ACROSS THE HIMALAYAN GAP
Tagore and China
CHINESE NEW POETRY
arrival of Tagore in international literary scene just preceded China’s
New Cultural Movement in the wake of the student demonstrations on May
Fourth, 1919. Which is thus known as the May Fourth Movement. An important
thrust of this movement was to launch a new literature called “baihua
wenxue” (colloquial literature). While it was relatively easy to
develop a new colloquial prose literature because of the existence of famous
classical novels the language of which was already colloquial enough to
serve as a model, the task of building up a new poetry was hard as there had
been no genre of colloquial poetry in Chinese literature to be emulated.
Tagore was a godsend to the pioneers of China’s new poetry.
Chinese poetic genii should focus their attention on Tagore is easy to
explain. First, Tagore won the Nobel Prize by his masterpiece of poetry, and
his Gitanjali and The Crescent
Moon have won ovation in the poetic circles of the world even including
Britain - the leader of modern poetry at that time. Second, Tagore was a
fellow-Asian, hence his symbolism sounded more familiar and attractive to
Chinese writers. Third, Tagore’s example of being a writer of a humble,
defeated culture risen to the fore-front of world literature was all the
more inspiring to those who were searching for a new form of Chinese poetry
in order to create a new Chinese culture so that the nation could keep
abreast with the modern world. Fourth, Tagore’s visit to China in 1924 and
the “Tagore wave” created by this visit also contributed to the
writers’enthusiasm in emulating Tagore.
influence on Chinese intellectual trend was highlighted by the rise of a new
school within the New Cultural Movement – the “Crescent
Moon School” (xinyuepal).That
this Crescent Moon School had its
own special distinction can be illustrated from the correspondence of two
liberal intellectuals, Luo Longji and Hu Shi. Luo wrote to Hu on May 5, 1931
that he had read an article in a daily newspaper of Shanghai - Minbao (People’s newspaper) which was “supposed to be a leftist
paper”- in which it said : “Today in China” three ideologies hold the
triangular balances: (1) Communism, (2) the “Crescent Moon” school, and
(3) the Three Principles which refers to the ideology of Kuomintang.
“After reporting this Luo expressed his surprise that “I have never
thought the ‘Crescent Moon’ could have such an importance.”
Of course, to depict The Crescent Moon
School as a counter-weight between the two giant rivals of Kuomintang
and the communists appears to be an exaggeration out of proportion. However,
the newspaper article does reflect the
importance of the Crescent Moon School
in China’s intellectual life of that time. The Crescent Moon School was
essentially a stream of literary trend. More
precisely, it was a forum of a group of poets who had imbibed a measure
of influence of Tagore, hence their not objecting to be branded by the title
of aTagore anthology.This School, however, had the association of Hu Shi,
who was also a leader of the May Fourth Movement and an outstanding liberal
intellectual who appeared to have kept aloof of the political contention
between Kuomintang and CPC at that time. This might be the source of the
above-cited exaggerated account of the standing of The
crescent moon school. Tagore’s admirers among Chinese intellectuals
cannot be slighted.
real force behind The Crescent Moon
School, of course, was not Hu Shi, But Xu Zhimo (Elmhirsf’s “Shu
Tsemou”) (1886. 1931) who acted as a host and interpreter toTagore during
the latter’s China visit in 1924. Xu wore an Indian cap in the Tagore
functions. He also converted a room in his Shanghai residence into Indian
style where there were no tables nor chairs, but only carpets and cushions.
His friends were quite shocked to see Xu Zhimo “rolling on the floor”. Xu died young by a tragic
accident which cut short a career of great poetic talent. If he had lived as
long as many of his contemporaries had lived, his role in the history of
modern Chinese literature would have been greater than what is known. So
also: Tagore’s influence on China’s new poetry would have been more
pronounced than what is known.
Xu Zhimo, there was a mini-version of Tagore. Rich, talented, romantic,
exposed to progressive ideas but not plunging into the political activities.
Not unlike Tagore in his young days, Xu Zhimo had tender feelings for
fellow-beings, was inclined towards the charm of Nature, but knew how to
make the best in material life. He was a potential Chinese Tagore being
wiped out in his formative stage by ill fortune.
all authors in China’s new poetry, Xu Zhimo and Xie Bingxin have held out
as poets cast in the typical Tagorean mould. One of Xu’s last poems
composed in the end of 1930 wes a poem dedicated to Hu Shi (his friend.
philosopher and guide) entitled “Aide
linggan”(Inspiration of love), which is at once a replica of Gitanjali.
This is a long prose poem in communion with the invisible spirit, It ends
with a typical Tagorean touch:
flight of Xu Zhimo’s’inspiration of love” is going the same direction
of Tagore’s Gitanjali. In the
end of Gitanjai: Tagore takes
search for idealism is an eternal theme in Tagore’s poems. “In desperate
hope I go and search for her in all corners of my room: I find her not.” (Gitanjali,
poem 87) Xu Zhimo’s poetry joins such a search:
this poem entitled Where is she?
Xu Zhimo gives enough indications that his search for her is exactly
Tagore’s search. There are the “crescent moon”, the “lotus”, the
“adolescent heart”, the “naive artlessness”, and the “quintessence
of Nature”- all Tagorean symbols of idealism.
was fond of roses. Whether Xu Zhimo had the same love for roses we do not
know. But, in interliterariness there is the phenomenon which I call the
“telepathic transference of imagery”. For instance, the use of the
garland is a part of daily life in India, while the practice was totally
absent in China. Yet, we notice that in modern Chinese poetry (as well as in
prose) the symbolism of garland is not infrequently resorted to by writers.
We have no doubt that this is an Indian import - an import of the imagery
without its material entity. In poetic inspiration there is always the
tendency of going for the unreal and abstract. The ancient Chinese poets had
a favourable symbolism in the “celestial gate” although no one had ever
been there. The “Cupid’s arrow” is another foreign import into Chinese
literary vocabulary but very few Chinese writers who use this symbolism have
ever seen any drawing of the winged angels as depicted in the Roman legends,
let alone ever experiencing such a weapon. In this way, we find Xu Zhimo
experiencing the Telepathic Transference of Imagery from Tagore by indulging
in the symbolism of the roses in his poem “Qing si” (Death of love)
which is another unmistaken echo of Tagore:
course, Tagore would not have been so abrasive, blunt and outspoken. Tagore
seldom talked about “bleed” in his poems, particularly associating blood
with beauty and love. “I am your captive” is a Tagorean theme, but
Tagore would say it differently: “Thou hast taken every moment of my life
in thine own hands. Hidden in the heart of things thou art nourishing seeds
into sprouts, buds into blossoms, and ripening flowers into fruitfulness.”
(Gitanjali, verse 81) The flowers,
the Creator, Nature, men, ‘You’. “me”, these are the eternal bonds
between Tagore and Xu Zhimo.
Singing hymns was poet
Tagore’s obsession. So did Xu Zhimo take it as a poets duty. But, we see
sometimes the Chinese disciple’s sense of rebellion against this Tagorean
sainthood in poetry. This comes out dearly in Xu’s piece “words of
groan” (Shenyin vu):
Zhimo’s poetry, in a sense, provides a development of the Tagorean muse
across the Himalayas, which is the phenomenon of horizontal continuity in
interliterariness. Like the transplantation of vegetation which develops new
features in a new habitat, the Tagorean elements were bound to transform
when they grew in China’s new poetry. As the above poem of Xu Zhimo
indicates, the young Chinese poet could not preserve the cool of his Indian
mentor, even if he wished to emulate Tagore to perfection. But, Xu, never
probably, had the pretension of doing so. For, his was a turbulent universe.
His country was in turmoil where no Santiniketan could have existed. But,
this could not spiritually separate Xu Zhimo from Tagore. Even in the
boiling pot of his life, Xu had his longing for Tagore and his Santiniketan.
This is what we can make out from his piece entitled “Tianguode
xiaoxi” (News from the Celestial Kingdom), which reads :
Zhimo was in India, and did visit Santiniketan. In this poem we a visid
depiction of Tagore’s “Abode o/Peace”. What had Xu in mind when he
talked about the Celestial Kingdom” we do not know. In Chinese tradition
the paradise often points to the direction of India - the Kingdom of the
Buddha. In any way, Xu Zhimo’s depicting a quietude and a innocent kids’
laughter bear the closest resemblance of Tagore’s “Santiniketan”. The
two poets are in communion with Nature and peace and ease of mind.
Moon School had its own publishing house - The
Crescent Moon Bookshop in Shanghai -which was run by Xu Zhimo and some
relatives and friends. In 1931, the bwkshop published China’s own Crescent
Moon anthology entitled Xinyue shixuan
(Selected poems of The Crescent Moon) edited by Chen Mengjjia, who was himself a poet.
The anthology formally launched the poets of The Crescent Moon School, and symbolized the sprouting of Tagore’s
seed in China’s new poetry. As this was one of the earliest anthologies of
modem Chinese poems, it had a pioneer role in the development of modern
poetry in China. The anthology is a selection of eighty poems from eighteen
authors. Apart from Xu Zhimo, a well-known poet, writer and scholar, Wen
Yiduo (18991946) also contributed. In the initial stage, Wen Yiduo was one
of the three pillars of The Crescent
Moon Society, along with Xu Zhimo and Hu Shi. But, later Wen grew tired of
Tagore and moved closer to the radical left. He was one of Tagore’s
critics on the eve of Tagore’s visit to China. But, his Criticism of
Tagore” penned in 1923 did not prevent him from contributing to the
Chinese Crescent Moon anthology in 1931. Further more, among the six pieces
contributed by WenYtduo, half are the Gifanjali
type of prose poems. ‘vige guannian”
(An idea) begins thus:
poem also contains a few lines which look like Wen Yiduo’s conversation
with Tagore. First, there was Tagore:
Chinese Crescent Moon anthology
does not carry Wen Yiduo’s piece of “Mod” (The end) which is at once
the echo of Tagore’s piece of the same title in The
CrescentMoon. Here isWren’s voice:“1 set up a fire in my heart,
waiting quietly for a distant guest”. “The guest is already before me, I
close my eyelids and follow the guests steps.”
Again there is Sino-Indian communion between Wen Yiduo and Tagore with the
former wishing to low” the latter like a disciple.
poets deal with the theme of life’s voidness. There is the yawning gap
between illusion and reality. All poets share the sense of regret of not
having the right choice of the timing of their life and death. Thus they
hang in the balance in men’s awkward existence. In this respect,
Tagore’s mood is usually more gracious, while WenYiduo cannot bear the
human dilemma without scorn. Here, there is scope to compare the two ways of
life. Tagore, in his desperate moment cries out: “Oh, dip my emptied life
into that ocean, plunge it into the deepest fullness. Let me for once feel
that lost sweet touch in the allness of the universe.” (Gitanjali, verse 97) To this Wen Yiduo echoes:
Wen Yiduo approaches death with a Tagorean romanticism which even outshines
that of the Indian master.
can have another round of comparison. Like the above verse of Wen titled
“si” (Death), the 86th verse of Gitanjati
is exclusively devoted to the theme of “death”. In the verse, Tagore
describes the call of the messenger of Death: “The night is dark and my
heart is fearful -yet I will take up the lamp, open my gates and bow to him
my welcome”.“1 will worship him with folded hands, and with tears. I
will worship him placing at his feet the treasure of my heart. He will go
back with his errand done, leaving a dark shadow on my morning: and in my
desolate home only my forlorn self will remain as my last offering to
thee.” Forever at peace with life and death. Tagore conducts his feelings
with controlled emotions. Wen Yiduo, on the other hand, feels annoyed at the
idea of death in another poem (in contrast to the above romantic feelings
enshrined in his poem “Death”). He cries:
like Tagore, Wen Yiduo is prepared to obey me dictates of destiny. He sings
in his piece ‘Death”:
the same piece “Death”, Wen Yiduo has paraphrased Tagore : Oh, soul of
my soul, life of my life”.
This reminds us Gitanjali, verse 4
: “Life of my life, I shall ever try to keep my body pure”. There are
many other skilful adaptations of Tagore by Wen Yiduo. For instance, Tagore
sings : “I know not how thou singest, my master! I ever listen in silent
amazement.” (Gitanjali, verse 3)Then, Wen Yiduo emulates in his poem
“Mei yu ai” (Beauty and love):
sings in Gitanjali (verse
68):‘The sunbeam comes upon this earth of mine with arms outstretched and
stands at my door the live long day to carry back to thy feet clouds made of
my tears and sighs and songs.” Wen Yiduo imitates in his piece ‘Shijiande
Jiaoxun”(Lessons of time): “The
sun comes upon my bed, frightens away the spirit of dream. My worries of
yesterday vanish, those of today haven’t come yet.”
In the same poem Wen Yiduo resorts to the Telepathic Transference of Imagery
by singing: “At the moment time is all smile to me. I pray to him with
folded hands: ‘Grant me endless period!”
Here again is an echo of Tagore: “I will worship him with folded hands,
and with tears,” (Gitanjali,
verse 86). It remains doubtful whether Wen Yiduo had ever prayed with folded
hands. There is another puzzle in Wen’s poems when at two places he
mentions burning the sandal-wood in offering
which is a common Indian practice but, was hardly in vogue in Wen Yiduo’s
time at least, if Chinese had ever indulged in such extravagant ritual even
during the heyday of Buddhist conversion, simply because sandal-wood has
always been a luxurious rarity in China. The truth is that Wen Yiduo has
just acquired such Indian life details as poetic symbols. Why has he chosen
to do it should be attributed to Indian cultural influence either through
Tagore or through his profound knowledge of China’s Buddhist past.
Tagore poetry is the very devotion to God/Truth. Offering songs to God is
the essence ofTagore’s poetic life. “I am here to sing thee songs. In
this hall of thine I have a corner seat.” ‘When the hour strikes for thy
silent worship at the dark temple of midnight, command me, my master, to
stand before thee to sing.” (Gitanjali,
verse 15). In his master-piece, “Hongdou
bean), Wen Yiduo is seized by this Tagorean passion:
poetry is the reincarnation of happiness. When he wrote to Andrews in 1915,
Tagore said: “I knew I am Eternal, that I am ananda-rupam,
my true form is not of flesh or blood, but of joy,”
One of the highest embodiments of joy is Tagore’s verse 58 of Gitanjali:
Yiduo in his piece “Lessons of time” conceives “happiness” as “the
only truth of life”.
He has another short poem exclusively on “Happiness” (Kuaile)
being named after the “sun” and the “thunder”, his poetry carries a
strong impact of the brilliance of the celestial fire-ball. In Gitanjali
alone the powerful symbolism of the sun shines upon all the lines. “O
thou holy one, thou wakeful, come with thy light and thy thunder.” (verse
39) “O my sun ever-glorious!” (verse 80) “I came out on the chariot of
the first gleam of light”. (verse 12) Thy voice pour dawn in golden
streams breaking through the sky”. (verse 19) “All the lights ablaze,
golden pennons flying over thy car. (verse 41) “Under the golden canopy of
thine evening sky”. (verse 87) Verse 57 is specially devoted to the sun:
Yiduo was one the Chinese modern poets who had been infected by Tagore’s
powerful sun imagery. Like Tagore, Wen conceived the sun as the symbol of
treasure and brightness. In his poem “Chun’guang”(Spring/light)
poetry further personifies the sun. In his poem “Qiuse”(Aufumn co/ours),
Yiduo depicts: “the sun set in the evening with interesting scenarios. In
his poem “Huanghun”(Dusk), Wen sings:
another poem, Wen depicts: “The sun sets, responsibility closes its
eyes.” In yet another poem, he complains, “The evening sun hands the
poet over to the annoying night.”
Yiduo has two poems with the sun in their captions, One poem is “You swear
by the sun” which is a mockery of the fidelity of love which is also one
of The Crescent Moon poems. Another is “Tayang yin”(Song of the sun). This was composed when Wen was a
student in the U.S.A. It is a Tagorean poem but quite different from the
piece written by Tagore already quoted. There are twelve stanzas of the
poem. The first stanza complains about the ruthless revolution of the sun
which painfully pierces the heart of the poet. The second stanza depicts the
sun’s scorching power. The third stanza wishes the sun running faster to
free the poet from suffering the slow torture of life. The fourth stanza
likens the sun to the golden bird, and wishes to tide on it so that the poet
can see his home place once a day. The fifth stanza expresses the poet’s
nostalgia as the sun comes to him from the East. The seventh stanza
expresses the poet’s fellow-feeling that the sun is a vagabond like the
poet himself. The eighth stanza describes the sun as a restless
self-strengthening body. The tenth stanza defines the sun as the fire of
life which gives the Eastern Hemisphere its enthusiasm and the Western
Hemisphere its wisdom. In the twelfth and final stanza the poet wishes his
home not situated on the earth, but stays in the heaven.”
interesting poem of Wen Yiduo is entitled “Huangniao” (Yellow
bird) which is also a depiction of the sun implicitly. The sun that is
the yellow bird is seen by the poet as a brilliant fire bow shooting its
arrows like mad. He also likens the sun to an ambitious bird. The poem ends
with the hope that the sun builds up a palace of art to let the poet-a soul
losing his bearings-to have an early chance to settle down.
similar poem included in the Chinese Crescent
Moon is “Luori song” (Hymn to the setting-sun)
written by a lesser known poet, Zhu Da’nan. The poem depicts the sun as a
golden bird which emits vicious flames, but is forced to retreat, behind the
western mountains. The frogs are celebrating the victory in forcing the sun
If Wen Yiduo has already reduced Tagore’s powerful symbolism of the sun to
a half pitiable figure, Zhu Da’nan has brought it further down to the
symbol of defeat. It is not difficult to understand the Chinese poets’
resentment of the sun’s vicious heat, particularly its harm during
drought. Paradoxically, in India and in Tagore’s Santiniketan as well, the
sun is a much more vicious fire-arrow-shooting-monster than in any part of
China. Yet, Tagore should have never complained against the sun besides
eulogizing its light and life-giving power. This speaks out the contrast of
Indian idealism with religious devotion against the Chinese pragmatism with
down-to-earth lifestyle. This explains the impact of transposition of
symbolism to a different cultural milieu.
Crescent Moon poet worth mentioning was Shao Xunmei who also cast his poetry
in the Tagorean mould. His “Nuren” (Woman) in The Crescent Moon
anthology is also a Gifanjali
is one little lovely poem of Shao Xunmei which is notjncluded in the Chinese
Crescent Moon anthology. The poem begins, thus, with the first line
repeating its title:
chemicals of this little poetic crystal must have come from the following
lines of Tagore’s Stray Birds. “The artist is
the lover of Nature, therefore he is her slave and her master.‘(verse 86)
“The great earth makes herself hospitable with the help of the grass.”
91) The woodcutters axe begged for its handle from the tree. The tree gave
it.” (verse 71) Thus, the Tagore-Shao affinity is established.
the above illustrations prove the strong input of Tagorean inspiration in
the Chinese Crescent Moon School. In the first place, we cannot imagine the
emergence of a school named after Tagore’s work without the poets’
having really inspired by The Crescent
Moon and other works of Tagore. Secondly, Tagore’s popularity in China
way back in the 1920s was testified to by Xu Zhimo and Wen Yiduo. Xu Zhimo
wrote in i924 that out every ten new-wave poems in China eight or nine bear
the imprint of Tagore’s influence, and that the teenage school pupils were
fond of reading Tagore’s works in Chinese translations.
Wen Yiduo supplemented Xu Zhimo’s testimony by saying in 1923 that
“almost every word of Tagore has been transported to Chinese language”.
Of course, what Wen Yiduo meant was that Tagore’s works available in
English had a good many takers by Chinese translators because the language
of Tagore was simple and his meaning deep. Even in his critical article of
Tagore, Wen Yiduo respected Tagore as a great philosopher, but did not think
much of Tagore’s artistic achievement. Here again, Wen Yiduo was not aware
of and could not read Tagore’s works in Bengali. Even then, the Chinese
new-wave poets had already found a lot of food for thought in the available
English translations of Tagore. Hence, there is little surprise that the new
Chinese poets in the 1920s and 1930s had echoed so much of Tagore’s ideas
revolutionary change which the avant
garde poets of China have introduced in the new poetry (apart from the
use of colloquial language) is the adoption of Tagore’s style of
prose-poem which is the style of The
Crescent Moon anthology. There is yet another significant revolution
courtesy of Tagore’s influence. In early Chinese poetry the focal point is
“l” and “me” which is supplemented by “she/he” and
“her/him”, but seldom 7/ou’. In the few Tagore anthologies which had
wide circulation in China, like Gitanjali,
The Crescent Moon. Stray Birds,
the poet has highlighted “you” which at once strengthens the
purposiveness of the muse. The Chinese Crescent
Moon poets were quick in adopting
this Tagorean style. That is why many pieces written by them both inside The
Crescent Moon anthology and outside it look like taking a leaf out of
Tagore’s Gifanjaliand other works. We have already had examples of Wen
Yiduo in this respect as an illustration of this point. We can have more
examples of this kind. A typical Gitanjali type of poem in The Chinese
Crescent Moon anthology is ‘Zou” (Go) composed by Rao Mengkan .The
verse has four lines of prose form with the second and fourth lines rhymed,
and same number of words both in the first and third lines, and in the
second and fourth lines. This shows that the poet wished to give it a
distinct verse form while adopting the technology of the prose-poem
liberalization. The poem reads:
Xunmei’s piece “Jihou” (Seasons) in The
Crescent Moon anthology provides another example of the Tagorean
again, the poem shows the authors care for rhyme and metric uniformity. But,
it is the Tagorean framework with a little finishing. Yet, the top-most
Tagorean poem in the anthology is the opening piece ‘Wo denghou ni” (I
wait for you) composed by XU Zhimo. If translated with skill this poem can merge
intoTagore’s works without any trace of its foreign origin. It is too long
to quote in full. But, glimpses of it can be provided below:
these lines not comparable to those penned by Rabindranath?
with Tagore could not be surpassed by the poetry of Xie Bingxin. a poetess
of modem China, who was as famous as
other leading writers. Xie Bingxin, or Bingxin, was particularly impressed
by the StrayBirds, which made her compose Fanxing (Crowded stars) in 1921 and Chunshui (Spring water) in 1922 -Win Chinese replicas of Stray
Birds. Let us see some specimens of the poetess’ masterpieces:
is, indeed, the Tagorean touch in these lines, soft-spoken, tender feelings,
the poetess’ finding complete harmony with Nature, trying to keep away the
discordant notes of life from the symphony, In this sense, Xie Bingxin’s
inheritance from Tagore was
than all The Crescent Moon poets
putting together. While The Crescent
Moon poets have learnt from Tagore’s technique, Xie Bingxin alone
imbibed Tagore’s poetic soul. In Xie Bingxin’s poems, Tagore’s voice
is transformed into Chinese language and female softness, Her anthologies of
Crowded Stars and Spring
Water were exceedingly popular in the 1930s and 1940s particularly among
younger readers. This indirectly spread the Tagorean message of harmony and
peace among Chinese intellectuals.
we have not introduced the Chinese writer who had received the maximum
influence from Tagore. His name was Guo Memo (1692-1976) whose stature in
the cultural scene of modern China can match with that of Tagore in modem
India. Guo Moruo had a fruitful career of creative writing. He was almost as
versatile as Tagore, was a poet, play wright, historian, archaeologist,
educationist, and political activist. His position in the early decades of
the People’s Republic of China was like that of Gorky in the Soviet Union.
He held the Presidency of the Chinese Academy of Sciences for life, a rare
distinction to match with the eminence of Zhou Enlai who was the first
Premier of the People’s Republic till his death. During the Cultural
Revolution, Guo Moruo, again like Zhou Enlai, was almost the lone eminent
intellectual who could save his skin. The reason was that Chairman Mao
Zedong had a binding love and respect for him. The two often composed
classical poems together which figured as great cultural events in Communist
China. No one could imagine that such an eminent career would not have been
there at all if Tagore had not written The
It was more than a coincidence that when Guo Moruo arrived in the modern world in search of a career, Tagore had just arrived as a Nobel laureate. Japan played an important role in connecting these two. How Tagore’s writings had entered the life of Guo Moruo
already been illustrated in the preceding essay by Sisir Das. Guo Moruo and
Tan Yun-shan (founder-director of Visva-Bharati Cheena-Bhavana), were the
two unique Chinese intellectuals who had Tagore entering into their life at
a crucial juncture. Tan Yun-shan would have followed his radical Hunan
school-mates to France (and, then, to Marxism most likely) had he not met
Tagore in Singapore in 1927,That eventful meeting with the Indian poet
transformed his life and career into that of a “modern Xuanzang”. Guo
Moruo never met Tagore. And unlike Tan Yun-shan, Guo was destined to embrace
Marxism in any way - Tagore or no Tagore. Yet, if there had not been Tagore
we might not have heard of Guo Moruo at all, thus, I think the Tagore-Guo
affinity is an equally historic example as the Tagore-Tan affinity both of
which deserve to be highlighted in any discourse of Sine-Indian cultural
has already been pointed out, Tagore entered Guo Moruo’s heart when Guo
stood at the cross-road of life. Between 1916 17, Guo was alternately seized
by the desire of committing suicide or becoming a monk. The wreckage of his
mind is described by a poem of classical style composed by him in 1916
entitled “Ye ku”(Weeping at night). The poem also outlines the reasons
which drove him to the brink of suicide. We can take a look of them:
interesting episode was Guo Moruo’s composing two poems on the theme of
suicide at about the same time. One
poem written in the classical style, entitled “Xunsi”(Seekiing death)
was definitely composed in Okayama in 1916.The other poem written in new
style entitled “Side youhuo” (Enticement of death). Guo gave the years of 1916
and 1916 as the possible lime of the latter’s composition.
A comparison of the two poems can help us reconstruct the turning point in
Guo Moruo’s life, as well as the moral influence exercised by Tagore on
Guo Moruo. First, the poem of the classical style which surely was an
earlier composition than the other, is a narrative of his going out of the
house to end his life. But, he won’t know where he should go, and he
sighed repeatedly as he proceeded. As life was hard to live, death became
relatively easy for him, he thought. He had ambitions to become a tiger, but
ended in surviving like a dog, However, he still had his country and family
in mind, and decided to endure longer in mankind. When he returned to the
house, he saw his Japanese wife all in tears.
other poem on suicide written in the modern style is a product of entirely
different psyche. The poem
in the first poem Guo Moruo was still under the impact of the threat of
suicide, in the second poem the situation changed. The threat of death
remained, but the poets mentality had undergone a transformation. He had
become a Tagorean poet, a poet-philosopher. In the poem he looked at the
threat of death in a romantic spirit. His understanding of the meaning of
living was tinged with a philosophical attitude. Yes, there is the
enticement of death, but a philosopher who sees clearly the empty promise in
that will not fail into the trap. The composition of this poem “Side
youhua” thus became the turning
point of Guo’s life. He had acquired strength to endure the torture of
life, for he realized now that death was no solution to the problems which
he had, been facing. After composing the poem, both the knife and the sea
became harmless to his life as he had decided not to be enticed, hence they
would not pose as threats to him any more.
Moruo himself wrote in his 1923 reminiscence that in the darkest years of
his life, he had tried solutions by reading the writings of Chinese
philosophers like Zhuangzi and Wang Yangming, by daily chanting the Old and
New Testaments, by practising meditation with every little effect. It was
only after reading Tagore’s Gitanjali,
The Gardener, Raja (The king of the Dark Chamber), and the Hundred Poems
of Tagore from the Ukayama Library in 1916 that he had suddenly discovered
“the life of life”, and the fountain of life”. When he was reading
Tagore, a “tranquil sadness” emerged within and outside his body. “I
was enjoying the joy of nirvana”, said Guo.
So, it was Tagore who had removed the threat to Guo Moruo’s life and
enabled such a great career to blossom to its natural end.
Guo Moruo himself put a foot-note to the poem ‘Side youhuo” in these
words: ‘This was my earliest poem, probably written in the Summer of
I have mentioned a little while ago that Guo had in another place noted that
he had written this poem in 1916 along with some other poems. We know that
Guo had started composing poems in the classical style many years earlier
than his sojourn in Japan (his earliest poems published dated 1913 written
in his home province).There is a mistaken statement about this poem of the Enticement
of Death. But. if we try to understand Guo’s psychology, we can take
him as saying that this was the first (or one of the first) new poem he had
composed. The mistaken note also helps us to see that considerable
importance had Guo Moruo attached to this piece. In an autobiographical work
entitled Geming chunqiu (Revolutionary
annals), Guo Moruo divided his creative literary career into three
phases. The first phase was conceived by him as the period of the influence
of Tagore up till 1919, followed by two later phases when he was influenced
by Whitman and Goethe respectively.
Longji to Hu Shi, in Hu Shi micang
shuxin xue (Sections of Hu
Shi’s correspondence from his private collections) by Liang Xihua
(ed), Hong Kong, 1982, I, p, 368.
Shiqiu. “Guanyu, Xu Zhimo” (About Xu Zhimo), in Liang Shiqi xuanji (Selected works of Liang Shiqiu), Hong Kong, p.
Zbimo quanji (Collected
works of Xu Zhimo), Hong Kong, 1983, Shiji
(poetry), Vol. 1, p. 435.
1953, p. 94.
Poetry, Vol. I, pp. 137-88
(Grand collection of China’s new literature), shiji (poetry),
Shanghai. 1935, p. 330.
Vol. I, pp. 47-46.
Megjia (ad), Xinyue shixuan
(Selected poems of The Crescent Moon), Shanghai, 1931, p. 50.
xinwenxue daxi, op. cif, p. 256.
fiduo quanji(Collecteo works of Wen Yiduo), Beijing, 1982, Vol. Ill,
poem “Fengbo” (Trouble) and another poem Wouxi zhi hue” (Disaster
of games), in ibid. p. 234-38.
Sisirkumar Ghose (ed). Tagore for You,Visva-Bharati, Calcutta, 1964, p.
yiduo quanji, Vol.
III, p. 239.
 Ibid, p. 163.
 Ibid, pp. 266.70.
Xinwenxue daxi, Poetry, p,
Zhimo quanji, Vol.
IV, Pt. II, p. 164.
yiduo quanji, Vol.
III, p. 369.
 Xinyue shixuan, pp. 242-43
xinwenxue daxi, Poetry, pp. 136.36.
Moruo quanji (Collected works of Guo MONO), Beijing, 1982. Wenxue bran
(Literature), Vol. II, p. 429.
footnotes of ibid, Vol. I, p. 130, 136.
II, p. 430.
 42. Ibid, Vol. I, p. 137
Guangling, Lun faige’er, (On tagore), Beijing 1983, p. 63.
Moruo quanji, Lifemfwe, Vol. I, p. 138.
©1998 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without written permission of the publisher.
Published in 1998 by
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