Many world-renowned Chinese names resound when you mention the field of philosophy and spirituality. However, China has also lots to contribute when it comes to the area of literature and the arts. One of the most well-known names in this field during the contemporary period in China is Zha Haisheng or better known by his pen name, Hai Zi.
He was one of the most prominent poets after the Cultural Revolution in China. His died at a young age of 25 by committing suicide in Shanhaiguan by lying on one of the train tracks.
Life and Literary Influences of Hai Zi
Zha Haisheng was born in March 1984 to a poor farming family in an agricultural village within the Anhui Province. While the rest of his country was undergoing the Cultural Revolution, a purge of traditional Chinese values and capitalism in China by Mao Zedong and his party, he was growing up in his rural town enjoying fishing and farming, basically helping with his family’s livelihood. However, he has proven to be a smart and well-read boy as he won a recitation contest after memorizing famous lines by Mao Zedong.
At the age of 15, he achieved phenomenal scores on the college entrance exam and was accepted into the prestigious Peking University in Beijing. While at the university, he studied law but always had an interest in literature. He was enriched by the company he founded in Beijing with fellows with the same literary mindset along with access to hundreds of literary texts and Western works of literature. During this time, his first written poems were influenced by the Misty Poets. They wrote in a realistic style, but their poems were characterized as hazy and challenging.
While finishing his degree, he worked as an intern in a court in Shijiazhuang but was disillusioned after witnessing corruption. After graduating, he opted to work in the China University of Political Science and Law as an editor for the university journal where he was brought even closer to the literary profession. He eventually became a professor in the university’s philosophy department.
While working as a teacher, he frequently traveled in Western China, where he grew more immersed with Qigong, Tibetan culture, and mysticism. These interests fueled the language, themes, and imagery of his poetry. Between 1984 and at the time of his death, he had written millions of words of poetry but was written little recognition. His poetry was only given attention and praise after his death when his friends sought to have his literary work published.
Legacy and Notable Works
As a poet, he was very prolific as he wrote choral operas, several long poems, and countless short poems. Hai Zi’s poetry is often in the form of anachronism. His famous poems Wheatfield, Land, and Sea, painted symbolic images that were reminiscent of the poetry written by Tao Yuanming, an ancient Chinese writer who wrote pastoral poetry. Aside from the focus on rural life, his poems also featured mystic themes and spirituality.
Even though his work was unknown for most of his life, he became the most quoted contemporary poet after the cultural movement. He is hailed as a genius by the younger generation even if older critics do not yet recognize him. Some of his works have been used as lyrics for songs. He and his body of poetry also have a secure place in current Chinese popular culture.