Representations of China in the Poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid

Li Li, John Corbett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The impact of China on the poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid has attracted comparatively little scholarly attention, despite MacDiarmid’s assertion that any poet should be ‘at home’ in Chinese thought. This article addresses this neglect by surveying the range of MacDiarmid’s representations of China, from racist stereotypes, evident in his earlier and in some of his later poetry, to a sympathetic engagement with Chinese philosophy, culture and politics. MacDiarmid’s later representations of China are informed by his reading, some of which is recycled practically verbatim in the poems. Towards the end of his career, MacDiarmid explicitly drew upon Chinese calligraphy as a metaphor for his controversial ‘citational’ poetics. The present article collates and identifies several sources for passages in the poems that deal with China and discusses their significance for an understanding of the substance and style of his later poetry in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-107
Number of pages25
JournalScottish Literary Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Representations of China in the Poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this