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Humanism in Red: A New Mainstream Narrative in the Pop Songs in 1980s' China
  • Lijuan Qian
Lijuan Qian
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Abstract

This is a preprint of an article accepted for publication in Oxford Handbook of the Music of China (Oxford University Press)
The articulation of humanism is a recurrent theme in various Chinese literature and arts over the history. One of such well-known cases is the classic novel Journey to the West (Xi you ji) dates from the 16 th Century which stresses the issues of freedom, fighting with the authorities, the loss of belief, and the importance of self-direction. Various adapted versions from this novel popular over since then which hinted strong desire to humanism expression under China's tight central governance. The recent interpretation of nationwide impacted products is an online novel The Wu Kong's Biography (Wukong zhuan, written by Zeng Yu, pseudonym Jin Hezai, 2000) which adding the ambitions to challenge the authorities, an imaginary compensation of the young people in China (Liao, 2017). The great popularity of the novel leads to the release of its film version Wu Kong in 2017. Even the theme song of this movie "Equaling Heaven" (music and sung by Hua Chenyu, lyrics by Jin Hezai) brings a real hit in Chinese popular music scene. It was performed by Tibetan singer Zahi Bingzuo, the 2017 winner of The Voice of China in his final song-battle in that show (Qian, 2017: 57-8) and then Hua Chenyu in the TV talent show Singer (Geshou) in 2018. The humanism articulation of the song, same as in the novels and movie, shown well in the song: When I were young and wild, were worthy of it, who would give me a belief? …I could still smile before dawn… ignore the fate decided by the god and I would say the fate follows my heart. 1 Humanist articulations are part of a trend in Chinese pop song that dates back to the 1980s, when that genre first reappeared as an indigenous entertainment genre within China itself. As a transitional phrase during which multiple pre-existing and newly emerging social