Chapter I - Introduction (Der Lange Marsch des Rock'n'Roll)

From Music-China Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

Chapter I - Introduction (Der Lange Marsch des Rock'n'Roll)

Draft translated version


General information

Original works author: Andreas Steen

Original works title: Der Lange Marsch des Rock'n'Roll

Translation: Max-Leonhard von Schaper (Azchael)


"I have the chance to express my strength. I have the opportunity to express my hopes. [...] It is a Long March. There I cannot always act calmly. [...] What we do is rock music. That is our Long March." (Cui Jian in a BBC interview, 1992)

The omnipresence of that, what is substituted under the term "popular music", i.e. pop music, is even in today's People's Republic of China not neglectable. Since the end of the Cultural Revolution and the beginning of the reform and opening up policies, introduced by Deng Xiaoping in 1978, pop music is not only increasingly adding to private entertainment, but has also developed itself to a steadous companion in daily Chinese life, e.g. in hotels, at train stations, in trains and buses, on university campuses, in restaurants, in cinema and TV movies and on nearly all public events and meetings. Its present distribution, variety and popularity are the result of a meanwhile partly privatized music industry in the People's Republic, whose offer is tailored more and more according to the needs of consumers. Looking on the production volume of state-owned "China Record Corporation" (Zhongguo changpian zonggongsi), which owned a monopoly on distribution and production of record since the foundation of the PRC, visualizes the market size:

"The China Record Corporation releases LPs, CDs and preproduced audio and video tapes about Chinese and foreign culture and art. Furthermore it produces documentaries as well as material for the fields of education, popular science and literature. In the last forty years (1949-1989) it has released 23738 variations on in total more than 710 million LPs and tapes. Thereof are 8019 different variations on 86 million 78 r/m LPs, 3607 variations on 48 million (mono-) LPs, 8189 variations on 480 million text books, 708 variations on 3 million stereo LPs, 3215 variations on 93 million audio tapes." [1]

The mentioned figures are from 1989. Rock music, which stipulates a majority of the record production in the West, could not have been included in this statistic. It is the year, in which Cui Jian together with the band ADO released the first Chinese Rock LP, "Rock'n'Roll on the New Long March", and in which major changes in the Chinese music industry started to appear. This work makes use of the LP's title and related connotations. Thereby needs to be understood, that the reference on the, even often in recent years glorified, ideologoy of the Long March of the Communist Party of China (CPC) of 1934/35 is an addressing of the stress and obstacles, which needed to be overcome by this genre for its breakthrough. In 1978 under the guidance of, at that time 74 years old, Deng Xiaoping started the "New Long March", which increasingly also let publicly appear the new feeling of life and ideas of the young generation. Popular music developed to a significant part of life in the "new age" (xin shiqi) and served today - as much as the revolutionary music of the Alte Garde - as an appropriate means of transportation for the distribution of varying (new) ideals, values and wishes. The reason that in the end also the - until then unknown - rock music was used to find, to emancipate and to articulate oneself, has to be looked for in the essence of the genre itself.

The use of the Long March symbolim reveals itself, when closely looked on, as ambivalent, as it actually should be spoken of the "New Long March" of rock music on the the "New Long March" of reform politics. Both path lead into the same direction, but follow different ideologies, from which certain similarities and differences are nearly forseeable. This work concentrates on the transparent, chronological display of the first path and tries to work out reactions on this, in the PRC new, momentum of musical practice, i.e. its importance for society. This genre (rock music) shall be integrated in the overall development of industrially produced Chinese popular music forms, in order to point out the changes binded by this development and provocted by it, as well as to identify and to be able to categorize the numerous factors, that have taken part at the production. The hereby won insight in structure and mechanism of the already nearly unmanageable Chinese music markt, aids to the understanding of the conflicts around rock music on its "New Long March".

First of all, it is necessary to discuss a few characteristics of this musical genre, to be able to give an appropriate perspective on the, in several ways special, fact of translation or introduction of Western rock music in Chinese Sinn- und Lebenszusammenhänge.

About pop and rock music:

Rock music, defined as a new cultural means of expression of mass media, which nowadays needs to be seen as "industry culture" (Flender/Rauhe 1989:15)[2], belongs today in Taiwan, Hongkong and in the PRC to a meanwhile wide spectrum of popular musical forms. Even here it is a product of a permanent changing result of a complex cultural process, in which teenage listeners, musicians, media and the record industry bargain their different musical ideas, guided by totally varying interests (Wicke 1993:13)[3]. In contrast to the market economy orientated West, in which the music market is mainly directed by the principles of offer and demand, is the "bargaining" in the PRC directed by far more complex structures. Ganz im Sinne of the combination of socialism and market economy, art and music are doing a balancing act, which needs to gain both the acceptance of the party and the acceptance of the listeners, which are orientating themselves on the Western music standard. Official ideal is still the music, which functions as mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China (CPC), of which also music's positive and negative value is measure, which has thereof decisive advantages for production, distribution and thereby also for fame.

Popular music, to be understood as a musical practice binded to the entertainment industry, can fulfill varying tasks in two ways, due to its character and due to its production processes participating in its existence. On the one hand popular music can be produced consciously towards a specific goal. On the other hand is the societal impact or function of a composition after its release difficult to predict, nearly not controllable and therefore only in its relation to the recipient or consument totally interpretable. However a musical product is "functioning" in the end, sooner or later it should be possible to ascribe to it one of the three forms of use or application of popular music as described by Ray Pratt (see Pratt 1990:9-14)[4]:

  1. First, the "hegemoniale" conservative application, which works towards an achievement of status quo and the distribution of the reigning class's ideology.
  2. Second, the more complex characterized negotiating application:
From one perspective, dominant social authority might tolerate various forms of popular culture originated 'from below' as effective safety valves. But even the sanctioned ways provide some free space. (...) From another perspective, the 'freedom' some see in musical performance and the exercise of creativity in improvisation is highly limited, even illusory. Instead of taking action to change fundamentally the regressive existence of daily life, one is offered a substitute world of music, a 'negotiated' form of consciousness, ... (Pratt 1990:12)[4].

It has to be stated, that popular music in the PRC was able to develop, after several complex change process, towards a 'bottom-wise' demanded effective safety valve. In the course of this paper the process of negotiation is going to be visualized and shows, in how far the genre of light music (qing yinyue) developed towards a today 'top-wise' tolerated and therefore actually accepted popular music of the PRC (Hamm 1991:13)[5].

This situation is a result of the 1978 started opening up policy, which allowed a discussion with the historically grown music industry of the West and its variety of different musical styles, which official and societal acceptance was not without problems, but had to be 'forced' and 'fought for' similar as it happened in the USA and Europe. The latter activitiey (fought for) is especially immanent in rock music, to which Pratt is ascribing the third, i.e. the emancipational application.[6] It seems to be a result of its form and the with this form related connotations, because in contrast to 'normal' popular music

rock music wants to reject the emotional Konventionen des Schlagers and wants to describe the own situation of life, the own experiences. Rock tries to catch the authentic part of emotions and to reflect them comprehensable for everybody. By oneself written lyrics and by oneself played music shall transmit a unfeigned honesty - the stronger and more intense this is happening, the better the respective band is judged upon (Spengler 1987:89)[7].

Popularity, charm and value of rock music (yaogun yinyue) are doubtless, also for the Chinese youth, strongly binded to the above mentioned idea of authenticity and honesty. Is it thereby also to be understood as emancipatory?[8] The within the PRC very successful Taiwanese rock musician Zhao Chuan topiced this genre in a kind of meta rock song in 1982 and asked the following question:

Do Chinese have rock music or not,
if yes, how does it look like?
You say,
rock music is sometimes a mostly human attitude,
the melody can be totally random,
but the rhythm has to be clearly identifiable.
I say,
the rock music can as the mask in a Beijing Opera,
which switches joy and grief.[9]

To display Chinese rock music as the comprehensable enbodiment of a "mostly human attitude", it is necessary to emphasize on the content of the songs, because a "only instrumental rock song is strange. Rock musicians want to write lyrics and their audience want to hear them" (Pattison 1987:viii)[10]. That furthermore "words are as important in rock music as they are in poetism" (ebenda:ix)[10], resonances already on the in English used term "rock lyrics", which, in contrast to the German "Rocktexte", notes towards a certain way of reading, which should make curious due to the long tradition of Chinese lyric and which should lead to the question, whether comparable elements are also identifiable in Chinese rock music. But a only on "lyrics" focussed analysis belied the genre, because it would forget that "song lyrics work as language and acts of speaking, that are not only important in a semantical way, but also as structures of sound, which are direct signs of emotion and indications of character" (Frith 1988:120)[11]. In other words,

Rock music is a mass media, through which cultural values and meaning circulate, social experience are forwarded, which are extendind far over the sounding materiality. The 'contents' of rock songs are not reducable on what is the immediate sound or what is expressed in the verbal lyrical statement. For its listeners it is not only the medium, from which they make active use by themselves, which they integrate into the context of their living situation, which they include as a symbol, which they make pulic ttheir own experience (Wicke 1987:10)[12].

The relevancy of an analysis of the herein circulating cultural values and meanings is not von ungefähr scheinen. E.g. Wu'er Kaixi, the famous student leader of the June 4th 1989 demonstrations, announced on a scientific conference in Boston in autumn the same year that Chinese rock music coined the ideas of students far more, than the democratic theories of older intellectuals ever might have had (Feigon 1994:127)[13].

Further topics and questions result out of the mentioned characteristics of the music, respectively evolve from the connection of the given political frameset and the production conditions. Since the 60s, Western rock music has been also used for the distribution of political points of view and has exercised decisive social influence through the distribution by record companes, which paid attention to financial sales. Without going into too much detail here on the development, which has been analyzed thoroughsfully in Western discourse, it has to be mentioned, that Wicke sees a close relation between rock music and the collapse of the German Democratic Republic (Wicke 1992:81)[14] and that Szemere confirms this for the development of Hungary (Szemere 1992:93)[15]. In how far is this clout transferable on a country the size of China? Which influence is it having and how is it dealt with on the side of the 'culture planner' of the CPC? These questions indicate the conglomerate of economical, political, social and literary factors, that were, or are still, participating in the 'negotiation' of this new musical product.

Method and structure of this paper:

The analysis of this topic is structured into three main party and places in the middle the visualization of those processes, that lead to the creation of the first seven PR-Chinese rock records. Basing on the argument, that cultural relations and cultural change are not predestined, but are the product of negotiation, conditions, resistance, transformation and varying factors and interests participating in the processes (Middleton 1990:8)[16], I am not trying to produce a music-scientific analysis of the songs, but a visualization of the interoperation of above mentioned implications, as well as the way of enforcement, application and utilization of this, only recently 'discovered', medium of expression.[17]

Therefore chapter II gives first an overview of the history of Chinese popular music, bound(Vergangenheitsform checken) to the entertainment industry, and emphasizes the factors, which are important for the understanding of present discourses. Hereby the constancy of specific ideologies and songs as well as the negotiation of 'Light Music' became clear. In chapter III I turn towards the evolving of rock music, which has been played since the beginning of the 80s in the 'underground' and later also produced. The chronological structuring of the chapter corresponds with the structuring by Jin Zhaojun, responsible editor of the music magazine Renmin Yinyue (Music of the People), into the 'three periods of the pioneer phase (chuangye jieduan) of Chinese rock music' (Jin 1993:210)[18]. To point out the changes and specialities of these periods, I follow the idea, that 'within rock there are stories told that can neither be otherwise told nor conveyed', by which rock music can be understood as a manner of telling, which makes specific experiences graspable (mittelbar) (Thiessen 1981:8)[19]. Due to this reason, the lyrics of the topiced LPs are transcribed completely. At the end of Jin Zhaojun's mentioned 'pioneer phase' comes the release of five rock-LPs, which creation relations and contents are going to be analyzed in chapter IV. That chapter also contains three further productions, to point out the variety of the spectrum evolved in that period of time. The rapid development in that field forces me to a time-wise limit of this paper, which is thereby ending with the third period of the pioneer phase.

Status of research and sources:

Despite my own observations, discussions and the numerous Western analysis of history, development and function of rock music, I rely on individual published articles about the topic 'pop culture in the PRC' and several brief contributions in American newspapers and (scientific) music magazines about the Chinese rock music. Especially valuable hereby is the book Like a knife (1992) by Andrew Jones, in which he contrasts different productions and visualizations as well as ideologies of rock and pop music in the PRC. I received further stimuli during the workshop 'Rockmusik als Instrument politischer Opposition? - Zur politischen und gesellschaftlichen Funktion moderner Musik in der VR China und in Taiwan' (June 18th-20th 1994) in Tier by Thomas Heberer.[20]

Written in Chinese, different aspects can be taken into account by the monthly issued music magazines Renmin Yinyue (Music of the people; Beijing) and Yinxiang Shijie (Audio and Video World; Shanghai). The first one is rather concentrated on Chinese and also Western E-Musik, due to their close cooperation with music scientists, and is voicing a conservative view on popular music. The second one resembles a Chinese synthesis of American music magazines Billboard and Rolling Stone and the German youth magazine Bravo. So one can find, next to critical articles about the pop development in the PRC, also interviews with Chinese musicians, singers, articles about music ensambles, Chinese classical music and Beijing Opera, as well as a detailed 'history of Western rock music', several colour photos and posters of Madonna, Michael Jackson and American bands such as Guns'n'Roses.

Furthermore there had been two publications about this topic released in the PRC. The first one is the in September 1992 released biography of Cui Jian Cui Jian zai yiwu suoyou zhong nahan - Zhongguo yaogun beiwanglu (Cui Jian's screaming I have nothin - A memorandum of Chinese rock music) by the music journalist Zhao Jianwei (born 1957). The book is structured in three parts: In the first the author describes his observations of Cui Jian'e beneficiary tour for the 11th Asian Games. For himself, the Cui Jian concert of March 12th 1989 was 'the day, which meant the end of the century, because on this day, I killed myself and began a long march' (Zhao 1992:2)[21]. In that regard, he describes the individual concerts enthusiastically, to further address in retrospective in the second part the career of Cui Jian. The third part gives an outline of Western rock music history, to afterwards point out its importance for the freeing of the Chinese individium. Surprisingly freely Chinese culture is herein critized, and also the topic of 'sex' in rock music is mentioned. So Zhao comes to the conclusion, that 'China's backwardness is closely connected with its (confucian) culture of abstinence', which now can be overvome with the help of rock music (Zhao 1992:284)[21]. Is this a hint on a 'sexual' revolution, comparable with the one in the West of the 60s and early 70s? The conviction of Zhao reminds of a already in Xiaojing (book of piety) by Confucius himself made statement or fear: 'For the change of habits and customs no instrument is better than music.' This conviction should survive until the present time, as well as the words of Zi Gong, a student of Confucius: 'The decay of a state is caused by immoral music.' The Chinese reigners' fear of the power of 'immoral' music can be - when closely looked upon - transferred to the PRC. It (the fear) is to be understood as a legitiamte control of musical activities, based in the traditional awareness; the controll's task has to be to counteract the decay of tradition and thereby (to counteract) chaos (luan). The music ideology of Confucius, which tries to combine beauty and pragmatic expedience at the same time, explains now, why most attention has been given to the educational function of music. In the course of this paper it is revealed, which problems are encountered by this still existing ideal of pop and rock music.

Despite the fact, that the above mentioned book of Zhao Jianwei provides a number of valuable thoughts and information, it should not be withhold, that Cui Jian sued the author (see e.g. Herald Times, 14.10.93). He not only blames him of incompetency and commercial ambitions, but also

that he (Zhao Jianwei) took with him by the help of fraudulent means photos of many musicians and further own material, by me (Cui Jian). They agreed to show us it (the material) before use, then I called them and haven't reached anyone. That I sued Zhao Jianwei has also the reason to stop those people, that use with efficient methods the names of others, to earn money with them (in Xue 1993:7)[22].

Therefore Xue Ji (born 1963), author of the in July 1993 published book Yaogun mengxun - Zhongguo yaogunyue shilu (On the search for the hidden dreams in rock music - a catalogue of Chinese rock music), was more careful: The author let sign each chapter and interview by the respective person before publishing. With over twenty interviews, articles and essays of individual musicians, critics or at the music production participating persons, the book provides a detailed insight in the development, problems, arguments, etc. of the rock scene in Beijing.

The 1992 published book Cong Luo Dayou dao Cui Jian - Dangdai liuxing yinyue de guji (From Luo Dayou to Cui Jian - The orbit of contemporary pop music) by Taiwanese Journalist Weng Jiaming provides further insight. He begins with the first critical pop musician of Taiwan, Luo Dayou, and describes the pop music development there and its influence on the PRC, until eventually a counterwise happening musical fertilization could start with Cui Jian.

Further remarks:

  • For the transcription of Chinese names the widely used Hanyu pinyin system has been used. At the end of this paper there is a Chinese glossary, structured by terms and names, which should support the interested reader on a topiced engagement above (über hinaus) the contents of this paper.
  • The Chinese song lyrics are printed on the back cover of the respective tape or LP and originate in most examples from there. Older songs have been taken from lyric books published in the PRC. If both had not been available, I have mentioned the respective source.
  • All translations have been conducted by me and are not litereal, i.e. they do not orientate themselves at the rhyming scheme, but are thought to purely serve as recording and repetition of mostly colloquially formulated contents. The reason that the herein represented translations and interpretations are not the only possible ones, lies in the partly versatile interpretability of the Chinese language and the varying approach of individual authors with the present material. In the translations I have chosen the in my opinion most proper form in case of appearing ambiguity and have noted extremely differing options.

Remarks by the translator

General remarks

The above translation of the original works were excercised in the best means according to the principle: as close to the original as possible, as free as necessary. The German and English language are tricky ones and whereas in one language there are often numerous words describing a single situation in the other there is plainly one, none or two with not exactly the right meaning. I recommend every able person to also read the German original to catch all respective connotations, but hope that for those not able to read German I have offered a valid English translation.

Therefore, in case of variations between the English translation and the German original, the German original prevails.

In case you have found a better option for a specific translation situation, please do not hesitate to contact the translator.

Referencing and Footnotes

Within the original text two ways of referencing had been used:

  1. Footnotes, in which certain aspects of the text had been explained in prosa form
  2. Citing including referring source information, e.g. (Feigon 1994:127)

For the later form of referring additional references have been included in this translation to make sure, that the referring literature and its bibliographical citation is reflected (for the complete book is spread over several pages). Therefore the original numbering of footnotes is not the same one, as the the reference numbers below.

Additions to the original works

All images, pictures and other graphical works have been added to the translated version by the team of RiC to further utilize the original works and efforts by Mr. Andreas Steen in transferring his work to the digital age and the benefits of digital contents. Examples for the additions are linked articles to complete song lyrics or the portraits of mentioned key persons and bands.


Restricted / Protected Article

Rock in China is a mainly free community project documenting the Chinese underground music scene. Though some of the content hosted is copyrighted and published with specific permission by the original works' author. This article is one of these and it has been protected / restricted and thereby excluded from the provisions in the General Disclaimer regarding its copyright. The applicable terms are stated below.

Full Copyright of the original text with Mr. Andreas Steen, translation is not an official version but thought to help understand the original text. Translation was conducted in agreement with Mr. Andreas Steen and Full Copyright applies for it as well. Copying, reproduction, distribution or use in commercial ways is not allowed.


  1. Further along the text: As of today (1989) the China Record Company holds 80% of the total record market in the PRC. These information have been taken from a anniversary brochure released for the 40th anniversary of the China Record Company.
  2. Flender, R. and Rauhe, H. (1989): Popmusik - Geschichte, Funktion, Wirkung und Ästhetik, Darmstadt
  3. Wicke, Peter (1993): Vom Umgang mit Popmusik, Berlin.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Pratt, Ray (1990): Rhytmn and Resistance - Explorations in the Political Uses of Popular Music, New York
  5. Hamm, Charles (1991): 'Music and Radio in the People's Republic of China', in: Asian Music, Jg.22, Nr.2:1-41.
  6. The third application is characterized in its most radical form by the challenge of dominant, reigning institutions. It demands, acc. to Pratt, the emancipation of X for Y (Pratt, ebenda).
  7. Spengler, Peter (1987): Rockmusik und Jugend - Bedeutung und Funktion einer Musikkultur für die Identitätssuche im Jugendalter, wissen und praxis Bd.11, Frankfurt a.M.
  8. In Chinese the use of the word yaogun yinyue established itself, consisting of the syllable 'yao' (=to rattel, to swing, to swivel) and 'gun' (=to roll). Furthermore the description yaobai yinyue, which means the same as yaogun yinyue, and the oral transcription luoke yinyue (rock music) are used. Herefore see also (Zheng Xiangjun 1988:42).
  9. Taken from the song Fenmo dengchang (Chinese saying: to show oneself with heavy makeup on stage; to produce oneself on the political stage) of Taiwanese rock musician Zhao Chuan; on: Zhao Chuan: No. 4, Taibei, 1991. Produced by Gunshi Changpian (Rock Records & Tapes), from now on abbreviated as 'Gunshi'.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Pattison, Robert (1987): The Triumph of Vulgarity - Rock Music in the Mirror of Romanticism, New York.
  11. Frith, Simon (1988): Music for Pleasure - Essays in the Sociology of Pop, Cambridge.
  12. Wicke, Peter (1987): Rockmusik - Zur Ästhetik und Soziologie eines Massenmediums, Leipzig
  13. Feigon, Lee (1994): 'China's 'Newer Value' Pop: Rock-and-Roll and Technology on the New Long March', in: Asian Music, Jg.22,Nr.2:67-81.
  14. Wicke, Peter (1992): 'The Times They Are A-Changin': Rock Music and Political Change in East Germany', in: Garofalo, Reebee (Hg.), 1992:81-92.
  15. Szemere, Anna (1992): 'The Politics of Marginality: A Rock Musical Subculture in Socialist Hungary in the Early 1980s', in: Garofalo, Reebee (Hg.) 1992:93-114.
  16. Middleton, Richard (1990): Studying Popular Music, Buckingham.
  17. This approach is emphasized by Barbara Mittler, who came to the following conclusion during her engagement with Chinese avantgard music:'To analyze Chinese music history only in its musical products, means to take them out of their context (de-contextualize them) and to fictionalise them. (Begriffe checken) The observer has to engage himself with the function of the music, because it is so much more dominant than in the West' (Mittler 1994:64).
  18. Jin Zhaojun (1993): 'Zhongguo yaogunyue zhi wo jian' (As I see the Chinese rock music), in: Xue Ji, 1993:207-221.
  19. Thiessen, Rudi (1981): It's Only Rock'n'Roll but I Like It - Zu Kultur und Mythos einer Protestbewegung, Berlin.
  20. The contributions of this workshop are summarized in Thomas Heberer (Hg.): 1994.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Zhao Jianwei (1992): Cui Jian zai yiwu suoyou zhong nahan - Zhongguo yaogun beiwanglu (Cui Jian's screaming I have nothin - A memorandum of Chinese rock music), Beijing.
  22. Xue Ji (1993): Yaogun mengxun - Zhongguo yaogunyue shilu (On the search for the hidden dreams in rock music - a catalogue of Chinese rock music), Beijing.