WANG JINGZHI (1902—1996) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

WANG JINGZHI (1902—1996)
The Dictionary

WANG JINGZHI (1902—1996). Poet and a member of the Lakeside Poetry Society. Born in Jixi, Anhui Province, Wang attended a trade school before enrolling in the Number One Hangzhou Teachers’ College. As the May Fourth Movement unfolded, Wang was attracted by its call for personal emancipation and freedom. His best-known poem, “Hui zhi feng” (Hui’s Wind), which is also the title of his first collection of poetry, is a self-confessing poem about his first love. Never before had anyone been so honest and unashamed about expressing sexual desire. This defiant act against established Confucian decorum reverberated in Chinese society. As Zhu Ziqing later described it, he “threw an extremely powerful bomb into the middle of old social morality.” At the age of 20, Wang became an influential poet, mentored by prominent figures such as Lu Xun, who helped him revise his work, Hu Shi, who wrote the preface for his first collection of poetry, and Zhou Zuoren, who graced the book with calligraphy. When Wang was attacked by conservative moralists, these flag bearers of the May Fourth New Culture Movement rose in his defense. Lu Xun called Wang’s poems “sounds of nature.” After the success of Hui zhi feng, Wang published Jimo de guo (The Lonely Country), another collection of love poems, and three fictional works: Yesu de fenfu (Advice of Jesus), Fu yu nü (Father and Daughter), and Cuiying ji qifu de gushi (The Story of Cuiying and Her Husband), all written in 1926. Swept up in the wave of revolution of the 1920s, Wang began work in the propaganda department of the Northern Expedition Army, but soon left. Unlike the other Lakeside poets, he lacked an enthusiasm for politics. He later taught literature at various schools and universities.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Wang worked as an editor for the Classics Department of the Beijing People’s Press and became a member of the Chinese Writers’ Association on the payroll of the state. However, the new society required poetry for the masses, while Wang’s forte was expressions of personal passion and emotions. He managed to produce a meager pamphlet of 21 poems. On the eve of the Cultural Revolution, Wang returned to Hangzhou where he lived an anonymous life until the end of the 1970s. In 1982, when the Lakeside Poetry Society celebrated its 50th anniversary, Wang was elected chairman of the newly revived organization. Liu mei yuan (Encounters with Six Beauties), poems about his relationships with six women in his youthful days, was published four months before his death. To the very end of his life, Wang believed that the central subject of poetry should be love and passion.