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Mu Dan (Chinese: 穆旦pinyin: Mù Dàn; 5 April 1918 - 26 February 1977) was one of the most important poets of 20th century China. Born Zha Liangzheng (simplified Chinese: 查良铮traditional Chinese: 查良錚pinyin: Zhā Liángzhēng) in Tianjin, China in 1918, he matriculated the prestigious Tsinghua University at the age of 17, and graduated from National Southwestern Associated University in 1940. After having served as an assistant lecturer of English at his alma mater for two years, he joined the Chinese Expedition Force for Burma in an effort to aid the British troops there to fight off the Japanese. After World War II, he went to the University of Chicago, where he eventually earned a master's degree in English literature. He is in the same family with the famous novelist Louis Cha.

Most of his poems were written during late 1930s and 1940s. His poetry, which is characterized by impassioned speculation, abstract sensuality, and occasionally, restrained irony, is the foremost example of Chinese new vernacular verse absorbing modern Western techniques. Indeed, Mu Dan was a professed admirer of W. H. Auden, W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot. He studied their poetry at Southwest Associated University under William Empson, himself a leading modernist poet. On the other hand, the patriotism and the compassion for the suffering and needy in his poetry fall easily in line with a great tradition in Chinese poetry.

Mu Dan had to give up poetry writing several years after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, and he turned to literary translation, for which he is also renowned. His works in this respect include the Chinese translations of Lord Byron's Don Juan and Aleksandr Pushkin's Eugene Onegin.

It was not until 1976 that Mu Dan resumed writing poetry. He produced twenty-seven poems that year; highly regarded among them were several moving elegy-style pieces, prophetic of his sudden death of a heart attack in early 1977.



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