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A retired Aussie programmer from Sydney, I am an ardent traveller, student of things Chinese, and in retirement both an online teacher and online MOOC student. I write mostly about travel and experiences in China, and of interaction with Asian culture and people. Don’t expect controversy because, like a cat in a puddle, I tread carefully - but sometimes I just might throw in a ‘googly’!
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Can someone explain to me Xu Zhimo's reputation and popularity?    

By LaoGui 老鬼的博客
182 Views | 2 Comments | 11/2/2019 12:12:28 PM

Wiki commons xu zhimo

Could someone who has been through the Chinese education explain to me how Xu Zhimo's poetry is taught and analysed and explained in the Chinese schooling system?  As part of my never-ending Chinese study I recently followed up on the brief poem By Chance 偶然 which I had liked so much,  and read others of Xu Zhimo, including the mandatory Second Farewell to Cambridge.  Xu Zhimo seems to be rated as a great modern Chinese poet, and is studied in junior or middle schools in China.  My reading of him reveals no strong reason for such a high rating, pleasant reading but not much more.  So why is he rated highly and spoon or force fed to Chinese students?

I asked one of my students whether she had studied this particular poem and what had been said of it, to which she replied she had, but had never understood why it was important.



Of my own early schooling I recall a poem which was also force-fed to us and which those of my vintage probably recall  - the 1908 poem of Dorothea McKellar: My Country.  It is apt for two reasons: firstly it commences set in England, but then turns to the Australian drought-stricken countryside, which provides the second reason, the dire and unbroken drought our farmers are suffering right now.  Unlike the poem My Country, there is no sign of a break in the drought.

Xu Zhimo's poem (1921?) is also set in England, Cambridge to be precise, but there is no sign of China in this poem, which yet is acclaimed by Chinese commentators claiming that the Chinese sentiment and feelings cannot be revealed in English.  I cannot see any deep significance in the Chinese either, but it goes without saying that a laowai cannot understand the deep hidden richness of the Chinese even if he can read it.  



So my question is: Why is a light, pleasant, sentimental Chinese poem set in an English university held in such high regard?  Can anyone help me in my understanding?



 



Zai bie kam qiao 再別康橋 - Farewell to Cambridge again



The youtube below is a vocal and piano version, followed by the last verse:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0Hqg725h48



蔡琴---再別康橋



悄悄的我走了,

正如我悄悄的來;

我揮一揮衣袖,

不帶走一片雲彩。



The poem is said to stem from an affair with Lin Huiyin, and the following youtube is just for interest, providing something of the background to the affair which led to a historic and scandalous Western divorce...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_mNy0CGetM



 



Ouran - By Chance. An extract



I am a cloud in the sky,

that shadows your stirred heart by chance.

No need for you to feel surprise,

still less to be delighted,

in a flash, every trace of me will be gone.



Several musical versions may be heard at:



http://ling-lingchinese.com/2015/02/15/a-chinese-poem-by-chance-%E5%81%B6%E7%84%B6/



 



My Country



Reading and hearing My Country again after 60 years I feel it is also rather sentimental, and the insistence on the rhythmic pattern a little obvious, but the imagery is evocative.



Core of my heart, my country!

Her pitiless blue sky,

When, sick at heart, around us

We see the cattle die

But then the grey clouds gather,

And we can bless again

The drumming of an army,

The steady soaking rain.



Below is a choral adaptation, and the full poem:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86TKK81EwJ4



https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/my-country/



Cambridge Image attribution:By Cmglee - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15148973


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(Showing 1 to 2 of 2) 1
#2019-11-02 12:17:04 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

I don't have anything to add to this posting because I am not aware of the poet nor familiar with his work. 

But I do want members to please not try to take the discussion into political matters or criticism of China nor Chinese people. Comments that attempt to do that will not be approved.

#2019-11-03 08:02:13 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

There are many reasons as to why certain poems, phrases, sayings, etc, are used in certain cultures as well as all over the world.

For instance, who has never heard 'Row, row, row your boat....'?

Why are we all familiar with the question, 'If a tree falls in a forest and no-one's there to hear it, does it make a sound?'

Or why is it that some of the most critically acclaimed literary works are nothing but complete garbage?

Riding on a bus yesterday I saw a billboard that had the words, 'Let us all enjoy the blue sky together' (In CHINA? Blue Sky?, haha)

China does have some very 'flowery' sayings, and, like many cultures, pays reverance to certain cultural figures who are notorious for their non-sensical sayings and phrases.

Why is Shakespeare so famous? 90% of what he wrote is complete rubbish.

I could offer my reasons for some of these 'anomolies', but I fear they may be too 'deep' for some readers.

 

 

 

 

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