YU GUANGZHONG, A.K.A. YU KUANG-CHUNG (1928— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

YU GUANGZHONG, A.K.A. YU KUANG-CHUNG (1928— ). Poet, essayist, and translator. Born in Nanjing, Yu attended middle school in Sichuan during the Sino-Japanese War and studied at Jinling University and Xiamen University before moving to Hong Kong with his parents in 1949. A year later, the family moved to Taiwan, following the Nationalist government’s retreat to the island. Yu graduated from the Foreign Languages Department of National Taiwan University and received a master’s degree from the University of Iowa. From 1974 to 1985, he taught literature at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has lived in the United States twice as a Fulbright scholar. A noted poet, Yu is well received in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong: places that are intimate, like “mother, wife, and lover,” to him. His best-known poems include “Xiangchou” (Nostalgia), an emotional and melancholy verse about his longing for his homeland.

Throughout his career, Yu has moved back and forth between modernism and traditionalism. In many ways, his poetry reflects the major trends in Taiwan’s literary development in the 20th century. In the late 1950s, when he was studying at the University of Iowa, Yu experimented with modernism and produced some abstract poems that betrayed a nihilist outlook. In the 1960s, he showed a strong desire to be connected with his cultural roots in poems such as “Qiaoda yue” (Percussion) and “Dang wo si shi” (At the Time of My Death). In the 1970s, he absorbed elements from folk songs and wrote such memorable lyrics as “Baiyu kugua” and continued his journey in search of history and cultural heritage, which resulted in “Yu yongheng bahe” (A Tug-of-War with Eternity), “Jiuguang tielu” (Railroad between Jiulong and Guangzhou), “Xun Li Bai” (In Search of Li Bai), and “Ye tu Dongpo” (Reading Dongpo at Night). At the same time, he got embroiled in a political/literary storm. His article “Lang lai le” (The Wolves Are Coming), published in 1977, condemned Taiwan’s nativists (xiangtu pai), especially one of the leading voices, Chen Yingzhen, for espousing values of proletarian literature promoted in Communist China, a damaging charge in a poltical environment of “white terror” created by the despotic rule of Chiang Kai-shek and his government.

Since the 1980s, Yu has “returned home” in more than one sense. With the publication of his poems on the mainland, he has been invited back to give lectures there, where the sense of nostalgia expressed in his poems finds adulating audiences. Yu is a versatile as well as prolific writer. His poetic style changes with his themes. Patriotic sentiment is often conveyed in bold and robust words and vigorous rhythms, while nostalgia and love are articulated with tender diction and languid cadence. His lyrical essays on a variety of topics have also won critical acclaim. He is a noted translator of Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, and many other English and American writers. He has won numerous literary awards in Taiwan, including the National Literary Award in Poetry and the Wu San-lian Literary Award in Prose. See also MODERN POETRY MOVEMENT IN TAIWAN.