Yang Mu: Winner of the 2013 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature

Yang Mu
Yang Mu (center) is presented with the 2013 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature by Harold J. and Ruth Newman.


The Newman Prize for Chinese Literature is awarded biennially in recognition of outstanding achievement in prose or poetry that best captures the human condition, and is conferred solely on the basis of literary merit. Any living author writing in Chinese (residing anywhere) is eligible. The Prize consists of $10,000 and a medallion, and may serve to crown a lifetime’s achievement or to direct attention to a developing body of work. An international jury of distinguished experts both nominates the candidates and selects the winner based on a transparent voting process. The first winner of the Newman Prize was Mo Yan (2009), followed by Han Shaogong (2011), and most recently Yang Mu (2013). Hosted by the University of Oklahoma’s Institute for US-China Issues, the Newman Prize is the only award given to Chinese literature outside China and Taiwan. It seeks to promote US-China understanding through a celebration of our common humanity. Founded by Institute Director Peter Gries, the Newman Prize honors Harold J. and Ruth Newman, whose support enabled the creation of OU’s Institute for US-China Issues. The Newmans have also been long-term supporters of the Asia Society, endowing a program there entitled “The Soul of Asia.”

Yang Mu 楊牧

Yang Mu was born in 1940 in the small coastal city of Huilan in east Taiwan as Ching-hsien Wang 珙씀獻. He received his BA in English from Tunghai University in Taiwan, his MFA from the University of Iowa, and his PhD in comparative literature from the University of California at Berkeley. He has taught at many universities in North America, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, but he spent most of his academic career at the University of Washington, Seattle. He has also served in important administrative positions, including the founding dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the National Dong Hwa University in his hometown of Hualian and the founding director of the Institute of Literature and Philosophy at Academia Sinica, the premiere national research institution in Taiwan. He currently holds an endowed chair at Dong Hwa.

Yang Mu has been writing poetry continuously for sixty years. The longevity of his career is matched by his extraordinary creativity, which has exerted a transformative influence on Taiwanese poetry in general from the 1950s to the present. His poetry assimilates the best that the Chinese and the Western traditions have to offer, deftly blending classicism and surrealism, romanticism and modernism. His poetry may be lyrical or dramatic, contemplative or defiant, elegiac or erotic. In an age when poetry is indisputably considered to be minority literature, Yang Mu enjoys enduring popularity among readers of several generations. His accomplishments beyond the realm of poetry are demonstrable in prose, literary criticism, scholarship on classical Chinese poetry, comparative literature, and editing, as well as the translation of poetry.

Yang Mu has been married to Ying-ying Hsia for thirty-five years; they have a son, Bruce. The couple now lives in Taiwan most of the year, dividing their time between Hualian and Taipei.

Two Poems by Yang Mu

A Lyric

“When you have too much on your mind, it feels like—”
The piano’s melody rises and descends: “feels like
There’s nothing at all.” I hurriedly cross
A burning meadow
Memory is dancing flames
Scorching my ruined wings and dimming
My shining gaze, my
Hopes and good judgment
Yet I am so careless and at ease with peace and emptiness
I’d rather go silently, passively, under your exquisite trembling, your fingers
Reaching uncertainly for the future and the past

The past
And the future—
The present we shut outside the door
Thin high clouds shade the mid-summer, cooling its wide meadow
Like a stream at the bottom of a gorge meandering through
Ginger lilies and the other flowers I have named one by one
From childhood to this moment, blooming, or the inner corridor of a temple,
In the quiet embrace of noon’s deep shadows
Suddenly in front of you a joss stick is being lit

Translated by Michelle Yeh and Frank Stewart






Under the Pine

Drinking tea under the pine
Fine needles
Settle on a white porcelain plate
Presently they form the pattern
Of embroidered designs on a napkin’s border long forgotten
Floating to the surface
Of a small pond beginning to cool in the courtyard

Bending over the water, I try to understand
The meaning of the designs
So exquisite, disorderly, harmonious . . .
Perhaps they are patterns of a lonely constellation
A broken trigram from the Book of Changes, the folds of a dress
A fine, barely visible wrinkle on her hand
Perhaps nothing at all

Translated by Michelle Yeh and Frank Stewart




精緻、零亂,和諧 -


From Chinese Literature Today Vol. 4 No. 1

Current Issue
March 2011 Issue

Table of Contents



  • 6 Ring Flower, by Ge Fei
  • 12 Time in Imagery, by Ge Fei
  • 16 The Psychic Split in Chinese Contemporary Literature: Ge Fei and Zhang Ning in Dialogue, by Zhang Ning
  • 24 Song of Liangzhou, by Ge Fei
  • 29 The Myriad Things Retain Their Mystery for Me, by Jing Wendong

SECTION TWO: Selected Works

  • 32 Reminiscing about My Childhood, by Yang Jiang
  • 36 Five Poems, by Yang Jian

Chinese Literature

  • 39 Whether to Write Classical or Modern Poems: A Speech Given at the Gulangyu, Xiamen Poetry Festival, by Lü Yue
  • 44 Writers’ Exchange, by Sun Yu and Zhang Ning

SECTION FOUR: 2013 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature: Yang Mu (Guest Editor: Michelle Yeh)

  • 48 Introduction to the Newman Prize
  • 50 The Newman Prize for Chinese Literature: Nomination Statement for Yang Mu, by Michelle Yeh
  • 54 The Wellsprings of Poetry in Taiwan, by Yang Mu
  • 56 “Imagine a Symbol in a Dream”: Translating Yang Mu, by Andrea Lingenfelter
  • 64 “Language Is Our Religion”: An Interview with Yang Mu, by Zhai Yueqin
  • 69 Selected Poems, by Yang Mu

SECTION FIVE: Special Feature on Chinese Minority Poetry (Guest Editor: Mark Bende)

SECTION SIX: Special Memorial Feature
for C. T. Hsia


  • 3 Editor’s Note
  • 4 Contributors
  • 128 Chinese Literature in Review
  • 156 Pacific Bridge

ON THE COVER Xiao Wu Ji (detail), by
Chen Fei, 2012


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