Friday Song: ‘Flowers of Freedom’ and its political implications - SupChina

Friday Song: ‘Flowers of Freedom’ and its political implications

The 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests of June 4, 1989 is this Monday.

The phrase “自由花” (zìyóu huā), or “flowers of freedom,” has appeared in several seminal moments in Chinese history.

The last sentence Wang Buwen 王步文, a prominent CCP politician in Anhui province, is said to have uttered before he was executed by a Chinese Nationalist Party firing squad in 1931 was, “Let my blood water the flowers of freedom!” (让我的鲜血去浇灌自由之花吧 ràng wǒ de xiānxiě qù jiāoguàn zìyóu zhī huā ba). In his 1936 poem to drum up support for the revolutionary cause, Chen Yi 陈毅 — a poet, marshal, and, later, China’s foreign minister from 1958-1972 — wrote, “Among our people we pledge to plant flowers of freedom” (人间遍种自由花 rénjiān biàn zhǒng zìyóu huā).

It is therefore fitting that the phrase is used to commemorate another event of social upheaval and popular resistance in Chinese history: the Tiananmen Square protests of June 4, 1989, which marks its 29th anniversary this Monday. “Flowers of Freedom,” the song embedded above, was written by Hong Kong lyricist Thomas Chow 周礼茂 shortly after the protests, and is one of the original songs sung every year in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park vigil to commemorate June 4. It employs the same tune as the song ”Sailor“ (水手 shuǐ shǒu) by Zheng Zhihua 郑智化, about the artist’s struggles with polio — a popular tune on the mainland at the time of the protests.

While the lyrics have been completely changed, “Flowers of Freedom” and “Sailor” express common themes when looking at their respective events. There is shock, disbelief, and immense pain. But there is also steely determination, resilience, and hope, which are particularly present in the refrain “But we have a dream, which never dies, just remember” (但有一个梦,不会死,记着吧 dàn yǒu yī gè mèng, bù huì sǐ, jìzhe ba).

Perhaps a time will come when the phrase “自由花” can be used to describe pivotal moments in China’s future. For now, though, it is important not to forget the words, the people, and the enduring message of “flowers of freedom” from the events of China’s past.

Lyrics:

忘不了的,年月也不会蚕蚀
Unforgettable, time can’t erode it
心中深处始终也记忆那年那夕
Deep in our hearts, we still remember that night
曾经痛惜,年月里转化为力
Once grief, over time it has changed into strength
一点真理,一个理想永远地寻觅
Forever seeking a little truth and an ideal

悠悠长长继续前航不懂去惊怕
Long and drawn out, they didn’t understand enough to be scared
荆荆棘棘通通斩去不必多看它
Sever all the thorns to not see them any more
浮浮沉沉昨日人群虽不说一话
Although silent, the crowd gathered yesterday
不想清楚分析太多真心抑意假
Not wanting to analyze whether it was genuine or false

但有一个梦,不会死,记着吧
But we have a dream, which never dies, just remember
无论雨怎么打,自由仍是会开花
No matter how fierce the storm, freedom will still bloom
但有一个梦,不会死,记着吧
But we have a dream, which never dies, just remember
来自你我的心,记着吧
It comes from our hearts, just remember

忘不了的,留下了不死意识
Unforgettable, memories on our conscience
深深相信始终会变真某年某夕
Believing with conviction our dreams will someday come true
如此讯息,仍赖你跟我全力
This message, it’s upon us to exert our strength
加一把劲,将这理想继续在寻觅
Make a push, keep searching for the ideal

悠悠长长继续前航不懂去惊怕
Long and drawn out, they didn’t understand enough to be scared
荆荆棘棘通通斩去不必多看它
Sever all the thorns to not see them any more
浮浮沉沉昨日人群虽不说一话
Although silent, the crowd gathered yesterday
不想清楚分析太多真心抑意假
Not wanting to analyze whether it was genuine or false

但有一个梦,不会死,记着吧
But we have a dream, which never dies, just remember
无论雨怎么打,自由仍是会开花
No matter how fierce the storm, freedom will still bloom
但有一个梦,不会死,记着吧
But we have a dream, which never dies, just remember
来自你我的心,记着吧
It comes from our hearts, just remember


Friday Song is SupChina’s weekly sign-off. Let us know what you thought of the week that was in the comments below, or email [email protected]

Jemima Baar

Jemima Baar hails from England but has lived in Hong Kong, Hangzhou, and (currently) Beijing. She was a SupChina intern in early 2018, and is currently an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge.

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