Sa Dingding is interesting

Sa Dingding

You may have heard of Sa Dingding before. Shanghaiist wrote about her a long time ago, and fans of “world music” will have known about her for quite some time. As I understand it, she’s only recently been catching on in China in a big way, which is how I was introduced to her music by a Chinese friend.

From her page:

> Sa Dingding is a singer and musician born in Inner Mongolia. She sings in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Lagu, and Mandarin, and also in a self-created language. She plays several instruments, including the zheng, the Chinese drum, Chinese gong, and horse-head fiddle. Inspirations include Buddhism and Dyana Yoga.

You can see why Sa Dingding is an artist that might appeal to linguists! Her unique style is a great example of Chinese creativity, as well.

Her most popular song is 《万物生》 (Alive in English). Here it is in Mandarin [Youku video]:

And here is 《万物生》 in Sanskrit:

If you’re in China, all of Sa Dingding’s music is available for free online from music: 萨顶顶 (if only Google would properly ID3tag it!).

You’ll also note that most sources write Sa Dingding’s name as “Sa Ding Ding.” I find this interesting. You don’t write “Deng Xiao Ping” or “Zhang Zi Yi.” The surname is capitalized, and the given name is written as one word, also capitalized. Do people feel that a given name with a reduplicated character must be written so that each syllable is also exactly duplicated?

You can see the same tendency for Fan Bingbing (“Bing Bing”) and Li Bingbing (“Bing Bing”) as well, but the Wikipedia pages for those two actually follow the proper pinyin name-writing convention [see section 2.3]. (Perhaps the “Sa Ding Ding” page will be wiki-harmonized soon? [Update: It was changed within 24 hours! Wow!])

Her own website uses “Sa DingDing” in the HTML title, but “Sa Dingding” on the site pages themselves.

Sa Dingding


John Pasden

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


  1. I like the way she sings in Sanskrit a lot better than the way she sings in Mandarin. She kinda sounds like she is singing using a Britney Spears/小姐 voice in Mandarin, but in Sanskrit, it sounds “authentic” like she really has the 小数民族 type of folk-vibratto feel… Does that make sense?

  2. Pretty cool stuff.
    @KP Agreed. I thought the Sanskrit version was much more pleasing to the ears.

  3. Glad they added Sa Dingding to music, last time i checked it wasn’t there… Yes, even better in Sanskrit.

  4. Thanks for the tip. One thing I want to ask, does anyone know how to stop iTunes from frakking up Chinese characters in metadata?

  5. Chinese characters work fine in iTunes. Sometimes other apps create the tags with nonstandard encodings, so you have to try right click > Convert ID3 Tags > Translate text characters, and play around with the options a bit.

  6. Interesting. I hadn’t heard of her before, but her voice in the Mandarin version sounds like a typical pop singer’s. Does she record all of the instruments like Bai Shui (neofolk singer/musician) does?

  7. “(Perhaps the “Sa Ding Ding” page will be wiki-harmonized soon?)”

    That was quick 🙂 who of you folks was it?

  8. @Aaron in iTunes 9 for windows I don’t see “Translate text characters”. “Convert ID3 tags” gives me an option to choose different ID3 versions (none of which do anything) and “Reverse Unicode” (which, oddly, gives me a bunch of Hangul)

  9. Sort of artifical,yet outstanding style.Sticking music with religion is easier to be adored.Real power is power from inner of people’s mind.If their mind can’t feel powerful enough,they would add a lot of decorations on appearance to complement the confidences.Most powerful art is usually quite pristine,doesn’t need more decorations,but can reach to essential of humanity directly…….

  10. The sanskrit version sounded not so overproduced and blandified as the mandarin version… much more natural. An interesting comparison, perhaps speaking to the type of market anticipated by record producers mixing for the prevailing chinese audience.

  11. oh she sucks. 装神弄鬼, lol. I even prefer Lady Gaga more.

  12. That’s the trouble with her. I really be sad for the sight of her. The girl would be better off with some program of sorting herself out or coaching or training or something. I absolutely liked her previous single, and I’d be really sad if we wouldn’t be hearing her sing any more.

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