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Historical Context in Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon

Historical Context Examples in Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon:

Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon

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"Of all our joys, this must be the deepest.  ..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

While many Western philosophies and religions focus on forming a more complete understanding of one’s self, many Eastern traditions, such as Buddhism or Taoism, focus on transcendence or the forgetting of the self. Li Po’s speaker says that momentarily forgetting that he exists is the deepest joy there is, which conforms to the desire to transcend one’s self. However, unlike meditation, Li Po’s speaker emphasizes that this spiritual achievement can be accomplished through drinking wine and celebrating it as a means of reaching enlightenment.

"Ch’ang-an..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

An ancient capital of over ten ruling dynasties in Chinese history, the city of Ch’ang-an, now known as Xi’an, has figured prominently in culture and history for generations. Li Po moved to the city in the year 742 at the request of the emperor and wrote many of his well-known works there. However, his stay was short lived, and he was banished only two years later. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a record of the reason for his banishment.

"once you drink enlightenment and wisdom..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

Li Po’s speaker claims that both clear and murky wines provide spiritual qualities for the drinker, much like a form of meditation. The balance that the speaker portrays between the two brings up another Taoist dichotomy: these two concepts, enlightenment and wisdom, help to describe complementary aspects of human experience. By connecting wine to Taoism, the speaker provides further evidence for his claim that drinking wine can provide benefits and should not be condemned.

"makes friends three..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

While the poet drinks alone, he declares that the moon and his shadow are his “friends” to give himself company. That there are “three” of them is fortunate: many cultures and faiths consider “three” to be harmonious, holy, or lucky. Li Po’s speaker then has joined three elements—a human, a celestial body, and an insubstantial, almost supernatural figure—together for this drinking ritual.

"the bright moon..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

Li Po and many of the other T’ang Dynasty poets associated the moon with special significance and looked to it as a source for poetic inspiration, believing the Earth to be masculine and the Moon its feminine counterpart. This perception is in line with Taoist philosophy, which views everything in complementary pairs: Moon has connotations of female, femininity, in balance with Earth as male, masculine. Li Po’s speaker uses this Taoist imagery to create a connection between this philosophy and his action of drinking.

"I toast..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

Many cultures around the world have similar rituals that involve a “toast” when drinking. Generally, this verb means to to drink in honor of a person or thing. The speaker toasts the moon, which is described here as a character itself.

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