East Asia Student

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Mandarin

崔健 一无所有: Nothing to My Name, by Cui Jian - a decent Chinese rock song

一无所有Early in my quest to find Mandarin music that I like (I’m a big Led Zeppelin fan), I came across 崔健 and his most famous song 一无所有: “Nothing to My Name” (also known as “I Have Nothing”). I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while.

The style isn’t completely my cup of tea - it’s a slightly cheesy, classic rock ballad - but it’s a whole lot better than the kind of Mandarin music I tend to hear on the radio here.

Cultural context

一无所有 was first performed in 1984, and five years later became an anthem for the student protesters in Tiananmen Square, where 崔健 performed it live. You know rock is doing something right when it gets wrapped up with politics. Now the song is an emblem for the roots of Chinese rock; it set the ball rolling.

It’s extremely well-known in China (it’s got its own Wikipedia article - 维基百科”) in Chinese and even English). You can listen to or download 一无所有 here (but only from mainland China), and there are numerous versions on YouTube. You can also buy the MP3.

一无所有 lyrics translation

I’ve translated the lyrics for 一无所有 into English here purely for explanation. The translation here is for understanding the song in Chinese, not for singing it in English.

我曾经问个不休 Wǒ céngjīng wèn gè bùxiū I have asked endlessly,

你何时跟我走 nǐ héshí gēn wǒ zǒu when will you go with me?

可你却总是笑我,一无所有 Kě nǐ què zǒng shì xiào wǒ, yīwúsuǒyǒu But you always laugh at me, for having nothing to my name.

我要给你我的追求 Wǒ yào gěi nǐ wǒ de zhuīqiú I want to give you my dreams [goals] ,

还有我的自由 hái yǒu wǒ de zìyóu and my freedom,

可你却总是笑我,一无所有 kě nǐ què zǒng shì xiào wǒ, yīwúsuǒyǒu but you always laugh at me, for having nothing.

噢……你何时跟我走 Ō……nǐ héshí gēn wǒ zǒu Oh! When will you go with me?

噢……你何时跟我走 Ō……nǐ héshí gēn wǒ zǒu Oh! When will you go with me?

[drums come in fully]

脚下这地在走 Jiǎoxià zhè de zài zǒu The ground beneath my feet is moving,

身边那水在流 shēnbiān nà shuǐ zài liú the water by my side is flowing,

可你却总是笑我,一无所有 Kě nǐ què zǒng shì xiào wǒ, yīwúsuǒyǒu but you always laugh at me, for having nothing.

为何你总笑个没够 Wèihé nǐ zǒng xiào gè méi gòu Why is your laughter never enough? [Why does your laughter never end?]

为何我总要追求 Wèihé wǒ zǒng yào zhuīqiú Why do I always have to chase you?

难道在你面前 Nándào zài nǐ miànqián Could it be that in front of you

我永远是一无所有 wǒ yǒngyuǎn shì yīwúsuǒyǒu I forever have nothing to my name.

噢……你何时跟我走 Ō……nǐ héshí gēn wǒ zǒu Oh! When will you go with me?

噢……你何时跟我走 Ō……nǐ héshí gēn wǒ zǒu Oh! When will you go with me?

[instrumental solo]

告诉你我等了很久 Gàosu nǐ wǒ děngle hěnjiǔ I tell you I've waited a long time,

告诉你我最后的要求 gàosu nǐ wǒ zuìhòu de yāoqiú I give you my final request,

我要抓起你的双手 wǒ yào zhuā qǐ nǐ de shuāng shǒu I want to take your hands,

你这就跟我走 nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu and then you'll go with me.

这时你的手在颤抖 Zhèshí nǐ de shǒu zài chàndǒu This time your hands are trembling,

这时你的泪在流 zhèshí nǐ de lèi zài liú this time your tears are flowing.

莫非你是在告诉我 Mòfēi nǐ shì zài gàosu wǒ Could it be that you're telling me,

你爱我一无所有 nǐ ài wǒ yīwúsuǒyǒu you love me with nothing to me name?

噢……你这就跟我走 Ō……nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu Oh! Now you will go with me!

噢……你这就跟我走 Ō……nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu Oh! Now you will go with me!

[instrumental solo]

噢……你这就跟我走 Ō……nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu Oh! Now you will go with me!

[repeats final chorus for some time…]

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