Unisonance in Kung Fu Film Music, or the Wong Fei-hung Theme Song as a Cantonese Transnational Anthem.
Wong Fei-hung [黃飛鴻] was a Cantonese martial arts master from southern China who became associated with a melody called ‘General’s Ode’ [〈將軍令〉]. Since the 1950s, over 100 Hong Kong movies and television shows have forged the link by using this melody as Master Wong’s theme. During fieldwork in a Chinese Canadian kung fu club, I observed several consultants claiming this piece as a Cantonese national anthem—a hymn for a nation without a sovereign state. Virtual ethnography conducted online showed that this opinion is held more widely, but that the piece also inspires broader Chinese nationalist sentiment. My analysis of speech-tone relationships to melodic contour in Cantonese and Mandarin versions of the song, however, has revealed a tight integration with the former that the latter lacked. By sharpening Benedict Anderson’s concept of unisonance, I explore how this song has become an unofficial transnational anthem for Cantonese people, arguing that Master Wong’s theme auralises an abstract sense of imagined community.
One thought on “Article and Video: The Most Famous Song in Kung Fu Films is an Unofficial Cantonese Anthem”
Interesting, Some of the points you brought up made me re-think. nrimcgnot a bad way to start my day. Thanks Colin
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