Struggles of the Cultural Revolution in Bei Dao's "Notes from the City of the Sun"

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Struggles of the Cultural Revolution Revealed in Bei Dao’s “Notes from the City of the Sun”
In his poem, “Notes from the City of the Sun”, Bei Dao utilizes obscure imagery consistent with the Misty Poets and veiled political references to illustrate the struggles in Chinese society during the Cultural Revolution. The poem is sectioned into fourteen short stanzas containing imagery that are symbolic of the cultural hegemony in China under the rule of Mao Zedong. Bei Dao, born Zhao Zhen-kai, is an anti-revolutionary poet and one of the founders of a group known as the Misty Poets. The Misty Poets wrote poems that protested the Cultural Revolution led by Mao Zedong. Therefore, a lot of Bei Dao’s poems speak out against the Cultural Revolution and the restrictions that it placed on any form of art. Bei Dao’s poetry is categorized as “misty” because of the ambiguity in its references to Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution. An obscure imagery that occurs twice in “Notes” is the sun imagery. Another imagery that depicts the injustice of the Cultural Revolution is the description of freedom as scraps of paper. In the poem, Bei Dao also equates faith to sheep falling into a ditch; this is a depiction blind faith during the Cultural Revolution. The purpose of this essay is to analyze how Bei Dao’s use of the Misty Poet’s ambiguous imagery and implicit political context in the poem “Notes from the City of the Sun” to illustrate the cultural hegemony in China under Mao.
A consistent imagery in “Notes” that has a political implication is the sun. Universally, the sun represents warmth and the energy that gives life; however in this poem, the sun represents Mao Zedong. According to McDougall, the sun was commonly used to “signify Mao Zedon...

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...ery and veiled political references in Bei Dao’s poem, “Notes from the City of the Sun”, are used to exemplify the struggles of the people during the Cultural Revolution.

Works Consulted
Dao, Bei. “Notes from the City of the Sun.” One World of Literature. Ed. Lim, Shirley G., and Spencer, Norman A. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993. 231-233. Print.
Gittings, John. The Changing Face of China: From Mao to market. Oxford University Press, 2005.
Ma, Sheng-Mei. "Contrasting Two Survival Literatures: On the Jewish Holocaust and the Chinese Cultural Revolution." Holocaust and Genocide Studies 2.1 (1987): 81-93.
McDougall, Bonnie S. "Bei Dao's Poetry: Revelation & Communication." Modern Chinese Literature 1.2 (1985): 225-252.
McDougall, Bonnie. "Problems and Possibilities in Translating Contemporary Chinese Literature." The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs (1991): 37-67.
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