Patriotic Chinese Kindergarten Kungfu — lyrics & video for 精忠报国 by 屠洪纲

kindergartenkungfu01crop.PNG Patriotic Chinese Kindergarten Kungfu    lyrics & video for 精忠报国 by 屠洪纲

Our 4-year-old goes to an all-Chinese preschool, where I also teach. We’re the only foreigners. The 5 and 6-year-olds do this as a regular exercise routine:

It’s a song about complete devotion and loyalty to China, which in English could be “Dedication and Loyalty to the Country” or “Serve the Country with Utmost Loyalty”. The title is a reference to famous historical-mythical General Yue Fei’s tattoo. He was traitorously executed and posthumously has come to epitomize loyalty to China. The Wikipedia article is worth a read, as this song has all kinds of historical/cultural associations.

Here’s the mp3 and Chinese lyrics (mouseover for pronunciation!) with English translation (mostly someone else’s). Music videos here (youtube) and here (youku).

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报国 by 洪纲

The fire beacon rises, look toward the rivers and mountains of the north

Dragons’ puffs and horses’ neighs are like blows of a frosted sword
Hearts as boundless as the water of the Yellow River
Who defies the length and breadth of the past twenty years?

Wild hatred where my sword points
Countless brothers, loyal souls, bones buried in unfamiliar lands

What regret is it to die a hundred times protecting family and country?
Enduring sighs of regret, speechless, tears of blood fill the eyes
Horses’ hooves go south, the people look toward the north
Toward the north the grass yellows, dust flying up
I’m willing to guard this territory and re-claim the land
Grand China will make all sides bring tribute

Some interesting notes on this song here:

Many people in the west believe that Chinese are in general motivated by an irrational nationalism cultivated by the communist party to secure its political hold on the country. This is why some of the protests by Chinese nationals overseas have been labeled as “rebirth of the red guards”. Personally, I think this misunderstanding reflects a lack of knowledge about Chinese history, which in the thousand years past have been filled with foreign invasions and civil wars. We Chinese are peace lovers, but our own history has taught us that unification as a country, especially in the face of foreign threats has always been the prerequisite for a peaceful life.

This music video is by the singer Tu HongGang, who was trained as a Beijing opera singer, but turned into a pop singer in the late 80′s and early 90′s. The song is entitled 精忠报国, which translates to ‘dedication and loyalty to the country,’ or ‘serve the country with the utmost loyalty.’ The phrase by itself originates from the story of Yue Fei, “a famous Chinese patriot and military general who fought for the Southern Song Dynasty against the Jurchen armies of the Jin Dynasty. Since his political execution by the traitor Qin Hui, Yue Fei has evolved into the standard model of loyalty in Chinese culture.” According to legends, his mother tattooed these four characters across his back before he left home to join the army in 1122. More on his story can be found here:

Note the first picture on the right, which shows the statue of Yue Fei, from the Yue Fei Mausoleum in Hangzhou. The four characters on his banner say, Huan Wo He Shan , or “Give back my rivers and mountains”.

I love the song (and the singer!) very much, I feel it echoes much of the patriotism which Chinese holds as part of our cultural identity.

kindergartenkungfu02crop Patriotic Chinese Kindergarten Kungfu    lyrics & video for 精忠报国 by 屠洪纲

More Chinese music (many with lyrics & guitar chords!):

Chinese New Year:



Would you rather… Chinese Communists or Princess Barbies?

I’m co-hosting the preschool’s variety show/graduation ceremony this week. My job is to translate and say their host script in English. I can live with, “Children all have this beautiful desire in their hearts, to grow up and wear camouflage uniforms just like Uncle in the People’s Liberation Army, loving the Party, loving the country, and being a brave person!” But I think a small part of me will die inside when I have to say, “Look, everyone! Here comes Princess Barbie!”

benigngirl20110520 QingdaoHuangdao 240 Would you rather... Chinese Communists or Princess Barbies?

Our 4-yr-old in her Chinese preschool’s Flag-Raising Ceremony

Our daughter goes to a local, all-Chinese preschool. We live in the neighbourhood and I’m their 外教。 She started last November but unlike most kids who go all day five days a week, she only goes mornings on Mon/Wed/Fri. We’re the only foreigners. This week she got to participate in the Monday morning flag-raising ceremony.

IMG 2080 Our 4 yr old in her Chinese preschools Flag Raising Ceremony

They deliberately put her in the class with the nicest teachers, who don’t criticize and shame and negatively compare and threaten as per normal in China (and like in the other classes). As the English teacher, I’m in each of the seven classes every morning so it’s easy for me to compare their discipline and teaching styles.

IMG 2090 Our 4 yr old in her Chinese preschools Flag Raising Ceremony

It seems like participating in this event and celebrating her birthday, which means going through the birthday kid routine that all the other kids go through on their birthdays, have gone a long way toward her fitting in — both in how she feels and how the other kids relate to her. Maybe it’s made everyone realize more that she’s a student, too, and not just some weird visitor. And of course it helps that her Chinese is way better now than when she started.

IMG 2104 Our 4 yr old in her Chinese preschools Flag Raising Ceremony

The chain is owned by an American/Chinese couple who are our friends and members of our NGO. This means I have way more leverage to address issues than I normally would, so this is an exceptional situation for us. I don’t know what we’d do if our only options were normal preschools. Even for the most cross-culturally savvy families, sometimes putting a foreign kid in a Chinese preschool just doesn’t work. There are endless possibilities for deal-breaking conflict.

IMG 2110 Our 4 yr old in her Chinese preschools Flag Raising Ceremony

Their sashes say “I’m a little flag-bearer” 旗手。 Here’s the video of her little performance:

(Part of being at this local Chinese preschool is a horrible, disorganized sound system. Normally this doesn’t matter, because the point of a Chinese sound system is not to clearly amplify speech or music; it’s to make noise so that events feel more 热闹。 On this day, the mics they first tried to use at the base of the flagpole were set to broadcast inside the school instead of outside. But the other mics that do broadcast through the outdoor speakers couldn’t reach all the way to the flagpole, so they moved the kids over to one side. And then the batteries were worn out and fuzzy and loose. But anyway… :)

She said:


Which means:

Hi, everybody! I’m Lu Xinyu from Little Class 2. I just turned 4. I want to sing a song for you:
I love my preschool
At preschool there are lots of friends
There’s singing and dancing
Everybody’s happy together

This was our first day, at the end of October:

firstdayofschool Our 4 yr old in her Chinese preschools Flag Raising Ceremony

More Chinese preschool stuff:

“That’s right, I’m a foreigner!” 对,我是外国人!

Once upon a time we went to an all-Chinese mall in Vancouver, Canada to practice Chinese. We overheard this group of college-age girls say, “Hey, those wàiguórén speak Chinese!” Wàiguórén (外国人) meaning “foreigner.” And never mind who was in whose country.

Anyway, saw this shirt tonight and had to share. Reminds me of the mzungu shirts worn by wàiguórén in East Africa during bad reactions to culture stress. But with a twist. And not worn by a mzungu/wàiguórén:

duiwoshiwaiguoren Thats right, Im a foreigner! 对,我是外国人!
外国人!” — 弗 2:19
“That’s right, I’m a foreigner!” — Ephesians 2:19

Aside from just being funny, it’s also interesting because of China’s general love/hate relationship with wàiguórén/the West. Just this week I come across usage of “fake foreign devil” 鬼子. And not to mention Chinese Christianity‘s complicated relationship to the English language, Western culture and Western Christianity in particular.

Maybe the t-shirt’s just a Bible joke and not meant to reference any of that. Or maybe it’s deliberately redefining the terms. Either way the joke’s historical-cultural context is hard to ignore. Because historical-cultural context is always hard to ignore. At least for this 外国人

P.S. -
And lest anyone feel like accusing this guy of being a fake foreign devil (鬼子), I should point out that not only does he not speak any English, he doesn’t even have an ‘English name’. Dude is just not interested in “sniffing after foreigners’ farts.

Related stuff:

Our neighbourhood’s anti-Japanese restaurant

I ducked my head in this restaurant to see if they served dog. Turns out they don’t serve Japanese. And they totally weren’t seeing the slogan possibility with serving dog but not Japanese. Anyway:

IMG 3150banner Our neighbourhoods anti Japanese restaurant
“Diaoyu Islands are inherently China’s territory,
this restaurant will not receive Japanese people!”
IMG 3148flag Our neighbourhoods anti Japanese restaurant

Interestingly enough, the restaurant right next door is also very patriotic, with “Comrade Mao Zedong” posters on the wall.

For more about popular Chinese hatred for Japan:

“A pile of loose sand” and civic consciousness in China

Read Ian Johnson’s Wild Grass: Three Portraits of Change in Modern China (2004). Plenty of important insights to be gained from this book, particularly since “evil cults” have been in the news again and Johnson does a great job illustrating why and how certain groups can be so brutally persecuted. A related insight that I find interesting is the challenge of developing “civic consciousness” among ordinary Chinese.

“A pile of loose sand” and the lack of Chinese civic consciousness
In the early 20th century, Dr. Sun Yat-sen famously referred to the Chinese as “a pile of loose sand” and apparently saw nationalism as the solution:

For the most part the four hundred million Chinese can be spoken of as completely Han Chinese with common customs and habits. We are completely of one race. But in the world today, what position do we occupy? Compared to the other peoples of the world we have the greatest population and our civilization is four thousand years old; we should therefore be advancing in rank with the nations of Europe and America. But the Chinese people have only family and clan solidarity; they do not have a hundred million people gathering together in China, in reality they are just a pile of loose sand.

That was almost a century ago. Today, China suffers from nationalism overload, yet the same lack of civic consciousness still plagues domestic China. Consider these comments from award-winning journalist Ian Johnson describing late-90′s China:

wildgrass A pile of loose sand and civic consciousness in ChinaA friend of mine liked to argue . . . [that] the crackdown showed that Chinese actually didn’t care much about each other or the discrepancy in what they saw and what the [authorities] did. There was no solidarity with the persecuted, unless they were family members or personal friends. It was like the traffic accidents that one sees in big Chinese cities — crowds gather only to stare; almost no one stops to help. No wonder [the authorities] could hold on to power so easily, he said. It doesn’t have to divide and conquer its enemies; they are divided of their own accord. I had to agree with him, because I rarely encountered a person who got really angry about the way [the authorities] treated [the persecuted] adherents. While some far-thinking people saw the campaign as unjustified and cruel, most simply shrugged and wondered why people bothered to stand up for something they believed in. Concerned with their daily struggles, they couldn’t understand why [the persecuted] believers insisted on exercising publicly. “Why not just exercise in the living room?” was the most common response I got when I asked about the repression… [pp. 288-289].

For more about the specific persecuted group referred to above and a similar group, see these links:

Oh, the *other* Canada…

I’ve heard people joke, especially pre-9-11, about how Americans think there are only two kinds of people in the world: Americans and Foreigners. Well that applies at least as much in China; I’ve heard Chinese tell that joke about themselves, that there are only two countries: The Middle Kingdom and The Outside Kingdom. And to a Chinese learner’s half-tuned ear the way people talk sometimes sounds ridiculously funny, because when you hear things too literally all the time it sounds in Chinese (to you) as if “Foreign Country” is proper noun and people do think there literally are only two nations in the world.

In English we have “abroad” or “overseas” and those words don’t sound or look anything like Germany, the USA, France, etc. And we have to have an article in front of “foreign country” (a foreign country). In Chinese, many oft-used country names are two-syllable words all with the same last syllable: “~” (“[~]” + “country”). For example:

  • 德国 dé guó – Germany
  • 法国 fă guó – France
  • 美国 mĕi guó – USA
  • 俄国 é guó – Russia

Pay attention to these last two:

  • 中国 zhōng guó – China (literally: “central” + “country”)
  • 外国 wài guó – abroad, overseas, a foreign country (literally: “outside” + “country”). “Foreigner” = “outside” + “country” + “person” (外国 + ).

So whenever Chinese talk about going abroad, it literally sounds like they’re dividing the world into two different countries, even if they aren’t.

But sometimes… I wonder. This morning I was somewhere meeting a bunch of new people, and there was this kid, maybe 10(?), who was all about quizzing the foreigner while he had the rare chance.

Qingdao kid: “Where are you from?”

Me: “Canada.”

QK: [leans in, stares closely at my face] “But your eyes look like foreigner eyes.”

It took me a couple seconds to figure out what had happened. The kid had never heard of Canada, and “Canada” in Chinese isn’t “[~]” + “country” like all my examples above, it’s just a transliteration of the English: 加拿大 jiā ná dà. He heard a name for the first time, and it wasn’t obviously a country’s name, so he assumed it was somewhere in China.

Most of the adults present had a good laugh, though I’m not sure some of them weren’t as confused as the kid. We do occasionally bump into grown-ups who don’t know where Canada is or if it’s even a country.

And just to be fair, a week ago today we had a group lunch that included an American woman who ended up saying, “Shanxi? Where’s that? Is that in Qingdao?”