Li Ying, male. Born in December 1926, in Jinzhou, Liaoning province. His family is originally from Fengrun, Hebei province. Former head of the cultural division of the People’s Liberation Army and presidium member of the Chinese Writers Association. In 1949 he graduated from Peking University with a degree in Chinese and subsequently entered the People’s Liberation Army. Former reporter with the Fourth Field Army Cooperative for Xinhua News. His writing was first published in 1942. Together with a classmate, he released the poetry collection Green Sprouts Below the Stone City in 1944, and in 1948 his first poetry collection, Gun , was published. His poetry collection Life Is a Leaf won the first Lu Xun Literary Prize for Poetry.
Sometimes known as the “Army Poet,” Li Ying is skilled at portraying scenes from the everyday life of a soldier, and at using these scenes to praise the courage and devotion of these soldiers. Li Ying has also written many poems with international themes. These poems are set against a common background—people fighting for the their independence and liberty—and are filled with strong emotion. Li Ying has a knack for conveying grand ideas and themes with smaller examples, such as using small, specific parts of life reflect the characteristics of certain eras. He is also skilled at grasping the features of natural landscapes. The natural landscapes he depicts are vast and magnificent, and filled with bright, gorgeous imagery.
I Am Proud, I Am a Tree is written from the perspective of a tree, using this voice to passionately display its unyieldingness and love of life, as well as its spirit of selfless devotion. This tree grows besides the Yellow River, the cradle of Chinese civilization. In addition to his instincts for blocking wind, sand, rain, and snow, he also watches over the weak, cares for society, and dedicates his own good qualities to the people’s wellbeing. Even if he loses his “life,” he will still be turned into coal, devoting the last of his warmth and brightness to society. In fact, the tree’s emotions are a perfect reflection of the author’s own.
My China is a long lyrical poem with over 3,600 lines. Using his own experiences growing up as well as numerous lives and eras as threads, the poet records the country’s development through the years with passionate and truthful language; using a wide breadth of perspectives, he explores the history of China’s development, laying out a massive canvas as he does so. As he confronts the future, the poet calls out, “Now, under this sunlight, let us/after experiencing these fifty Octobers, look through the window of the end of this century/and gaze upon the future.”
January Sorrow and Grief depicts the entire country’s grief after the death of former Chinese premiere Zhou Enlai, as well as the people’s sorrowful but cherished memories of the man. The poet describes the mighty crowds of people who lined the streets of Beijing to bid a final farewell to the former premiere’s hearse. Interspersed with memories of Zhou Enlai’s moving deeds, the poem paints a vivid and lofty image of him. The poet combines techniques of repetition and symmetry found in traditional Chinese poetry with a cinematic montage technique to present a style that is simultaneously firm and supple.
Li Ying’s later poems are seamlessly written and marked by the natural use of technique. The poet melds his emotions with the imagery of his poems—deep, abstruse, patient, and heartrending. With a single phrase as a theme—“the soul is a bird”—he penned five new poems: In the Graveyard , After the Passing of a Family Member, The Soul Is a Bird, Searching, and What Is Loneliness. These poems express his deep pain and thoughts on his departed family members and relatives.