Chinese Expatriates in Oz Recite Poetry and Sing Nostalgic Songs

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Adult students in a Melbourne classroom sing “Honghu” (or “Endless Waves on Lake Honghu”), the most nostalgic and beautiful song from China I know.  As romantic as the song sounds, it was in a 1961 revolutionary opera, “The Red Guards on Honghu Lake”.

It’s magic.  Please listen –

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Images: April 2014 students, all from China, in a bilingual English class have a lunch party on the last day of Term 1, knowing they can make their teacher happy if they sing nostalgic songs from the China she knew and loved nearly forty years ago.  Images taken by Shui Ping and Susan Dirgham (editor of “Taoism and Sufis”)


Audio link below: Students give permission for the teacher to record them sing and to upload the recordings onto the Internet.


Audio link below:  The students here sing “Wo Ai Ni Zhongguo” (I Love You China”)

From Wikipedia:

I Love You, China (Chinese我爱你,中国) is a song composed for a soprano by Zheng Qiufeng to the lyrics of Qu Cong for the film Overseas Compatriots (Chinese: 海外赤子) (1979) starring Chen Chong (Chinese: 陳冲), also known as Joan Chen. The voice of the song that appeared in the film is that of Ye Peiying. In the film, the heroine, Huang Sihua, sings this song on an entrance examination of a music conservatory.

Although the song originally appeared in a film, it has since been heard on many occasions as a stand-alone piece for its beauty and artistic merit. The song demands the voice of a masterful soprano. It has been sung by many singers, but the version as rendered by Ye Peiying is regarded as the most beautiful one.

The song is now unofficially in a position in China similar to that of America the Beautiful in USA.


Audio link below:  Students show their extensive repertoire, but a song book can help.


Audio link below: A student sings a local song in a dialect with some assistance from classmates.


Audio link below:  A student who may remember the 50s and 60s when the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China were on good terms sings with passion and aplomb “Moscow Nights“, one of the most popular Russian songs outside Russia. In 1962, even the American folk group The Chad Mitchell Trio did a popular version of it.

“Moscow Nights” is a love song about Moscow, much the same as “New York New York” is about NY.


Audio link below: Students sing “Yi Tiao Da He”, which translated means “One Big River”, but another common name for it is “My Motherland“.

From Wikipedia:

“My Motherland” (simplified Chinese我的祖国traditional Chinese我的祖國pinyinWǒde Zǔguó) is a song written for the Chinese movie Battle on Shangganling Mountain (1956). Lyrics were written by Qiao Yu (乔羽). Music was composed by Liu Chi (刘 炽). Both of them are well known for a number of songs since the 1950s. It remains a popular and famous patriotic song in mainland China,[1] and the signature song for the famous operatic soprano Guo Lanying.


Audio link below: An elderly male student sings a local provincial song in dialect.


The audio link below is a recording of two students singing “Endless Waves in Lake Honghu” which was first uploaded onto the ABC Radio National “Pool” page, a website which welcomed music, poetry, photography, interviews, thoughts from anyone and everyone in the Australian community.  It was something very special – a community pooling of ‘artistic’ endeavors and reflections.  Alas, the day came when the funding for Pool ran dry.  The song was recorded in an ESL classroom in 2012.


“Hong Hu Waters, Wave Upon Wave” was sung at the Sydney Opera House by Song Zuying.



December 2013


On Saturday 14 December 2013 in a Melbourne classroom, a group of adult students from China came together with their teacher for the end-of-the-year farewell.  We pushed classroom tables together and covered them with plates of  chicken wings, dumplings, glutinous rice and chicken,  spicy duck wings, stewed chicken and veggies etc etc…. One bottle of red wine and lots of orange juice served us well for the toasts.

Before cleaning up the mess made by our make-shift banquet, a retired gentleman from northeast China who had been the most taciturn of English language students didn’t need too much encouragement to recite a poem,  written by a Chinese general 700 years or so ago, apparently.  


With good reason to be pleased with the warm reception given the poem, the student  sang a humorous aria from a local Anhui opera. (Was it originally humorous or did he make it humorous? I don’t know the answer to that.)  



Another student, a younger gentleman (yes, they were ‘gentlemen’) sang a nostalgic song popular among soldiers and expatriate Chinese.  It’s Chinese name is “Er Xing Qian Li“, which could be translated as “A Son Travels A Thousand Miles”.  But a better description of it is this translation: “Children Travel, Mothers worry”.  One student cried openly, while others wiped away tears.


This younger gentleman had a beautiful voice and was not shy to sing in public, so I requested he sing “Hung Hu”, a song that can make me cry.  Other students quickly found it on their phones so he would have some accompaniment.  But as it was, most of the class quickly joined him in singing “Hung Hu”, one of the most popular songs coming out of 20th century China, one that appeals to all generations (I think).


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In September 2012, other students sang “Hung Hu” for me.  I posted it on the ABC Radio National “Pool” page, a page that no longer exists as austerity measures have brought  cuts to government-funded community arts ventures such as “Pool”.

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