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  • The History of China in Numbers
  • Zhou Qingrong (bio)
    Translated by Michelle Chihara (bio), Tony Barnstone (bio), and Jia Yan (bio)

Five thousand years, two thousand years of legends, three thousand years of records.

Ten thousand harvests—how many people and animals did they feed?On 18,025,000 dawns the roosters crowed—to whom did dogs bark for 20,000 seasons?

One thousand years of wars of secession, a thousand years of wars of union, and a thousand years of fragmenting confederation. Two thousand years of reluctant fealty to temples, waving different flags, chanting different scriptures. Given one thousand years of true unity, five hundred would be taken by black nights. In the remaining five hundred years of brilliant days, how many hearts were scarred by unrecorded rainy days?How many mysterious archives were sealed up by five hundred years of black nights? How many heroes were buried in earth? How many monuments were built by time for them? And where are the monuments? Sunshine tears through the clouds—how many monuments fall outside the territory of 9,600,000 square kilometers?What I also want to calculate is: in these five thousand years how many days were earmarked for dreaming, how many days for justice and joy?The numbers are certain. Five thousand years of endurance, five thousand years of living, five thousand for the great and the mean, and five thousand years of hope.Love for five thousand years and loathing for five thousand years. Helpless love of this land for five thousand years. Violence, suffering, vile people achieving vast ambitions I refuse to count. The human heart is greater than five thousand years. [End Page 177]

Zhou Qingrong

Zhou Qingrong 周庆荣 was born in Xiangshui, Jiangsu province, in 1963 and now lives in Beijing. His recent collections include Selected Prose Poems of Zhou Qingrong (2006), We (bilingual edition, 2010), People with Lofty Ideals (2011), Prediction (2014), and People with a Vision (2014).

Michelle Chihara

Michelle Chihara received her doctorate from the University of California, Irvine, and now teaches at Whittier College. She has published in many places, including Mother Jones, The Boston Phoenix, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Tony Barnstone

Tony Barnstone is a professor of English and environmental studies at Whittier College. A prolific poet, author, essayist, and literary translator, he is the author of twenty books. His latest poetry book is Pulp Sonnets (2015). His books of co-translation include Mother Is a Bird: Sonnets by a Yi Poet (2017), River Merchant's Wife by Ming Di (2012), Chinese Erotic Poems (2007), The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry (2005), and Out of the Howling Storm: The New Chinese Poetry (1993). Among his honors are fellowships from the NEA, the NEH, and the California Arts Council. He has won the Grand Prize of the Strokestown International Poetry Festival, the Pushcart Prize, the Pablo Neruda Prize, and the John Ciardi Prize.

Jia Yan

Jia Yan was a visiting scholar of Chinese literature at the University of Oklahoma in 2018. Her publications include The Journey of Chinese Contemporary Authors and An Overview of the Translation of Chinese Contemporary Poetry.



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