Gu Cheng 1956–1993
Gu Cheng 1956–1993
CAREER: Worked variously as a carpenter, industrial painter, laborer, and editor. University of Auckland, New Zealand, teacher of Chinese language and literature.
(With Shu Ting) Shu Ting, Gu Cheng shu qing shi xuan, Fujian ren min chu ban she (Fuzhou, China), 1982.
Zhongguo ming shu gu shi (literary criticism), Chang chun shu shu fang (Taibei, China), 1984.
Ming mo nong min zhan zheng shi (Chinese history), Zhongguo she hui ke xue chu ban she (Peking, China), 1984.
Hei yan jing (poems; title means "Eyes of Darkness"), Ren min wen xue chu ban she (Beijing, China), 1986.
(With others) Chaoxian zhan zheng: kang Mei yuan chao zhan zheng di jun shi liao (five volumes; Chinese history), Heilongjiang chaoxian min zu chu ban she (Harbin, China), 1988.
Gu Chen shi ji (poems), Xin dichu ban she (Muzha, China), 1988.
(With wife, Xie Ye) Ying'er (novel), Zuo jia chu ban she (Beijing, China), Hua yi chu ban she (Beijing, China), 1993 translation published as Ying'er: The Kingdom of Daughters, Projekt (Dortmund, Germany), 1995.
Gu Cheng ton hua yu yan shi hsuän (poems), Hiyan chu ban she (Zhengzhou, China), 1993.
(With Xie Ye) Mu chuang: Gu Cheng, Xie Ye hai wai dai biao zuo pin ji (literary criticism), Zuo jia chu ban she (Beijing, China), 1993.
Gu Cheng san wen xuan ji (essays), Bai hua wen yi chu ban she (Tianjin, China), 1993.
Gu Cheng xin shi zi xuan ji: Hai lan, Bai hua wen yi chu ban she (Tianjin, China), 1993.
Gu Aiyuan wen gao: 4 juan, Shanghai shu dian (Shanghai, China), 1994.
(With Xie Ye and Huang Lifang) Meng long shi ren Gu Cheng zhi si, Hua cheng chu ban she (Guangzhou, China), 1994.
Ling tai du yu (poems), Dunhuang wen yi chu ban she (Lanzhou, China), 1994.
(With father, Gong Gu) Gu Cheng shi quan bian (poems), Sheng huo, du shu, xin zhi Shanghai san lian shu dian (Shanghai, China), 1995.
Nan Ming shi (Chinese history), Zhongguo qing nian chu ban she (Beijing, China), 1997.
Gu Cheng de shi (poems), Ren min wen xue chu ban she (Bejing, China), 1998.
Essays, Interviews, Recollections, and Unpublished Material of Gu Cheng, Twentieth-Century Chinese Poet: The Poetics of Death, edited by Li Xia, Edwin Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 1999.
Sea of Dreams: The Selected Writings of Gu Cheng, translation by Joseph R. Allen, introduction by Eliot Weinberger, New Directions (New York, NY), 2005.
Nameless Flowers: Selected Poems of Gu Cheng (poems and memoir), translation by Aaron Crippen, photographs by Hai Bo, George Braziller (New York, NY), 2005.
Work represented in anthologies, including The Splintered Mirror: Chinese Poetry from the Democracy Movement, translation by Donald Finkel and Carolyn Kizer, North Point Press, 1991, published as A Splintered Mirror: A National Tour by Four Chinese Poets, May 13-May 21, 1992, New York, San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose, Okeanos Press (Berkeley, CA), 1992.
SIDELIGHTS: Gu Cheng was one of the Chinese group known as the "misty" poets, writers who challenged the tenets of Communism and who introduced the notion of expressing subjective ideas in their poetry. Li Xia, who edited Essays, Interviews, Recollections, and Unpublished Material of Gu Cheng, Twentieth-Century Chinese Poet: The Poetics of Death, wrote that "each part of the study focuses on a particular aspect in a comprehensive portrait of the poet as a paradigm of a generation of writers at the crossroads of Chinese history and culture, past and future."
Gu Cheng, son of Gu Gong—a poet who served with the Chinese army before the country's 1949 communist takeover—began writing poetry as a child in Shandong Province. His family had been exiled to the rural community in 1969, during the Cultural Revolution. In 1974 he returned to Beijing, where he was assigned to a street-repair crew as a carpenter, a job he held until 1979. His first collection of poetry was published in 1986.
Judith Shapiro and Liang Heng noted in the New York Times Book Review that, following Chinese leader Mao Zegong's death in 1976, Gu and his generation of writers and poets "raised issues that older writers were too numb or terrorized to ask: questions about the meaning of life, the role of literature, the nature of the self. But in a country in which artists were supposed to be 'engineers of human souls' and the purpose of literary works to inculcate readers with socialist values and enthusiasm for the socialist causes, these matters were not just delicate ones; they challenged the legitimacy of the party and the fundamental values on which its authority rested."
Unable to concentrate on any activity but his poetry, the unemployed Gu left for Europe in 1987, then immigrated to New Zealand in 1988, where he taught Chinese language and literature and raised chickens. Living in semi-isolation, his marriage suffered, and it has been documented that both he and his wife took lovers. In 1993, Gu murdered his wife and committed suicide.
Gu's work has been translated into many languages. One of these is Selected Poems by Gu Cheng, which was published during his lifetime. Michelle Yeh commented on the volume in World Literature Today, noting that many of Gu's early poems reflect his childhood poverty and the minute details that can be found in nature. She wrote that "in comparison, Gu's later work is more surrealistic and, to the editors, 'mystical.' The naturalistic, albeit personal and imaginative images in the early lyrics are replaced by a reality at once more fragmented, displaced, and impenetrable." Nameless Flowers: Selected Poems of Gu Cheng contains poems by Gu and his father, as well as memoirs of his life and the tragic events that led to his death.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Gu, Cheng, Nameless Flowers: Selected Poems of Gu Cheng (poems and memoir), translations by Aaron Crippen, photographs by Hai Bo, George Braziller (New York, NY), 2005.
Li, Xia, Essays, Interviews, Recollections and Unpublished Material of Gu Cheng, Twentieth-Century Chinese Poet: The Poetics of Death, Edwin Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 1999.
Tucker, Martin, editor, Literary Exile in the Twentieth Century: An Analysis and Biographical Dictionary, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1991.
Choice, April, 1994, Jeffrey C. Kinkley, review of Selected Poems by Gu Cheng, pp. 1249-1265.
New York Times Book Review, January 11, 1987, Judith Shapiro and Liang Heng, "Letter from China: Young Writers Test the Limits," pp. 3, 127.
Parnassus, spring, 2000, Joseph R. Allen, "On Gu Cheng," p. 379.
World Literature Today, winter, 1992, Michelle Yeh, review of Selected Poems by Gu Cheng, pp. 202-203.
University of Newcastle Web site, http://www.newcastle.edu.au/ (June 30, 2005), review of Essays, Interviews, Recollections, and Unpublished Material of Gu Cheng, Twentieth-Century Chinese Poet: The Poetics of Death.
Words without Borders Web site, http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/ (June 30, 2005), Gu Cheng biography.
Poet (film), Golden-Culture-Times.