Shang Qin was born in southern China and has lived in Taiwan since 1948. ‘When I look back, it seems to me that my past years are marked by imprisonment and escape. At the age of fifteen, I was press-ganged by local troops in the street of Chengdu, and locked up in an old barn.
After a week’s imprisonment I gave in; there appeared to be books stored there that I had never seen before, it was my first actual encounter with the new literature. It was there that I read Lu Xun’s Weeds and Bing Xin’s Stars.
After a month I left with the troops. Before we arrived in Chongqing, the first of my series of escapes was a fact; I still remember the lights of the fishing boats on the Jialing River and the babbling of the waves.
Three years later in Canton I made the greatest escape of my life. I wanted to return home, but on my way there I was repeatedly captured by other troops; again and again I escaped. In all, I escaped seven or eight times, and in doing so my feet traversed all of the southern provinces of China; I just did not succeed in returning home, although at one time I almost found myself abroad.
Finally, the troops that had captured me combined in organizing a major escape.
In Taiwan, the language barrier and the short distances between towns put an end to the pleasure of escaping; after my body had lost the possibility of escape, the only other form of escape left to me was into another name. But I could not escape from myself, so I am always ‘between gate and heaven’, or ‘between dream and dawn’. It is sad enough to be the prisoner of your own heart.’ Shang Qin in the preface to his collection Between Dream and Dawn.
[Shang Qin took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2002. This text was written on that occasion.]
Translation of three Shang Qin poems by Steve Bradbury.
Meng huozhe liming (Dream or dawn, 1969; expanded 1988). Poems.
Yong jiao sixiang (Thinking with feet, 1988).
Anthologies in English
Translations of Shang Qin's work can be found in the following books:
Frontier Taiwan, edited by Michelle Yeh and N. G. D. Malmqvist (Columbia University Press, 2001)
Anthology of Modern Chinese Poetry, edited and translated by Michelle Yeh (Yale University Press, 1992)
The Frozen Torch: Selected Prose Poems, translated by N. G. D. Malmqvist (Wellsweep Press, 1992)