I can’t really give a definitive idea on what this song is “about” when I was developing the melody for it I came up with the line “you’ve got to get a good heart” I had always intended to replace the line with something else, but after a while the line just felt right. My instincts told me to leave it in and the song began to develop around that line. The song essentially revolves around the violent nature of Chinese society and its inherent contradictions; on the one hand there is enormous admiration for the dynasties that held art and beauty as their central pillar and on the other hand there is this desire to return to a time when to be a revolutionary was to be a killer. And then there are the people who are just like people everywhere who have been buffeted and bashed around by the winds of change for decades upon decades. The only way to survive is to get a good heart and it all starts with the children who are so central to Chinese life (another contradiction…see A Few Bags Of Grain/Little Dark Heart). The chanting that you hear in the song is a teacher counting at the beginning of a class, while the students sit at their desks and go through a series of facial massages that help them to relax and settle in. The crucial verse in this song is “Take me back to another time/when the birds brought forth the sun/Take me back to that golden year/when the pain brought forth the gun”. The first two lines of the verse are taken from a Chinese poem about nostalgic desires for a bygone era. The last two lines are a sentiment that I often heard from the older generation, nostalgia for the days of Mao, when their lives had a direction, no matter how misguided that direction ultimately was.
This video is taken by me walking outside (among the waiting parents) of the school where we were boarded and then through the school compound. I was using a pocket camera to film it, which I held hidden in my coat. So the children’s reaction is to me and not to the camera. This is the type of unbridled joy and enthusiasm with which we were greeted by children whenever we left our apartment….a good heart, indeed.