12 Songs Give You the Itch to Explore China
Music is an essential part of travel and daily life, but there are just some songs that put you in the mood to go out and get a plane ticket or hit the road. Chinese music is especially lovely, as it imparts feelings of serenity while also providing a powerful reminder of the empire’s vast and intriguing history. Here are 12 tracks that will make you want to explore China.
1. Jasmine Flower
The popular Chinese folk song Jasmine flower isn’t destination-specific. But it’s the perfect song about the many missed connections you’re sure to have on a lengthy journey to China.
The original Jasmine flower song was composed during the Qing Dynasty (AD 1616-1912) when musicians marveled at the beauty of the jasmine flower. The tune was first notated by British geographer John Barrow during his travels in China in the early 19th century.
The song’s tune depicts the purity of love between young people by highlighting the beauty of jasmine flowers. Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera “Turandot” made a Chinese folk melody “Jasmine flower” known to the world.
2. Evening Primrose
The track Evening Primrose stands out for its instrumental focus, which instantly transports you to a dimly lit bar in Shanghai.
Chinese-born Japanese actress Yoshiko Yamaguchi -known by the stage name Li Xianglan-famously sang this lovely piece during the 1940s. The song has since been covered in both Japanese and Chinese by several artists, including famous singer Teresa Teng.
3. In That Place Wholly Faraway
Inspired by a Kazakh folk song in Xinjiang, this piece was written following composer and music researcher Wang Luobin’s interactions with a Tibetan girl. This song is the perfect companion to any trip to Xinjiang.
The title holds numerous translations throughout the world, but the song itself always prompts listeners to sit up and take notice.
This song and “Jasmine Flower” are among the best known Chinese folk songs.
4. The Crescent Moon Rises
Another notable Wang Luobin composition, this serene song captures the incomparable beauty of the moon rising over the Chinese landscape.
This song will instantly transport you to Xinjiang. You’ll be listening intently to the otherwise innocuous sounds that surround you. It’s impossible to listen to this stunning tune without feeling at peace.
5. Kangding Love Song
This catchy folk song has long been popular throughout the Sichuan Province. It was scored and renamed by Paomao Liuliude Shanshang, and upon spreading across the nation, was famously performed by Soprano Yu Yixuan. The lyrics tell a captivating love story involving a blacksmith’s son and a woodcutter’s daughter.
It works whether you’re planning your first trip or making the inevitable return to Sichuan.
6. The Night of Grassland
This old Chinese song was written in 1959. Made popular as the theme song for a documentary film, this song has been performed by a variety of talented musicians, including Li Shuang Jiang and Yan Weiwen.
The prairie refers to the grassland in Inner-Mongolia, where folksong singers sing and play a special musical instrument called Ma Tou Qin (马头琴).
It’s probably best for listening to at night, while scrolling aruond the vast grassland in Inner-Mongolia.
7. Out of the West Pass
This ancient folk song describes a wave of immigration from Shanxi, in which the Han people were allowed to travel north of the Great Wall to work on Mongolian farmlands. The journey, however, was quite treacherous, as memorialized in this historic piece.
It’s the track you’ll listen to when you return home to remind you of those moments in Pingyao, Datong.
8. Ali Mountain Girl
Also known as “The Mountain Is Green” and “Ali-shan Girl,” this beautiful song is well-known as the theme for the film Storm Over Ali-shan Mountain.
This song has the ability to kick your travel plans into high gear, or if you’re already on the trip to Taiwan, transform your surroundings into a captivating real-life music video.
Ali mountain is in the central-southern region of Taiwan. Teresa Teng’s rendition is arguably the most beloved among the song’s modern renditions, but several other musicians have also performed it to great acclaim.
9. Meet in Yurt
Meet in Yurt describes two lovers’ rendezvous at a yurt. Adapted from a traditional Mongolian love song, “Meet in Yurt” became famous, like many folk songs, through film. The piece is also known locally as “Meeting in Ao Bao” or “Dating at the Yurt.”
Meet in Yurt sets the perfect upbeat tone for any rail trip across the grassland in Inner-Mongolia.
10. Joy at the Sunrise
A famous creation from Chongqing City, this folk song bursts with the energy that many lack early in the morning but often find upon witnessing the majesty of a Chinese sunrise. It can serve as the ultimate background music for the start of a wonderful day, making it an ideal travel companion.
11. Four Seasons
Each season brings a unique form of beauty to China, as expressed in this song. Featured in the film Street Angel, the “Song of Four Seasons” has since been covered by a wide variety of artists, each of whom brings a unique take on the piece’s theme.
There’s a subdued magic to the track that will have you turning up the volume and imagining yourself exploring the photogenic streets, alleys and canals of Suzhou.
12. Wish We Live Long Lives
Reflecting the sorrow of being separated from loved ones for long periods of time, this traditional song often plays a significant role in China’s Mid-Autumn Festival. It hails all the way to the Song Dynasty. Throughout the centuries, it has remained deeply relatable to those experiencing feelings of yearning or nostalgia.
Save this one when you pull out the laptop and plan your trip to China.
The right playlist can give you a whole new perspective on Chinese traditions. Take some time to listen to the nation’s most beautiful songs. They will grant you a greater appreciation for Chinese culture, while also preparing you for the journey of a lifetime.