Friday Song: Forward, forward! Sing into the night - SupChina

Friday Song: Forward, forward! Sing into the night

I was scootering past Guangqumen Bridge just southeast of Beijing Railway Station tonight when I encountered the scene above, a plaza of mostly retirees enjoying the warm evening with a brass band led by one rather enthusiastic conductor. Singing voices poked out from the encircled crowd, which was several rows deep. We were in the shadow of office and apartment buildings on one side and a highway on the other, across the concrete overpass. These revelers, with their chittering, their periodic bursts of song, some with their ethnic attire, didn’t seem like they belonged; too human, maybe. One man stood on top of a boulder for a better view. One woman, just beyond the lip of middle age, sat on a sidewalk pillar and stared deeply and blankly. Who knows what she saw.

The tune is “Song of the Women’s Detachment” 娘子军连歌 (niángzǐjūn lián gē), from that 1961 paragon of Maoist socialist realist art, The Red Detachment of Women 红色娘子军 (hóngsè niángzǐjūn) (clip below). The movie (and subsequent ballet in 1964) was based on an all-female brigade in the southern island province of Hainan who operated against Nationalists in the 1920s and ’30s. It’s been said that the main character, Wu Qinghua, “reflect[s] the hostility and resentment of male-dominated society inherent in the ideology of the Communist revolution.” The song, like the movie, is a clarion call for revolution.

Forward, forward — to wherever your destination.

Song lyrics:

向前进!向前进!
战士的责任重
妇女的冤仇深!

Forward, forward!
Important the soldiers’ task,
Deep the women’s hatred.

古有花木兰替父去从军
今有娘子军抗战为人民!

In old times Hua Mulan took her father’s place in the army,
Nowadays the women’s company takes up arms for the people.

向前进!向前进!
战士的责任重
妇女的冤仇深!

Forward, forward!
Important the soldiers’ task,
Deep the women’s hatred.

共产主义真党是领路人
奴隶得翻身奴隶得翻身

Communism is the truth, the Party leads the way.
Slaves will arise, slaves will arise!


Friday Song, which is a slight misnomer today, is SupChina’s weekly sign-off. Let us know what you thought of the week that was in the comments below, or email editors@supchina.com.

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Anthony Tao

Anthony is the Asia managing editor of SupChina. Follow him @anthonytao