Lew Poo Chan (Dan Ying)



Lew Poo Chan (b. 1943, Kuala Kangsar, Perak, Malaya),1 better known by her pseudonym Dan Ying, is a well-known poet in Chinese-speaking communities around the world.2 Her poetry has won a number of literary awards and has been translated into several languages.3 For her contributions to literature, Lew was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Literature in 1996.4

Early life and career
Lew grew up in a small town in Perak, Malaya (now Malaysia). After graduating from high school, she wanted to go to China for further studies. However, due to passport constraints, she went to Taiwan instead.5


While studying in Taiwan, Lew became involved in the Chinese literary publication Xing Zuo Shi Kan. It was through working on this publication that she met her future husband Wong Yoon Wah, another undergraduate from Malaysia who was equally passionate about poetry.6In 1966, Lew graduated from a four-year degree course in Chinese Language and Literature from the National Taiwan University in Taipei.7

In 1967, Lew and Wong went to pursue further studies in the United States at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the tutelage of an acclaimed Chinese scholar, Zhou Ce Zong. The couple got married later that year.8

Upon completing their Masters in Chinese History and Literature, Lew went to teach at the University of California at Santa Barbara while her husband remained in Wisconsin to pursue his PhD.9 Lew taught at the University of California from 1971 to 1974.10

In the mid-1970s, the couple relocated to Singapore where Lew taught Chinese language first at the Nanyang University (now know as the Nanyang Technological University),11 and later at the National University of Singapore. Lew continued teaching until her retirement in 2003.12

Lew currently resides in Taiwan where her husband is lecturing at Yuan Zhi University.13

Artistic career
Lew started writing in her high school days. One of her publications, an essay entitled Reminiscences of Red Bean that was published in Jiao Feng Yue Kan, a Malaysian literary journal, received much praise from the editor. Thereafter, she continued to write and contribute to other publications using different pen names.14


Lew stated writing poetry when she was studying in Taiwan because of her involvement in Xing Zuo Shi Kan. Her first collection of poetry, Qian Wan Bian Yang Guan (Farewell, A Long Farewell), was published in 1966 by Xing Zuo Shi Kan.15 A second collection of poetry, Dan Ren Dao (One Man Lane), was published in 1968 also by Xing Zuo Shi Kan.16

Lew was not a prolific writer.17 She set a high standard for herself and would not publish poems that she was not satisfied with.18


Her third collection of poetry, Tai Ji Shi Pu (Poems of Taiji), was published only in 1979 some 11 years after her last publication. This was followed by Fa Shang Sui Yue (Ages on my Hair), published in 1993 after a gap of more than 10 years. Both poetry collections won her the National Book Development Council of Singapore Book Award.19 Lew is therefore best known for these two collections of poetry.20 Tai Ji Shi Pu (Poems of Taiji) consists of 100 poems that explore philosophical and metaphysical themes while Fa Shang Sui Yue (Ages on my Hair) contains 68 works of modern poetry.21

In 1995, her fifth book, The Collected Works of Dan Ying, was published.22 At an international writer’s conference organised by Fu Dan University in Shanghai, China, Lew was picked as one of the top 10 Chinese women writers in the world.23

An esteemed poet in the international Chinese literary scene, many of Lew’s works have appeared in anthologies published in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan.24 Some of her poems have also been translated into English, Malay and Korean.25

In Singapore, Lew’s poems were selected to be used as part of the pre-university syllabus for Chinese language and literature.26 Her poems were also selected to be displayed in Mass Rapid Transit train carriages as part of the initiative to introduce the works of local poets to the public.27

Lew’s biggest critic is her husband, Wong, who is also a Cultural Medallion winner. He reviews every piece of her work before it is published.28

Stylistic conventions
The simple, slow-paced life in a small town had a great influence on Lew. From a young age, Lew enjoyed the poems of Tao Yuan Ming, a poet from China’s Six Dynasties period famed for being a hermit who advocated a simple life in the countryside. Her pen name was the result of her admiration for this poet.29


Other than Tao Yuan Ming, poets from the Tang and Song dynasties as well as Buddhist and Taoist philosophies have been major influences on her works. Lew’s works are simple and graceful in language and yet profound in meaning, offering deep insights to the reader.30

In her earlier works, Lew wrote mostly about love, friendship and kinship.31 In later years, she became more concerned with world affairs. Lew feels strongly that poets have social responsibilities and their works can reflect the events and issues of the world. Thus, news about poor Indian villagers selling their kidneys, the outbreak of mad cow disease in Britain, the plight of Vietnamese refugees, atrocities of war in the Middle East and the tragedy of hunger in Africa became topics of her work.32

Other sources of inspiration for Lew were subjects like modern-day womanhood and the seemingly trivial things of everyday life and activities such as doing the laundry, which is touched upon in her poem Doing the Laundry.33

For Lew, art is “to produce the most beautiful and the most delicate things for others. I want to give people a beautiful feeling about the work, but that is very hard”.34

Though Lew has admitted that poets are very lonely people who are not often applauded for their work, this did not stop her from becoming one as she believes that “a good poem can live forever and that, alone, is worth the effort".35

Family36
Husband: Wong Yoon Wah.

Awards
1980:
National Book Development Council of Singapore Book Award.

1994: National Book Development Council of Singapore Book Award.
1995: Southeast Asia Write Award.37
1996: Cultural Medallion Award for Literature.
1997: Montblanc-NUS Centre for the Literary Arts Awards.38

List of selected works
Poetry

1966: Qian Wan Bian Yang Guan (Farewell, A Long Farewell).
1968: Dan Ren Dao (One Man Lane).
1979: Tai Ji Shi Pu (Poems of Taiji).
1993: Fa Shang Sui Yue (Ages on my Hair).

Anthologies39
1973: The Orchid Boat.
1985: The Poetry of Singapore.
1998: Memories and Desires: A Poetic History of Singapore.
2009: Twentieth-Century Chinese Women’s Poetry: An Anthology; Tumasik: Contemporary Writing from Singapore.



Author
Chor Poh Chin



References
1.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 155. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Troubled times stir the soul and pen of a poet. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2.
Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 64. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
3.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lew Poo Chan (Dan Ying). Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lew+Poo+Chan+%28Dan+Ying%29
4.
National Arts Council Singapore. (2012). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award Recipients for Literature. Retrieved from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/literary-arts/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-literature
5.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lew Poo Chan (Dan Ying). Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lew+Poo+Chan+%28Dan+Ying%29
6.
张曦娜 [Zhang, X. N.]. (1990, August 13). 诗路回首 [Shi lu hui shou]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tribute.sg. (2012). Lew Poo Chan (Dan Ying). Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lew+Poo+Chan+%28Dan+Ying%29
7.
Troubled times stir the soul and pen of a poet. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8.
Troubled times stir the soul and pen of a poet. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2; 心中的天堂 [Xin zhong de tian tang]. (1997, October 23). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9.
Troubled times stir the soul and pen of a poet. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10.
至塑华曼遂塞至垄垄堡皇 [Zhi su hua man zhu sai zhi long long bao huang]. (1997, January 19). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11.
心中的天堂 [Xin zhong de tian tang]. (1997, October 23). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12.
Poet and composer's shining hour. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 155. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
13.
南洋网 [Nan Yang Wang]. (2011, November 5). 女诗人淡莹 崇华母校杰出校友 [Nu shi ren dan ying Chong Hua mu xiao jie chu xiao you]. Retrieved from http://nanyang.com.my/node/395683?tid=702
14.
南洋网 [Nan Yang Wang]. (2011, November 5). 女诗人淡莹 崇华母校杰出校友 [Nu shi ren dan ying Chong Hua mu xiao jie chu xiao you]. Retrieved from http://nanyang.com.my/node/395683?tid=702
15.
Troubled times stir the soul and pen of a poet. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 南洋网 [Nan Yang Wang]. (2011, November 5). 女诗人淡莹 崇华母校杰出校友 [Nu shi ren dan ying Chong Hua mu xiao jie chu xiao you]. Retrieved from http://nanyang.com.my/node/395683?tid=702
16.
张曦娜 [Zhang, X. N.]. (1995, September 24). 少年情诗与中年诗情 [Shao nian qing shi yu zhong nian shi qing]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 49. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17.
Troubled times stir the soul and pen of a poet. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18.
张曦娜 [Zhang, X. N.]. (1995, September 24). 少年情诗与中年诗情 [Shao nian qing shi yu zhong nian shi qing]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 49. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19.
Troubled times stir the soul and pen of a poet. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lew Poo Chan (Dan Ying). Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lew+Poo+Chan+%28Dan+Ying%29
21.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lew Poo Chan (Dan Ying). Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lew+Poo+Chan+%28Dan+Ying%29
22.
Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 64. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
23.
Troubled times stir the soul and pen of a poet. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Troubled times stir the soul and pen of a poet. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lew Poo Chan (Dan Ying). Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lew+Poo+Chan+%28Dan+Ying%29
26.
Ministry of Education. (2006). Chinese Language/Chinese Language & Literature Syllabuses: Pre-University: 2006. Retrieved from Ministry of Education website: http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/syllabuses/mother-tongue-languages/files/chinese-and-literature-pre-university.pdf
27.
吴启基 [Wu, Q. J.]. (1996, March 25). 与孔子语录并立 本地诗跃上地铁站广告牌 [Yu kong zi yu lu bing li ben di shi yue shang di tie zhan guang gao pai]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28.
Poet and composer's shining hour. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29.
张曦娜 [Zhang, X. N.]. (1995, September 24). 少年情诗与中年诗情 [Shao nian qing shi yu zhong nian shi qing]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 49. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30.
Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 64. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR); Tribute.sg. (2012). Lew Poo Chan(Dan Ying). Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lew+Poo+Chan+%28Dan+Ying%29
31.
张曦娜 [Zhang, X. N.]. (1995, September 24). 少年情诗与中年诗情 [Shao nian qing shi yu zhong nian shi qing]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 49. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32.
Troubled times stir the soul and pen of a poet. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lew Poo Chan (Dan Ying). Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lew+Poo+Chan+%28Dan+Ying%29
34.
Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 64. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
35.
Troubled times stir the soul and pen of a poet. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lew Poo Chan (Dan Ying). Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lew+Poo+Chan+%28Dan+Ying%29
37.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 155. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
38.
Ong, S. F. (1997, October 29). No money for five, but award is symbol of recognition. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lew Poo Chan (Dan Ying). Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lew+Poo+Chan+%28Dan+Ying%29



Further resources

淡莹 [Dan, Y.]. (1979). 太极诗谱 [Tai ji shi pu]. 新加坡: 教育出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C811.5 DY)

淡莹 [Dan, Y.]. (1993). 发上岁月 [Fa shang sui yue]. 新加坡: 七洋出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C811.5 DY)

淡莹 [Dan, Y.]. (1998). 逍遥曲: 新华女作家选集 [Xiao yao qu: Xin Hua nü zuo jia xuan ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡潮州八邑会馆文教委员会出版组.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.08 XYQ)



The information in this article is valid as at 12 February 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Personalities
Arts