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This article is taken from PN Review 73, Volume 16 Number 5, May - June 1990.

A Note on the Two Poems by Hí Lö John Peck

Hi-Lö drafted these two poems during his stay in the West, but it is clear from internal evidence that he wrote the homage to Wu Yün, the eighth-century hermit and poet, shortly before returning to China, to serve as a doctor in hiding after the massacre at Tien An Men Square in Beijing.

The little we know about this refugee from the Red Guard revolution, who made his way to Switzerland to study western medicine and at the same time to reflect on the Fang-shih or diviner-healers of legendary history, leads us to suppose that he was no more immune to the lure of western learning than were those numerous Chinese intellectuals of the early decades of this century who studied in Europe and America. But his critique of those predecessors, in the person of Xu Zhimo, leaves no doubt that Hi-Lo mistrusted the more advantaged and enthusiastic among them.

The homage to Wu Yün alludes to Communist history and the debacle of the 1989 democracy movement only obliquely, through glances at eastern and western monasticism. Several features of that strategy, however, serve him as more than mere screens. Even the abrupt shifts of revolutionary right-thinking are reflected in the older story. Wu Yün failed the imperial examinations on Confucian topics but passed them later on Taoist ones, and spent a brief period at the court of the late T'ang Emperor Hsüan-tsung. Both Wu and Li Po, whom Wu introduced to the Emperor, became members ...


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