Yu Guang-zhong - The Untrammeled Traveler

Free and Easy God of Shepherds

No Leaving Literature

“Should you wish to wander free and easy in the skies, should you wish to stroll through the twelve signs along the zodiac, and if, in the illusory world of blue quartz , you wish to slowly levitate and molt like a cicada or morph into a butterfly, to leave behind your unhappy self…” This passage, from The Untrammeled Traveler by Yu Guang-zhong published in 1964, serves as the perfect footnote to his literary career.

He has returned. The one who used to aim his sights at Sirius and travel the world like the ancient Chinese traveler Hsu Xia-ke, the one with the strong and piercing gaze who once burned the crane-shaped kite, he has returned. Xizi Bay will be his last home, he says. The Untrammeled Traveler follows the travels of Mr. and Mrs. Yu Guang-zhong, discovering along the way the poet’s nostalgia for his motherland, his initiation to literature, his literary style, and his interactions with the literary circle, revealing the poet’s journey to find his own voice back in the days of exhilarating exchanges between Chinese and Western thought. At the dusk of a life filled with thoughts and words that have resonated far and wide, Yu Guang-zhong chose to settle down at a bay in the south of Taiwan, where he and his wife accompany each other in calm quietude.

“To write is sometimes to compensate; the words are not as the person is, but as what the person wants to be.”—— Yu Guang-zhong

Destined to be a Poet of the South

Yu Guang-zhong was born in 1928 in Nanking, China. He received an MFA from the University of Iowa, and taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong for 11 years. He had a deep influence on contemporary Hong Kong literature, and was praised as a “magician of language” by Hong Kong writer Perry Lam. Yu returned to Taiwan in the 1980s and settled near the Xizi Bay in Kaohsiung City, where he became a professor at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature of National Sun Yat-sen University. He has published poetry, prose, criticism and translations. Renowned writer Liang Shih-chiu described him as “writing poetry with his right hand and prose with his left, reaching such accomplishments that he had no peer at the time.” His works have been included in textbooks in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, a reflection of his unparalleled literary influence among the three places across the Taiwan Strait. Yu once said, “China is my mother, Taiwan my wife, Hong Kong a lover, and Europe a mistress.”

Director Chen Hwai-eng

Chen Hwai-eng graduated from the printing and photography department of Shih Hsin University. He joined the movie industry in 1983, just as the first movies of the Taiwanese New Wave Cinema were being made. Starting from The Sandwich Man, he has worked in the film industry for more than 20 years, working his way up from script supervisor, movie photographer, assistant director, to cinematographer, collaborating along the way with renowned Taiwanese directors such as Yang De-chang and Hou Hsiao-hsien. Over the years, he has shot more than one hundred films, shorts and commercials in collaboration with directors both at home and abroad. In the 2007 film Island Etude, he was responsible for screenplay, directing, and cinematography. The movie, which featured a hearing-impaired youth on a week-long cycling trip around Taiwan, was a blockbuster beloved by audiences, launching a trend of cycling around Taiwan that continues to this day.

More Photos from the Set

Yu Guang-zhong devoted his whole life to expressing nostalgia for his homeland.
——Online comment from дψ

I had read his poems in textbooks as a student, but back then I could not feel them. Now, hearing them read out loud by him, I am deeply moved. Now I can understand the emotions in those poems.
——Online comment from Footsteps and Shadows

The documentary was surprisingly well made, with music that was just right. Even though this was a slow-paced documentary, several times I was so moved that my eyes welled up.
——Online comment from Life’s Short, Take it Easy

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Yu Guang-zhong Chronology

1928
Born in Nanking, China. Ancestral homeland in Yongchun, Fujian Province.
1950
Moves to Taiwan with parents, where he attends the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, National Taiwan University.
1954
Founds the Blue Star Poetry Society.
1956
Weds Fan Wo-tsun.
1958
Attends the University of Iowa’s creative writing program.
1965
Publishes The Untrammeled Traveler, a collection of prose.
1974
Publishes poetry collection White Jade Bitter Melon and prose collection Listen to the Cold Rain.
1980
Becomes Chair of the English Department and head of the Graduate Institute of English Language and Literature at National Taiwan Normal University.
1981
Publishes Yu Guang-zhong Poetry Collection.
1985
Moves to Kaohsiung and becomes Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and head of the Graduate Institute of Foreign Languages and Literature at National Sun Yat-sen University.
1990
Receives the National Award for Arts in modern poetry.
2005
Becomes general organizer for the “Alliance for Saving Chinese Education”.
2008
Hong Kong University and National Chengchi University host conferences on Yu Guang-zhon’s body of work.
2011
Receives honorary doctorate degree from the National Sun Yat-sen University.
2017
Dies at the age of 90 at the Kaohsiung Medical University Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital.