Translation: Censored Lyrics and Reactions to Guangdong Rapper Vyan’s “Land of Hope”

On March 25th, Guangdong-based rapper Liu Wanli, better known as Vyan (pronounced “vee-yen”) was invited to appear on “One Seat,” a lecture program that has been called “China’s TED Talks.” In his appearance, he performed an original rap song titled “Land of Hope,” which made reference to a number of current events and societal issues, including the case of Xiaohuamei, a trafficked woman and mother of eight who was kept chained in a shed in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province. Vyan’s performance attracted a great deal of attention online, with many netizens praising his frank—yet still hopeful—treatment of society’s ills. 

The song, which has not yet been fully censored, was included with Vyan’s other works on the NetEase Cloud Music (网易云音乐网) platform, but some of the key lyrics to the song, including the reference to “Xiaohuamei,” were muted. According to Vyan, law enforcement officers from the Guangdong Public Security and other government departments have repeatedly asked him to take related works offline.

The performance video and lyrics, translated by CDT, can be found below, along with a selection of netizen messages left in the song’s NetEase Cloud Music comment section.

“Land of Hope,” by Vyan:

I hope the young can live with dignity, not just scraping by in basement rooms
I hope the ballads don’t just sing of lost love but also speak the truth
I hope the hashtags aren’t just gossip, and that books and art aren’t banned
I hope we keep an eye on the powers that be—we won’t forget, or lose our memories

I hope people worship knowledge and ideas, not bling and superficiality
I hope we won’t have to worry about kidnapping, or hear the wails of families ripped apart
I hope women aren’t kept in chains, and don’t turn into Xiaohuamei
Our shining idols shouldn’t be rapists, and poor kids should have the chance to blossom, instead of dying young

I hope parents in the countryside can stay with their kids, and not just leave them with grandparents
I hope that patients’ wounds won’t fester because they can’t afford to bribe the docs
I hope no one’s treated like a criminal because of race or class
I hope for peace on both sides of the Strait—we don’t need missiles on standby

I hope the flashy entertainments on our HD screens don’t mask the hopeless cries
I hope homes bring people joy, not turn them into slaves
I hope people can learn to think, speak, and respect, instead of sticking to their “-isms”
I hope everyone in this ancient land can hold their heads up high

Someday you won’t need a filter, and your smile will be just as sweet
Someday the future won’t be so dim, and we’ll see everything clear
This isn’t a dream—when we all have dreams,
When all this is not a dream, this land will be free from pain

Hope is the mushroom cloud and the satellite rising from the Gobi Desert
Hope is the youth racing through snow to take the ‘77 college entrance exam
Hope is the Red Guard who sheds his armband and never wears it again
Hope isn’t someone’s charity, it lives in the heart of every peon

So I hope you hold on to hope—only hope can roil these dead waters
I hope you have hope—it’s a force that drives away the gray fog
Hope is more than hope—it’s a beacon when you veer off course
Hope is no longer hope when all across this country, hope is set free [Chinese]

Netizen comments, compiled by CDT Chinese editors, from the NetEase Cloud Music comment section:

sitianfly: I can’t figure out why anyone would think that this sentence should be muted: “I hope women aren’t kept in chains, and don’t turn into Xiaohuamei.” I hope I can listen to the full song and watch the full video. I hope everyone will stop self-censoring when they express their opinions. I hope we can still hope.

一切成熟皆与苦难有关: They muted the part about Xiaohuamei?? Ugh.

傻13恐惧症: “I hope the flashy entertainments on our HD screens don’t mask the hopeless cries”

ID-824: “I hope the hashtags aren’t just gossip, and that books and art aren’t banned”

JiwaiHo: You know some voices will always be powerful.

哈吼嘿呀: Can a country where a song [like this] can be castrated really be a “Land of Hope”?

BerzerkJC: “I hope you have hope—it’s a force that drives away the gray fog!”

丸丸不喜欢上学: When hope is no longer just hope—I look forward to the day that happens.

梁澤楷Gai: Some things they can never steal away, some things are untouchable.

GrantYip: I think this song should be heard by more people. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I don’t believe the world’s gone deaf.

littlewhite兔: I hope this is a Land of Hope. [Chinese]


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