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Zhao Lihong

Zhao Lihong, one of China’s most gifted poets and authors, was born in Shanghai in 1952. He started writing in 1970 and graduated in Chinese literature from the East China Normal University. Zhao currently holds several positions, namely—director of the China Writers Association, vice-president of the Shanghai Writers Association, the publisher of Shanghai Literature a monthly magazine, and editor-in-chief of Shanghai Poets a bi-monthly journal. He is also a guest professor with East China Normal University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. So far, Zhao has published more than 70 works in poetry, prose and report literature. His writings have influenced many new writers and he has won several literary awards. A number of his works are part of the Chinese primary and secondary schools and college syllabus. His works have been translated into several foreign languages.



Poem translated by Xu Qin

Xu Qin was born in Shanghai where she still lives. A graduate of East China Normal University she has worked for the English-language newspaper Shanghai Daily since 2006. She has collaborated with Bivash Mukherjee in his documentary on the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore’s visits to China in the 1920s.







My mother is lying on the bed, spitting blood

Her lips are a flower of red

Oh, Mother,

What would you like to say to me?

I am standing in the field

My shoulders are covered with snow

I want to walk towards you, Mother,

But my feet are frozen

Mother gazes at me, smiling

Her eyes are a flower blooming

She spits into the sky

Petals dancing and scattering

All over me

The snow on my body is melting

Taking me together

Into a river that is flowing

Across the river,

Red petals are whirling




My love,

You stand there on the horizon

Amidst the colourful rays of the setting sun

You wave at me, tears in eyes

Tender is your hand

Lonesome is your smile

Your body leaves a curve that cuts into the Heaven …


I want to call out to you

But can’t move my lips

I want to run up to you

But can’t lift my feet out of mud

How much I want to embrace you

Pity, my arms are not long enough

Tell me,

Are we the only miserable souls here?

Our hearts yearn for each other

But our bodies are kept apart

Are we doomed for separation?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were birds

We could fly double-winged

High and free in the distant sky

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were fish

We could cruise along the river

Chasing one another in the clear water

Being human,

Me on this side, you on the other

Keep watching across the river, day and night …


My love,

You stand there on the horizon

I cannot touch you, nor kiss you

I cannot wipe the tears off your face




In my dreams, I saw my poems

Not an exciting “ah ——”

Or any confusing “hmm ——”

They are a group of expressionless kids

Around me running

Their skin tanned dark under the sun

Their hats made of straw golden brown

I want to talk to them

But they sprint off in haste

I want to catch them

But they run away like elves

The sky is high and the land far

Up or down,

The island is their place for hiding …


My poems are wearing straw hats

Dancing at the marshland covered with reeds

My poems are wearing the straw hats

Dancing under the sky steamed with clouds

My poems are wearing the straw hats

Dancing on the waves billowing in the sea

My poems are wearing the straw hats

Dancing in the crowds that are known to none

My poems are wearing the straw hats

Dancing to the roads that lead to nowhere …




A sylph viewed from the back

A monstrous face with canine teeth when it turns around

What’s inside the red, red gown?


and you see

white bones piercing …




Rape flowers are rich as gold though

They give off far too much scent to get you drunk

Walking among the rape flowers is like walking on the clouds

A careless slip, and you fall into a trap

Where darkness seems an endless world

From behind cold gusts blowing

The body crashes heavily downward

Yet the heart rises upward …

The body crumbles into particles of sand

Yet the heart soars like an eagle …

Finally the heart separates from the body in the dark

I don’t know if I should go up or go down

In a spell of haste I hear thunder

Darkness explodes

Into pieces of golden petals

Hurting my eyes with brilliant rays of light




The curtain’s up, and the lights dazzle

On the stage is the symphony band!

Music rises like magic fog

Permeating the air …

Big and small violins stand alone

While bows and strings are vibrating on their own

Flutes and clarinets whirl like arrows

Dancing to the melody with good grace

Golden trumpets bloom like flowers

Spraying showers of crystal clear raindrops

Drum’s the mountain and cymbal the moon

From the heaven comes their call

There’s the elegant harp too

Like a maiden

Sitting quietly by the stageside

Her nimble fingers

Fiddling the pearls in a jade plate …

I wish to rush for the band

Only to find my hands and feet strapped tight

Awake, to find a splash of moonlight in front of the window

From the adjoining field comes the singing of autumn insects …


Chongming Island, November 1970


©2010 Zhao Lihong





Author Links


Article about Zhao's work with the Shanghai Writers Association

Zhao's Amazon page of publications

Zhao to read in Cork Spring Literary Festival









©2009 Southword Editions
Munster Literature Centre

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