I recently discovered a very interesting site: It’s designed specifically for the native Shanghainese. The tagline at the top says 侬白相啥? That’s how you would write 你玩什么? (roughly, “what do you do for fun?”) in Chinese characters to represent the particular words the Shanghainese use.

Translated excerpt from the about page:

> We represent the new Shanghai culture…..
We invite you to our website…
to discuss our concerns in our own language,
to sing our songs to our own music,
to dance to our own rhythm.

This kind of site highlights the strong grip on their identity the Shanghainese have.

Of interest is the Shanghainese rap section. Yes, that’s right… rap in the Shanghainese dialect. It pretty much sucks, but it’s cool that they’re even doing it. Give it a listen; there are currently 13 downloadable songs.

It’s always pissed me off that the only punk scene in China is in Beijing. Maybe Shanghai will develop along the rap/hip hop track?? Well, one can dream…


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. John,
    “pretty much sucks”, that’s pretty rough. I think you need to compare it more to other Chinese hip-hop rather than to hip-hop in general. I would say it’s pretty decent when compared to the only “mainstream” Chinese pure hip hop album out (Li Xiao Long’s horrible debut CD, he’s from Beijing if I’m not mistaken, there may be more, but I’ve been out of China for awhile and that’s all I’ve heard), while these Shanghai “rappers” totally ganked their production from American rappers (my personal favorite is 喷嘭乐团’s rip off of 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.”) you gotta give them an “A” for effort. I think it shows a lot of promise, and a step in the right direction. Now if they could only reach the level of South Korea’s Y.G. Family (though I think they were all Korean Americans, so I’m not sure if it really counts).
    (I probably represent about 20% of the non-Asian fanbase for Asian rap 🙂 )

  2. Joel,

    I hear ya. I gave them credit in that I said their music “pretty much sucks” instead of flat out “sucks.”

    Plus I linked to them and encouraged other people to support them.

    That’s about all you’re going to get out of me. I’m not even a rap fan.

  3. FreeJack Says: March 13, 2004 at 4:26 pm

    I keep trying to find good Chinese metal. I know there must be some…but since REAL metal is currently sorta underground, Chinese metal must be under the underground!

  4. This is great stuff; somebody should try to record samples of rap music from every language in the world.

    As far as metal music, my instinct is (and it’s been a while since I was in China, so somebody back me up here) that Chinese metal predates Chinese hip hop by a long time; it probably even predates Chinese punk rock, which has a lively scene happening now in Beijing, and Wuhan. The person to go to for an authoritative answer on Chinese metal, though, is Kaiser Kuo, “Chinese Rock Star”.

  5. How is your Shanghainese coming?

  6. So how are you going on 上海闲话 (Shanghai dialect) there, man?

  7. Da Xiangchang Says: March 15, 2004 at 3:08 am

    Shanghainese is completely incomprehensible to me. This failing on my part makes me despise Chinese dialects. 🙂 Mandarin, however, is beautiful to hear, and I was going to write that everyone in China should just speak proper Mandarin until I considered how boring America would be if everyone spoke normal English. For example, “black” American English is wonderfully expressive and clever; what a linguistic disaster if no one spoke it anymore. So I guess Shanghai hua is alright.

  8. Tim and Rainbow,

    I’m putting a lot more time into studying Shanghai-hua than actually speaking it, but I’m understanding more and more Shanghai-hua these days.

  9. Brandon Lau Says: March 15, 2004 at 9:55 pm


    yeah, I gotta kinda excited about the website as well, and thought it was too good to be true, that kind of cultural identity statement by shanghainese.

    then I found out the site was actually started by a Chinese-American of Shanghainese background….

    that seems to explain things!

  10. Hey, John – Kun and I might be heading down to Shanghai over the weekend (or possibly next weekend) to visit a friend. Give me a call if you feel like getting dinner or a beer or something – 138 1093 8389.

  11. nishishei Says: March 28, 2004 at 5:01 pm

    Hehe… It’s actually properly written as 上海言话 instead of 上海闲话. The 言 has two readings (most 吳 Wu Chinese words have two or more readings): gni and rhei (ngei/hgei).

    Da Xiangchang wrote: “Mandarin, however, is beautiful to hear, and I was going to write that everyone in China should just speak proper Mandarin until I considered how boring America would be if everyone spoke normal English.”

    Does the “however” imply that other dialects are ugly to hear? Chinese dialects are a quite different from American regional or ethnic dialects. Shanghainese is an urban dialect of 吳語Wu Chinese (NOT Mandarin Chinese), a full blown Chinese language of 75 million speakers until the creation of a Mandarin vernacular script in the early 20th century. Banning Wu Chinese (and Shanghainese) is like banning German in Germany to promote English because there are more English speakers in the world. COMPLETELY AGAINST the idea.

  12. Do you people know how to write ‘Rock Star’ in chinese?

  13. loopazoola Says: June 14, 2004 at 3:38 pm

    It isn’t about chinese rappers “not understanding Hip Hop” if a bunch of Americans (yincang) can strut around telling the press how talented they are while the whole music scene in Beijing knows that their beats were put together by a Brit in a grotty apartment on a tiny budget. Self gloryfing a-holes.

  14. I like their style.
    Looks like they are runing some kinda of hiphop party in July.
    I’m so there~

  15. Me 2, why waste a night on going to a party thrown by pretentious jerks? 10 kids with microphones is not my idea of a good night out.

  16. getto gil Says: July 13, 2004 at 9:27 pm


  17. Yincang? dont diss them, they are superstars around Haidian metro station

  18. frustrated shn Says: September 2, 2004 at 10:18 pm

    this website has been blocked for the last 2 days, it’s a pity!

  19. my friends in Shanghai said this site has been blocked by China. shame on the chinese internet security admin.

  20. shanghainese Says: January 13, 2005 at 11:00 am

    haha,shanghainese will survive…it is human nature to want an identity when he discovers the feeling of it. but u know, no one will be so good at it anymore for sure,cuz without education and the media, shanghainese can only exist on mars probably.

  21. anOtherShanghaiNing Says: July 13, 2005 at 12:11 am

    Sony Music launched the first Shanghainese Rap CD this month. the website probabaly took a part of the promotion. anyways, it’s cool to see this style to be recognized by main stream company.

  22. I was born in the US and English was my second language growing up. My first was Shanghainese and is the only dialect I CAN understand fluently! I loved it when I went to Shanghai and could understand everything! Long live Shanghaining!

  23. I just tried to grab the RSS Feed for your blog but it is not properly showing up in Google Chrome. Any ideas?

  24. Hello, this posting comes a bit late but hopefully someone can help me out. I am doing research on the use of Chinese dialects on the internet. I went to the website, but from what I see, it is mostly Mandarin… Has something changed? Was it all in Shanghainese in the past? Thanks for your help! Please e-mail me at if you can provide me with any much needed information.


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