Best Chinese Songs of the 1990s

20. “She Knows” by Shino Lin (Taiwan)

Language: Mandarin
Chinese: She Knows, 林晓培
Pinyin Romanization: “She Knows” by Lin, Xiaopei
Year of Release: 1999

Shino was one of the few Chinese pop stars who dabbled in electronics and came up with a few great tunes, this being her best. LINK

19. “Tolerance” by Jeff Zhang (Taiwan)

Language: Mandarin
Chinese: 宽容, 张信哲
Pinyin Romanization: “Kuan Rong” You by Zhang, Xinzhe
Year of Release: 1995

His soft voice was a perfect fit for his love ballads. LINK

18. “Just Between the Two of Us” by Eason Chan (Hong Kong)

Language: Mandarin
Chinese: Just Between the Two of Us, 陈奕迅
Pinyin Romanization: ” Just Between the Two of Us ” by Chen, Yixun
Year of Release: 1999

It was difficult to pick an Eason song. The man just kept getting better all the time putting his whole heart into his singing. We’ll settle on this wedding number. LINK

17. “Suddenly Think of You” by Elva Xiao (Taiwan)

Language: Mandarin
Chinese: 突然想起你, 萧亚轩
Pinyin Romanization: “Tu Ran Xiang Qi Ni” by Xiao, Yaxuan
Year of Release: 1999

This song established the Vancouver-educated songstress as one cool diva. LINK

16. “Morning Train” by Beyond (Hong Kong)

Language: Cantonese
Chinese: 早班火车, Beyond
Pinyin Romanization: “Zao Ban Huo Che” by Beyond
Year of Release: 1992

The Chinese Beatles continued churning out their classics into the 90s. LINK

15. “Arctic Snow” by Kelly Chen and Steve Zhou (Hong Kong, Taiwan)

 

Language: Mandarin
Chinese: 北極雪, 陳慧琳+周传雄
Pinyin Romanization: “Bei Ji Xue” by Chen, Huilin and Zhou, Chuanxiong
Year of Release: 1998

Steve Zhou is one of the most overlooked singers in the industry. He wrote a couple of classics for Kelly Chen and they performed this beautiful tune as a duet. LINK

14. “Red Dragonfly” by The Little Tigers (Taiwan)

Language: Mandarin
Chinese: 红蜻蜓, 小虎队
Pinyin Romanization: “Hong Qing Ting” by Xiao Hu Dui
Year of Release: 1990

Every school girl had a crush on this male trio back in the day. Their “Green Apple Paradise” was more popular in the late-80s, but we prefer this irresistible offering. LINK

13. “Crazy about Love” by René Liu (Taiwan)

Language: Mandarin
Chinese: 为爱痴狂, 劉若英
Pinyin Romanization: “Wei Ai Chi Kuang” by Liu, Ruoying
Year of Release: 1995

This was a sleeper hit. It wasn’t until after her “Afterwards” five years later that this song became extremely popular. LINK

12. “Buddha Chant” by Shirley Kwan (Hong Kong)

Language: Cantonese
Chinese: 梵音, 关淑怡
Pinyin Romanization: “Fan Yin” by Guan, Shuyi
Year of Release: 1991

Having sung two of the all-time biggest hits of Cantopop, Shirley delved into experimental territory here and succeeded. LINK

11. “Listening to the Sea” by Sherry Zhang (Taiwan)

Language: Mandarin
Chinese: 听海, 张惠妹
Pinyin Romanization: “Ting Hai” by Zhang, Huimei
Year of Release: 1997

Sherry (also known as A-Mei) became the Republic of China’s answer to the PRC’s Faye Wang, an overnight sensation, thanks, in part, to this megahit. LINK

10. “Come Back” by Priscilla Chan (Hong Kong)

Language: Cantonese
Chinese: 归来吧, 陈慧娴
Pinyin Romanization: “Gui Lai Ba” by Chen, Huixian
Year of Release: 1992

More popular in the Mainland than her SAR counterpart, Anita Mui, Priscilla continued her string of classics. LINK

9. “Red Bean” by Faye Wang (PRC)

Language: Both Mandarin and Cantonese versions exist
Chinese: 红豆, 王菲
Pinyin Romanization: “Hong Dou” by Wang, Fei
Year of Release: 1998

One of the biggest Chinese songs of all-time, “Red Bean”, from the Beijing export to Hong Kong, continues to be extremely popular today. LINK

8. “Boundary 99” by Mavis Xu (Singapore)

Language: Mandarin
Chinese: 边界99, 许美静
Pinyin Romanization: “Bian Jie 99” by Xu, Meijing
Year of Release: 1999

Singapore’s first pop superstar, with an excellent singing voice to boot, scored a number of hits in the late-90s, this being, arguably, her best. LINK

7. “If You Knew My Difficulties” by Vivian Chow (Hong Kong)

Language: Cantonese
Chinese: 如果你知我苦衷, 周慧敏
Pinyin Romanization: “Ru Guo Ni Zhi Wo Ku Zhong” by Zhou, Huimin
Year of Release: 1992

A couple of this strikingly beautiful diva’s songs were more popular but we’ll settle on this power love ballad as one of the all-time classics of Cantopop. LINK

6. “Episode” by Sammi Cheng (Hong Kong)

Language: Cantonese
Chinese: 插曲, 郑秀文
Pinyin Romanization: “Cha Qu” by Zheng, Xiuwen
Year of Release: 1999

By the end of the decade, Sammi had taken over the top spot of Hong Kong’s female stars. This song certainly helped. LINK

5. “Monologue” by Valen Xu (Taiwan)

Language: Mandarin
Chinese: 独角戏, 许茹芸
Pinyin Romanization: “Du Jiao Xi” by Xu, Ruyun
Year of Release: 1996

Because of this song, Valen’s album Do the Clouds Know? became the biggest-selling album in Taiwanese history. LINK

4. “You Are Hers” by Gigi Leung (Hong Kong)

Language: Mandarin
Chinese: 你是她的, 梁咏琪
Pinyin Romanization: “Ni Shi Ta De” by Liang, Yongqi
Year of Release: 1998

Her “Short Hair” and “Chicken Chick” were bigger hits, as was her “Make a Wish” with Leo Ku, but this song was her masterpiece.

3. “Don’t Ask Who I Am” by Linda Wong (Hong Kong)

Language: Mandarin
Chinese: 别问我是谁, 王馨平
Pinyin Romanization: “Bie Wen Wo Shi Shei” by Wang, Xinping
Year of Release: 1993

Another timeless classic and delivered with vocal perfection. LINK

2. “Come Home” by Shunza (United States)

Language: Mandarin
Chinese: 回家, 顺子
Pinyin Romanization: “Hui Jia” by Shunzi
Year of Release: 1997

This Beijing native who grew up in San Francisco is a singer-songwriter and blew everyone away with her velvety but powerful delivery of this masterpiece. LINK

1. “Everyone Has a Dream” by Vivian Lai (Hong Kong)

Language: Cantonese
Chinese: 一人有一个梦想, 黎瑞恩
Pinyin Romanization: “Yi Ren You Yi Ge Meng Xiang” Li, Rui’en
Year of Release: 1993

This is the classic to end all classics of Cantopop. It was so catchy that it was responsible for sparking the karaoke craze in China. Vivian Lai, not to be confused with Vivian Chow, delivered this gem and it won the song of the year award in Hong Kong. LINK

You can find our Best Chinese Songs of the 1980s HERE.
And our Best Chinese Songs of the 2000s is HERE.

Best Chinese Songs of 2010

In the opinion of most, 2010 was below average in terms of good music and there was no real stellar C-Pop song. Here is a list of our picks for the 15 choicest songs of the year. As usual, to keep things tidy, we’ll list only one song per artist.

15. “Frailty” 脆弱 Cui Ruo
Kay Tse 谢安琪

14. “Coral Island” 珊瑚岛 Shan Hu Dao (Cantonese)
Ella Koon 官恩娜

13. “This Life” 今生今世 Jin Sheng Jin Shi
Jason Zhang 张杰

12. “Things You Don’t Know” 你不知道的事 Ni Bu Zhi Dao De Shi
Alexander Wang 王力宏

11. “Once in a Lifetime” 十年一刻 Shi Nian Yi Ke
Sodagreen 苏打绿

10. “How I Wish” (Cantonese)
Gigi Leung 梁咏琪

9. “Darlings” 心肝宝贝 Xin Gan Bao Bei
Richie Ren & Barbie Xu 任贤齐 & 徐熙媛

8. “Left Wing” 左半边翅膀 Zuo Ban Bian Chi Bang
Xu, Fei 许飞

7. “Incomplete” 残缺 Can Que
Li, Wei 李炜

6. “So You Love Me” 等你爱我 Deng Ni Ai Wo
Eason Chan 陈奕迅

5. “Nothing Left to Say” 无言以对 Wu Yan Yi Dui
Jolin Cai 蔡依林

4. “Said Goodbye” 说了再见 Shuo Le Zai Jian
Jay Zhou 周杰伦

3. “The Wrong People” 错的人 Cuo De Ren
Elva Xiao 萧亚轩

2. “I Remember I Loved” 我记得我爱过 Wo Ji De Wo Ai Guo
Peter He 何润东

1. “Warm Room” 温暖的房间 Wen Nuan De Fang Jian
Jessica Jiang 姜昕

Chinese-Canadian Singers

It’s difficult to identify famous Chinese-Canadian singers because many of them don’t declare whether or not they are, in fact, Canadian citizens. There are Chinese who live in Canada, some of whom are citizens, some permanent residents, and some just in the country on student or some other form of visas. Others are in the opposite situation. They are Canadian citizens but they don’t live in Canada. This is especially true for singers because they are more accepted in the Chinese entertainment industry and therefore relocate to Asia. Some of these are born in Canada but live abroad their whole lives and whether or not they are Canadian citizens is a mystery. Of those who are citizens, some are naturalized Canadians (move here after birth and become citizens) and some are citizens from birth (because one or both parents are). There are also a number of “mixed-blood beauties” (as they are known in China). One parent is Chinese and one is not. Yes, it’s complicated. What we’ll do is list all singers who have both Canadian and Chinese connections and specify what we know about their “status” as Canadians and as Chinese.

Angus Tong 童安格

Angus, born in Taiwan, emigrated to Canada at some point later in his career. It is not known whether or not he has become a citizen.

Leslie Cheung 张国荣

Leslie, born in Hong Kong, took a five-year break from his high-profile entertainment career by emigrating to Vancouver. In 1992, he became a Canadian citizen. He returned to Asia in 1995 to resume his singing and acting. He committed suicide in Hong Kong in 2003.

Angela Zhang (a.k.a. Chang) 张韶涵

Angela, born in Taiwan, went to high school in Vancouver. Afterwards she returned to Taiwan to launch her singing (and acting) career. There is no indication that she became a Canadian citizen while studying in Canada.

Jason Chan 陈柏宇

Jason was born in Hong Kong but grew up in the Toronto area. It appears that he is a Canadian citizen.

 

Calvin Chen 陈奕儒

Calvin was born in Taiwan. After high school there, he attended Simon Fraser University in the Vancouver area. He completed his Master’s degree at the University of Victoria. In 2004 he returned to Taiwan and in 2005 became a member of the boy band Fahrenheit there.

 

Elva Xiao 萧亚轩

Elva, born in Taibei, went to college in Vancouver. It is unknown whether or not she became a Canadian citizen. Naturally, after becoming famous, she returned to Taiwan.

Peter He (a.k.a. Ho) 何润东

Peter is often mistaken for a Canadian because he attended college in Ontario. But he is an American-born Chinese.

Catalina Yue

Catalina is one of the few Chinese-Canadians who has released a recognized English-language album—Eternally in 2008. She was born in Toronto and is a Canadian citizen.

Henry Lau 刘宪华

Henry was born in Toronto. His mother’s Taiwanese and his father’s a Hong Konger. As far as we know he’s a Canadian citizen. Henry is part of the Korean boy band Super Junior-M.

Vivian Chow 周慧敏

Vivian emigrated to Vancouver from Hong Kong after she retired from her singing career. It is unknown whether or not she has become a Canadian citizen.

Sally Yeh 叶蒨文

Sally was born in Taibei, Taiwan but grew up in Vancouver. She’s a Canadian citizen.

Kelvin Kwan 关楚耀

Kelvin was born in Canada, growing up in Toronto. All indications are that he is a Canadian citizen. He relocated to Hong Kong after fame graced his life.

Charlene Choi 蔡卓妍

Charlene was born in Vancouver but moved to Hong Kong with her family only a few years later. She grew up in Hong Kong and became famous, joining the group Twins. It is a mystery as to whether or not she has Canadian citizenship.

Edison Chen 陈冠希

Edison was born in Vancouver and is a Canadian citizen. After fame came his way, he relocated to Hong Kong.

Jade Kwan 关心妍

Jade was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Vancouver. As far as we know, she’s a Canadian citizen. After she became famous, she moved back to Hong Kong.

Nicholas Tse 谢霆锋

Nicholas was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Vancouver. He has dual Canadian and Hong Kong citizenship. He currently lives in Hong Kong.

Jacky Zhu (a.k.a. Chu) 祝钒刚

As far as we know, Jacky was born in Canada, grew up in Vancouver, and is a Canadian citizen. He moved to Taiwan when he became famous and joined the band 183 Club.

Denise Ho 何韵诗

Denise was born in Hong Kong and moved to Montreal with her family when she was 11. She received the rest of her education there and became a Canadian citizen. She moved back to Hong Kong when she became famous.

Melissa O’Neil 奧詩敏

Melissa is half Chinese (from her mother). She was the winner of the third season of Canadian Idol in 2005 and released an album that year which went gold. Her song “Alive” was a chart-topper (#1) and the single was certified 4x Platinum in Canada. Other hits included “Let It Go” (#7) and “Speechless” (#31). She is now in a Toronto band called God Made Me Funky.

Four New Divas in Y2K

With the retirement of Mavis Xu, Singaporeans wondered if they would ever have a replacement. No one would have imagined that not only would two arrive instantaneously but that one of them would become the biggest-selling female singer throughout the Chinese world in the first half of the decade. Her name was Stefanie Sun. Their other singer, who enjoyed appreciable success, was Tanya Chua.

Malaysia, perhaps intent on not allowing their southern neighbour to outdo them, got behind their Fish “Jasmine” Liang. She became one of the top 3 women throughout the decade.

Hong Kong’s big name appearing in the new millennium was Joey Yung. She was not stellar outside of Cantonese China until she sang a Mandarin version of a TV commercial for Banyan Garden Residential Towers in 2003. While Eason was the number one male singer in the 2Ks Hong Kong, Joey became the top female. Taiwan’s new star in Y2K was R&B diva Elva Xiao.

 

Stefanie Sun

Chinese Name: 孙燕姿
Mandarin Name: Sūn Yànzī
(b. 1978 in Singapore)

Biggest Hits:

天黑黑 “Dark Skies”
任性
同类

爱情证书
Tonight I Feel Close to You (English)
Hey Jude (English, cover)
我不爱
我不难过
我怀念的
我要的幸福
木兰情
眼泪成诗
神奇 “Magic”
第一天
逆光
遇见
开始懂了
雨天
风筝
绿光

Singer-songwriter Stefanie Sun from Singapore was the middle of three daughters. After completing a degree in marketing, she was discovered by her own music teacher and released her first (self-titled) album. Its single, “Dark Skies”, an adaptation of a traditional Taiwanese folk song, turned her into an overnight sensation all over the Chinese-speaking world. Sun’s first several albums sold over a million copies in each. Her album To Be Continued included the song “Magic” wherein she used Indian-style music. She covered The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” which was very popular. But perhaps her most famous song was “Encounter” theme song of the Gigi Leung movie Turn Left, Turn Right. (Gigi sung the Cantonese version).

Sun has sold over 10 million copies of her albums in Asia, a feat which only Faye Wang achieved before her. During the first half of the decade she was the number one female Chinese singer in the world. She was overtaken in the middle of the decade by Jolin Cai. These two top females of the decade are good friends and often appear in each other’s concerts.

 

Fish (Jasmine) Leong

Chinese Name: 梁静茹
Mandarin Name: Liáng Jìngrú
(b. 1978 in Bahau, Malaysia)

Biggest Hits:

亲亲 “Kiss”
会呼吸的痛
分手快乐 “Happy Breakup”
勇气 “Courage”
可惜不是你
如果有一天
宁夏
属于
崇拜
接受
没有如果
满满的都是爱
为我好
无条件为你
丝路
听不到

暖暖
情歌没有告诉你
你会不会

Malaysia had produced a couple of notable Chinese pop stars but their first superstar emerged in Y2K: Fish Liang Jing Ru. She is best-known for love ballads in which she talks about different stages of relationships. She is also known for her soft voice.

The Fish grew up in a small town and entered singing competitions as a teenager, winning many of them. She was eventually discovered by Taiwan’s Jonathan Lee. She signed with Rock Records in Taiwan, releasing her debut album in 1999 only to find herself in the midst of an earthquake cancelling all promotional engagements. Her sophomore effort, Courage, mainly due to the title-track, turned her into a star. All her albums were best-sellers throughout the decade making her the third biggest female singer after Stefanie and Jolin. 

Elva Xiao

Chinese Name: 萧亚轩
Mandarin Name: Xiāo Yǎxuān
(b. 1979 in Taibei, Taiwan)

Biggest Hits:

最熟悉的陌生人 “The Most Familiar Stranger”
突然想起你 “Suddenly Think of You”
一个人的精采
进行式 (with Anson Hu)
因为你
爱的主打歌
我爱你那么多
WOW (with Show Luo)
明天
潇洒小姐
蔷薇
错的人
闪闪惹人爱
类似爱情
不爱.请闪开
表白

This R&B diva Elva Xiao Ya Xuan attended school for a couple of years in Vancouver. While there she entered a singing competition. She was a member of the female trio Phenomenon, but when the other two members dropped out, she began a solo career. She signed onto Virgin Records under EMI and released her debut solo album in mid-November 1999. It went on to sell over a million copies in Y2K thanks to the hits “Suddenly Think of You” and “The Most Familiar Stranger”. In mid-August 2000, her follow-up album, Red Rose, was just as popular thanks to another pair of big hits. Elva released several more successful albums and collaborated on one song with British band Blue. In 2003 she sang a duet with Shanghai’s first notable pop star—Anson Hu. But in 2004, Elva and Virgin Records parted ways.

Elva was so popular that the other major record companies vied for her, especially Warner and Song. The former won in the end and she became their fifth major diva (after Sammi Cheng, A-Mei, Natasha Na, and Stefanie Sun). They promised Elva’s fans that they would have a new album out in June 2005. But Warner was suffering from internal power struggles which included resignations of a number of top executives. While this had a negative impact on the other singers, Elva suffered most (because she was the newest addition she was lowest on priorities) and her new album’s release was delayed for months. Fans were angered and spammed the company website causing it to crash for a week. In 2006 with the album being delayed indefinitely, Elva released a couple of singles and went to Los Angeles USA to work on dance routines. Finally, the album was released On December 22nd. Its title, 1087, was the number of days since Elva’s previous album had been released (December 30th, 2003).

All the delays meant that Elva would only be releasing the one album before her contract ended. She obviously was not impressed with Warner and was invited back to Virgin-EMI in 2008 in a nice $8 million USD deal. She described the move as “returning home”. She has released three albums since then with increasingly slicker production, including a delving into dancey electronica.

 

Joey Yung

Chinese Name: 容祖儿
Cantonese Name: Yung Jo Yee
Mandarin Name: Róng Zǔér
(b. 1980 in Hong Kong)

Biggest Hits:

谁来爱我 “Who Will Love Me?”
世上只有
爱一个上一课
我的骄傲 “My Pride”
挥着翅膀的女孩 “Angel Girl”
搜神记
明日恩典
争气
痛爱
破相
华丽邂逅
陪我长大
小小
爱情复兴
心淡
独照
信今生爱过

Joey can be considered Jolin Cai’s counterpart in Hong Kong as she became Hong Kong’s premier female singer. She began entering singing contests from the age of 15. She had a rough ride with her first two record companies (local labels) and retreated to help her mother with her fashion boutique. The godfather of Cantopop, Roman Tam took her under his wing, providing her with singing lessons. She joined the Emperor Entertainment Group in 1998 and released an EP in 1999. At 23 weeks, it broke the record for consecutive weeks on the album charts in Hong Kong. It sold 130,000 copies in the city. In January 2000, her apartment was set on fire. She released her debut album and enjoyed her first big hit: “Who Will Love Me?”, the album’s title-track.

After a couple more Cantonese releases, Yung came out with her first Mandarin album in 2001. She would learn, as many Hong Kongers were discovering, that times had changed and, with the new boom of Mandarin singers emerging from Taiwan, it would take tremendous effort for a Hong Konger to become a big name in the rest of China. The press began giving her a hard time criticizing her obesity.

She decided to shift into higher gears, taking dancing lessons. She slimmed down her figure and reappeared with a new sexy image. And then she sang the song “My Pride”, theme song of a TV commercial for Banyan Garden Residential Towers. She recorded a Mandarin version called “Angel Girl”. And with that, she conquered the entire Chinese world. By the end of the year she had become the new Queen of the Hong Kong music scene, winning the Most Popular Female Singer award at the Jade Solid Gold Ceremony. She embarked on a world tour which included Canada, the United States, Australia, Mainland China, and Malaysia. In 2004 she earned $60 million HKD. Her releases and popularity continued through the decade.