HAI ZI, PEN NAME OF CHA HAISHENG (1964—1989) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

HAI ZI, PEN NAME OF CHA HAISHENG (1964—1989). Poet. Born in rural Anhui, Hai Zi entered Beijing University at the age of 15, much younger than the national norm. For a son of a peasant family, this was especially rare. Four years later, with a degree in law, he began an academic career teaching law at a university in Beijing. He started writing poetry in his junior year at Beijing University and quickly gained fame as a powerful and creative voice. Increasingly withdrawn from society, he moved to a village outside Beijing and wrote feverishly; isolated from the outside word, his poetry became his only companion. While he derived a lot of satisfaction from his writing, he was frequently plagued by anxiety, loneliness, poverty, and misunderstanding. The mounting pressure he imposed on himself eventually drove him to suicide on his 25th birthday, cutting short a brilliant career as one of the most gifted poetic voices coming after the Misty poets. His death was especially poignant in an age seen as obsessed with materialism.

During his short life, Hai Zi wrote many poems, a play, and some essays. He took special pride in his long poems, seven in total. These long poems convey a tragic, heroic vision. Taiyang (The Sun), representative of this group of poems, expresses a sense of religiosity, fatalism, and universality. In his lyrical as well as dramatic poetry, Hai Zi is obsessed with death and its dark images. As the son of peasants, he is also intimately connected to the land. One of his long poems, Tudi (The Earth), and his lyrical wheat series are manifestations of a person intertwined with rural, agrarian life.