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Demystifying Dao Lang's "Luocha Haishi" Lyrics (刀郎-罗刹海市) - Part II

In Part I of the translation of Dao Lang (刀郎)'s new song "Luocha Haishi" (罗刹海市), I made some notes about the song's lyrics, do read it prior to continuing this post as I am not duplicating those notes here.


Direct Translation of Dao Lang's "Luocha Haishi" (刀郎罗刹海市)

Compare the differences in the lyrics between the direct translation and the demystified phrases with better understanding of the terms used. Marvel at Dao Lang's cleverness in stringing the terms and phrases that he wants and creating a song with "multiple layers".


Listen to Dao Lang's song here:


If you can read Chinese, it will be easier to understand the lyrics by reading the Chinese version as some phrases or dialect terms are not easy to translate to English — and barring any translation errors on my part.




Demystifying Luocha Haishi by Dao Lang:


罗刹国向东两万六千里

Luocha Kingdom is twenty-six thousand miles to the east (of China)


In “Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio", a villager of Luocha Kingdom told Maji, the protagonist of the classic tale, that "26,000 miles to the west, there is China". Earth's circumference at the equator is only 24,901 miles. So Luocha Kingdom is an imaginative place to the east of China, not old-day Russia, and neither is it China. So, don't read too much into this line.


过七冲越焦海三寸的黄泥地

Across seven lands and dried seas, on three inches of yellow muddy land

It is a filthy place


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, parts and tissues in the human digestive system, that breaks down food and convert them to energy, are named with "冲, 焦, 海" (similar to "land" and "dried seas" when describing natural landscape). And three inches (三寸) below the belly button is an acupuncture point known as "黄庭" or "泥丸地". The term "黄泥地" is concocted by drawing three characters from the two names, which translates literally to "yellow muddy land". The line is saying that Luocha Kingdom is a filthy place in a roundabout way.


只为那有一条一丘河

Because there is a one-hill river

Because all the people there are all of a kind (bad people)

河水流过苟苟营

The river water flows pass GoGo Camp

Achieving their own goals via unscrupulous means shamelessly


On the surface, these 2 lines are talking about a river (河) that leads to a camp (营), but the terms "一丘河" (one-hill river) and "苟苟营" (the name of a make-up camp) do not make much sense. However, both terms sound like two Chinese idioms: "一丘之貉" and "狗苟蝇营". "一丘之貉" (literally: a hill of raccoon dogs) meaning the people there are all of a kind, all are equally bad. "狗苟蝇营" refers to people who use unscrupulous means shamelessly to achieve their own goals.


苟苟营当家的叉杆儿唤作马户

GoGo Camp’s in-charge is a brothel owner known as Mahu

The group is led by a brothel owner known as Mahu


"苟苟营" as explained earlier is not a camp but a group of ill-intentioned people. The term "叉杆儿" means the owner of a brothel. This line can be rephrased as "the group of ill-intentioned people is led by a brothel owner known as Mahu". The use of "brothel owner" is probably just a "connector" to link with the next line.


十里花场有浑名

Ten-mile entertainment place has a nickname

1) She is known by all in the entertainment place

2) The entertainment place is well-known


This line has a weird sentence construct be it in Chinese or English. where "十里" (literally: 10-mile) is placed before "花场" (literally: entertainment place), so it probably is not referring to a distance but something to do with "ten", like in a name for example. "浑名" means a known nickname. Two possibilities:

  1. Keeping in context with the previous line where Mahu is introduced, it could mean that Mahu is known by all in the entertainment place;

  2. As a standalone line, it means the entertainment place is well-known.


她两耳傍肩三孔鼻

She has two ears close to shoulders and a three-hole nostril

She has illicit relationships with men


"她" means Mahu is a female — this is not meant to refer to a female in real-life but because most of the song's lyrics are composed to describe actions performed by females. In "Strange Tales", Luocha Kingdom's ugly-looking prime minister is said to have ears that grown backwards, not "傍肩" which literally means side-by-side with the shoulders. In fact, "傍肩" is a Beijing term referring to men and women having illicit relationships.


未曾开言先转腚

Turns (her) butt before opening mouth to speak

Make decisions without listening to others' opinions


"腚" is buttocks, so to turn one's buttocks means to turn around or away. Although this line translate to "turns butt before opening mouth to speak", it is not clear who is speaking and who is turning away. Two possibilities:

  1. It could be the same person who turns his/her back on someone before speaking, common actions of a disdainful person who looks down on others;

  2. One has not spoken and the other has turned away, implying a decision has been made without listening to others.


每一日蹲窝里把蛋来卧

Squat in her nest everyday to make an egg lie down

An accomplice to someone (the mastermind) committing misdeeds


How did a donkey have egg? And instead of hatching an egg (孵蛋), the term used is "卧蛋" which can means "lie down with the egg" or "make the egg lie down" literally, but neither make sense. In fact, "卧蛋" refers to someone who acts as an informant for bandits, or an accomplice to misdeeds.


老粉嘴多半辈儿以为自己是只鸡

Old powdered lips for half her life-time thinking she’s a chicken

A glib-talker who lacks sincerity in whatever she said


The term "粉嘴" refers to a glib talker who speaks fluently, but often insincerely. The rest of the line is just a transition to the chorus.

Chorus #1:

那马户不知道它是一头驴

That Mahu doesn’t know she is a donkey

那又鸟不知道它是一只鸡

That Youniao doesn’t know it is a chicken


勾栏从来扮高雅

Railings have always pretended to be elegant

Brothels have always pretend to be elegant


In ancient China, "勾栏" refers to railings that separate entertainers from audience in the pleasure district. Due to limited entertainment in those days, the term was later used to refer directly to brothels. So, this line means a place that seems honourable or elegant on the surface, but is not the case in reality, like a smoke-screen.


自古公公好威名

Eunuchs craved for power and fame since ancient times

Eunuchs, minus their most important parts, are worried of being looked down upon, thus, they seek power and fame in order to divert attentions away from their defects. This line has similar meaning as the previous line, except that it refers to a person instead of a place.


打西边来了一个小伙儿他叫马骥

From the west, came a young man name Maji

美丰姿 少倜傥 华夏的子弟

Charming and suave, a Chinese descendent

只为他人海泛舟搏风打浪

He sails the seas in a row-boat, brave winds and waves

He handles human relationships with ease and overcome obstacles bravely

龙游险滩流落恶地

Dragon travels in treacherous water and stranded on the evil land

Travels in treacherous water and stranded on the evil land


The above 4 lines describe the protagonist, Maji (马骥) a.k.a LongMei (龙媒), from the "Strange Tales". So "龙" in the last line is referring to Maji, not a dragon, and how he came to be stranded in Luocha Kingdom. The idiom "大海泛舟" (literally: rowing a boat on the sea) means to handle any situations at ease. However, the third line has been modified to "人海泛舟" (literally: rowing a boat in a sea of people) which could means "to handle human-related situations with ease". "搏风击浪" (literally: fight the wind and beat the wave) means to overcome any obstacles bravely.


他见这罗刹国里常颠倒

He sees that things in Luocha Kingdom are always inverted


"颠倒" means inverted or flip-sided. This line implies that Luocha Kingdom sees ugliness as beauty, and without the ability to differentiate between right and wrong.


马户爱听那又鸟的曲

Mahu loves to listen to Youniao’s tune

Mahu listens to the tune of Youniao


Youniao is a chicken, but thinks it is a bird, yet Mahu likes Youniao's clucking as though it is a bird singing. In other words, Mahu listens to the tune of Youniao even if it is not right.


三更的草鸡打鸣当司晨

Chicken crowing at midnight as if it is rooster’s call at dawn

Youniao is someone without authority or rights but is calling the shots indiscriminately


"母鸡打鸣当司晨" or "牝鸡司晨" (literally: hen crowing in place of a rooster at dawn) is a term used in ancient times to refer to a woman who seize power and resulted in chaos. This means someone who do not have the authority or rights but is calling the shots indiscriminately (crowing at midnight instead of at dawn). "Chicken" is used in the line in place of "hen" to imply any gender, not just women.


半扇门楣上裱真情

Half-closed door expressing true love using a scarf

Claim to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case


"半扇门" (literally: half-closed or half-opened door) refers to an unlicensed prostitute or misbehaving woman. "裱" is a lady's scarf in ancient China. Literally, the line translates to "a prostitute hiding behind half-closed door, with a lady's scarf hanging on the lintel probably as a signal, and expressing true love". A slutty woman expressing true love? That means pretentious or hypocrisy (claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case).


Chorus #2:

它红描翅那个黑画皮

With red-sketched wings, black-painted face

绿绣鸡冠金镶蹄

Green-embroidered crown, gold-plated hooves

(above 2 lines described how Mahu looks like an ugly chicken)

可是那从来煤蛋儿生来就黑

But coal “ore” has always been born black

不管你咋样洗呀那也是个脏东西

No matter how you wash it, it’s still a dirty thing


Repeat Chorus #1

岂有画堂登猪狗

Outrageous that pigs and dogs can enter an art gallery

Outrageous that people with extremely bad conduct can enter an elegant place


"猪狗不如" is a Chinese idiom often used to describe someone of having extremely bad conduct, not even fit to be dogs and pigs. It is outrageous that such "low-lifes" are allow to enter an elegant place. An "art gallery" (画堂) is used here so as not to refer to certain places explicitly and result in misunderstandings.


哪来鞋拔作如意

A shoehorn used as Chinese scepter of authority (ruyi)


Using a cheapskate shoehorn as the high-value Chinese scepter of authority (ruyi)? This line has similar meaning as the previous line, which expresses misfit of people or things in places where they do not belong.

Repeat Chorus #2

爱字有心心有好歹

Love (愛) has a heart (心), heart can be good or evil

百样爱也有千样的坏

Hundred kinds of love may have thousand kinds of bad

女子为好非全都好

Girl (女子) is good (好), but not all are good

还有黄蜂尾上针

And those with stings on wasps' tails

And there are those who are venomous at heart


The Traditional Chinese character for love is "愛" with a heart (心) in it. The character "好" (good) is made up of two characters "女子", which coincidentally means "girl". Of course, not all girls are good. "青竹蛇儿口,黄蜂尾上针,两般自由可,最毒妇人心" is a Chinese proverb that means "between the mouth of a green bamboo snake and the sting on a wasp's tail, the most venomous is a woman's heart". The 4 lines above briefly highlight the good and bad of human nature, but not limited to just girls — they are implicated because of the word "good" (好).

西边的欧钢有老板

In the west, European steel has a boss

生儿维特根斯坦

Has a son (Ludwig) Wittgenstein

他言说马户驴又鸟鸡

He says Mahu is a donkey, Youniao is a chicken


In the 19th century, a European steel tycoon has a son named Ludwig Wittgenstein, a philosopher who worked in logic. By implicating Wittgenstein, these 3 lines seek to reinforce "Mahu is a donkey, Youniao is a chicken" as a logical fact.


到底那马户是驴还是驴是又鸟鸡

So is that Mahu a donkey or donkey is Youniao chicken?

那驴是鸡那个鸡是驴

That donkey is a chicken then that chicken is a donkey

那鸡是驴那个驴是鸡

That chicken is a donkey then that donkey is a chicken


那马户又鸟

That “Mahu-Youniao” (anomaly)

是我们人类根本的问题

Is a root problem of humanity


The last two lines of the song proclaims that all the problems mentioned above — so-called the “Mahu-Youniao” anomaly — is a root problem of humanity.



Have a better understanding of the song now?


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