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.
精忠报国 by 屠洪纲
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: 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:
- 《恭喜恭喜恭喜你》 – a translated song for Chinese New Year!
- 《恭喜发财》 by 刘德华 – a translated Chinese New Year song to get you in the Spring Festival mood!
- 《恭喜恭喜》 Get in the Spring Festival mood with another Chinese New Year song!
We watched the dazzling and inexorably interminable Olympics Opening Ceremony (开幕式 / kāi mù shì) with several thousand Tianjiners on a sticky, sweaty night around a giant screen in Tianjin’s “Milky Way Square” (银河广场).
As I predicted, Chairman Mao was nowhere to be seen the entire evening. I don’t think anyone was surprised, but it still seems like an awfully conspicuous omission. Here’s a little video:
It was fun seeing people’s reactions to different things. Everyone stood up for the national anthem, but hardly anyone sang! It was so weird, I thought they’d be going nuts. In Canada – and aside from overreacting to the U.S. we’re hardly all that patriotic in Canada – people would have been hollering the national anthem half-drunk by that time. The sound on the outdoor speakers was too low – maybe that had something to do with it. People ooh’d and aah’d at the artistic performances, yelling “hǎo!” (好) whenever an especially impressive performance was executed. They showed George Bush a few times, and he seemed to get a mild but positive response. These crowd shots show part of only one crowd; because of how the park is designed, there were three separate crowds around the double-sided screen:
Of the countries, Taiwan probably got the biggest cheers. Japan didn’t get booed much – just a few scattered loud-mouths who seemed to be doing it more as a joke, and the one near us got disapproving looks from his neighbours. Of individual foreigners the biggest cheers probably went to LeBron James. Canada came out, and who did they have with them but the ever-present Da Shan (大山 – “the most famous foreigner in China”)! He got a rise out of the crowd; they all know Da Shan (good CBC interview with him here).
You could hear reactions to some of the more exotic costumes and ethnicities from various countries. One of the African athletes smiled big in a close-up and the guy next to me said, “Wow, look at his teeth!” Particularly dark Africans and particularly fat women would cause scattered giggling and comments from a minority of the spectators near us, but it wasn’t too noticeable. The cameramen must have been male, because they kept zooming in on particularly glamourous female athletes, and this got a reaction every time from some of the males in the crowd. The loin-clothed tribal dancer in full body paint from Palau (I think it was Palau, maybe not) didn’t do unnoticed.
By the time China’s athletes finally appeared we’d been there sweating for about three hours and the crowd had thinned a little. People’s newspaper seats were baked with sweat into the pavement. But when Yao Ming carried in the Chinese flag, flanked by a pint-sized earthquake survivor from Sichuan, the fatigued but happy crowd loved it. People started cheering and clapping and chanting “Zhōngguó jiāyóu!” (中国加油 / Go China!) and waving flags – this happened a lot, actually – but only in pockets and for short amounts of time. I don’t know why but they couldn’t get the whole crowd into it at any time during the 4+ hours. A couple times a small group around the TV crew would cheer with wild abandon while they were being filmed. People also loved seeing the bigger shots of the Bird’s Nest that showed how big the Chinese team was. But in general I was surprised that the crowd wasn’t more enthusiastic than they were.
They kept giving screen time to a really old official Chinese couple sitting next to the Premier. The crowd laughed lightly at him and especially his very-grumpy-looking wife. I recognize the man’s face – it’s someone obvious that I should know – but I just can’t recall his name. [It was former president Jiāng Zémín (江泽民), who invented the famously nebulous “Three Represents.”]
Here we are, some of the very few foreigners out that night – a TCK (African-raised American), a German, a Canadian, a Yankee, an Aussie, and another American:
We bought $1 Chinese-style folding stools, like what the old guys sit on to fish in the canal, but I opted to stand for most of the 4+ hours because those things aren’t designed with the chiropractic comfort of 6’4″ Canadians in mind. Most people sat on newspaper on the ground (in Tianjin, most people don’t sit directly on outside surfaces like the ground or benches).
Even though it was so long and literally painful, I’m returning to the square tonight to watch the China vs. Canada soccer match (assuming we can’t get cheap tickets from the scalpers hiding out near the hospital a block away from the stadium).
[P.S. — You can see what they would and wouldn’t let me publish about this event in a local expat magazine here: “National ‘Face’ & Local Sensitivity (Part 1): Not fit to print in Tianjin”]