Japanese haiku and the formation of Chinese short poetry
This is a video of the opening remarks by Catherine Yeh, Director of the BU Center for the Study of Asia for the "Haiku as World Literature: A Celebration of the 150th Birthday of Haiku Poet Masaoka Shiki", which took place on October 12 & 13, 2017 at Barristers Hall, Boston University. Recorded on October 12, 2017 by the Geddes Language Center.
The birth of the Chinese short poetry (xiaoshi 小詩) in 1921, is attributed to the efforts by Zhou Zuoren 周作人 to introduce haiku. Zhou had studied in Japan between 1906-1911 together with his brother Lu Xun 魯迅. Both became leading lights in the New Culture movement since 1915, Zhou's explicit aim was to shake-up and stimulate the "depressed" Chinese new poetry (xinshi 新詩) scene. For him, Haiku poetry represented Japan's literary modernization; it linked the past to the present. Some Chinese writers responded to his call, which resulted in so-called "short poetry movement" of the1920s. Yet by the 1930's this genre had all about vanished from the literary scene. It was not until the 1980s that the genre, which now had the name of "Chinese haiku" (Han pai 漢俳), was revived. This revival can also be cleared dated since it began with the first visit to China of the Japanese Haiku Society when the Chinese poet Zhao Puchu 趙樸初, who was also one of the directors of the "Chinese and Japanese Friendship Association", composed haiku poems at a banquet welcoming the Japanese guests. Thus began China's contemporary haiku fad. It is obvious that both the 1921 and 1980 efforts, which brought about the writing of haiku poetry in China, were ideologically motivated. Because of these beginnings, haiku poetry in China was thus linked to cultural reform ideals and international diplomacy. Both factors also accounted to the demise of this new poetic genre during the 1930s and its revitalization after 1980s. In this paper, I will explore the birth of haiku poetry in China as both a literary as well as a political product. The issues I will focus on are: in what way did the Chinese New Culture movement with its anti-traditional bias presage the demise of the "short poetry movement" of the 1920s? What impact did the conflict about whether a future Chinese modern poetry should emulate Western modern poetry or Japanese modern haiku have on the fate of Chinese short poetry? Can a political decision made by the Chinese authorities in the 1980s to go for "haiku diplomacy" secure a future for Chinese haiku?