Zhao Ye







The Sinitic Tongue



In these proud but weightless symbols

I discovered my origins

In these orderly and commanding tetragraphs

I have seen the fate of our people

Proportioned, mannerly, resembling

Pavilions in the mist, footprints in frost

Forestalling thousand mile journeys

Or death by disease in some alien land



Language of ancestors, carrying revelry down the generations

Worth turning our black hairs to silver for

Each word smelted over a thousand years

Like a leaf changing texture day by day

At the tip a pen, in flames and on paper

Like a knife-edge in a child’s hand

Fish strung by tails in a tree, birds dropped into a dry well

A head fallen on rain-sodden ground, soundlessly



©Trans. by Denis Mair




The Han River




Once the drummer grows distant

At last the singer will come

As autumn comes round to spring

A sharp blade is overgrown with moss

The ruler who escaped his murder

Spread murder through the northland

Unbroken green of trees, green on top of green

Has covered everything



So many sounds, so many trees

A venture made on Han River waves

Armor sunken, seeds growing

Through day and night

Each era’s fated scenes

Are given us to pass through

Out of nowhere comes the nomad flute

From the Great Wall to deep in our heartland



©Trans. by Denis Mair




Wind Whistles on a Spring Night


The wind whistles on a spring night.

Time stands still, as desolation becomes concrete.

Bouts of guilt and final departures surface

Like submarines, turning into legends.


Sadness surges up in the spacious room.

The shadow of the trees sways; the lamplight is warm and balmy.

The blood that is repressed to the fullest, by this time

No longer renders the life a vapidity.


Which is to say, the walking corpses that I love

Will be buried quietly in oblivion the instant  a gust of wind blows.

Many lonely souls will vanish into the distance,

Or a fear will close in at the point


As if an abyss, accepting only grand words,

Fluctuating only for miracles; but memories

Are as dubious as an emperor clustered around by bureaucrats,

Who, though composed, ambushed on all sides by lethal artifice.



©Trans. by Liang Lizhen










Zhao Ye, born in Sichuan Province in 1964; graduated from the Department of Foreign Language and Literature of Sichuan University. He jointly initiated “The Third Generation” poetic movement in 1982; He won in 2000 the poetry prize awarded by Writer Magazine. In 2011, he won the third Inquiry of Heaven Poets Prize, and was listed by Modern Media in its “China Power 100”. He has published poetry anthologies as Lost Time as the Flow of Water (2003), German-Chinese bilingual poetry anthology Return in the Garden ( Zurϋck in die Gärten) (German translation by Wolfgang Kubin, 2012).

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