Welcome to the World Wide Web Home page of Road to East Asia
Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
Vol.2, no. 1 November, 1996
In "The Bank," Bei Dao compares life to a river, with a past (upstream), a current position, and a future to which it journeys. While the river is constantly flowing past, changing and evolving, it rejects full comprehension. Looking at the "bewitching foam" and the stars' reflections, the poet thinks of the ups and downs of human lives and captures the awe we feel for the mysterious universe around us. "[I]t is you who keeps watch on each wave," he writes; "when the sobbing moon strikes up an age-old shanty/it is so forlorn."
There is also a history, a story, behind the things we experience in Gu Cheng's world. The poet stirs feelings of appreciation for the time it takes for something to mature and develop in "For My Revered Master Hans Andersen." He compares wood shavings to waves disappearing into the horizon, and "wood grain" to "rhythmic lines," bringing "with it the greeting of months and years."
Both Bei Dao and Gu Cheng strive to provide a spiritual shelter for the young. Bei Dao says he is "a bank" and "a fishing haven," a solitary figure from whom others seek solace and emotional anchorage. He stretches out his arms to embrace impoverished children who return in their "little boats/bringing back a string of lamps." The "harbor" Gu Cheng creates for them is a story-book Never-Never Land decorated with "dream balloons," for which children yearn. To him, their love is more precious than the greatest riches possessed by any emperor on earth.
The love Shu Ting expresses in "Goodbye in the Rain" is of a romantic or metaphorical nature. She speaks of the hurt she feels at a parting scene. It is a touching moment which appeals to anyone who has lost a close friend or fails to reach a lifelong goal, be it a liberated China or personal aspiration to happiness.
On the whole, self-expression is the hallmark of this trio. Although their poems are written in distinctly differing styles, they are devoid of hostility or explicit political ideology to provoke the reader. Only impressions of human tenderness remain.
Bei Dao. "The Bank." Trans. Bonnie S. McDougall. Trees on the Mountain. Ed. Stephen Soong
Gu Cheng. "For My Revered Master Hans Andersen." Trans. Tao Tao Liu, Sean Golden et al.
Shu Ting. "Goodbye in the Rain." Trans. Tao Tao Liu. Trees on the Mountain.
Ed. Stephen Soong