Bei Dao

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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: Běidǎo; literally: "Northern Island", born August 2, 1949) is the pen name of an American poet Zhao Zhenkai (S: 赵振开, T: 趙振開, P: Zhào Zhènkāi). He was born in Beijing. His nationality is American.[1][2][3] He chose the pen name because he came from the north and because of his preference for solitude.[4] 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.[5][6][7]


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.[4] Bei Dao and Mang Ke founded the magazine Jintian[8] (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. In 1994, he attempted to return to China, but was detained and sent back to the United States. He was not allowed to return to China until 2006, except for a brief visit to his dying father in 2003. (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[9] 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)[10] and Out of the Howling Storm: The New Chinese poetry.[11]

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.[12] 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 the University of California, Davis. He is also 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.[13][14]


Poetry collections[edit]

  • 《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[edit]

  • 《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》 City Gate, Open Up (2010, memoirs, English translation published by New Directions Publishing in 2017)

Short story collections[edit]

  • Waves. Translators Bonnie S. McDougall & Susette Ternent Cooke. New Directions Publishing. 1990. ISBN 978-0-8112-1134-5.

For children[edit]

Bei Dao is the series editor of the “For Children” series (给孩子的系列), published by China CITIC Press.

  • 《给孩子的诗》 Poems for Children (selected by Bei Dao)[15]
  • 《给孩子的散文》 Essays for Children (selected by Li Tuo 李陀 and Bei Dao)
  • 《给孩子的古诗词》 Ancient Chinese Poems for Children (selected by Chia-ying Yeh 叶嘉莹, illustrated by Xu Bing 徐冰)
  • 《给孩子的动物寓言》 Animal Fables for Children (written and illustrated by Huang Yongyu 黄永玉)
  • 《给孩子的汉字王国》 The Kingdom of Chinese Characters for Children (by Cecilia Lindqvist 林西莉, translated from the Swedish by LI Zhiyi 李之义)


  1. ^ "德国汉学家顾彬:莫言讲的是荒诞离奇的故事" (in Chinese). 新浪网. Retrieved May 22, 2018. 具有更多更多代表性的北岛,他现在拿的是美国护照。
  2. ^ "青海宣传部长:从没有因从事政治工作而痛苦". 陈浩民 (in Chinese). 凤凰网. Retrieved May 22, 2018. 北岛很长时间没有回国,他虽然是美国籍,但也是中国当代诗歌史上一个很重要的诗人。
  3. ^ "专访诗人部长吉狄马加" (in Chinese). 南方人物周刊. Retrieved May 22, 2018. 北岛很长时间没有回国,他虽然是美国籍,但也是中国当代诗歌史上一个很重要的诗人。
  4. ^ a b Liukkonen, Petri. "Bei Dao". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 1 May 2008.
  5. ^ Bei Dao. Academy of American Poets. 13 May 2008.
  6. ^ Stanford profile
  7. ^ A Brief Guide to Misty Poets Archived 2010-04-12 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Jintian
  9. ^ Unlock (2000), Landscape Over Zero (1996), Forms of Distance (1994), Old Snow (1992), The August Sleepwalker (1990)
  10. ^ Edward Morin, Fang Dai, eds. (1990). "Bei Dao". The Red Azalea: Chinese Poetry Since the Cultural Revolution. Edward Morin, Fang Dai, Dennis Ding. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-1320-8.
  11. ^ Tony Barnstone, ed. (1993). Out of the Howling Storm: The New Chinese Poetry: Poems by Bei Dao. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-1210-9.
  12. ^ "Chinese poet Bei Dao is the winner of the "Golden Wreath" 2015". Struga Poetry Evenings. 20 March 2015. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  13. ^ Stanford lectures
  14. ^ Nobel info Archived 2011-06-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Review of Poems for Children

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]