A Tribute to Jin Yong (1924-2018)

Imagine that J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, the founding editor-in-chief of one of the most important English-language newspapers, and George Lucas all died on the same day, at the same second, and how people in the English-speaking world would react. Because the equivalent of that happened in the Chinese-speaking world on October 30, 2018, when Louis Cha Leung-yung, known by the pen name ‘Jin Yong’, died.

One of the many illustrations which comes with Jin Yong’s stories.

But I’m not going to make this about Jin Yong’s impact on the culture of the Chinese-speaking world (and the cultures of much of Southeast Asia) because, if you are familiar with Chinese-speaking cultures or Southeast-Asian cultures, you already know, and if you aren’t familiar, you’ll think I’m exaggerating. Even the New York Times understates just how huge his cultural influence was (a couple of quibbles with the NYT article: I would actually credit Wang Dulu with raising wuxia to a literary level, and the new wave of wuxia stories which got started in the 1950s was launched by Liang Yusheng; both of these writers led the way for Jin Yong; however, I think Jin Yong was an excellent example of ‘qīng​ chū ​yú ​lán’). Instead, I’m going to talk about Jin Yong’s influence on me.

This pictures evoke a lot of nostalgia for me. They remind me of the experience of reading Jin Yong’s novels.

Most native Chinese speakers encounter the stories of Jin Yong at a young age, and, if they like reading, they start reading the novels as adolescents (or younger – I’ve seen 10-year-olds reading his novels). I was not exposed to his work until I was 22 years old, which feels really late. Furthermore, during that initial encounter, my Chinese was really, really bad, certainly not enough to follow the plot. And yet, even through that haze of bad Chinese (it was ~my~ Chinese which was bad, Jin Yong wrote better Chinese than the vast majority of educated native speakers), I could sense that there was a great story if only I could understand it.

There were two illustrators who made the in-book pictures for the official editions of the novels, but for some reason, only the work of this illustrator really stays with me and evokes the feelings of Jin Yong’s stories, the other illustrator’s pictures do nothing for me.

The very first book of solid prose I read in Chinese was Jin Yong’s Shè Diāo Yīngxióng Zhuàn (Legend of the Eagle-Shooting Heroes), though it usually referred to in English as Legend of the Condor Heroes (yes, I wrote about the new English translation). I was living in a second-tier city in Taiwan which, aside from the sex trade, Hollywood movies, and Southeast Asian movies, offered very few entertainment options for people who were not fluent in Chinese, so I found lots of time to study. I first read the comic book adaptation (it is so much easier to figure out what the heck is going on when there are pictures), and then, once I knew the story, I dared to read the actual novel. Reading my first book in Chinese was like opening a door – before, I could not read Chinese, or I could only ‘read’ Chinese in a limited sense, but after I finished that book, I really felt like I could read Chinese.

Imaging staring at this picture when taking a break from plodding through dense Chinese prose you barely understand.

The first book of solid prose I read in Chinese *without* knowing what was going to happen was the sequel, Shén Diāo Xiá Lǚ, i.e. that novel I keep on mentioning in this blog. If Shè Diāo Yīngxióng Zhuàn is where I opened the door, then Shén Diāo Xiá Lǚ is where I walked through the door.

And wow, what a door. I figured there would be a big reward for learning Chinese (otherwise I would not have put so much effort into studying), but I was not sure what that reward would actually be. I had no idea, before I started studying Chinese, that novels like the novels of Jin Yong existed. It was mind-blowing.

Actually, the illustrations were a useful preview for what might happen in the following chapter as I was improving my Chinese.

One could even say that, in a sense, Jin Yong was my Chinese teacher. I learned a lot of Chinese by reading his stories. For example, I probably learned the phrase ‘qīng​ chū ​yú ​lán’ from his books. They also taught me a lot about Chinese culture.

His novels have occupied more of my headspace than any other writer – than any other artist – during my 20s. I never expected that any single storyteller would so capture my fancy. Thru Jin Yong, I discovered the wuxia genre, and yes, I came to love the works of other wuxia novelists, but it all started with Jin Yong.

When I wrote a fanfic novel a couple of years ago, even though it was based on something which was totally not Jin Yong, I felt a lot of Jin Yong coming through in my writing. In fact, I felt such a strong Jin Yong influence in my fanfic novel, that I sometimes had to pinch myself, and ask myself whether I was actually writing a Jin Yong fanfic in disguise. I suspect that, if I ever write another novel, fanfic or original, in any genre, there is going to be a heavy Jin Yong influence.

Even when I was confident in my Chinese reading skills, I would still look ahead at the illustrations of future chapters for a taste of what lay ahead. For example, I was wondering quite a few chapters in advance what role a blond European woman was going to play in the story (she’s Princess Sophia Alekseyevna, the half-sister of Peter the Great of Russia).

If you’ve read my blog for a long time (or have gone on a binge-read of the archives), you can find plenty of evidence of how much my headspace the stories of Jin Yong have occupied. I even have tried to explain what makes his stories so wonderful, though that is, at best, a very incomplete explanation. When I started this blog, I did not think I would end up writing so many posts about his works, especially not 5+ years after I read them for the first time. In fact, before Jin Yong died, I had already been planning to write yet another blog post about one of his novels (that post will be posted in less than a week).

I don’t like all of Jin Yong’s stories, but his better novels are amazing.

I actually did not upload any of these illustrations specifically for this post, I simply looked through which of the illustrations I had already posted on this blog for other posts.

If you are not familiar with any of Jin Yong’s stories, but are interested in experiencing them, here are my suggestions. If you prefer reading, I will point you to the new English translation of Shè Diāo Yīngxióng Zhuàn. If you prefer to watch TV shows, I will point you to the Sword Stained with Royal Blood 2007. It’s not one of Jin Yong’s better stories, but it’s one of the best TV adaptations available with English subtitles (you can get it on DVD with English subs; it’s also easy to find online versions with English subs).

I’m actually envious of the people who get to experience the works of Jin Yong for the first time. I benefited from not growing up in a culture where Jin Yong’s stories were super-popular because that meant the plot twists were not spoiled for me, I got to have my first encounter with the plots when I was reading the original novels directly.

I love to watch music videos of Jin Yong songs (no, he was not a song composer, but his works have inspired many, many, many songs). They are an easy and quick way to give me the feels of reading his stories without sitting down and re-reading them. Even when I see MVs based on TV adaptations I have not seen, I can usually recognize most of the scenes because his stories stick out so vividly in the mind. I’ve even written an entire blog post about one of these songsObviously, these songs/videos aren’t going to evoke that type of nostalgia in people who don’t know the stories, but maybe something comes across anyways. Thus, I will end this post with links to a bunch of songs inspired by Jin Yong stories that I like.

“Jianghu Xiao” (The Jianghu Laughs) (Return of the Condor Heroes 2006) – One of the best Jin Yong songs, and with English subs!

“Up and Down a Challenging Road” (Demi-gods and Semi-devils 1982) (content note: depiction of suicide in video) – as I have said before, I feel this is one of the songs which best captures the spirit of Jin Yong’s stories.

“Cold Feelings, Hot Feelings” (Sword Stained with Royal Blood 1985) – I think this is an underrated Jin Yong theme song.

“A Laugh from the Blue Sea” (Swordsman 1990) – In The Smiling Proud Wanderer, there is a song called “The Smiling Proud Wanderer” which a) plays a pivotal role in the plot (which is why the novel takes its title from the song) and b) is the most beautiful song the characters have ever heard. This puts no pressure at all on the composers who have to write music for the many movie and TV adaptations of novwl (I also find it amusing to watch TV actors proclaim whatever the composer came up with to be the most beautiful music ever). This is generally considered to be the best attempt to compose the “Smiling Proud Wanderer” song (which is why it was recycled as the opening theme for the 2017 adaptation). I also like State of Divinity 1996’s version of the “Smiling Proud Wanderer” song.

“Ode to Gallantry” (Ode to Gallantry 2016). I really like this song, and of the recent Jin Yong TV shows, this is the one I like best.

“On What Day Shall We Meet Again” (Return of the Condor Heroes 1983). Even though “Jianghu Xiao” is a better song, I feel this is the song which best captures the spirit of the story.


“The Thousand Sorrows of Remembering Old Love” (song originally from Legend of the Condor Heroes 1983) – since this is a mourning song, it is the obvious choice for a tribute to the late Jin Yong (just as it is often used in tributes to Roman Tam and Barbara Yung). Indeed, this link goes to a video which was released days after Jin Yong’s death.

Though Jin Yong has died, this is not over. I am sure I will have many thoughts, and thus many things to say, about his stories for years to come.

The Meaning of ‘Hóng​chén​’ (and How It Relates to ‘Siusa’)

While I was working on this post, I found four different Mandarin songs which use both the words xiāosǎ​ (siusa) and the word hóng​chén​. I found that odd since I had never associated those two words before, but finding four different songs which use BOTH of these words is a strong hint that native Chinese speakers tend to use both of these words in the same context.

The literal meaning of hóng​chén​ is ‘red dust’, but that’s like saying that the word ‘understand’ means ‘to stand under something’. Accoding to the c-dict dictionary, the definition of hóng​chén​ is “the world of mortals (Buddhism) / human society / worldly affairs”. This is a better dictionary definition than I have been able to find for the word ‘xiāosǎ​/siusa’.

Even though that definition works, I think it still helps to have an example. Thus I present the Jay Chou song “Hóng​chén​ Kè​zhàn​” a.k.a. “Worldly Tavern”, where the word hóng​chén​ is right there in the title. If you look at the lyrics, you notice that the word ‘xiāosǎ/siusa’ (or rather ‘xiao1 sa3’) also appears.

Another example is the song “Xiāo​sǎ​ Zǒu​ Yī​ Huí​” which is known in English as “Live a Dashing Life”. It is the theme song of a TV show I’ve never heard of. I’m going to translate the part of the lyrics which contains both the words hóng​chén​ and xiāosǎ​:

hóng​chén​ ā​ gǔn​gǔn​ chī​chī​ ā qíng ​shēn​
Ah! The world is in chaos! Ah! Foolish passion!

jù​sàn​ zhōng​ yǒu​shí​
So many reunions and separations.

liú​ yī​ bàn​ qīng​xǐng​ liú​ yī​ bàn​ zuì​
Half-sober and half-drunk

zhì​shǎo​ mèng​ lǐ​ yǒu​ nǐ​ zhuī​suí​
At least you are in my dreams.

wǒ​ ná​ qīng​chūn​ dǔ​ míng​tiān​
I use my youth to gamble for tomorrow,

nǐ​ yòng​ zhēn​qíng​ huàn​ cǐ​ shēng​
You trade truth for life,

suì​yuè​ bù ​zhī​ rén​jiān​ duō​shao​ de​ yōu​shāng​
Who knows how many troubles time will bring?

hé​bù​ xiāo​sǎ​ zǒu​ yī​ huí​
Why not live a siusa life?

I could not find a full English translation of the song on Youtube, but I at least found the song with pinyin transcription so you can try to follow along with some understanding of the lyrics.

Another example is from the song “Dāng” (which VERY ROUGHLY means “when” in Mandarin) which is the theme song for the first season of My Fair Princess. In the post I wrote about ‘siusa’ I linked to a terrible translation of the song into English, this time I will try to translate the portion of the lyrics which contains the words hóng​chén​ and xiāosǎ​:

ràng​ wǒ​men​ hóng​chén​ zuò​bàn,​ huó​ de xiāoxiāo​sǎ​​sǎ​
Let us participate in the world, and live a siusa life,

[note: Chinese sometimes reduplicates words for emphasis, or at least to improve the rhythm of song lyrics; ‘xiāoxiāo​sǎ​​sǎ​’ is a reduplication of ‘xiāo​sǎ​’]

cè​mǎ​ bēn​téng​, gòng​yòng​ rén​shì​ fán​huá​
Urge the horses to gallop, share humanity’s prosperity

duì​ jiǔ​ dāng​ gē,​ chàng​ chū​ xīn​ zhōng​ xǐ​yuè​
Enjoy life while we can, sing the joy in our hearts

hōng​hōng​liè​liè​ bǎ​wò​ qīng​chūn​ nián​huá​
Vigorously make use of our youth!

(okay, I’m no great translator myself, though I think I did a better job than this translation).

(if you noticed both of these songs also use the word ‘qīng​chūn​’ and deduced what that word means based on my translations, you have earned bonus points!)

This still leaves the question of why these two words are used in the same song lyrics so often. After pondering it, I think I’ve made the connection.

People who are siusa also tend to be ‘worldly’. They tend to be a lot more interested in ‘the mortal world’ than any kind of afterlife world because they are alive now, they can worry about the whatever afterlife there is after the are dead. And this might be part of why Sinophone cultures appreciate siusa personalities more than Anglophone cultures – Anglophone cultures are heavily influenced by Christianity, and most sects of Christianity strongly encourage people to care a lot about the afterlife. And siusa people are also genuinely interested in what this world has to offer.

It is of course entirely possible to be siusa in a world that it at peace and full of unicorns and rainbows. However, I tend to see the word used most often in contexts where society is in turmoil and bad shit is happening everywhere, or at least the siusa person comes from a bad situation (think Sirius Black). A siusa person may care deeply about the world’s problems and be grieved by the loss of the good – yet in spite of all of the bad shit going down, still be able to stay true to themself, and possibly pursue happiness.

One of Jin Yong’s most siusa protagonists is Linghu Chong, from the novel The Smiling Proud Wanderer, in my opinion (I really must stress that it is my opinion, since as I discovered when I was doing online research about the concept of ‘siusa’, native Chinese speakers have some spirited debates about which Jin Yong characters are the most siusa – for example, this essay (in Chinese) declares that Yang Guo is the most siusa Jin Yong protagonist, and that Linghu Chong was only siusa on the outside, not on the inside – for what it’s worth, I think Yang Guo is also very siusa). The Smiling Proud Wanderer could be described as an wuxia-style dystopia tale. Yet even though Linghu Chong lives among a set of oppressive martial arts sects which suppress freedom and kill innocent people in their quest for power, not to mention all of the physical punishment (he spends about half the story gravely injured in some way) he still manages to be a relatively easygoing and upbeat guy with a sense of (not always black) humor. And he stays true to his values, not unlike Sirius Black. Even when Linghu Chong is in prison and suffering from a potentially fatal injury, he is still free in his heart, and pursues what pleasure he can (for example, he tricks the guard into delivering wine and tasty food) (also, Sirius Black manages to stay true to himself even in Azkaban).

It is very fitting that the name of the theme song of the 1996 (Cantonese language) TV adaptation of The Smiling Proud Wanderer is “Wut dak Siusa” which means “Live a Siusa Life”. You may listen to it here. It’s not a particularly good song – but the lyrics can help one understand what ‘siusa’ means, so I will try to translate them (since this is a Cantonese -> Mandarin -> English translation it’s going to be flawed, but I think my translation conveys the main ideas even if I am messing up some of the nuances):

chunglai mou kwagau je yatsaang jeoigan ngo sam leoi mei mung
I have never been ashamed of spending my entire life pursuing my heart’s dream
cheonggei yu jindau jung bat se jung bat hei bat gun jung pokhung
In this long time of struggle, I’ve never given up, not caring that my efforts are always in vain,
jiksai fungyu pok dat hungyung, jeongun tinyi yamyi joklung
Even when storms surge, despite Heaven’s arbitrary games,
yatsaang jekgun jeoijung sam noi yau mung
My whole life is nothing more than following the dream in my heart.

seoi yan nang hontau je yatsaang ho baaityut sam leoi yukau
Whoever can look beyond and shake off their own greed,
seoi yan nang hontau liu daksat seoi dakdou jung bat ho winggau
Whoever can look beyond success and failure, knowing that success cannot last forever,
paauhoi jangdau waanhei yijau,
Will pull back from their quarrels and turn the other cheek,
bat hin bat gwaa si jeoi jiyau
Those who are the least worried are the most free,
siusiusasa dik jau batman yihau
Behaving in a siusa way, letting go of the future.

minglei yat sik gaan yaaheoi siusai
Fame and fortune can vanish in an instant,
kyunlik bat hoyi yam nei jyujoi
Power will not turn you into a master,
seoi yan nang jinsing liu sam mo chiucheot yi’ngoi
Whoever can overcome their inner demons will exceed expectations,
seoi joudou yatsaang mut yau so kau
Whoever lives without making demands,
mo yuk fong hoyi wut dak siusa
Without greed, can live a siusa life,
ngousi joi juksai soeng
Look down on the material world,
wut dak jingchoi
And have a splendid life.

If you know anything about the history of China, or of the Chinese-speaking communities in Southeast Asia, in the 20th century, or the 19th century, then you know that a ton of awful shit went down. The Chinese imperial system of government, which existed in some form for about two thousand years, ceased to exist in 1911. And lots of society-wide terrible things kept happening for decades, both in China and the other Asian countries with large Chinese populations. According to some theories of history, this was nothing less than the collapse of a civilization (though if the biosphere continues to be capable of supporting human civilization, I have no doubt that Sinophone people will be able to establish a new Sinophone civilization).

This is just speculation on my part – but maybe the fact that the Sinophone world has so recently experienced such powerful negative shocks may be why Sinophone cultures value someone who can rise above the societal collapse all around them, stay true to their values, and pursue happiness anyway?

“A Life of Fighting Is But a Dream” – Taking a Tour through Sinophone Pop Culture with “Dao​ Jian Ru Meng​”

There is a very popular Mandarin pop song called “Dāo​ Jiàn Rú​ Mèng​”, and I am going to use it as a theme for a little tour of Sinophone Pop Culture (why ‘Sinophone’ rather than ‘Chinese’? Because China is not the only place where Chinese is spoken, and some of the artists who are mentioned in this very post are not from China).

What does “Dāo​ Jiàn Rú​ Mèng​” mean? I’ve encountered the following English translations of the title:

“Sword Like a Dream”
“Dream of Swords and Blades”
“A Life of Fighting Is But a Dream”
“Sabers and Swords Are Like a Dream”

The most ‘accurate’ translation is “Sabers and Swords Are Like a Dream”, but I prefer the translation “A Life of Fighting Is But a Dream” because I feel it’s closest to the spirit of the song and the story which inspired this song.

So, for those of you who have never heard the song, or who just want to hear it again, here is Wakin Chau’s original music video. Wakin Chau both wrote the song and was the first singer to record it. (If you don’t understand Mandarin, don’t worry, I will later link to videos with English translations).

This song was originally one of the theme songs of the 1993 TV adaptation of The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber (HSDS).

A dying woman holds her 9-year-old son in the 1993 adaptation of The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber. Even though I haven't seen any of the TV adaptations, when I see clips, I can often identify which scenes are being shown just from my recollection of the original novel.

A dying woman holds her 9-year-old son in the 1993 adaptation of The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber. Even though I haven’t seen any of the TV adaptations, when I see clips, I can often identify which scenes are being shown just from my recollection of the original novel.

I have not seen more than twenty minutes of any TV adaptation of HSDS, but I have read the original novel. One of the most memorable scenes in the novel (actually, it is one of the most memorable scenes I have read in any work of fiction) is as follows (violent melodrama alert): many people hate and want to kill a certain man because he has killed their loved ones. Two of the very few people who know this hated man’s whereabouts are a husband and wife. However they refuse to reveal the hated man’s whereabouts because they consider him to be their sworn brother, and they are forced to commit suicide. Their nine-year old son watches this happen. Right after his mother plunges the dagger in herself, she tells him that must remember all the people present so that, when he is grown up and strong, he can avenge her and his father. The boy says no, he does not want revenge, revenge will not bring his father back, all he wants is for his father to come back to life (he does not quite understand yet that his mother is also dying). That scene illustrates one of the key themes of the novel – people get incredibly wrapped up in cycles of avenging the wrongs done to their loved ones, but in the big picture, what is the point of all that violence inspired by love and hate?

Why did I share those bits of plot from HSDS? Because I think that background helps the song make more sense. To see how this song goes with footage from the TV show, here is here is the song with footage from the TV show.

[aside/rant: if you look at the above music video, you’ll notice that female characters have a large presence in HSDS, which is typical of wuxia fiction. In fact, one of the reasons I am so fond of wuxia is that it the wide array of compelling female characters. Yes, there is plenty of sexism in wuxia – HSDS itself has some misogynist content – but even sexist wuxia male writers tend to have more female characters who have more interesting roles in the story than some female ‘feminist’ writers of speculative fiction in English, let alone male writers of speculative fiction in English.]

A picture of Dong Zhen

A picture of Dong Zhen

Recently, a lot of singers have been covering this song. One singer who has become well-known for performing this song is Dong Zhen. She mostly does singing for video game songs. She has built a fanbase by developing her public persona as being like the mysterious maidens one often finds in Chinese fiction. I’ve read that the ‘mysterious maiden’ stock character has been around in Chinese fiction since the Tang Dynasty (over a thousand years ago), but I know little of Chinese literature which is more than a hundred years old. I can say that the mysterious maiden continues to be a very popular stock character. She generally was raised in isolation from society (for example, Lian Nichang, one of the most famous examples of this archetype, was raised by wolves), is generally an amazing sword fighter or has some other fantastic skill, is gorgeous, and seems like someone from out of this world. Ironically, the only character in HSDS who fits the ‘mysterious maiden’ archetype, the Yellow Dress Maiden (she’s so mysterious that nobody knows her given name!), is just a minor character.

Anyway, here is Dong Zhen singing “Dāo​ Jiàn Rú​ Mèng​” (and yes, this version has an English translation).

A picture of Kris Wu promoting the game 'World of Sword'

A picture of Kris Wu promoting the game ‘World of Sword’

In the past few years, Kris Wu has become one of the most popular celebrities in China. I admit that I have not seen any of his movies, but in terms of singing and looks … I don’t get it (China has way better singers – Dong Zhen for example – as well as actors who, IMO, are much more aesthetically/visually appealing than Kris Wu). Interestingly, even though Kris Wu is Chinese-Canadian, he first got into show business in South Korea, and started his rise to fame as a member of a popular K-pop band, EXO. And he definitely continues to have a strong K-Pop vibe … which might be why I don’t care for him. I don’t like K-Pop music, and no, it’s not because I don’t understand Korean, since I don’t like K-Pop even when it’s sung in a language I understand (English or Mandarin). I like Mandopop, Cantopop, and even J-Pop more than K-Pop.

In any case, Kris Wu recorded his own version of “Dāo​ Jiàn Rú​ Mèng​” to be the theme song for a mobile game called “World of Sword” (the lyrics are the same as Dong Zhen’s recording, it’s just a different English translation).

The Kris Wu version of “Dāo​ Jiàn Rú​ Mèng​” is my least favorite because … I feel that it misses the point of the song. To me it seems like ‘hey, I am a guy with a sword, cool!’ and yes, I admit that it is cool when he’s wearing that costume at the end of the music video and swinging that sword around, but the song is about something more.

Here is the Taiwanese band Last Day of Summer. It looks like the guy second from the left is holding the Heaven Sword, and the guy furthest to the right is holding the Dragon Saber.

Here is the Taiwanese band Last Day of Summer. It looks like the guy second from the left is holding the Heaven Sword, and the guy furthest to the right is holding the Dragon Saber.

Anyway, in addition to being the theme song for ‘World of Sword’, “Dāo​ Jiàn Rú​ Mèng​” is also the theme song for a new Taiwanese mobile game adapted from HSDS. Or, rather, the theme song is “Dāo​ Jiàn Rú​ Mèng​ 2.0”. It’s performed by a Taiwanese band whose English name is The Last Day of Summer / 831. I know very little about this specific band, but the music video of their version of “Dāo​ Jiàn Rú​ Mèng​” feels Taiwanese too me. First of all, there are the traces of Japanese culture (the kimono the little boy is wearing, the tatami mats in the room) which are casually thrown into the video. Taiwan has been more heavily influenced by Japanese culture than any other place where Chinese is the dominant language, and the heavy Japanese influence is one of the things which distinguishes Taiwanese culture from other Chinese-speaking cultures. There is also something about the hairstyles and the way the singers dress … I can’t put my finger on it, but it feels Taiwanese to me. It’s certainly more the way Taiwanese ‘idols’ dress than the way Korean, or Japanese, or Chinese ‘idols’ would dress. The music video, of course, has footage from the mobile game. 831 also added some new lyrics/melodies to the song, which are about chaos and fighting one’s opponents with a little bit about love and hate, which makes sense for a mobile game which is combat-heavy.

[aside #2: I never thought about it before, but looking at the footage from the mobile game, I notice that none of the characters have any particular ethnic markings, even though they are all Chinese or Mongol. Yes, even the blond guy is ethnic Chinese according to the novel. Though the novel also says that his eyes were impaled by darts causing permanent blindness, whereas his eyes look just fine in the mobile game. By contrast, the the 1994 DOS game adapted from HSDS shows that the blond guy does not have functioning eyes. What was I saying? Oh yeah, you can tell that this game was made by Asians, in this case Taiwanese, because they don’t put ethnic markings on Chinese characters. It’s like what this blog post discusses.]

And now, for the final version of “Dāo​ Jiàn Rú​ Mèng​”…

Riceboy Liu appearing in The Voice of China 4

Riceboy Liu appearing on The Voice of China 4

Riceboy Liu is a Los Angeles rapper who specializes in multilingual rap songs. I’m not into rap music, but I have a thing for polyglots, so I happen to like like some of his songs. He was also a contestant on Season 4 of The Voice of China.

I have never seen an entire episode of The Voice, just clips. That includes The Voice of China. As it so happens, Dong Zhen appeared in the first season of Voice of China, and sang “Dāo​ Jiàn Rú​ Mèng​” in the blind auditions, but none of the judges picked her for their team. The song came back in Season 4, when it was used for the battle round between Riceboy Liu and Queen T, which you can watch here.

Queen T won the battle and stayed on the show (she eventually was the runner-up in the entire competition), which isn’t surprising since she’s the better singer, but I feel that I enjoy this version of the song so much thanks to Riceboy Liu’s creative contribution. I never imagined that I would enjoy a hip-hop version of “Dāo​ Jiàn Rú​ Mèng​” but I really like this one.

Of all of the versions of this song I’ve heard, this is the one with the strongest American influence (which is what one would expect when one of the performers is American). It’s not just that it adds a bunch of English lyrics (which don’t have much to do with the original song, but at least it’s different) and that it’s done in hip hop style – Queen T sounds like she also has an R&B influence on her singing style. Now I’m wondering what it would sound like if Aretha Franklin sang this song.

Anyway, if you contrast the Riceboy Liu / Queen T version of this song with Dong Zhen’s version, you can tell that they represent two different trends in Sinophone pop culture. Dong Zhen represents the trend of drawing upon a distinctly Chinese cultural history, whereas Riceboy Liu / Queen T represent taking popular styles from somewhere outside of Asia and making it their own. Wakin Chau, the songwriter, embodies the fusion of both of these trends, since he both draws from traditional Chinese culture and absorbs lots of influences from outside of Asia (especially rock music). Of course, influences from non-Chinese parts of Asia are also significant, as evidenced by the Korean influence on Kris Wu and the Japanese influence on Last Day of Summer / 831.

So that’s the conclusion of this little tour through Sinophone pop culture centered around a single song. I don’t know who will read this, but I enjoyed putting this post together, and if you got this far, I hope you enjoyed reading it.