The Chinese state church’s call to worship song

During a recent Sunday lunch one of our kids mentioned, “Our Sunday school teacher told us we had to be quiet because we’re in God’s temple.”

chineseJesuschildrenWe told her the Sunday school teacher was wrong. (No hard feelings toward the teacher; you can’t expect volunteer Sunday school teachers to be theologians or exegetes, but temples and church buildings aren’t the same thing theologically or functionally.)

It’s not hard to guess why she would have said that: between the lyrics of the 3-Self Patriotic Church‘s opening song and Chinese Christians’ penchant for big church buildings with serious, stately services — our friend was turned away at the door of Qingdao’s flagship 3-Self church just last Sunday because she was wearing flip-flops and therefore “didn’t have a worshipful heart,” “wasn’t obedient to God,” and would “disturb other worshipers” — Chinese state churches send the “temple” message every week.

But if you’re going to spend Sunday mornings in a Chinese state church, this song, along with the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, are probably the most useful bits of Chinese to learn first.
tspm_choir
殿》 is the Chinese version of the 1872 hymn “The Lord is in His Holy Temple (Quam Dilecta)” by George F. Root (1820-1895) and based on Habakkuk 2:20. It’s sung by the choir as the call to worship (i.e. the “everyone quiet down we’re starting now” song). Usually the congregation just listens, but it’s musically interesting and you might want to sing along, doctrinal shortcomings notwithstanding. ;)

《主在圣殿中》
主在圣殿中 / zhǔ zài shèngdiàn zhōng
主在圣殿中 / zhǔ zài shèngdiàn zhōng
普天下的人 / pǔtiānxiàde rén
在主面前都应当肃静 / zài zhǔ miànqián dōu yīngdāng sùjìng
肃静 肃静 / sùjìng sùjìng
应当肃静 / yīngdāng sùjìng
阿们 / āmen

Original:
The Lord is in His holy temple,
the Lord is in His holy temple;
Let all the earth keep silence,
Let all the earth keep silence before Him.
Keep silence, keep silence before Him.
tspm_chinglish

Making Christmas Chinese: “a yellow Christmas for yellow skin”

Since so many of our Christmas traditions are only two or three generations old anyway, why not make Christmas yellow?

A yellow yellow yellow Christmas
A yellow yellow yellow miracle will appear
A yellow yellow yellow Christmas
Oh! A yellow Christmas for yellow skin

ChineseChristmasNativity

Could Christmas ever become Chinese? It’s complicated. For starters: What does that question even mean? And then there’s Christmas’ thorny and conflicted association with Western culture and imperialism, which this translated article lays it out well enough:

…we have a particularly strong feeling that Christianity is a foreign religion.

…sometimes Christmas faces an embarrassing situation in China nowadays. In the eyes of some Chinese, Christmas is like a white wedding dress, which is Western. When Christmas comes, the whole society is filled a with strong commercial atmosphere.

…Christmas is a symbol of Western cultural invasion. For the vast majority of non-Christians in China, Christianity is only related to Christianity and shopping. As a result, Christmas has been resisted in China several times in recent years. With the spread of the internet, the trend of resistance is intensifying.

Ten Ph.Ds from ten well-known China’s universities including Beijing University and Tsinghua University jointly published an article online on Dec 21, 2006, calling for resistance to Christmas.

The topic of celebrating Christmas seems to appear every year… the groups who boycott Christmas range from the ten left-wing cultural scholars to cultural conservatives. Laid-off workers, farmers, young students, and veterans are also included.
[…]
Christmas has become a symbol which stands for overseas culture. Even Chinese who celebrate the festival think so. Few people are concerned about how Chinese Christians should celebrate Christmas under their own cultural background…

But despite the kind of Christmas you’re most likely to witness in China, and the calls to reject Christmas outright, apparently some people are attempting to meaningfully Chinese-ify Christmas. And the attempts are… interesting, at least. The article I quoted above gives two examples. Here’s the first: Yellow Christmas by Huang Guolun (1999):

Yellow Christmas 黄色圣诞

Words & Music: Huang Guolun 词/曲:黄国伦
Performed by Huang Guolun, Zhu Yuexin, Mai Kelin 演唱:黄国伦、朱约信、苏郁修
(Listen: Youtube, Youtube, Xiami, Tudou)

When I was young I dreamed of a snowy Christmas
小的时候 我曾梦想下雪圣诞节
Waiting by my bed for Santa to appear
躲在床边等待圣诞老人的再现
The days went by year after year
日子过了一年又一年 我什麽也没看见
Oh! Childhood fantasies, a White Christmas
OH! 童年幻想 白色圣诞节
White White Christmas White White Christmas

That year I broke up with her in a rainy December
那年与她分手在那下雨十二月
Sitting in church with red-rimmed eyes singing Silent Night
红着眼眶坐在教堂唱着平安夜
The choir sang it again and again, I felt little comfort
诗班唱了一遍又遍 我觉得有点安慰
Oh! Lost love’s dejection, a blue Christmas
OH! 失恋忧鬱 蓝色圣诞节
Blue Blue Christmas Blue Blue Christmas

’til now, I can taste the flavour of Christmas
直到现在 我才尝到圣诞的滋味
The most beautiful gift that God gave to people
那是上帝赐给人间最美的礼物
In the grim reality of this world there’s sunshine shining in the door of my heart
在这冷酷现实的世界 有阳光照心扉
Oh! Golden warmth, a yellow Christmas
OH! 金黄温暖 黄色圣诞节

A yellow yellow yellow Christmas
Yellow Yellow 黄色圣诞节
A yellow yellow miracle will appear
Yellow Yellow 奇迹会出现
A yellow yellow yellow Christmas
Yellow Yellow 黄色圣诞节
A yellow Christmas for yellow skin
OH! 黄皮肤的黄色圣诞节

I want to celebrate Christmas, not just dance and spend money
我想庆祝圣诞不是跳舞和花钱
We can invest heartfelt concern into this suffering world
可以付出真心关怀苦难的世界
Just like Jesus without complaint or regret devoted His whole self
就像耶稣无怨无悔 奉献祂一切
Oh! The wonder of God’s love, a yellow Christmas!
OH! 主爱奇妙 黄色圣诞节

ChineseChristmasNativity_006b

That article’s second example appeared on the Chinese internet at the end of 2016 — a Henan folk opera that has Jesus being born in Zhumadian. I went searching and found it being passed around the chinternet as a joke:

“Three days after the winter solstice, little Jesus was born in Zhumadian. The Three Magi brought a box of apples, five jin of pork, and ten jin of flour. Mary had a red egg in her hand and Joseph was busy rolling the dumpling dough. The innkeeper brought a bowl of brown sugar and ginger drink, and called, “Elder Sister, you drink this so you don’t catch a cold.” The Party Secretary of Zhumadian village heard the news, rushed over and said, “Hallelujah! But you still have to get a Temporary Residence Permit.” Just as the sky outside the barn was turning late, everyone in the barn ate apples for peace. Red flags flutter at every home in Zhumadian, and they celebrated Christmas with firecrackers and the cry and clamour of gongs and drums.”
冬至过了那整整三天,小耶稣降生在俺驻马店。三博士送来了一箱苹果,还提着五斤猪肉十斤白面。玛丽亚手里拿着红鸡蛋,约瑟夫忙把饺子皮擀。店老板端来碗红糖姜水,喊一声大嫂你喝了不怕风寒。驻马店村支书闻讯赶来,道一声哈利路亚暂住证还是得办。只见那马棚外天色向晚,马棚里人人都吃苹果求个平安。驻马店家家户户红旗招展,庆圣诞鞭炮齐鸣锣鼓喧天。

Recently I just happened upon a third example, sort of: a creative Nativity rewrite by an ABC pastor in San Fransisco, which points out how the ancient culture in which the Christmas Story occurs resembles Chinese culture more than Western culture: What if Jesus were born in my ancestral village in China?

ChineseChristmasNativity_007b

More about Chinese racial talk and attempts to Sinicize Christmas:

Labor of Love by Andrew Peterson in Chinese

Have you never wondered: No room at the inn? Why are they even looking for a place? Mary and Joseph would have traveled with a pile of other relatives to Bethlehem where they had even more relatives because it’s Joseph’s hometown. Yet they can’t find a place to stay? No one in Joseph’s extended family has room for a relative who’s ready to go into labour at any moment?

Chinese_no_room_at_the_inn

The scandal of Mary getting pregnant while she was still unmarried, and Joseph deciding to marry her anyway, is more than his family is willing to take. Joseph’s family has shunned them.

That’s one of two main ways to understand the story — that Mary gave birth to Jesus much like this song suggests: on the cold ground of a dark cave where a stranger kept livestock, alone except for her (helpless) carpenter husband because his family wouldn’t take them in. (The other understanding is that they weren’t alone at all, relatives were taking care of them, but due to the overcrowding the best they could do was the family room which the animals were brought into at night. “Inn” is a poor translation.)

圣诞贺卡2015

We’re perennially desperate for Christmas music that isn’t awful. A few weeks ago friends recommended the album Behold the Lamb of God. Although I’m not a huge fan of the CCM genre or familiar with the music of singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson, I thought his song Labor of Love was worth translating into Chinese. It doesn’t attempt any great feats of lyricism; it simply but vividly connects people to the experience of Mary and Joseph the night she gave birth to Jesus in a way that Silent Night, with its tender and mild baby that doesn’t cry, doesn’t even try to do.

This is just a starter translation. It needs native speaker polishing before anyone really tries to sing it. But I want to put this out there and see if I can get some helpful suggestions. More notes on the translation below.

Hear it on Youtube here, here (live performance), and here (set to Nativity movie clips). Artist’s website: Andrew-Peterson.com

It was not a silent night 那夜并不平安
There was blood on the ground 鲜血洒在地面
You could hear a woman cry 女人的哭泣声声
In the alleyways that night 在这漆黑夜晚
On the streets of David’s town 在大卫城中回荡

And the stable was not clean 马厩也并不洁净
And the cobblestones were cold 鹅卵石冷冷冰冰
And little Mary full of grace 玛利亚恩典满满
With tears upon her face 泪水滑落脸庞
Had no mother’s hand to hold 没母亲握手相伴 [*]

It was a labor of pain 那是多么的痛
It was a cold sky above 在这寒冷夜空下
But for the girl on the ground in the dark 黑夜中躺着地上的女孩 [*]
With every beat of her beautiful heart 她的每一次心跳
It was a labor of love 都是爱的跳动 [**]

Noble Joseph at her side 忠实约瑟在身旁
Callused hands and weary eyes 粗糙的双手疲惫的双眼 [*]
There were no midwives to be found 在深夜里遍寻街头
In the streets of David’s town 却找不到一位
In the middle of the night 一位助产的人

So he held her and he prayed 抱着玛利亚祷告
Shafts of moonlight on his face 月光洒向他脸庞
But the baby in her womb 但她腹中的宝贝
He was the maker of the moon 就是月的创造者
He was the Author of the faith 就是有移山信心 [***]
That could make the mountains move 的的始创者

It was a labor of pain 那是多么的痛
It was a cold sky above 在这寒冷夜空下
But for the girl on the ground in the dark 但黑夜中这女孩
With every beat of her beautiful heart 她的每一次心跳
It was a labor of love 都是爱的跳动

For little Mary full of grace 恩典满满的玛利亚
With the tears upon her face 尽管泪水滑落脸庞
It was a labor of love 却是爱的劳作

TRANSLATION NOTES

[*] Details & Syllables:
The few people I bounced this off of struggled to squeeze all of the vivid details into the allotted syllables. In some cases they revised details out to make a better rhythmic fit. So “no mother’s hand to hold” became “no mother by her side” (妈妈却不在身边); Mary “the girl on the ground in the dark” became “the girl in the dark night” (黑夜中这女孩); and Joseph’s “callused hands and weary eyes” became “utterly exhausted” (早已疲惫不堪). I opted to retain the details above even though it’s not as smooth, because those details evoke imagery that powerfully conveys a lot of the story.

[**] The “labour of love” wordplay:
A Chinese friend recommended switching my literal translation of the “labour of love” wordplay (referencing the pain and effort of childbirth) for, “Her every single heartbeat is the beat of love” (她的每一次心跳 / 都是爱的跳动). To me that’s even cheesier than the original, but that’s also par for the course in China. And each person I talked to wasn’t satisfied with using 劳作 for “labor”, but no one had a better alternative.

[***] Everyone had trouble translating “the Author of the faith that can make the mountains move”.

More Chinese Christmas songs:

More English Christmas songs: Merry Christmas Music!

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).
[audio:jingzhongbaoguo.mp3]

报国 by 洪纲

狼烟江山
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
黄河茫茫
Hearts as boundless as the water of the Yellow River
二十纵横
Who defies the length and breadth of the past twenty years?

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

What regret is it to die a hundred times protecting family and country?
叹惜无语血泪
Enduring sighs of regret, speechless, tears of blood fill the eyes
马蹄
Horses’ hooves go south, the people look toward the north
青黄飞扬
Toward the north the grass yellows, dust flying up
守土开疆
I’m willing to guard this territory and re-claim the land
堂堂中国四方
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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yue_Fei

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.

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

Chinese New Year:

Christmas:

KTV!

So I’m in this Chinese girl band…

I’m not just a Chinese preschool rockstar; I now have a band. A girl band. A Chinese girl band. A Chinese girl band composed entirely of preschool teachers. And we are not above using the electric piano’s preprogrammed auto-chording rhythm feature thingy.

Working for a Chinese company gives opportunities to perform — and I mean like song-and-dance perform — that you typically don’t get at the average North American job. For example, at the year-end banquet it’s common for every department in a company to put on some sort of performance. Lots of singing along to pop tracks at the very least. It’s actually more of an obligation than an opportunity; it means bad vibes if you cry off participating.

Chinese love karaoke (KTV). They practice beforehand, and when they go they’ll easily stay for four, five or six hours singing the cheesiest pop lyrics and melodies you can imagine. And the practice shows. Have whatever stereotype of mild-mannered, bespectacled bookworm Chinese you want, but you haven’t seen China until you’ve seen said bespectacled office drones rocking out in a KTV lounge like they are the Chinese incarnation of Whitney Houston. It’s not what you’d expect from the impressions and stereotypes that float around, but in my experience the average Chinese tends to be less inhibited than the average cripplingly self-conscious and cool-anxious, irony-plagued North American when it comes to public performance.

Our school has a New Year’s Show, a Children’s Day Show, and a Teacher Show — those are the one’s I’ve discovered so far anyway. And it’s normal for teachers and parents to be involved in a couple performances even for the kids’ shows.

So here’s the song and lyrics some of my coworkers picked to cover for the Teacher Show (performed for the parents and grandparents of our 200+ students) — our first and most likely final performance. :)

相信 by


(Better quality version here.)

想飞上天和太阳肩并肩 / xiǎng fēishàng tiān hé tàiyáng jiānbìngjiān
Want to fly up to heaven and be shoulder to shoulder with the sun

世界等着我去改变/ shìjiè děngzhe wǒ qù gaibiàn
The world is waiting for me to go change (it)

想做的梦从不怕别人看见 / xiǎng zuòde mèng cóngbù pà biérén kànjiàn
Want to have a dream and not fear that other people will see

在这里我都能实现 / zài zhèlǐ wǒ dōu néng shíxiàn
Here I can achieve all of this

大声欢笑让你我肩并肩 / dàshēng huānxiào ràng nǐ wǒ jiānbìngjiān
Laughing loudly let us be should to shoulder

何处不能欢乐无限 / héchù bùnéng huānlè wúxiàn
Wherever there’s not infinite joy

抛开烦恼 勇敢的大步向前 / pāokāi fánnǎo yǒnggǎnde dàbù xiàngqián
Throw out worries, go forward with brave strides

我就站在舞台中间 / wǒ jiù zhàn zài wǔtái zhōngjiān
I just stand in the middle of the stage

[Chorus]

我相信我就是我,我相信明天 / wǒ xiāngxìn wǒ jiùshì wǒ, wǒ xiāngxìn míngtiān
I believe I’m me, I believe in tomorrow

我相信青春没有地平线 / wǒ xiāngxìn qīngchūn méiyǒu dìpíngxiàn
I believe youth has no horizon

在日落的海边,在热闹的大街 / zài rìluòde hǎibiān, zài rènǎode dàjiē
At the sun-setting seaside, on the bustling street

都是我心中最美的乐园 / dōu shì wǒ xīnzhōng zuìměide lèyuán
Both are the happiest paradise of my heart

我相信自由自在,我相信希望 / wǒ xiāngxìn zìyóuzìzài, wǒ xiāngxìn xīwàng
I believe in carefree freedom, I believe in hope

我相信伸手就能碰到天 / wǒ xiāngxìn shēnshǒu jiù néng pèngdào tiān
I believe you can stretch out your hand and reach heaven

有你在我身边 让生活更新鲜 / yǒu nǐ zài wǒ shēnbiān ràng shēnghuó gèng xīnxiān
Having you at my side makes life fresher

每一刻都精采万分,I do believe / měi yíkè dōu jīngcǎi wànfēn
Every moment is extremely splendid

Karaoke adventures:

Chinese songs to learn:

《恭喜恭喜恭喜你》 – a translated song for Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year! Here’s another translated Spring Festival song! Our three-year-old loves to sing and dance to this one, too.

恭喜恭喜恭喜你


(Also here and here.)

咚咚咚锵 咚咚咚锵 / dōng dōng dōng qiāng dōng dōng dōng qiāng
[drumming sounds]
恭喜恭喜恭喜你 / gōngxǐ gōngxǐ gōngxǐ nǐ
Congratulations congratulations congratulations to you
咚咚咚锵 咚咚咚锵 / dōng dōng dōng qiāng dōng dōng dōng qiāng
[drumming sounds]
恭喜恭喜新年快乐 万事如意 / gōngxǐ gōngxǐ xīnnián kuàilè, wànshì rúyì
Congratulations, congratulations, Happy New Year!
May everything go according to your wishes.

一元复始呀春风得意 / yī yuán fù shǐ ya, chūn fēng déyì
A year begins again, the spring wind is happy
万象更新呀大吉大利 / wànxiàng gèng xīn ya, dà jí dà lì
All of nature is renewed, very auspicious and prosperous

[Chorus 2x]

招财进宝呀金银满堂 / zhāo cái jìn bǎo ya, jīn yǐn mǎn táng
Inviting weath and riches, gold and silver fill the hall
风调雨顺呀年年有余 / fēng tiáo yǔ shùn ya, niánnián yǒu yú
The weather is favourable, year and year has abundance

[Chorus 2x]

More Chinese New Year/Spring Festival stuff:

More Chinese songs to learn:

《恭喜恭喜》 Get in the Spring Festival mood with another Chinese New Year song!

This is another one of the Chinese New Year songs we hear these days, whenever we’re out anywhere that plays music (like shopping centers). I guess it’s the Chinese equivalent of the kind of Christmas music you hear in malls in December. Many of my students and coworkers recognize songs like this, but not well enough to sing the words.


(Other versions here and here.)

每条大街小巷 / měi tiáo dàjiē xiǎoxiàng
In every street and alley
每个人的嘴里 / měi ge rén de zuǐlǐ
From every person’s mouth
见面第一句话 / jiànmiàn dìyī jùhuà
The first sentence when meeting
就是恭喜恭喜 / jiùshì gōngxǐ gōngxǐ
Is “Congratulations!”

恭喜恭喜恭喜你呀 / gōngxǐ gōngxǐ gōngxǐ nǐ ya
Congratulations congratulations congratulations to you
恭喜恭喜恭喜你 / gōngxǐ gōngxǐ gōngxǐ nǐ
Congratulations congratulations congratulations to you

冬天已到尽头 / dōngtiān yǐ dào jìntóu
Winter has come to its end
真是好的消息 / zhēn shì hǎode xiāoxi
It’s really good news
温暖的春风 / wēnnuǎnde chūn fēng
Warm spring breezes
就要吹醒大地 / jiù yào chuī xǐng dàdì
will blow the earth awake

[Chorus]

浩浩冰雪融解 / hàohào bīng xué róngjiě
Expanse of ice and snow melts
眼看梅花吐蕊 / yǎnkàn méihuā tǔ ruǐ
Soon the plum blossoms will begin to bloom
慢慢长夜过去 / mànmàn cháng yè guòqù
Slowly the long night passes
听到一声鸡啼 / tīngdào yī shēng jī tí
Hear a rooster’s crow</p>

[Chorus]

经过多少困难 / jīngguò duōshǎo kùnnan
Went through so much difficulty
历经多少磨练 / lìjīng duōshǎo móliàn
Experienced so much discipline
多少心儿盼望 / duōshǎo xīnr pànwàng
So many hearts are longing for
春天的消息 / chūntiān dexiāoxi
The news of spring

[Chorus]

冬天已到尽头 / dōngtiān yǐ dào jìntóu
Winter has come to its end
真是好的消息 / zhēn shì hǎode xiāoxi
Its really good news
温暖的春风 / wēnnuǎnde chūn fēng
Warm spring breezes
就要吹醒大地 / jiù yào chuī xǐng dàdì
will blow the earth awake

[Chorus]

More Chinese New Year/Spring Festival stuff:

More Chinese songs to learn: