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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 pseudonym of Chinese poet Zhao Zhenkai (趙振開). He was born in Beijing, his pseudonym was chosen 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].

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 the next eleven years.

Bei Dao and Mang Ke founded the magazine Jintian ("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" ("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[3]. (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, Holland, France, and the United States. His work has been translated into twenty-five languages, including five poetry volumes in English [4] along with the collection of stories Waves (1990) and the essay collections Blue House (2000) and Midnight's Gate (2005). Bei Dao continued his work in exile.

He has won numerous awards, including Tucholsky Prize from Swedish PEN, International Poetry Argana Award from the House of Poetry in Morocco 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 a number of schools, most recently the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, as well as the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and Beloit College in Wisconsin, and is currently 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.



  • The August Sleepwalker Trans. Bonnie S. McDougall (New Directions, 1990)
  • Old Snow Trans. Bonnie S. McDougall & Chen Maiping (New Directions, 1991)
  • Forms of Distance. Trans. David Hinton (New Directions, 1994) ISBN 0-8112-1266-1
  • Landscape Over Zero. Trans. David Hinton & Yanbing Chen (1996)
  • Unlock. Trans. Eliot Weinberger & Iona Man-Cheong (New Directions, 2000) ISBN 0-8112-1447-8
  • At the Sky's Edge: Poems 1991-1996. (New Directions, 2001) ISBN 0-8112-1495-8
  • The Rose of Time: New and Selected Poems. Ed. Eliot Weinberger (New Directions, 2010) ISBN 978-0-8112-1848-1

Short stories

  • Waves. Trans. Bonnie S. McDougall & Susette Ternent Cooke (New Directions, 1990)
  • Midnight's Gate. Trans. Matthew Fryslie, ed. Christopher Mattison (New Directions, 2005) ISBN 0-8112-1584-9


  1. ^ Books and Writers: Bei Dao. 13 May 2008 <>.
  2. ^ Bei Dao. Academy of American Poets. 13 May 2008 <>.
  3. ^ In 2006 Bei Dao was allowed to live and work in China once more
  4. ^ Unlock (2000), Landscape Over Zero (1996), Forms of Distance (1994), Old Snow(1992), The August Sleepwalker (1990)

All-translated by Donald Finkel and Xueliang Chen

External links

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