When are you coming back?
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|Lyrics of When are you coming back?|
a beautiful look doesn't stay long.
"When are you coming back?" / "When Will You Return?" (何日君再来 Hé Rì Jūn Zài Lái), depending on the translation, is a song first sung by Zhou Xuan in 1937.
The song became heavily associated with Deng Lijun (Teresa Teng) through her cover version in 1980. In Mainland China, Teng became prominent via the song. Geremie R. Barmé, author of In the Red: On Contemporary Chinese Culture, described the song as a "nostalgic ode". Barmé said that some individuals on the Mainland condemned the song, describing it as "traitorous" and "pornographic".
Memorials for Teng have included performances of "When Will You Return?"
Background of the song
As taken from Andreas Steen book Der Lange Marsch des Rock'n'Roll At that time the propably most famous and successful female singer of Shanghai was Zhou Xuan (1918-1957), who performed in her short life in totally 42 films and who recorded ca. 300 film songs. She had her artistic breakthrough with the previously mentioned progress movie 'Street Angel' (1937), in which she not only starred as the main actress, but also sang the above mentioned songs. A year later the main role for the film Sanxiang ban yue (Three stars accompany the moon), filmed by the film studio Yihua, was offered to her:
The movie mirrors the situation of the workers in a capitalistic Chinese company: To avoid that the Chinese market is flooded only by Western products, the entrepeneur Jiang Liyuan founds the company Guanghua, which specializes on the production on different household goods. His son, Jiang Zongliang, studies chemistry at a university in America. After his gradution he plans to look for a job in America, but is called back to Shanghai by his father. The female singer Wang Xinwen (Zhou Xuan) works at the radio station Huazhong, which goes bankrupt a short time later. She becomes unemployed and applies for a new job at the company Guanghua. There she meets Zongliang, who has returned from America and has meanwhile become manager of the company. She falls in love with him, but, due to his higher social rank, keeps disappointed a distance from this feelings, as she thinks him in unreachable distance. Zongliang eagerly wants to progress the company and invests in an advertisement campaign for which he asks Wang Xinwen to sing a song. Deeply touched by her song, she catches his attention and he falls in love with her. Due to a misunderstanding the love relationship between both ends and Wang ends her employment at Guanghua. Lonely and still in love, she now sings the song Heri jun zailai (When are you coming back?).
After the song fades away, Zongliang regrets his behaviour quite fast and tries with all his powers, to persuade Wang Xinwen of his love. The success-promising production of a article, designed by his employee Liu Guiguang, gives a reason for a big fest, on which the song and dance dramas Sanxing ban yue and Gongyi jiuguo (Technology saves the country) are performed. Obciously Wang Xinwen is invited, so that both can meet, can reconcile and the film can end in a happy end.
Liu Xue'an composed the song's melody rather accidently on a banquet in 1937, i.e. during a spontaneously uprisen contest between musician friends (Zhu Tianwei 1990:230). With the lyrics of Bei Lin the song rose to the position of the best known pop song of that years, appearing not only in all (film) song books, but also being very successful in Japan. There it started the interest in Chinese entertainment music, it was translated into Japanese in 1940 and was recorded by Dubian Bingzi (Chinese name). Eventually the in Shanghai living Japanese female singer Li Xianglan, a good friend of Zhou Xuan, recorded the song in two languages.
Nevertheless the content of the song was regarded as immoral and was controversial in both China and Japan, which led to the banning of the song in both countries. A further criticism was the character 'jun', which can be translated as a colloquial "you", but which is in its original meaning of Confucian origian and describes the moral personality of the 'noble' in its most complete characteristic. The political discussion about the origin of 'noble' started, as the song stepped out of its original context. In a scene of the in Chongqing 1941 filmed movie Gudao tiantang (Paradise of the derelict isle) patriotic adolescents demand in a sleazy dance hall from the dance girl to sing this song. Location of the movie's plot was Shanghai, which after the Japanese assault of 1937 was named as a 'derelict isle' in the middle of Japanese occupied areas, as most writers, playwrights and actors had retreated to the heartland to Chongqing or Yan'an. Now the critics asked, who was that 'noble', which should return. The GMD banned the song, for they assumed behind it the teaser and the hope for the return of the not yet completely destroyed communists. The latter ones condemned the song due to its immoral content and its description of the wicked capitalistic-orientated lifestyle in Shanghai. By the Japanese side it was understood as anti-Japanese propaganda and thereby also banned. Due to that background it gets clear, why the female Japanese singer Li Xianglan received a summons by the Shanghai ministry of public safety, after singing the song during a concert in Shanghai 1940. She was suspected to either work on the return of the GMD government from Chongqing or to distribute pro-communistic slogans (Zhu Tianwei 1990:230).
The question whether 'When are you coming back?' should be categorized as kangri gequ (anti-Japanese song), hanjian gequ (treasonist song) or as a huangse gequ (yellow song) was unclear for many years. Albeit Liu Xue'an, composer of the song, composed also the anti-imperialistic hymn Changcheng yao (Ballad of the Great Wall, 1936) and numerous further patriotic songs, he carried around this particular song like a curse until the end of his life. The fact, that this composition and its content was originally written for one specific movie scene and that they only can be fairly judged upon in this context, should be ignored until the late eighties. Once dissolved from this context, the song evolved to the embodiement and perfect example for the to-be-fought-against 'yellow music', which songs were nearly without exception sung by women. In the above mentioned example, the female singer hopes for the return of her love-one, or the 'noble'. In her misery (or lust) she wants to ask him to drink and to love and - according to the later criticism - to seduce him, to corrupt him and thereby to confuse his view on reality and the real problems of the time..
- ↑ Yangguan Sandie (The three repetitions of the Yanguan melody): Known song of the Tang dynasty, according to a verse of the poet Wand Wei. Also here one finds a line, which is stated, that the noble do justice to the wine and do not notice, that the enemies are marching into the city on the West street (yangguan dao). See also Zhongguo dabaike quanshu: yinyue (Chinese big lexika: Music):781-782.
- ↑ http://daily.rsi.sg/story.php?cat=3&id=13
- ↑ Barmé, Geremie R. In the Red: On Contemporary Chinese Culture. Columbia University Press. 1999. 125.
- ↑ http://www.china.org.cn/english/entertainment/232315.htm
- ↑ Script:Fang Peilin
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Zhu Tianwei (1990): 'Guanyu Heri jun zailai de qianqian houhou' (About the whole story of 'When are you coming back?'), in: Zhou Xuan gequ yibai shou (One hundred song of Zhou Xuan), Shanxi jiaoyu chubanshe, Taiyuan:225-232.
- ↑ Melody: Liu Xue'an (sometimes also known under the name Yan Ru); Lyrics: Bei Lin.
- ↑ Due to this composition Liu was sentenced as a 'law deviant' during the campaign 'Let hundred flowers blossom and hundred schools argue with each other' (1957). After he had to endure 'nearly not endurable pains' during the cultural revolution (1966-1976), he eventually was rehabilitated after respective self-criticsm (see chapter 2.4.1) (Zhu Tianwei 1990:230). Liu Xue'an died in 1986.
- ↑ See herefore also: ' Heri jun zailai shi shenmeyang de ge?' (What kind of a song is 'When are you coming back?'), in: Renmin Ribao, May 2nd 1981.