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The origin of popular Chinese New Year song, Gong Xi Gong Xi, has a wartime link

Mothership logo Mothership 24/1/2023 Hannah Martens
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When you hear the familiar start of Gong Xi Gong Xi (恭喜恭喜), you know what time of the year it is.

The song has become synonymous with Chinese New Year and is often played throughout the season.

However, the origin of the song is not as cheerful and festive as one would expect. In fact, it was not initially written as a new year song.

If you listen closely, you may have noticed that Gong Xi Gong Xi sounds a bit ominous.

This is due to the fact that the song is written in the minor key. A song in the minor key generally sounds downbeat, while anything in the major key sounds more upbeat.

However, if Gong Xi Gong Xi was not written for Chinese New Year, what was it for?

It celebrates the end of World War II in China

The song was composed and written by Chen Gexin a Chinese songwriter, under the pen name of Qing Yu and Lin Mei.

The song was actually written in Shanghai in 1945 to celebrate Japan's defeat and China's liberation, marking the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War (World War II).

Chen was jailed by the Imperial Japanese Army for his patriotic songs during the war.

According to a blog post by Thepiano.sg, due to the Mandarin title being a standard Chinese New Year greeting and the song celebrating the arrival of spring, it quickly became part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. It remained a part of the festive season lineup.

A YouTube video showed a rare footage of an early recording of the song by Yao Lee and her brother, Yao Min, a famous Chinese singer.

Replay Video

Note how slightly darker it sounds, different from what you may hear in the supermarkets.

Since then, many contemporary versions of the song are featured prominently on many Chinese New Year albums, with perhaps a different tone.

The English translation

"Everywhere on the streets,

The first phrase from people's mouths

When meeting is congratulations.

Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you

Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you

The winter has come to an end.

What good news!

The warm breeze of the spring

will wake up the earth.

Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you

Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you"

Top photo from Unsplash

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