Friday Song: Ai Jing’s yearning for Hong Kong in ‘My 1997’ - SupChina

Friday Song: Ai Jing’s yearning for Hong Kong in ‘My 1997’

“1997, please come soon, then I can go to Hong Kong.”

In 1992, in the eyes of many on the mainland, Hong Kong was a fantastical place, one of crowded shopping malls, gigantic concert stadiums, and midnight movie theaters. These images haunted a generation of Chinese youth, and helped them imagine a future — 1997, specifically, when the city would be handed back to China from Great Britain — where they could obtain visas and finally visit the bustling metropolis.

This — the “flowery world” (花花世界 huā huā shì jiè) that is Hong Kong — was the subject of one of the popular tunes of that time, “My 1997,” written by then-23-year-old Ai Jing. In it, Ai tells the story of how she was born and raised in Shenyang but chased her musical dream in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. After falling in love with a Hong Kong man, she sings about her anticipation for 1997 to come sooner so that she can finally visit the place.

The song was a huge success not only in mainland China but also in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan. Although Ai Jing has insisted it is purely a love song, many have pointed out the political implications. Yuliang Chang, a communication studies scholar at Nanhua University in Taiwan, wrote that the song represents Beijing’s desire for Hong Kong’s return.

And Mayfair Mei-hui Yang, a professor of East Asian cultural studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, points out:

“This song often made Hong Kong Chinese anxious because it reminded them that in 1997 China would become Hong Kong’s new master. However, mainland Chinese were impatient for the day when Hong Kong’s dazzle, wealth, and cosmopolitanism would become accessible to them.”

In 2007, Ai Jing was invited by the Hong Kong Tourism Board to sing a new version — on the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return — called “My 1997 and 2007,” with revised lyrics such as, “1997 has already arrived, we can go to Hong Kong now” (1997已经到了 我们可以去香港了1997 yǐ jīng dào liǎo wǒ mén kě yǐ qù xiāng gǎng liǎo).

Now, nearly three decades after its release, mainland China’s impressions of Hong Kong have evolved — while Hong Kongers anxiety about the mainland has only increased, as recent protests have made abundantly clear. But the song “My 1997” still resonates with a generation of Chinese who grew up under the influence of Hong Kong pop culture and witnessed the city’s return in 1997. As one review on Douban, a social networking website that focuses on culture and lifestyle, reads: “Yearning, hesitancy, wishfulness, disappointment, and dream-like idealism…[‘My 1997’] is embedded with the emotions of a generation of Chinese youth.”

The lyrics:

我的音乐老师是我的爸爸
My music teacher is my father

二十年来他一直呆在国家工厂
He has worked at a state-owned factory for 20-some years

妈妈以前是唱评剧的
My mother used to sing Peking Opera

她总抱怨没赶上好的时光
She grumbles she wasn’t born during a better era

少年时我曾因唱歌得过奖状啊
I have won singing competitions when I was young

我那两个妹妹也想和我一样
My two younger sisters want to follow my path

我十七岁那年离开了家乡沈阳
I left my hometown of Shenyang at 17

因为感觉那里没有我的梦想
Because that place isn’t where I’ll find my dream

我一个人来到陌生的北京城
I came alone to the strange city of Beijing

还进了著名的王昆领导下的东方
Got admitted to the famous Oriental Troupe led by Wang Kun

其实我最怀念艺校的那段时光
To be honest, I most long for my days in that music school

可是我的老师们并不这么想
But my teachers don’t share my thinking

凭着一副能唱歌的喉咙啊
I sing very well

生活过得不是那么紧张
So I can earn a living for myself

我从北京唱到了上海滩
I sang from Beijing to Shanghai

也从上海唱到曾经向往的南方
And from Shanghai to a south I once dreamed of

我留在广州的日子比较长
I’ve lingered in Guangzhou for a while

因为我的那个他在香港
Because my “other” is in Hong Kong

什么时候有了香港
When did Hong Kong begin to exist?

香港人又是怎么样
And what are Hong Kong people like?

他可以来沈阳
He can come to Shenyang

我不能去香港
I cannot go to Hong Kong

香港 香港 那个香港
Hong Kong, Hong Kong, oh that Hong Kong

小候说应该出去闯一闯
Hou Dejian (a Taiwanese singer) said I should go out into the world to broaden myself

香港 香港 怎样那么香
Hong Kong, Hong Kong, why is it so fragrant?

听说那是老崔的重要市场
I heard it’s an important market for Cui Jian (a Chinese singer)

让我去花花世界吧
Let me go to the flowery world

给我盖上大红章
Give me a big red stamp

1997快些到吧 八百伴究竟是什么样
1997, please come soon, what is Yaohan (a shopping mall) like?

1997快些到吧 我就可以去HONG KONG
1997, please come soon, then I can go to Hong Kong

1997快些到吧 让我站在红勘体育馆
1997, please come soon, let me stand at the Hong Kong Coliseum

1997快些到吧 和他去看午夜场
1997, please come soon, let me see a midnight movie with him

1997快点儿到吧 八百伴衣服究竟怎么样
1997, please come soon, what kind of clothes are on sale at Yaohan?

1997快些到吧 我就可以去香港
1997, please come soon, then I can go to Hong Kong.

1997快些到吧 让我站在红勘体育馆
1997, please come soon, let me stand at the Hong Kong Coliseum

1997快些到吧 和他去看午夜场
1997, please come soon, let me see a midnight movie with him

1997…


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 editors@supchina.com.

Kimberly Jin

Kimberly Jin is an investigative journalist based in Washington, D.C. She is currently a candidate for the master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University. Her reporting has taken her to Chicago, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Africa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.