YU PINGBO (1900—1990)
YU PINGBO (1900—1990). Poet and essayist. Born into an eminent scholar-official family, Yu Pingbo graduated from Beijing University in 1919 and briefly studied in England and the United States. As a member of several literary associations, including the New Trend Society (xinchao she) and Literary Research Society. In 1922, Yu worked with Zhu Zhiqing, Zheng Zhenduo, Ye Shengtao, and others to found Shi (Poetry), the first poetry journal since the May Fourth Movement. He was one of the major poets who advocated a “plebeian poetry,” one that drew from the Chinese folk tradition, used an everyday language, and ignored the metric regulations of traditional poetics. Nevertheless, Yu was a new poet with quintessentially traditional sensibilities, a stylist who paid meticulous attention to the use of words and images. The poems collected in Dong ye (Winter Nights), published in 1922, are characteristically concise, fastidious, and graceful. They expressed his love for his hometown and for his friends and family. Yu was also a noted essayist, having published several collections of essays written in different genres ranging from belles lettres to travelogues, from philosophical musings to reading notes. His essays show traces of influence from Zhou Zuoren, with whom he shared a fondness for the individual’s aesthetic experience, rather than a strong social consciousness.
Yu is best known as a distinguished scholar of classical Chinese literature who made significant contributions to the study of Ci, a subgenre of classical poetry, and particularly to the scholarship of Hong lou meng (A Dream of Red Mansions), an 18th-century novel generally considered the best fictional work in classical Chinese literature. After 1949, he taught Chinese literature at Beijing University and worked at the Chinese Literature Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. See also NEW CULTURE MOVEMENT.