Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

14 extra songs to learn Chinese and expand your horizons

This is the third part in my miniseries about listening to music in Chinese. So far, the following articles have been published. It is likely that there will be more articles in the future when I have discovered more great music I want to share, but since I have covered most of the music I want to cover, I’m not likely to write more about it soon.

  1. Why learning Chinese through music is underrated
  2. 12 songs to learn Chinese and expand your horizons
  3. 13 more songs to learn Chinese and expand your horizons
  4. 14 extra songs to learn Chinese and expand your horizons (this article)

If you still want more music, you should be fine on your own. You can also check out this list from Chinese to Learn. It contains lots of songs with introduction to the artist, lyrics and so on. Also, don’t forget to check the comments to the other articles. There are some good stuff in there I simply don’t have room for (I don’t want to make these articles overcrowded).

The following is the same introduction as that found in the previous article, included here for clarity.

Click here to skip directly to the music.

Not everybody will like everything, but you will like something

The purpose of this article is to get you started on using Chinese music to learn Chinese Therefore, I’ve picked a wide variety of music and included links to YouTube versions of these songs. There might be better versions out there with more suitable subtitles and so on, but the goal here is to introduce you to good music, not teach you the lyrics.

Image credit: sxc.hu/profile/ba1969

I have used four criteria when selecting the songs:

  1. I think they are good in some way (which is not related to lyrics)
  2. They are unique in some way (voice, instruments, style)
  3. They represent a genre which isn’t mainstream
  4. They have interesting lyrics

Note that I don’t claim that all songs and artists are famous (although most are) in China. Neither do I claim that they are all good for language learning purposes (I might not even like listening to them, but you might!). The goal is to find music you like, which is, in my opinion, more important than finding the perfect song for language learning. If you like all kinds of music, then pick a song I’ve written “clear Mandarin” or similar next to.

If you want to recommend other artists or songs to me or other readers, please leave a comment!

10 more songs to learn Chinese and expand your horizons

黑豹 – 无地自容

There seems to be a number of fairly famous bands who made lots of good rock music roughly two decades ago. I find this much more agreeable than most modern rock music I’ve listened to. Also check out 崔健, who has already been mentioned in this article.


Taiwanese reggae! This was the first time I heard someone singing in Mandarin with a Jamaican accent (which is obviously adopted when singing). The song contains some Taiwanese, but is almost entirely in Mandarin. 讚!

Yaksa – 末路

The intro says metal core, but the comments on YouTube says this particular song isn’t metal core, but that the rest of the album is. Since I don’t have a clue what metal core is, I’ll just avoid the debate. For the purpose of this article, it’s enough to say that this song is quite good and sounds like normal rock to my ears.

唐朝 – 封禅祭

More rock, but this time heavy metal. I have listened to a fair number of their songs and this one stands out. I find it clearer and more pleasant to listen to than the others. The lyrics are reasonably easy to hear as well (even though the singer has the characteristic metal touch).

韩磊 – 向天再借五百年

This ballad is about as powerful as it gets and feels very Chinese. Not necessarily favoured by the kids of today, but ask their parents!

万能青年旅店 – 大石碎胸口

This band is great. Pop with a touch of rock and perhaps a shade of jazz. Some songs are (almost) only instrumental, but others are suitable for language practice, such as this one. I like almost all songs on this album, which is called 万能的喜剧.

回聲樂團 – 巴士底之日

This is about as close as I can get to what I think of as modern “rock”. As such, it serves as a base for finding more music in this direction. I find it difficult to explain exactly why I like this particular song, but for some reason, I do.

1976 – 顏色

Post-rock. This is far from being the best post-rock produced in the Chinese speaking world (check Sugar Plum Ferry for instance). The problem is that most of this music is instrumental and thus not very good for language learning. If you have other suggestions, let me know!

盧廣仲 – 早安晨之美

Pop and about as 愚蠢 (stupid, silly) as it gets, but it’s still enormously popular (and, I admit, a bit catchy). I have a feeling this is the kind of music many like, but don’t own up to in public. Very clear Mandarin, here with on-screen lyrics.

草莓救星 – 想不到

Rock of the softer variety. Also has on-screen lyrics and relatively clear mandarin. I should also add that this music video is awesome, well worth watching even if you don’t like the music.

孙楠 – 拯救

I’ve always been a sucker for piano in pop music. That combined with the singers voice makes this otherwise not so memorable song quite memorable. Actually a ballad I like!

苏阳 – 贤良

I thought the beginning of this song was a bit boring the first time I heard it, but since it was recommended to me as being unique in several ways, I kept listening anyway. That was fortunate, because the song only gets better and better, not only as the song progresses, but also the second, third and tenth time listening to it. It’s some kind of folk song, but with modern elements. Don’t miss the lyrics (and the video).

Planet map/星球地图 (?)

I can’t really find any information about either the artist or the song, but it’s pretty good. It’s some kind of electronica/pop.

龚琳娜- 忐忑

This shouldn’t really be included on this list, simply because it’s impossible to use for language learning (or anything else for that matter). I include it for it’s weirdness and because it’s, for some strange reason, popular.

Tips and tricks for how to learn Chinese directly in your inbox

I've been learning and teaching Chinese for more than a decade. My goal is to help you find a way of learning that works for you. Sign up to my newsletter for a 7-day crash course in how to learn, as well as weekly ideas for how to improve your learning!


  1. Scott says:

    Here is some nice jazzy relaxed hip hop from Taiwan. 蛋堡 Hope you haven’t posted this before

  2. George says:

    Learning any second language via music is worthwhile. But pop music does have a lot of double entendre and inuendo. Beware of learning something that might not be accepted in polite company.

    I had a Taiwanese roommate that liked to listen to “Wooly Booly”, I guess by Little Richard. I thought it was very funny, but I didn’t have the heart to explain exactly what a wooly booly was… just so lewd.

    Love songs get rather insipid and needy. Rock n’ roll can go anywhere.

    I still sing Ah Mei songs… like “Ni shi wode jei mie” to make Taiwanese friends laugh. But the music scene changes extremely fast.. here today, gone tomorrow.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      I don’t think this is fine, it’s still Chinese and unless you listen to really weird stuff, it’s also understandable for natives. If you only learn Chinese through music, you obviously have a problem, but I don’t think anybody does that. Any oddities you pick up from the songs you listen to should be smoothed over time through exposure to “normal” Chinese, so I don’t think it’s a big problem.

  3. George says:

    Sandy Lam has quite a few nice Chinese version of oldies.. great for mini-translation projects.

  4. Aaron Posehn says:

    万能青年旅店 and 盧廣仲 are some of my all-time favorites. And thanks for the list! There were definitely some here that I had not heard of before.

  5. Micah says:

    I’m not sure if somebody has covered this in any of the other comment sections, but I have quite enjoyed some of the music from TV shows, as well as some of the performances on Sing China. Doris Guo is a favorite. I find it to be different from a lot of the rest of main-stream Chinese music.

      1. Olle Linge says:

        I can’t recall anyone sharing that, so thanks for doing so! And good luck with the challenge, too! 🙂

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.