Introduction to Chinese poetry for Westerners

Chinese Characters include poetry.
(Photo: Deposit Photos)
(ChinaAid, Midland, TX—October 15, 2021) In “Three Millennia Of Chinese Poetry / Três Milênios De Poesia Chinesa,” Anabela Fong Keng Seng explains that since ancient times, China has maintained a tradition of education in poetry, not only used to educate people, but to also arouse their intelligence. Anabela Fong asserts:

Through the reading, studying and writing of poetry, it is possible to instruct and cultivate the character of young pupils, as well as to promote children’s creative thinking, logical dialectics and humanistic consciousness. In addition, reciting, learning and writing poetry has the ability to cultivate one’s temperament, allowing people of all social strata, professional occupation and age to cleanse and purify their minds. The realm of poetry has the same effect of calming the soul as religious belief.


Originating from folk songs, poetry occupied a primary proportion in China’s history. Even Westerners can appreciate that even in translation, a Chinese poem reflects the quiet, unadorned beauty or message the author intends.

As poetry has maintained a valuable role in Chinese life, one poem may illustrate a painting. Another may appear on a tea box or adorn a rice bowl. A third may be carved on the bark of a tree in a park or forest. Poems not only ornament imperial palaces, but they may also be present in rustic dwellings. In other words, poems reflect all circumstances of life.

The following draft of the poem, From Over the Mighty Waters, by Pastor John Cao, featured in Living Lyrics, shares a slice of Pastor Cao’s life in prison:

From Over the Mighty Waters

You can take away my freedom,
but you can’t take my prayers.
My prayers have wings
and leap over the towering iron mesh wall.
Many brothers and sisters have heard them.
They fly freely every day
and reach Heaven on the blue sky.
You can impose heavy punishments on me,
but you cannot hold
my spirit and my soul.
Like cheerful yellowbirds,
they raise gentle praises
over the iron gate.
my Savior must have heard my voice.
You can deprive me of the sun
and of warmth.
I eat cold leftovers every day,
but you can never extinguish
the brightness
that the Lord placed in my heart.
Greetings from all over the world
warm me.
My passion flutters.
Do you think that I am lonely?
In your 70 years of persecution,
have you seen any Christian walking alone?
Turning onto the history of the millennium,
which page does not reveal
suffering with joy for Christians?
Which page does not show
blood sprinkled
on the narrow path of the thorns?
You think that the walls around me
block my vision
and make me uncertain of the direction.
I never focus on my environment,
but with my eyes.
I look up.
You, like someone blind
ride on the horse,
thinking that everyone
crosses the river
by feeling the stones.
No matter what…
the rod of my Shepherd
comforts my heart.
My Lord helps
and leads me to move forward.
The National Party jailed your ancestors.
How can I not endure your hard labor?
I really love you,
and long for you to repent.
Like Paul,
I wish that
I myself were cursed
and cut off from Christ
for the sake of my brothers,
for those of my own race.
You see me
as an irreconcilable enemy
and thrust me into the meat grinder.
Still, I regard you
as my blood brother,
Not because I am afraid of you,
but because
Jesus loves you.
Therefore, I love you.

Pastor Cao’s poems, like his life in and out of prison, reflect life, and God’s love.


But love your enemies, 
do good, and lend, 
hoping for nothing in return; 
and your reward will be great, 
and you will be sons of the Most High.
For He is kind 
to the unthankful and evil.
                                                 ~ Luke 6:35 (NKJV)


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