Revolutionary Song Lyrics

Xian Xinghai (1905-1945) was an early supporter of the CCP and wrote numerous patriotic songs, including the "National Salvation Song" and "Children of the Homeland" /Zuguo de haizimenj. His most famous work is the prodigious "Yellow River Cantata" /Huanghe dahechangj that, like the following song, sought to create a national narrative, a retelling of China's past through music. Like many of the early musicians from this era (including Nie Er, the composer of the national anthem), Xian Xinghai died young and became a patriotic martyr in the PRC.


  • 1. How do the following songs capture the political spirit or the attitudes towards China's past and future?
  • 2. How do you think these songs might be remembered today?
  • 1. "National Salvation March" (1936)

Fire at the foe,

Onward march!

Do not harm nor fight,

Your own people!

Our ranks are solid as steel,

Our hearts are iron strong!

Protect the motherland.

Be free, evermore.

Fire at the foe,

Onward march!

Protect the motherland,

Be free, evermore!

Take up your guns,

Aim at the foe!

Each shot hits the mark.

Step by step we gain!

Our ranks are solid as steel.

Our hearts are iron strong!

Protect the motherland.

Be free, evermore.

Take up your guns,

Aim at the foe!

Protect the motherland,

Be free, evermore!

"The East is Red" is perhaps the best-known revolutionary song in China. Even today, most Chinese can sing this song from memory (not surprising since a good portion of them woke to the song blaring from loudspeakers every morning for a decade or more). The song, originally written in 1943 by a peasant farmer in Shaanxi, was reworked in 1964 into a revolutionary play known by the same name, "The East is Red" [Dongfang Hong].

2. "East is Red" [Dongfang Hong]

The East is red, the sun has risen,

China has brought forth a Mao Zedong.

He works for the people's happiness,

Hu er hai yo, he's the people's great liberator!

Chairman Mao loves the people,

He is our guiding leader,

To build a New China,

Hu er hai yo, he leads us; march on!

The Communist Party is like the sun,

It brightens whatever it shines upon.

Wherever the Communist Party goes

Hu er hai yo, there the people will be liberated

The Cultural Revolution marked a low point in twentieth-century China's music scene. Several ideologically correct model operas and revolutionary- appropriate songs dominated the period. Political leaders demanded that songs be subservient to the political campaigns and narrowly serve the same goals as the ideological campaigns. A prime example of this is the following song, stiffly comparing communes to ripening fruit.

3. "Commune Members are Sunflowers"

The commune is an ever-growing vine. All its members are the fruit upon the vine. Ripening fruit and vine, growing there together. Our commune and its members, they all grow together. When the vine is strong, all the fruit is large and sweet.

The green vine of people's communes joins our homes. All our families

work together growing commune crops. More hands mean good yields;

unity is strength. When together, we do not fear either drought or raging flood. When we are as one, we can hold up the sky.

The commune is a red sun, a big red sun. All the members of the commune are the sun flowers. Flowers face the sun, big as any millstone. Rain or shine or wind or storm, nothing makes us waver. Never will we leave, never leave the good commune.

Sunshine of the people's commune lights our homes. All the families

join together setting higher aims. We all love our commune; following the Party. Ours is daily happiness, full as swelling grain. Ours is daily joy, full as swelling harvest grain.


Besides deeply upending daily life, the Cultural Revolution also altered less mundane aspects of Chinese society, including the making of new movies. Between 1967 and 1973, political exigencies resulted in filmmaking being limited largely to the "eight model plays" /bage yangxi]. In 1972, Mao grew concerned and stated that the "number of films and plays is too small," leading several film studios to respond and resulting in the release of four films in 1973, including Pine Ridge. Like society as a whole, the film reflects a slow return to a more stable life, a life, however, where ideological concerns remain of paramount significance. Light on subtlety, the plot revolves around the heroes' concern over the pernicious influence of capitalistic tendencies. One of these negative influences can be seen in the following scene in the form of a horse-cart driver, who seeks to tempt other villagers with the profits of the just-emerging "free markets" (markets that were allowed but not entirely condoned by many ideologically pure officials).


1. How does this scene depict recent economic changes in society? Do these new pressures reinforce traditional communist political beliefs?

2. How does the film's portrayal of class, political classification, and even an individual's economic wealth reflect the government's attitudes (and desires) for the audience?

Scene 1: (Wanshan is driving the cart along with two young villagers and a retired soldier

who has hitched a ride with them)

Wanshan: You want to know the inside story? Just wait, and in

a couple of days all you'll have to do is watch and listen, then you will understand. It's not the youngster's fault to want to learn how to drive the horse cart. They're just worried, the production team's official horse cart driver doesn't have the right temperament to drive the team's collectivized cart. He doesn't have the same [revolutionary] mentality about things, like we do around here.

Fang Jiyun: Uncle, I am sure with an experienced cart driver like

you, the production team doesn't have anything to worry about.

Wanshan: This business [about the production team's driver],

I've got it all figured out.

Fang Jiyun: Nowadays, if we train the young generation, then

we'll really achieve great things.

Wanshan: You and I really do think alike!

(When the cart arrives in the village Xiumei rushes into the village square telling

people about the startled horse cart)

Villagers: [general commotion asking Xiumei about what


(Zhou Cheng the production team leader, Xiumei's brother, pushes through the


Zhou Cheng: Xiumei, what trouble have you stirred up now?

Xiumei: What?! Caused what trouble?

Qian Guang: See, she wouldn't even listen to her own brother. What

do you think I could do about it?

Xiumei: You!? Are you trying to rile me up again?

Zhou Cheng: Xiumei!

Qian Guang: Whoa, whoa, whoa, look everyone, I didn't mean any

offense. But if the horse cart cannot be repaired, remember, it was those two who took the cart out, so don't forget and blame me for not taking good care of the collective property. If this sort of thing happens again, there's no way I could drive the cart.

Xiumei: You'd like it like if that happened, wouldn't you!

Zhou Cheng: Stop making a scene, from now on, no one else is allowed to touch the whip.

(Zhou takes the horse whip from Xiumei)

Dahu: Nowadays, it's all about us working together collectively, the sky won't fall down with just one of us missing.

Qian Guang: So, you can all see, now the youth team leader is trying

to drive me away, just because I am not from around here. But I am not a landlord, nor am I a rich peasant, so I can become a commune member wherever I go. If it doesn't work out for me here, I can leave, and return to my hometown Dongshan Heilongkou.

(Qian Guang abruptly turns and makes as if to leave)

Zhou Cheng: Stop right there! This is completely the wrong way to

go about it!

Wanshan: Qian Guang. Runaway cart or not, is none of this

your responsibility at all? You threaten to quit here and move there, where are you going to go? In fact, in the past we were afraid of not having any carts at all. But because last year the government built the road we now have carts in Pine Ridge. So, it's not like we're worried about not having any drivers.

(Zhou Cheng strides forward to end the confrontation)

Zhou Cheng: Enough! In the future, let's not make trouble when

there is none. (Returns the horse whip to Qian much to the astonishment of the other villagers)

Zhou Cheng: Go and drive your cart. Everyone else, back to work.

Go, go!

(From the edge of the square the retired soldier who rode in the cart with Wanshan, Dahu, and Xiumei calls out)

Fang Jiyun: Old squad leader!

Zhou Cheng: Oh my, Old Fang! You came.

Zhou Cheng: (Turning to Wanshan) This is comrade Fang Jiyun. The

Commune sent him over to be the acting Party secretary.

Wanshan: (Realizing this is who he gave a ride into town) Ah, your

arrival is welcome!

(In a lengthy transition, the screen is filled with the village's fields full of sorghum with young men and women happily picking fruit together, as Zhou Cheng and Xiumei carry fruit over for collection and begin discussing horse cart training) Zhou Cheng: Now isn't a good time, we already have a full plate

as it is. How could we have time to start a horse cart driver training class?

Xiumei: Why do you get to have the final word?

Zhou Cheng: I don't understand. Why do you have to learn to drive

a cart?

Xiumei: You should already be clear [why it's important],

(In a slow tracking shot from Zhou Cheng and Xiumei more scenes of Qingsong's fruitful bounty are shown, ending with the dialogue returning to Wanshan with Fang Jiyun)

Wanshan: Within the production team, the horse cart driver is an

important position. How [can everything work] if the horse driver isn't marching towards socialism [like the rest of the team]?

Fang Jiyun: We should try to help and educate him more.

Old Man: Everyone made a big effort to help him, and the Party

branch also did their best to educate him. But he ... he just refused to change.

Wanshan: For example, he encourages people to go to free market, taking goods to market for them.

(A jump cut to the alleyway where a husband pushing a wheelbarrow encounters his wife leaving their house with a large basket of mushrooms)

Husband: Hey, where are you taking that?

Wife: I asked Old Qian to sell it for us [on the free market].

Husband: Why don't we just sell it to the Cooperative Store.

Wife: Old Qian said the mushroom price went up again in

the free market.

Husband: Didn't you hear what Unde Wanshan said? This is not

the correct path, and not on the up-and-up.

Coworker: Hey, get a move on.

Wife: You always say everyone else is wrong. Always think

only you can see what is right.

(Now in the village square, the wife walks up to Old Qian whose cart is alreadij loaded with a large amount of goods)

Wife: Old Qian. Elder Brother Qian, sorry to bother you so

much by making you help me out.

Qian Guang: Don't worry, I'll take care of everything.

(Back in the orchards, the three men repairing baskets are still discussing the issue of the wayward horse cart driver)

Wanshan: Since the old Party Secretary left and Qian Guang became the head horse cart driver, he's been acting like this all the time making people unsure about the collective production work. Isn't the same as capitalism?

Fang Jiyun: This sort of thing cannot be allowed to continue like


Wanshan: I think [his behavior] is the reason Xiumei and others

want to learn to drive. So, we should start up the training class right away.

Fang Jiyun: Let's go and find Zhou Cheng to talk these things over


Wanshan: Yes, let's go.

(As Qian Guang crosses the mountain towards the market a man calls out for him to stop)

Laosi: Elder Brother Qian! Elder Brother Qian! Can you take

this with you [to the free market].

Qian Guang: Laosi, hazelnut is unavailable in free market. Didn't

you get some?

Laosi: The autumn harvest has been busy, so I didn't have

any time to collect any.

Qian Guang: The amount you get paid for work per day is eight or

ten working points at most. But if you collected hazelnuts, on a good day, you might get a couple bucks [yuan]. Nowadays, you need to rely on the collective to eat, but you need to rely on oneself if you want to get rich.

Laosi: Missing work in order to pick hazelnuts seems dishonest.

Qian Guang: You're too simple and stubborn. Nowadays, pay is

distributed by work points. If you didn't show up for work, at most, you'd have several working points deducted. At the end of the season when points are calculated, and pay is distributed, you would have less points [and those who worked more] would have more points.

Laosi: Heh, geez, you're right!

(Having tied down Laosi's basket of mushrooms on the top of his cart, Qian Guang and Laosi climb down and Qian Guang prepares to resume his journey to the free market)

Laosi: Brother Qian, if I to collect some [hazelnuts], could

you sell them for me?

Qian Guang: As long I control this whip, it'd be a piece of cake.

Laosi: Brother Qian, about my mushrooms ...

Qian Guang: Don't you worry, I make sure you get a good price.

(As Qian Guang drives off the horses are startled by a dead tree by the side of the road)

Laosi: Old Qian! What's got the horses so spooked?

Qian Guang: To drive this horse cart, one must be fearless.

Laosi: Heh, to drive a horse cart like this, no one other than

Old Qian could possibly handle it.

(Back in the village, Wanshan and Fang Jiyun are discussing up their proposal with Zhou Cheng)

Zhou Cheng: Qian Guang is doing a great job of driving the village

horse cart. Why are you trying to stir things up? Wanshan: Don't you see him waving the whip all day long, enticing everyone to join him on the Capitalist road.

Zhou Cheng: All Qian Guang is doing is helping others sell their

mountain products. I see nothing wrong [in what he's doing]. If it wasn't for him, a lot more people would be missing work.

Wanshan: Oh, are you saying that they have to miss work to have

their mountain goods sold at the free market? Isn't there a Supply and Marketing Cooperative Store right here [in the village]?

Zhou Cheng: Hey, so some people just want a bit more money. Let's

not get bent out of shape over such trivial matters. If we did, it might have a negative effect on commune morale. Besides, it's the height of the autumn harvest, we need to be thinking of ways to mobilize commune members and not how to slow them down.

Wanshan: You think it's trivial, Zhou Cheng? It's like the saying:

"a big wind can blow through a small hole."

Fang Jiyun: Old Zhou, uncle is right. Should the commune members' enthusiasm be motivated by socialist consciousness, or by capitalism's seductive ideology? This isn't something we should take lightly.

Zhou Cheng: Beginning cart driving training class isn't a decision

I can make alone. Let's wait until tonight's managing committee's meeting to discuss this matter and we decide it together.

(As the sun sets, all of the village workers return to the village after a long day's work, and Laosi passes by Qian Guang's house to inquire about his mushrooms and chili peppers)

Laosi: Elder Brother Qian. You're home already!

Qian Guang: Oh, I just got back.

Wife of Qian: Hello Laosi!

Laosi: My mushrooms ...

Qian Guang: I sold them all!

Laosi: What price did you get?

Qian Guang: This whole number, and this number, [showing him

with his fingers the price he got]

Laosi: One and a half bucks [per half-kilo]!!?

Qian Guang: A good price, right? (Pulling a wad of cash from his vest

he counts out Laosi's share) This is what you made for the chili peppers. And this is another seventeen and a half bucks for the mushrooms.

Laosi: What? At one and a half bucks per kilo and there

was ten half-kilos [jin], shouldn't it be fifteen bucks? What's the extra two and a half bucks for?

Qian Guang: You lucked out. For your mushrooms, I stayed in

market a bit longer, and sold it for an extra 2.5 bucks. Hah, much better than selling them to the Cooperative store, right?

Laosi: Absolutely!

Qian Guang: Hey, go ahead and count it.

Laosi: It looks about right. . .

Qian Guang: Go ahead, count it.

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