In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Modern Chinese Poetry

  • Introduction
  • Anthologies in Chinese
  • Anthologies in English or Bilingual
  • Introductions and Theories of Modern Chinese Poetry
  • Old/Classical-Style Poetry in Modern Eras
  • New Poetry, Form, and Politics
  • Contemporary Chinese Poetry
  • Modern Poetry in Taiwan and Hong Kong
  • Literary Journals, Societies, and Schools
  • Women’s Poetry and Gendered Consciousness
  • Translation and World Poetry
  • Poetry, Media, and Technology

Chinese Studies Modern Chinese Poetry
by
Shengqing Wu, Huanyu Yue, Song Abel Han
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 February 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0217

Introduction

Accompanying China’s tumultuous modern history (conventionally demarcated from the era of the first Opium War, 1840–1842), modern Chinese literature experienced a dramatic revamping in both content and form in response to the projects of revolution, modern nation-state building, and modernization, in the context of colonialism and a multifaceted Western cultural and technological influence. Among multifarious literary genres, modern Chinese poetry has customarily been understood as New Poetry (xinshi 新詩) or vernacular poetry (baihua shi 白話詩), in conjunction with the May Fourth New Culture Movement (1915–1925), which denounced the traditional literary forms and their associated values, seeking to replace them with a modern vernacular language with its transparent and colloquial qualities. Hu Shi 胡適 famously declared a “literary revolution” (wenxue geming 文學革命), especially in poetic forms, calling for “the shattering of the shackles” and an emancipation of poetic forms from traditional formal regulations. The vernacular language movement had a long-lasting impact on the formation of national language, rhetoric, ideology, and specifically, the definition of poetry and poetic values. To be modern, frequently understood as equivalent to being radically new, is also an ideological battlefield, loaded with value judgments and especially entwined with conceptions of literary modernity in contemporary discussions. Modernity in literature should not be understood as a subscription to the linear trajectory of evolution toward New Literature (Xin wenxue 新文學) coupled with the decline or death of classical literature (Jiu wenxue 舊文學). Rather, a variety of newness—revealed in content and style, responding to or interacting with political, cultural, and technological fronts and their dynamism, and negotiation with China’s literary tradition and with foreign translations—are all present and intertwined in both old and new poetry in the modern era. Modern Chinese Poetry, in this article, refers to the poetic genres (both in classical/old styles and new/vernacular poetry), written during the period from the late Qing era to the present moment. In other words, being “modern” here refers to historical periods (for the sake of convenience) and the contested values of newness in content or form. While classical-style poetry writing remained a major form and continued to evolve through the twentieth century, New Poetry quickly established itself as an excitingly fresh literary genre, garnering an enthusiastic, though limited, readership among the younger generation. In its constant negotiations with the literary tradition and foreign influences (from poetry schools to a range of world poets), and the articulations of either individualistic or collectivistic feelings, New Poetry in its different historical periods and regions—in particular Republican China, postwar Taiwan, China in the market reform era, and the contemporary Sinophone world—significantly enriched and diversified its thematic and formal capacities. Over a century of evolutions, New Poetry has achieved its independent standing as a significant literary genre and formulated a genealogy of canonical and popular works. While competing with the glory of classical poetry and the revered works of the national canon, New Poetry has also considerably expanded its domestic and international audiences, thereby inserting its social and cultural impact.

Anthologies in Chinese

Poetry (shi 詩), characterized in Confucian culture as the expression of the heart-mind, has enjoyed prominence and an illustrious history over two thousand years with an extensive list of distinguished poets and distinct styles. People in the Chinese-speaking world collectively share a sense of great pride in this celebrated tradition of poetry, which is an integral part of Chinese worldviews and structures of feeling, and the sensibilities used to approach and understand the modern world in a broad sense. The compilation of anthologies is a long-established practice in Chinese history. This practice has contributed to the canonization of poetry, which could date back to the time of the Book of Songs (Shijing 詩經). By carrying on this tradition, modern Chinese poetry has solidified its identities and recognition of notable poets in literary history through the publication of influential anthologies. Zhu 1935, Gongmu 1991, and Yang and Zheng 1989 are the anthologies of New Poetry that canonized the most important works of the twentieth century. Lan 2011a, Sun 1986, Lan 2011b, Lan 2011c, and Hong and Cheng 2009 offer selections from the major schools of modernism, the Nine Leaves School (Jiuye shipai 九葉詩派), and Misty Poetry (Menglong shi 朦朧詩). Liu 1983; Li 1990; and Xiang, et al. 2022 all collect, on different scales, New Poetry writing in Taiwan. Huang, et al. 1998; Chen and Chen 2014; and Chen and Cheng 2014 are anthologies of Hong Kong New Poetry. Chen and Zhong 2010 is a collection of New Poetry in Malaysia.

  • Chen Guoqiu (Chan Kwok Kou Leonard) 陳國球 and Chen Zhide (Chan Chi Tak) 陳智德, eds. Xianggang wenxue daxi: Xinshi juan (香港文學大系 (1919–1949): 新詩卷). Hong Kong: Shangwu yinshuguan, 2014.

    A volume in the series The Compendium of Hong Kong Literature representing New Poetry written in Hong Kong from 1919 to 1949. From L.Y. to He Da 何達, this volume includes poems written by fifty-six poets, including renowned figures such as Xu Chi 徐遲, Yuan Shuipai 袁水拍, Ouwai Ou 鷗外鷗, Dai Wangshu, and Li Qing.

  • Chen Guoqiu (Chan Kwok Kou Leonard) 陳國球 and Cheng Zhongshan (Ching Chung Shan) 程中山, eds. Xianggang wenxue daxi (1919–1949): Jiuti wenxue juan (香港文學大系 一九一九–一九四九: 舊體文學卷). Hong Kong: Shangwu yinshuguan, 2014.

    A volume in the series The Compendium of Hong Kong Literature covering old-style Chinese poetry written in Hong Kong during 1919–1949. With an introduction to the history of classical-style poetry, this volume includes poems written by ninety-three poets, ranging from Wang Tao 王韜 to Shi Yuexi 釋月溪, and including prominent figures such as Pan Feisheng 潘飛聲, Qiu Fengjia 丘逢甲, Chen Botao 陳伯陶, Ye Gongchuo 葉恭綽, Lü Bicheng 呂碧城, Yang Yunshi 楊雲史, Liu Yazi 柳亞子, and Jao Tsung-i 饒宗頤.

  • Chen Dawei (Chan Tah Wei) 陳大為 and Zhong Yiwen (Chong Yee-Voon) 鍾怡雯. Mahua xinshi shi duben (馬華新詩史讀本1957–2007). Taibei: Wanjuanlou, 2010.

    A poetry collection of twenty-four representative Malaysian Chinese poets from the establishment of Malaysia to the present.

  • Gongmu 公木, ed. Xinshi jianshang cidian (新詩鑒賞辭典). Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe, 1991.

    A comprehensive encyclopedia with a selection of 530 modern Chinese poems, covering over seventy years of writing. Every poem is accompanied by a detailed discussion. The appendixes include short biographies for each poet, a bibliography for the more-than-1,000-page compilation, and a chronicle of literary events from 1915 to 1988.

  • Hong Zicheng 洪子誠 and Cheng Guangwei 程光煒, eds. Menglongshi xinbian (朦朧詩新編). Wuhan, China: Changjiang wenyi chubanshe, 2009.

    Starting with Bei Dao and ending with Liang Xiaobin 梁小斌, this book compiles Misty Poetry by sixteen poets. The detailed preface delineates the history of the Misty Poetry movement and the controversies surrounding it, and an afterword presents a chronology of the movement and its reception from 1978 to 1988.

  • Huang Jichi (Wong Kai Chee) 黃繼持, Lu Weiluan (Lo Wai-luen) 盧瑋鑾, and Zheng Shusen (William Tay) 鄭樹森, eds. Xianggang xinshi xuan (香港新詩選: 1948–1969). Hong Kong: Xianggang Zhongwen daxue, renwenxueke yanjiusuo, Xianggang wenhua yanjiu jihua, 1998.

    This book selects ninety modern Chinese poems from twenty-eight poets published in Hong Kong from 1948 to 1969, for their artistic achievement, historical significance, and documentary value. It includes prominent figures such as Leung Ping-kwan 梁秉鈞 (i.e., Yesi 也斯), Xi Xi 西西, and Shu Xiangcheng 舒巷城, as well as some lesser-known names like Haimian 海綿 and Wen Jianliu 溫健騮. William Tay provides a concise overview and introduction.

  • Lan Dizhi 藍棣之. Jiuye pai shixuan (九葉派詩選). Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 2011a.

    A work that revived critical interest in the Nine Leaves School, Lan Dizhi briefly delineates its history from the 1940s to the 1980s. A compilation of poems from Xin Di 辛笛, Chen Jingrong 陳敬容, Du Yunxie 杜運燮, Hang Yuehe 杭約赫, Zheng Min 鄭敏, Tang Qi 唐祈, Tang Shi 唐湜, Yuan Kejia 袁可嘉, and Mu Dan 穆旦.

  • Lan Dizhi 藍棣之. Xiandai pai shixuan (現代派詩選). Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 2011b.

    Starting with Bian Zhilin 卞之琳 and concluding with Zhao Luorui 趙蘿蕤, this anthology introduces thirty-one modernist poets and their poems written in the period of 1932–1937. Lan Dizhi offers brief discussions of the historical background, characteristics, development, and reception of modernist poetry.

  • Lan Dizhi 藍棣之. Xinyue pai shixuan (新月派詩選). Beijing: Remin wenxue chubanshe, 2011c.

    With an inclusive introduction to the Crescent Moon School that flourished from 1926 to 1933, this anthology selects poems from Xu Zhimo 徐志摩, Wen Yiduo 聞一多, Rao Mengkan 饒夢侃, Zhu Xiang 朱湘, Sun Dayu 孫大雨, Shao Xunmei 邵洵美, Fang Lingru 方令孺, Lin Huiyin 林徽因, Chen Mengjia 陳夢家, Fang Weide 方瑋德, Liang Zhen 梁鎮, Bian Zhilin, Yu Dagang 俞大綱, Shen Zumou 沈祖牟, Shen Congwen 沈從文, Yang Zihui 楊子惠, Zhu Da’nan 朱大楠, and Liu Mengwei 劉夢葦.

  • Li Qing 犁青, ed. Taiwan xiandai baijia shi (台灣現代百家詩). Guilin, China: Lijiang chubanshe, 1990.

    This anthology introduces more than one hundred Taiwanese poets, from Qin Zihao (Chin Tzu-hao, 覃子豪) to Tian Yunliang (T’ien Yünliang 田運良), with a short biography for every poet before their selected poems. It is one of the earliest anthropological studies of Taiwanese poetry published in mainland China.

  • Liu Shahe 流沙河. Taiwan shiren shi’er jia (台灣詩人十二家). Chongqing, China: Chongqing chubanshe, 1983.

    Bearing great historical significance, this was the first anthology that introduced modern Taiwanese poets to mainland China. With wit, passion, and mischievous humor, Liu Shahe offers a concise introduction for every poet: Ji Xian 紀弦, Yang Lingye 羊令野, Yu Guangzhong (Yü Kwang-chung 余光中), Luo Fu 洛夫, Ya Xian 痖弦, Bai Qiu 白萩, Yang Mu 楊牧, Wai-lim Yip 葉維廉, Luo Men (Lo Men 羅門), Shang Qin 商禽, Zheng Chouyu (Cheng Chou-yu 鄭愁予), and Gao Zhun 高準.

  • Sun Yushi 孫玉石. Xiangzheng pai shixuan (象徵派詩選). Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1986.

    This anthology mainly collects the poems of Chinese symbolists in 1920s China, including Li Jinfa 李金髮, Wang Duqing 王獨清, Mu Mutian 穆木天, Feng Naichao 馮乃超, Hu Yepin 胡也頻, Shi Min 石民, and Zhang Jiaji 張家驥. In the introduction, Sun Yushi addresses in great detail Li Jinfa’s contribution to Chinese symbolist poetry.

  • Xiang Yang 向陽, Bai Ling 白靈, Chen Yizhi (Chen I-chih 陳義芝), Jiao Tong 焦桐, and Xiao Xiao 蕭蕭, eds. Xinshiji xinshidai shixuan (新世紀新世代詩選). Taibei: Jiuge chubanshe, 2022.

    This two-volume anthology is the first collection of poetry written by the younger generations of Taiwanese poets, born in the 1980s and the 1990s. It includes fifty-two rising poets, such as Liao Qiyu (Liao Chi-Yu 廖啟余), Yang Zhijie (Yang Chih-Chieh 楊智傑), Xu Peifen (Hsu Pei-Fen 徐佩芬), and Lin Yuxuan (Lin Yu-hsuan 林宇軒). Each set of poems is followed by a short statement by each poet and a review of their works.

  • Yang Mu 楊牧 and Zheng Shusen (William Tay) 鄭樹森, eds. Xiandai Zhongguo shi xuan (現代中國詩選). 2 vols. Taibei: Hongfan shudian, 1989.

    This two-volume anthology is one of the most authoritative selections of modern Chinese poetry written by poets from mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Ninety-seven poets from Shen Yimo 沈伊默to Luo Ye 羅葉 are included. The editors’ introduction explores the historical evolution and significance of vernacular/new/modern poetry in the context of 20th-century Chinese literary history.

  • Zhu Ziqing 朱自清, ed. Zhongguo xinwenxue daxi: Shiji (中國新文學大系·詩集). Shanghai: Liangyou, 1935.

    This volume from the Compendium of Chinese New Literature (by editor-in-chief Zhao Jiabi) collects fifty-nine important poets (starting with Hu Shi and ending with Shao Xunmei), with 400 poems written during and after the New Cultural Movement. Zhu Ziqing offers a comprehensive introduction to the first ten years (1917–1927) of New Poetry. It represents a formidable effort in canonizing the vernacular poets and their works in the early stages of the development.

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