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2021-06-21 17:57:35 来源:本站原创

In 1984, Allen Ginsberg Took a Walk in Baoding

April 5, 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the death of the famous American poet Allen Ginsberg. This set of articles were published in this newspaper as a commemoration.

These articles derived from a photo of a poet and a Chinese youth accidentally found on the Internet by Bi Bingbin, a writer and translator, whose pen name is Dark Horse. It was taken in 1984 when Ginsberg delivered lectures at Hebei University in Baoding for three weeks.
Out of curiosity, Dark Horse consulted the book Ginsberg Forum edited by the late Professor Wen Chu’an of Sichuan University. In this book, some Chinese professors and scholars (including poet Professor He Xianglin) recalled Ginsberg’s speeches in universities in Beijing, Shanghai and Guilin when he visited China in1984, except articles about Ginsberg in Hebei University. It is said that no parties were found to participate in the narration. 

Dark Horse said: “It’s a great pity, because Hebei University is my undergraduate alma mater. So, I wrote an essay, saying that this may be a permanent blank. After the essay was repost to the alumni WeChat group, some warm-hearted students helped me find Ding Juhua, an English major of Grade 1982. Then through Moments, Ding found Wang Chunchen, an English major of Grade 1983, who accompanied Ginsberg shopping in the photo. Ginsberg’s famous poet “One Morning, I Took a Walk in China” was written after this walk in Baoding. After more than 30 years, I found two people who had had contact with Ginsberg through Moments. I was overjoyed. Then I invited them to write about memories respectively.”

Therefore, these two articles came into being.


Allen Ginsberg


One Morning, I Took a Walk in China (Excerpt)

Allen Ginsberg
Translated by Wen Chu’an

As I walked out Hebei University’s concrete North Gate,

across the road a blue crapped man sold fried sweet dough-sticks,

brown as new boiled doughnuts

  under trees at the crossing, vendors set out carts and tables of cigarettes...

  (“sweet dough-sticks” should be sugar doughnut ——Dark Horse note)


Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s Death—

In 1984, Ginsberg Took a Walk in Baoding

Ginsberg and I

Wang Chunchen

  Last week, I received a message of adding contacts on WeChat from Ding Juhua, recommended by alumnus Yu Hefeng. Ding Juhua asked me about a photo of Ginsberg. It was Bi Bingbin, another alumnus of Hebei University, who asked the person with Ginsberg in this photo. It is said on the Internet that “it is Ginsberg and a young teacher from Hebei University”, but no one knows who he is.

“It’s me,” I said. “We took the photo in the street when Ginsberg visited Hebei University. The photo was shoot by my classmate Han Ming, but the camera was Ginsberg’s. We don’t even remember such photos ourselves.”


Ginsberg and Wang Chunchen in the Yuhua West Road, shoot by Han Ming


Last year, an article about Ginsberg’s stay in China suddenly appeared on the Internet. This photo was in it, and people was guessing who he was. Some people know, some people don’t know. I was very surprised when I saw it! There was such a photo, which clearly left the imprint of that year.

Time seems to be stand still, as if everything happened yesterday.

  Memory is a kind of frozen spring water, once boiling, it can’t stop surging. The door of my memory suddenly opened.

In late autumn and early winter of 1984, I was a sophomore. One day the department organized us to listen to a lecture by American poet Ginsberg. We don’t know him well. Teacher Ma Zhongyuan introduced him as an American poet. Beyond that we know nothing.

  I sat in the front rows of the amphitheatre and put a small Sanyo recorder on the platform to record his poetry recitation. He sent the students a mimeographed poem, which he wrote. He began to explain, then sat there and played his accordion. The sound of the piano seemed monotonous, but it made a harsh sound. His voice of reading poems was loud and echoed in the whole amphitheatre.

  While reading aloud, he played the accordion. His voice was getting louder and faster. He read his Howl, sentence after sentence. We can’t understand the meaning of words. Although we have the printed version, we sophomores cannot understand the words in the poem. The rhythm of reading poems was accompanied by the rhythm of the piano sound. The rhythm of reading was like singing, but there was no melody, only one tone of impact. Mixed with the piano sound, it was so shocking that it can be felt and seen Ginsberg read it out in high spirits, repeating a word, owl, owl, owl!

  We (or I) were completely trapped and immersed in that abundant enthusiasm. There seemed to be endless emotions to pour out and release. In such a reading context, it was not the cadence of ancient Chinese poetry, not the trickle, which flows through many rocks and arouses a few waves, not a loud slogan praise. His reading was completely howling. How we howled, how he howled.

  Watching him read, I can feel that he was completely melted in his own voice and disappeared in his own emotions. He was not intoxication, but craziness. However, he was not going mad. When piano stops, the reading ends. I don’t remember whether the applause was thunderous, but the catharsis of the atmosphere and passion is still vivid today. It penetrated time and space and had a strong appeal. I like modern poetry, which is inextricably linked with his reading. The lecture lasted for two weeks. He talked a lot, some of which I understood and some of which I really didn’t understand. I remember that a junior also liked poetry very much. And Ginsberg gave him a set of his poems, which I envied very much.

  One day during the lecture, Ginsberg wanted to walk around the street, and the department wanted to find two students to accompany him. Monitor Han Ming asked me out and we went into the streets together.

  On the street, Ginsburg asked everything and was curious about everything. For example, when he saw baked sweet potatoes, he watched for a long time, then he had bought one and ate it. For another example, when he saw a donkey pulling a cart, he looked at it for half a day and asked if there were many such donkey carts in Chinese cities. Later, he wrote in his poem that he saw a donkey on campus, and he talked to the donkey, which was humorous.

  Then we went to Lianchi Park. It used to be an ancient academy, but later it was changed into a park. Although it is not big, it is also a scene in Baoding. Most people who come on business will visit it. Diagonally opposite it is the Zhili Governor-General’s Office, but it was still occupied by government agencies at that time, so it was impossible to go in and visit it. Ginsberg is particularly interested in the calligraphy inscriptions in Lianchi, and the ink seems to impress him very much. After we came out, we walked in the street. He looked here and there and took pictures from time to time. We walked west along Yuhua West Road to the bridge head at the west end. This photo should have been taken there.

  On our way back, we had lunch in a restaurant on the east side of Baoding Shopping Mall. Bring the recipe, he began to ask us what these dishes are. My English was too poor and I didn’t know how to say braised carp, so I had to say fish. He answered happily and we ate it. A large plate of braised carp was eaten up by us.

  Out of the restaurant, we turned to South Lianchi Street and waited for the bus. I remember when he leaned against the iron railing, I asked him: “Who are the famous writers in America now?” He said several names, such as Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck, etc., but did not say himself. We didn’t know him well.

  After returning to school, I checked the Encyclopedia of China Foreign Literature Volume, which contained his entry, introducing him as a famous poet and the famous “The Beat Generation” in the United States. He’s a great man. Only then did we know that the bearded American in front of us was a famous poet, and he was extremely famous.

  At that time, I was also a member of the “Morning Bell Club”, a literary club of Hebei University. Although I didn’t often participate in their activities, I was at least a member. And I searched for information and wrote a short article about Ginsberg, which was published in the mimeographed newspaper Morning Bell. I remember that I had collected one, but I didn’t know where it is.

  We were all too young at that time to know how influential his literature was and how controversial it was in the United States. In a word, he was a curious and kind “American beard”. Later, I learned that the US side was surprised that he was agreed to visit by the Chinese side: Ginsberg was definitely a “problem” poet.

  However, his arrival had a great influence on the later modern Chinese poetry. A group of poetry writers learned from him and imitated him. The destructive power of his language and the subversiveness of his actions can be seen in Chinese poets in the 1990s.

  In 1986, Tony Giffon, a teacher from New York University, came to teach us literature. Once we went to his dormitory of foreign experts in South Campus of Hebei University and saw Ginsberg’s latest poetry anthology “White Shroud” on his desk. I picked it up and looked through it. I suddenly saw Ginsberg’s poems about Baoding, including a dialogue with donkeys. There were some photos of him in Baoding in the book, but I didn’t see this photo with me on the Internet, which should not be adopted. I described Ginsberg’s story in Baoding to Tony, and he was also curious. After leaving the university, I sometimes took out Ginsberg’s lecture recordings and played them, mainly to feel the excitement of his reading aloud. When I was teaching English literature in university, I thought of Ginsberg several times.  And I wrote an article of “Poetic Example of Ginsberg” to commemorate him. However, I did not think of writing an article recalling his stay in Baoding. I always felt that it was just a visit.

  However, in the 1990s, Professor Wen Chu’an published a book, Ginsberg’s Poems. I bought it and put it on the bookshelf, but I didn’t turn it over several times.

  In 2011, I went to New York to investigate the Art Museum. In this period, I went to Newark, New Jersey, where I met the vice president of the university. He said he was a poet and a professor of literary studies, and he told me that Ginsberg was born in this city. We saw the introduction of this town in a small local exhibition hall. Ginsberg’s name was mentioned, and he was regarded as a celebrity here.

  Only then did I know that Ginsberg had died for many years. He was undoubtedly a great American poet in the 20th century, and his importance and influence did not decrease but increased.

  In February 2015, I watched Dumas’s solo exhibition in Tate Gallery, England. In the bookstore, there was an exhibition of books read by Dumas, including Ginsberg’s poetry anthology and biography. I bought a biography, which cover was a silhouette of Ginsberg with a thick beard.

  As a very important and influential contemporary painter, Dumas likes Ginsberg’s poems very much. She is attracted and inspired by his deep emotional expression, and shocked by his deepest discussion of human nature. Painter Dumas is not a hollow reputation. Her works have a profound insight into human nature and tragicomedy. There is no doubt that Ginsberg is also one of the sources of inspiration for her thoughts.

  Today, Ginsberg is a poet with historical conclusions. His poems and his pioneering actions both foreshadow the later world state. And his influence is beyond North America. Such a prophetic poet is a fresh wind and fire in the long winter, and people who are afraid of cold and heat cannot approach him. Today, in the 21st century, more and more people will appreciate and respect him.


X-Rays America: Ginsberg Forum

Chef editor Wen Chuan

Sichuan Literature and Art Publishing House


My Contact with Ginsberg

Ding Juhua

  In November 1984, I was a sophomore majoring in English at Hebei University, when Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997), a representative poet of “The Beat Generation” in the United States, visited Hebei University and gave lectures. But I didn’t expect that I would have close contacts with him.

  Allen Ginsberg visited China at the invitation of the Chinese Writers Association, accompanied by Gary Snyder (1930-). Snyder was deeply influenced by Hanshan, a famous poet monk in Tang Dynasty. I don’t know how Allen Ginsberg was arranged or chose to visit Hebei University by himself. When he came, I was a member of the school’s “Morning Bell Club” and was organizing a translation association called “Translation Garden” in the department. Director Gao Qunshu and poet Han Wenge were both vice presidents of the Morning Bell Club at that time, including Li Shuting, a lawyer in the Nie Shubin case.

  To tell the truth, when Allen Ginsberg came, I really didn’t know who he was. I just heard that he was an American poet.

  Because he is a poet or I am a poetry lover, I took the initiative to contact him. So, he asked me to accompany him to the library to donate books and to the mall to buy honey by bus, he came to the dormitory to talk to me and waited for me for a long time, and so on. He sent me several books of his poems and those of his partner poets. I tried to translate them. When I encountered any problems, I went to the Foreign Affairs Office of the school to ask him for advice. I quickly posted the footnotes of his representative work Howl on the publication Far Wild Wind printed by our Morning Bell Club.

  At the beginning of December, Ginsberg left Hebei University. I went to see him off and sent him a set of porcelain called “White Shroud”. I went to Baoding Arts and crafts shopping mall to buy this, which was consistent with the name of a collection of poems he will publish. He wrote me a letter on May 14, 1986.

  He also brought me a complete book of his poems through the Foreign Affairs Office of the school, which is quite thick.

  After Ginsberg returned to United States, he published an article of Journey to China in 1985. I believed that he was not forgetful but for the purpose of protecting me (I had not graduated at that time) and described me as “a student near Shanghai”.

  That’s the end of my contact with him.

  Now I recall that 33 years ago, Mr. Ginsberg, with a beard and bald head, was wearing a coat, a brown scarf and dark-rimmed glasses. He played the accordion in the amphitheatre of the Foreign Languages Department of Hebei University, reciting forcefully. He recited his Bible like a devout believer. He was 58 years old in 1984. The accordion used to accompany his recitation was not big, but very special. This scene is still so clear and unforgettable for me.

  I graduated from university in 1986. I have been translating Ginsberg’s masterpiece Howl intermittently since 1984. This is because I feel that Eliot’s Waste Land and Ginsberg’s Howl are the two most difficult poems to translate in the world. It was not until 1994 that I finished translating this booklet after work.

  I worked so hard to translate it, but I didn’t try to publish it, but put it aside. Why? I think it used to be war aggression between countries, but now it is cultural infiltration and “aggression”. I can’t translate it into China.

  After that, I was sent to work abroad. When I return home, I saw Ginsberg’s poetry collection translated by Professor Wen Chu’an (1941-2005) of Sichuan University in the bookstore inadvertently. It was not translated Mr. Wen Chu’an himself, but cooperated with his students. There will inevitably be many mistakes in the text. Translation is actually more difficult than creation. It must be “faithfulness, expressiveness and elegance”. So, I decided to print out my revised translation for you to read.

  Although I have translated Ginsberg’s masterpiece Howl, my poems are not influenced by him. I think poetry is an elegant art. It is okay to take a vulgar language occasionally in life, but you can’t write it into poetry.

  As for the translation of Allen Ginsberg’s name, I would like to take this opportunity to express my views again. No matter whether Chinese translators meet burg or berg, they all translate it into “堡”. Actually, burg means “城堡” and berg means “山丘”, so I think it is right to translate American poet Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) into 卡尔·桑德堡, and it seems more appropriate to translate Allen Ginsberg into 艾伦·金斯伯格. This remains to be discussed.

  Last year, Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize, which surprised the world poetry circle. As early as 1996, Allen Ginsberg strongly recommended Bob Dylan to the Nobel Committee. Ginsberg wrote in his letter of recommendation: “Although Dylan is famous as a musician, it would be a huge mistake to ignore his extraordinary achievements in literature. In fact, music and poetry are connected, and Mr. Dylan’s works are extremely important to help us restore this vital connection.” Ginsberg may have contributed to Dylan’s award.

  In 2010, the United States filmed a documentary Howl. Whether you like Ginsberg or not, Ginsberg is an indispensable figure for anyone who studies the history of American literature.