( Note from editor: This was originally posted on March 4, but was accidentally deleted on March 5 when we changed servers )
On February 5th–2019’s Lunar New Year day–several free over-the-air channels broadcasted CCTV (China Central Television)’s Spring Festival Gala live. Watching four hours of sporadically inscrutable spectacles–made possible by armies of performers and surrealistic computer-generated imageries (CGI)–is really a fun way to celebrate the New Year; even for those who speak not a word of Mandarin.
While being ferried across a gigantic fountain, two famous personalities–one actor and one actress–sang “Invitation To Tea” (請茶歌): Supposedly a revolutionary masterpiece. Viewers at home further enjoyed a visual feast of colossal rock formations, waterfalls, and a myriad of dancers clad in silky hoop skirts that changed not only colors but also patterns. The song’s lyrics were so uninhibited and honest that its writer–a poet named Wén Mǎng Yàn (1925 – 1983)–must have composed it while experiencing patriotic passion in 1957. I challenged myself to translate the first stanza in 15 minutes without realizing how unknowledgeable I am with last century’s propaganda lingo. (It is important to note that the Red Army referenced here is not the world-famous Red Army of the Soviet Union but its predecessor: China’s People’s Liberation Army.)
Please have a cup of tea
JingGang Mountains’ tea so sweet and fragrant
Back in those years when Chairman Mao
Led the Red Army on JingGang Mountains
The tea trees were planted by the Red Army
They flourished in rain and wind
War songs were sung in the woods
Soldiers and civilians battled the enemies
Drink Red Homeland’s tea
Revolution’s traditions must not be forgotten
The JingGang Mountains–considered the cradle of the Chinese Communist Revolution–are a mountain range located at the border of JiangXi Province and HuNan Province. This is where Mao ZeDong and his men established a rural self-governing base, re-grouped forces, and strategized: All of which led to their eventual triumph over the even-more-corrupt Nationalist Party.
JingGang Green Tea (井崗翠綠)–Jing Gang Tsuei Lui phonetically in Mandarin and JingGang Emerald Green in most straight-forward translation–is one of many, many teas being cultivated in the JiangXi Province. In addition to being a popular souvenir, it was once offered as a Gong Cha (貢茶): A commodity of superior quality that circulated in China’s ancient tribute system.
The version of Invitation To Tea performed at the gala omits the mentioning of Mao ZeDong who–though he has not been desecrated like Stalin–surely is not revered in the same ardent manner as in yesteryear.
Images provided by author (source)