This is the literary pseudonym of Zhao Zhenkai (趙振開), an outstanding Chinese poet. He was born in 1949 in Beijing. As a teenager, he was briefly indoctrinated with the ideas of Mao Tse-Tung. His views swiftly shifted radically, however, and he joined the activities of the Misty Poets, a group of artists opposed to the Cultural Revolution. He co-created the “Jintian” (“Today”) journal, which appeared from 1978-1980, and was banned by the authorities for the pro-democratic views it expressed. Zhao Zhenkai participated in the protests that took place in Tiananmen Square in 1976, and his poem marking those events, entitled “Huida” (“Tell”), became the anthem of the opposition. Since 1987 he has lived in Europe and in the United States, lecturing at many universities.
Zhenkai’s pseudonym, Bei Dao, which can be translated as “Northern Island,” is tied to his origins in Northern China and his love of solitude. Bei Dao’s extensive literary oeuvre, composed of both poetry and novellas, has been translated into over thirty languages. He has received many prestigious awards, and has been named as a Nobel Prize candidate.
At present, Zhenkai is a professor of the Humanities at the Far East Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong, where he lives with his family.