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Why I Don't Like Wotou


October 2010 Issue, HI Art

Exactly, I do not mean that I hate all kinds of Wotou (a kind of steamed corn bread). What I do not love are ‘false’ Wotou made of mixed grain-flour, just like people usually dislike ‘pseudo-ethic’ and ‘pseudo-folk’ things as well as ‘pseudo folk songs’. Wotou is nothing else, so it must be made of cornmeal. A traditional and genuine Wotou fresh from the steamer with glistening yellow and steam, which is eaten with big pieces of brined vegetables, is so rough that it is hard to swallow. In the past almost all Chinese people have ever eaten Wotou: each person would have one at the meal time.

Wotou: Also known as ‘Wowotou’. A kind food, which is conical, made of cornmeal, sorghum flour or other coarse-grain flour, with a hollow at its bottom. Mixed grain: Generally speaking, it refers to the mixture of rice and millet or sorghum and that of wheat flour and cornmeal or sorghum flour. When there is a lack of quantity or nutrition in one of them, people sometimes mix them during cooking.

Roasted slices of Wotou are delicious. In the past, rich people splurging on oil would make fried Wotou slices; eaten with preserved bean curd, they might be the tastiest green food. However, they could not be eaten with delicate dishes such as simmered pork and ribbonfish, or you would feel their unpleasant coarseness; furthermore, if you had chance to taste abalones and lobsters, you might want to say ‘farewell’ to Wotou. I guess that Wotou offered to Cixi, an empress dowager in Qing Dynasty, was made of chestnut meal and top-quality wheat flour, and it is said other delicate materials such as honey and butter had also been added to it. No wonder she loved ‘Wotou’ so much: it is not real Wotou at all. I assume that the dowager would never understand why the common public dislikes Wotou. Now the age of Wotou has passed and it is hard to find a traditional one. Owners of present restaurants are so warm to their customers: what they offer is not completely made of cornmeal, but cakes made of mixed grain-flour, just like those enjoyed by Cixi then.

Similarly, there are few real folk songs now. A lot of songs in disguise of ‘folk songs’ are odes to certain people or policies, such as The East Is Red, The Mountain and Water in Jiao City (jiaocheng de shan, jiaocheng de shui), A Tale of Spring Time, and Entering a New Era. What are genuine folk songs? They are songs popular among public, easy to know, full of sincere feeling and can be sung freely, such as Orchid, Lady Meng Jiang, Jasmine, The Serving Maid (xiao baicai) and Going to the West Gate (zou xikou). The feature shared by most folk songs is that they are different from the official, mainstream and academic ones. They are transmitted orally and cannot be copied; they are casual and romantic because they were not created driven by force or money. Of course, there are also ones that have been revised successfully. For example, The East Is Red revised by Li Youyuan, He Luting, Li Huanzhi and Gongmu during Yan’an Rectification Movement in 1942, has been welcomed by modern people including children. And Riding White Horses, a folk song in Northern Shanxi Province, which is the prototype of The East Is Red*, is brilliant, too. Its lyrics are as follow:

We ride white horses on the beach full of sand;
You do not have a wife and I’m living without a husband.
We can, like a garlic cluster,  
Witness life and death together.

Riding a white horse and carrying a gun,
The young man has joint the Eighth Route Army along.
He is so eager to see his lover,
That he puts aside the battle with Japanese invader.

The Japanese guns have no covers,
And soldiers in the Eighth Route Army still haven’t wives.
After I conquer Yulin City,
The schoolgirl will be my honey.


Zhu Wei

Sunday, September 17th, 2010



(From en.wikipedia.org) "The East Is Red" is a song that was the de facto anthem of the People's Republic of China during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. Lyrics:

The east is red, the sun is rising.
China has brought forth a Mao Zedong.
He works for the people's welfare.
Hurrah, He is the people's great savior!

Chairman Mao loves the people.
He is our guide
To build a new China.
Hurrah, he leads us forward!

The Communist Party is like the sun.
Wherever it shines, it is bright.
Wherever there is a Communist Party,
Hurrah, there the people are liberated!












现在的民歌也是这样,真正的民歌很少,以民歌面貌出现的歌颂某某人或者倡导某某政策的,比如《东方红》、《胶城的山 胶城的水》、《春天的故事》、《走进新时代》等等等等,还为数很多。民歌是什么,民歌是流传于民间的、通俗易懂的、感情真挚的、想怎么唱就怎么唱的歌曲。比如《兰花花》、《孟姜女》、《茉莉花》、《小白菜》、《走西口》等等。大凡民间的东西都有一个特点:有别于官方,有别于主流,有别于学院,口口相传,不可复制,一听就知道不是后边拿枪拿刀或者拿钱逼着唱得出来的,所以它有很大的随意性、浪漫性。当然,也有改编得好的,成功的,比如1942年由李有源、贺绿汀、李焕之、公木改编于延安整风时期的《东方红》,即使是现在,我想大人小孩也能朗朗上口。但是《东方红》的原型陕北民歌《骑白马》也绝非不精彩,以下是《东方红》原曲的歌词:

咱俩捆成一嘟噜蒜 呼儿嗨唷

有心回家看姑娘 呼儿嗨唷

待到打下那榆林城 呼儿嗨唷