Wen Yun, whose pen name is Wen Huasha, is famous for his prominent contribution in the research for Chu Ci (An ancient Chinese anthology of poems, which is also called The Songs of the South). Wen's original family came from Hunan Province, and he was born in Beijing, 1910. He was a professor at the National Female Normal School and Shanghai Drama Academy at the age of 18. After the liberation of China, he taught in Peking University, Tsinghua University, Peking Normal University and the Central Institute of Fine Arts, as professor, visiting professor or advisor. He is profoundly knowledgeable in Chinese traditional learning, poetry in all the dynasties, Buddhism, physics, research of Dream of the Red Mansion, music, drama, painting and calligraphy.
A Chu Ci Master, a Living Qu Yuan
Wen Huaisha showed his intelligence clearly in his early years, reciting Li Sao (one of the most famous Chu Ci, written by Qu Yuan, one of the greatest poets in ancient China) at 12 years old, studying with master Zhang Taiyan in Chinese traditional Academe as a teenager and being a professor at the National Female Normal School when he was 18. In 1953, it took Wen only one month to finish his most famous work, The Volume of Qu Yuan, which shocked the academia deeply at that time.
Not only was Wen literarily and artistically talented, but his spirit was also like Qu Yuan, the great poet who loved his home country so much. During the Cultural Revolution, Wen was kept in prison in Linfen, Shanxi Province. He could have freed himself by writing a repentant announcement, but he refused.
Broad Mind, Broad Spirit
On an autumn day 1986, Ma Xuehong (an Art department editor at the People's Radio Station of Shanghai) found a copy of a lecture Wen had given 30 years previous explaining Shi Jing (the Book of Odes, the oldest classical Chinese script) and broadcasted it. However, during the broadcast, Ma made reference to Wen's passing away. Soon letters and phone calls began pouring into the station, correcting Ma on his mistake. He waited nervously for Wen's condemnation, but instead, received a letter not only forgiving Ma for his mistake, but thanking him and the station for running the broadcast.
Shortest and Longest Book
The shortest book Wen Huaisha has written is Zheng, Qing, He, which means 'integrity, clarity and harmony', which he made a piece of calligraphy and hang on the wall at his home. Integrity was advocated by Confucius, while clarity by Laotze and harmony by Sakyamuni. The three notions represent the essence of oriental philosophy, and guide Wen through his life.
The longest anthology still being compiled by Wen is The Four Parts of Civilization. Its inspiration comes from Si Ku Quan Shu, which was edited in Qing Dynasty, but this series of books represents the beliefs of emperors, so it inevitably distorts the spirit of a lot of Chinese ancient books. Wen and his team are working hard on this big project to leave a pure, authoritative interpretation of Chinese civilization to posterity. After several years, the fist part of the series called The Civilization of Sui and Tang was finally finished in year 2005. It contains 100 volumes, and covers 626 ancient books with more than 60,000,000 Chinese characters in all. This part garnered critical praise from Chinese people, which makes Wen, 96, very happy, and gave him the confidence to finish the remaining three parts, The Civilization of Shang and Zhou, The Civilization of Qin and Han, and The Civilization of the Six Dynasties. The complete four parts of the series will have a total of 200 volumes, and if they are piled in a stack on top of each other, it will be more than ten meters in height!
(chinaculture August 4, 2006)