AI QING, PEN NAME OF JIANG HAICHENG (1910—1996) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

AI QING, PEN NAME OF JIANG HAICHENG (1910—1996). Poet. Born to a landed family in Zhejiang, Ai Qing was initially trained to be an artist. In 1929, he went to France to study oil painting and sculpture and was introduced to Marxism and French poetry. The Japanese invasion of China roused his sense of nationalism. Upon his return from Europe, Ai Qing joined a group of leftist artists and was later arrested by the Nationalist government. Unable to paint while in prison, he turned to writing poetry and was soon recognized as an important poetic voice in the nation. In 1941, he went to Yan’an, the Communist base at the time, and became a party member three years later. He moved to Beijing after the Communist victory. In 1957, he was branded a “rightist” and lived in exile on remote farms until 1973 when an eye illness brought him back to Beijing for treatment. In 1979, he was rehabilitated and elected deputy chairman of the Chinese Writers’ Association.

Ai Qing earned a reputation in the 1930s as a patriotic poet whose passionate love of the land and its people is expressed in such poems as “Dayanhe—wo de baomu” (Dayan River My Wet-nurse), “Taiyang” (The Sun), “Liming” (Dawn), and “Chun” (The Spring). During the Sino-Japanese War, his poems served as rallying cries for the nation, which eagerly embraced the nationalist spirit sung in poems such as “Beifang” (The North), “Xue luo zai zhongguo de tudi shang” (Snow Falls on the Chinese Land), and “Xiang Taiyang” (To the Sun). Writing in the vernacular language and free style, Ai Qing made a significant contribution to modern Chinese poetry. His technique, defined as simple and straightforward, and his voice, idealistic and sentimental, helped establish a poetic tradition that lasted throughout the Mao era. See also MODERNISTS.