|Wen Yiduo 闻一多 (1899 - 1946) was born in Xishui County, Hubei. He was married to Gao Zhen 高珍.
Although Xishui County was a center of revolutionary uprisings, Wen Yiduo had already left by that time. He would have been an unlikely revolutionary; his family was among the gentry. As a youngster he had received a classical Chinese education. This meant that he was trained in the ancient literature and philosophy of China. He was sent to Qinghua University (Tsinghua University) in Beijing. After his studies were completed, he left for the United States for advanced work in literature and art at the Art Institute of Chicago. While in America he published his first collection of poetry "Red Candle" (Hongzhu 紅燭).
In 1925 he returned to China and took a post at Qinghua University teaching the classics and poetry. He favored the classical forms and wrote about and taught the formal properties of Chinese poetry. In 1928, his second collection, "Dead Water" (Sishui (死水) was published. Both this collection and his previous collection included many poems about his wife and the daughter he had left behind when he went to America. His daughter died during his absence. Also in 1928 he joined the Crescent Moon Society, a vehicle for the discussion of literature and poetry.
At this point, Wen Yiduo was well on his way to becoming a classical scholar. He was more interested in researching and writing about the classics than in poetry. The literary scene was changing. Young poets were arguing for a free form of poetry with stronger social commentary. He wrote his last poem in 1930 and turned his full attention toward research.
The events surrounding him wouldn't let him alone. When the Japanese invaded Beijing (1937), the faculty of the different universities moved first to Changsha, Hunan and then, when that proved unsafe, to Kunming in Yunan. Wen Yiduo moved with Qinghua University. Much of the second leg of the trip, to Kunming, was on foot. Books and manuscripts had to be left behind. Once in Kunming, they created a new university to combine their efforts - the Southwest United University. In 1943 Wen wrote an essay in favor of the new poetical forms. This was major change in his views of the function and structure of poetry. In 1944 he supported the China Democratic League. It wasn't a nationalist or communist organization, but politically progressive and independent. Wen Yiduo wrote a series of essays criticizing the corruption he saw among the Nationalists (Guomindang) around him; he didn't disagree with their politics, just their graft. He was assassinated by agents of the Guomindang in July 1946.
Last update: July 2009
© Marilyn Shea, 2009