Friday Song: Hang on the Box took Beijing punk international

Society & Culture

The songs above feature in Krish Raghav’s list of 70 songs for 70 years of the People’s Republic of China. The text below is adapted from that post.


Twenty years ago, Wáng Yuè 王悦, Yilinna 隐退 (Yǐntuì), and Yáng Fān 扬帆 of the band Hang on the Box made the Beijing punk scene an international topic, posing in Tiananmen Square for a February 1999 cover of the American magazine Newsweek. Crouched under the headline “China: The Limits on Freedom,” the three teenagers were put forward as bold iconoclasts, the new face of alternative Chinese youth.

They quickly became an international sensation, signing with a Japanese record label and becoming one of the first Chinese bands to perform at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. Their original members — singer Wang Yue, better known as Gia; Yang Fan, who started on drums and later moved to guitar; Yilinna, the band’s original bassist; and Shén Jìng 沈静, who replaced Yang Fan on drums in 1999 — all remain active musicians and cultural influencers.

The writer Josh Feola and I drew a whole comic about the story of “Hang on the Box.” You can read that right here.


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