About Li Shangyin’s Travels
On the Kenyan coast, in the ancient town of Lamu, there are no cars, and no roads. The main thoroughfare running through the town is the width of a dinner table, and populated by women in dark habibs, men on donkeys and merchants selling mandazi doughnuts and crisp, golden chapattis. One can imagine similar streets in ancient Chang An and other Tang Dynasty cities and towns. No plane. No cars. Just endless expanses crossed by horses and camels.
Li Shangyin traveled extensively across the empire in his short life. It took as long as three days to travel what would now take an hour or two by car along the Guangzhou – Shenzhen highway. As if to compensate for the boredom and the endless sight of the horse in front of one and the sounds of neighing and clashing pans, Shangyin visited many historical sights, which he wrote about in his poems. Inspired by the tombs of ancient kings, and the shrines to mythical goddesses, he would weave fantastic poems that evoked the surrealism of Dali, Bunuel and Miro.