“Laundry Song”: a Tibetan Red Song

High Peaks Pure Earth embarks on a new series on Tibetan “Red Songs”, beginning with 1964’s “Laundry Song”, which has been performed by “almost every mainstream Tibetan female singer … at some point in her career”. The post features performance videos including one by Peng Liyuan, (Han Chinese) wife of presumed future President Xi Jinping.

The fact is that Tibetan “Red Songs” have been around for a while, High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a song from 1964 called “Laundry Song” (Chinese title: 洗衣歌 Xiyi Ge, Tibetan title: gos ‘khru’i gzhas) that is still being covered, performed and can be regularly heard at official occasions and gatherings. “Laundry Song” was first performed on stage in Beijing in 1964 …

The song tells the familiar Socialist narrative of the army and the people being one. For the Sino-Tibetan relationship though, the song puts the Tibetans firmly in a position of subservience, as natives, full of gratitude for the help of the benevolent People’s Liberation Army. The trope of washing clothes fits in also with the Socialist pre-occupation with Patriotic Hygiene where “observing hygienic rules came to be seen as patriotic”.

The song’s lyrics:


Who is going to help us turn over a new leaf?
Who is going to liberate us?
It’s the dear PLA
The saving star of the Communist Party

The army and people are one family
Helping us to wash our clothes …

Read more about the nostalgia for red culture that is sweeping China on the eve of the CCP’s 90th anniversary.


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