Tibetan “Red Songs” Series, Part 2: “Heavenly Road”

2014 07 28 Heavenly Road
Despite a longer gap than anticipated, High Peaks Pure Earth has finally translated a second “Red Song” about Tibet titled “Heavenly Road”. Readers may remember the “Laundry Song” from June 2011, our video of Peng Liyuan’s rendition went viral and currently has over 37,000 views.
Whereas the “Laundry Song” was a Red Song originally from the 1960s, “Heavenly Road” (Chinese title: 天路 Tian Lu) is much more contemporary and was composed and recorded especially to mark the opening of the railway to Lhasa on July 1, 2006.
Recently, the railway has been back in the news with plans revealed to extend the existing line to reach the borders of India, Nepal and Bhutan. This article in The Economist from June 21, 2014, tells us that the Lhasa to Shigatse line will open in September of this year with construction due to start in the Autumn on another extension linking Lhasa to Nyingtri (Chinese: 林芝 Linzhi).

2014 07 28 Potala and Railway China Daily
A replica train arrives in “Lhasa” in front of the replica Potala Palaca in September 2006. [Photo source]
It’s almost impossible to overstate the fanfare to which the railway to Tibet opened in China in 2006. The railway features regularly in all kinds of propaganda publications and exhibitions throughout PRC. In October 2006, replicas of the “Qinghai-Tibet Railway”, the Three Gorges Dam and the Potala Palace were all built for display on Tiananmen Square for the National Day holiday week (see photo above).
In April 2007, an anonymous Tibetan student in Beijing wrote of her experience of seeing a propaganda play about the railway performed by Tibetans. She writes:

Reading the introduction of the play, I was shocked and upset to find out that the play was named Traversing the Summit and is about the Qinghai -Lhasa railway. So without seeing the details of the play, I could already guess what kind of dialogues would come up and the theme of the play. As the play went on, it turned out that I had guessed right. The theme that the play was trying to convey was as usual a one-side story. From the play, the audience was supposed to know how much the Chinese railway workers had suffered during the construction of the Qinghai – Lhasa railway; how they had overcome so many unimaginable challenges; how and what the railway workers had done to protect the weak ecology of the Qinghai –Lhasa plateau.

Creative uses for songs such as “Heavenly Road” have also been found. In 2011, “Red Songs” were being blasted out on the streets by welcoming parties to Chinese government officials in London on a State visit, serving the purpose to drown out the noises of Tibetan protestors!

2014 07 28 Han Hong Portrait
Han Hong

The singer of “Heavenly Road” is Han Hong, possibly the most famous Tibetan singer in PRC today. Born in 1971 in Tibet to a Chinese father and Tibetan mother, Han Hong has maintained her fame since the late 1990s when she became prominent through a CCTV TV show. Her albums and videos are regularly Tibet-related and she enjoys mainstream popularity in PRC, most recently as a judge on “Chinese Idol” and she also performed at the Beijing Olympics Closing Ceremony in 2008.
Below is the music video and English translation of “Heavenly Road” by Han Hong:

“Heavenly Road” By Han Hong from HPeaks on Vimeo

 

“Heavenly Road”
By Han Hong

Lyrics: Qu Yuan
Composer: Yin Qing
Executive Producer: Lang Kun
Chief Producer: Xue Fangfang
Producer: Xu Tiemin
Director: Jiang Tao

At dawn, I stand in green pastures
I see a condor, bathed in the glowing morning light
Like a lucky cloud soaring through the sky
It brings good fortune to the sons and daughters of Tibet

At dusk, I stand atop the tall hills
Longing for that railway to reach my hometown
Like a giant dragon winding through the mountains and over the peaks
It brings prosperity to the Land of Snows

Ah, how mysterious, that Heavenly Road…
Bringing humanity’s warmth to the borderlands
From now on, the mountains are no longer too high nor are the roads too long
Sons and daughters of all ethnicities gather as one

At dusk, I stand atop the tall hills
Longing for that railway to reach my hometown
Like a giant dragon winding through the mountains and over the peaks
It brings prosperity to the Land of Snows

Ah, how mysterious, that Heavenly Road…
Transporting us to an earthly paradise
Barley wine and butter tea taste all the more sweet
Songs of joy spread throughout the land

Ah, how mysterious, that Heavenly Road…
Transporting us to an earthly paradise
Barley wine and butter tea taste all the more sweet
Songs of joy spread throughout the land
Songs of joy spread throughout the land

[Translation by High Peaks Pure Earth]

*This is the second in an occasional series looking at Chinese propaganda songs specifically about Tibet. Should readers have any “favourite” songs they wish to let us know about, do drop us a line either as a comment or email us on hpeaks@highpeakspureearth.com
Recommended Further Reading and Viewing:

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