Nowadays, do Chinese children even know it? My generation grew up in this truly beautiful song. The melody and rhythm are actually quite sophisticated, yet it exudes naivety and happiness. And this slightest hint of ideology was good enough to get by in 1955:
It’s so subtle that it’s not propaganda at all.
Last Friday I was at a small party at Jay’s, and we karaoked after dinner. One of the guests has a very good voice, tender and articulate. I heard her sing pop songs before, but was dumbfounded when she sang the title. Mesmerized and hypnotized. Transfixed and transposed.
Yeah I was exaggerating a bit. But it was pretty close. She sang with an almost perfect teenager voice that is bright, pure, naive, innocent, and chaste. It immediately inundated my mind with the scene in 《祖国的花朵》(I’ve never seen any other part of it) in which the red-scarfed “young pioneers” sang the song while rowing in the North Pond, a tremendous feeling of “déjà vu all over again”.
And it’s not just me. Everyone loved it so much that we asked her to sing it again to wrap up the party. The second time wasn’t as shocking, but still extraordinary. Wow. The power of human voice.
In some sense, 1955 marks a turning point in New China. The “Three Large Movements” (土改、镇反、三反五反) after the birth of the nation were mostly over as well as the Korean War, but the movements on intellectuals are picking up stream from 批判武训 in 1951, 批判胡适俞平伯 in 1954, to 胡风反革命集团案 in 1955 (胡风 was fully rehabilitated in 1988). 1957, 1958, 1962(四清), 1966, …
幸福的生活 was like a kite soaring away in the East Wind. Fortunately the thread, albeit terribly thin at times, remains uncut, so we’re able to pull the kite back bit by bit. When we finally see it again, it doesn’t seem like what we remember or expect it to be. Did the kite change, or have we changed?