Xu Zhimo

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Xu Zhimo
Xu Zhimo.jpg
Xu Zhimo
Born (1897-01-15)15 January 1897
Haining, Zhejiang
Died 19 November 1931(1931-11-19) (aged 34)
Tai'an, Shangdong
Cause of death
Plane crash
Alma mater
Spouse(s) Zhang Youyi (m.1915)
Lu Xiaoman (m.1926)
Relatives Jin Yong (cousin)

Xu Zhimo (Chinese: 徐志摩; pinyin: Xú Zhìmó; Wade–Giles: Hsü Chih-mo, January 15, 1897 – November 19, 1931) was an early 20th-century Chinese poet. He was given the name of Zhangxu (章垿) and the courtesy name of Yousen (槱森). He later changed his courtesy name to Zhimo (志摩).[1]

One of the most renowned romantic poets of 20th-century Chinese literature, he is known for his promotion of modern Chinese poetry, and has made tremendous contributions to modern Chinese literature.

To commemorate Xu Zhimo, in July 2008, a stone of white Beijing marble was installed at the Backs of King's College, Cambridge (near the bridge over the River Cam); on it are inscribed the first two and last two lines from Xu's best-known poem (simplified Chinese: 再别康桥; traditional Chinese: 再別康橋; pinyin: Zài Bié Kāngqiáo; literally "again (or "once more") leave Cambridge", variously translated as "On Leaving Cambridge", "Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again", "Goodbye Again, Cambridge", "Leaving the Revisited Cambridge" etc.). A collection of Xu's poetry with English translations was published by Oleander Press Cambridge in 2012.[2]

Biography[edit]

Xu Zhimo and his second wife Lu Xiaoman

Xu was born in Haining, Zhejiang and graduated from the famous Hangzhou High School (浙江省杭州高级中学). In 1915, he married Zhang Youyi and next year he went to Peiyang University (Beiyang University, now Tianjin University) to study Law. In 1917, he transferred to Peking University due to the law department of Peiyang University merging into Peking University. In 1918, after studying at Peking University, he traveled to the United States to study history in Clark University. Shortly afterwards, he transferred to Columbia University in New York to study economics and politics in 1919. Finding the States "intolerable", he left in 1921[3] to study at King's College, Cambridge in England, where he fell in love with English romantic poetry like that of Keats and Shelley, and was also influenced by the French romantic and symbolist poets, some of whose works he translated into Chinese. In 1922 he went back to China and became a leader of the modern poetry movement. In 1923, he founded the Crescent Moon Society. When the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore visited China, Xu Zhimo played the part of oral interpreter. Xu was also renowned for his use of the vernacular language. He was one of the first Chinese writers to successfully naturalize Western romantic forms into modern Chinese poetry. He worked as an editor and professor at several schools before dying in a plane crash on November 19, 1931 near Tai'an, Shandong[4] while flying from Nanjing to Beijing. He left behind four collections of verse and several volumes of translations from various languages.

Love affairs[edit]

Xu Zhimo's various love affairs with Zhang Youyi, Lin Huiyin, and Lu Xiaoman are well known in China. Xu married Zhang Youyi,[5] (the sister of the politician Junyou Zhang) on October 10, 1915. This was an arranged marriage that went against Xu’s belief in free and simple love. Although Zhang gave birth to two sons, Xu still couldn’t accept her. While in London in 1921, Xu met Lin Huiyin (the daughter of Lin Changmin) and immediately fell in love with her. He divorced his wife Zhang in March 1922. Inspired by this newly found love, Xu wrote a large number of poems during this time. Lin and Xu became close friends. However, she was already promised to marry Liang Sicheng by his father. Xu's last lover would be Lu Xiaoman, a beautiful woman from Beijing well versed in literature. The first time they met, Lu was married to a man named Wang Geng, a friend of Xu. The marriage had been arranged by her parents and she felt trapped in this loveless marriage. When Xu and Lu met, they quickly bonded over the similarity of their respective experiences with arranged marriages. When it came to be known that they were in love, both were scorned by their parents and friends. In 1925 Lu and she divorced and in 1926, she and Xu were married.[5] Their honeymoon period did not last long however and Lu gradually became more and more depressed. Because Lu was wasteful and Xu’s parents refused to lend them money, Xu had to take several jobs in different cities to keep up with the lifestyle Lu desired. She was widowed when Xu died in an airplane crash.

Xu was romantically linked to American author Pearl S. Buck and American journalist Agnes Smedley.[6]

Cambridge poem[edit]

Memorial stone to Xu Zhimo with the first and last two lines of his poem (simplified Chinese: 再别康桥; traditional Chinese: 再別康橋; pinyin: Zài Bié Kāngqiáo; literally "again (or "once more") leave Cambridge") at the Backs of King's College, Cambridge.

English versions have been published under various titles;[7] the one used here (by permission) was translated by Guohua Chen and published in the University of Cambridge's 800th anniversary book.[8]

再别康橋

輕輕的我走了,
正如我輕輕的來;
我輕輕的招手,
作別西天的雲彩。

那河畔的金柳,
是夕陽中的新娘;
波光裡的艷影,
在我的心頭蕩漾。

軟泥上的青荇,
油油地在水底招搖;
在康河的柔波裡,
我甘心做一條水草!

那榆蔭下的一潭,
不是清泉,是天上虹;
揉碎在浮藻間,
沉澱著彩虹似的夢。

尋夢?撐一支長篙,
向青草更青處漫溯;
滿載一船星輝,
在星輝斑斕裡放歌。

但我不能放歌,
悄悄是別離的笙簫;
夏蟲也為我沉默,
沉默是今晚的康橋!

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。

Taking Leave of Cambridge Again

By Xu Zhimo

Softly I am leaving,
Just as softly as I came;
I softly wave goodbye
To the clouds in the western sky.

The golden willows by the riverside
Are young brides in the setting sun;
Their glittering reflections on the shimmering river
Keep undulating in my heart.

The green tape grass rooted in the soft mud
Sways leisurely in the water;
I am willing to be such a waterweed
In the gentle flow of the River Cam.

That pool in the shade of elm trees
Holds not clear spring water, but a rainbow
Crumpled in the midst of duckweeds,
Where rainbow-like dreams settle.

To seek a dream? Go punting with a long pole,
Upstream to where green grass is greener,
With the punt laden with starlight,
And sing out loud in its radiance.

Yet now I cannot sing out loud,
Peace is my farewell music;
Even crickets are now silent for me,
For Cambridge this evening is silent.

Quietly I am leaving,
Just as quietly as I came;
Gently waving my sleeve,
I am not taking away a single cloud.

(6 November 1928)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Lu Xiaoman and Xu Zhimo". Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  2. ^ Xu, Zhimo, "Selected Poems", Oleander Press, 2012. ISBN 9780900891694. This is a collection of uncredited English translations of Xu's most famous poems, plus Xu's Chinese translations of his favourite English poetry.
  3. ^ Study at King's: Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
  4. ^ "Xu Zhimo." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2011. Web. 06 Nov. 2011.
  5. ^ a b Reminiscences of Xu Zhimo
  6. ^ Conn, Peter (1996). Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography. Cambridge University Press. pp. 103, 397. ISBN 0-521-63989-1. 
  7. ^ Andy Cartwright and others (30 June 2012). "Saying Goodbye Again and Again". Between the Ears. BBC Radio 3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01k9s9g. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  8. ^ Peter Pagnamenta (ed.) The University of Cambridge: an 800th Anniversary Portrait, London: Third Millenium Publishing, 2008, page 29. Guohua Chen retained the right to republish, and contributed the translation to Wikipedia.

Further reading[edit]

  • Encyclopædia Britannica 2004, 2005 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD, article – "Hsü Chih-mo", now available online as Xu Zhimo
  • Chen, Shan, "Xu Zhimo". Encyclopedia of China, 1st ed.