Mandarin songs to learn Chinese with
Many Chinese songs sound great, from G.E.M. to Jay Chou, but here specifically we focus on songs sung in Mandarin Chinese with a clear voice and in clear Putonghua (the ‘vanilla’ dialect of Mandarin). Plus, most of these videos have subtitles in Chinese Hanzi characters.
- If you’re a parent, you may want to read our article with Chinese songs for kids.
- Also read our article Chinese New Year songs
The Most Romantic Thing by Cally Kwong
If you’ve studied HSK4 from the traditional HSK textbook, you might remember chapter 1 and text 4 in particular, which is based on this song. The Chinese title is 最浪漫的事 from 邝美云, and it’s easy to follow for most elementary or intermediate Chinese learners.
Little Apple by Chopstick Brothers
This catchy song (小苹果) by 筷子兄弟 has an absurd video clip worth watching and listening to. This Chinese song has also been recommended by plenty of Chinese teachers to their students, for laughs but also for immersion and its clear spoken words. You can sympathize with many of them in the YouTube comments.
In the rain by Wang Feng
One of the simplest titles from this whole list: 在雨中. In the rain is a calm and upbeat song about love and rain. Here we share the live version by 汪峰 because it comes with clear Hanzi subtitles.
Friends by Zhou Huajian
This good-spirited song 朋友 by 周华健 is about friendship and walking together. It’s from the 90’s and the tempo is pretty slow, and the words are basic enough for most Chinese learners.
The moon represents my heart by Teresa Teng
月亮代表我的心 is such a classic, especially the version by 邓丽君. It was sung first in 1972 by other artists, but Teresa Teng’s (who sadly died in 1995) version in 1977 popularized it, and even now it’s one of the most well-known songs in China. Here’s a HD version with English and Hanzi subtitles:
One-way ticket by Wu Bai & China Blue
A very cheerful Chinese song called 单程车票 by 伍佰&China Blue, about a one-way ticket and a bus ride. And this cartoon video clip!
Mice love rice by Yang Chengang
老鼠爱大米 is a Chinese pop song from 2004 by a music teacher 杨臣刚, who rose to fame afterward. The words and characters used are really suitable for foreign Mandarin learners because nearly all of them belong to the HSK curriculum. Have a look & listen to this Chinese song to learn Chinese!
Later by Ruoying Liu
This Chinese song is popular among GoEast Mandarin students in Shanghai! The Chinese name is 后来. Here’s the live version by 刘若英 with Hanzi subtitles. The song is soft and Ruoying Liu’s pronunciation is very clear, so it’s good learning material for Chinese language students.
Ashima by Xie Tianxiao
Here’s a Chinese alternative rock-rap song for something slightly different. But the nature of rap is that the pronunciation of the lyrics is pretty clear. The Chinese song name is 阿诗玛 by 谢天笑. After an intro of more than 1 minute the Chinese song begins.
Here’s a children’s song called 数鸭子, which is easy to follow especially thanks to its Hanzi subtitles and clear cartoon that matches it. It encourages children to study hard (as we do with our Mandarin students!). The lyrics and music are composed by Wang Jiazhen王家桢 and Hu Xiaohuan胡小环.
Another good children song is “A set of pancakes with fruits” (煎饼果子来一套), from which you can see a sample here.
Northeast people are all living Lei Feng’s by Xue Cun
We didn’t plan on adding any songs in slight dialect here, but we have a soft spot for Dongbeihua (also, the dialect isn’t that thick). This song about how people in the North East are friendly and helpful, like Lei Feng. (Lei Feng is an idolized soldier, and role model from the People’s Liberation Army.) The lyrics should be do-able for you to follow.
Sorry my Chinese isn’t so good by Transition
This fantastic song (对不起我的中文不好) by Transition about pronunciation and making friends. You can check out their YouTube channel and find other songs in Chinese by them. Writing & singing songs in Chinese, maybe also a learning goal for you?
Chinese language pop music
China is not a country people think of when they think of pop music. Songs performed in Mandarin are known as C-Pop or MandoPop but China pop music has not caught on internationally.
Most singers that are popular with Chinese audiences are from Hong Kong or Taiwan, although foreign singers from all over the world are also popular. Wherever the performers come from, one thing is consistent in popular Chinese music: slow songs about love.
With the rise of reality TV shows, there were many competitions that produced famous singers in China, such as China’s Got Talent and The Voice. After the initial success of pop singers from these types of shows, the public lost some interest in undiscovered talent until recently when the second wave of Chinese reality TV singing competitions came out with shows like Produce 101 and the edgier Rap China.
Teenagers are the biggest fans of Chinese pop music, just like any other country. Older people also enjoy the popular groups, especially the young singers which are sometimes referred to as 小鲜肉 (xiǎo xiān ròu) or “teen idols” but literally means “fresh meat”. Often, fans will learn about the singers first and then listen to their music if they like the person.
Streaming music apps like DǒuYīn (抖音) are a popular way to discover new music, through browsing, advertisements, and friend’s recommendations. Current pop songs are also available in KTV soon after their release, alongside classics from every decade. The most popular topic for songs is love and relationships. Some other popular topics are songs about traveling, seeing the world, and finding yourself, and sometimes a soul mate.