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Literary Arts

Pan Cheng Lui

Chinese-language author and poet.

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Published: 12 Oct 2016


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Writing poetry is often a unique, spiritual experience. Like placing yourself on an isolated island. You explore with your mind; you are not lonely. It's like exploring Huangshan (Mt. Huang). Gazing upon the mountain's pine trees, a certain life force, a living, breathing vitality reveals itself to you. Writing poetry… is similarly an experience that is unusual and never lonely. Writing poetry is a joyful experience, with everything to gain, nothing to lose.

Pan Cheng Lui is a Singapore Chinese -anguage author and poet. Editor of Shin Min Daily News as well as literary anthologies and journals, he has written and published six poetry anthologies and three collections of essays. Some of his poems have been adapted into dance and musical performances. In 2012, Pan was honoured with the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award by the government of France. In 2015, he was awarded Nanyang Alumni Achievement Award by Nanyang Technological University. Artist-poet Tan Swie Hian has described him as "one of the most important poets of contemporary Singapore Chinese literature".

Pan Cheng Lui was born on 25 February 1955 in Singapore. He attended Kong Yiong Primary School from 1962 to 1967, Kong Yiong High School from 1968 to 1971, National Junior College from 1972 to 1973, and then Nanyang University, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1979.

An avid reader since childhood, Pan wrote his first poem at the age of 13 and produced his first collection of poetry while he was still a secondary three student. He had gathered 23 poems he wrote over two years in a handmade book of titled 《鹰》(Eagle).

Pan proved to be a gifted writer and poet. He not only won prizes for his essays in school, but also had his poems published in the newspapers. Filled with well-crafted, canny observations about Singapore life, Pan's poems earned him recognition within the thriving local Chinese literary scene of the ’60s and ’70s. Pan's mother, who had been apprehensive about him writing, was won over by the accolades. "You have to study hard, but you have to do what you like," she told a young Pan.

Years later, his first book of poetry 《告诉阳光》 (Tell It to the Sun), published in 1982, would begin with a poem, written when he was 15, dedicated to his ailing mother.

At junior college and university, Pan took a lead role in literary activities. In 1972, he founded a literature journal, 《驼铃报》 (Camel Bell Paper), and became its editor. He also became the editor of the 1975 poetry collection, 《8人诗集》 (8 Poets), featuring poems written by Pan and seven of his peers. He was also the editor of literature journals 《红树林诗刊》(Mangrove) and《楼》(The Storey) from 1977 to 1979.

At university, he chaired the Nanyang University Poetry Society. From 1978 to 1988, he initiated and organised 《诗乐》(Poetry Music – Four Public Concerts), which brought music composers and poets together, leading to fruitful collaborations and resulting in what would years later become xinyao, a youth-driven, homegrown genre of music popular in the ’80s and ’90s. In 1979, the year he graduated, Pan won the first prize (short story category) at the Singapore News' Golden Lion Award.

After graduating from university, in 1980, Pan joined Singapore Press Holdings. For the next few decades, he built a career in the media, his job sharpening his instincts and exposing him more to the arts and culture. "Reading and writing poems helped me to catch a breath," he says. The demands of his job made him realise the truth in the saying, "Poetry is what emerges after calm"(“诗是沉静后的呈现”).

His first collection of poetry, 《告诉阳光》 (Tell It to the Sun), published in 1982, won the 1984 National Book Development Council of Singapore Award for Poetry and established his standing in the local Chinese literary scene. Since then, Pan has written and published four more books of poetry including 《赤道走索》 (Ropedancing on the Equator) (1990), 《再生树》(The Tree of Rebirth) (1998), and《天微明时我是诗人》(I Am a Poet at the Crack of Dawn) in 2006 and 《天毯》(The Heavenly Tapestry) in 2015; and three collections of essays, 《看》(Look) (1983), 《不着地族》(Alop) (2002), and 《交替时刻》(The Hour of Exchange) (2006).

He has also edited 《作家与书房》27名作家访谈录 (Writers and Their Rooms – Interviews with 27 Writers) in 1996, 《四方八面》11位记者文集 (Four Corners Eight Planes – A Collection of Essays by 8 Journalists) in 2003, 《郭宝崑全集–华文戏剧》共三卷(与柯思仁副教授合编)(The Complete Works of Kuo Pao Kun, Plays in Chinese) in three volumes, co-edited with Associate Professor Quah Sy Ren, from 2005 to 2009, 《30声》(30 Voices - An Audiobook) in 2006, and 《折柳南来的诗人—刘延陵新加坡作品集》(与周维介合编) (Selected Liu Yan Ling's Works in Singapore), co-edited with Chew Wee Kai, in 2012.

Pan became the supplement editor of Lianhe Zaobao in 1998. During his decade-long tenure (1998-2008), creative works by Singapore writers were published alongside literary columns by guest writers from all walks of life. Later on, Pan continued promoting literature as the paper's Senior Executive Editor.

Since the ’90s, Pan has taken his poetry to the stage, working with performing artists to adapt his poems to music and dance. In 1991, he collaborated with choreographer Lim Fei Shen for 《萌》 (Germination). In 1998, he collaborated with the Teo Chew Poit Ip Huay Kuan Clan Association Youth Group on 《这个女人叫母亲》造型朗诵 (Her Name is Mother – Recitation). In 1999, his poem 《再生树》The Tree of Rebirth was brought to life onstage by choreographer Yan Choong Lian and presented at the Singapore Festival of Arts.

In 2002, he worked with composer Chan Ming Chi on 《蚂蚁人》 (As Ant-Life), performed by the Singapore Chinese Orchestra conducted by Yeh Tsung . In 2004, he worked once again with Yeh and the Singapore Chinese Orchestra on 《妈妈的歌》 (Mother's Song). In 1996, his poem 《石子情》 (The Ballad of the Rock) was displayed on MRT panels while 《花同心》Paint with One Heart was incorporated into the Grand Opening of the 2014 Chingay Parade.


Over the years, Pan has served in committees such as the cultural committee (Chinese sub-committee) of the National Trades Union Congress and the sub-committee of the Singapore Writers' Week. He has attended Chinese-language writers' conferences in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei, and been invited to judge competitions including the National Arts Council's Golden Point Award and Malaysia's Hua Zong Literary Awards (花踪文学奖). A passionate advocate of local writing, Pan has organised literary events such as 1982’s面对我们的文学史展览会 (Literary Arts Exhibition - A Look At Our Literary History - An Introduction to Singapore-Malaysia Literature) and the International Chinese Writers' Forum.

Currently the Editor of Chinese-language newspaper Shin Min Daily News (新明日报总编辑), Pan recently published a book entitled 《天行心要—陈瑞献的艺踪见证》 (The Essentials of Celestial Travel – Tracing Tan Swie Hian’s Artistic Pursuits) in 2012. It harked back to Pan's first interview with the bilingual, multidisciplinary artist during Pan’s stint as a fledgling editor of 《驼铃报》 (Camel Bell Paper) and traced the evolution over three decades of a man that Pan acknowledges as his biggest influence.

Perhaps then, although Pan was honoured to receive the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award from the government of France in 2012, his most treasured accolade comes from Tan Swie Hian himself. The poet and artist has named Pan as "one of the most important poets of contemporary Singapore Chinese literature". Today, Pan himself continues to write, a habit which for him is a necessary and pleasurable part of living, an exercise which enables him to reveal the poems that exist within the rhythms of life.

----------------------
《安静》Quiet – written on a recent trip to Bhutanï

世界从来没有如此安静过
安静如辛夷花在山涧开落
安静不因我们到来而离去
安静不因我们离去更安静

诗永远生活在生命的律动中。

The world has never been this quiet
A quiet like the falling of the blossoms on the mountain stream
A quiet untouched by our comings and goings
A quiet not made quieter by our leaving.

Timeline

25 Feb 1955

Born in Singapore.

1962 to 1967

Attended Kong Yiong Primary School.

1968 to 1971

Attended Kong Yiong High School.

1972 to 1973

Attended National Junior College./p>

1972

Editor of literature journal 《驼铃报》(To Ring Poh).

1975

Poetry collection 《8人诗集》(8 Poets), which he edited, was published.

1977 to 1979

Editor of literature journals 《红树林诗刊》(Mangrove) and 《楼》(The Storey).

1978 to 1988

Organised event 诗乐 (Poetry Music – Four Public Concerts), which were held at DBS Auditorium in Nanyang University, Singapore.

1979

Graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Nanyang University, Singapore.

1979

Won the first prize in the Short Story Category at the Golden Lion Award, organised by Singapore News Pte Ltd.

1980

Joined Singapore Press Holdings.

1980 to 1988

Editor of literature journal 《同温层杂志》(Stratosphere).

1982

Collection of poetry 《告诉阳光》(Tell it to the Sun) published.
Organised 面对我们的文学史展览会 (Literary Arts Exhibition - A Look At Our Literary History - An Introduction to Singapore-Malaysia Literature), which was held at Singapore Conference Hall.

1983

Collection of essays 《看》(Look) published.

1984

Received the National Books Development Council Singapore Award for Poetry.

1990

Collection of Poetry 《赤道走索》(Ropedancing on the Equator) was published.

1991

Collaborated with choreographer Lim Fei Shen (林飞仙) for multidisciplinary production 《萌》(Germination).

1996

Collection of poetry 《告诉阳光》(Tell it to the Sun) published by Wen Lian Publishing in Beijing, China.
《作家与书房》27名作家访谈录 (Writers and Their Rooms – Interviews with 27 Writers), which he edited, was published.
Poem 《石子情》(The Ballad of the Rock) was displayed in the MRT.

1998

Collection of poetry 《再生树》(The Tree of Rebirth) published.
Collaborated with the Teo Chew Poit Ip Huay Kuan Clan Association Youth Group (潮州八邑会馆青年团) on production 《这个女人叫母亲》造型朗诵 (Her Name is Mother – Recitation).

1999

Collaborated with choreographer Yan Choong Lian (严众莲) on 《再生树》The Tree of Rebirth, which was presented at the Singapore Festival of Arts.

2002

Collection of essays 《不着地族》(Alop) published.
Collaborated with composer Chan Ming Chi on 《蚂蚁人》(As Ant-Life), which was performed by the Singapore Chinese Orchestra conducted by Yeh Tsung (叶聪).

2003

《四方八面》11位记者文集 (Four Corners Eight Planes – A Collection of Essays by 8 Journalists), which he edited, was published.

2004

Collaborated with music conductor Yeh Tsung (叶聪) and the Singapore Chinese Orchestra on 《妈妈的歌》(Mother's Song).

2005 to 2009

《郭宝崑全集–华文戏剧》共三卷(与柯思仁副教授合编)(The Complete Works of Kuo Pao Kun, Plays in Chinese) – three volumes, which he co-edited with Associate Professor Quah Sy Ren – was published.

2006

Collection of poetry 《天微明时我是诗人》(I Am a Poet at the Crack of Dawn) published.
Collection of essays 《交替时刻》(The Hour of Exchange) published.
《30声》(30 Voices - An Audiobook), which he edited, was launched.

2012

《天行心要—陈瑞献的艺踪见证》 (The Essentials of Celestial Travel – Tracing Tan Swie Hian’s Artistic Pursuits) was published.

2014

His poem 《花同心》Paint with One Heart was incorporated into the Grand Opening of the 2014 Chingay Parade thanks to the People's Association. It was also printed as part of the packaging for Chingay EZ-link Commemorative Card, designed by Batik Artist Mr Sarkasi Bin Said, to raise funds for the ComCare fund.

2015

Collection of poetry 《天毯 》(The Heavenly Tapestry) published.
《新加坡颂歌》Ode to Singapore – poem co-written by Pan Cheng Lui and composer Law Wai Lun and performed by Singapore Chinese Orchestra in Celebration of SG50.

2016

《荟萃》Stages 2016 - Young Choreographers Bai Ying Wen, Xiao Jing, and Yong Yong Xin seek to bring Poet Pan Cheng Lui’s Literary works to life on stage, by Hwa Chong Chinese Dance Alumni.

Present

Editor of Chinese-language newspaper Shin Min Daily News (新明日报总编辑).


TributeSG

TributeSG celebrates the arts community’s most senior members, and those who have made a lifetime of contribution to the arts. These artists, administrators, educators, patrons, and champions include many Singapore arts pioneers who laid the foundations of the vibrant arts and cultural scene we enjoy today. The many profiles in TributeSG let us into the minds and worlds of these pioneers, and help us understand our shared arts heritage. When we revisit their works and rediscover their journeys, we learn where we came from and how we came to be. Collectively, their stories tell the tale of the making of a nation’s artistic identity.

In putting together this collection, the TributeSG team consulted an external advisory panel, consisting of Arun Mahiznan, Choo Thiam Siew, J. P. Nathan, K. K. Seet, Kwok Kian Chow, and Iskandar Ismail. Those selected to be profiled in TributeSG met one of the following criteria: they were at least 60 years of age as of 12 Oct 2016, or deceased, or had received national recognition in the form of the Cultural Medallion. This journey of arts archival officially came to a close on 12 Oct 2016, after four years of extensive research, interviews and collation of information graciously provided by the TributeSG pioneers, their families and peers. TributeSG also benefited from enthusiastic help from like-minded friends and organisations who supported Esplanade’s cause—to remember, honour and celebrate Singapore’s arts pioneers.

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