Chang’an Xie’s “Ruins” translated by Eureka Ma

Eureka Ma, 2018 PSP participant

Yuxuan (Eureka) Ma grew up in China. She is an undergraduate at St John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, matriculating in its Great Books program. She recently began translating Chinese-language poetry into English.

I was encouraged by my mentors in Prague to translate Chinese poems. This one is by Chang’an Xie who was born in 1982, and graduated from Communication University of China. He is the chief editor of the poetry magazine New Poetry Generation and a member of the US-Chinese cultural and artistic committee. His poetry collections include The Dream of Boy Qiao, The Wolf’s Claw Marks, and The Deer Chaser. His poems also appeared in such anthologies as A Hundred Years of the Classical Chinese Long Poem. His works have been translated into English, Korean, Hebrew, and Arabic, among other languages. He lives in Beijing.

From my visits to its historical sites, it became clear to me that the Czech people have suffered similarly to how the Chinese have suffered, and this realization compelled me to put my bilingualism to poetic use. This poem by Chang’an Xie is full of adept references to ancient Chinese symbols and images, and the poet is generally known for such references. “Ruins” is about the stagnation of time, written at the poem’s visit to Yuan Ming Yuan in Beijing.


by Chang’an Xie

A spotted deer leaps through the clocks

A stone bridge crosses through fireworks and ballads

The man after smoking withdraws his tongue

At early spring one hears the cuckoo cry mournfully

At midnight one sees the white dew and sheds tears

The sky always shakes a color of copper green like that


If ancients flash through waves

caressing the remains and relics during the peak of the palace

All time grows old

An exhausted kingdom, a sea without starlight

The wind, bacterial like,

brushes high up in the sky in Changchun garden

needs one to search for overhead. In the end, nothing exists

I knock at where skulls, arms, and feet lie today

to probe the ruins and solitude of another year

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