China Poetry Review 2004

Intro to Annual Reviews on DACHS

The two reviews available here (2004, 2005) are rough guides to events in the world of poetry in China for sinologists who haven’t enough time to keep up with events or have only a passing interest in poetry, for interested observers of China (including students) who cannot read Chinese, AND for those who are just plain interested in poetry (the number of whom I hope will increase to become the majority of the visitors to my material here). The guidelines for what is selected to go on the lists within the reviews are entirely subjective – what “I” think is of interest or importance. If I had time, I’d try to be more exhaustive, but I’d need feedback from readers for something like that to happen: for instance, I could do a quarterly review.

In any case, I hope these materials – and everything else here on DACHS – will prove of some value to some real body out there across the vast expanse of cyberspace.


31 May 2006

A Review of Poetry in China: 2004

New Trends and Books:

1) On January 4, 2004, the first of a twenty-part film series entitled 中国先锋诗歌 was broadcast on the Education, Science and Technology Channel 教育科技频道 of the Zhejiang TV Station 浙江电视台. This was the first time such a program was produced and broadcast in China. Each program focused on one well-known avant-garde poet, featuring a broad selection of poets who rose to prominence during the 1970s through to the present day. Among those poets who might be known to foreign readers of Chinese poetry in translation are Shu Ting舒婷, Mang Ke芒克, Zhai Yongming翟永明, Haizi海子, Xi Chuan西川, and Yu Jian于坚. The program was organized by a group of Hangzhou poets, including Liang Xiaoming梁晓明and Nan Ye南野.

This program also led to the editing and publication in August of an

accompanying book by the Zhejiang Literature & Arts Publishing House浙江文

艺出版社(杭州市体育场路347号), entitled Chinese Avant-Garde Poetry

Documents中国先锋诗歌档案. This book collects the work of 30 poets, and

includes photos of the original unofficial poetry journals (many of which were

officially banned during 1980s and early 1990s) in which their work was first

published. Among these 30 poets, and not allotted a TV program of their own, are

Bei Dao北岛 (presumably because he was unavailable for filming) and Gu Cheng

顾城 (a suicide – like Haizi海子 – but also a murderer), and Zhou Lunyou周伦

, imprisoned for two years in 1989. There are also relevant critical comments

on the poetry and unofficial journals by four well-known critics, including Tang


As is the case with most of the books noted here, without contacting the

publishing house directly, copies of this book will be difficult to locate.

There were only 5,000 copies printed and the book was not widely distributed or

marketed (if at all) by the state controlled Xinhua新华distribution system.

Further evidence of some liberalization with regard to the publication of

previously proscribed writers of modernist poetry can be seen in Chengdu’s Stars

Poetry Half-Monthly星星诗半月刊 – one of China’s most popular nationally-

distributed official poetry journals. During 2004, the journal started a new,

featured section called 诗歌档案, which collects the poetry

and essays from , and critical articles about selected poets, such as Zhai

Yongming翟永明, Zhou Lunyou周伦佑, Ouyang Jianghe欧阳江河, Wang

Xiaoni王小妮, Yu Jian于坚, and others to date.

In January a book of great value to those interested in China’s

underground / avant-garde poetry scene during the 1980s was published by the

Qinghai People’s Publishing House青海人民出版社(西宁市同仁路10

810001. Splendor: The Life and Writing of the Third Generation灿烂:第三

代人的写作和生活 was compiled by the well-known Sichuan poet Yang Li杨黎

and consists of his own recollections, interviews, articles, and the poems of other

poets, and photo’s of poets, documents, and journals. It must be said, however,

that Zhou Lunyou周伦佑, the chief organizer and editor of the influential Not-

Not非非group to which Yang had belonged during the 1980s, has more-or-less

been excised from the text, or portrayed in a negative light, as a result of personal

differences dating from 1988.

Two large collections of recent avant-garde poetry were also published during

2004, both put out by the same company, if not the same publishing house, in

Fuzhou. The first features the work of poets born in the 1960s, but who did not

rise to prominence until the early 1990s. The Middle Generation Poetry

Anthology中间代诗全集 was published in two volumes, 2,560 pages, and over

2,200 poems, and collects the work of 82 poets. The editors are An Qi安琪, Yuan

Cun远村 and Huang Lihai黄礼孩 and it is published by Haixia Literature & Arts

Publishing House海峡文艺出版社(福州市东水路76号).

The second collection is called The Post-1970 Anthology 70后诗集 and also

consists of two volumes, 1176 pages, and contains the work of 70 PRC poets, as

well as that of 8 poets from HK, Macao, and Taiwan. These are poets, all born

during the 1970s, who rose to some prominence during the late 1990s. The editors

are Kang Cheng康城, Huang Lihai黄礼孩, Zhu Jiafa朱佳发 and Laopi老皮,

and the collection is published by the Fujian Haifeng Publishing House福建海风


As during the 1980s, most of the contributors to these two collections were first

published – and continue to be published – in unofficial poetry journals of their

own making. Many of these poets are also active on the Internet contributing

to websites and to journals published by them. (For more on this see

http://www.sino.uni.heidelberg.de/dachs/leiden/poetry/ )

Another anthology of some interest is The Annual Compendium of New Poetry

2002-2003中国新诗年鉴, edited by the poet Yang Ke杨克, and published in

June 2004 by Tianjin Social Sciences Publishing House天津社会科学出版社

(天津市南开区迎水道7号,3000191. This is the latest in a series that

began with the year 1998, and collects the poetry and theoretical essays of a

disparate grouping of poets belonging to independent or unofficial poetry groups

and journals who characterize themselves as of the “among the people” (or

“popular” 民间) writing tendency.

This book was somewhat balanced by Avant-Garde Poetry Documents先锋诗

歌档案, edited by the poets Xi Du西渡and Guo Hua郭骅, which was published

in January 2004 by the Chongqing Publishing House重庆出版社(重庆市长江

二路205号,400016. This book contains a CD with readings of poetry by 10

of the collected poets. For the most part, the work collected here belongs to the

“Intellectual” 知识分子writing tendency, the other large grouping more or

less competing with “among the people” above.

Finally, a new collection of Misty (or Obscure) poetry was published by the

Changjiang Literature & Arts Publishing House长江文艺出版社 (武汉市熊楚

大街268号,湖北出版文化城主楼B10楼,430070. Edited by the

poetry critics Hong Zicheng洪子城and Cheng Guangwei程光炜, A New

Collection of Misty Poetry朦胧诗新编 includes the work of ‘buried’ (or

forgotten) poets such as Yue Chong岳重 (b. 1951, Beijing) who was very active

in the late 1960s and early 1970s. An introductory essay explains the historical

and critical background to this poetry, and there are also photos of poets, journals

and manuscripts of the time.

2) A website, formerly an unofficial journal founded in 1988 in 西昌in Sichuan,

was reestablished with a new injection of funds during 2004 (see

www.sunpoem.com/nzsb/nzsb.htm ). In May 2004, The Woman’s Poetry Paper

女子诗报, edited by the poet Xiaoyin晓音, organized The Second Chinese

Woman’s Poetry Conference中国第二届女性诗歌研讨会 (the first having been

held in Beijing in 1993) in Qingyuan清远市 in Guangdong province. There were

over 60 participants, including well-known poets such as Shu Ting舒婷, Tang

Yaping唐亚平, and Wang Xiaoni王小妮. The poetry of the website and its

printed publications are considered the most radically feminist of the few women-

only poetry forums in China.

On 1 December, three independent literature websites united to create The

Chinese Poetry Independent Net中国诗歌独立网 (http://dl.008.net/ ), and began

preparations to publish a large-scale unofficial annual Independent Poetry独立诗

. The three websites are among the best on the Internet: Tropic of Capricorn

回归线 (originally an unofficial journal out of Hangzhou杭州since 1988), Or

, and Journey旅程.

The amount of independent, or unofficial, poetry activity occurring in

China today is at an all time high. The foregoing is merely the tip of the iceberg,

more of which is emerging on a daily basis thanks to the Internet.

3) On 22 June 2004, China’s first international poetry competition revealed its 6

winners in Beijing. Called the New Poetry World International Poetry Prize新诗

界国际诗歌奖, it will be held on a bi-annual basis. The winner of the North Star

Prize北极星奖 was the Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer (b. 1931). The two

winners of the Big Dipper Prize北斗星浆 were the Beijing-based poet Niu Han

牛汉 (b. 1923) and Luo Fu洛夫 (b. 1928 in Hunan), now resident in Canada.

The 3 winners of the Venus Prize启明星奖 were all avant-garde poets who

rose to prominence in the unofficial poetry scene during the 1980s: Xi Chuan西

of Beijing (b. 1963), Wang Xiaoni王小妮 of Shenzhen (b. 1955), and Yu Jian

于坚 of Yunnan (b. 1954).

The competition was organized by the Beijing University Literature Research

Institute北京大学文学研究所, the Chinese People’s University Modern Poetry

Research Institute中国人民大学现代诗学研究所, the Chinese Modern

Literature Institute中国现代文学馆, and the Chinese Culture Promotion

Association of the Department of Culture文化部华夏文化促进会, among other

official organizations. A collection of the poetry of the six winners, The Light

Pours In: A Special Collection of Prize Winning Poets of the First New Poetry

World International Poetry Prize光芒涌入:首届新诗界国际诗歌奖获奖诗

人特辑, was published by the New World Publishing House新世界出版社(北

京市阜成门外百万庄大街24号)on the same day the prizes were awarded.

Deaths: On February 5, Zang Kejia臧克家 (1905-2004) – Zang became famous in 1933

upon the publication of his first book of poetry The Brand烙印. His verse was

noted for its realist nature, with much of his early poetry devoted to the

countryside and farmers familiar from his youth. After 1949, Zang primarily

produced political lyrics in support of the CCP political needs. Zang was a native

of Shandong.

On January 8, Wang Xindi王辛笛 (1912-2004, b. Shanghai) – Wang was a

member of China’s first modernist poetry grouping, the Nine Leaves Group九叶

, which flourished during 1945-1949. T. S. Eliot was one of Wang’s sources

of inspiration.

Books Banned: Shen Haobo 沈浩波, a native of Jiangsu, had his first officially

published collection of poetry banned during the summer. Shen is one of

the primary activists in what is called the Lower Body下半身 school of

poetry, which places an emphasis on physicality and action in its poetry.

The book was published early in 2004, and was banned not long after

Shen’s first overseas trip to the Chinese Poetry Festival in Copenhagen

and Aarhus, Denmark, in the spring. The book’s name was Great Evil in

the Heart心脏大恶. (Shen was born in 1976 and now lives in Beijing.)

Arrests: The poet-journalist Shi Tao师涛 was arrested on October 24 at his home in

Taiyuan, Shanxi, by police from Changsha, Hunan. Apparently, this was a result

of publishing the internal guidance preventing the republication of a manifesto

written by Mao Zedong in July 1919 for the inaugural edition of the political

journal he then edited, The Xiang River Review湘江评论. Shi was formally

charged on Dec. 2 with “suspicion of revealing national secrets” 涉嫌泄漏国家

机密, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in early 2005. (Shi was born in

Ningxia in 1968.)

Closures: Zero Degree Writing零度写作, an unofficial literary journal out of Shanghai,

was forced to close in January. The journal, founded in 1999 and after having

published 20 issues, was forced to close after a visit from local authorities

commanding the editors to register the journal officially and to operate legally,

or to close. As with most unofficial journals in China, finances are supplied by

contributors and friends, and the journal is largely distributed at no cost. The

added costs of official registration and other details are prohibitive. Of course,

unofficial journals also do not wish to be ‘supervised’ by the official literary

establishment. The on-line version of this journal can still be found at:


Openings: Yet, for each enforced closure 2-3 new unofficial poetry journals seem to

appear: such as The Garbage School Poetry Theory Special Edition垃圾派诗

歌理论专号 (March), Cast Aside (April in Quanzhou, Fujian), Razor

须刀 (April), The Big View of New Poetry新诗大观 (in May, a planned bi-

monthly with a print-run of 3,500 per issue), The Third Path第三条道路

(June), and PistOns / 活塞 (in September), to list but a few.

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