DAI WANGSHU (1905—1950)
DAI WANGSHU (1905—1950). Poet. Born in Hangzhou, Dai Wangshu studied literature and French in college and became one of the foremost modern Chinese poets. His first poem “Ninglei chu men” (Leaving Home in Tears) appeared in the inaugurating issue of Yinluo (A Jade Necklace), a literary journal he founded with his friends. Dai spent three years in France and was influenced by French symbolist poets, especially Paul Verlaine, whose style appealed to Dai’s classical sensibilities. In 1929, his first collection of poetry, Wode jiyi (My Memories), was published and one of the poems, “Yu xiang” (A Rainy Alley), became an instant favorite among both critics and readers and remains one of the beloved modern poems. Other works, such as “A Dream Seeker” and “Bird of Paradise,” helped elevate Dai to the ranks of China’s leading poets. Disillusionment and melancholy are signature themes of his early poetry, expressed in a sentimental voice and a colloquial language interspersed with rhythms commonly found in classical Chinese poetry.
A significant contributor to the development of modern vernacular poetry, Dai showed an unwavering attention to form, which he considered to be the essence of poetry. He succeeded in creating a new poetic form that draws from both classical Chinese tradition and modern Western styles such as those used by the English Romantics and the French symbolists. He edited Xiandai shi feng (Modern Poetic Styles) and was a founder of Xin shi (New Poetry), platforms for Chinese experimental poetry and translations of Western works. Credited with introducing many French writers to the Chinese public, he was also an avid reader and translator of Spanish and Russian literature. Dai died of illness the year after the People’s Republic of China was established. See also MODERNISTS.