BIAN ZHILIN (1910—2000)
BIAN ZHILIN (1910—2000). Poet, translator, and scholar. Born in Haimen, Jiangsu Province, Bian Zhilin studied English at Beijing University and went on to become a Shakespeare scholar and one of the most important poets in modern Chinese literature. While translating Western poetry into vernacular Chinese, Bian began writing poetry. His work caught the attention of Xu Zhimo, China’s most prominent poet at the time, who admired Bian’s innovative poems. In 1936, Bian collaborated with fellow Beijing University students He Qifang and Li Guangtian on a collection of poetry entitled Hanyuan ji (Hanyuan Collection), earning them the nickname “Three Musketeers of Hanyuan.” In addition to writing free verse in the vernacular language, Bian explored new ways of writing modern regulated verse. Of all the poems Bian wrote during his career, the most memorable is the quatrain entitled “Duan Zhang” (The Broken Chapter) composed in 1934. It records the feelings of one single moment with images of a person standing on a bridge looking at a scene and another person (or persons) standing by a window looking at the one on the bridge while taking in the scenery around him or her.
The political atmosphere after 1949 permitted poets to write only propagandist poems and Bian soon abandoned poetry writing to focus instead on translation and scholarly work. His work on William Shakespeare’s tragedies is considered an important contribution to Shakespearian studies in China. He is also credited with introducing a wide variety of Western literary works to Chinese readers.