Beijing vs Shanghai: a song contest

Everybody knows that Beijing is the capital of China, but Shanghai is its most developed and cosmopolitan city. Beijing is about politics, culture and historical sites; Shanghai is about money, cocktails and shopping. Well, those are the stereotypes. What it is true is that there is a rivalry between the two cities, and that both Beijing and Shanghai have their own diehard fans who will pick a fight if you insinuate that the other city is better in some sense.

Once, when I was still living in Beijing, I was on a plane going back from a job interview in Shanghai. The Chinese man sitting next to me asked which city I preferred, Beijing or Shanghai? You have to be VERY careful when a Chinese person asks you this. It’s a loaded question and to answer correctly you should know first where that person is from. I was naive enough as to tell him the truth: “Shanghai is a very nice place, but I love Beijing”. HUGE MISTAKE. That man was a proud Shanghainese and he spent the next two hours explaning me why Shanghai was way better than Beijing.

Apart from the Beijing vs Shanghai rivalry there is a Rest of China vs Shanghai rivalry. Shanghainese think they are the most modern and glamourous people in China, and people who are not from Shanghai are villagers from the countryside. So Shanghainese are considered conceited and arrogant by the rest of China.

But I wanted this post to be about songs that talk about Beijing or Shanghai. Let’s start with Beijing:

北京欢迎你 (Beijing welcomes you)

If you were a foreign student in Beijing around 2008 you probably know this song by heart, as you had to sing it in every event organized by your university. It was the official theme song of the Beijing Olympics so it was played everywhere at all times. In the video you can see a lot of famous Chinese singers telling you that in Beijing you will feel at home.

北京一夜 (One night in Beijing)

This song has been covered by a lot of artists so I don’t know which is the original one. The video I chose is from the Taiwanese rock band Shin (信乐团). This is an essential song in our karaoke nights and whoever is in charge of singing the Chinese opera part usually ends up with a sore throat.

北京北京 (Beijing Beijing)

Another classic in our karaoke nights. The singer is called Wang Feng (汪锋) and he is originally from Beijing. He also has other song called 晚安北京 (Good night, Beijing). From Beijing Beijing I like the video and I love the part where he sings 如果有一天我不得不离去,我希望人们把我埋在这里 (If one day I have to leave, I hope people will bury me here).

Coming down to Beijing

This song is in English! Brain Failure (脑浊) are a punk/rock band formed in 1997 in Beijing. This song was played nonstop in the car of one of my Beijingnese friends back when I was a student there.

Now You’re in Beijing

I think this song was made as part of an advertising campaign but I still like it! Two laowais sing in English about Beijing.


Well that’s enough for the Beijing songs. Let’s turn the mic to the Shanghai team. But first I have to say that I didn’t know any song about Shanghai prior to my research, so that might indicate that Beijing is musically more popular than Shanghai.

夜上海 (Shanghai Night)

I LOVE songs that sound old. And this is from the 1920s!

上海童年 (Childhood in Shanghai)

A song in Shanghai dialect. I had never heard it before. There are old images of Shanghai in the video.

2010 Shanghai Expo official song

I worked in the 2010 Shanghai Expo and I can assure you that I never heard this song there (as compared to the Beijing Olympics song, which was everywhere). I guess it wasn’t popular because, let’s face it, it sounds awful! It’s not even catchy!

上海25小时 (Shanghai 25 hours)

A song from a Shanghai indie band called顶楼的马戏团 (Top Floor Circus). It’s also in Shanghai dialect! It seems this band has another song called 上海不欢迎你 (Shanghai doesn’t welcome you) but I couldn’t find a video with decent sound.


Who do you think should win this song contest? Beijing or Shanghai? Do you know any other songs that talk about these two cities? Feel free to leave a comment!