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Lesson 2: Learning “Gong Xi, Gong Xi”

Aim: How are melodies and movements used in Chinese Traditional music?

Summary: Students explore the different rhythmic elements of a popular Chinese New Year song and its traditions.
Materials: Musical Explorers digital resources, Musical Explorers Student Guide, red and gold markers, crayons, or colored pencils
Standards: National 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 11
Vocabulary: hongbao, dotted rhythm

The song “Gong Xi, Gong Xi” is most often associated with the Chinese New Year. While the lyrics are celebratory in nature, the original composer, Chen Ge Xin, actually wrote this song at the culmination of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1945. The references to the “snow melting” and “time for spring” are allegories to the end of a difficult time of turmoil in China, with hope for starting over again. Because of these lyrics, the song became a part of the Chinese New Year repertoire.

Qian Yi Teaches “Gong Xi, Gong Xi”

“Gong Xi, Gong Xi” Demonstration

Chinese Traditional artist Qian Yi teaches “Gong Xi, Gong Xi.”

Audio

Sing “Gong Xi, Gong Xi”

  • Listen to “Gong Xi, Gong Xi,” Track 49.
  • Learn the words to “Gong Xi, Gong Xi” using Track 50.
  • Sing the chorus using Track 51.

“Gong Xi, Gong Xi”

Text

Mei tiao da jie xiao xiang
Mei ge ren de zui li
Jian mian di yi jv hua
Jiu shi gong xi, gong xi

Chorus:
Gong xi, gong xi, gong xi ni ya
Gong xi, gong xi, gong xi ni

Dong tian yi dao jin tou
Zhen shi hao de xiao xi
Wen nuan de chun feng
Jiu yao chui xing le da di

(Chorus)

Hao hao bing xue rong jie
Yan kan mei hua tu rui
Man man chang ye guo qu
Ting dao yi sheng ji ti

(Chorus)

Jing guo duo shao kun nan
Li jing duo shao mo lian
Duo shao xin er pan wang
Chun tian de xiao xi

(Chorus)

Mei tiao da jie xiao xiang
Mei ge ren de zui li
Jian mian di yi jv hua
Jiu shi gong xi, gong xi

(Chorus)

 

Translation

On every street and lane,
The first thing you say
To everyone you meet
Is best wishes

Chorus:
Best wishes, best wishes, best wishes to you
Best wishes, best wishes, best wishes to you

Winter is ending
What great news
The warm spring breeze
Will wake up the land

(Chorus)

The ice and snow melts
And the plum blossoms bloom
Long and dark nights are gone
And the rooster sings to the sun

(Chorus)

Goodbye to so many
Troubles and challenges
We long for
The arrival of spring

(Chorus)

On every street and lane
The first thing you say
To everyone you meet
Is best wishes

(Chorus)

  • The phrase “gong xi, gong xi” means “best wishes.” When saying this phrase during the Chinese New Year, it is usually accompanied by a specific bow.
  • Make a fist with one hand and place it in the center of your chest. Cover your fist with your other hand.
  • In this position, bow to someone to the left or right side of you.
  • Perform “Gong Xi, Gong Xi” using Track 53, but this time bowing during the chorus.

Discover Rhythm in “Gong Xi, Gong Xi”

  • In the chorus of “Gong Xi, Gong Xi,” there are two different rhythms that can be heard.
  • Play “Gong Xi, Gong Xi” dotted rhythm, Track 52, and have your students speak the words in rhythm, drawing their attention to the length of the words in each phrase. Explain that they will sing the lyrics “gong xi” in two different ways.
  • Listen to “Gong Xi, Gong Xi” chorus, Track 51.
    • What movements can we use to remember the long and short notes?
  • Perform again with the new movements that your students have created.
  • This activity can be used for older students who may be starting to use notation. Using dashes and dots, show your students the different note lengths that are found in the chorus.
  • Speak the lyrics, following along with the notation.
  • Follow the same model with other phrases commonly spoken during Chinese New Year, using Chinese New Year phrases, Track 54, to practice pronunciation:
    • Xin nian kuai le! (Happy New Year!)
    • Wan shi ru yi! (Ten thousand best wishes come true!)
    • Gong xi fa cai! (Best wishes on making a great fortune in the New Year!)
  • Using dashes and dots, have your students decide the note lengths for each syllable and compose different rhythms for the other Chinese New Year phrases. Perform them as a class. You can also try this exercise with other phrases said during holidays that they are familiar with.
Creative Extension

Chinese New Year Customs

  • A major Chinese New Year tradition is to give red envelopes (known as a hongbao) that are full of money to one another. The color red symbolizes good luck and prosperity in China, and often is coupled with gold decorations.
  • Red envelopes must always be given with both hands, and the receiver should not open them in the gift giver’s presence.
  • Using Chinese New Year (PDF), have your students select one of the popular virtues that they wish for someone in the New Year: good fortune, happiness, or luck. Then, they can color the envelope red and add designs of their choosing using red and gold markers, crayons, or colored pencils.
Literacy Extension

A New Year’s Reunion

A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong brings the reader along for the many traditions of Chinese New Year. Join the family as they prepare for the celebration!

Book cover for "A New Year's Reunion" depicting a father, mother, and child sitting at a table together

Musical Word Wall

Add the words hongbao and dotted rhythm to the Musical Word Wall.

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