Cantopop queen on a crusade

Source: SCMP (9/18/16)
Denise Ho: the Cantopop Queen on a crusade against China’s Communist party
She has been labelled ‘Hong Kong poison’ by Beijing, which has also called for her to be boycotted, but the singer is determined to spread her message
By Tom Phillips in Hong Kong

Cantonese pop singer and activist Denise Ho speaks during an interview in Hong Kong.

Cantonese pop singer and activist Denise Ho speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP

Denise Ho’s struggle against the Communist party of China began at 5.58pm on a Sunday afternoon. It was as the Hong Kong Cantopop queen watched aghast as live television images showed police fire the first of 87 canisters of teargas into a sea of pro-democracy demonstrators, in a botched bid to quell their protest.

“I couldn’t stand by and just watch everyone fight,” the 39-year-old pop star recalls of the clashes in September 2014 that sparked the former colony’s umbrella movement street occupation, two years ago next week. “I just had to stand up and to say something.” Continue reading

Core socialist values in song and dance

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (9/1/16)
China’s ‘Core Socialist Values,’ the Song-and-Dance Version

BEIJING — The 12 “core socialist values” are memorized by schoolchildren, featured in college entrance exams, printed on stamps and lanterns, and splashed on walls across China. Now they have made their way into 20 song-and-dance routines that the authorities in Hunan Province plan to promote to the country’s millions of “square dancers,” the mostly middle-aged and older women who gather in public squares to perform in unison. Continue reading

Sounding the Modern Woman review

First, a correction regarding John Crespi’s review of A Modern Miscellany announced a few days ago on the list. That review was handled not by Jason McGrath, as I said, but by Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor. My apologies for the mistake.

I am pleased to announce publication of Victor Fan’s review of Sounding the Modern Woman: The Songstress in Chinese Cinema (Duke UP, 2015), by Jean Ma. The review appears below, but is best read online at:

This review was indeed ushered to publication by Jason McGrath, our media studies book review editor, to whom I am grateful.


Kirk A. Denton, editor

Sounding the Modern Woman:
The Songstress in Chinese Cinema

By Jean Ma

Reviewed by Victor Fan
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2016)

Jean Ma, Sounding the Modern Woman: The Songstress in Chinese Cinema. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 296 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8223-5876-3 (Paperback: $25.95); ISBN: 978-0-8223-5865-7 (Hardback: $94.95)

Jean Ma, Sounding the Modern Woman: The Songstress in Chinese Cinema. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 296 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8223-5876-3 (Paperback: $25.95); ISBN: 978-0-8223-5865-7 (Hardback: $94.95)

Film historians have long regarded the songstress as the single most important figure in Chinese cinema between the 1930s and 1960s.[1] Played by movie stars including Zhou Xuan周璇 (Chow Hsuen, 1918–57), Bai Guang 白光 (1921–99), Zhong Qing 鍾情 (Chung Ching, b. 1932), Yao Li 姚莉 (Yao Lee, b. 1922), and Ge Lan 葛蘭 (Grace Chang, b. 1933), these songstresses ranged from orphans of war, sex workers, temptresses, nightclub singers, and innocent country girls to the mambo girl, calypso girl, and air hostess. InSounding the Modern Woman (2015), Jean Ma goes beyond an investigation of this emblematic figure as a trope. For her, the songstress is not only an embodiment of the filmmakers’ and spectators’ changing ideas and imaginations of modernity during this period, she is also a discursive site and medium where conflicting values, aspirations, desires, and traumatic memories were actively negotiated (16). Continue reading

Zheng Jun’s ‘Rock Dog’

View the trailer here: –Kirk

Source: China Real Time, WSJ (6/30/16)
A Chinese Rock Star’s Hollywood Project: ‘Rock Dog’
By Lillian Lin

The 3-D film 'Rock Dog' follows a rock-loving Tibetan mastiff s journey to a big city to become a musician.

The 3-D film ‘Rock Dog’ follows a rock-loving Tibetan mastiff s journey to a big city to become a musician. PHOTO: HUAYI BROTHERS

Animation has long been a weak spot for China’s film industry. Now, a Chinese rock star is trying to change that, making an animated film for global audiences with Hollywood’s help.

Zheng Jun helmed “Rock Dog,” based on a popular namesake comic-book series he created and published in 2009.

The 3-D film, which follows a rock-loving Tibetan mastiff ’s journey to a big city to become a musician, was directed by Ash Brannon, who co-directed Pixar’s smash hit Toy Story 2 (1999), and animated by Reel FX, an award-winning American digital studio. Its English version is dubbed by a number of Hollywood veterans including the Oscar-winning actor J.K. Simmons. Continue reading

CR-style concert a trap for Xi Jinping

Source: SCMP (5/28/16)
Cultural Revolution-style concert was a well-laid trap for Xi Jinping
Kwan Hing-ling believes the organisers of the Beijing concert that created a public uproar had an ulterior motive – to put pressure on the Chinese president to reverse the official verdict on the decade of upheaval
By Kwan Hing-ling

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution. Reactions on the mainland had been muted at first, and the Chinese press did not seem particularly interested in reviewing the 10 years of devastating upheaval. But a “red-song concert” this month forced the whole of society to sit up.

“In A Field of Hope”, held on May 2 at the Great Hall of the People, featured performers singing and dancing to revolutionary songs popular during the Cultural Revolution, against a backdrop of propaganda posters and slogans. A display of such nostalgia for the Cultural Revolution – in the political centre of China at this politically sensitive time – raised the alarm for many people. Continue reading

Red songs controversy

Source: SCMP (5/6/16)
‘Whole world should unite to defeat the American invaders and their lackeys’: controversy sparked online by ‘red songs’ at concert in Beijing
Music from the turbulent period of the Cultural Revolution featured prominently at event at the Great Hall of the People
By Nectar Gan

Early days of rock in China

Source: What’s On Weibo (4/12/16)
The Early Days of Rock in China – Interview with Sinologist & Hardrocker Jeroen den Hengst China


Dutch Sinologist and musician Jeroen den Hengst was part of the Beijing rock scene when it awakened in the late 1980s. Nearly three decades later, Den Hengst looks back on the early days of rock in China – before, during and after the Tiananmen protests – and talks about the music scene in Beijing and his personal path from young Sinologist to serious hardrocker.

When I notice some glitters sparkling on Den Hengst’s face as I meet him in downtown Amsterdam in early Spring, he nonchalantly brushes them off. He was performing the night before, he tells me. Den Hengst is the host and guitar player of Amsterdam’s Hardrock Karaoke, which has become quite a phenomenon in Amsterdam and beyond. We sit down, order a beer and talk about Den Hengst’s musical journey that started in the early days of China rock. Continue reading

Chen Ta, a wandering bard

Source: Taipei Times (4/10/16)
Taiwan in Time: A wandering bard
Discovered as an old man by the rest of Taiwan in 1962, Chen Ta was famous for his poignant, improvised Hengchun-style folk epics — but lived most of his life in poverty
By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Chen Ta’s portrait as seen on one of his album covers. Photo: Chen Yan-ting, Taipei Times

Armed with a moon lute (月琴, yueqin) — a traditional Chinese string instrument — 73-year-old Chen Ta (陳達) sat in a recording studio with Cloud Gate Theater director Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) in 1978. Lin started to explain to Chen the scene he had in mind from the story of Han Chinese immigration from China to Taiwan when Chen interrupted him.

“I know that story,” Chen said. He asked for two cups of rice wine, adjusted his instrument and launched into a detailed, improvised epic. Three hours later, Lin told Chen they had recorded enough material. Chen protested, “I haven’t gotten to the part about Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) yet!”

He then sang about Chiang, and finished with: “Taiwan became a great place, known by everybody 300 years later.”

That is how Chen, who was illiterate, formed his songs. And he could seemingly go on forever, and was asked at least once to leave the stage because he exceeded his allotted time. Continue reading

Reality show singer breaks taboo

From: Judy Amory <>
Source: The Guardian (4/1/16)
Reality show singer breaks China’s Cultural Revolution taboo
Yang Le draws applause and tears as song tells of how he lost his father in Mao’s crackdown on perceived enemies, which began 50 years ago
By Tom Phillips in Beijing

Yang Le feared the show’s producers might attempt to censor the lyrics.

Yang Le feared the show’s producers might attempt to censor the lyrics. Photograph: China Dragon TV

N early half a century after his father plunged to his death from the roof of a Beijing university, Yang Le stepped out on to the stage to tell millions of Chinese television viewers how Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution had torn his family apart.

“When I was young we were a family of six … My father was handsome, mum was young and beautiful,” sang the silver-haired contestant on China Star, the country’s answer to the X-Factor. “After the Cultural Revolution only five of us were left.”

When his lament-filled, taboo-breaking performance ended, Yang bit his lower lip. Applause rippled through the theatre; the judges leapt to their feet; tears streamed down cheeks.

Continue reading

Cartoon rappers

Source: NYT (3/4/16)
Chinese Propaganda Machine Places Hopes in Cartoon Rappers

BEIJING — What’s the world’s largest propaganda organ to do when it finds itself struggling to get TV drama-obsessed young Chinese to pay attention to the latest raft of Communist Party slogans?

Standing over a video-editing computer on the third floor of the Xinhua News Agency headquarters, Li Keyong is convinced the answer lies in a cartoon character rapping while performing the 1990s dance move known as “raising the roof.”

“Look at how we got this bald fat guy and a tiny cute girl singing together,” said Li, a deputy director of Xinhua’s All-Media Service, as he watched two animated characters promoting President Xi Jinping’s “Four Comprehensives” political doctrine with a mix of high-tempo rap and choir singing in what might be called a neo-Communist hip-hopera. Continue reading

Why Dream of the Red Chamber is virtually unknown in the West (1)

David Henry Hwang and Bright Sheng have done an adaptation of the novel which will be performed by the San Francisco Opera this September.  Here is an interview in which they discuss the process of making the novel into an accessible opera. 

ann waltner <>

Rap song on reimbursement culture

With some seasonal black humor, happy lunar new year to all! Video on Youtube: and below (on the blog post)–Sebastian Veg <>

Source: Ejinsight (2/5/16)
Rap song by US singer on China reimbursement culture goes viral

US comedian Jesse Appell belts out a rap song about reimbursements in mainland companies. Photos: Jesse Appell / Facebook, Asia Society

US comedian Jesse Appell belts out a rap song about reimbursements in mainland companies. Photos: Jesse Appell / Facebook, Asia Society

A Putonghua rap song performed by American comedian Jesse Appell, which mocks the reimbursement culture in China, has gone viral on social media, news portal reports.

The song “Reimburse That $h*t!” resonates with many Chinese listeners because it is a common practice in many mainland companies for employees and officials to seek reimbursement of their expenses as long as they can present the appropriate receipts (or “fapiao” in Putonghua). Continue reading

Propaganda turns to pop-rap (1)

Here’s more in the “propaganda turns to pop-rap” thread–Marja Kaikkonen <>

Source: Shanghai Daily (2/3/2016)
Singing the ‘Four Comprehensives’


AN animated music video featuring a man dressed in waistcoat and trousers disco-dancing and rapping President Xi Jinping’s signature “Four Comprehensives” slogan was made public yesterday.

Produced by Xinhua news agency, it’s an attempt to explain Xi’s strategy for China’s long-term development.

The song explains how China will “comprehensively” build a moderately prosperous society, deepen reform, advance the rule of law and strictly govern the Communist Party.

The “Four Comprehensives” phrase was first coined by Xi in 2014.

Continue reading

Propaganda turns to pop-rap

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (2/2/16)
Video Extols China’s Party Slogans, Turning to Rap and Beethoven
点击查看本文中文版 Read in Chinese
By Vanessay Piao and Patrick Boehler

BEIJING — China’s Communist Party propagandists turned to rap and Beethoven this week in their quest to reach a target audience often rendered indifferent to dull party slogans by lifelong consumption.

“It is everyone’s dream, to build a moderately prosperous society comprehensively,” goes the song in a cartoon video released by Xinhua, the state news agency. It extols the “Four Comprehensives,” priorities that President Xi Jinping laid out in December 2014:

• Comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society,

• Comprehensively deepen reform,

• Comprehensively govern the country according to the law,

• Comprehensively apply strictness in governing the party.

Continue reading