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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:


罗刹国向东两万六千里

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

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

只为那有一条一丘河

Because there is a one-hill river

河水流过苟苟营

The river water flows pass GoGo Camp

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

十里花场有浑名

Well-known in the ten-mile entertainment place

她两耳傍肩三孔鼻

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

未曾开言先转腚

Turns her butt before opening her mouth to speak

每一日蹲窝里把蛋来卧

Squat in her nest everyday to make an egg lie down

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

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

自古公公好威名

Eunuchs craved for power and fame since ancient times

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

龙游险滩流落恶地

Dragon travels in treacherous water and stranded on the evil land


他见这罗刹国里常颠倒

He sees that things in Luocha Kingdom are always inverted

马户爱听那又鸟的曲

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

三更的草鸡打鸣当司晨

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

半扇门楣上裱真情

Behind half-closed door expressing true love


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 sentences described how Mahu makes herself looks like a 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

哪来鞋拔作如意

A shoehorn used as Chinese scepter of authority (ruyi)

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

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

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 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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