24 November 1899
present-day Xishui County, Huanggang, Hubei, Qing Empire
|Died||15 September 1946 (aged 46)|
Kunming, Republic of China
Art Institute of Chicago
Wen was born Wén Jiāhuá (聞家驊) on 24 November 1899 in what is now Xishui County in Hubei Province. After receiving a traditional Chinese Confucian education he went on to continue studying at Tsinghua University.
In 1922, he traveled to the United States to study fine arts and literature at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was during this time that his first collection of poetry, Hongzhu (紅燭, "Red Candle"), was published. In 1925, he traveled back to China and took a university teaching post. In 1928, his second collection, Sishui (死水, "Dead Water"), was published. In the same year he joined the Crescent Moon Society and wrote essays on poetry. He also began to publish the results of his classical Chinese literature research.
At the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, he and many other intellectuals from northeastern China migrated to Kunming, Yunnan. There he was able to continue to teach, this time in the wartime National Southwestern Associated University. Wen stopped writing poetry in 1931 and became increasingly involved in social criticism. He became politically active in 1944 in support of the China Democratic League. His outspoken nature led to his assassination by secret agents of the Kuomintang after eulogizing his friend Li Gongpu's life at Li's funeral in 1946.
There is a monument to Wen at the Yunnan Normal University campus in Kunming, as well as a large statue. A small memorial to him, including a wall portrait painted from a famous picture of him smoking his pipe is found in a walkway by his former home (the site is now part of an elementary school) in the Green Lake area of Kunming. He and his wife, Gao Zhen, are buried at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing.
Wen's poetry is noted for its experimentation with classical Chinese rules and forms. He modeled his poetry on that of the English poets John Keats, Alfred Tennyson, and Robert Browning, and tried to "recapture the symbolism and ethos of premodern Chinese society". The poems in his second collection, Dead Water (Sǐshuǐ 死水), have "a haunting musicality", and deal with the "heartrendingly heavy" subject of exposing social injustice and corruption.
Wen was credited by David Hawkes as the initiator of the cult of Qu Yuan as "China's first patriotic poet", writing that, "although Qu Yuan did not write about the life of the people or voice their sufferings, he may truthfully be said to have acted as the leader of a people's revolution and to have struck a blow to avenge them. Qu Yuan is the only person in the whole of Chinese history who is fully entitled to be called 'the people's poet'."
- Chen Shan, "Shen Chongwen", Encyclopedia of China, archived from the original on 2007-09-29.
- Hawkes, David (1974), "The Quest of the Goddess", Studies in Chinese Literary Genres, Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 42–68, ISBN 0-520-02037-5.
- Li, Lincoln (1994), Student Nationalism in China, 1924–1949, Albany: SUNY Press, ISBN 9780791417508.
- Payne, Robert (1947), China Awake, New York: Dodd Mead.
- Wang, David Der-wei (2010), "Chinese Literature from 1841 to 1937", The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, Vol. II: From 1375, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 413–564, ISBN 978-0-521-85559-4.
- Wen Yiduo (1956), "人民的詩人—屈原 [Rénmín de Shīrén—Qū Yuán, Qu Yuan: The People's Poet]", 《神話與詩》 [Shénhuà yú Shī, Mythology & Poetry], Guji Chubanshe. (in Chinese)
- Wen Yiduo. A Portrait by Kong Kai Ming at Portrait Gallery of Chinese Writers (Hong Kong Baptist University Library).