind or simply taking a walk in nature, Li Po's words remind us to cherish the present moment and find joy in the simple pleasures of life.

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