Comparative Literature: East & West
Fanxing (A Maze of Stars) and Chunshui (Spring Water) are two poetry collections of modern Chinese woman writer Bing Xin (1900–1999). Because they stand at the beginning of a new genre, xiaoshi (short poetry), and are commonly regarded as representative works of this genre, people use the epithets “Bing Xin style,” “Fanxing style,” or “Chunshui style” to refer to xiaoshi writing. Nevertheless, viewed from their intimate relationship with Rabindranath Tagore’s Stray Birds, I argue that Fanxing and Chunshui are products of both imitation and creation. Imitation is not plagiarism. Dryden defines imitation as a form of translation, which allows the full play of the translator’s freedom and personality. With writing as translation, Bing Xin creates her poetics of short poetry writing based on her imitation and appropriation of Tagore’s Stray Birds. Imitation provides the authority and inspiration as well as a model for Bing Xin to follow. However, she does not imitate slavishly or translate faithfully in a traditional sense. Rather, while taking influence from Tagore, Bing Xin reverses the patriarchal and Orientalist tendencies of Tagore with her feminist and realistic writing style. In this way, she both aligns herself with the May Fourth writers and also demonstrates her own voice and features.
This article was originally published in Comparative Literature: East & West, 2019, Volume 3, Issue 1.
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Xiaoqing Liu (2019) Imitation and creation: Bing Xin’s Fanxing (A Maze of Stars) 繁星and Chunshui (Spring Water) 春水, Comparative Literature: East & West, 3:1, 79-100, DOI:10.1080/25723618.2019.1616660