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Chinese is romanised in hanyu pinyin.
Wade-Giles phoneticisation 'Chia3 Tao3'.
Courtesy name 'Dissolute immortal' Làngxiān 浪仙
Style name 'Yangtze River' Chángjiāng 長江
Buddhist name 'Without roots' Wúběn 無本
Jiǎ Dǎo lived in the later part of the Táng dynasty 唐代. He was a Zen buddhist monk until the age of 31, before leaving to take up secular life in the capital, Cháng'ān 長安. He held a number of posts as a minor government official but spent most of his life in abject poverty and when he died, his only possessions were a lame donkey and a broken zither.
He was contemporaneous with Mèng Jiāo 孟郊 and Lǐ Hè 李賀 and together they are referred to as the 'Poets of Bitter Songs' 苦吟詩人.
The story is told of his meeting with the poet Hán Yù 韓愈, then metropolitan governor of Chang'an. He was engrossed in considering a line of poetry: In moonlight a monk knocks on (敲) a gate. He was considering using the word 'pushes' 推 instead. He was so engrossed in this that he collided with the governor's sedan chair and was arrested. When brought to Han Yu, he explained himself. Han Yu thought for some time and suggested that 'push' was the right word to use. Thus began their friendship.
This story is probably fictional but Han Yu was an early influence in Jia Dao's career and was probably instrumental in convincing him to leave his monastery. His style name derives from his time as a Registry Clerk (zhǔbù 主簿) in Chángjiāng 長江.
Jia Dao's poetry speaks of misty mountains, rolling clouds, hermits caves and chattering brooks. He describes visits to sages, monasteries and monks. His style is plain (平坦) rather than elegant, and the words are so simple, even school children are able to read his poetry. His style is described as 'lean' (shòu 瘦), reflecting the hardship of his own life.
The most complete English translation of Jia Dao's poetry in English is "When I find you again it will be in mountains: Selected poems of Chia Tao" by Mike O'Connor (Wisdom Publications, 2000: ISBN 0-86171-172-6), from which parts of this biography are extracted.
Further biographical information from 辭海 published 鐘文出版社 Taipei 2000.