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The Folk Song is Just Like Spring River: Legend of Liu San-Jie

Jul 18, 2010

Sung by Song Zuying in The Kennedy Center, USA

A instrumental version adapted by 12 Girls Band

A official TV commercial for Guangxi Guilin tourism with this folk song as theme music

This folk song was a theme song in a popular movie “Liu San-Jie” in the 1960s.

According to legend, in Tang Dynasty there was a peasant girl in south China named “Liu San Jie” who loved to sing folk songs. Young guys within a radius of hundred miles came here singing in antiphonal style to ask for her love, but she fell in love with Li Xiaoniu of her village.

Mo Hai-Ren a rich man tried to murder San Jie and Xiaoniu, accusing them that they corrupted public morals. Li Xiaoniu was drawn to death while Liu San-Jie drifted to Liuzhou. Mo Hai-Ren invited three scholars to Liuzhou to find San-Jie for antiphonal singing; in the end, three scholars were defeated by her. But Mo Hai-Ren had not given up on the persecution of San-Jie …


This popular folklore passed for hundreds of years. In the spring of 1960, in Nanning, Guangxi, more than 100 troupes gathered to participate in All “Liu San-Jie” Group Show, 100+ different Liu San-Jie actresses took turns on stage appearance, interpreting Liu San-Jie’s story. The stories were similar between troupes, but slightly different in the end: some said she took a boat away singing folk songs, others said she committed suicide without compromising her dignity. After the show, several major troupes in Guangxi produced a folk musical Liu San-Jie and started a national tour of 500 shows, four times of which were in the Huairen Hall of Zhongnanhai (China’s equivalent of White House).

During the 100+ group “Liu San-Jie”show, Changchun Film Studio (CFS) and Guangxi Film Studios were also planning to shoot feature film “Liu San-Jie” and decided to choose the main actors in Guangxi. Guangxi recommended several “Liu San-Jie” candidates to CFS for auditions. However, they were unsatisfactory for many reasons, the protagonist was still unable to settle down.

17-year-old Huang Wanqiu was originally to play a minor supporting role “Boat Maid”. In the audition process, her brightness, natural beauty attracted the attention of Director Su Li. Su Li decided to let her try the “Liu San-Jie” role, when he did not deliberately give Huang Wanqiu much instructions, wanted to test her creativity and adaptability. Casting down, Su Li realized that Huang Wanqiu was the “San-Jie” that he was looking for.

imageSoon after the Feature film “Liu San-Jie” was released, it became extremely popular home and abroad. In Hong Kong, it could compete with Hollywood titles, creating a box office miracle record never broken so far. It also made Yangshuo (where the film was shot) famous overnight. “Liu San-Jie” Huang Wanqiu exploded in popularity. People say: “It is the sharp eyes of Director Su Li that found us the best ‘San-Jie’ Huang Wan-Qiu”.

A Hong Kong audience had seen Liu San-Jie the movie 99 times, written 99 letters to Huang Wanqiu, adding that he would keep writing after viewing a hundred times. Yao Mei-Liang, former chairman of the Yongfang Group of Malaysia, who had met with Huang Wanqiu in Guangxi, he said he fell in love with “Liu San-Jie” when he was only 7 years old and he watched the movie more than 10 times. Yao Mei-Liang credited her as “the biggest Minister of United Front Work Department,” With the release of “Liu San-Jie” the movie, Chinese scattered all over the world began to unite.

Since 1980s, “Liu San-Jie” has the opportunity to show on the screens and stages in Southeast Asia. Another “Liu San-Jie” craze was once again launched among Southeast Asian Chinese. Quite often tickets were already sold out when the troupe had not yet arrived. And Huang Wanqiu even became the “heat of the heat”. Almost every day hundreds of audience lined up for her signature.

Guilin Scence

Guilin Scence | by {link:http://www.flickr.com/photos/brachiator/76755638/}monkeytime{/link}

At that time, Malaysia had not established diplomatic relations with China yet. A Malaysian Chinese who organized some overseas Chinese to Singapore to see “Liu San-Jie” shows was punished and tortured for 15 years in jail. But he later continues to believe that: “In order to see ‘Liu San-Jie’, 15 years in prison is worth it, I do not regret!”

And the theme song sung by Liu San-Jie “The Folk Song is Just Like Spring River” quickly became a popular song, and its moving melody touched several generations of Chinese at home and abroad. “The Folk Song is Just Like Spring River” its melody was adapted from a Guangxi folk song – “Green Pomegranate”. Its cheerful personality and beautiful moving warm tone symbolizes the wisdom and courage of our working people, and it’s truly memorable.

[Chinese Keywords]
山歌好比春江水 刘三姐

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