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Translation of Dao Lang's "Luocha Haishi" Lyrics (刀郎-罗刹海市) - Part I

On 19th July 2023, Chinese songwriter-composer-singer Dao Lang (刀郎) released a new album called Shan Ge Liao Zai (山歌寥哉). One particular song from the album took the whole world by storm — close to 8 billion downloads within a week of release!

The lead song of the album is named Luocha Haishi (罗刹海市), translated as "Luocha Kingdom & Sea Market", based on a novel with the same name from "Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio" or Liao Zhai Zhi Yi (聊斋志异) written by Pu Songling (蒲松龄), a Chinese writer during the Qing Dynasty.

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

Apart from having a lively melody, the main reason why Luocha Haishi is so popular is due to its "not-so-obvious" lyrics, which is said to contain hidden messages. Without an understanding of Chinese culture, literature and local dialects, it will be difficult to "demystify" the real essence of the song — especially so for non-Chinese and many Chinese as well (including Singapore Chinese).

The objective of this post is to translate the lyrics of Luocha Haishi directly or literally — the "superficial" layer of the song. Look out for sentences that do not make any sense, which means they may have other meanings than what it may seem on first look.

Listen to Dao Lang's song here:

A couple of things to take note of before going to the lyrics:

  1. The full name of the song is called "Luocha Kingdom & Sea Market", but the song is mainly about "Luocha Kingdom" (the bad part of the tale), nothing about the "Sea Market" (the good side of things). That's probably how Dao Lang views the current state of "humanity".

  2. "Luocha Kingdom" doesn't exist in real life, it is not old-day Russia or current China, neither is it "Rakshasa" of the Hindu mythology although it is usually referred to as "Luocha" in Chinese due to some similarity in appearance and pronunciation of the names.

  3. In the Chinese written language, the character for "donkey" is "驴" (lǘ) and can be split into two characters "马" (mǎ) and "户" (hù). "马户" (mǎhù) is used as the name of the donkey.

  4. Similarly, the character for "chicken" is "鸡" (jī) and can be split into "又" (yòu) and "鸟" (niǎo). "又鸟" (yòuniǎo) is used as the name of the chicken — coincidentally, "鸟" means "bird", which is why "又鸟" chicken thinks it is a bird in the song.

  5. There is a third character-split in the lyrics: the character for "good" is "好" (hǎo) and can be split into "女" (nǚ) and "子" (zǐ). Incidentally, "女子" happens to mean a "girl".

The Lyrics of Luocha Haishi by Dao Lang:


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


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


Because there is a one-hill river


The river water flows pass GoGo Camp


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


Well-known in the ten-mile entertainment place


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


Turns her butt before opening her mouth to speak


Squat in her nest everyday to make an egg lie down


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

Chorus #1:


That Mahu doesn’t know she is a donkey


That Youniao doesn’t know it is a chicken


Railings have always pretended to be elegant


Eunuchs craved for power and fame since ancient times


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


He sails the sea of people in a row-boat, beat winds and waves


Dragon travels in treacherous water and stranded on the evil land


He sees that things in Luocha Kingdom are always inverted


Mahu loves to listen to Youniao’s tune (as though it's a bird)


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


Behind half-closed door expressing true love

Chorus #2:


With red-sketched wings, black-painted face


Green-embroidered crown, gold-plated hooves

(above 2 sentences described how Mahu makes herself looks like a chicken)


But coal “ore” has always been born black


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

Repeat Chorus #1


Outrageous that pigs and dogs can enter an art gallery


A shoehorn used as Chinese scepter of authority (ruyi)

Repeat Chorus #2


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


Hundred kinds of love may have thousand kinds of bad


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


And those with stings on wasps' tails


In the west, European steel has a boss


Has a son (Ludwig) Wittgenstein


He says Mahu is a donkey, Youniao is a chicken


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


That donkey is a chicken then that chicken is a donkey


That chicken is a donkey then that donkey is a chicken


That “Mahu-Youniao” (anomaly)


Is a root problem of our humanity

Can you understand the literal translation of the song above?

I did not add in any interpretations of my own except to "smoothen" the translation with applicable contexts and grammatically-correct English without changing the meaning of what it may seem — hopefully. Sentences that do not make much sense are clues that there are other meanings.

You may be able to get a gist of what the song is about on the surface but probably not the real essence of it without knowing the hidden messages — check out Part II.

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