Li Po (AD 701-62) and Tu Fu (AD 712-70) were devoted friends who are traditionally considered to be among China's greatest poets. Li Po, a legendary carouser, was an itinerant poet whose writing, often dream poems or spirit-journeys, soars to sublime heights in its descriptions of natural scenes and powerful emotions. His sheer escapism and joy is balanced by Tu Fu, who expresses the Confucian virtues of humanity and humility in more autobiographical works that are imbued with great compassion and earthy reality, and shot through with humour. Together these two poets of the T'ang dynasty complement each other so well that they often came to be spoken of as one - 'Li-Tu' - who covers the whole spectrum of human life, experience and feeling.
Li Po (AD 701-62) was born in the far west of China and probably had some knowledge of Central Asian languages and cultures. But to his contemporaries his talent was almost supernatural, so that he hardly seemed of earthly origin at all; his verses seemed to originate in something other than the human consciousness, yet speak directly and simply to the human mind. Tu Fu (AD 712-70) was born near the capital, of a family distinguished for service to the state. While Li Po seems to the Chinese to be a poet of the night and of man as a solitary animal in his dreams, Tu Fu is rather a poet of the day and of man in his other nature as a social animal. Tu Fu's poems chronicle his life and times with social conscience and compassion, but also present a convincing, unselfconscious portrait of the man himself. Arthur Cooper was a scholar and translator known for the translation of Lip Po and Tu Fu: Poems Selected and Translated.