Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Mu Dan (穆旦; 1918-1977) was one of the most important poets of 20th century China. Born Zha Liangzheng in Tianjin, China in 1918, he matriculated the prestigious Tsinghua University at the age of 17, and graduated from Southwest Associated University in 1940. After having served as an assistant lecturer of English at his alma mater for two years, he joined the Chinese Expedition Force for Burma in an effort to aid the British troops there to fight off the Japanese. After WWII, he went to the University of Chicago, where he eventually earned a master's degree in English literature.
Most of Mu Dan's poetry were written during late 1930's and 1940's. His poetry, which is characterized by impassioned speculation, abstract sensuality, and occassionally, restrained irony, is the foremost example of Chinese new vernacular verse absorbing modern Western techniques. Indeed, Mu Dan was a professed admirer of W. H. Auden, W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot. He studied their poetry at Southwest Associated University under William Empson, himself a leading modernist poet. On the other hand, the patriotism and the compassion for the suffering and needy in his poetry fall easily in line with a great tradition in Chinese poetry.
Mu Dan had to give up poetry writing several years after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, and he turned to literary translation , for which he is also renowned. His works in this respect include the Chinese translations of Lord Byron's Don Juan and Aleksandr Pushkin's Eugene Onegin.
It was not until 1976 that Mu Dan resumed writing poetry. He produced twenty-seven poems that year; highly regarded among them were several moving elegy-style pieces, prophetic of his sudden death of a heart attack in early 1977.
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