Monday, April 5, 2010

from Scarlet Beads - Wen Yiduo

Wen Yiduo (1899-1946) lived during a tumultuous period of China's history: end of the Empire (1912), the Warlord period of the 1920s, the Japanese invasion  and WW II (1937-1945), and was assassinated in 1946 for his political activities as part of a democratic group caught between the Nationalists and the Communists.  Following graduation from Tsinghua University in Beijing (also my father's alma mater, class of 1937), Yiduo studied at The Art Institute of Chicago, later returning to China to teach and write.  I chose him for two reasons.  First, my father would have both read and known him - if not directly, then indirectly - because both were politically/patriotically active during the Japanese invasion/occupation (1937-1945), especially in Beijing in the period immediately following the invasion, and both were Tsinghua alumni, a very close-knit and connected group as graduates of China's top university.  Secondly, because I love the last stanza.

We are one body!
Our union
Is as round and perfect as the globe.
But you are the Eastern hemisphere,
And I the Western,
The tears that we ourselves have shed
Made this vast Pacific,
Cutting us in two.


I send these poems to you,
Even if you do not know all the words,
It doesn’t matter.
With your fingers you can
Gently caress them,
Like a doctor feeling a patient’s pulse,
Perhaps you can detect in
Their excited pulsations
The same rhythm as your own heart-beats.


Do you understand?
We are a pair of red candles
Shining on a wedding feast for guests;
We stand at opposite corners
Of the table,
Quietly burning away our lives,
Companions to their pleasure.
When they have eaten,
Our lives will have burnt away.
                                                                             Wen Yiduo  - Chinese

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