筷子兄弟 – 小苹果 Little Apple by the Chopstick Bros (English, 汉字 & pinyin lyrics)

This song has been so inescapable that I finally broke down and translated the lyrics. Our kids come home from preschool singing it, dolls that friends gave our kids sing it, we hear it in grannies’ ringtones, malls, motorbikes, those wretched looped advertisements that stores blast from speakers on the sidewalks, and of course public dance exercise groups (including this record-breaking 20,000-member dance group). Video below from YouTube. If you’re in China without a VPN, see it here.

Song: Little Apple
歌曲:小苹果 gēqǔ: xiǎopíngguǒ
Performed by: Chopsticks Bro.
演唱:筷子兄弟 yǎnchàng: kuàizi xiōngdì
Lyrics & Music: Wang Taili
作词/作曲:王太利 zuòcí/zuòqǔ: Wáng Tàilì

I planted a seed
我种下一颗种子 / wǒ zhòngxià yīkē zhǒngzi
It finally sprouted fruit
终于长出了果实 / zhōngyú zhǎngchū le guǒshí
Today is a great day
今天是个伟大日子 / jīntiān shì ge wěidà rìzi
Pluck down a star and give it to you
摘下星星送给你 / zhāixià xīngxīng sònggěi nǐ
Haul down moonlight and give it to you
拽下月亮送给你 / yèxià yuèliang sònggěi nǐ
Make the sun every day rise for you
让太阳每天为你升起 / ràng tàiyáng měi tiān wèi nǐ shēngqǐ
Become a candle and light myself
变成蜡烛燃烧自己/ biànchéng làzhú ránshāo zìjǐ
just to illuminate you
只为照亮你 / zhǐwèi zhàoliàng nǐ
Take my everything and offer it to you
把我一切都献给你 / bǎ wǒ yīqiè dōu xiàngěi nǐ
just so long as you’re happy
只要你欢喜 / zhǐyào nǐ huānxǐ
You’ve made my every tomorrow have meaning
你让我每个明天都变得有意义 / nǐ ràng wǒ měi ge míngtiān dōu biànde yǒuyì
Although life is short I’ll love you forever
生命虽短爱你永远 / shēngmìng suī duǎn ài nǐ yǒngyuǎn
Never leaving never forsaking
不离不弃 / bùlí bùqì

You’re my little, little apple
你是我的小呀小苹果儿 / nǐ shì wǒde xiǎo ya xiǎo píngguǒ
Loving you more is never too much
怎么爱你都不嫌多 / zěnme ài nǐ dōu bù xiánduō
Red little face warms my heart
红红的小脸儿温暖我的心窝 / hónghóngde xiǎo liǎn wēnnuǎn wǒde xīnwō
Lights my life on fire fire fire fire fire
点亮我生命的火火火火火 / diǎnliàng wǒ shēngmìngde huǒ huǒ huǒ huǒ huǒ
You’re my little, little apple
你是我的小呀小苹果儿 / nǐ shì wǒde xiǎo ya xiǎo píngguǒ
Like the most beautiful cloud on the horizon
就像天边最美的云朵 / jiùxiàng tiānbiān zuìměide yúnduǒ
Spring has come again and flowers are blooming on the hillside
春天又来到了花开满山坡 / chūntiān yòu láidào le huā kāimǎn shānpō
Planting hope will reap a harvest
种下希望就会收获 / zhòngxià xīwàng jiùhuì shōuhuò

Never feel you’re annoying
从不觉得你讨厌 / cóngbù juéde nǐ tǎoyàn
Love everything about you
你的一切都喜欢 / nǐde yīqiè dōuxǐhuān
With you every day is fresh
有你的每天都新鲜 / yǒu nǐde měitiān dōu xīnxiān
With you the sun is more brilliant
有你阳光更灿烂 / yǒu nǐ yángguāng gèng cànlàn
With you the night isn’t dark
有你黑夜不黑暗 / yǒu nǐ hēiyè bù hēiàn
You’re a white cloud and I’m a blue sky
你是白云我是蓝天 / nǐ shì báiyún wǒ shì lántiān
In spring wander with you among the flowering shrubs
春天和你漫步在盛开的花丛间 / chūntiān hé nǐ mànbù zài shèngkāide huācóng jiān
On summer nights accompany you to watch the stars twinkling
夏天夜晚陪你一起看星星眨眼 / xiàtiān yèwǎn péi nǐ yīqǐ kàn xīngxīng zhǎyǎn
At dusk in autumn linger with you in golden grain fields
秋天黄昏与你徜徉在金色麦田 / qiūtiān huánghūn yǔ nǐ chángyáng zài jīnsè màitián
When the winter snowflakes flutter you add even more warmth
冬天雪花飞舞有你更加温暖 / dōngtiān xuěhuā fēiwǔ yǒu nǐ gèngjiā wēnnuǎn

Brother Who Sleeps in the Top Bunk — 睡在我上铺的兄弟

睡在我上铺的兄弟 / shuì zài wǒ shàng pù de xiōngdì / Brother Who Sleeps in the Top Bunk

A nostalgic song by 老狼 (“old wolf”) about growing apart after college.

(If, in an enlightened paroxysm of hegemonic benevolence, They are still blocking YouTube, you should be able to see the video here (youku) or here (tudou), or just listen to the mp3 below.)

[audio:ShuiZaiWoShangPuDeXiongDi.mp3]

The university years are like a window of relative freedom for the Mainlanders who get there. Before university millions sacrifice their childhoods in preparation for the national college entrance exam. After university they have to build a career that can eventually support their parents, grandparents, and child’s education. But in college all they have to do is go to class and do homework (work-study is much less common), so it’s a time to relax and have fun. This song is abut how the pressures of post-college life can strain even the closest relationships from the college days.

Lyrics & Guitar Chords

Download: ShuiZaiWoShangPuDeXiongDi.pdf (lyrics & guitar chords with pinyin/English cheatsheet).

歌词 / gēcí / Lyrics

[Verse 1:]

睡在我上铺的兄弟 / shuì zài wǒ shàng pù de xiōngdì
Brother who sleeps in my top bunk

无声无息的你 / wúshēng wú xī de nǐ
You’re silent and uncommunicative

你曾经问我的那些问题 / nǐ céngjīng wèn wǒde nàxiē wèntí
Those questions you used to ask me

如今再没人问起 / rújīn zài méirén wèn qǐ
Now no one asks

分给我烟抽的兄弟 / fēn gěi wǒ yān chōu de xiōngdì
Brother who shared my cigarettes

分给我快乐的往昔 / fēn gěi wǒ kuàilè de wǎngxī
In the past sharing my happiness

你总是猜不对我手里的硬币 / nǐ zǒngshì cāi búduì wǒ shǒu lǐ de yìngbì
You always guessed wrong the coin in my hand

摇摇头说这太神秘 / yáoyáotóu shuō zhè tài shénmì
Shaking your head saying this is too mysterious

[Chorus:]

你来的信写的越来越客气 / nǐ lái de xìn xiě de yuèláiyuè kèqì
Your letters that come are written more and more politely

关于爱情你只字不提 / guānyú àiqíng nǐ zhǐ zì bù tí
You don’t write about love

你说你现在有很多的朋友 / nǐ shuō nǐ xiànzài yǒu hěnduō de péngyou
You say you have a lot of friends now

却再也不为那些事忧愁 / què zàiyěbù wèi nàxiē shì yōuchóu
but you don’t bother about those matters anymore

[Verse 2:]

睡在我上铺的兄弟 / shuì zài wǒ shàng pù de xiōngdì
Brother who sleeps in my top bunk

睡在我寂寞的回忆 / shuì zài wǒ jìmò de huíyì
Sleeping in my lonely memories

那日子里你总说起的女孩 / nà rìzi lǐ nǐ zǒng shuō qǐ de nǚhái
In those days the girl you always talked about

是否送了你她的发带 / shìfǒu sòng le nǐ tāde fàdài
Whether or not she gave you her hairband

你说你每当回头看夕阳 红 / nǐ shuō nǐ měidāng huí tóu kàn xīyáng hóng
You said whenever you turn to look at the red sunset

每当你又听到晚钟 / měidāng nǐ yòu tīng dào wǎn zhōng
Whenever you hear the evening temple bell

从前的点点滴滴会涌起 / cóngqián de diǎn diǎn dī dī huì yǒng qǐ
Every detail from before will well up…

在你来不及难过的心里 / zài nǐ láibùjí nánguò de xīnli
…in your not-enough-time-to-feel-sad heart

[instrumental break]
[Chorus:]

你来的信写的越来越客气 / nǐ lái de xìn xiě de yuèláiyuè kèqì
Your letters that come are written more and more politely

关于爱情你只字不提 / guānyú àiqíng nǐ zhǐ zì bù tí
You don’t write about love

你说你现在有很多的朋友 / nǐ shuō nǐ xiànzài yǒu hěnduō de péngyou
You say you have a lot of friends now

却再也不为那些事忧愁 / què zàiyěbù wèi nàxiē shì yōuchóu
and don’t bother about those matters anymore

你问我几时能一起回去 / nǐ wèn wǒ jǐshí néng yīqǐ huíqu
You ask me when can we go back together

看看我们的宿舍我们的过去 / kànkàn wǒmende sùshè wǒmende guòqu
To have a look at our dorm and our past

你刻在墙上的字依然清析 / nǐ kè zài qiáng shàng de zì yīrán qīng xī
The words you carved on the wall are still distinct

从那时侯起就没有人能擦去 / cóng nàshí hóu qǐ jiù méiyǒu rén néng cā qù
From that time on no one’s been able to erase it

[End:]

睡在我上铺的兄弟 / shuì zài wǒ shàng pù de xiōngdì
Brother who sleeps in my top bunk

睡在我寂寞的回忆 / shuì zài wǒ jìmò de huíyì
Sleeping in my lonely memories

你曾经问我的那些问题 / nǐ céngjīng wèn wǒde nàxiē wèntí
Those questions you used to ask me

如今再没人问起 / rújīn zài méirén wèn qǐ
Now no one asks

分给我烟抽的兄弟 / fēn gěi wǒ yān chōu de xiōngdì
Brother who shared my cigarettes

分给我快乐的往昔 / fēn gěi wǒ kuàilè de wǎngxī
In the past sharing my happiness

你曾经问我的那些问题 / nǐ céngjīng wèn wǒde nàxiē wèntí
Those questions you used to ask me

如今再没人问起 / rújīn zài méirén wèn qǐ
Now no one asks

如今再没人问起 / rújīn zài méirén wèn qǐ
Now no one asks

如今再没人问起 / rújīn zài méirén wèn qǐ
Now no one asks

I haven’t picked the next song yet. Any requests?

More for your karaoke repertoire:

Nothing to My Name / 一无所有

“Nothing to My Name” has been called the biggest hit song in Mainland Chinese history. If you’re only gonna learn one Chinese karaoke tune, this is the song. And if you’re looking for a poignant time to learn it, this is the month.

一无所有 / yīwúsuǒyǒu / Nothing to My Name

If you’re in Great Firewalled Youtube-blocking Mainland China you can see the video here (thanks, Ryan!). Listen to the mp3 here:

[audio:yi wu suo you.mp3]

一无所有 channeled the disillusionment, anxieties, hopes, frustrations, complaints, and rebellion of urban Mainlanders coming of age during the ideological thaw of 80’s China. They adopted it as their generation’s anthem. Even many 90’s kids (in their mid to late 20s now) still connect strongly to this song.

Cuī Jiàn (崔健) is often called “the father of Chinese rock.” He first performed “Nothing to My Name” on a TV talent show in 1985 and then at a major concert in 1986. China’s urban young people ate it up. This month marks the 20th anniversary of a third significant performance, but I’ll let you follow the links at the end of this post to discover the more dramatic and sensitive details about the significance of Cuī Jiàn and “Nothing to My Name.”

Lyrics & Guitar Chords
From the beginning people interpreted the ambiguous lyrics in different ways (politics, sex, love & economics). But it was no secret that the lyrics were intended to contain both national and critical meanings. Cuī Jiàn’s concerts, in which he’d perform with a red blindfold over his eyes and play other songs with more pointed lyrics, left little doubt as to the targets of the critique. Those ‘targets’ responded by banning Cuī Jiàn from playing any large, significant performances for over 15 years.

The vagueness of the lyrics leaves this song open to a wide variety of English renderings. The English translation below is based on the translation found at cuijian.com (see other English renderings here and here). The title literally could mean “having nothing” or “not having anything.”

The guitar chords in the download aren’t perfect, but close. If you catch any mistakes on that or the translation, let me know! Download: YiWuSuoYou.pdf

You can play the video or mp3 above and follow along here:

我曾经问个不休 / wǒ céngjīng wèn gè bùxiū
I’ve asked (you) endlessly

你何时跟我走 / nǐ hé shí gēn wǒ zǒu
When will you go with me?

可你却总是笑我 / kě nǐ què zǒngshì xiào wǒ
But you always just laugh at me

一无所有 / yīwúsuǒyǒu
(with) nothing to my name

我要给你我的追求 / wǒ yào gěi nǐ wǒde zhuīqiú
I want to give you my dreams

还有我的自由 / háiyǒu wǒde zìyóu
(and I) also have my freedom (to give you)

可你却总是笑我 / kě nǐ què zǒngshì xiào wǒ
But you always just laugh at me

一无所有 / yīwúsuǒyǒu
(with) nothing to my name

 

噢 你何时跟我走 / ō nǐ hé shí gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! When will you go with me?

噢 你何时跟我走 / ō nǐ hé shí gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! When will you go with me?

 

脚下这地在走 / jiǎo xià zhè dì zài zǒu
The ground beneath my feet is moving

身边那水在流 / shēnbiān nà shuǐ zài liú
The water beside me is flowing

可你却总是笑我 / kě nǐ què zǒngshì xiào wǒ
But you always just laugh at me

一无所有 / yīwúsuǒyǒu
(with) nothing to my name

为何你总是笑个没够 / wèihé nǐ zǒngshì xiào gè méi gòu
Why is your laughter never enough?

为何我总要追求 / wèihé wǒ zǒng yào zhuīqiú
Why will I always search?

难道在你面前我永远 / nándào zài nǐ miànqián wǒ yǒngyuǎn
Could it be that before you I’ll forever…

是一无所有 / shì yīwúsuǒyǒu
…have nothing to my name?

 

噢 你何时跟我走 / ō nǐ hé shí gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! When will you go with me?

噢 你何时跟我走 / ō nǐ hé shí gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! When will you go with me?

[instrumental break]

脚下这地在走 / jiǎo xià zhè dì zài zǒu
The ground under my feet is moving

身边那水在流 / shēnbiān nà shuǐ zài liú
The water beside me is flowing

脚下这地在走 / jiǎo xià zhè dì zài zǒu
The ground under my feet is moving

身边那水在流 / shēnbiān nà shuǐ zài liú
The water beside me is flowing

 

告诉你我等了很久 / gàosu nǐ wǒ děng le hěn jiǔ
(I’m) telling you I’ve waited a long time

告诉你我最后的要求 / gàosu nǐ wǒ zuìhòu de yāoqiú
(So I’m) telling you my final request

我要抓起你的双手 / wǒ yào zhuā qǐ nǐde shuāngshǒu
I want to grab you by the hands

你这就跟我走 / nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu
And then you’ll go with me

这时你的手在颤抖 / zhè shí nǐde shǒu zài chàndǒu
This time your hands are trembling

这时你的泪在流 / zhè shí nǐde lèi zài liú
This time your tears are flowing

莫非你是正在告诉我 / mòfēi nǐ shì zhèngzài gàosu wǒ
Can it be that you are telling me

你爱我一无所有 / nǐ ài wǒ yīwúsuǒyǒu
You love me with nothing to my name?

 

噢 你这就跟我走 / ō nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! Now you’ll go with me

噢 你这就跟我走 / ō nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! Now you’ll go with me

[guitaaarrrr soooloooo!!!]

脚下这地在走 / jiǎo xià zhè dì zài zǒu
The ground under my feet is moving

身边那水在流 / shēnbiān nà shuǐ zài liú
The water beside me is flowing

脚下这地在走 / jiǎo xià zhè dì zài zǒu
The ground under my feet is moving

身边那水在流 / shēnbiān nà shuǐ zài liú
The water beside me is flowing

 

噢 你这就跟我走 / ō nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! Now you’ll go with me

When a Chinese friend in Tianjin downloaded a bunch of songs for me to learn, he made a point to highlight this one. Our Chinese textbooks have a whole lesson devoted to it, and when our teachers taught it they said it represents their generation. But I have a couple teenage Mainlanders in my ESL classes here in Vancouver, and none of them have even heard of this song or Cuī Jiàn. Of course, that’s not the only significant 20-year-old piece of Chinese history that they didn’t know about, so I assigned them some homework involving Google. Still waiting to see how they respond.

More about Cui Jian and Nothing to My Name:

More songs for your KTV repertoire! (with lyrics and guitar chords):

Karaoke Birthday Party!

For Jessica’s birthday we had a karaoke party with a bunch friends:

If you haven’t been to a good Chinese karaoke party yet, you’re missing out! Here’s some photos and fun video clips.

Piao Laoshi’s Korean boyfriend gives Jessica a “Happy Birthday Jessica!” shout out in the middle of his song, and elicits praise from some of the ladies who start chanting his name:

Liu Wei, Greg, Dingle and Zhou Jun give a heartfelt(?) rendition of Air Supply’s All Out Of Love:

Cute (they’re engaged):

Jessica got some cute stuffed cows as gifts, since 2009 is the year of the cow.

The cake says, “Happy Birthday, Lin Yi An” (生日快乐林怡安;shēngrì kuàilè lín yí ān). Yí-ān is Jessica’s Chinese name.