The rock star Cui Jian. PHOTO BY CHANG GONG.

Cui Jian is China’s first rock and roll star. His song “Nothing to My Name” has become an anthem of loss for the Tiananmen generation who witnessed the crackdown on student dissidents in 1989.

Cui Jian, China’s first rock and roll star, was born to musician parents of Korean descent and raised in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). He began learning trumpet at age fourteen and in 1981 joined the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra. In his spare time he explored popular music.

Although Cui’s first album was a largely unnoticed collection of pop music covers (Lanzigui, 1984), he soon began writing his own music and lyrics and developing his trademark gravel-voiced style, drawing inspiration from Western rock bands such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Police. In Beijing in May 1985 Cui performed one of his first rock songs, “Nothing to My Name,” a disconsolate ballad melding Western rock with traditional Chinese melodies and instrumentation. The performance rocketed him to stardom, and the song remains his signature hit and an anthem of loss for the Tiananmen generation, the youth who witnessed the bloody crackdown on student democracy activists on 4 June 1989.

Cui’s albums include Rock and Roll on the New Long March (1987), Solution (1991), Balls under the Red Flag (1994), Power of the Powerless (1998), and Show You Color (2005).

Further Reading

Cui Jian. (2001). Retrieved September 20, 2008, from

Jones, A. F. (1992). Like a knife. Ithaca, NY: Cornell East Asia Series.

Source: Olesen, Alexa. (2009). CUI Jian. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 528–528. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

CUI Jian (Cūn Jiàn 崔健)|Cūn Jiàn 崔健 (CUI Jian)

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