Something particularly interesting happened recently on the frontlines during a border stand-off between India and China. Chinese troops used loudspeakers to play Punjabi songs repeatedly to Indian troops.
In this regard, the Indian media carried out various analyses; some believing that this was psychological warfare of the PLA against Indian Punjabi soldiers on the frontline.
Although 99.99 percent of Chinese do not understand Indian songs, 90 percent can probably guess which song the PLA was playing on its loudspeakers.
The name of the song is ‘Tunak Tunak Tun,’ and Chinese people refer to it as “I was playing in the mud in the Northeast.”
Due to cultural differences, it is probably difficult for foreigners to understand the humor in this. This article will try to analyze why this act was considered to be humorous by the Chinese people.
A few years ago, the very same song had gone viral on Chinese social media. A netizen had added Chinese subtitles to the song, but the subtitles were translated into Chinese not according to the meaning of the lyrics, but to the pronunciation of the lyrics, which, if understood in Chinese, means:
|Duo leng a
|Wo zai dong bei wan er ni ba
||I played in the mud in the northeast (northeast part of China is the coldest part of China)
|Sui ran dong bei bu da
||Although the northeast is small (1.45 million square kilometers, accounting for 14% of China’s land area)
|Wo zai da lian mei you jia
||I have no home in Dalian (Dalian is a big city in northeast China)
Due to this (mis)translation, the song became a representative of Indian music in China. As a person born in the 1980s, I find it very difficult to academically analyze from the perspective of pop culture why such a translation would make this song the most popular Indian song in China. After all, the pop culture scenario is very different right now.
But the last time an Indian song became this popular in China was in the 1980s. Everyone could sing a few lines of ‘Jimmi Jimmi Jimmi Aaja Aaja Aaja,’ the theme song of a Indian movie Disco Dancer. At that time, a famous Chinese singer had made a Chinese variation of that song, which made it popular.
More interestingly, in 1984, China had began filming Journey to the West, a TV series about Xuanzang, a Monk from the Tang Dynasty, who went to ancient India (during the Reign of the Harsha Empire) to study Buddhism. The Chinese singer had also played a character from ancient India in the TV series.
Although there is something humorous about the Chinese military broadcasting Tunak Tunak Tun to the Indian army, it should be noted that this is still a form of cultural exchange between the two countries, as the last time something like this happened was over 30 years ago.
Ning Lin, who holds a Masters in International Relations, is the Chief Correspondent at the Kathmandu office of Shanghai Wen Hui Daily.