Shang Ch’in (1930) was born in southern China and has lived in Taiwan since 1948.
‘When I look back, it seems to me that my past years are marked by imprisonment and escape.
At the age of fifteen, I was press-ganged by local troops in the street of Chengdu, and locked up in an old barn. After a week’s imprisonment I gave in; there appeared to be books stored there that I had never seen before, it was my first actual encounter with the new literature. It was there that I read Lu Xun’s Weeds and Bing Xin’s Stars.
After a month I left with the troops. Before we arrived in Chongqing, the first of my series of escapes was a fact; I still remember the lights of the fishing boats on the Jialing River and the babbling of the waves.
Three years later in Canton I made the greatest escape of my life. I wanted to return home, but on my way there I was repeatedly captured by other troops; again and again I escaped. In all, I escaped seven or eight times, and in doing so my feet traversed all of the southern provinces of China; I just did not succeed in returning home, although at one time I almost found myself abroad.
Finally, the troops that had captured me combined in organizing a major escape.
In Taiwan, the language barrier and the short distances between towns put an end to the pleasure of escaping; after my body had lost the possibility of escape, the only other form of escape left to me was into another name. But I could not escape from myself, so I am always ‘between gate and heaven’, or ‘between dream and dawn’.
It is sad enough to be the prisoner of your own heart.’
In 2002 Shang Ch'in was a guest at the Poetry International festival in Rotterdam.