Translator's notes

Cheng Junkui Died

By Shen Haobo

Shen Haobo, born in 1976, is considered one of the most controversial voices among the new generation of Chinese poets for being both wickedly erotic and politically satirical in his poetry. In 1998, as an undergraduate, he shocked poetry circles with a fierce article ‘Who Made a Fool of the Nineties?’, criticising the mainstream poetic trend in the 1990s. By 2000 he was known as the leading poet of the ‘Lower Body Group’, a poetry group characterised by its erotic writing, which brought him both fame and infamy. Apart from eroticism, politics is the other indispensable element of his poetry. His first collection Great Evil in the Heart (2004) was banned and he went abroad for a few months to escape arrest. Shen is not a real dissident but his poetry always has a rebellious temperament. His early poems are explicit and edgy, while his later poems have become more profound, especially after he encountered the trouble brought by his work. He is also one of the most successful publishers whose company Xiron has produced more bestsellers than any other in China. A rebellious poet and shrewd businessman, Shen Haobo is such a complex figure on the Chinese poetry scene that we might be tempted to fall back to his own words: a poet with ‘great evil in the heart’.

The poems here are taken from ‘Wenlou Village Accounts’, a sequence of seven poems written by Shen Haobo after his visit to the village in the early 2000s. Wenlou Village is one of China’s AIDS villages, due to a 1991–1995 plasmapheresis campaign by the Henan provincial government, known as the Plasma Economy, in which blood plasma was extracted in exchange for money. The campaign attracted three million donors and subsequently about 40% of them contracted AIDS. According to official statistics, there are 38 such villages in Henan Province. Tomb-Sweeping Day, also known as the Chingming Festival in China, falls on 4 or 5 April each year and is a holiday when people visit the family graves to commemorate and pray to their ancestors.

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