We Met In Beijing


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Beijing is a city of multitudes, filled with contradictions and constantly in flux. It is a place for dreamers and schemers, musicians and migrant workers, techies and teachers, cat ladies and cab drivers—and at the same time, a place for none of them, a seat of power that can feel unwelcoming and closed. In his debut book, Anthony Tao opens the gates to the tree-lined streets, dusty alleys, mirthful canals, fashionable rooftops and sweaty nightclubs of China’s political and cultural nerve center, and invites readers to experience the exhilaration, hardship, and heartbreak of trying to put down roots in this gritty, unrelenting metropolis.



“Anthony Tao has become the Poet Laureate of Beijing. His poems are ongoing records of the metabolism of the city, its circadian rhythms, the urban dopamine rush, the queasy malaise of the lockdown era, and that stubborn organic force that persists against the weight of history. His poems are enduring time capsules of the Beijing we leave behind, and the Beijing we take with us.”

—David Moser, Sinologist, jazz pianist, author of A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language

“Anthony Tao brings China utterly, pungently, viscerally to life. He writes in three dimensions and five senses. I savored this astonishing writing.”

—Evan Osnos, author of the National Book Award-winning Age of Ambition

“Tao is a poet in the tradition of Li Bai—a moving chronicler of his times, a foreigner in his own land, and a poet for whom friendship is bittersweet. We Met in Beijing is an intimate journey through the ‘coarse aesthetics’ of China’s capital city—the sky’s ‘dust texture,’ the ‘ancient alleys,’ roadside pyres of cardboard, old men perched on stools, the flood of summer rains, donkey burgers and noodles, and of course, the bars. Tao has seen it all, and he records everything with an acuity and a humanity that evokes a time after time, an endless, enraptured duration: ‘Time left. We stayed.’”

—Simon Shieh, poet, author of Master

“Anthony Tao writes about his life in his birth city, Beijing, the nightclubs and restaurants, the hutongs (local streets), his neighbors, taxi drivers, social and political changes, and his dreams and disillusions…The poems in his debut book illuminate the best and the worst of China, as well as his sensibility as a poet and as a news editor.”

—Ming Di, poet, translator, editor

From the beginning, Tao’s Beijing gets its hooks in us. You may have to leave, but you cannot stay away…The collection is full of moments that articulate the unique atmosphere every city offers to those who love it best. Those who know Beijing will feel the shock of recognition on every page, while those who don’t can build their vision of the place through Tao’s sharp eye.”

—Sean Toland, Spittoon Literary Arts Collective coordinator


ISBN 979-8-9900249-0-8 (pbk.)

Cover art by Johanna Søvik