On East vs West literature

The difference [between Chinese and European literature] is like in painting: In the traditional Chinese way, painters draw the contour, the line. The landscape comes from the few colours but with the simplicity of the lines. Chinese poetry is a work of the imagination. In the traditional European way, painting is laying a base of colours; you use more colours, you get the contour; you can make a portrait, a landscape. It's a tonally different direction of expression. 

Asian poetry is about suggestion. We never describe inner voice and consciousness because consciousness doesn't exist in our tradition. We believe that there is a life after life; we believe in reincarnation. But there is not this kind of space inside the individual. All is about cosmos and collectivity. As a Chinese poet, I won't say 'I hate' or 'I love' or 'I'm angry.' I will say, 'I look at the cloud passing in the heavens. I look at the tree and the seasons are changing.' Those natural landscapes, the feeling that a tree, a flower, the daylight can give me, expression my emotion. That is the Chinese way to express the individual. The European way is more direct.

Shan Sa, PEN American Journal #7