Songs and Tiananmen (1989)

A significant dimension of the 1989 student demonstrations was the astounding level of popular support it attracted among Beijing's ordinary citizens. Many street vendors distributed free food and drink to students. Local residents lined the streets and applauded the students' frequent processions from the university district in northwest Beijing into Tiananmen (in the center of the city). Even soldiers posted at intersections or blocked by demonstrators in trucks carried on friendly banter (part of the reason that non-Beijing-based troops were brought in to carry out the final strike on June 4). Two songs, along with the rockstars who sang them, Hou Dejian and Cui Jian, became closely associated with the demonstrations. Both songs are famous in their own right, but their message and tone captured the emotions and spirit of Tiananmen and became virtual anthems of the demonstrations.


  • 1. Which song do you find more appropriate as an anthem for the Tiananmen demonstrations?
  • 2. Why do you think Cui Jian's "Nothing to My Name" became so popular among the students of 1989?

Song 1: Hou Dejian, "Descendants of the Dragon" ["Long de chuanren"]

In the Far East there is a river,

Its name is the Yangtze River;

In the Far East there is a river,

Its name is the Yellow River.

Although I have never seen the beauty of the Yangtze River, In dreams I often swim in the Yangtze River;

Although I have never heard the roars of the Yellow River, In dreams there are the fierce waves of the River.

In the ancient Far East there is a dragon,

ENEMIES ON ALL SIDEā€”The Chinese term "simian Chu-ge" comes from a tale known to most all Chinese from the third century BCE regarding Xiang Yu a famous general. When surrounded on all sides, he heard the enemy troops singing songs from his native region of Chu. This caused them to believe that their homeland had already fallen. In Chinese today, the saying means that defeat is near and all hope is lost.

Her name is China;

The ancient Far East there lives a group of people,

They are all descendants of the dragon I grew up beneath the feet of the giant dragon,

I grew up to become a descendant of the dragon;

Black eyes, black hair, and yellow skin;

Forever and ever, a descendant of the dragon.

A hundred years ago one serene night,

In the deep night on the eve of a vast change;

The sound of gunfire and cannon shattered the serene night, Enemies on all side and menacing swords.

A great many years, the explosions still rumble,

A great many years and yet many more years;

Giant dragon, giant dragon, open your eyes bright,

Forever, forever, open your bright eyes.

Giant dragon, giant dragon, open your eyes bright,

Forever, forever, open your bright eyes.

Song 2: Cui Jian, "Nothing to My Name"

["yiwu suoyou"] (1986)

I used to ask non-stop,

When are you coming with me?

But you always laugh at me,

For I have nothing.

I want to give you my pursuit And my freedom,

But you always laugh at me,

For I have nothing.

Oh, when are you coming with me?

Oh, when are you coming with me?

The earth under the feet is moving,

The water next to me is flowing,

But you keep laughing,

For I have nothing.

Why do you keep laughing,

Why am I always after something,

How come in front of you,

I always have nothing.

I am telling you I waited for so long,

I am telling you my last request.

I want to hold your hands,

And take you with me now.

Now your hands are shaking,

Your tears are running,

Aren't you telling me you love me For I have nothing.

Oh ... you will come with me. [repeat]

Hong Kong Handover

The Qing empire ceded Hong Kong Island to Great Britain at the end of the First Opium War under the terms of the Treaty of Nanjing (1842).

Eighteen years later, at the end of the Second Opium War, in 1860, the British acquired the Kowloon Peninsula. Finally, in 1898, the British obtained a 99-year lease on the New Territories that more than quadrupled the territory of the colony. It was the pending expiration of this lease that set in motion Britain's decision to sign the Sino-British Joint Declaration (13.12) to set out how the colony would be returned to the People's Republic of China on July 1, 1997. The primary points of contention centered on maintaining the legal, political, and cultural rights of Hong Kong's citizens. Both countries ended up agreeing on the "One country, two systems" principle, a principle intended to remain in place for a period of 50 years (until 2047). The legacy of this decision has taken on many different shapes depending on one's perspective. For most Chinese, the return of the city marked the end of a century of humiliation at the hands of the West. Some Hong Kong residents disagreed, suggesting instead that the handover represented a period of "recolonization" rather than a "homecoming."

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >