The Kangrige, Anti-Japanese Song Sung in the Nushu Distributed Area


In January, 1999, when I was looking for original material on Nushu(—‘, women's script) and anyone who could sing songs written in Nushu in Jiangyong Xian Huangjialing Xiang Gumuxi Cun(]‰iŒ§‰©b—䋽’J•êŒk‘º), I met a 78-year-old woman named Yang Xixi(—g××) who was good at singing. She sang several old songs for me which she said were sung by women in "the old days," and then she sang a different long song in a beautiful voice.  That song was Kangrige(R“ú‰Ì), an anti-Japanese song and the subject of this paper.

By anti-Japanese songs, I mean those songs sung at large in various parts of China to stir up the war sprit of the Chinese people against Japan in accordance with the Communist Party of Chinafs singing campaign being developed throughout the country while China was at a protracted war with Japan.

Among such songs, there are marches written by and for the Chinese army, songs composed by special musicians, and songs spontaneously composed among the people.  The songs reflect various content, including courageous ones stating that the Chinese people will continue to fight until defeating the devil Japanese, and earnestly expressing their grief at being driven away from their homeland by war. 

I have been conducting this survey and study of Nushu(—‘) in Hunan Sheng(ŒÎ‰½È) since 1993, and wanted to know about two songs dealing with events during the war, which are included in the "Collection of the Chinese Nushu" Zhonguo Nushu Jicheng(’†‘—‘W¬)(published by Qinghua Daxue ´‰Ø‘åŠw University Press, 1992) compiled by Zhao Liming(æâ—í–¾), a leading scholar of Nushu.


One of the songs goes as follows:

1, I am sitting quietly in the house thinking deeply.

2, Only miserable things in the world.

3, After Mingguo(–¯‘), the Republic of China was founded, we met with a grate calamity, and

4, It threatens the daily life of the common people.

5, Jiang Jieshi(Ó‰îÎ) emerged in China, and

6, He beats the Japanese invaders without mercy.

7, The devil Japanese made a great plan for occupying China, and

8, They fly around in the air in aircraft.

9, What a beast, the aircraft!

10, They blew up all the prefectures, provinces, and cities.@

11, Under the governmentfs order,

12, The conscription is allotted to all the towns and villages.   

13, As soon as people are enlisted, they undergo military training.

14, Three-year training will make a veteran soldier.

15, Most young men pass an examination for conscription at the age of 25 or 26, and

16, They are forced to do military service till the age of 33.

17, All the young men are called up for military service, and

18, The common people feel uneasy more and more.

19, One young man is conscripted from a family of three,

20, And two from a family of four.

21, Men of 18 to 45 years old are conscripted.

22, So only a few family members remain.

23, Because of the shortage of soldiers even after the last conscription,

24, An additional one person for every ten families is enlisted.

25, All the young and middle-aged men are taken away, and

26, Only old people and children remain in the house, but

27, They are not useful.

28, They only keep standing at the foot of the mountain from morning.

29, All the people are so uneasy in this world that

30, Their mind is growing wild.

31, We are suffering greatly from this vicious world.

32, All the young and middle-aged are conscripted.

33, There are no men in our house but

34, Only miserable children and old people remain.

35, Young men climb the mountain to fight a battle, and

36, Many of them are killed in a single fight.

37, A countless number of soldiers are killed, and

38, Their white bones look frosty on the road.

39, In fear of conscription, we always feel uneasy.

40, For the rich, tax payment is not a heavy burden, but

41, For the poor, it is so heavy a burden that they suffer from hunger for half a year.

42, The work of the rich is easy, too, but

43, The poor feel miserable.

44, It is the 28th year of Mingguo(–¯‘) today.

45, When on earth will our country be in peace? 

46, When will the world become peaceful, and

47, When will we be able to return to our peaceful life?


Found in the above song are many of the same words used in the songs as women used to sing, and expressions are similar to those from the past. For example, the first line, gI am sitting quietly in the house thinking deeply,h is quite the same starting phrase as used in gSan Chao Shu(ŽO’©‘),h which mothers presented to their daughters at marriage.  In the 2nd, 26th, 34th and 38th lines respectively, similar words that were used frequently in the past are found. 

Consequently, the anti-Japanese songs here contain words and rhetorical expressions similar to those of traditional songs. We can only conclude that they were composed on the basis of the songs that the women in this area traditionally sang about what they experienced in the past, grieving about their hard life. Also, they are sung with the same patterns of traditional melodies. 

The first half of the above anti-Japanese song is almost the same as one included in the book gChoubingge(’Š•º‰Ì)h, conscription songs compiled by Zhao Liming(æâ—í–¾). The songs had been written in Nushu by Yi Nianhua(‹`”N‰Ø)(died in 1991), who recorded many of the songs as a transmitter of Nushu until the 1980's in cooperation with researchers.  

The name gChoubingge(’Š•º‰Ì)h is suggestive of a song about being taken away to the army, and the name gKangrige(R“ú‰Ì)h is reminiscent of a song about bravely fighting the Japanese army.  The songs look different, but people in this see similarities between "Choubingge" and "Kangrige". I will use the name "Kangrige" in this paper. 

I found that for the first half of this song there is no difference between the song written by Yi Nianhua(‹`”N‰Ø) and the one sung by Yang Xixi(—g××).  As a result I surmised that Yang(—g) might know who had composed this song. I revisited her to ask in April, 1999. She responded that she had composed the song by herself.  I was surprised at the fact that its writer was there in front of me. She told me in detail about the situation in her hometown during the wartime: 

"When my husband and I were 23, he was taken away to the Japanese army".

At that time, all men of 18 to 45 years old were conscripted. When my mother died, I was so grieved that I couldnft hold a funeral because my husband was away. So I put my soul into the song. 

He came home after more than ten years' absence, but there were also those who did not return to our village. When he came back, I was so happy to find that he had not been injured anywhere on his body.@ 

When the Japanese army conducted air raids, I lived in Gumuxi(’J•êŒk), where I often heard the roar of aircraft. I saw Balujun Army(”ª˜HŒR) troops and Japanese troops passing through the village. I hid out in the mountain for about one month. On the top of the mountain, I saw bombs being dropped on the village. When I came home, I found that all the grains and livestock were gone.h 

I was surprised that she remembered so clearly that long old song. I wondered how it was related to the one written in Nushu by Yi Nianhua‹`”N‰Ø. With these questions in mind, I revisited her in March, 2001. She told me:

"I remember the anti-Japanese song well although I do not always sing it. I remember it well because my husband was taken away and I sang it with the poor girls whose mothers had passed away. I myself wrote the lines about me, and there are some lines that I wrote together with the wives whose husbands had been conscripted".  

I had seven sisters-in-law, who were in Tongkou(‹ËŒû), Longtian(—´“c), Heyuan(‰Í•£),Gumuxi(’J•êŒk), and Luzidian(˜DŽq“c). We sang the anti-Japanese song together.  All of them could sing it well. Yi Nianhua‹`”N‰Øwas not one of them, but she visited her relatives in Gumuxi(’J•êŒk) about ten years ago and stayed there half a month or so. So we sometimes sang it together with her during that time. We also ate meals together.  She wrote down the words in Nushu(—‘) at that time.h 

Thus, I discovered that the song might have not been composed only by Yang(—g), and that the original song recorded in Nushu by Yi Nianhua(‹`”N‰Ø) was the same one that Yang Xixi(—g××) and others had been singing.  Nevertheless, I felt it a little unsafe to take the writer at her word only. So I visited some villages in Jiangyong Xian(]‰iŒ§) where Nushu had been transmitted, such as Shangjiangxu Zhen(ã]šÐ’Á)ATongshanling Nongchang(“ºŽR—ä”_ê) and Huanjialing Xiang(‰©b—䋽) to survey how widespread the anti-Japanese song was and to ascertain who was the real writer of the song.

On March 27, I visited 92-year-old Yang Huanyi(—zà…‹X) at Tongshanling Nongchang(“ºŽR—ä”_ê). I call on this informant each time I go to China to have her write Nushu and sing songs for me. This time, I also asked her if she wrote Nushu those days and how she was passing time every day, and then I inquired if she remembered anything about the wartime. "Yes, I remember; the Japanese troops came to our village wearing these long leather boots", she answered pointing to her knee to show their length, and suddenly she began to sing a song.  That was the same anti-Japanese song that Yang Xixi(—g××) sang before. 

"Wait a moment. I'll record it," I hastily got ready for tape recording. But just at the moment she said,gI can't sing this song because I will be scolded.h She might have thought that it would not be proper to sing it in front of me, a Japanese. Telling her that there was nothing to worry about, I asked her to sing the song and had her sing it from the beginning once more.

She sang fluently with a voice full of life, giving no impression that she was 92, but suddenly she stopped singing midway through the song and said she forgot the other half. She sang 22 lines, and 8 of them were completely identical with those of Yang Xixi(—g××). The other lines are similar in content, too, but there are slight differences in words. I interviewed her at that time: 

Q: Do you know who composed this song?

A: Yes, I heard that village girls had composed it word by word in their gatherings. I sang it by imitating others. I also heard that while their husbands were in the army, their wives called Huoguafu(Šˆ‰Ç•w), a glive widowh(a widow whose husband is in the army away from home) had composed it.

Q: Was Yi Nianhua(‹`”N‰Ø) among them?

A: No, she was not. They lived in Tangxia(ž©‰º) and all of them are dead.

Q: When were you singing the song?

A: About 60 years ago, I sang it when men were conscripted. I remember old things well. The song was almost the same as the one Yi Nianhua ‹`”N‰Ø included in the book.  She and Gao Yinxian(‚‹âå) never sang the song together before they died. While Huoguafu(Šˆ‰Ç•w) was singing the song, Yi Nianhua(‹`”N‰Ø) wrote it down in Nushu. 

This is consistent with what was said about Yang Xixi(—g××)--that the temporary war widows made the song. However, it is not correct that Tangxia(ž©‰º) was in Shangjiangxu Zhen(ã]šÐ’Á). Yang Xixi(—g××) had no relation. 

In any event, the word Huoguafu(Šˆ‰Ç•w) is an interesting expression. I could not determine whether it was a proper word in Chinese or was coined by Yang Huanyi(—zà…‹X), but there is a word Huofuo(Šˆ•§), live Buddha, so that Huofuafu(Šˆ‰Ç•w) would be acceptable. 

I was surprised that she answered "it was 60 years ago" immediately after my question about the time when she first had sung the song. She was still an intelligent woman even over 90 years old. 

I found that He Jinghua(‰½Ã‰Ø)(born in 1940) who began to write Nushu in 1998 knew this song to some extent, too. She sang 18 lines for me, and 7 lines of them were quite the same as those Yang Xixi(—z××) did. I asked her how she had learned it, and if she knew who its writer was. She answered, "My mother was singing the song so often that I naturally learned it. My elder brother sang it well, and my husband knows it, too. My mother was often singing it when I was about 10 years old. According to the wife of my husband's brother living in Songbai Xiang(¼”‹½), its writer was a woman who came from Liwei(ŸK”ö) in Huangjialing Xiang(‰©b—䋽). But I hear that she was a widow and died about 10 years ago.h  

This was my first time to hear that some men also had sung Kangrige(R“ú‰Ì). Of course, as it was a song from wartime, men and women alike would have sung it, but when it comes to a song written in Nushu, it is traditional in this area that the song should be sung by women only. Nushu written by women was not considered to be proper for men in this area.  As the men knew a fine character called Hanzi(Š¿Žš), they regarded it condescendingly as low-brow and as pertaining to women who had no knowledge of Chinese characters. 

Nevertheless, I was hearing that this song was sung by men, too. This was a new fact that discovered this time-- that the anti-Japanese song composed and transmitted in Nushu by women had been sung by men, which made it, as it were, not a mainstream song from men's viewpoint.    

As for its writer, secondhand information suggests that it was a widow in Huangjialing(‰©b—ä). This is reminiscent of the case of Yang Xixi(—g××). However, the name of the town was different, and far from being dead, (—g××) is still fine, singing songs in a beautiful voice. 

Other than the above, I also interviewed about 40 people in 23 other villages, and the following are their summarized stories: 

ƒWhen was the anti-Japanese song composed?„

If we look for words implying the time in the Yang Xixi's(—g××) song: 

In the 45th line, there is a phrase "today, the 28th year of Mingguo(–¯‘).h If this is accurate, the song was written in 1939, but the song recorded by Yi Nianhua(‹`”N‰Ø) shows gtoday, the 29th year of Mingguo(–¯‘)." This is different by one year. One man said that they sang it before the Japanese army came to the village. It was in 1944 that the Japanese army invaded the area. If this is so, it coincides with gthe 28th year of Mingguo(–¯‘)" in Yang's song. With regard to the aircraft mentioned in the 8th, 9th and 10th lines, there is no contradiction because they may have flown to the area more than 44 years ago. The 35th to 38th lines mention that there were a large number of deaths in the battle with the Japanese army, which is odd if the song was written more than 44 years ago. As villagers said, the song had not been written at one time, but it may have been written little by little, which is credible. The song may have been written little by little 1939 through 1944. 

ƒThe villages where persons who knew the anti-Japanese song lived„

As a result of the present survey, the locations of the villages are shown on the map which shows where the people who can sing the anti-Japanese song, who know but cannot sing it, or have ever heard it live or come from. It turns out that the song was sung in quite a number of villages. 

ƒWho wrote the song?„

‡@    The wives whose husbands were conscripted.

It was not written all at once. Some lines may have been added little by little. Yang Xixi(—g××) in Huangjialing Xiang(‰©b—䋽) seems to have been the leader

‡A    Zhu Manzhu(Žé–žŽì) from Shangjiangxu Zhen Xingfu Cun(ã]šÐ’Á‹»•Ÿ‘º), too, may have been one of the "Huoguafu(Šˆ‰Ç•w)" who joined in writing the song.@The "Guafu(‰Ç•w)", widow in Tangxia Cun(ž©‰º‘º) may have joined them.@

‡B    It is also said that a widow who already died in Huangjialing Xiang Liwei Cun(‰©b—䋽´”ö‘º) wrote it.


ƒWho sang the song?„@

As for singers, there are many villagersf recollections as follows:

‡@  @gHuoguafu(Šˆ‰Ç•w)h were singing the song.

‡A        Only women sang it.

‡B        Both women and men sang it.

‡C        Men did not sing it.

‡D        Old-age women sang it.

‡E        Young women sang it.


ƒWhen was the song sung?„

‡@    It was sung before the Japanese army invaded China.

‡A    It was sung during the war.

‡B    It was not sung after liberation.

‡C    It was sung even after liberation.


ƒWhat do they think of Kangrige R“ú‰Ì?„

‡@    They hated the Japanese army.@

‡A    They reproached the Japanese Army.

‡B    They sang feeling pain and sorrow.

‡C    The content of the song feels uncomfortable. Remembering the song, informants would get angry.


These are various comments by villagers that I heard. It is hard to judge which is right or wrong. Each of them may be true to a person who talked to me. Anyhow, I feel very sorry that I asked the villagers to tell me about and sing the hateful, bitter songs which they were unwilling to recall. 

I made the present survey because I thought that as a Japanese, I should examine the plain fact that such a song had been sung far in the mountain villages in Hunan Sheng(ŒÎ“ìÈ). As an interviewer, it was also painful and hard work for me. 

Now, how is the song in the area positioned in the anti-Japanese songs in general in China? This song is not entered in the "Kangri Zhanzheng Gequji(R“úí‘ˆ‰Ì‹ÈW)", Collection of Anti-Japanese War Songs (compiled by Jiefangjun Gequ Xuanji Bianjibubian‰ð•úŒR‰Ì‹È‘IW•ÒS•”•Ò, the Editorial Department of Selected War Songs of the People's Liberation Army, published by Zhongguo Qingnian Chubanshe’†‘Â”No”Å•”, the Chinese Youth Publishing Corporation, 1957) which contains about 1,000 war songs. 

During the wartime, the Chinese leaders organized a campaign for singing anti-Japanese war songs on a large scale, and many songs were written by specialists. In such a situation, Kangrige(R“ú‰Ì) in this area was born among the women in general, and so it turned out to have qualities that these others did not. The song was born because this area had such a unique culture different compared to other areas, because women in this area wrote and sang songs by themselves, and moreover, because they wrote them in Nushu. 

While farm women wrote Kangrige(R“ú‰Ì) and were singing it, it was also transmitted to men and came to be sung by them. This may have been a great novelty in a society before liberation where men took the lead. 

It may be because there was Nushu that the song was transmitted fairly accurately to many villages beyond mountains and rivers. Also, in connection with the anti-Japanese song, it is understood that Nushu played a great role in the regional culture.  

4-2 Those who know the existence of Kangrige(R“ú‰Ì) and the areas where it was transmitted 

The current or home villages of those who can sing Kangrige(R“ú‰Ì) or cannot sing it but know it, or have heard it are shown on this map. It is evident that the song was sung in quite a number of villages.


ƒThe villages where Kangrige R“ú‰Ì, anti-Japanese song was sung„

A.   Shangjiangxu Zhen  ã]šÐ’Á

 1. Tongkou Cun@@‹ËŒû‘º

 2. Xinzai Cun@    V‘

 3. Fuwei Cun@@@•á”ö‘º

 4. Hujia Cun @@@ŒÄ‰Æ‘º

 5. Gaojia Cun@@@‚‰Æ‘º

 6. Yangjia Cun@@@—k‰Æ‘º

 7. Leidong Cun@@ —‹“´‘º

 8. Getan Cun@@@ Š‹æH‘º

 9. Xiawan Cun@  @‰Ä˜p‘º

10. Tangxia Cun@ @ž©‰º‘º

11. Ganyi Cun@@ @ŠÃ‰v‘º

12. Daluxia Cun@ @‘å˜H‰º‘º

13. Longtian Cun  @—´“c‘º


B. Tongshanling Nongchang@“ºŽR—ä”_ê @

14. Heyun Cun@‰ÍŒÎ‘º

15. Nong Chang@”_ê


C.    Xiaopu Zhen @àn‰Y’Á

16. Tianbian Cun@“c•Ó‘º

17. Baishui Cun    ”’…‘º


D.    Huangjialing Xiang@‰©bŠç‹½

18. Zhaijia Cun@     Žü‰Æ‘º

19. Longyang Cun@  —´’Ѻ

20. Fengtian Cun@  –P“c‘º

21. Longhui Cun@   —´‰ï‘º

22. Baima Cun@@  ”’”n‘º

23. Gumuxi Cun@   ’J•êŒk‘º

24. Shijia Cun@@   \’†‘º

25. Liujia Cun@@   ˜Zb‘º

26. Sanmaixia Cun@ŽOãõ‰º‘º


Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001 Orie Endo.