Chinese Song Streamed Billions of Times for ‘Satirical’ Vibe

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The song “Luocha Haishi” by Dao Lang as seen streamed on the internet

SHANGHAI — A new song by mainland China’s well-known pop singer Dao Lang has gone viral in the country since it became available for streaming in July. Called “Luocha Haishi,” the song has already been played several billion times.

Its success is being attributed to many people in China feeling stifled by the authorities, especially regarding controls on speech and expression, as the song’s cryptic lyrics are seen by some as satirizing politics and government policies.

The most talked about line in the lyrics roughly translates as, “He sees that things are upside down in the country of Luocha.”

The singer has never explained his thoughts behind the lyrics. Yet the title of the song refers to a country depicted in a short novel written during the Qing dynasty (1644–1912), about the kingdom, where values are turned upside down and people see ugly things as beautiful.

“Luocha Haishi” has inspired many people on social media, where there are now a variety of interpretations galore, such as that the song represents ordinary people’s thoughts toward those in power. In other words, it holds a sarcastic view that, in today’s China, what people want and what government policies aim for are heading in opposite directions.

“We are now facing a world that is constantly being ‘inverted,’” said an article about the song on Hong Kong online media site HK01. The article then referred to a recent accident in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province, in which 15 junior high school students were killed or injured.

“Even though the parents of the children who were killed should receive information and comfort first, the order of priority was reversed because the local government acted under the policy of ‘stability above all else.’”

Connecting with the people

A 39-year-old man in Shanghai who sells fruits and vegetables listened to the song shortly after it was available for streaming. He feels that the song’s satire has a tight grip on the hearts of many people. It seems he connects the song with his own plight of becoming jobless during the COVID-19 pandemic and getting frustrated with China’s zero-COVID policy.

A woman in her 40s who lost her family to a natural disaster also harbors mounting frustration against the government. She agrees with the man, saying the song represents people’s thoughts and feelings.

University of Tokyo Prof. Tomoko Ako, a specialist on modern China, holds a more cautious view about the phenomenon.

“The authorities tend to be vigilant about any presence that has an influence on the internet and the potential to grab the hearts and minds of many people,” she said.

In spring 2022, the rap song “New Slave” criticized Shanghai’s lockdown policy and became a big hit before being quickly taken down from public access. According to Radio Free Asia, which is affiliated with the U.S. government, the rapper had to then post a statement on his YouTube channel to explain the matter.

Compared to the rap song and other works that are openly critical, what “Luocha Haishi” is criticizing is not apparent. Even as satire, it can be interpreted in various ways. The target may perhaps be society or the entertainment industry. There are also opinions on the internet saying that the song is being overinterpreted.