torsdag 29. desember 2022

In China’s Diaspora, Visions of a Different Homeland

At the beginning, there were songs. It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving. In the storied New England town, over a hundred of us had gathered for the candlelight vigil. After a fire claimed at least ten lives in a locked-down building in Urumchi, and thousands across China took to the streets to protest against the government’s draconian zero-COVID policy, solidarity rallies have blossomed in the diaspora. Many are organized by overseas Chinese students. I came to the one held on the campus where I work.

We sang “Vast Ocean, Boundless Skies,” the iconic 1993 ode to freedom by the Cantonese band Beyond, followed by “Do You Hear the People Sing?” Someone suggested the Chinese national anthem, yet the crowd was reticent. Instead we chorused to “Songbie” (“Farewell”). Written by the Chinese maestro Li Shutong in the early 20th century, with a melody inspired by the Civil War-era American folk song “Dreaming of Home and Mother,” the evocative verse is a toast to camaraderie and lament on separation.