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Learn Chinese Through Songs #13 – Nothing To My Name

Nothing To My Name (一无所有) by Cui Jian (崔健). Cui is often referred to as the ‘father’ of Chinese rock and roll, and this is one of his most celebrated songs. It was once something of an anthem of the 1989 democracy movement on Tiananmen Square in 1989, when Cui performed this song on the square.

Lately, however, the authorities seem to have forgotten about this association, and you can still find this song in almost all the karaoke bars in China. Cui himself still performs, but he’s much less high profile than he was at his peak. There are rumours that he was even invited to perform on China’s national New Year TV Gala, but turned the offer down. Or, perhaps he was never invited.

Some say it is just a song addressed to a girl, some say it is a political metaphor. In any case, it’s a very powerful song.

Lyrics in Pinyin, simplified Chinese characters and English:

wǒ céngjīng wèn gè bùxiū
我曾经问个不休
I once asked endlessly

nǐ héshí gēn wǒ zǒu?
你何时跟我走?
when will you go with me?

kě nǐ què zǒng shì xiào wǒ, yīwúsuǒyǒu
可你却总是笑我,一无所有
But you always laugh at me, [because I have] nothing to my name.

Wǒ yào gěi nǐ wǒ de zhuīqiú
我要给你我的追求
I want to give you what I seek

hái yǒu wǒ de zìyóu
还有我的自由
and my freedom,

kě nǐ què zǒng shì xiào wǒ, yīwúsuǒyǒu
可你却总是笑我,一无所有
but you always laugh at me, because I have nothing to my name

Ō……nǐ héshí gēn wǒ zǒu
噢……你何时跟我走
Oh! When will you go with me?

Ō……nǐ héshí gēn wǒ zǒu
噢……你何时跟我走
Oh! When will you go with me?

jiǎoxià zhè dì zài zǒu
脚下这地在走
This ground beneath my feet is moving

shēnbiān nà shuǐ zài liú
身边那水在流
that water by my side is flowing,

kě nǐ què zǒng shì xiào wǒ, yīwúsuǒyǒu
可你却总是笑我,一无所有
but you always laugh at me, [because I have] nothing to my name.

wèihé nǐ zǒng xiào gè méi gòu
为何你总笑个没够
Why can you never laugh enough?

wèihé wǒ zǒng yào zhuīqiú
为何我总要追求
Why do I always have to chase you?

nándào zài nǐ miànqián
难道在你面前
Could it be that in front of you

wǒ yǒngyuǎn shì yīwúsuǒyǒu?
我永远是一无所有?
I will always have nothing to my name?

Ō……nǐ héshí gēn wǒ zǒu
噢……你何时跟我走
Oh! When will you go with me?

Ō……nǐ héshí gēn wǒ zǒu
噢……你何时跟我走
Oh! When will you go with me?

gàosu nǐ wǒ děngle hěnjiǔ
告诉你我等了很久
I tell you I’ve waited a long time,

gàosu nǐ wǒ zuìhòu de yāoqiú
告诉你我最后的要求
I tell you my final request,

wǒ yào zhuā qǐ nǐ de shuāng shǒu
我要抓起你的双手
I want to take your hands,

nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu
你这就跟我走
and then you’ll go with me.

zhèshí nǐ de shǒu zài chàndǒu
这时你的手在颤抖
Now your hands are shaking,

zhèshí nǐ de lèi zài liú
这时你的泪在流
this time your tears are flowing.

mòfēi nǐ shì zài gàosu wǒ
莫非你是在告诉我
Could it be that you’re telling me,

你爱我一无所有
nǐ ài wǒ yīwúsuǒyǒu
you love me [even though I have] nothing to my name?

Ō……nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu
噢……你这就跟我走
Oh! Now you will go with me!

Ō……nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu
噢……你这就跟我走
Oh! Now you will go with me!

Ō……nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu
噢……你这就跟我走
Oh! Now you will go with me!