Yang Mu

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Yang Mu
Yang Mu portrait.jpg
Native name
BornWang Ching-hsien
(1940-09-06)6 September 1940
Hualien County, Taiwan
Died13 March 2020(2020-03-13) (aged 79)
Da'an, Taipei, Taiwan
Resting placeHualien County, Taiwan
OccupationPoet, essayist, critic, professor in classical Chinese literature
LanguageChinese and English
EducationPh.D of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley
GenrePoetry and prose
Notable awardsNational Culture and Arts Award (國家文藝獎)
Best Chinese Writing in the World (世界華文文學獎)
Newman Prize for Chinese Literature (紐曼華語文學獎)
Cikada Prize (瑞典蟬獎)

Yang Mu (Chinese: 楊牧; pinyin: Yáng Mù, September 6, 1940 – March 13, 2020) was the pen name of a Taiwanese poet, essayist and critic in Chinese language.[1] He was born as Wang Ching-hsien (王靖獻) on 6 September 1940 in Hualien County, Taiwan.[2] As one of the representative figures in the field of contemporary Taiwanese literature, his work is known for its combining of the graceful style and writing techniques of Chinese classical poetry with elements of Western culture. Apart from romantic feelings, his works also reflect strong awareness of humanistic concern, which has thus brought him widespread attention and high respect. He was named the laureate of the 2013 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature, making him the first poet and the first Taiwanese writer to have won the award.

Personal life[edit]

When Yang was 16, only a high school student, he started off using the pen name Yeh Shan (葉珊) and publishing his own works in several poetry magazines such as Blue Star, Modern Poetry and Genesis. Then he entered Tunghai University and studied history.[1] However, he later found that it went against his genuine interest and finally transferred to the Department of Foreign Languages to pursue his literary ideals. At that time, Yang exposed himself to British romantic poetry and was directly influenced by some defining members of the English Romantic Movement, like William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats.

After his graduation from Tunghai University, Yang chose to go to the United States for further study. In 1966, he obtained his Master of Fine Arts (English: Creative Writing) at the University of Iowa.[1] While pursuing master's studies at Iowa, Yang wrote 15 letters to Keats. This practice ended after Yang left Iowa.[3] Notably, a group of writers who later have become leading figures in the literary scene in contemporary Taiwan like Bai Xianyong, Yu Guangzhong, Ye Weilian and Wang Wenxing, were all his alumni at UI. And in 1971, he gained Ph.D of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.[4] His studying in America, obviously, contributed to the changes of his poetry style. Since 1972, he has written a series of works to convey his deep concern about the social reality under his new pen name Yang Mu (楊牧). Changing from emphasizing sentimental and romantic feelings to intervening in social issues, the works in Yang's later period appear to be more calm, reserved and profound.

Yang used to teach at National Taiwan University (1975–76,1983–84), Princeton University (1978–79), and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (1991–94); during 1996-2001 he was Professor of Chinese Literature and Founding Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at National Dong Hwa University in Hualien, Taiwan; and during 2002–06, the Distinguished Research Fellow and Director in the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy at Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan. He later became Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at the University of Washington and Chair Professor of Taiwanese Literature at National Chengchi University.[5][6][7]

Yang was admitted to Cathay General Hospital in Taipei in March 2020, where he lapsed into a coma. He died on March 13, 2020, aged 79.[8][9]

Major works[edit]

As a prolific writer, Yang published 14 poetry collections, 15 prose collections and 1 verse play. His early works include On the Water Margin (水之湄), Flower Season (花季), Lantern Boat (燈船) and Legends (傳說). These poetry collections were published under the pen name Ye Shan (葉珊) and were publicly thought to have created a new way of writing romantic poems.

Later, he was known to his readers as Yang Mu (楊牧) and published 12 other poetry collections such as Manuscripts Sealed in a Bottle (瓶中稿), Songs of the Little Dipper (北斗行), A Game of Taboos (禁忌的遊戲), The Coast with Seven Turns (海岸七疊), Someone (有人) A Complete Fable (完整的寓言), Ventures (涉事), Diaspsis Patelliformi (介殼蟲), Songs long and short (長短歌行) and so forth. Among them, Songs of the Little Dipper (北斗行) published in 1978, was prefaced by the famous Taiwanese novelist Wang Wenxing (王文興). In this preface, Wang spoke highly of its success in applying language and said that it took an important step towards achieving the new order of modern Chinese poetry.

Wu Feng: A Play in Four Acts (吳鳳), a verse play published in 1979, was another notable work. Through the narration of a story based on Taiwanese history, Yang expressed his praise for benevolence and human rationality. As a versatile writer, Yang's prose collections have also received much recognition. These works are mainly represented by Annual Ring (年輪), Storms over Hills and Ocean (山風海雨), The Completion of a Poem (一首詩的完成), The Midday Hawk (亭午之鷹) and Then as I Went Leaving (昔我往矣). They share some common themes, ranging from hometown memories to social criticism.

Yang's works have been translated into English, German, French, Japanese, Swedish Dutch, etc. No trace of the Gardener: Poems of Yang Mu (translated by Lawrence R. Smith & Michelle Yeh, New Haven: Ct. Yale University Press, 1998) and The Forbidden Game and Video Poems: The Poetry of Yang Mu and Lo Ch'ing (translated by Joseph R. Allen, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993) are two of his poetry collections available in English.[1]


The Yang Mu Literature Lecture Series and Literary Award at National Dong Hwa University College of Humanities and Social Sciences are named after him.[10]

He donated his personal library to create the Yang Mu Study at the National Dong Hwa University library.[11]


Year Award
1971 Shi Zong Award (詩宗獎)
1979,1987 China Times Prize for Literature (時報文學獎)
1990 Wu Sanlian Literary Award (吳三連文學獎)
1996–2001 Award from the Foundation for the Advancement of Outstanding Scholarship (財團法人傑出人才發展基金會講座)
2000 National Culture and Arts Award (國家文藝獎)
2007 Huazong International Chinese Literature Award (花蹤世界華文文學獎)
2013 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature (紐曼華語文學獎)
2016 Cikada Prize (瑞典蟬獎)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Yang Mu". Renditions.org. Retrieved 2013-10-22.
  2. ^ "Yang Mu" (in Chinese). Taiwan Literature Library, National Dong Hwa University. Retrieved 2013-10-22.
  3. ^ Han Cheung (22 March 2020). "Taiwan in Time: The romantic poet comes of age". Taipei Times. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  4. ^ "Yang Mu". Dictionary of Modern Chinese Writers (in Chinese).
  5. ^ "Ching Hsien Wang | Cinema & Media Studies | University of Washington". cinema.washington.edu. Retrieved 2021-06-01.
  6. ^ "In memoriam: Ching-Hsien Wang | Cinema & Media Studies | University of Washington". cinema.washington.edu. Retrieved 2021-06-01.
  7. ^ 系所成員: 王靖獻 [Department members: Wang Jing Xian] (in Chinese). National Chengchi University. Archived from the original on 2012-04-07.
  8. ^ 陳宛茜 (2020-03-13). "震驚文壇!詩人楊牧辭世 享壽80歲" (in Chinese (Taiwan)). UDN.
  9. ^ Chen, Cheng-wen; Chao, Ching-yu; Hsu, Elizabeth (March 13, 2020). "Noted Taiwanese poet Yang Mu dies at 79". Central News Agency. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  10. ^ "106學年度楊牧文學講座/文學獎專區 (2017 Yang Mu Literature Lecture Series and Literary Award". National Dong Hwa University College of Humanities and Social Sciences. 25 June 2019. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  11. ^ "書房導覽 (Introduction to the Study)". 楊牧書房 (Yang Mu Study). 2016. Retrieved 27 June 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • No Trace of the Gardener: Poems of Yang Mu. Trans. Lawrence R. Smith and Michelle Yeh. London: Yale University Press, 1998. Print. ISBN 978-0300070705
  • Wong, Lisa Laiming. Rays of the Searching Sun: The Transcultural Poetics of Yang Mu. New York: P. I. E. Peter Lang, 2009. Print. ISBN 978-9052015453

External links[edit]