It’s a measure of how little we know about Chinese culture – rather than the geopolitics of China – that this beautifully syrupy song is an obscurity in the Anglophone world. Rather than the gongs and zithers of kitsch TV sound libraries, the first music that comes to mind when we think of China should be something like this:
This song should be on karaoke playlists across the land, it should be murdered on every series of X Factor. It should take its place alongside Chinese Girl and Mao’s Little Red Book as totems of China as seen through the West’s 70s. We deserve to be sick of this song.
Luckily, unlike so much pop detritus, we don’t have to forget the received wisdom about it to recognise its beauty.
I’ll end with a brief biographical sketch. You don’t need it to enjoy the music, but here it is. Deng Lijun (aka Teresa Teng) – as intimated by the above quote from director Jia Zhangke – was one of the first of a new kind of singer that arrived after the Cultural Revolution. She not only sang individualistic love songs, she was also an internationalist, singing in Cantonese, Japanese, English, Korean, Taiwanese, Indonesian and Vietnamese as well as in her native Mandarin. She died young, only 42, of an asthma attack.