Student Responses:      LI PO 701-762 AD Tu Fu 712-770 AD

Spending the Night in a Tower by the River 

Tu Fu 

A visible darkness grows up mountain paths, 
I lodge by river gate high in a study, 
Frail cloud on cliff edge passing the night, 
The lovely moon topples amid the waves. 
Steady, one after another, a line of cranes in flight; 
Howling over the kill, wild dogs and wolves. 
No sleep for me. I worry over battles. 
I have no strength to right the universe. 

Sitting Alone by Ching-t'ing Mountain 

Li Po 

The flocks of birds have flown high and away, 
A solitary cloud goes off calmly alone. 
We look at each other and never get bored-- 
Just me and Ching-t'ing Mountain 

By Beth Abigail Weindruch 
    The two poems, "Sitting Alone by Ching-t'ing Mountain" by Li Po
and "Spending the Night in a Tower by the River" by Tu Fu, both display
intense feelings of the moment, although the emotions differ extremely.
Both writers use specific adjectives to capture a specific mood.
        Li Po paints a picture of a serene, peaceful utopia, where
everything is happy and satisfied.  He uses words such as solitary,
calmly, and alone.  He states, "We look at each other and never get bored."
This is such a simple statement, yet demonstrates and intense
feeling of contentment and relaxation.
        On the other hand, Tu Fu writes about a similar situation of
watching nature.  His words are harsh, strong and negative displaying
resentment and boredom.  Phrases that show these feelings include; frail
cloud, lonely moon topples, and cliff edge.  Even the rhythm of the poem
seem tense and unfufilled.
        The two poems although completely unique in expression, both
portray thoughts of a place using imagery to allow the reader to picture
their descriptions.

By Jaime Smith
    The major differences found in these two poems is found in the underlying
philosophies of the writers.  Li Po has a Daoist essence, while TU
Fu is extremely Confucianist.  In his poem, "Sitting Alone by Ching
'ting Mountain,"  Li Po feels a great tranquility in nature.  He
does not feel threatened in any way by his surroundings.  This is
especially ironic because he is sitting by a mountain-- one of the
most initimidating creations of nature in its size.  On the other
hand, in his poem, Tu Fu  seems very anxious.  He seems so fearful
of all of the sounds that he hears.  In fact, he admits that he will
not be able to sleep because of his fear.  The last line of his poem
struck me as extremely Confucius.  He wants to civilize nature, however,
he simply lacks the strength. In contrast to Daoist thinking, Confucian
scholars believe that the universe is chaotic and that there is a
need for order.  The sounds of nature are quite intimidating to Tu
Fu, so instead of admitting to his fear he is trying to reason with
it.  I found the reference to the moon toppling over the water I
symbolic to the way Tu FU is feeling.  He feels as if he does not
have control on the situation, just as the moon does not have control
of its reflection on the water.

By Betsy Isenberg
In "Spending the Night in a Tower by the River" by Tu Fu, he is
upset spending this time in the tower. He is worried about the battles
that are ahead and what may happen to him. He is alone and afraid. But Li
Po seems to be calm and serene. He does not have a care in the world in
his poem "Sitting Alone by Ching-t'ing Mountain." In fact, he states that
he does not get bored because he has the mountain for company. While Tu
Fu is worried and pensive, Li Po is carefree.
        I also found it interesting that Li Po is describing something
that happened during the day while Tu Fu is writing at night. It seems to
show a great contrast between them. Li Po is finding the good things in
life such as the solitary cloud. Tu Fu, on the other hand, is consumed
with worry and doesn't see the positive side of being in a tower. He
thinks of wild animals and the killing and hunting they are doing. It
just shows how each of them handle a certain situation differently. The
situations are not the same, though, and maybe the different reactions
are warranted.
        The one common link that I can see is that both use nature to
illustrate how they are feeling. They especially use birds. And both sets
of birds are flying away from them. As to get away from the chaos or
worry?? Or maybe it is to show that life is fleeting??

By Courtney Edwards
    In my opinion, Tu Fu's 'Spending the Night in a Tower by the River' is
vastly different from Li Po's 'Sitting Alone by Ching-t'ing Mountain.'  Li
Po's poem is filled with calm and an almost child-like abandon.

Whenever I read it I see the image of Huck Fin floating down the Mississippi with
his hat covering his eyes and a wheat stem between his teeth.  I know the
poem is not as simple as this, but maybe it is.  Taoists try not to think
too long on any subject--they would rather just 'be' or 'flow'. Li Po
never tires of looking at the mountain becasue there is an endless stream
of life passing in from of him--be it birds or clouds or just the world in
general.  He can just sit back and be part of the world as it exists--he
does not have to alter or change it, he does not worry about what is going
on around him.  He breathes everything in.

The main indicator of the difference between the two poets is the idea of
control or one's place within the universe.  Li Po regards the cloud as
being solitary--he himself is not.  Tu Fu on the other hand, sees himself
as being alone. Tu Fu feels insignificant in the world--the final stanza
shows him lamenting about not being able to make a difference.  While Li
Po is at peace with what is around him, Tu Fu seems daunted by the
natural world--the wolves, the lonely moon being toppled in the waves.
The 'visible darkness' that he senses in the first line has covered his
soul--he is not able to enjoy life.  He must constantly attempt to change

If I had to choose one of these poems to base my own life philosophy on,
it would have to be Li Po's 'Sitting Alone by Ching-t'ing Mountain'.
People today worry too much about the world around them--the earth and the
people on it have survived this long without them, and I'm pretty sure it
will continue once they are gone.  To be truly happy, one MUST be secure
with the idea that they are really rather insignificant to the universe,
but still have a sense of peace and wonder with the world.  To truly enjoy
what is around you and accept it and flow with it can be a very
enlightening experience.  To make a difference in the world is not
something that can be done--the world will change again in a few million
years and no one will care about what you've done.  Each of us has to make
what we can of our own lives, to seize the day and live while we can.

By Lisa Secora   
    I see these two poems as complete opposites. The idea of the Yin and Yang
really applies. I feel very calm and peaceful when I read Li Po. I can
imagine myself sitting near the mountains just enjoying nature and really
thanking God for the beautiful environment.

However, when I read Tu Fu I feel alone and filled with anxiety. He says
"the lonely moon topples amid the waves." He describes himself with no
sleep but worrying over battles. He feels overwhelmed with the civil war
happening around him. He wishes he had the power to "right the universe."

I think that Li Po may decide that he is going to find peace for himself
amidst the world of war. Tu Fu decided to deal with his anxiety directly.
Both poets expressed different reactions to their war environment. It
makes me think of the phrase " A mind can make a heaven of hell or a
hell of heaven."  In life, attitude makes all the difference.

By Tina Moyer
        The similarity between the two poems by Li Po and Tu
Fu is that in each poem the person is observant of birds in flight.
Perhaps the flight symbolize the kind of freedom the poet yearns for.
Another Similarity between the poems is that the narrator in both poems
are alone.  In 'Sitting Alone...' the poet's mind is more at peace than
the one in 'Spending the Night...' the narrator of the second poem is
worrying about the battles he has to fight and believes that the fate of
the universe is in his hands.
                        'I worry over battles
                        I have no strength to right the universe.'
Is the universe the narrator believes he has to right, his country or is
it actually the entire universe?
        The poem 'Sitting Alone by Ching-ting Mountain' is more peaceful
and calming perhaps someone would like to meditate on this poem.  At the
start of the poem the noise is disturbed by the departure of the clouds
and birds.  The person is pleased with this silence.  They are completely
satisfied in their solitude with Ching-t'ing Mountain.
        'Spending the Night in a Tower by the River' is much more noisier.
                        'The lonely moon topples amid the waves
                steady, one after another, a line of cranes in flight
                Howling over the kill, wild dogs and wolves.'
This is also a reflection of the disorder the poet hears in his thoughts.
And, even when you read the poem you can practically hear waves crashing
on the shore as the moon directs the tide.  It is interesting how both
poems reflect the natural world.  In 'Sitting Alone...' nature is
meditated on.  In 'Spending the Night..' nature parallels the uncertainty
and weakness the narrator feels.  The third line states: 'Frail cloud on
cliff edge pass the night,' and in the last line the narrator states: 'I
have no strenght to right the universe!'  Obviously the frail clouds are a
direct description of this person's weakness.  At least I see it as such.

By John Zuber
            These two poets offer very different ideas at how to react to
perhaps a hopeless situation, that is, being on the losing side of a civil
war.  Li Po offers the remedy of drinking and battling chaos, ironically,
by being chaotic himself.  On the other hand, Tu Fu takes the more
responsible route and his poems reflect that he worries about his family
and what the outcome of the war will be.
        Reading these poems forced me to think of the two general ways
in which I can live my life, not that I'm in a hopeless situation by any
means.  But the question certainly is relevant in anyone's life.  Should I
be carefree, perhaps drowning in self indulgence?  Or should I be wary of
the future, constantly concerning myself with things over which I have no
control?  I guess both types of liveing have their advantages and
drawbacks.  But in the end I think that I should partake in both styles of
life, depending on the seperate unique situations life throws at me.  The
mean between the two extremes is the key, and i hope to achieve that
perfect goal aas often as possible.

By Sara Crow
"Spending the night in a tower by the river" by Tu Fu seems to be
somewhat of an angry poem. The Confucian concepts that Tu Fu subscribed
to are reflected. Had Li Po, a Taoist, written the poem, it might have been
more pacifistic, and the assertion that the author "has no strength to right
the universe" would be stated in acceptance, not defiance.
        However, "Sitting alone" by Li Po is indeed pacifistic. The
author seems to be comfortable with regarding the mountain, and it seems
that there is some sort of peaceful interaction taking place between the
author and the mountain: "we look at each other and never get bored" (4).
Li Po doesn't wish to challenge the mountain because it is larger and
more permanent than his finite being.
        Thus, the differences between Li Po's and Tu Fu's literary work
is their approach towards life and longevity. While Tu Fu seems angry at
his impermanence, Li Po embraces it and finds beauty in things larger and
less finite than he. Both of the author's concepts of religion--
respectively, Confucianism and Taoism-- are reflected in these literary