100 Songs of Chinese Music
After reading a list of 100 songs (of some other country), which shall remain nameless, I sat down looking at my music library (scratching my head) to see if I could come up with a list of 100 songs, 100 artists, 100 albums of music that’s labeled “Chinese.” I had to dig deep, but I think this list is a good start-up guide to anything that has to do with Chinese music, which encompasses countries beyond just Mainland China and -of course- includes the Hong Kong music scene (though not always in Cantonese), Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore.
Note: For the cheaters, there’s a YouTube playlist link at the end of the last page.
The cherry on top? The release of this list is just right in between China (Oct. 1st) and Taiwan (Oct. 10) National festivities.
For orderly purposes, this is listed (almost) chronologically and alphabetically by singer.
Note 2: No 2015 releases were considered.
Warning: This post is heavy on videos.
The Old Stuff~
1. Romance of the West Chamber (西廂記)
Romance of the West Chamber is one of the most famous love stories in China, written by Wang Shifu (王實甫) sometime in the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), written in twenty-one acts in five parts. Of course it’s presented in Kunqu Opera style~ here’s a segment performed by Zheng Yan (郑岩), Lei Ying (雷英), Li Lingyu (李玲玉), Wu Qiong (吴琼), and Henan Opera singer Xiao Xiangyu (小香玉).
2. That Day (那一天)
I’ve been all confused about whether this was an old or new song, so after further consideration… I decided it’s an old one. That’s right! The 6th Dalai Lama (1697–1706), Tsangyang Gyatso (仓央嘉措), is credited with the lyrics.
It seems he was a lousy Lama as he was fond of earthly pleasures such as wine and women. He is credited for composing poems and songs such as this one called That Day, which talks about how he, as a monk or Lama, prayed not for anything but the love of this person. In one verse, he prays not for the afterlife, but a chance encounter with them.
This version, the only recording I could find of it, is by Jamyang Dolma (降央卓玛) who included it in her 2014 album, Golden Calling II (金色的呼唤 II).
3. Mo Li Hua (茉莉花)
Mo Li Hua (or Jasmine Flower) is literally one ancient and classic Chinese tune. It was apparently written during the Qing Dynasty, under Emperor Qianlong (1735-1796), and has been performed by numerous artists. The most famous one is by the amazing Song Zuying (she shows up later, don’t worry), there’s a modern duet with Song and Celine Dion, and even China’s current First Lady Peng Liyuan (彭丽媛) has a rendition.
Next to Song Zuying’s version, I love this instrumental version by Yu Hongmei (于红梅) in the Erhu, Zhao Cong (赵聪) in the Pipa, Chen Yue (陈悦) in the Dizi, and Ji Wei (吉炜) in the Guzheng.
4. Chinese Cabbage (小白菜) – Li Lihua (李麗華)
Actress Li Lihua was born in Hebei province, which is located in the northern part of China (surrounding Beijing). Chinese Cabbage (or Xiao Bai Cai) was featured in her 1955 film titled The Little Girl Named Cabbage (same Chinese characters) — not to be confused with the Shaw Brothers’ 1963 film The Adulteress, which also includes the pinyin of “xiao bai cai” in its Chinese title.
The song is described as an old folk song, but I couldn’t find any prior recording or other info before the film.
Amazon offers a sole digital download titled Album of Li Lihua, issued in 1994, which contains this pristine version of the song among others. Xiami offers a couple other of newer compilations, though this song is not available.