Posts Tagged ‘Ai Weiwei’


1月 25, 2019

Photo by Liu Xia



20 years ago I wrote my first Chinese poem.
It was in Chongqing. “Wanbao, wanbao!”
That’s what they cry, all over China. Every afternoon.
“Evening news, evening news!”
Evening paper, every town has one.
Some have morning papers, those are called Zaobao,
most of them.
“Get your evening paper!”
Anyway, “wanbao, wanbao!”
could mean late retribution. Bào, what comes back, gets back,
a report. Wan, late. Zao, early.

“Wanbao, wanbao!”
Chongqing was the wartime capital.
Jiefang bei, liberation monument, is the city center.
It’s not from 1945 or 1949,
it’s from the 1930s or so.
Most people don’t know exactly.
Emancipation column. One of my students called it that.
Kang Di, think it was her.
Emancipation in German means women’s lib.
I was teaching German.
Women’s Liberation Monument.
Women’s Rights Monument.
She didn’t know emancipation means many things.
Didn’t want to correct her.
Another essay was about marriage.
Were they really so conservative, our elders,
when they married a stranger,
when they slept with a stranger they had never seen before?
Good question.
Good essays, especially the girls, the young women.

“Wanbao, wanbao!”
In Beijing it sounded more like “wanbo!”, although Beijing supposedly
is where Mandarin comes from.
“Wanbao, wanbao!”
Chongqing is a hilly city. No bicycles. What did they do, back in the 1960s,
1970s, ’80s, when no-one had a car?
They had porters, for the steep slopes with the stairs,
I guess they’re still there.
“Bang-bang”, people for hire.
They bang on their tools, bang their tools together.
Bang-bang are men, but there are women porters.
Hong Ying’s mother carried sand, rocks and gravel.
Daughter of Hunger, her most famous book.
Daughter of the River in English, it was a bestseller.
Hungry Daughter, Ji’e de nü’er.
That’s right, they have a “ü”, just like in German,
and like in Turkish. Ürümqi, city in China,
nowadays governed like North Korea.
Many re-education camps. They had prisons in Chongqing,
Liao Yiwu was in there,
another famous writer from China.
Didn’t know him then. But Chongqing is about war and imprisonment.
Lieshimu, that’s the address
of our university. We taught German and English.
Two universities, one foreign languages,
the other law and police. Law and politics. Yes, they are not separated.

“Wanbao, wanbao!” No zaobao in Chongqing,
although I’m not sure now.
Lie-shi-mu, Martyr’s Grave.
Geleshan, Gele Mountain, right behind our college,
other side of the train tracks.
Someone was murdered there, some gambling debt.
Students died, one or two every few months.
Nice walks on Geleshan, very peaceful, really.
“Wanbao, wanbao!” Every city in China.
Nowadays people have cell phones,
but there are printed newspapers and magazines.
And printed books, there is no crisis.

“Wanbao, wanbao!” Late reports, late reports.
From the guns. Or whatever.
Karma. Shan means good, doing good.
A Buddhist word. Shan you shanbao,
doing good has good returns.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
But teachers believe it, teachers and parents,
again and again, otherwise you go crazy.

They went crazy too, war and famine,
all the way till 1961, ’62. When Hong Ying was born.
No, also 1969,
Cultural Revolution, like civil war.
Shan you shan-bao,
good deeds, good returns.
“Shan you shanbao, e you e-bao.”
E like in Urgh! Like something disgusting, that’s what it means.
Ur yow ur-pow, something like that. But more like b.
Eh yow e-bao. Yes, “e” like ur. “You” like yo-uw.
Shàn you shànbào, è you èbao.
Do good for good returns, do bad stuff for bad returns.
Not that it doesn’t come back, time isn’t ripe.
That’s how it goes on.

You throw the boomerang, boomerang doesn’t come back,
they tell you wait, it’ll come back.
And so I wrote a Buddhist newspaper poem.
Bu shì bu bào, shíhou wei dào.
Wei like in Ai Weiwei, “ei” like in Beijing.
Wei means not yet, that’s his name. Really.
“Wei” like the future.
His father was the most famous Communist poet
of the People’s Republic. Imprisoned in the 1930s,
maybe in Chongqing. Then again under Mao.
Exiled to Xinjiang, North Korea today, re-education camps.
Desert, somewhere between Dunhuang and Ürümqi,
what was the town? It’s a big city now.
Ai Weiwei grew up in a hole in the ground, with his brother.
They are both artists. Anyway, where was I?

Bu shì bu bào, shíhou wei dào.
Not that it doesn’t come back, time isn’t ripe.
Emancipation monument.
MLK day, I have a dream.
They had to memorize the whole speech,
in schools in China, 1970s.
Maybe earlier too, maybe till now.
Good deeds, good returns.
Bad deeds, bad returns.
The Chinese Dream.
Not that it doesn’t come back.
Zao you zaobao, wan you wanbao.
Morning has morning papers, evening has evening news.
Early deeds, early returns.
Late deeds, late returns.
Late returns after gambling.
Famous party secretary, famous police chief,
they are in prison now. Or one is dead?
Killed a British guy, now they imprison Canadians.
Anyway, my poem.

Wanbao, wanbao!
Wanbao, wanbao!

Zao you zaobao,
wan you wanbao.

Bushi bu bao, shihou wei dao.

Actually the saying goes on, the Buddhist Karma.
Once time is ripe, everything comes back.
You don’t need to say that. People know.



MW January 2019


Artwork by Liu Xia


Photos by Liu Xia




10月 26, 2016

Famous in China






Wan bao! Wan bao!

Zao you zaobao,
wan you wanbao.
Bu shi bu bao,
shi hou wei dao!



late news! late news!

dawn has dawn news,
dusk has dusk news.
not that there’s no report,
time hasn’t come.

(bao = newspaper, revenge, retribution, karma, report)

“Wan bao!” is the cry of newspaper-sellers that begins every afternoon in every city.
This poem has only five or six lines.
The last four lines are very close to a popular Buddhist saying.
The last two lines are the same.

shan you shan bao,
e you e bao
bu shi bu bao,
shihou wei dao!

Shan means good, e means bad, evil. I have substituted shan with zao, e with wan. Benevolent becomes early, evil late.


Wan bao! Wan bao!

Zao you zaobao,
wan you wanbao.
Bu shi bu bao,
shi hou wei dao!

In meinem Buch und auf meinem Blog gibt es sehr viele verschiedene chinesische Gedichte. Dieses erste Gedicht auf Chinesisch habe ich ungefähr 1999 oder früher geschrieben. Ich glaube, es ist unübersetzbar. Sehr chinesische Stimmung. Es ist sehr kurz.

Ao = au. Das “bao” hier wird sehr kurz und entschieden ausgesprochen. Y = deutsches j. Chinesisches J ist wie auf Englisch. Das i bei “shi” ist wie das türkische i ohne Punkt. Also eigentlich kein i.

“Wan bao!” rufen Zeitungsverkäufer am Nachmittag und Abend in chinesischen Städten. Wanbao ist Abendzeitung, zaobao Morgenzeitung; z.B. Shanghai Zaobao. You (jo-u) bedeutet ‘gibt es’. Zao bedeutet früh, aber auch ‘Morgen’ im Sinn von Guten Morgen. Ich stehe jeden Tag um halb sieben auf, das ist jetzt Sonnenaufgang. Da mache ich ein Foto vom Balkon aus. Manchmal auch von meinem Sohn oder meiner Tochter beim Frühstück. So ein Foto kommt dann ins chinesische Internet, mit diesem Zeichen: 早. Zao!

Photos and video recording: Beate Maria Wörz

Photos and video recording: Beate Maria Wörz





Wan bao! Wan bao!

Zao you zaobao,
wan you wanbao.
Bu shi bu bao,
shi hou wei dao!

Vielleicht habt ihr den Reim auf -ao schon bemerkt. Ao = au. Wanbao, Abendzeitung. Aber dieses “bao” bedeutet nicht nur Bericht, Meldung etc, sondern auch das Karma, das von einer guten oder schlechten Tat zurückkommt. Achtung, sehr spezifisch chinesische und asiatische Stimmung! Wirklich. Zao you zaobao, wan you wanbao. Morgens kommt die Morgenzeitung, abends gibt es Abendblatt. Soweit so banal. Aber da gibt es ein sehr bekanntes buddhistisches Sprichwort. Shan you shan bao, e you e bao. Bu shi bu bao, shi hou wei dao! Die letzten zwei Zeilen sind genau dieselben wie in meinem Gedicht. Bu shi bu bao, shi hou wei dao.


Gutes hat gute Folgen, Böses böse. Shan you shan bao, e you e bao. Das “e” hier ist ein kurzes, entschiedenes Schwa, eher wie ein ö als wie ein deutsches “e”. Bitte versucht einmal, das ganze Sprichwort laut auszusprechen. Y = deutsches j, ou = ou. Sh wie auf Englisch. Shan you shanbao, e you ebao. Bu shi bu bao, shi hou wei dao! Bu bedeutet hier nein, nicht. Bu shi = ist nicht, das ist nicht so. Nicht, dass es kein Karma gibt, nur die Zeit ist noch nicht da. Shi-hou heißt Zeit. Wei heißt noch nicht. Ei wie bei Beijing (Peking), also kein deutsches “ei”. Ai Weiwei heißt wörtlich Ai Nochnicht Nochnicht. Ai Zukunft Zukunft. Ai ist der Familienname. Siehe auch die Wikipedia-Einträge zu Ai Qing und zu seinem Sohn Ai Weiwei. Aber zurück zu meinem Gedicht. Bu shi bu bao, shi hou wei dao. 不是不报,时候未到。Diese beiden Zeilen sind genau gleich wie in dem alten buddhistischen Sprichwort. Und auch in den Zeilen davor habe ich nur “gut” (shan 善) mit “früh“ (zao 早 frühmorgens etc.) ersetzt und ”böse” (e 恶) mit  “spät” (wan 晚, spät und abends) ersetzt. Schaut bitte noch einmal hin. Das meiste ist gleich, nicht wahr? Deshalb ist mein Gedicht unübersetzbar. Es wirkt nur, wenn man das Sprichwort schon kennt. Jede und jeder kennt es in China, Taiwan etc. Aber was haben Morgen- und Abendzeitungen mit Karma zu tun? Nicht, dass da kein Karma kommt, nur die Zeit ist noch nicht da. Nicht, dass nicht berichtet wird, nur die Zeit ist noch nicht reif. Diese beiden Sätze sind auf Chinesisch dasselbe.


In meinem neuen Gedichtband ist dieses Gedicht auf Seite 67, unter 晚报.



7月 25, 2016



sit in vienna’s botanical garden.
you will feel cool under the trees
in the heat of the summer.
you might hear the traffic
it’s right next to the palace
not the one with the president.
the belvedere, the one with the view.
they signed a contract here.
austria swore to be neutral
and anti-fascist.
yes, it’s in there.
ai weiwei is in the garden.
at least till october.
until the election is over.
our third election in half a year.
austria sucks.
because the fascists have come this far.
are they fascists?
some of them
are neo-nazi-
this is a wonderful, wonderful place.
very, very safe.
not perfect, no.
not at all.
getting worse.
getting better, maybe.
what are we doing?
what is going to happen?
is it really important?
austria sucks
because the fascists have come this far.
what kind of heart
of europe is this?
think about your next election.

MW July 2016


2 FIGURES (literature & politics)

1月 29, 2015

(literature & politics)


anyone who is for
masters of war
what should u do with them?
I’d rather not
give him a prize.

MW 2015/1



anyone who is for
the chinese government
against ai weiwei
anyone who pretends
no-one gets disappeared
there is justice in china
what should u do with them?
I’d start with naming one.

MW 2015/1


2月 18, 2014

ai weiwei safe_image

《無 題》





Meng Lang
– for a local artist in Miami (who smashed a vase by Ai Weiwei in Feb. 2014)

break a jar break a vase
break a golden pagoda
maybe break someone’s heart

break a jar break a vase
smash a whole new china
ai weiwei stands apart

break a jar break a vase
on the floor full of crickets teasing the capital city

break a jar break a vase
this guy has spunk — climbs up tiananmen
with his butt on the mole below mao’s nose

Tr. MW, Feb. 2014
[As always, Ai Weiwei is about asking what art is. Internationally. Great. (Translator’s note)]

broken china

Ai Weiwei in Canada, … almost

8月 12, 2013

The Globe and Mail article quoted by Paul Manfredi is well informed and sympathetic. But it doesn’t spell out any concrete reasons for Ai Weiwei’s singular status. Ai Weiwei’s status, even after his imprisonment, is that of a “princeling”. It seems to be easier to get rid of Bo Xilai. Bo’s father was one of the “eight immortals” of the Communist Party. Ai Weiwei’s father Ai Qing was a persecuted Communist writer, persecuted under Communist rule since the 1940s. Persecuted before, that’s where he got his name. Most of his colleagues denounced each other. Among famous writers, few seem to have been as obstinate as Ai Qing. He was banished to an army town in Xinjiang, a huge city today. There he cleaned toilets, together with little Weiwei. But after Deng Xiaoping came to power in 1978, Ai Qing became an icon. Unlike Bo Xilai and his henchmen, Ai Weiwei did not build labor camps and organ-harvested Falungong-followers. Before he was arrested, Global Times had published many sympathetic articles about his civil rights activism. And even after his abduction and imprisonment at an unknown location, Ai Weiwei gets to keep his comparatively huge house and grounds and most of his fortune. If he was persecuted too much, the main reason for Ai Weiwei’s status would come out too clearly: It would be awkward to discuss his father’s fate in detail. Cultural policy since the 1940s is no secret to anybody in and around the arts in China. But still. Maybe it would come out too clearly how control over art and literature and everything connected to culture was deemed even more important than in other Socialist countries. How idealism had been betrayed again and again, most effectively with broad domestic and international participation in economic growth after 1989. Ai Weiwei is very different from his father Ai Qing in many aspects, as well from his older brother Ai Xuan, who is also a well-known artist in China. But like his father, Ai Weiwei remains an icon of idealism. It would be awkward and politically dangerous to challenge such icons too much and thus revive ideals in a big way.

The Globe and Mail article quoted by Paul Manfredi gives convincing evidence of Ai Weiwei’s civil disobedience and civil rights engagement. Another good recent piece on Ai Weiwei, his imprisonment in 2011 and comparable phenomena elsewhere around the world is a TED-talk by An Xiao Mina.

Ai Weiwei wrote an indignant indictment of the US behaviour in the Snowden case in The Guardian back in June. That was before the plane carrying Bolivia’s president was refused airspace by France, Spain and Italy on US orders on July 3.

Ai Weiwei and Global Times

11月 23, 2011

Ai Weiwei News

6月 26, 2011
Liebe Freunde,
Ai Weiwei_Martin Winter
(Basler Zeitung Di., 27. Juli 2011)
Ai Weiweis Gedicht "Wir sprechen uns später" ist in der aktuellen Ausgabe der Zeit (7.-14. Juli). Kam am Donnerstag
heraus, nach China kommt die aktuelle Ausgabe immer erst am Montag, wenn sie kommt. Dann kostet sie 120 Volkstaler,
dreimal so viel wie in Deutschland. Die Übersetzung ist von Angelika Burgsteiner und mir. In den Tagen nach Ai Weiweis
Freilassung war dazu ein Artikel von Bei Ling, den ich übersetzt habe, in der FAZ, in der Presse und auf
Das Gedicht erschien 1987 in der von Yan Li herausgegebenen chinesischsprachigen Zeitschrift Yi Hang (oder Yi Xing, d.h.
Eine Zeile/ Eine Gruppe) in New York. Ai Weiwei erinnert sich an das Gedicht, weil es das einzige ist, das er je geschrieben
hat, sagt er.
Wir haben Ai Weiwei am Freitag in der Früh besucht. Er wirkte noch ziemlich mitgenommen. Ich bekam den Eindruck, er wurde
eher zu von der Staatssicherheit vermuteten politischen Hintergründen von alten Fotos aus New York befragt als zu steuerlichen
Vorwürfen gegen ihn. Aber wir haben nicht viel gefragt. Für die Aktionen zu seiner Unterstützung war er sehr dankbar, obwohl
er bei manchen Sachen auch etwas skeptisch ist. Die aktuelle Ausstellung in Winterthur kommt bald nach Graz, und die Sache in
Bregenz fängt auch in diesem Monat an. Aber er kann ja leider nirgends selbst hinfahren. Manche Projekte, die er vorher begonnen
hat, scheinen ihm jetzt fast fremd geworden zu sein. Er möchte gerne gastfreundlich sein und frei reden wir früher. Aber wie er
selbst sagt, jetzt geht es ihm eben wie vielen anderen, und eher wie vielen gewöhnlichen Leuten, die auch nicht zuviel
den Mund aufmachen dürfen. Als Wegzehrung für den Rückweg haben wir ein paar Sonnenblumenkerne mitbekommen.
Herzliche Grüße, mw

Silence of the dissidents
The Ancient Roots of Chinese Liberalism 
Yan Li's Chinese magazine in New York, 1987

The source for Ai Weiwei’s poem

严力:说说艾未未(之二) (2011.5)

严  力:说说艾未未(之三)


Hu Jia released after years in Chinese prison 

@faz_net Weit hinter der chinesischen Firewall 貝嶺 Bei Ling (June 25). Ai Weiwei mit Maulkorb: Wie lange wird er das aushalten? Der Aktionskünstler ist wieder auf freiem Fuß, aber unter scharfen Auflagen: Gibt es echte Freiheit für ihn nur um den Preis des Exils?


英譯刊於6月25日台北時報(Taipei Times): What will be the price of Ai Weiwei’s freedom? By Bei Ling 貝嶺

Berliners for Ai Weiwei (He lost a lot of weight in prison, so he might as well have some!)

See also Berlin’s Tagesspiegel from June 23rd  柏林《每日鏡報》6月24日文化版


6月 2, 2011

so (children’s day)

it is children’s day today
so i’m very very tired
as i’ve been for many years
so i don’t appear so often
so i’m very very late
so i’m here like anyone
so we’re doing what we can
so i’ll have another birthday
so we’ve china to remember
so we’ve 1989
so we’re doing what we can

MW June 1st, 2011

Maia & Leo

Ai Weiwei

4月 8, 2011

Interesting. Please click on the Global Times link (also at the bottom), read the article and then click on the “Related” links under the article. These other stories add a lot of perspective, through earlier and mostly positive Global Times coverage of Ai Weiwei’s various projects and activities. I remember seeing Lian Chan 連戰 on TV in Taiwan in the 1980s*. He was prime minister then, I think. Kept saying “Yi fa bali! 依法辦理”. To be handled according to law. Everything should be handled according to law. This was already after martial law 戒嚴 was lifted 解嚴 in 1987. But many opposition figures and activists were still in prison (they had a prison island, “Green Island” 綠島, for example) or barred from returning to Taiwan. Martial law had been lifted, but many laws from the One-Party-rule were still on the books, and actually still enforced (See the poem “After Martial Law Was Lifted – In Commemoration of Lifting Martial Law in Taiwan on July 15th, 1987” by Li Qin’an [李勤岸 – 解嚴以後 – 一九八七年七月十五日臺灣解嚴紀念] Now which law is the Global Times article referring to? Let US bake our cake of social progress and eat it at the same time, and have it OUR way, and let nobody in the world talk too much about it, because this is the LAW. Right?
Very interesting how they keep on contradicting themselves. “Was said to have been detained”. Was he, or was he not? Maybe just kidnapped? “It was reported his departure procedures were incomplete.” Interesting. So which law will not concede before Ai Weiwei? Which departure procedures law? No, it’s THE LAW. Shoot first, deflect questions later.* Happens in every society.



Global Times (4/6/11):
Law will not concede before maverick
法律不会为特立独行者弯曲_评论_环球网:, most discussed on @dujuan99/china ( See also China Geeks (4/8/11).

魏京生: 从艾未未事件看中国法制的演变

Geremie Barme on Ai Qing and Ai Weiwei

Nude photos and other incriminating activities of Ai Weiwei

It’s really very simple, and even seems a bit tedious when you think about it. Yet I go on watching these shows. What else would you have me look at, dear readers?

Salman Rushdie

Who is afraid of Ai Weiwei?(Language Log)

貝嶺:裸體公民艾未未 (China Times, also in Ming Pao)

Naked Citizen Ai Weiwei (Ming Pao, Hong Kong, May 2011)

Photo by Katharina Hesse

There are many relations of this case to other arrests like the one on April 8 of Zhao Lianhai 趙連海, speaker for parents whose children had been poisoned by tainted milk.
Zhao had been released on parole after beeing imprisoned for “disturbing the peace”. But on April 6, he uplaoded a moving video, holding his child and trying to make a public statement at home.


*This blog entry started out as a post on the MCLC email listserv. A lively discussion ensued. Andrew Field pointed out that Lu Xun 魯迅 and many other modern writers were banned in Taiwan under martial law. James Dew, Tim Wong, Kirk Denton, Christopher Lupke and others remembered how foreign students read these writers in a special room at Taiwan University, and how Chen Yingzhen 陳映真 connected to Lu Xun and the May Fourth tradition. Chen was imprisoned for “pro-communist activities”. Tai Jingnong 台静农 (1903~1990), a well-known writer and painter in Taiwan, was originally a student of Lu Xun.

* Jerome Cohen uses a similar expression in the South China Morning Post (4/27/11): “Second, it also seems clear that, whatever the evidence being assembled about tax evasion or other charges, this was not the motivation for Ai’s detention. This case started out on a ‘detain first and look for justification later’ basis.”

Chinese rock music related to Ai Weiwei:, via Jeroen Groenewegen

南都社论: 躺在时间的河流上怀念他们

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