The East is Red

The East is Red, A Song-and-Dance EpicThe East is Red became the underlying theme (and title) of a song-and-dance epic produced in 1964 that plays a key role in Morning Sun. Here you can watch the entire production, divided into scenes with the original Chinese songs and English translations. This stage production presented a creation myth, an historical vision, a belief system, and a moral landscape in which the generation of the Cultural Revolution came of age.

Transformation of a Love Song — The East is Red started out as a peasant love song, and here you can follow its progress to becoming a call to arms in the Anti-Japanese War, and a paean extolling Chairman Mao, the savior of the Chinese people. (Read more about The East is Red on the website for the Long Bow film, The Gate of Heavenly Peace.)

Written in the early 1940s, "The East is Red" started out as an old folk song popular among the farmers of Shanxi, near the wartime Communist base at Yan'an. It originally went:

Sesame oil, cabbage hearts,
Wanna eat string beans, break off the tips,
Get really lovesick if I don't see you for 3 days
Oh dear, Third Brother mine.

In 1938, the old tune was put to new words in order to mobilize people in the fight against the Japanese invaders.

Riding a white horse, carrying a rifle,
Third brother is with the Eighth Route Army.
Wanna go home to see my girl,
But fighting the Japs I don't have the time.

After the rise of Mao as the undisputed leader of the Communist Party in the early 1940s, this love song was reworked once more by a primary school teacher and became a feature of Yan'an life.

The East is red, the sun has risen.
Mao Zedong has appeared in China.
He is devoted to the peoples welfare,
He is the people's great savior.

[See "Songs of the Cultural Revolution," by He Shu, China News Digest, Vol. 235, Oct. 18, 2000.]

Launching a Satellite — When China launched its first satellite - the "Dong Fang Hong I" - in 1970, once more it was the song The East is Red that rang out through the heavens; here you can see documentary footage of the launching of the satellite, precursor to the October 2003 manned space-flight of Yang Liwei.


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