Playing with Liquid Fire

Reading Chinese Dagong Verse Through Classical Poetry Tradition and Vice Versa


  • Joanna Krenz Adam Mickiewicz University



rural migrant workers, dagong poetry, Chinese classical poetry, tradition, lyrical poetry, epic poetry


This article traces multiple connections between contemporary Chinese rural migrant workers’ poetry (dagong shige) and the classical poetry tradition. In part one, the author investigates explicit allusions to traditional poetry in the form and content of workers’ poems, asking how and why dagong poets actively seek connection with the literary past and strive to remap it onto the psychological and social-political matrices of their own existence. Emphasis is placed on the communitarian aspect of poetry on the one hand and its transcendental qualities on the other. Self-inscription into poetry tradition is discussed as a powerful manifestation of workers’ full-fledged participation in the cultural, intellectual, and spiritual heritage of the nation and of humankind at large. Part two focuses on less tangible structural resonances between classical poetry and rural migrants’ verse, construing the latter as a natural continuation of what is deemed the “lyric-toward-the-epic” tradition of Chinese poetry as distinct from the “epic-toward-the-lyrical” Western tradition. Rereading the classical poetry tradition through dagong poetry, the article hopes to demonstrate the literary-critical and literary-philosophical potential of migrant workers’ artistic output in understanding (Chinese) poetry and as a factor that may contribute to a possible paradigm shift in its vast universe.



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How to Cite

Krenz, J. (2023). Playing with Liquid Fire: Reading Chinese Dagong Verse Through Classical Poetry Tradition and Vice Versa. The Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies, 4, 75–121.



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