The most popular Lunar New Year song, “Gong Xi Gong Xi,” which literally means “congratulations, congratulations” or “Wishing You Prosperity and Happiness,” was not exactly meant for the holiday.
Written by composer and Shanghai native Chen Gexin, who also went by the pseudonyms Lin Mei and Qing Yu, the song was originally intended to celebrate China’s victory and freedom after the second Sino-Japanese War in 1945.
Gexin spent three months in prison, where he was reportedly tortured by the Imperial Japanese Army for writing patriotic songs during the war, according to SAYS.
It was also during this horrific event that the Nanking Massacre occurred, then the capital of China, where Japanese soldiers brutally tortured and killed as a maby as 300,000 civilians and surrendered soldiers.
The war apparently made an impact on Gexin’s songs, including “Gong Xi Gong Xi,” which was written in the minor key usually used to represent sadness and despair.
But the song about celebrating China’s triumph turned into a New Year tune because the Mandarin title is also used as a holiday greeting, as well as a way to signify the arrival of spring.
“Gong Xi Gong Xi” has remained a part of the holiday season since the 1950s.
An early version of the song was first recorded in 1945 by Yao Lee and her brother Yao Min, a famous singer, according to Mothership.
Listen to it below via YouTube:
Yao Lee’s greatest hits include “Rose, Rose, I Love You (玫瑰玫瑰我愛你),” which was also written by Gexin.
Here is the full English translation of “Gong Xi Gong Xi”: