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Assembly Line - Shu Ting (b. 1952)

Updated: Apr 4

In time's assembly line

Night presses against night.

We come off the factory night-shift

In line as we march towards home.

Over our heads in a row

The assembly line of stars

Stretches across the sky.

Beside us, little trees

Stand numb in assembly lines.

The stars must be exhausted

After thousands of years

Of journeys which never change.

The little trees are all sick,

Choked on smog and monotony,

Stripped of their color and shape.

It's not hard to feel for them;

We share the same temp and rhythm.

Yes, I'm numb to my own existence

As if, like the trees and stars

--perhaps just out of habit

--perhaps just out of sorrow,

I'm unable to show concern

For my own manufactured fate.

Roetzheim, W. H. (2014). Shu Ting (b. 1952) Assembly Line. In The giant book of poetry (pp. 532–533). Level Four Press, Inc.


The book "A Splintered Mirror: Chinese Poetry From the Democracy Movement," translated by Carolyn Kizer, has emotional and beautiful poetry that may or may not be appropriate for launching a political movement.

Shu Ting uses a factory assembly line comparison to represent the societal standards common during Communist control in the later half of the nineteenth century. Individuals had limited room for personal growth, original idea, or change, similar to how things are worked on by several assemblers until they are finished. This metaphor represents a mechanistic and brainwashed way of living. Shu Ting extends this analogy to show how natural components like "trees" and "stars" have lost their original essence and become mechanical and banal. She considers these elements to be consistent.

She sees these elements as uniform and identical to one another, with sickly trees standing in rows and unchangeable and boring stars aligned like factory assemblers. The person returning from the factory's night shift notices that everything around them reflects the workers' repetitious and mundane existence. The speaker displays empathy for themselves as well as their coworkers, enhancing the impression of emptiness and apathy that surrounds them. "Assembly Line" is a sorrowful poem with three stanzas of varying lengths, with the first stanza containing nine lines and the following stanzas including eight and six lines, respectively. Despite the poet's attempt to transcend traditional literary standards, the poem's narrator is stuck in a mundane routine.

Shu Ting's poetry "Assembly Line" uses a variety of senses to let readers visualize the drab surroundings of employees coming from the night shift. The description of their lifeless setting in the opening stanza fails to inspire the onlookers. Ting appeals to emotions in the following stanza by personifying "stars" and "little trees," and to the sense of hearing with the phrase "We share the same tempo and rhythm," implying a lack of diversity. Finally, the poet uses tactile imagery in the line "Yes, I'm numb to my own existence."

The poem is set in China shortly after the Great Revolution, when communist beliefs were replaced with a form of democratic socialism that allowed trade to flourish. However, capitalism expanded, resulting in mass production. However, capitalism grew, leading to mass production in SEZs. This poem highlights the conditions of assembly line workers and poses questions about the benefits of this new direction for ordinary people. It shows how their creative energy was drained as they became part of machinery, losing the ability to think or work independently.

This poem examines the working circumstances of assembly line workers and raises concerns about the benefits of this new approach for ordinary people. It demonstrates how their creative vitality was drained as they became machines, losing the ability to think or operate autonomously.


Shu Ting, a contemporary Chinese poet, was born Gong Peiyu in 1952 in Shima Village, Fujian. Shu Ting moved to Xiamen with her family when she was young. She began as a farmer and eventually worked in a factory before discovering her love of poetry. Shu Ting began writing during her period in the countryside due to the revolution, and when she returned to the city, she worked at a light-bulb factory.

Shu Ting's work was published in a number of literary journals in 1979. The following year, she joined the Fujian Federation of Literary and Art Circles, which led to her switch to professional poetry.

After some time, she gained recognition as a prominent figure in "Misty" poetry. In 1982, she published her initial work, Shuangwei chuan, and later collaborated with Gu Cheng on a collection. During the anti-Spiritual Pollution campaign, she ceased writing due to criticism directed at her and her work. However, she eventually resumed writing and has since released multiple collections, including The Signing Iris and Archaeopteryx.


Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture, By EdwART -


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