CHINESE LITERATURE 2000-2010

European Association of Chinese Studies conference in Riga, July 2010

Martin Winter, Vienna

Current events – trends – chronology – examples

1) Current events

This presentation is based on my article on current Chinese literature for the Swiss festival Culturescapes, which is about China this year. A book with all the texts on Chinese art and literature written for this festival has come out in September 2010[1].

China has an ancient tradition of poetry in close connection to philosophy and politics, from Confucius, who promoted the Book of Songs, to Qu Yuan (3rd century BC), a poet whose death is remembered each year at the Dragon Boat Festival. As we all know, this festival in June is mostly about Boat Racing and eating a sticky rice dish wrapped in bamboo leaves. Like all traditional Chinese festivals, Duanwu Jie is an occasion to get together with family and friends. But everybody who is connected to Chinese culture also knows that this festival originated with a poet, who was frustrated with his sovereign and his kingdom. For this year’s Dragon Boat Festival in mid-June 2010, two leading newspapers in Hong Kong and Taipei, Ming Pao and Lianhe Bao (United Daily News) printed an article on the jailed philosophy professor Liu Xiaobo. This essay was written by the poet Bei Ling 20 years ago, in 1989, right after June 4th, the crackdown on the demonstrations in Beijing[2]. Liu Xiaobo had been one of the Chinese intellectuals who were working or studying abroad when they were surprised by the demonstrations in China. He was one of the few who returned to take part in the democracy movement. After the crackdown, he was arrested and jailed. Like many of his friends, and also his wife Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo has been writing poetry since the 1980s. Shi Tao, the reporter who was betrayed by Yahoo! in 2005 and sentenced to 10 years in jail, is also a poet[3].

In the first half of 2010, Chinese literature has largely been identified with censorship and repression. At the end of March, Cui Weiping, professor at the Beijing Film Academy, was barred from attending a series of academic events at Harvard and other institutions in Northern America. In headlines in international media, Cui was called the second poet in a month who had not been allowed to leave China[4]. She had been known outside of film circles for writing articles on civil society, and for initiatives like a survey among intellectuals about their personal reaction to the recent 11-year prison sentence for Liu Xiaobo. This time, because she could not leave the country, Cui was finally recognized as a poet, it seems, at least for a larger audience. The second poet who was barred from leaving China in March was Liao Yiwu. He was jailed in 1989 for a poem that was written on June 4th, the day of the massacre in Beijing, and subsequently transmitted by radio abroad. Although Liao’s stories from the bottom of Chinese society were briefly allowed to be published in China in 2000, he has been hindered more than a dozen times from attending international literary events.

Zhang Zao, a well-recognized Chinese poet who stayed abroad out of his own wish in the last 20 years, died in Germany in March 2010. He was mourned by Cui Weiping, who wrote poems to him on her blog[5]. These poems in turn were praised by the poetess and bestseller novelist Hong Ying on her blog[6]. Zhang Zao was also mourned on the blog of Zhai Yongming, the prominent poetess from Chengdu[7]. Zhai quoted Thomas Bernhard’s dictum that everything becomes ridiculous when you think about death.

In 2009, Liu Xiaobo, Liao Yiwu and Bei Ling all found themselves in international headlines. Liu Xiaobo was in jail again and was prosecuted for his Charta 08 (modeled after the Czech Charta 1977). Liao Yiwu was invited to the Frankfurt Book Fair 2009, where China was the guest of honor, but he was not allowed to go. Bei Ling had been exiled from China in 2000. He was also invited to Frankfurt, but at the last minute he and Dai Qing were told not to attend certain events in Frankfurt after all, to placate the official Chinese delegation. Dai Qing is a veteran in reportage and political activism. She is especially well known for her reporting on the Three Gorges Dam. Because the German media picked up their case, Dai Qing and Bei Ling found themselves in the spotlight in Frankfurt, along with censorship, exile and repression in China. One of the books by Chinese authors that still got some serious attention at the fair was an essay collection edited by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, featuring articles by leading academics in China, among them Qin Hui, He Weifang and Cui Weiping. These essays are about the rule of law, the downside of the economic miracle, and other contentious topics[8].

China as the guest of honour at the book fair in Frankfurt was a motor for translations into German. There was a list of books that were partly funded by the Chinese side.[9] Li Dawei (born 1963) was one of the authors who were translated into German in 2009. It was a translation from English into German, because Li has been writing fiction in both Chinese and English. He was already present in two short fiction anthologies that came out in German in 2003 and 2009. Along with Qi Ge’s (born 1971) science fiction ride into a future full of explicit reminisces of Shanghai’s 20th-century history[10], Li Dawei’s story of a Ming Dynasty prisoner was one of the most memorable stories in the 2009 collection.[11] China Wenxueshi Building, the story from the 2003 collection, is full of references to authors and books of Chinese and Western literary history. But it also works as a satire of contemporary work units and bureaucracy.[12]

In 2009, the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949 was celebrated, and 30 years of economic reform were also proudly remembered. There was no official commemoration of the events of 1989, but there were many essays and discussions published abroad by Chinese writers like Yu Hua[13] and many others. In Germany, the demonstrations of 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall were celebrated in November 2009. Ai Qing (1910-1996) visited Berlin in 1979 and wrote the poem The Wall (Qiang). In November 2009, this poem was quoted on many blogs in China[14]. It is one of his most famous poems, and also among the works mentioned by Tie Ning, president of the official Writer’s Association, in a speech to celebrate the poet’s 100th birthday in March 2010[15].

Cui Weiping could not attend the academic events at Harvard and other places in the spring of 2010, but she has published some notes for a speech she had wanted to make there on her blog. One point in these notes was that people told her not to go to commemorative events held in Beijing on March 3rd and 4th 2010 in Beijing for Yu Luoke (1942-1970), a writer who was executed as a „counter-revolutionary“ in 1970. Yu Luoke was a rallying symbol for young writers in 1980, in connection with the autobiographical novels of his sister Yu Luojin (born 1957). Yu Luoke was exonerated in 1979, and there is a public statue in his honour in Beijing. But apparently he is still considered dangerous[16].

2) Trends

Literature and politics have been very closely connected in China the last 100 years. Poetry was especially closely connected with dissent in the 1970s and before (e.g. at the Tian’anmen incident of 1976). Poetry was also closely tied in with the launching of the Reform and Opening policy in 1978. Bei Dao, Mang Ke and Huang Rui started their literary journal Jintian (Today, 1978-1980 and since 1990 in exile). The poet Huang Xiang from Guizhou is said to have put up the first posting on the Democracy Wall in Beijing in December 1978[17]. Anyway, the activities of Beijing Spring were very much about publishing freedom[18]. The Democracy Wall lasted only one year, until December 1979.

The Taiwanese critic Huang Liang has been documenting the poetry of Mainland China in the last 20 years in a series of books. A theory volume in the series that appeared in 1999 includes Huang Liang’s own essay Yizhi ziyou zhi lu (The Road to Freedom of Thought)[19]. Huang starts on this road with nonsense-poems by one of the two sons of Guo Moruo, who were both killed in the Cultural Revolution. Huang Xiang, Bei Dao and Mang Ke are also quoted, and shown to be relevant for many younger poets who came to prominence in the 1990s and later. In 2009, Huang Liang’s series has featured the mingong (peasant-laborer) – poetess Zheng Xiaoqiong and the Tibetan blogger and poetess Woeser (Wei Se in Mandarin)[20].

These latter two female authors are part of a trend – female writers becoming more prominent in the last ten years. Even the president of the official Chinese Writer’s association is a woman – Tie Ning, whose stories and novels are about ordinary people in the streets of Beijing and Baoding (Hebei Province). The stories by her that I remember are about uncomfortable memories and deaths in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s not reportage work exposing the government, but it is also not Socialist Realism – just interesting literature. These stories of Tie Ning are not from the last ten years, but there is also a recent trend in a similar direction – social relevance (Liao Yiwu is a good example). Other trends are film work by writers (e.g. the poetess Yin Lichuan and the poet and novelist Zhu Wen), combinations of Internet, international connections and exile, and the continuing appearance of 1989 as well as other more or less taboo topics from contemporary history.

Zhu Wen has received renewed attention abroad because his stories from the 1990s have come out in new editions in English and German. Although Zhu Wen lives in China and has been making films for the last ten year, he is part of a continuing trend in which exile, diaspora and publishing abroad have become important in the last 20 years. In 1998, Zhu Wen published a survey in the magazine Jintian, founded by Bei Dao in exile in 1990. This survey among writers in China became well known because of topics such as the official writer’s organizations and the influence of modern Chinese literature form the 1920s and 1930s on contemporary writing. Most participants said they found state organizations irrelevant and denied being influenced by established modern masters like Lu Xun. Since Zhu Wen has withdrawn from writing, maybe one could speak of “innere immigration” (resistance from inside rather than exile). (Zhu Wen’s survey is quoted in toto in Huang Liang’s above-mentioned essay)

In 2000, Gao Xingjian, who had immigrated to France in the second half of the 1980s, received the Nobel Prize for Literature. In April 2010, Gao was honored at a literature congress in Taiwan that was attended by many old friends of his, among them Wang Meng, the former Chinese minister of culture.[21] In June 2010, an article by Ma Sen, who had also come to the congress, appeared in Lianhe Bao (United Daily News, Taipei).[22] Ma Sen recounts how Gao had come to the attention of foreign scholars in the 1980s and how the Nobel Committee eventually came to know him. At the end of his article, Ma Sen declares himself at a loss as to why China would not invite Gao back and would not allow his works published. In a reply, also published by Lianhe Bao[23], Bei Ling says that Gao does not want to go back to China, and does not want to publish his works there, because he doesn’t want to make compromises with censorship and politics.

Many Chinese writers who have immigrated to other countries, mostly to the US, are now writing in other languages than Chinese, mostly in English. Ha Jin is the most famous example. Many of these émigré writers are women, such as Fan Wu, Yiyun Li, Xiaolu Guo and Luo Lingyuan. The first three of them now write their given name before their family name – in Chinese their names would be Wu Fan, Li Yiyun and Guo Xiaolu. Guo is also a well-known film director. Yiyun Li’s novel The Vagrants has won high acclaim in the US and was translated into several languages. Recently, she has translated and edited a sample of Shen Congwen’s letters.[24]

The main part of this presentation, based on the article for Culturescapes, is a chronology in reverse – from 2010-2000.

E.g. the years 2003 and 2004 are marked by the two bestsellers Chinese Peasant Report (Zhongguo Nongmin Diaocha, by Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao, translated as Will the Boat Sink the Water)[25] and Wangnian bing bu ru yun (Past years do not fade in the mist) by Zhang Yihe, about the Anti-Rightist-Campaign of 1957. Both books were initially available in bookstores, and sold in millions on street markets for years after they were forbidden, according to the authors. Two of the three authors of these two bestsellers are women.

These last examples show that literature in China in the scope of this observation is not only concerned with novels and poetry. The main point is the continuing connection between literature and politics, against a background of very few critical voices in the media and other institutions in China. This connection was highlighted last year at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where the exiles and dissidents, among them Gao Xingjian and Yang Lian, became ever more prominent as the German organizers tried to give face to the official Chinese delegation by excluding exiles and dissidents from some events. Yang Lian had already taken part in an international podium discussion among writers in Berlin in spring 2008 on the Cold War and the role of literature[26].

Chinese literature of the 1990s and 2000s is often called commercial and superficial, compared to the 1980s. But even very popular authors like Hong Ying and Han Han are popular largely because of their critical stance towards contemporary history and society.[27] Other bestseller authors like Yu Hua and Mo Yan are known for very stark scenes of violence, often set in recent history. Another bestseller was Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong (Lü Jiamin), documenting the destruction of the environment since the 1960s and 1970s[28].

3) Chronology

So let us go on with the chronology in reverse, from 2010 and 2009 to 2008 and 2007. At the beginning of 2008, several magazines and Internet portals in China conducted surveys about new books that appeared in 2007[29]. A book by Yang Xianhui (born 1946) about an orphanage in the years of the great famine 1959-1961 was among the top four in some of these lists (in terms of several different criteria, see the articles quoted by Danwei, see footnote). Another prominent book was Cao Naiqian’s story collection There is Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night. Cao Naiqian has been working as a policeman in a small city for decades. Liu Zhenyun’s novel I am Liu Yuejin was definitely among the top-selling books in 2007. The novel was also made into a very popular film, just like its predecessor Cell Phone (Shouji, 2003/2004). The given name Yuejin in I am Liu Yuejin means [Great] Leap Forward, the time of a great famine (da jihuang), an important motive in Liu Zhenyun’ novels and stories.

Yang Xianhui had published a related book in 2000, about a labor camp for prisoners from the Anti-Rightist-Campaign (Fan youpai) of 1957, called Jiabiangou jishi (Report from Jiabiangou). Paul Foster has reviewed a collection of stories from Jiabiangou in English that came out in 2009[30]. Foster relates that Jiabiangou jishi was called China`s Gulag Archipelago when it appeared in 2000. Another book on prisoners from the Anti-Rightist-Campaign was the novel China 1957 (Zhongguo 1957) by You Fengwei, which came out in 2001.[31] At about the same time at the beginning of the decade, Liao Yiwu`s stories on people from the bottom of society were briefly available in the book stores. Yang Xianhui is not the first author who has written fiction and reportage on labor camps. Zhang Xianliang, who spent decades in a labor camp, published the novel Half of Man is Woman in 1985. Some of the stories in Han Shaogong’s Gui qu lai, which came out in the same year, are also set in prison camps. A book on the subject of prison camps in contemporary Chinese literature came out in 2006: The Great Wall of Confinement. It has been reviewed by Maghiel van Crevel.[32]

Now let us get on with the bestseller lists of 2007, collected at the beginning of 2008. Some of these lists featured several female authors, like Xu Kun, whose novels and stories are set in China’s northeast, Ai Mi and Anni Baobei (latest novel: Padma). Ai Mi’s novel Hawthorn Tree Forever (Shanzhao shu zhi lian) is currently being filmed by veteran director Zhang Yimou. Other female bestseller authors of the last two years are Zhang Ling (Gold Mountain Blues – Jin shan) and Chi Zijian (The Right Bank of the Argun River – E’erguna he you an). Jin Renshun (born in 1970) is also among the most prominent authors of the last few years since her novel Green Tea (Lü Cha) was made into a film starring Jiang Wen, one of China’s most famous actors.

2007 and 2006 was the time when the above-mentioned female peasant-worker Zheng Xiaoqiong (born 1980) gained national and international recognition. Zheng was one of two female poets from the Chinese mainland who were published in Taiwan in 2009 in Huang Liang’s series of mainland poets of the 1990s and 2000s, as mentioned above. The Taiwanese poet and director Hung Hung has compared a poem by Zheng to an already classic poem from the early 1990s by Yu Jian (born in 1954 in Kunming).[33]

Yu Jian is one of two Chinese poets from the last 20 years who are most prominently featured by Robert Hass in his essay in The Believer that came out in June 2010.[34]

This brings us to 2006 and a contemporary Chinese poetry feature in the American online magazine The Drunken Boat, where Yu Jian is also among the most senior poets.[35] The Drunken Boat’s Spring/Summer edition of 2006 was almost entirely devoted to poetry by Chinese authors, with big sections for Hong Kong, Macau and overseas authors, like Leung Ping-Kuan and Ha Jin. This collection was coordinated by the Latvian-American scholar Inara Cedrins, together with Michael M. Day, who wrote the introduction. An interesting detail is the inclusion of poets from many regions of China, and from minorities. The Tibetan poetess Woeser[36] (Wei Se in Mandarin), mentioned above in connection with the Mainland Poetry Series in Taiwan, is a good example.

Xi Chuan (born 1963) is the second poet in Robert Hass’ above-mentioned article, representing a younger generation that came to prominence in the 1990s. Xi Chuan is also a prominent poet in Inara Cedrins’ Drunken Boat collection. Ms. Cedrins translated a cycle of Xi Chuan’s poems into English, and Maghiel van Crevel wrote an accompanying essay. The Drunken Boat feature is maybe the most prominent and extensive collection of current Chinese poetry in English, at least on the Internet. A more recent book of translated poems from China was edited by George O’Connell at The Atlanta Review[37]. Poetry International Web, the online magazine of Rotterdam’s Poetry International Festival, has a China section conducted by Simon Patton.[38] It was most active in 2002-2007. One of the authors presented by Patton was the iconoclast Yi Sha (born 1966).[39] Michael Day has collected a contemporary poetry archive, which includes lots of material by and on Liao Yiwu, for example.[40]

The Internet has been used for publishing and disseminating literature since the second half of the 1990s. Anni Baobei, mentioned above in connection with the bestseller and most important books lists of 2007, first became popular with stories she posted on the Internet in the late 1990s. One of the earliest online literary magazines was Olive Tree (Ganlan Shu), which was active until around 2004[41]. It was mostly kept up by Ma Lan[42], a female author from a Moslem family in Sichuan, who immigrated to the USA in 1992.

One of the main points in Robert Hass’s report from poetry events in China in the 1990s and 2000s is a sort of contradictory anxiety among the poets. They need the awareness of their work from abroad, but they know that this awareness comes from their underground status in China. On one hand, Yu Jian and Xi Chuan needed to differentiate themselves from the famous poets of the generation before them, which were labeled Menglong (obscure or misty) poets – Bei Dao, Mang Ke, Guo Lusheng (Shi Zhi), Shu Ting, Duo Duo, Yang Lian and others. Yu Jian’s poems were deliberately ordinary, all about everyday life, no national allegory at all. But try as they might, the emerging poets of the 1990s in China could not shake off the connections between politics and literature.

Xi Chuan was one of the founders of the literary magazine Tendency (Qingxiang), which was revived by Chen Dongdong, Bei Ling, Meng Lang and others in the early 1990s. Tendency is one of the stations on the above-mentioned Road to Freedom of Thought (Yizhi ziyou zhi lu), the introductory essay by Huang Liang to his contemporary mainland poetry series. In the summer of 2009, Xi Chuan chose works by contemporary poets for a project in Germany that included poems on large-scale posters in public spots, in place of commercial advertisements. These actions were accompanied by readings in many cities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland[43]. Two of the poets thus featured were the above-mentioned Yin Lichuan and the poet-musician Yan Jun (born 1973). Yan Jun’s poem is called Charta 09 (09 Xianzhang)[44]. The title refers to Liu Xiaobo’s Charta 08. Charta 09 was presented in a public performance in Beijing at the Penghao Theater (蓬蒿剧场).

Xi Chuan was among the writers selected by the authorities in Beijing for the Chinese delegation at the Frankfurt book fair 2009. The walls of the great hall for the guest of honor in Frankfurt were decorated with many portrait photos of Chinese writers. Among them were Shi Zhi (Guo Lusheng, born 1948) and Mang Ke (born 1950), who were instrumental in the underground literature of the 1970, as mentioned above. Shi Zhi started to circulate poems in 1968.[45] His most famous poem was Xiangxin Weilai (Believe in the future), which was criticized and suppressed by Jiang Qing (Madame Mao). These poems, which had to be copied by hand, have been very important for several generations of poets, among them Xi Chuan and the exiled poet Bei Ling, who has tried to continue the publication of the magazine Tendency after Chen Dongdong was arrested in 1998. Tendency (Qingxiang) is now a publishing house, run by Bei Ling in Taiwan.

We have now covered mostly the last few years of the first decade of the 21st century. From 2009 and 2010 we have not only looked back at the Noughties and the Nineties, but also glimpsed at 1968 and the 1970s in China, and we have noticed the role of poetry in the 1980s. Remembering the 1980s, and then the 1970s, was a trend in the second half of the 2000s.

In my article for Culturescapes, 2005 is marked by two books, Rose of Time (Shijian de meigui) by Bei Dao and Witness Against History by Yomi Braester[46]. It would take too long to talk about them now in detail. Let me just say a few words. These two books are dealing with the question of how to analyse and interpret literary texts, or more broadly speaking, art, and also how to talk about authors and epochs. So I will also use them in reading the examples in the next (and final) chapter.

Bei Dao had been living in exile since 1989. In 1990 he began to publish Jintian (Today) again, the legendary magazine from 1978-1980, the time of Beijing’s Democracy Wall. In the early 2000s, interviews with and then also essays by Bei Dao cropped up in China. Rose of Time is about nine internationally well-known European poets of the 20th century and the translations of their works into Chinese. Bei Dao also wrote a poem called Rose of Time.

One chapter in Bei Dao’s book is on Boris Pasternak. Bei Dao acknowledges Pasternak’s support for other writers, but also mentions his early praise of Stalin. One section in the chapter on Pasternak is devoted to Russian Formalism, founded by Roman Jacobson and Viktor Shklovsky after the revolution of 1905. Bei Dao quotes from Shklovsky’s theory of alienation and from his words on the independence of art, saying that the colour of a work of art would never reflect the colour of the flag that is flown from the castle walls.[47]

Like Bei Dao, Yomi Braester thinks of art and literature as standing on its own, and as a sort of antithesis to History and its philosophies. Braester covers many genres, including film and what he calls „public discourse“. He also covers many different periods and locations (China, Taiwan, modernity, the 1990s). But most importantly, Yomi Braester has found his own theory of art. You could basically use it for any language or region. Witness against History employs many theories of literature that confronts the traumata of the 20th century. But the author shows that in close inspection, a work of art can always contradict established interpretations, including those of the artist himself, or herself.

Bei Dao (with Shklovsky and Jakobson, in the example above) and Braester do analyse the social context, the social factors around the artists and their works. But their primary objects of observation are the texts, the works of art. This is nothing new per se –there have been many critical movements and theories with the text as their primary focus; collectively they are often referred to as hermeneutic. What distinguishes the books by Yomi Braester and Bei Dao is that they do acknowledge the literary theories of the 20th century which came out of the traumas of the recent past. They also focus on the social context of the texts, but their primary focus is on the texts. This distinguishes them from many scholars who have employed the domineering theory of the last 20 years, the method of Pierre Bourdieu. This method, which amasses lots of data around the publishing life of the authors, has been used with interesting and important results in the field of modern and contemporary Chinese literature, namely by Michel Hockx, Maghiel van Crevel and Michael M. Day. Maghiel van Crevel has recently brought out a book on Chinese poetry of the last 30 years that covers many of the poets mentioned here, and many other important poets, trends etc.[48]

The first chapter in Bei Dao’s Rose of Time is on Federico Garcia Lorca and the translations of his poetry into Chinese by Dai Wangshu from the 1930s. Bei Dao respects and admires Dai’s translations. The language and the rhythm of the Chinese versions is often very close to the original. The translations of modern European poets in the 1930s, -40s and -50s had a lot of influence on several generations of Chinese poets. There is a great variety of forms in modern Chinese poetry. The enormous interest in European and American poetry has led to many different formal developments. Rose of Time exhibits Bei Dao’s formal virtuosity and belies any claims that modern and contemporary Chinese poetry is mainly just free verse.

Zhang Zao is also one of the poets whose translations are used and discussed by Bei Dao. Zhang Zao took his PhD 2004 in Tübingen, Germany with a dissertation on the development of Chinese poetry in new forms and against the social and political background from 1917 to the 1980s and early 1990s.[49] Bei Dao quotes and discusses his translations of Georg Trakl.

In 2003, to go on with the chronology, Maghiel van Crevel reported from a poetry reading in Beijing in the time of SARS, with the poem Against All Organised Deception by Yan Jun performed visually and acoustically.[50]

2003 was also the year when the monumental Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature was published.[51] Yomi Braester’s article on Mo Yan and Andrew Jones’ introduction to avant-garde fiction of the late 1980s and early 1990s, for example, are important and informative. But even more important is the historical overview of different kinds of authors and genres, as well as the interdisciplinary approach. English being the main lingua franca of Chinese Studies, besides Chinese, this Companion is certainly of global importance. Unfortunately there is no index of Chinese characters, which would have been very helpful with Japanese and Korean names, too. The article you’re reading here doesn’t have Chinese characters of author’s names and book titles either, but you can find them through the links in the footnotes. This missing feature of the otherwise extremely helpful Companion reminds me of a book I should have mentioned earlier, because it came out in 2007: A History of Contemporary Chinese Literature by Hong Zicheng, translated by Michael M. Day.[52] This book does have an extensive bibliography and several indexes, all with Chinese characters. The original Chinese version was published in 1999, so there is nothing about new developments after 2000 (there is a new Chinese version out from 2008). But just like the Companion, this is a very useful book for gaining a background on present-day literature. Edward Gunn’s review (see footnote for the book) informs about other recent overviews available in Chinese.

And now this reduced reverse chronology is almost done. If you want to go a little further back, you can take a look at the website that originated in the infamous Lower-Body poetry movement of the year 2000[53]. One of the stars of this movement was the poetess and movie director Yin Lichuan, who was also one of the poets in the project of poetry on billboards in Germany in the summer of 2009, accompanied by readings, as I mentioned above.[54]

4) Examples

a) Cui Weiping

Cui Weiping

Uncle Zhang Zao Left This World[55]

— a dialogue with my daughter

You sent Mama a message

Uncle Zhang Zao left this world

You say

this is your first time

you have a concrete memory

of someone who died

You say

Uncle Zhang Zao

has done nothing but

loving poetry and wine

maybe also loving girls

he was really not a bad guy

I say, child

not because he had anything bad in him

did he leave this world

Life is always

very fragile

and unstable

You say

Mama, I’m scared!

Life is so lonely

Life takes leave from life

without any sound

I say, child

death is also

a praise of life

isn’t it?

That you can die

that you can be injured

that you can be lonely

confirms you’re alive,

isn’t it?

You say

you always thought

he was living in Germany

occasionally he would come back to China

and you’d see him at some kind of dinner

I say

Uncle Zhang Zao

took with him a small piece of your life

but in your memory

you have kept him whole

Zhang Zao

be content

tonight a mother and a daughter

are hurt and inconsolable

for you and everything fragile

and fair

2010-03-10

Tr. MW, August 2010

This is a very simple poem. There are no complicated issues of verse and rhythm, at least at first glance. The contents are also very simple. A mother and a daughter talk about a friend, who just died. The mother is the “I” of the poem, who quotes the daughter – “you say” and also her own words. She tries to answer her daughter’s queries.

The title Uncle Zhang Zao Left This World could also be rendered as ‘Uncle Zhang Zao (has) passed away’. I must confess that I am still not sure which is better. The message in the beginning is an SMS, it is really a short message, only five syllables – “Zhang Zao shushu qu shi”. Shushu means uncle. And qu shi means to pass away. Qu is to go, to leave, or to remove. Qu nian is last year, the past year, for example. Shi in ‘qu shi’ means ‘world’. Writing an SMS in English about a friend who just died, maybe you would write ‘X passed away’, rather than ‘X left this world’. But actually, I’m not sure, as I said.

Reading this poem makes me think of many other poems, mostly addressed to people who have passed away. I am thinking of poems and stories by Ma Lan, for example and also of works by other authors dealing with violence and personal memories. Ma Lan’s Spoken in the Year of the Cock[56] is addressed to an older sister of the speaker, who died in the Cultural Revolution. The speaker relates that the ashes of the sister are lost, because the crematorium was hit by a flood. Maybe this accident provided an impulse for writing the poem – especially if the poem is autobiographic. Many poems in many languages at any time are autobiographic, at least to a certain extent. Many poems in many languages are also about the act of writing poetry, or more specifically, about how the poet, or the “I” in the poem, came to write this one poem or poetry in general. Ma Lan’s Spoken in the Year of the Cock is such a poem. The last stanza reads: “If not for you, my sister/ Could I have become me? / Where did it come from, this ponderous destiny? / As if dreaming a dream outside the universe”. The “ponderous destiny” (juda de yinyuan) of the penultimate line also occurs in Ma Lan’s Muslim Grandmother.[57] Actually, there it is a “juda de mingyun”, a giant fate. Cui Weiping’s poem may be autobiographic, but it isn’t about poetry per se.

In a poem that is dated at the beginning of 1979, Ai Qing addressed a Czech friend who had passed away more than two years earlier[58]. Ai’s language is very simple. There are some rhymes. But the whole poem feels very direct, just like everyday speech. In this respect, Ai Qing’s poem to his Czech friend and translator Dana Štovíčková-Heroldová is comparable to Cui Weiping’s poem on Zhang Zao’s death. But Cui’s poem is only about very private reactions to her friend’s death, she doesn’t really talk about him at all, how they met, how they came to be separated, what happened in between, and so on. All these concerns are there in Ai Qing’s poem. He says that his friend never said anything bad about China. Cui Weiping’s poem also sounds very much like everyday speech, but it is very private, there is hardly any background at all, and there isn’t anything connected to politics.

The enormous changes that occurred in China since the end of the 19th century have had some comparatively well-known effects on Chinese literature. Poetry and fiction were expected to contribute to social and political issues, and time and again they were both expected to become tools for political ends. Literature had to be invented again and again. Fiction and poetry were remodelled after images of foreign literature. Essays and reportage were also influenced by foreign writing, in their language as well as in their subject matter. Zhang Zao describes the main developments in poetry from 1917 all the way to the 1980s and the early 1990s in his dissertation (in German), as mentioned above.

So is this poem by Cui Weiping directly influenced by any of these trends? I don’t think so, actually. It is a very ordinary poem. Maybe Chinese literature has returned to some comparatively more ‘normal’ state since the last big upheaval after 1976. But I would need to examine may more examples from the past 10 years to make any such claim. Cui Weiping is not a very representative poet; she is not connected to poetic movements, circles or magazines, as far as I know. So this poem may have no representative value for the poetry of the last ten years. But maybe it does, to a certain extent, represent a connection, an aspect of literature, contemporary culture and society.

Zhang Zao’s own poems are rather complex, but very often there are lines in colloquial, everyday speech interwoven into the rhythm of each piece. Some examples in Chinese[59] and in English[60] can be found online.

b) Yan Jun

Now for a closer look at a few recent poems by the musician-poet Yan Jun, who was one of the poets selected by Xi Chuan for the poetry-on-billboards-project in Germany in the summer of 2009.

Charta 09 – Yan Jun[61]

Charta-Sonnet
(electric guitar, small marshall-speakers, voice recitation)

I demand to abolish the automatic ticket-control on the subway, and insist on ticket control by hand till the end of time;

I demand the election of the president of the USA by all mankind;

I demand measures for stricter birth control: encourage homosexual marriages and discourage heterosexual marriages with fines;

I demand an amendment to the constitution: abolish all commas, colons and semicolons;

I demand to get rid of Mahjong and KTV bars, to arrest everyone who walks their dog at five in the morning, and to install regular poetry readings at police stations;

I demand the abolishment of art, and a change of life;

I demand to pour salt into wounds, and poison drinks, and a cold butt stuck into every excited face;
I demand to construct two enormous speakers in the green hills at the bank of a stream and hold a concert of noise without any audience;
I demand that you and I stay together, forever, and never to part;

I demand to remember, these black blossoms, and the glittering stars above the bicycle change into a few young faces;

I demand to reprieve the locked-up words, to reprieve “your mother’s cunt”, and also “President Jiang Zemin”;

I demand to demand, to forbid what’s forbidden, abolish abolishing, to ridicule satire, and have those who have nothing to do and just pour out their heart at you tied up and gagged;

I demand to break into song at the entrance of hell, and to sleep on the bus;

I demand to break the silence, to keep the peace…

Tr. MW, July/August 2010

Thanks to Marc Hermann, who translated this poem into German!

On his blog, Yan Jun provides the following comment: „About politics, as in At this Moment (Ci ke), in Charta Sonnet and in Against all organized deception (Fandui yiqie you zuzhi de qipian): I regard these poems as political action, not as political poems. Either all poetry is political poetry, or there are no political poems. Because poetry per se is already a form of political action. I have no crying politics, to make people high, no politics for a statue.“ (from the author’s comment to Ci Ke[62]).

What is “a cold butt stuck into every exited face”? To stick a cold buttock into an excited face, or cold buttocks into flushed faces (zai re lian shang tie leng pigu) is a contemporary Chinese expression, meaning to cold-shoulder someone. So maybe I should have used ‘cold shoulder’ instead of ‘cold butt’. This is what Marc Hermann did in his German translation. The verse with this ‘cold butt’ in the original and the ‘cold shoulder’ in the German translation on subway billboards and other places for public advertisements in Germany was noticed also by Chinese readers.[63] The ones I have noticed talking about it on the Internet were rather bewildered by this rude phrase in colloquial Chinese on a billboard in the middle of Germany.

April 25 (Seventh part of Dolphin) – Yan Jun[64]

If I am a dolphin

in the underground parking

asleep through the singing

I keep on whistling

Out of the phone comes an echo of rain

High heel shoes passing over my head

like sunflower seeds rapping on heaven

2010.4.25

Tr. MW, July 2010

Compared with Cui Weiping’s poem above, these pieces by Yan Jun are a bit more modern – in the sense of art that recalls the words of Shklovsky, quoted by Bei Dao, which I’ve mentioned above. The first one is also more political – maybe Cui Weiping doesn’t need to write political poems, because her actions outside of the realms of art and science have enough to do with politics already. But I don’t know very much of her political work, so I can’t make a comprehensive judgement. Anyway, Yan Jun’s dolphin-poem doesn’t sound very political either. “Either all poetry is political poetry, or there are no political poems.” Bei Dao would agree, probably. April 25 is part of a larger work called Dolphin, mainly a prose essay in diary form.

Now comes the third example, the poem Ci ke (This Moment), written just before China’s national day 2009. On Oct. 1st 2009, 60 years of the People’s Republic of China were celebrated with military parades in Beijing.

This moment

Recited at the Zurich Literature Institute. Maybe my only poem this year with a real title, not just a date. Some magazine abroad asked for a piece on 60 years of PR China, 300 words on China’s past, present and future.

At this moment China has no borders, no morning melodies, TV station paralysis, one billion people wake up from under their skin; others enter from a different space;

At this moment there’s no future, ignore the past, future hasn’t ever happened, past’s been swallowed, past belonging to this moment, now the past is born again;

At this moment the weepy news warrior sits down with her dog-faced crew for dinner, and suddenly drops dead, exposed in the light of capitalist democracy, Samadhi on ice cream;

This moment is China without government, the traffic lights instruct my life;

No renovations at this moment, no demolishing this moment, and the past is humiliation, `this the time to drink amnesia, and spit out what was forgotten;

Beijing changes shape this instant, possibility itself;

At this moment the party and the people have nurtured each other, so they are both organic; they have washed each other, hugged and cried in media art;

At this moment you only hear static, the Flying Spaghetti Monster sanctified Tian’anmen;

This moment is a naked guy from antiquity who went to teach in the west, he booked a plane ticket for tomorrow, which got cancelled, so he’s stuck in this moment, becoming a Buddha;

There’s momentous joy this instant, Instant Cola, instant company’s bankruptcy, we drink tea so we’re immortal

2009.9.23

Tr. MW, July – August 2010

The last verse is translated rather freely. Cike cijian le, cike kele, cike gongsi daobi, women he shui de yong sheng. At this moment it’s great here (so I don’t want to go back, as the captured son of Liu Bei says in the Sanguo Zhi), this moment is to be rejoiced (kele is a ancient expression that means to rejoice, but it is also the transliteration of Cola), this moment(‘s) companies go bankrupt (Coke goes bankrupt), we drink water and attain eternal life.[65]

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is an Internet phenomenon that originated in 2005 in opposition to compulsory teaching of Creationism in US-schools.[66] The Chinese Wikipedia entry for Flying Spaghetti Monster has two titles. One is a direct translation; the other one literally means Apsara Ramen Religion (Feitian lamian shenjiao).[67] Yan Jun uses the slight variation “feitian miantiao shenjiao”. Miantiao means any kind of pasta. The verb before ‘Tian’anmen’ in the original is “jiachi”, a Buddhist term variously rendered as ‘to bless’, ‘blessing’, ‘protection’, ‘talisman’ etc. in different usages. There is the particle ‘le’ after ‘jiachi’, so the action has already happened; Tian’anmen has already been consecrated by the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Tian’anmen is the southern entrance into the former imperial compound in Beijing, as opposed to Di’anmen in the north. Tian’anmen is often rendered in English as The Gate of Heavenly Peace; this is also the title of a book by Jonathan Spence (1981)[68], a film documentary and a website about the 1989 protests on Tian’anmen Square[69]. In Chinese, the gate (Tian’anmen) is a very common place name in Beijing, with or without reference to the square south of the gate that was greatly enlarged in the 1950s.[70] In English, the word Tian’anmen alone is less often used than ‘Tian’anmen Square’, usually without the apostrophe in the middle of ‘Tian’anmen’. So I’m not sure if it wouldn’t be better to replace Tian’anmen with ‘Tiananmen Square’ in the translation.

When I first read the poem, I translated this verse for myself as ‘at this moment you only hear noise, the Apsara Pasta Sect has entranced Tian’anmen (and its surroundings)’. I didn’t know about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. On his blog, Yan Jun provides a footnote with the Chinese Wikipedia link for Feitian lamian shenjiao (Apsara Ramen Sect). Shenjiao is often used for any kind of new religion or –ism, this is why I immediately thought of ‘sect’, and of the most well-known contemporary Chinese sect, Falun Gong. In 1999, adherents of Falun Gong partly surrounded Zhongnanhai, the part of the old imperial compound that houses residences of government leaders.[71] Zhongnanhai is close to Tian’anmen and to the Forbidden City.

Poems like Charta 09 and This Moment are hard to translate. In the originals, there is a kind of rhythm, but it is very hard to pin down. Is it necessary to understand all the references to all kinds of contemporary events and phenomena? What about the expletive in Charta 09, and the reference to the former president of China? I think this line refers to censorship, specifically to Internet censorship. Access to many internationally well-known sites has been blocked in China for years. This practice has increased in 2009. Lists of banned words are periodically circulating.[72] And because banned expletives became associated with other banned words, they changed into imagined animals.[73]

The examples for locked-up words are missing in the German version of the poem, which was quoted on billboards in Germany in the summer of 2009. Such international exposure of these “locked-up words” was probably considered too risky, as opposed to the presence of this poem on a blog and a one-time public performance in a Beijing theatre in front of rock-fans. Anyway, the line works also without the explicit examples – maybe it’s even better if you have to think for yourself which words could be “locked-up”.

Actually, all these references tend to deflect from the sound of the poems. The dolphin poem, on the other hand, can be enjoyed without having to know why the dolphin is there in the first place. Yan Jun’s blog is a diary; most entries are not poems, but reports from concerts and other events. There is a context to the poems, but it should be possible to appreciate their sound and rhythm first. This is definitely possible with Cui Weiping’s poem, and with the April 25 part of Dolphin, I think. I hope it is also possible with the other two poems, at least to a certain extent.

Cui Weiping’s poem was written in commemoration to a friend. It is one of several texts from the first half of 2010 mentioned at the beginning of this essay. Every year before and after the first days of June, Internet sites are monitored especially closely in China. Poetry forums tend to become inaccessible, to prevent poems and discussions on events of 1989 from attracting an audience. On June 5th, 2010, a poem by Zhao Siyun appeared on the website Poem Life (Shi shenghuo)[74]. It was translated[75] by Michael M. Day a few days later, and disseminated on an Email-list. The Poem Life page was later closed, but at the end of August 2010 it was available again. Like Cui Weiping’s Uncle Zhang Zao, Zhao Siyun’s June Fifth uses simple words and sentences. There is a distinct structure, characterized by the repetition of certain phrases. Many lines are of equal length. Certain characters are repeated at the end of several lines, creating patterns of sound and meaning. Like Cui Weiping’s Uncle Zhang Zao, Zhao Siyun’s June Fifth is in many aspects an ordinary poem.


[1] Katharina Schneider-Roos, Stefanie Thiedig (ed.): Culturescapes China. Chinas Kulturszene ab 2000. Basel: Christoph Merian 2010. See http://culturescapes.ch/publication_112 (accessed 2010-09-07)

[2] Lianhe Bao June 20, 2010. See http://mag.udn.com/mag/world/storypage.jsp?f_MAIN_ID=235&f_SUB_ID=4595&f_ART_ID=255134 (accessed 2010-07-30)

[3] See http://www.opendemocracy.net/arts-Literature/exiledpoets_3035.jsp (accessed 2010-07-30)

[4] See http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2010/03/27/2003469029 (accessed 2010/7/30)

[5] See http://www.bullock.cn/blogs/cuiweiping/archives/98700.aspx (accessed 2010-07-30)

[6] See http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_46e98efa0100hci9.html (accessed 2010-07-30)

[7] See http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_518b17d40100h7ul.html (accessed 2010-07-30)

[8] Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung: Wie China debattiert. Neue Essays und Bilder aus China. Berlin 2009; s.a. http://www.boell.de/downloads/publikationen/Wie_China_debattiert.5MB.pdf (accessed 2010-07-30)

[9] See http://www.peking.buchinformationszentrum.org/de/news/01222/index.html (accessed 2010-09-07)

[10] Original story title: Shengao yibai mi de shijie (The world of 100 meter tall people)

[11] In: Meinshausen, Frank/ Rademacher, Anne (ed): Neue Träume aus der Roten Kammer. Munich: dtv 2009

[12] In: Meinshausen, Frank: Das Leben ist jetzt. Neue chinesische Erzählungen. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 2003

[13] See http://songjiuchenggong.blog.163.com/blog/static/922695002009557328238/ (accessed 2010/8/23)

[14] E.g. http://www.bullogger.com/blogs/xujimin/archives/347295.aspx (accessed 2010-08-23)

[15] See http://www.chinawriter.com.cn/news/2010/2010-03-25/83941.html (accessed 2010-08-23)

[16] http://www.bullogger.com/blogs/cuiweiping/archives/356650.aspx (accessed 2010/7/30)

[17] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Wall_Movement (accessed 2010-07-30)

[18] http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%A5%BF%E5%8D%95%E6%B0%91%E4%B8%BB%E5%A2%99, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing_Spring & http://bjs.org/ (accessed 2010-07-30)

[19] Huang Liang: Dixia de guangmai (Underground light-pulse). Taipei: Tangshan Chubanshe (Tonsan Publications) 1999

[20] See the review in POTS (2009-12-17): http://pots.tw/node/4014 (accessed 2010/7/30)

[21] See http://gb.udn.com/gb/www.udn.com/2010/7/9/NEWS/READING/X5/5713758.shtml (acc. 2010-09-06)

[22] See http://www.udn.com/2010/6/25/NEWS/READING/X5/5685001.shtml & http://www.udn.com/2010/6/26/NEWS/READING/X5/5687208.shtml (acc. 2010-09-06)

[23] See http://www.udn.com/2010/7/2/NEWS/READING/X5/5699439.shtml (acc. 2010-09-06)

[24] “An Irrelevant Writer: Yiyun Li Introduces Shen Congwen” [Includes translations of 17 letters from Shen Congwen to his wife Zhang Zhaohe]. A Public Space 10 (2010): 201-225

[25] See review in International Socialist Review 52, March-April 2007: http://www.isreview.org/issues/52/rev-china.shtml (accessed 2010/7/30)

[26] Sprache im technischen Zeitalter: Sonderheft 2008, p. 154-176 and 199-208

[27] One of Han Han’s speeches: http://www.chinahush.com/2010/05/20/han-hans-speech-in-xiamen-university-why-china-cannot-be-a-cultural-power/#more-6377, http://www.rue89.com/chinatown/2010/02/04/pourquoi-la-chine-nest-pas-un-grand-pays-de-culture-par-han-han-136848 (accessed 2010/8/9)

[28] http://mclc.osu.edu/rc/pubs/reviews/choy.htm (accessed 2010-08-09)

[29] http://www.danwei.org/books/top_books_for_2007.php (accessed 2010-08-09)

[30] http://mclc.osu.edu/rc/pubs/reviews/foster2.htm (accessed 2010-08-09)

[31] See interview with You Fengwei on Renmin wang: http://www.people.com.cn/BIG5/wenyu/223/2110/2747/20030106/901811.html (accessed 2010-08-10)

[32] http://mclc.osu.edu/rc/pubs/reviews/vancrevel.htm (accessed 2010-08-09)

[33] http://blog.roodo.com/hhung/archives/11247669.html (accessed 2010-08-09)

[34] http://believermag.com/issues/201006/?read=article_hass (accessed 2010-08-09)

[35] http://thedrunkenboat.com/summer06.html (accessed 2010-08-09)

[36] See http://twitter.com/degewa/status/5646062579 (acc. 2010-09-28)

[37] See http://www.atlantareview.com/page59.html (acc. 2010-08-16)

[38] http://china.poetryinternationalweb.org/piw_cms/cms/cms_module/index.php?obj_name=china (acc. 2010-08-09)

[39] http://china.poetryinternationalweb.org/piw_cms/cms/cms_module/index.php?obj_id=976 (acc. 2010-08-09)

[40] http://leiden.dachs-archive.org/poetry/ & http://michaelmartinday.blogspot.com/ (acc. 2010-08-09)

[41] See http://www.iro.umontreal.ca/~nie/public/, for example (acc. 2010/8/9)

[42] For Ma Lan’s poems in English, see http://luofulin.blogspot.com (acc. 2010/8/18)

[43] The project was called Poesie in die Stadt: China. See http://www.bosch-stiftung.de/content/language1/html/24938.asp (acc. 2010-08-18)

[44] http://mu.subjam.org/yanjun/archives/2173 (acc. 2010-08-18)

[45] In 2005, Shi Zhi received the poetry prize of Renmin Wenxue (People’s Literature), along with Haizi, who killed himself in 1989. See http://www.teachercn.com/Zxyw/Gzdyc/2006-7/8/20060108174955642.html (acc. 2010-08-30). About Haizi, see Crevel, Maghiel van: Thanatography and the Poetic Voice: Ways of Reading Haizi. In: Minima Sinica 1/2006, p. 90-146

[46] Braester, Yomi: Witness Against History. Literature, Film and Public Discourse in 20th-Century China. Stanford 2005. See http://books.google.com/books?id=fiXWV6kaIMEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=yomi+braester&cd=1 (acc. 2010-08-30)

[47] Bei Dao: Shijian de Meigui (Rose of Time). Beijing 2005, p. 198–200

[48] Crevel, Maghiel van: Chinese Poetry in Times of Mind, Mayhem and Money. Leiden and Boston: Brill 2008

[49] Zhang Zao: Auf der Suche nach poetischer Modernität: Die neue Lyrik Chinas nach 1919. See http://deposit.d-nb.de/cgi-bin/dokserv?idn=972321098&dok_var=d1&dok_ext=pdf&filename=972321098.pdf (acc. 2010-08-26)

[50] http://mclc.osu.edu/rc/pubs/yanjun.htm (accessed 2010-08-10)

[51] Joshua Mostov, Kirk Denton et al. (ed): The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature. Columbia University Press 2003. See http://mclc.osu.edu/rc/pubs/reviews/hillenbrand.htm (acc. 2010-09-28)

[52] Hong Zicheng: A History of Contemporary Chinese Literature (Zhongguo Dangdai Wenxueshi). Tr. Michael M. Day. Brill 2007. See the MCLC resource center review by Edward Gunn at http://mclc.osu.edu/rc/pubs/reviews/gunn2.htm (acc. 2010-09-30)

[53] http://wenxue2000.com (acc. 2010-08-10)

[54] http://www.de-cn.net/mag/lit/de4812617.htm (acc. 2010-08-10)

[55] http://www.bullock.cn/blogs/cuiweiping/archives/98700.aspx (acc. 2010/8/10)

[56] http://luofulin.blogspot.com/2009/03/poetry-by-ma-lan-spoken-in-year-of-cock.html (acc. 2010/8/10)

[57] http://luofulin.blogspot.com/2009/03/poetry-by-ma-lan-muslim-grandmother.html (acc. 2010-08-10). See also http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/dujuan99nihon/28675794.html (acc. 2010-08-10)

[58] Ai Qing: Zhi wang you Danna zhi ling (To the soul of my deceased friend Dana). In: Xiandai shiba jia shi (Poems of 18 modern masters), ed. Yue Hongzhi. Beijing: Zhongguo Wenyi 1991, p. 632

[59] http://www.shigeku.org/xlib/xd/sgdq/zhangzao.htm (acc. 2010-08-26)

[60] http://www.shigeku.org/shiku/ws/zg/zhangzao.htm (acc. 2010-08-26)

[61] http://mu.subjam.org/yanjun/archives/2060 (acc. 2011-03-07)

[62] http://mu.subjam.org/yanjun/archives/2233 (acc. 2011-03-07)

[63] http://obasic.net/the-chinese-braunschweig-advertisement-on-the-street-side & http://bbs.anti-cnn.com/archiver/tid-187391.html (acc. 2010-08-18)

[64]http://mu.subjam.org/yanjun/archives/2387 (acc. 2011-03-07)

[65] Cf. the original poem at http://mu.subjam.org/yanjun/archives/2233 (acc. 2011/03/07)

[66] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster (acc. 2010-08-27)

[67] http://zh.wikipedia.org/zh/%E9%A3%9E%E5%A4%A9%E6%8B%89%E9%9D%A2%E7%A5%9E%E6%95%99 (acc. 2010-08-27)

[68] Spence, Jonathan: The Gate of Heavenly Peace. The Chinese and Their Revolution 1895-1980. New York: Viking Press 1981.

[69] http://www.tsquare.tv/ (acc. 2010-08-27)

[70] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square, http://zh.wikipedia.org/zh/%E5%A4%A9%E5%AE%89%E9%97%A8, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmenhttp://zh.wikipedia.org/zh/%E5%A4%A9%E5%AE%89%E9%97%A8%E5%B9%BF%E5%9C%BA (acc. 2010-08-27)

[71] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falun_Gong (acc.2010/8/30)

[72] Wikileaks material on censorship in China: http://www.peacehall.com/news/gb/china/2010/08/201008061432.shtml (acc. 2010/8/30)

[73] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grass_Mud_Horse (acc. 2010-08-31)

[74] http://www.poemlife.com/ReviewerColumn/zhaosiyun/article.asp?vArticleId=59898 (acc. 2010-08-31)

[75] See http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_54b574bb0100irr4.html (acc. 2010/8/31)

“09宪章” – 颜峻

Charta 09 – Yan Jun

宪章十四行

Charta-Sonnet
(电吉他,微型马歇尔音箱,朗诵)

(electric guitar, small marshall-speakers, voice recitation)

我要求取消地铁自动检票系统,坚持人工检票直到世界尽头;

I demand the abolishment of the automatic ticket-control on the subway, and insist on ticket control by hand till the end of time;

我要求全人类共同投票选举美国总统;
I demand the election of the president of the USA by all mankind;

我要求加大计划生育力度,鼓励同性恋结婚,对异性婚姻采取罚款;
I demand measures for stricter birth control: encourage homosexual marriages and discourage heterosexual marriages with fines;

我要求修改宪法,取消其中所有的分号和顿号;
I demand an amendment to the constitution: abolish all commas, colons and semicolons;

我要求取缔麻将和KTV,把早晨五点就开始遛狗的人拘留起来,在派出所定期举办诗歌朗诵;

I demand to get rid of Mahjong and KTV bars, to arrest everyone who walks their dog at five in the morning, and to install regular poetry readings at police stations;

我要求取消艺术,改变生活;
I demand the abolishment of art, and a change of life;

我要求在伤口上撒盐,在酒里下毒,在热脸上贴一个冷屁股;
I demand to pour salt into wounds, and poison drinks, and a cold butt stuck into every excited face;

我要求在远方搭建两座楼那么大的音箱,在青山绿水间,举办没有观众的噪音音乐会;
I demand to construct two enormous buildings as speakers in the green hills at the bank of a stream, for a concert of noise without any audience;

我要求,我和你,在一起,永远不分离;
I demand that you and I stay together, forever, and never to part;

我要求记忆,黑色的花朵,星星在自行车上方闪耀,变成另一些少年的脸;
I demand to remember, these black blossoms, and the glittering stars above the bicycle change into a few young faces;

我要求释放被关押的词语,释放“你妈逼”,也释放“江泽民”;

I demand to reprieve the locked-up words, to reprieve “you cunt”, and also “President Jiang Zemin”;

我要求要求,禁止禁止,取消取消,嘲笑嘲笑,把那个没事就跟人掏心窝子的家伙捆起来;
I demand to demand, to forbid what’s forbidden, abolish cancellations, to ridicule satire, and have those who have nothing to do and just pour out their heart at you tied up and gagged;

我要求在地狱的入口处高歌,在公共汽车上睡觉;
I demand to break into song at the entrance of hell, and to sleep on the bus;

我要求打破沉默,保持安静……

I demand to break the silence, to keep the peace …

Translated 2010-07-10

Thanks to Marc Hermann, who translated this poem into German.

On his blog, Yan Jun provides the following comment: „About politics, as in At this Moment (Ci ke), in Charta Sonnet and in Against all organized deception (Fandui yiqie you zuzhi de qipian): I regard these poems as political action, not as political poems. Either all poetry is political poetry, or there are no political poems. Because poetry per se is already a form of political action. I have no crying politics, to make people high, no politics for a statue.“

海豚,之7: 4月25日 - 颜峻

Dolphin 7,  April 25 – Yan Jun

假使我是一只海豚

Let us say I’m a dolphin

在地下车库 在歌声中沉睡

asleep through the songs in the underground parking

我吹着口哨

I am whistling

电话里传出雨的回声

Out of the phone comes an echo of rain

高跟鞋从头顶经过

High-heel shoes passing over my head

像葵花籽敲打着天堂

like sunflower seeds rapping on heaven

2010.4.25

Tr. MW, July – August 2010

Third example: the poem Ci ke, This Moment, written just before China’s national day 2009. On Oct. 1st 2009, 60 years of the People’s Republic of China were celebrated with military parades in Beijing.

此刻

This moment

Recited at the Zurich Literature Institute. Maybe my only poem this year with a title, not just a date. Some magazine abroad asked for a piece on 60 years of PR China, 300 words on China’s past, present and future. 在苏黎世文学馆朗诵,念了新写的《此刻》,好像是今年惟一标题不是日期的诗。缘起是,某外地报纸约60周年的稿,要写300字,关于中国的过去现在和未来。

此刻中国没有国界,没有晨曲,电视台瘫痪,十亿人从人皮下醒来,其他的从另一空间进入

at this moment china has no borders, no morning melodies, no tv paralysis, one billion people wake up from under a human body’s skin, others enter through different spaces (?)

此刻,就是没有未来,无视过去,未来从未发生,过去被吞食,过去归于此刻,再生于此刻

at this moment there’s no future, ignore the past, future hasn’t ever happened, past’s been swallowed, past belongs now to this moment, now the past is born again

此刻,常常热泪盈眶的新闻战士,和她的狗仔队同事共进晚餐,突然死去,被资本主义民主照耀,在冰激凌上顿悟

at this moment the weepy news warrior sits down with her dog-faced crew for dinner, and suddenly drops dead, exposed in the light of capitalist democracy, Samadhi on ice cream

此刻是无政府的中国,交通灯教导了我的人生

this moment is china with no government, the traffic lights instruct my life

此刻不装修,也不拆除,过去意味着羞辱,此刻就是痛饮遗忘,把所有遗忘吐出来

we don`t renovate this moment, and it doesn’t get demolished, past is just humiliation, `this the time to drink amnesia, spit out all that got forgotten

此刻北京在变形,成为可能性本身

Beijing changes shape this instant, into possibility itself

此刻党和人民哺育了彼此,有机了彼此,沐浴了彼此,在媒体艺术里相拥而泣

at this moment the party and the people have nurtured this moment, they have organized each other, washed each other, hugged and cried in the art of the media

此刻只听见噪音,飞天面条神教加持了天安门

at this moment you can only hear noise, the Apsara Pasta sect has entranced Tiananmen square

此刻是裸体的古人,去西方讲学,预订了明天的机票,被取消,停在此刻,立地成佛

this moment is a naked guy from antiquity who went to teach in the west, he booked a plane ticket for tomorrow, which got cancelled, so he`s stuck in this moment, becoming a Buddha

此刻此间乐,此刻可乐,此刻公司倒闭,我们喝水得永生

there’s momentous joy this instant, instant cola, instant company’s bankruptcy, we drink water we’re immortal

2009.9.23

Tr. MW, July – August 2010

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5条回应 to “CHINESE LITERATURE 2000-2010”

  1. CHINESE LITERATURE 2000-2010 « 為世博服務 Says:

    […] CHINESE LITERATURE 2000-2010 来自erguotou Chinese Literature 2000-2010 […]

  2. Dr. Susanna Hoffman Says:

    I am searching for the title of a Chinese science fiction book by Le Man, published, I don’t know whether in Chinese or English, in 2009. Do you have this title. I need it for an article on disaster in literature.
    Thank you,
    Susanna Hoffman

  3. erguotou Says:

    Hm. Sorry, I’ve heard his name before, but haven’t read anything by him, as far as I remember. My article is not a complete overview, and I guess I haven’t included any science fiction? I’m not sure. It is an interesting genre. Henry Y.H. Zhao wrote on Chinese science fiction in the middle of the 1990s. He argued that the genre was underdeveloped because it was suppressed, since the state ideology already depended on marxist utopia ideas, so there couldn’t be any other individual utopias or dystopias getting in the way. Then he listed some works from the 1980s and early 1990s. I don’t remember if Le Man was mentioned.

  4. astridmo Says:

    YES! Great blog, looking forward to following. (I’m a novice at reading Chinese myself, but working hard. Goal: To read Chinese fiction in the original.)

  5. cellulite patches Says:

    Sds blog…

    […] Read the full article and leave your comments at the SDS Blog. […]…

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