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China Arts & Entertainment

Mixing Chinese Opera With Pop Music, Jason Zhang Becomes a Social Media Hit

A classic Chinese opera song has become a viral hit.

Susanna Sun

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A song that mixes pop and rap with traditional Yue opera has become a viral hit on Chinese social media. Despite the praise for the song, some people say pop and opera should not be mixed.

In the second episode of Battle For the Heavenly Voice, Dragon TV’s new music contest show featuring celebrity singers, pop singer Jason Zhang (张杰) recently took the Internet by storm.

Zhang performed a rearranged Chinese Yue opera piece titled “Sister Lin Fallen From Heaven” (天上掉下林妹妹), mixing elements of pop, rock, and rap music with traditional Chinese opera.

Jason Zhang, also known as Zhang Jie (张杰), is a Chinese mainland pop singer. In 2007, Zhang rose to fame after taking fourth place on Hunan Channel’s singing competition show Super Boy.

His popularity has increased over the past two years: having made it into the final round of I Am a Singer, Zhang is widely recognized in China as a talented singer with a hard-working, down-to-earth attitude.

Earlier this week, Jason’s pop music rendition of the famous opera song debuted on the new music show and went viral almost immediately. The hashtag ‘Zhang Jie Sister Lin Fallen From Heaven” (#张杰天上掉下个林妹妹#) has thus far received more than 170 million views on Weibo.

The hashtag page’s introduces the song as “a blend of traditional Chinese opera, rock, and R&B music, full of originality and freshness, showing the young singer’s willingness to preserve our traditional culture as a responsibility.”

Check the video here:

Yue opera (越剧), one of the five main types of traditional folk opera in China, is characterized by its lyricism and prized particularly for its intimate portrayal of emotion. “Sister Lin Fallen From Heaven” originally is a duet song from Yue opera’s adaptation of thee Dream of the Red Mansion, one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels.

‘Dream of Red Mansion’ special opera cinema, 1962.

The song is sung at the beginning of the story, when protagonists Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu first meet. They both have the same strange feeling that they have been close friends for a long time and have met again after a long separation. Using an emotional melody, the duet shows the affection Baoyu and Lin Daiyu feel in such a lyrical way that it has become the most well-known song representing Yue opera.

 

“A disgrace to the art of Yue opera.”

 

Yue opera mostly uses Wu dialect in singing and speech. The Wu dialect’s vowels and consonants are quite different from standard Mandarin. Zhang, not a native speaker of Wu dialect, memorized the standard Yue opera pronunciations of lyrics with both alphabet combinations and Mandarin word substitutes.

The version of the song as performed in this 1962 special opera cinema with leading actress Xu Yulan:

Given its courageous mixing of music styles, “Sister Lin Fallen from Heaven” has been praised as extraordinary, with netizens applauding Zhang for his experimentation. On Weibo, there are many positive comments, such as: “I appreciate your act of promoting Chinese opera culture so much. Hope there will be more surprises like this in the future.”

However, a few passionate Yue opera lovers did not seem to approve of Zhang’s Yue opera singing: “His Yue opera singing is so unprofessional. It doesn’t sound like Yue opera at all. His song is a disgrace to the art of Yue opera.”

A netizen named Kou Li Dao has one of the most upvoted comments under the video:

Some will praise Jason Zhang for singing a Chinese opera song, and some will criticize him for not ‘respecting’ our traditional folk music. Indeed, Zhang did not sing Yue opera in the most ‘orthodox’ way, but he is showing his efforts to introduce and spread Chinese opera culture to the younger generations in his audience. We should all embrace his act of integrating Chinese traditional with contemporary music, because only by constantly experimenting with new styles of modern music, Yue opera will not remain an isolated art – it will be an ever-developing art.

By Susanna Sun

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Susanna Yihan Sun is an undergraduate student at Vassar College with an interest in decoding human behavior, and an intense passion for Chinese Yue opera. Her life mission is to promote awareness about and respect for traditional Chinese art forms before they are lost forever.

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    Rosee70

    December 4, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    Jason Zhang is one of my favourite singer these days and I am not Chinese. I believe that people who continuously blend old culture with new elements, should be supported. Otherwise, ignorant and uncultured people like me, will never expose ourselves willingly to art such as Yue Opera.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Famous Chinese Nursery Song “One Penny” Inflates to “One Yuan”

One penny becomes one yuan in this children’s song. What’s next – changing it to QR codes?

Manya Koetse

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Famous Chinese children’s song “One Penny” (一分钱) has changed its penny to a Chinese yuan ($0.15).

The lyrics to the song are now published online and in children’s books with the different lyrics, Chinese news platform City Bulletin (@都市快报) reports on Weibo.

The altered text in a children’s book.

The classic song, in translation, says:

I found a penny on the street,
And handed it over to Uncle Policeman.
The Uncle Policeman took the penny,
And nodded his head at me.
I happily said: “Uncle, goodbye!

The song, by Chinese composer Pan Zhensheng (潘振声), is known throughout China. It came out in 1963.

Apparently, in present-day China, nobody would go through so much hassle for a penny anymore, and so the text was altered (although it is very doubtful people would go through the trouble for one yuan either).

The penny coin (0.01) in renminbi was first issued in 1957, and is somewhat rare to come across these days. “It’s probably even worth more than one yuan now,” some netizens argue.

Chinese media report that composer Pan Zhensheng said the song is just an innocent children’s song, and that it should not be affected by price inflation. Sina News also quoted the composer in saying that changing the text is “not respectful.”

Although some Chinese netizens think the change in the song is just normal modern development, others do not agree at all. In Hangzhou, some say, all you can find on the streets nowadays is QR codes rather than coins. Surely the song should not incorporate those new developments either?

Some commenters on Weibo say the song would never be realistic in China’s current cashless society anyway: “Kids nowadays are not finding cash money at all anymore!”

By Manya Koetse

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Chinese TV Dramas

Controversy over Scene in Anti-Japanese War Drama Featuring Black U.S. Soldier and Chinese Nurse

Some scenes from this anti-Japanese war drama have angered Chinese netizens over ‘historical nihilism.’

Manya Koetse

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A black soldier comes to China from afar during WWII and falls in love with a Chinese villager who sacrifices her life for him. This war drama is sensationalizing the Sino-Japanese War in the wrong way, many netizens say.

“I love you, I love China,” a black man tells a Chinese woman in a clip of an anti-Japanese war drama that has gone viral on Chinese social media over the past few days (watch clip in embedded tweet below).

The scene is set on a mountain, where the man and woman hold hands when she tells him to flee from the “Japanese devils.” She repeats: “Remember: love me, love China.”

The love scene takes a dramatic turn when the two get ambushed by the Japanese army. The Chinese woman immediately pushes the man off the mountain to bring him to safety. While she cries out “love me, love China” she is attacked by Japanese soldiers and dies.

The scene comes from a 2016 TV drama titled The Great Rescue of The Flying Tigers (飞虎队大营救). The drama tells the story of Japanese soldiers chasing surviving members of a Flying Tigers aircraft after they shot it down. Various soldiers and army staff on the Chinese side try to rescue the fighters from the hands of the Japanese.

The drama’s portrayal of a romance between the foreign soldier and a Chinese woman, on the side of the Communist Eighth Route Army, has stirred controversy on Weibo this week.

“The director is retarded, this is historical nihilism,” one Weibo blogger writes.

Hundreds of netizens also criticize the drama’s director and screenwriters: “This is not even funny, what kind of scriptwriter comes up with this trash? This should be thoroughly investigated.”

The Flying Tigers (飞虎队) were a group of US fighter pilots who went to China during the final three years of the Second Sino-Japanese War to fight the Japanese invaders and defend China.

Flying Tigers.

The people behind the Flying Tigers belonged to the organization of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), who came together in 1941 to strengthen the Chinese Air Force.

In the now controversial TV drama The Great Rescue of The Flying Tigers, the black soldier is ‘Carl’ (Cedric Beugre), a surviving member of the Flying Tigers aircraft shut down by Japanese forces. The Chinese woman is ‘Xinghua,’ a female nurse who sacrifices her own life to save Carl.

The dialogues between Carl and Xinghua are pretty simple and at times almost ridiculous. While Xinghua does not speak a word of English and appears clueless, Carl is depicted as a stubborn, crude and somewhat silly character, who also seems to understand very little of what is happening around him and does all he can to be with his Xinghua after a brief meeting in the Chinese base camp (also see this scene or here).

On Chinese social media, the drama is critiqued for being a so-called ‘divine Anti-Japanese drama’ (抗日神剧): Chinese war dramas that sensationalize the history of the war by making up unrealistic and overly dramatic or funny scenes and storylines.

In 2015, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) announced a limit on these kinds of TV dramas that sensationalize the history of war, and in doing so ‘misrepresent history’ and ‘disrespect’ the Chinese soldiers who fought to defend the nation (read more).

TV series focusing on war are part of China’s every day (prime time) TV schedules. These Chinese war dramas are called “Anti-Japanese War Dramas” (抗日电视剧), literally referring to the period of ‘resisting Japan’ during WWII (in China, the 1937-1945 war is called The War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression 中国抗日战争).

The 40-episode series The Great Rescue of the Flying Tigers was aired by Yunnan City Channel but is also available online. Since there are countless reruns of Anti-Japanese war dramas on Chinese tv, it is possible that some viewers only now viewed the 2016 drama for the first time.

Some netizens call this a “new kind of fantasy war drama”, summarizing: “A black man comes from far away to China to fight Japan, falls in love with a Chinese nurse who sacrifices her own life for him and yells ‘Love me love China’ before she dies.”

Many on social media call the script “idiotic,” others question if black soldiers ever joined the Flying Tigers in the first place.

There seems to be more to the controversy than sensationalizing history alone though – relationships between foreign men and Chinese women, especially black men and Chinese women, are often met with prejudice and racism on Chinese social media. Mixing such a narrative in a drama about the Second Sino-Japanese war makes it all the more controversial.

Some see the narrative of the love between a foreign soldier and a Chinese woman as a way of ‘beautifying’ the war and ‘adoring everything that’s foreign.’

“This is not respecting history at all!”, one among hundreds of commenters says.

In the TV drama, the sentence “Love me, Love China” does have some extra meaning in the end. Although Xinghua sacrifices her life for Carl in episode 19, he eventually chooses to fight side by side against the Japanese ‘devils’ with the Chinese army, keeping his promise to “love China” like he loved Xinghua.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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