An English translation of Poems of the contemporary Chinese poet Hai Zi

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Hai Zi, originally named Cha Haisheng, had published a large amount of outstanding poetry from 1984-1989 and was regarding as one of the major contemporary Chinese poets. In March 1989, he committed suicide by laying himself on a railroad track at Beijing Shan Hai Guan at the age of 25.

Hai Zi’s poetry seems to be anachronism. China has been through a great change, and the traditional countryside is disappearing with the large migration of peasants from villages to cities. Economic reform and consumerism are fast developing. Hai Zi’s nostalgia for the vanishing agricultural culture makes him an anachronism. His poetry still lives on the traditional Chinese agricultural landscape and mindscape, and the 19th century European idea of divine inspiration; that the genesis of poetry is analogous to the genesis of the universe; poetry comes from a divine spark; the poet is no less than a god, and his limited human body consumes itself to feed that divine essence in him. In his poems we may find Nietzsche’s idea of Zagreus; the descent of the world from a mythical oneness and the throes of individuation; Hölderlin’s same idea of cosmic descent and departing gods.


“Hai Zi (1964-1989) was an ephemeral star who was among the ‘obscure poets’ that emerged after China’s 1979 reforms. He dazzled the world twice, the first time when he was accepted by the prestigious Beijing University at age 15, the second time when he committed suicide ... Poetry hides behind the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what was seen during an open moment. Hai Zi’s life was a poem, an extremely short poem, leaving those who look through to guess what was during his distilled life of 25 years. Hai Zi’s poems, like the marks left in the snow by goose tracks, are the traces of his life. Our job is not to resolve the puzzle of his death, but to understand the enigma of his ife. Now, let us open the door and let our ephemeral star be seen.” – (from the Preface) Qiguang Zhao, Burton and Lily Levin Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, Carleton College

“I do not know of anyone who has done more than Dr. Hong Zeng to tell readers in the English-speaking world about the most important younger Chinese poets. Earlier with Gu Cheng and now with more detail with Hai Zi, Dr. Zeng has presented a difficult but engaging body of work by a most original and resourceful poet who can delight and inform any reader. It is a rare imagination indeed that can invent an image like ‘Holding A White Tiger She Walks Across the Ocean.’ We should all feel deep gratitude to Dr. Hong Zeng for her gifts.” – William Harmon, James Gordon Hanes Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“It seems almost obvious now, five years into the Chinese Century, that a fin de millennium romantic poet should hail from the People’s Republic, but now many would have said the same in the 1980s when these poems of passion and blood and natural beauty were written ... In this collection of Hai Zi’s poems, Professor Zeng has kept [Zi’s] voice stark and avoided the type of ‘cultural’ translation that can ruin poetry ... Readers will surely make much of a Chinese writing odes and lyrics ...” – Steven J. Clark, Professor of Japanese Literature, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Table of Contents

Preface by Dr. Qiguang Zhao
Foreword by the Translator
Selected Poems by Hai Zi

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