Cui Jian

Cui Jian
b. 2 August 1961, Beijing
Rock singer
Cui Jian was born into an ethnically Korean musician’s family. He started learning the trumpet at age fourteen and worked with the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra from 1981 to 1987. In late 1984, he recorded his first album, Return of the Prodigal Son (Langzi gui). Cui did not contribute the lyrics, and the music followed the mainstream of popular light music. In 1986, his song ‘I Have Nothing’ (‘Yiwu suoyou’) became an instant hit. The following year he began working with ADO, a young Beijing band, with which he released the PRC’s first rock album, Rock ‘n’ Roll on the New Long March (Xin changzhang lushang de yaogun, 1988). Despite the absence of any media coverage, difficulties in organizing concerts and censorship problems, the album sold nationwide and his lyrics very much gave voice to the sentiments of many young Chinese during that period in the PRC’s history.
Cui is the first rock musician who has given concerts outside the PRC (Seoul 1988; London, Paris 1989, etc.) and, since 1993, has also been engaged in a number of film projects: Beijing Bastards (Beijing zazong) was jointly produced with film director Zhang Yuan. In 2000 he composed the music for Jiang Wen’s movie, Devils at the Doorstep (Guizi laile), and acted in Yu Zhong’s My Brothers and Sisters (Wo de xiongdi jiemei). In December, the Netherlands honoured him with the Prince Claus Award for outstanding contributions to culture and society. The experimental dance musical Show Me Your Colours (Gei wo yidian yanse), a collaboration with the Hong Kong Modern Dance Company, had its premiere in February 2001.
While he emphasizes individualism and self-reflection, the music shifted from rock towards rhythm-oriented digital avant-rock, still bearing significant Chinese elements. Although his later albums could not compete with the success of 1988, Cui continues to be critical of society, recognized both abroad and in the PRC, where he played twenty-eight shows in 2001.
Baranovitch, Nimrod (2003). China’s New Voices: Popular Music, Ethnicity, Gender, and Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Chong, Woei Lien (1991). ‘Young China’s Voice of the 1980s: Rock Star Cui Jian’. China Information (6.1 Summer): 55–74.
Cui, Jian and Zhou, Guoping (2001). Ziyou fengge [Free Style]. Guangxi shifan daxue chubanshe.
Jones, Andrew (1992). Like a Knife. Ideology and Genre in Contemporary Chinese Popular Music. Ithaca: Cornell University.
Steen, Andreas (1996). Der Lang Marsch des Rock ‘n’ Roll. Pop- und Rockmusik in der Volksrepublik China. Hamburg: Lit-Verlag.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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