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Bei Dao

Bei Dao in Tallinn, 2010
Bei Dao ("Northern Island") is another name for Zhifu Island.

Bei Dao (simplified Chinese: 北岛; traditional Chinese: 北島; pinyin: Běi Dǎo; literally: "Northern Island", born August 2, 1949) is the pen name of Chinese poet Zhao Zhenkai (S: 赵振开, T: 趙振開, P: Zhào Zhènkāi). He was born in Beijing. He chose the pen name because he came from the north and because of his preference for solitude.[1] Bei Dao is the most notable representative of the Misty Poets, a group of Chinese poets who reacted against the restrictions of the Cultural Revolution.[2][3][4]


  • Life 1
  • Bibliography 2
    • Poetry collections 2.1
    • Prose Collections 2.2
    • Short story collections 2.3
  • Notes 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5


As a teenager, Bei Dao was a member of the Red Guards, the enthusiastic followers of Mao Zedong who enforced the dictates of the Cultural Revolution, often through violent means. He had misgivings about the Revolution and was "re-educated" as a construction worker, from 1969 to 1980.[1] Bei Dao and Mang Ke founded the magazine Jintian[5] (Today), the central publication of the Misty Poets, which was published from 1978 until 1980, when it was banned. The work of the Misty Poets and Bei Dao in particular were an inspiration to pro-democracy movements in China. Most notable was his poem "Huida" (回答, "The Answer") which was written during the 1976 Tiananmen demonstrations in which he participated. The poem was taken up as a defiant anthem of the pro-democracy movement and appeared on posters during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. During the 1989 protests and subsequent shootings, Bei Dao was at a literary conference in Berlin and was not allowed to return to China until 2006. (Three other leading Misty Poets — Gu Cheng, Duo Duo, and Yang Lian — were also exiled.) His then wife, Shao Fei, and their daughter were not allowed to leave China to join him for another six years.

Since 1987, Bei Dao has lived and taught in England, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, and the United States. His work has been translated into twenty-five languages, including five poetry volumes in English[6] along with the story collection Waves (1990) and the essay collections Blue House (2000) and Midnight's Gate (2005). Bei Dao continued his work in exile. His work has been included in anthologies such as The Red Azalea: Chinese Poetry Since the Cultural Revolution (1990)[7] and Out of the Howling Storm: The New Chinese poetry.[8]

Bei Dao has won numerous awards, including the Tucholsky Prize from Swedish PEN, International Poetry Argana Award from the House of Poetry in Morocco, the Golden Wreath of the Struga Poetry Evenings.[9] and the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. He is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Jintian was resurrected in Stockholm in 1990 as a forum for expatriate Chinese writers. He has taught and lectured at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Beloit College, Wisconsin, and is Professor of Humanities in the Center for East Asian Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.[10][11]


Poetry collections

  • 《回答》 The Answer (1976)
  • 《八月的夢遊者》 The August Sleepwalker (1988)
  • 《舊雪》 Old Snow (1991)
  • 《距離的形式》 Forms of Distance (1994)
  • 《零度以上的風景》 Landscape Over Zero (1996)
  • 《開鎖》 Unlock (2000)
  • 《在天涯》 At the Sky's Edge: Poems 1991-1996 (2001, completely collects Forms of Distance and Landscape Over Zero)
  • 《時間的玫瑰》The Rose of Time: New and Selected Poems (2010)

Prose Collections

  • 《青燈》 Green Lamp (2008, memoirs, only available in Chinese)
  • 《藍房子》 Blue House (2009, memoirs, English translation published by Zephyr Press in 2000)
  • 《午夜之門》 Midnight's Gate (2009, memoirs, English translation published by New Directions Publishing in 2005)
  • 《時間的玫瑰》 The Rose of Time (2009, essays on poetry, only available in Chinese)
  • 《城門開》 The Gate Opens (2010, memoirs, only available in Chinese)

Short story collections


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Bei Dao. Academy of American Poets. 13 May 2008.
  3. ^ Stanford profile
  4. ^ A Brief Guide to Misty Poets
  5. ^ Jintian
  6. ^ Unlock (2000), Landscape Over Zero (1996), Forms of Distance (1994), Old Snow (1992), The August Sleepwalker (1990)
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Stanford lectures}
  11. ^ Nobel info

Further reading

External links

  • Profile at
  • Profile at Poetry Foundation
  • "Travel" by Bei Dao at Guernica Magazine.
  • Interview with Visiting Artist Bei Dao by Siobhan LaPiana in The Journal
  • , July 2001Jacket 14"Thirteen poems",
  • "Untitled"; "This Day"; "February"; "We", In Translation, December, 2009
  • Profile and links at Stanford Presidential lectures
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