Liu Shahe

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Liu Shahe
Born(1931-11-11)11 November 1931
Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Died23 November 2019(2019-11-23) (aged 88)
Chengdu, Sichuan, China
OccupationPoet, writer, publisher
Alma materSichuan University
Notable worksThe Country Nocturnes (1956),
Poems of Liu Shahe (1982)
Notable awardsNational Prize for Poetry
Children1 son, 1 daughter
Chinese name
Birth name
Simplified Chinese余勋坦
Traditional Chinese余勛坦

Yu Xuntan (Chinese: 余勋坦; 11 November 1931 – 23 November 2019), known by his pen name Liu Shahe (Chinese: 流沙河), was a Chinese writer and poet.[1][2] The son of a Sichuan landowner who was executed in the Land Reform Movement, he began publishing in 1948 and became a professional writer in 1952. He co-founded the poetry magazine Stars in 1956, but was denounced as a "filial descendant of the landlord class" when the Anti-Rightist Campaign began in 1957. For the next two decades he performed hard labour and was exiled to the countryside until the end of the Cultural Revolution. He resumed publishing in 1978, and his collection, Poems of Liu Shahe (1982), won the National Prize for Poetry.


Yu Xuntan was born on 11 November 1931 in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, Republic of China.[3] His parents were small landowners from Jintang County near Chengdu, and the family moved back to Jintang in 1935. His father worked for the Kuomintang government, and for that reason was killed by the Communist Party during the Land Reform Movement.[1]

He entered Sichuan University in 1949, majoring in agricultural chemistry. He began writing in 1948, and served as an editor of a supplement to the newspaper Western Sichuan Peasant Daily. He became a professional writer in 1952, and joined the predecessor of the Communist Youth League of China that same year.[1]

In 1955, Liu published his first poem, which was well received by critics, and became a poet almost exclusively. The following year, he published The Country Nocturnes, his first poetry collection, and was admitted to the Academy of Literature. Together with three other poets, he founded Stars, a monthly poetry magazine, in 1956. He wrote the poem series entitled "Grass and Stars" for the inaugural issue of the magazine, but was criticized soon after its publication.[1]

When the Anti-Rightist Campaign began in 1957, Liu was denounced as a "filial descendant of the landlord class" and forced to undergo reform through labour[4] for the next eight years, working all sorts of jobs including labourer and librarian.[1] During the subsequent Cultural Revolution, he was exiled in Jintang without a job. He continued to compose poems in this period, but most of them were lost.[1]

After the end of the Cultural Revolution, Liu resumed publishing in 1978. His collection, Poems of Liu Shahe (1982), was awarded the National Prize for Poetry.[1] Many of his poems expressed a sense of loss over his youth and sentimentality for the years he spent as a downtrodden labourer. Other poems, written in a serene tone, recorded the emotional solace he found in the difficult times.[4] He wrote less poetry after the mid-1980s, and spent much time publishing and commenting on modern Taiwanese poetry.[4]

Liu was an outspoken critic of the simplification of Chinese characters. He wrote a dedicated column entitled "Simplified Characters are Unreasonable" (简化字不讲理) in the Chinese-language edition of the Financial Times.[5]

Selected books[edit]

  • The Country Nocturnes 农村夜曲 (1956), first collection of poems
  • Windows 窗 (1956), collection of short stories
  • Farewell to Mars 告别火星 (1957), second collection of poems
  • Poems of Liu Shahe 流沙河诗话 (1982), winner of the National Prize for Poetry
  • Track of the Wanderer 游踪 (1983), collection of poems
  • Goodbye, Hometown 故园别 (1983), collection of poems
  • Twelve Taiwan Poets 台湾诗人十二家, commentary on Taiwanese poetry
  • Talking of Poetry Across the Sea 隔海说诗, commentary on Taiwanese poetry


Personal life[edit]

Liu married in 1966. He had a daughter and a son, Yu Kun (余鲲).[3][6]

Liu died in Chengdu on 23 November 2019 from complications of throat cancer, aged 88.[6]

See also[edit]

  • Tie Liu, a fellow Sichuanese writer denounced and imprisoned as a "rightist"


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Morin, Edward; Dai, Fang, eds. (1990). The Red Azalea: Chinese Poetry Since the Cultural Revolution. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. p. 37. ISBN 9780824813208.
  2. ^ Qiao Yigang 乔以钢 (2013). 现代中国文学 (1949–2008) [Modern Chinese Literature (1949–2008)]. Nankai University Press. pp. 75–76. ISBN 978-7-310-03852-7.
  3. ^ a b International Who's Who in Poetry 2005. Taylor & Francis. 2004. p. 951. ISBN 978-1-85743-269-5.
  4. ^ a b c d Hong, Zicheng (2007). A History of Contemporary Chinese Literature. BRILL. pp. 326–7. ISBN 978-90-474-2214-3.
  5. ^ Liu Shahe. 简化字不讲理. Financial Times (in Chinese). Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Xu Hui 胥辉 (23 November 2019). "刚刚,八十八岁的流沙河走了". The Paper. Retrieved 23 November 2019.