About the translator: Dr. Hong Zeng is Assistant Professor of Chinese Literature at Carleton College. She earned her first Ph.D. from the Department of English at Beijing Foreign Studies University, and her second Ph.D. in Chinese Language and Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.2005 0-7734-5966-9
Hai Zi, originally named Cha Haisheng, had published a large amount of outstanding poetry from 1984-1989 and was regarding as one of the major contemporary Chinese poets. In March 1989, he committed suicide by laying himself on a railroad track at Beijing Shan Hai Guan at the age of 25.
Hai Zi’s poetry seems to be anachronism. China has been through a great change, and the traditional countryside is disappearing with the large migration of peasants from villages to cities. Economic reform and consumerism are fast developing. Hai Zi’s nostalgia for the vanishing agricultural culture makes him an anachronism. His poetry still lives on the traditional Chinese agricultural landscape and mindscape, and the 19th century European idea of divine inspiration; that the genesis of poetry is analogous to the genesis of the universe; poetry comes from a divine spark; the poet is no less than a god, and his limited human body consumes itself to feed that divine essence in him. In his poems we may find Nietzsche’s idea of Zagreus; the descent of the world from a mythical oneness and the throes of individuation; Hölderlin’s same idea of cosmic descent and departing gods.2004 0-7734-6430-1
This work is a deconstructive reading of the prevalent views on Chinese natural philosophy (Taoism and Zen Buddhism) and its impact on Chinese literature and arts (classical Chinese poetry, painting, novels; modern Chinese and American poetry, and contemporary Chinese film), especially its impact on Chinese poetry. The serene, holistic vision of Chinese natural philosophy has been so deep rooted and rarely challenged that it has become a myth. Since Taoism and Zen Buddhism have been major influences on classical Chinese arts and poetry, which in turn influence modern Chinese and American poetry, the myth is perpetuated in views held about all these art forms, and is reflected in the rarely disputed aesthetic characteristics pertaining to these creations: non-human centered perception, the loss of individual self in cosmic Self, an aesthetic attitude of silence, tranquility, emptiness and passivity, and unification of Chinese pictographic characters and Chinese language with the real-life world. It is also believed that temporality implicit in these poems conforms to the natural flux of the universe, and subjective time is rarely found in them.
The author’s deconstruction is unfolded through three interrelated aspects: time, subject and language. The deconstruction posits: a double, conflicting sense of temporality rather than a unified time consciousness characterizes Chinese natural philosophy, poetry and other art forms under its influence. The subject (self), instead of being a uniform one, which is at once absent and omnipresent as indicated by the syntax of classical Chinese poetry, is often divided against itself. As to language, instead of being a transparent language reflecting the real-life world unimpeded by human intellect, is often a plural text where linguistic characteristics are double-edged.
In other words, this work is a rethinking of Chinese natural philosophy and poetry under its impact: how their serene, holistic vision is undercut by intrinsic contradictions that are only partly redeemed by aesthetic means, which have their pitfalls that end in suffering as well as in celebration, thus aligns itself with tragic tradition, a mode always denied to the understanding of Chinese natural philosophy.
In this work, the author explored how the hidden ruptures in time, self and language latent in Chinese natural philosophy and classical Chinese poetry open up abysmal chasm in a well-known contemporary Chinese poet, Gu Cheng. The concluding chapter examines the affinity of Chinese natural philosophy and Western tradition of tragedy as a troubled passage from dualism to monism, in which sacrifice is involved, and the vision of integration is achieved at the cost of self-laceration.