‘Rule-Breaking Animals’ by Xu Song

Xu Song 01

《违章动物》 ‘Rule-Breaking Animals’ is 27-year-old mainland singer-songwriter 许嵩 Xu Song aka Vae Xu‘s latest work, recently released on August 21st. Obliquely discussing the conflict between chengguan (city management officers) and street vendors, this song has generated 12,763,803 listens on QQ Music at time of translation.

Music Video:

The music video presents a non-linear narrative of a little boy and his father, a street vendor who sells watermelons off the back of his three-wheeled bicycle. Much of the first half of the video shows the boy preparing to write an essay for school and imagining of what he would be like as a chengguan, municipal employees tasked with supervising and enforcing local ordinances usually involving use of public spaces and whom have a notorious reputation for clashing with street vendors and peddlers. In his imagination, chengguan would be kind-hearted like his own father. Upon meeting an old man selling apples on the street, he gathers up the apples but instead of confiscating them, he merely moves them across the street and invites the old man to continue there. The boy laughs as he finishes imagining this.

Halfway through the music video, the father has come home after a day’s work and the boy notices pieces of shattered watermelon on the back of the father’s cart. The father quickly comes up with a story to explain what had happened, that a zebra had escaped a zoo and crossed a zebra crossing on a red light in front of him, causing him to crash and break the watermelon. The boy laughs but is later seen taping together his father’s hand scale (to weigh and price the watermelons). While the father is in the bathroom washing clothes and then appears to touch a still tender wound on his face, the song attempts to fix the scale, secretly in tears.

It is then suggested that the boy may have seen what really happened that day. While on his way to bring his father a meal, the son notices something wrong and hides around a corner where he watches his father apparently trying to protect his stock of watermelons during a struggle. Who the father is struggling with is not explicitly shown, but what follows is a scene of the hand scale thrown on the ground and snapped, while a broken piece of watermelon lies beside it. Huddling on the ground clutching the lunch tin and bottle of water, the son cries for his father.

The music video ends with a voiceover of the boy reading from his essay, describing his wish that people “protect hardworking people, treasure fruits and vegetables, be more patient, and guide zebras when crossing the street.”

Composer: Xu Song
Lyrics: Xu Song
Singer: Xu Song

Lyrics (Original Chinese, Pinyin Romanization, and English Translation):

我目睹街角的蝴蝶飞上了青天
wǒ mù dǔ jiē jiǎo de hú dié fēi shàng le qīng tiān
I witness the butterflies of the street corner flying into the clear sky

要上访青天大老爷
yào shàng fǎng qīng tiān dà lǎo yé
to appeal to “Grandpa of the Clear Sky”.

[Note: “The clear sky” is symbolic of Bao Zheng, a historical government official respected as the cultural symbol of justice in Greater China who was also known as “Clear Sky Bao”, as well as referring to honest, upright officials in general.]

相关衙门提出了一些指导性意见
xiāng guān yá mén tí chū le yì xiē zhǐ dǎo xìng yì jiàn
The relevant government offices gave some guidance

街坊玩命转播真相与流言
jiē fǎng wán mìng zhuǎn bō zhēn xiàng yǔ liú yán
and the neighborhood eagerly relayed the truth and the rumors.

 
卖红薯的姑娘想在学堂门前摆摊
mài hóng shǔ de gū niang xiǎng zài xué táng mén qián bǎi tān
The girl who sells sweet potatoes wants to sell in front of the school.

那不可以没钱 也不可以不陪笑脸
nà bù kě yǐ méi qián yě bù kě yǐ bù péi xiào liǎn
If so, she can’t not have money, nor can she not put on a smiling face [to butter up government officers].

有点小权的 时时刻刻都想要用上小权
yǒu diǎn xiǎo quán de shí shí kè kè dōu xiǎng yào yòng shàng xiǎo quán
Those with a little power, they want to take advantage of that little power at all times,

而有大权的 脑子坏了才和你站一边
ér yǒu dà quán de nǎo zi huài le cái hé nǐ zhàn yì biān
while those with a lot of power, they will only stand with you when they’ve lost their minds.

 
CHORUS:

一群高贵气质的差人在处罚违章动物
yì qún gāo guì qì zhì de chāi rén zài chǔ fà wéi zhāng dòng wù
A bunch of noble government officers punishing rule-breaking animals.

她一身尘土 在街角迷了路
tā yì shēn chén tǔ zài jiē jiǎo mí le lù
She was covered in dust, lost on the street corner.

一群高贵气质的差人在处罚违章动物
yì qún gāo guì qì zhì de chāi rén zài chǔ fà wéi zhāng dòng wù
A bunch of noble government officers punishing rule-breaking animals.

缄默的泪 没有人在乎
jiān mò de lèi méi yǒu rén zài hū
Silent tears, with no one caring.

 
这繁华的城池有时让人感到陌生
zhè fán huá de chéng chí yǒu shí ràng rén gǎn dào mò shēng
This bustling city sometimes feels strange.

当乌云不断堆叠 暴雨也就如期而至
dāng wū yún bú duàn duī dié bào yǔ yě jiù rú qī ér zhì
When dark clouds keep piling up, the rainstorm will come as expected.

“幸福”的定义连番升级 拒绝回到初始版本
xìng fú de dìng yì lián fān shēng jí jù jué huí dào chū shǐ bǎn běn
The definition of “happiness” keeps upgrading, refusing to return to the original version.

就买个红薯吧 否则夜太寒冷
jiù mǎi gè hóng shǔ ba fǒu zè yè tài hán lěng
So just buy a sweet potato, lest the night will be too cold.

 
CHORUS

 
一群高贵气质的差人在处罚违章动物
yì qún gāo guì qì zhì de chāi rén zài chǔ fà wéi zhāng dòng wù
A bunch of noble government officers punishing rule-breaking animals.

她一身尘土 在街角迷了路
tā yì shēn chén tǔ zài jiē jiǎo mí le lù
She was covered in dust, lost on the street corner.

一群高贵气质的差人在处罚违章动物
yì qún gāo guì qì zhì de chāi rén zài chǔ fà wéi zhāng dòng wù
A bunch of noble government officers punishing rule-breaking animals.

缄默的泪 汇成这方土地的湖
jiān mò de lèi huì chéng zhè fāng tǔ dì de hú
Silent tears, pooling to become the lake of this land.

Xu Song 02

Xu Song 03

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  • Hocketeer

    “Law-Enforcing Scum” would be the better title for this lousy song. Hipsters who can’t sing shouldn’t go down irony lane without questioning themselves first.

  • 剑胆琴心

    i like him a lot,i think he is that type of boys i wanted for bf when young.
    clean,young,stylish…and cute…

  • slob

    “In his imagination,chengguan would be kind-hearted like his own father. Upon meeting an old man selling apples on the street, he gathers up the apples but instead of confiscating them, he merely moves them across the street and invites the old man to continue there.”

  • Nicola Collina

    few years ago, in my first stay in china, this song would had been banned 100%.. how fast is china changing……

    • Refractions_of_Error

      Well, they still jump queues, spit, piss and shit all over the place and a littany of other rules get broken.

      • Nicola Collina

        this is right (but i even much better then years ag) but my meaning was about chinese government that, recently, has changed a lot respect few years ago…

      • Mateusz82

        But jumping lines, pissing & shitting in the streets, littering, smoking everywhere, and all the other rule flaunting doesn’t harm the government, so that’s acceptable.

        • Refractions_of_Error

          Oh how silly of me not to have realised that! Thank you for pointing that out for me Sir! :-)

  • Refractions_of_Error

    ‘Rule Breaking Animals’ Is this for real? I could drop a comment here but not only would I get banned from this site, I would get a hit squad on my case.

    What you are thinking is EXACTLY what I was about to post.

  • Claude

    Whoa! Political, but other than the lyrics pretty dull stuff.

    If China-smack puts up a lame, er.. um.. artist? I’ll put up a killer band for you guys.

    First selection is a post-hardcore band from Sheffield England that’s reminiscent of early late 80’s early 90’s punk band like Fugazi.

    wooderson.bandcamp.com

    If anyone knows any good Chinese music let me know.

    • linette lee

      Jay chou Jay chou Jay chou. Jay chou Jay chou Jay chou Jay chou Jay chou .
      I love his amazing piano skill. And his cello, guitar, drums, flute ,and Gu Zheng skills. I like his music composition from classic to pop to soft rock to chinese.
      He may not be the best singer but he is a very talented a creative songwriter. He is never boring and very creative.

      • claude

        Thank you for the vids. Sadly, not my cup on tea. I found it overproduced for my liking. But again, thank you for the effort. I’ll try to find some middle ground for you.
        Here’s Zuoxiao Zuzhou, he’s been called ‘China’s Leonard Cohen’ Meaning – his lyrics are deep and introspective, I guess. Not really my cup of tea also, but…

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5VnnLP-8X0#t=112

        • linette lee

          I can’t see the video you post. Post another of his song. :(

          But I am listening to this on youtube now. I like all kind of music.

          • linette lee

          • Claude

            Strange! It was working when posted and now it’s not. I’ll try to find something else by him.

  • Claude

    Ok. Here’s a Chinese band called Carsick Cars. They have a Sonic Youth thing going on. Videos pretty creative, also.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQKdN4kBC6Y#t=56

    Support your local music scene.

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  • Mateusz82

    NWA did it better in 1988, with “Fuck Tha Police”.

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