ZHU ZIQING, A.K.A. CHU TZE-CH’ING (1898—1948) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

ZHU ZIQING, A.K.A. CHU TZE-CH’ING (1898—1948). Essayist and poet. Born in Donghai, Jiangsu Province, Zhu Ziqing grew up in Yangzhou. He received a traditional education in his early childhood. In 1916, he attended Beijing University, where he participated in the May Fourth Movement and joined the New Tide Association, which was a main platform for modern literary work. After he graduated from Beijing University in 1920, Zhu taught at middle schools in Jiangsu and Zhejiang until 1925, when he joined the faculty at Qinghua University to teach Chinese literature, a job he held until a stomach ulcer took his life in 1948.

While caught in the center of a radical nationalist movement, Zhu was by nature a moderate intellectual, which he had in common with fellow southerners such as Ye Shengtao, who shared his enthusiasm for a new literature and had the same traditional literary sensibilities built upon a solid training in Chinese classics. Neither a radical reformer nor a conservative scholar, Zhu represented Chinese intellectuals among the May Fourth generation whose temperament was more in tune with Confucian gentlemanly virtues than with fervent revolutionary ideals or the liberal sentiments of Westernized intellectuals such as Hu Shi and Xu Zhimo. Zhu’s essays and poems embrace traditional values and show an earthy intimacy with Chinese life. “Beiying” (The Silhouette), “He tang yue se” (Moonlit Lotus Pond), and “Jiang sheng li de Qinhuaihe” (The Qinhuai River in the Sound of Oars) are considered among the most brilliant lyrical essays in modern Chinese literature and have been read by generations of Chinese schoolchildren.

Zhu was one of the pioneering poets who experimented with using the vernacular as a poetic medium. He was also a founding member of Shi Kan (Poetry), China’s first journal of modern poetry. Among his many poems, “Huimie” (Destruction), published in 1923, is the best known. Zhu’s other publications include a collection of essays written after his 1931 trip to Europe and many scholarly essays on modern Chinese poetics and classical Chinese literature.

As the Sino-Japanese War broke out, Zhu followed his university as it retreated to Kunming where the difficulties of life and the assassination of his colleague Wen Yiduo by the government secret agents made Zhu more sympathetic to the Communist cause. In Xinshi zahua (Commentaries on New Poetry), Zhu speaks highly of the poems written by progressive poets Wen Yiduo, Zang Kejia, Ai Qing, and others and calls for literature to rally the nation in its resistance against Japanese aggression.