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Cui Jian
Chinese name 崔健
Pinyin Cuī Jiàn (Mandarin)
Origin People's Republic of China
Born August 2, 1961 (1961-08-02) (age 48)
Beijing, People's Republic of China
Other name(s) Old Cui (Chinese: 老崔pinyin: lǎo Cuī)
Genre(s) Chinese punk, Chinese rock, rap rock, techno-punk
Label(s) Beijing East-West
Years active 1984–present
Official Website
Cui Jian
Hangul 최건
Revised Romanization Choe Geon
McCune–Reischauer Ch'oe Kŏn

Cui Jian (born August 2, 1961) is a Beijing-based Korean Chinese singer-songwriter, trumpeter and guitarist. Affectionately called "Old Cui" (Chinese: 老崔pinyin: lǎo Cuī), he is considered to be a pioneer in Chinese rock music and one of the first Chinese artists to write rock songs. For this distinction Cui Jian is often labeled "The Father of Chinese Rock".[1]


Early career

Cui Jian grew up in a musical family in Beijing - his father was ethnic Korean and a professional trumpet player and his mother was a member of a Korean dance troupe. Cui Jian himself started playing the trumpet at the age of fourteen and joined the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra in 1981, at the age of twenty. He was first introduced to rock during this period when friends smuggled in illicit recordings from Hong Kong and Bangkok. Inspired by the likes of Simon and Garfunkel and John Denver, Cui began learning to play the guitar.

In 1984 he formed Seven Ply Board with six other classically-trained musicians, including the saxophonist/suona player Liu Yuan. The seminal band was heavily influenced by the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Talking Heads. They performed their own works - mostly soft rock and love songs - in local hotels and bars.

Cui Jian first shot to stardom in 1986, when he performed "Nothing to My Name" (; pinyin: Yì Wú Suǒ Yǒu) on a television talent show.[2][3][4] The next year he left his permanent job with the orchestra. His band, now renamed ADO, included two foreign embassy employees: Hungarian bassist Kassai Balazs and Madagascan guitarist Eddie Randriamampionona. His first real album, Rock and Roll on the New Long March, was released in 1986.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Cui created a hybrid and experimental music mix that cut across divisions between pop music genres. Cui's songs drew on folk and traditional music types, such as the Northwest Wind (Xibeifeng) peasant songs of the Loess Plateau of Shaanxi. At times they knowingly parodied old Communist Party sayings and proverbs. In 1991, for example, he set the old revolutionary song "Nanniwan" to rock music. In 1988 he performed at a concert broadcasted worldwide in conjunction with the Seoul Summer Olympic Games.[1]

His earliest and best known works were spiced with Western popular music styles, such as punk, dance and jazz. Cui's advocation of a new internationalism and political awareness connected with many university students of the time.

Tiananmen and aftermath

Album artwork showing Cui wearing a red blindfold

Cui Jian reached the apex of his popularity during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, when "Nothing to My Name" became an anthem to student protestors. Before the protests were violently broken up on June 4-5, Cui frequently appeared with the students and was affirmed by Wu'er Kaixi, one of the prominent leaders of the movement, as highly influential among young Chinese of the time. The following government crackdown forced many rock musicians, Cui Jian included, into hiding in the provinces. Surprisingly, sanctions proved relatively temporary and Cui was able to return to Beijing shortly afterward. In early 1990, he began his first rock tour entitled the "New Long March", with ten concerts scheduled in Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Xi'an, Chengdu and others. Midway through the tour, Cui Jian gained notoriety for appearing on stage wearing a red blindfold across his eyes before performing his well-known political anthem, "A Piece of Red Cloth",[2][3][4][5] prompting the government to terminate the performance and cancel the remainder of the tour. After the tour, 1 million yuan was donated to help pay for the 1990 Asian Games, alleged by some to have been a disguised fine for his political indiscretion[citation needed].

Later career

Through the 1990s Cui Jian was banned from playing major venues in Beijing, although he was able to stage a number of one-set, word-of-mouth concerts at newly-flourishing venues like The Sunflower Club. Elsewhere in China he was permitted play to sell-out crowds in both large and small venues, only on occasion facing government interference. Cui Jian's records have also remained off-limits for broadcast on regular state-controlled radio and television stations. Satellite television was first to challenge this unofficial ban beginning with Hunan TV's 2000 broadcast of a live in-studio performance of Cui Jian and his band.

He has toured both Europe and the United States four times respectively, as well as played a number of shows in Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. He is the only modern musical act from the PRC to have made such an impact on the global music scene, and continues to be a point of focus for international news media coverage of Chinese cultural affairs.

In 2000 Cui Jian was awarded the Dutch royal family's prestigious Prince Claus Award for positive artistic and intellectual influences on the broader culture and society.


Political rehabilitation

On September 8, 2000 Cui Jian and his band performed the song "Flying" (飞了; pinyin: Fei Le) at the Anti-Piracy Concert held at Worker's Stadium in Beijing. It was his first large-venue performance in the capital in 7 years.

In 2002 Cui Jian initiated, produced, and played at a major rock festival in the mountains of Yunnan province. The "Snow Mountain Music Festival" was a major media attraction and was reported by the international press as "China's Woodstock". This experience started a trend of outdoor music festivals in China.

In early 2003 Cui Jian was authorized to open for the Rolling Stones' concert in Beijing. In a 2003 interview, Cui claimed to have taught himself guitar skills in the 1980s by learning Rolling Stones and Beatles songs. He was also quoted as having three dreams: to perform in his home city of Beijing again, to see the Rolling Stones perform live, and to perform together with the Rolling Stones.[6] Due to the SARS outbreak, however, the concert was cancelled.

Not until March 2004, when Cui Jian opened for Deep Purple on their mainland tour, was he finally able to perform a full set at a major venue in Beijing.

On September 24, 2005 Cui Jian was finally granted permission to headline his own show at the Beijing Capital Stadium, which signified the end of the unofficial ban on Cui Jian performances in China's capital. It also confirmed a major turn-around in government attitude towards rock music in general.

Cui did finally play with the Rolling Stones at the Shanghai Grand Stage on April 8, 2006, singing and playing "Wild Horses.[7][8] Following the performance, Cui was quoted as saying, "This is the 20th-year anniversary of Chinese rock 'n' roll... We have an appointment. In the near future, they will be back, and we'll rock again in Beijing."

Cui Jian performed in Taiwan on July 8, 2007 after numerous attempts in previous years to perform there had been derailed by governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Cui's entourage to the island comprised 18 people including his 75-year old mother. Headlining on the last day of the Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival at Fulong Beach, Cui Jian's participation was promoted on the festival's website[9] with the slogan: "He's really coming!"

In September 2007 he performed at the Beijing Pop Festival, including a guest appearance rapping with the American rap group Public Enemy.

On May 3, 2008, Cui performed in San Jose, California, at South Hall. It was his first live show in the Bay Area in over 15 years. His previous show in San Francisco over 15 years ago sold out even before it was publicized.

December 4th, 2009, Cui Jian returned to Taiwan for his second concert there in three years, christening the grand opening of the Legacy Taipei as its first ever headline performer.


  • 1984 - 浪子归 (Vagabond's Return)
  • 1985 - 1985 Review - cover record showcasing Cui's vocal stylings
  • 1986 - 一無所有 (Nothing To My Name)
  • 1989 - 新长征路上的摇滚 (Rock 'N' Roll On The New Long March)
  • 1991 - 解决 (Solution)
  • 1994 - 红旗下的蛋 (Balls Under The Red Flag)
  • 1996 - Best of Cui Jian: 1986-1996
  • 1998 - 无能的力量 (The Power Of The Powerless)
  • 2005 - 给你一点颜色 (Show You Colour)


See also


  1. ^ a b Gunde, Richard. [2002] (2002) Culture and Customs of China. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313308764
  2. ^ a b DeWoskin, Rachel. "Power of the Powerless". Words Without Borders. Retrieved 28 February 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Cui Jian: The man who rocks China". The Independent. 14 November 2005. Retrieved 28 February 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Clark, Matthew Corbin (13 February 2003). "Birth of a Beijing Music Scene". PBS Frontline. Retrieved 28 February 2009. 
  5. ^ Matusitz, Jonathan (23 May 2007). Semiotics of Music: Analysis of Cui Jian’s ‘Nothing to My Name;' The Anthem for the Chinese Youths in the Post-Cultural Revolution Era. International Communication Association. p. 8. Retrieved 28 February 2009. 
  6. ^ "" Stones Roll in for Historic Tour. Retrieved on 2007-04-10.
  7. ^ Post Gazette. "Post Gazette." Rolling Stones tests China's waters. Retrieved on 2007-04-10.
  8. ^ "Pollstar." The Rolling Stones Concert Hotwire Retrieved on 2007-04-10.
  9. ^

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