Taiwanese Artist: As Long as There Is One Poet, the World Still Has Hope

Magdaléna Šebestová

22 September 2016


Yu Hsi – Taiwanese scholar, poet, translator, Buddhist thinker and patron of arts – said in an interview for the Dotyk magazine, that President Havel’s heritage represents the most important values the Czech people should follow.

In the previous few days the community of poets from the whole world met in Prague to commemorate the 115 birth anniversary of the Czech Nobel Laureate in Literature Jaroslav Seifert. The 36th World Congress of Poets organized by the Czech Center of the International PEN Club was attended by 140 poets from 18 countries.

Among of the most important participants of the Congress was the Taiwanese scholar, poet, translator, Buddhist thinker and patron of arts Yu Hsi, who previously served as president of both the Chinese Poetry Society and Chinese Writers and Artists’ Association. He is also a publisher and founding chairman of the Crane Summit 21st Century International Forum.

Yu Hsi has published many poetry collections in Chinese, including the so called “epic poems” (scroll poetry), but also books for children in both verse and prose. His works have been translated into English, French, Mongolian, Hindu and Urdu, but also Czech and Slovak. His books and enlightening activities have won him highest awards in many countries in the world; he is the recipient of the Franz Kafka Medallion, Karel Capek Medallion awarded by the Czech PEN Club, Jan Smrek Award, etc.

Taiwanese poet Yu Hsi, Markéta Mališová (Franz Kafka Center, director), Tomáš Vrba (Forum 2000 Foundation, president of the Board of Directors), and Jiří Dědeček (Czech Center of the International PEN Club, president)

Dr Yu Hsi, you represent a large and prestigious foundation supporting artists not only in Taiwan but also internationally. What made you – a scholar, a spiritual man, a poet and a writer split your precious time between art and executive administrative work?

In Chinese culture, the artists have traditionally been administrators as well, hence the two are generally not thought of as two separate professions. This is also the reason why I carefully split my own time and activities. The time when the sun is about to come out until the moment it rises high on the sky represents the part of the day most inspirational for artists. Therefore, every morning from 4 to 7 I dedicate myself to art and artistic creation. For the rest of the day until sunset I work for the sake of our Blue Planet and the humankind. My goal and wish is for all the people to live in peace and actively help each other. At the same time, I’ve always wanted to share art with all people who love and appreciate it and that’s why in my own creative works I strive for the spiritual art, and when it comes to the executive and administrative work, I try to inspire the other artists to also devout their work for the benefit of humankind and to spread the thought of sharing. 

Which of your foundation’s achievements are you most proud of?

Since its establishment the Crane Summit 21st Century International Forum has achieved minor success. What is more important is the fact that we have supported poets who engage in selfless and diligent work and should have therefore been awarded long time ago, moreover, we have awarded the work of great world politicians. Our Forum strives for Refinement, Sublimity, Amity and Peace, in other words, if we truly achieved some minor attainments, it’s been for one goal only: so that the people of the 21st century live in peace and to aid poets and artists all over the world. We are proud of all our achievements, be it the occasion when we awarded the Crane Summit Supreme Honor Crown Medallion upon former Indian President Dr. Abdul Kalam or a successful publication of a poetry collection by a world poet. Each and every dead, significant or not, is of the same importance to us.

Meeting with Václav Havel

You are the laureate of the Vision 97 Foundation of Václav and Dagmar Havel (2009). When did you first hear of Václav Havel? Was there anything specific that you found striking or extraordinary about his personality?

When and where have I first heard of President Havel? I can tell you the exact time and occasion. It was on 28 March 2007 at 3:30 pm during a walk with the then Indian President Abdul Kalam in the gardens of the Presidential Palace. When we arrived to the Pavilion of Saints, President Kalam told me that there are two people on the whole planet I should definitely meet: the former Czech President Havel and the former South African President Nelson Mandela. President Kalam described both Presidents in great detail to me, therefore my initial knowledge about Václav Havel comes from him. Shortly after I learned about President Havel’s legendary life, I planned a meeting with him in 2008, but the destiny was against us. Only one year later in 2009 accompanied by the former Slovak President Michal Kováč I travelled to Prague to meet with President Havel. Our encounter took place on the day of Havel’s birthday and I felt truly honored that President Havel treated me with Chinese tea.

You published a poetry book of the Czech writer Jiří Dědeček. What is your key for selecting foreign writers to support?

Crane Summit 21st Century International Forum was founded with the aim to support the cooperation of world poets and men of letters. We’ve published not only a poetry book by Jiří Dědeček, but also selected works by Indian, Mongolian, Slovak, Norwegian, Korean, Japanese and other world authors. The goal of our foundation is to create a platform that would connect all the poets in the world.

You once said that all creative works must contribute to social benefits. How do you force that upon artists?

This is a very good question. In fact, all poets and artists by merely creating art already contribute to the world, with the exception, of course, of those works that don’t stand the test of time. Through his or her work, every poet plants a seed of art into the history of humankind and this act itself is a contribution to the society. Life and creations of an outstanding poet are by themselves a beautiful work of art and an indelible contribution to the humankind.

You also write books for children, several of them have even been translated into Czech. What do you find most challenging and rewarding in writing for children?

I’ve written more than ten books for children that won important Taiwanese literary awards. Two of them, Master Huntsman and Leaflet’s Diary, were already translated into Czech and through the Crane Summit 21st International Forum 500 copies of each title were donated to the Dagmar and Vaclav Havel’s Vize 97 Foundation.

In my opinion, books for children have to represent the embodiment of the most sincere and purest creative inspiration, because through these books we are giving our children, who are about to get to know our world, a present symbolizing purity, goodness and beauty. The biggest challenge for every author of children stories is to depict these values in his or her book. If he or she succeeds and in his or her book gives children such a present, this is the greatest reward of them all.

One Poet Is Enough to Give Hope to the Whole World

How do you see the situation of poetry and its writers in today’s rather speedy and abbreviated electronic world?

For a true poet it is of no relevance. For a mediocre poet it probably is a cause of grief.

It is said that in Asia poetry is very popular which can not be said at least about the CR. Can you see any difference between Asian and Euro Atlantic audience? If so, how can it be explained?

This is a matter of cultural background and different tendencies in historical development. For example, in China the Tang dynasty is known as the era of poems shi, the Sung dynasty as the era of songs ci, and during the Ming and Qing dynasties essays and notes became the most popular literary genres. In other words, different cultural and historical context gave rise to various genres. That’s why the Asians like poetry and Europeans, for example, are fond of music, there’s nothing unusual about that.

The World Congress of Poets is organized annually, always in a different country. Why do you consider such events meaningful?

I think that all similar international events are meaningful, be it the World Congress of Poets or Olympic Games held every four years. Regardless of their importance, the main objective is for the people to learn to cooperate and to get along with one another.

“Inter Arma Silent Musae” – Does a written word stand any chance today at all?

Of course it does! I’ve already mentioned the dialogue with President Kalam. On that occasion President Kalam also told me: “Let’s say there is one hundred states in the whole world. As long as there is one poet born in one of them, there is still hope in this world!”

What message do you have for Czech audience?

Czech people are sincere, genuine, wise and have a great sense of humor. Personally I think that President Havel’s heritage represents the most important values the Czech people should continue to abide by.


Source of news:

(Translated by editorial department)


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