Segments in this Video

Chinese Folk Songs Quietly Survive (01:18)


Years ago, on a train from Shanghai to Beijing, an elderly man quietly sang a Chinese folk song to a young foreigner. He whispered as he taught her the song, explaining that it was forbidden to sing it.

Types of Chinese Folk Songs (01:41)

Folk songs in China date back 3,000 years and reflect the social, emotional, and spiritual lives of the people. The two main types of songs are haozi, workers' songs sung to ease hardships, and xiaodiao, songs sung at urban festivals.

Cultural Exchange and Composition of Music in China (02:37)

Folk songs began being written down and taught in Chinese schools in the 1920's, a time of cultural openness and international cultural exchange. Many Chinese people can read jianpu, a traditional system of musical notation.

Songs Made Famous in Chinese Films (02:06)

Elderly people in a Shanghai park sing excerpts from traditional songs from their youth. Two songs made famous in Chinese films from the 1930s are shared.

A Folk Song Documents Hardships of Chinese Women (01:46)

Chinese actress Fang Zhu Fen recalls a folk song she learned from her illiterate grandmother. The sad song tells the story of hardships and injustices suffered by Chinese "brides-to-be."

The Diversity of Folk Songs from China's Ethnic Minorities (03:24)

The folk songs of ethnic minorities who inhabit China's outer provinces are much more varied and diverse than the songs of mainstream China. The distinct styles of various regions of China are explored.

A Popular Chinese Singer (01:28)

A popular Chinese singer who has performed for more than 50 years recalls his development as singer and highlights from his career. He characterizes China's folk songs as national treasures.

Chinese Social Conditions of the Early 20th Century (04:27)

Shanghai is the bustling cultural capital of China; in the 1920s it earned the nickname "the Paris of the East." A Chinese professor who grew up in poverty describes the other side of Shanghai, including slums, child labor, and the loss of his sister.

Japan Invades China (02:18)

Japan invaded China in the late 1930s and the Japanese soldiers are remembered for their brutality and crimes against the Chinese people. A resistance song from that era, written by a refugee, is sung and its significance is examined.

A Chinese Refugee Shares Her Story and a Song (02:41)

A Chinese woman who was displaced by the 1937 Japanese invasion of China recalls horrible events from that time. She shares a song that she and other refugees sang.

Resistance Songs as Chinese Weapons Against Japanese Invasion (01:32)

Chinese leaders encouraged the singing of resistance songs as a weapon in fighting the Japanese invasion and occupation of China. The historical significance of folk songs sung during this period are is examined.

Folk Songs During China's Civil War (02:14)

Chinese Communists and Nationalists engaged in a full-scale civil war after the Japanese occupation ended in 1945. The writing and use of Chinese folk songs to further the goals of the rival political parties are examined.

The Use of Songs to Spread Communism in China (02:10)

Songs were used as weapons in China's class war and played a critical role in spreading Mao Zedong's ideology to the largely illiterate masses. A Chinese physician now living in New Jersey describes the influence of songs during his youth.

Songs of Revolution Give Hope to China's Masses (02:26)

A Chinese professor recalls learning revolutionary songs at school during China's civil war. He describes the significance of those songs for him personally, and explains their influence in giving hope for liberation to China's poor.

Chinese Songs Glorify Mao (01:08)

Mao Zedong used song to unite China after his Communist forces drove the Nationalists out of the country. Songs of the era inspired patriotism, glorified Mao, and promoted the Communist Party.

Foreign Songs in Mao's China (02:19)

Mao's China sought alliances with the Soviet Union, the Communist countries of eastern Europe, and Cuba. Songs from these countries, especially Russian songs, found their way into China during this era.

Worshipping Mao in Song (02:54)

"The East is Red" was one of the most famous and representative songs of Communist China. The song glorified Mao and is said to have contributed to conditions which led to the Cultural Revolution a few years later.

Mao's Great Leap Forward (02:22)

Historians agree that Mao Zedong improved the lives of many Chinese people during the first years of his rule, but his Great Leap and Cultural Revolution proved to be severe setbacks. Famine and other horrors of the Great Leap are detailed.

The Disaster of Mao's Cultural Revolution (01:30)

Mao's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s called for a full-scale attack on old Chinese customs and traditions. Intellectuals, artists, and performers were persecuted and banished, and young people were empowered to destroy art and ancient architectural sites.

First Hand Accounts of Mao's Cultural Revolution (04:41)

Mao's Cultural Revolution was a disaster for China. Two people who lived through the persecution describe their experiences and the social climate which prevailed in China during that era.

Confucius, Mao, Folk Songs, and Yellow Songs (01:50)

Mao condemned Confucius, but shared his view that songs were to be used as tools for teaching ideology and needed to be kept under state control. Writers of love songs and popular music were persecuted during Mao's Cultural Revolution.

Freedom to Sing in the Park (02:57)

In 1976 Mao's Gang of Four was toppled and the arts began to broaden in China. Today, large numbers of Chinese people enjoy the freedom of gathering and singing in parks on Sunday mornings.

Preserving China's Cultural Heritage and Folk Music (02:59)

Since the Cultural Revolution's end, popular music has filtered into China and traditional folk songs have been commercialized. Important Chinese artists express concerns about the loss of China's cultural heritage and assert the need to preserve it through the country's folk music.

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Fine Rain: Politics and Folk Songs in China

DVD Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Whether they were crafted to spread Mao’s message of class struggle or spun from the fabric of everyday life, Chinese folk songs carry with them immense historical and cultural importance. This program examines a wide range of songs and melodies from the country’s pre-Communist era to the Cultural Revolution, energized by a rich progression of archival footage, photographs, interviews, and present-day renditions sung in homes and on street corners. The origins, meanings, and political impact of several well-known songs are described, along with an illustration of jianpu, the traditional Chinese system of musical notation, and the distinction between haozi, or workmen’s songs, and the urban style known as xiaodiao. (58 minutes)

Length: 58 minutes

Item#: FPT39001

ISBN: 978-1-4213-9017-8

Copyright date: ©2007

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA, Asia and Canada.