A vice-chairman’s bad, bad poem

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Oriental Guardian
June 18, 2008

A poem written by Wang Zhaoshan (王兆山), vice-chairman of the Shandong Writer’s Association, recently caused controversy. The poem was obviously intended as praise for the government, particularly its efforts in the quake relief, but it was so badly-written some found it more disgraceful than flattering.

The poem was originally published in the June 6 issue of Qilu Evening News, a newspaper circulated mainly in Shandong Province. In the poem, Wang impersonated a victim expressing his gratitude to the government from his grave:


Here is fairly literal translation:

Natural disaster is inevitable, so why should I complain about my death? The president calls, the premier asks, the Party cares, the country is concerned, the voices go into the rubble. One-point-three billion people shed tears. I feel happy even as a ghost. Silver eagles and army vehicles came to rescue: soldiers, police officers – the great love! I am satisfied to die. I only wish I could have a TV set so I could watch the Olympic Games and cheer with others.

Aside from the questionable quality of the writing, many readers found it offensive that the poem attempts to flatter the government using the voice of quake victims. However, it is hardly surprising: the China Writer’s Association is a government agency and the writers, who receive stipends from the government, are obliged to offer up their services whenever called upon. If you are wondering what good this association serves, this English language Xinhua story may give you a clue:

Chinese poets and writers are producing new works depicting people who emerged as heroes fighting the snow and rain disaster that have affected many areas of the country since mid January.

The Chinese Writers’ Association and its branch organizations nationwide have called on its members to go to disaster-affected areas to interview and write about the disaster-relief work. About 100 writers have gone to Hunan, Guizhou, Guangdong, Anhui and other affected areas to observe and help with the disaster relief.

“Literature should reflect people’s true feelings and voice their thoughts,” said reportage writer Jiang Wei, who went to southwestern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to witness the relief efforts firsthand.

“This time, my writing will be really inspiring.”

The periodicals attached to the Chinese Writers’ Association will publish the poems and stories about those combating the snow and rain disaster. The association will also organize symposiums and poem reciting activities to recommend outstanding literature works to the public.


Wang Zhaoshan reading his poem

In response to Wang Zhaoshan’s poem, popular writer Han Han has quoted this poem on his blog with the caption, “I was lucky that I didn’t join the Writer’s Association.” Li Zhongqin, who was once a member of the Shandong Writer’s Association, recently announced his decision to relinquish his membership. The reason given on his blog is that he felt ashamed to be associated with vice-chairman Wang.

The relevance and usefulness of Writer’s Association has been questioned in recent years despite the fact that it is the only such organization in China. This incident is apparently a blow to the Association’s already shaky reputation.

edited 2008.06.19

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