Liu Ling

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Liu Ling (Chinese: 劉伶), born 221 and died 300 C.E., was a Chinese poet and scholar. Little information survives about his family background, though he is described in historical sources as short and unattractive, with a dissipated appearance.

One of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, Liu Ling was a Taoist who retreated to the countryside in order to pursue a spontaneous and natural existence that would have been impossible under the tight constraints of the Imperial court. Popularly regarded as an eccentric, he was notorious for his love of alcohol. The earliest depictions of him, on tombs in Nanjing, show him drinking wine from a gourd, and his most famous work is a poem titled "In Praise of the Virtue of Wine".[1]

An oft-quoted folk tale about Liu Ling claims that he was followed at all times by a servant bearing a bottle of wine and a shovel, who was equally prepared to offer him wine at a moment's notice or bury him if he fell over dead. Another cites his practice of commonly walking around his home in the nude, explaining to surprised visitors that he considered the entire universe his home and his rooms his clothing, and then inquiring as to why they had just entered his pants.

Liu Ling's name is commonly misprinted as "劉靈".

Liu Ling and his beliefs about drinking are discussed in Jack London's autobiographical novel John Barleycorn.

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