Huang Zunxian, Qing China’s Pioneer Modernist Poet

Witchard, A. 2019. Huang Zunxian, Qing China’s Pioneer Modernist Poet. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society China in Shanghai. 79 (1).

TitleHuang Zunxian, Qing China’s Pioneer Modernist Poet
TypeJournal article
AuthorsWitchard, A.
Abstract

Qing China's Diplomat Poet

Huang Zunxian (Huang Tsun-hsien, 1848-1905) has the distinction of being Qing China's last great classical poet but is less well known as China's first modernist poet. A diplomat of strongly reformist bent, Huang served in the consulates of Japan, the United States, Great Britain and Singapore. His poetry is rich in allusions to three thousand years of Chinese literature yet also includes detail about the foreign societies he encountered and the scientific and technological transformations that were changing the world at such an astonishing rate. His postings in Meiji Tokyo, San Francisco's Chinatown, and fin-de-siècle, London provided material for poems which treat encounters with Japanese dress reform, American racism, and British Royalty. An ascent up the Eiffel Tower in an electric elevator affords an opportunity to muse upon pre-WW1 Europe's armaments build up. Huang's poetry represents the resolute engagement of a classical poet uniquely placed to respond to conditions of contemporary global modernity. His defence of Chinatown coolies inform an indignant response to U. S. Exclusion Laws while his London poems provide us with the fascinating and hitherto unexplored Chinese counterpoint to indigenous artistic responses among Anglo-American modernists, themselves undergoing radical formal experimentation by looking East.

KeywordsHuang Zunxian
Chinese Modernism
poetry
JournalJournal of the Royal Asiatic Society China in Shanghai
Journal citation79 (1)
ISSN9789888552719
Year2019
PublisherRoyal Asiatic Society China in Shanghai
Publication dates
Published28 Nov 2020

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