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Kang-Ding Love Song: Stories Inside and Outside the Music

Sep 6, 2010

Song Zuying & Placido Domingo at “Bird Nest”, piano: Lang Lang

Kang Ding Love Song is one of the most popular Chinese folk songs. Its simple melody and vivid rhythm are easy to remember and sing, and its lyrics tell a timeless theme — LOVE.

Behind this famous folk song, there are two stories. One is inside the music – how it was written; the other is outside the music, how it became well-known. Let’s me tell them one by one.

Kang-Ding Love Song: The Story Inside

“Kang-Ding Love Song” was a folk song born in the 1930s in Kangding (Sichuan) by a local musician named Li Yi-Ruo from Xuanhan (Sichuan). He wrote this song based on his own true romantic story:

When he was attending college in Chengdu, Li fell in love with a classmate from Kangding. His parents did not agree on their relationship because her surname is also Li. Then he broke up with his parents and lost their financial support for schooling and living expenses. Thanks to all the help from Miss Li’s that Yi-Ruo was able to finish his college.


Morning in Kang Ding | by {link:http://www.flickr.com/photos/shenxy/1448654734/}shenxy{/link}

Influenced by feudal ethics, the relationship between Li Yi-Ruo and Miss Li of Kang-Ding did not have a happy ending. Yi-Ruo had traveled to Kang Ding with Miss Li. In order to commemorate this relationship, Yi-Ruo wrote this folk song titled “Horse riding high upon the mountain side”.

Li Yi-Ruo taught local people to sing this song and they loved it, calling it “Horse Ride Song”. One guy named Ou said Yi-Ruo taught him this song when he had dinner with Yi-Ruo. He thought the title was “Song of Kang-Ding Town”. And the lyric was different, including a sentence about “labor is good”, and the guy’s name in the lyrics was “Li” instead of Zhang.

Three People Giant Flute and Koudi

Kang-Ding Love Song: The Story Outside

This song gradually spread locally in the 1940s. In mid-40s, a student from Fujian named Wu Wenji studied at the Qingmuguan National Music School in Chongqing. He collected this song from the soldiers from Kangding.

Then he handed in this song to his teacher Wu Zhengqian. Wu liked it a lot, so he requested Jiang Dingxian (a famous musician at the Composition Department) to rearrange the accompaniment for better recording and singing.

When Jiang Dingxian finished the accompaniment, he renamed its original title “Horse riding high upon the mountain side” into current “Kangding Love Song”. Later, Wu Zhengqian sang the song for the first time at a school concert.

Later, Jiang Dingxian recommended this song to the then popular singer Yu Yixuan. The same year in Nanjing, Yu Yixuan held a personal concert singing this song publicly. It became part of her repertoire afterwards. She sang the song everywhere she went, from Nanjing to the Northwest, domestic and abroad, which made “Kangding Love Song” spread throughout the world.

Go to next page to view its Chinese lyrics and a poetic liberal translation in English.

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