My father, in those sepia-tinted photographs, looked forward to so much. After so many disappointments, he would rise like grass beaten by wind and rain, then, bent by disease, and, in the last insult by his own body, taken by a stroke, this gentle, unobtrusive man, always in the background – life seemed to get the better of him. He was just a very ordinary man who remembered all of us by making meticulous notes of names, birthdays, significant events, and cards given and received. He did not chronicle the events of his life nor did he write about himself, but the things he left show what he cared about and how deeply he cared.
Du Fu came from a family of distinguished scholars and officials. In his youth, he showed a talent for poetry and calligraphy. All his life he longed to serve his emperor and country but failed to secure a stable role in officialdom, which consigned his family to a life of relative poverty. He observed the extravagance of the emperor’s court, the suffering of the people, and the ravages of war, and wrote about that in his poetry.
Du Fu is an acknowledged virtuoso in technique and language, master of the perfect couplet while innovative in style and content. Another Tang poet, Yuan Zhen, inscribed on Du Fu’s tomb: “Since there have been poets, there has never been Du Fu’s equal.”