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.

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.

Chinese Pop Music in the Early 1990s

The four kings were not the only ones whose voices were heard over the airwaves in the early 90s. Some of the biggest hits of the period came from the women, including some newcomers. Sarah Chen had become one of the biggest names in Mandarin pop. Her album Talk to You Listen to You was the first to reach a million sales in Taiwan and her song “Dream to Awakening” was a huge hit in 1990. After a few album flops, Beijing-born Faye Wang shook up the Chinese world in 1992 with a Chinese cover of a Japanese mega-hit, “Fragile Woman”. She was set to become the second biggest female pop star after Teresa Deng. Two Vivians appeared during this time. The first, surnamed Chow, due to her striking beauty, became one of the most well-known faces in the music industry. The second, surnamed Lai, created the first karaoke mega-hit, called “Everyone Has a Dream” in 1993.

Other notable newcomers were Linda Wong and Wan Fang who scored two more timeless classics (in Mandarin) that same year, “Don’t Ask Who I Am” and “New Endless Love” respectively. Male newcomers included Sky Wu and Phil Zhang from Taiwan and the band Grasshopper from Hong Kong. The first major Chinese pop star from Malaysia appeared: Eric Moo.

Sarah Chen

Chinese Name: 陈淑桦
Mandarin Name: Chén Shúhuá
(b. 1958 in Taibei)

Biggest Hits:

梦醒时分

你走你的路
明明白白我的心 (with Jackie Chan)
笑红尘
滚滚红尘
流光飞舞
这样爱你对不对

When she was eight years old, Sarah Chen Shu Hua entered the biggest singing competition in Taiwan and won. She became known as “the talented child star, Sarah Chen”. She was invited to add her voice to record albums and act in dramas. In 1982, she released a country style song “I Go with the Setting Sun”, at Chinese New Year, title track of the album which topped the charts in Taiwan. In 1983 she signed with EMI and was awarded the Taiwan Golden Bell Award for Best Female Artist in 1985. In 1988, she crossed over from folk to pop when she teamed up with big name producer Jonathan Lee and launched her Women’s Hearts album. But it was her album Talk to You, Listen to You that secured her big breakthrough, an album that was the first to sell a million copies in Taiwan. Along with Jacky Cheung’s Goodbye Kiss, the album remains one of the biggest-selling in Taiwanese history. In 1991, Chen won the Golden Melody Award for Best Female Singer. To the great disappointment of her fans, Sarah retired from Taiwan’s entertainment circle in 1998.

 

Vivian Chow

Chinese Name: 周慧敏
Cantonese Name: Zau Wai Man
Mandarin Name: Zhōu Huìmĭn
(b. 1967 in Hong Kong)

Biggest Hits:

痴心换情深
最爱
红颜知己
自作多情
红河谷
流言
情未了
孤单的心痛

Chow was raised by her mother as her father died with heart troubles the same year she was born. After high school, Vivian entered the same singing competition as William So and Hacken Lee. Undeterred by her failure to garner a prize, she became a DJ in 1987 and became popular through a series of radio plays. This led to her appearance in the hit comedy feature film Heart to Hearts a year later for which she was nominated for the Hong Kong Best New Performer Award. Due to her success, a record deal was signed and she released her first EP in 1989. Sales gave her record company confidence enough to release full-length albums in the new decade.

Vivian could not handle the sudden invasion of her personal life from the Hong Kong paparazzi, and gradually retreated from the public spotlight after 1994. In the late 90s, she emigrated to Vancouver with her long-time partner.

Vivian Chow is regarded by many as the most beautiful Chinese celebrity of all-time. She is known for her kindness and humility, her work for animal rights, and her unique, sweet voice which is eternally associated with the golden age of Canto pop. The Hong Kong press gave her the appellation “Eternal Maiden Queen”.

Faye Wang

Chinese Name: 王菲
Mandarin Name: Wáng Fēi
(b. 1969 in Beijing)

Biggest Hits:

容易受伤的女人 “Fragile Woman”
执迷不悔
冷战 “Cold War”
你快乐所以我快乐
半途而废
情诫
当时的月亮
邮差
偿还
笑忘书
给自己的情书
流年
将爱
传奇
红豆 “Red Bean”
因为爱情
我愿意 “I’m Willing”
棋子

Faye Wang is easily the biggest pop star ever to emerge from Mainland China and could probably be considered third most popular Chinese singer after Teresa Deng and Jacky Cheung. Born in Beijing, she moved to Hong Kong when she was a teenager and started singing lessons, learning and mastering the Cantonese dialect. Early-on she went by the English name of Shirley and released three albums under this name. Frustrated with her lack of commercial success, she took a trip to New York. When she returned her record company suggested she do a cover of Japanese singer Miyuki Nakajima’s “Rogue”. It was released as “Fragile Woman” in 1992. The result was that Faye became a superstar overnight. Her career snowballed.

Wang Fei has been called the Bjork of Asia, but this probably has more to do with her look than her music, which is arguably more in the style of Tori Amos. In fact, Faye has covered songs from Amos; her “Cold War” was a cover of Amos’ “Silent All These Years”. She also covered The Cranberries’ “Dreams”. Additionally, she collaborated with The Cocteau Twins.

In 1996, Wang switched from performing Cantonese songs to releasing albums almost exclusively in Mandarin. While her hits in Hong Kong were more on the alternative side, her Mandarin songs were more traditional. Her first Mandarin mega-hit was “I’m Willing” in 1997. Just when the Chinese thought she could never come out with a better song, she hit them, the following year, with what became, according to some, the third biggest Chinese song in the history of pop music—”Red Bean”.

Faye was the first Chinese singer to be featured on the cover of Time Magazine. She earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling Cantopop female. By the year 2000, she had sold a staggering 9.7 million copies of her 20 albums. She starred in a number of movies, including Chungking Express.

Vivian Lai

Chinese Name: 黎瑞恩
Cantonese Name: Lai Sui Yan
Mandarin Name: Lí Ruì’ēn
(b. 1973 in Hong Kong)

Biggest Hits:

一人有一个梦想 “Everyone Has a Dream”
阳光路上
莫失莫忘
雨季不再来
多情
爱你这样傻
发誓
爱你一辈子

Many people confuse the two Vivians. To distinguish Vivian Lai with Vivian Chow, the former was nicknamed “Little V”. Though her career was short-lived, Ms. Lai had some of the biggest hits in China in the early 90s. Her extremely catchy song “Everyone Has a Dream”, released in 1993, was the first mega-hit in karaoke bars and was named by RTHK as “Song of the Year”. Coincidentally, it was her singing karaoke that got her noticed before being asked to sign a record deal. Vivian joined a children’s choir when she was eight. She often participated in singing competitions and won a major contest in 1989. In 1990 she signed with BMG, then Polygram and released her debut album I’m From Here in 1991.

At the end of the 90s, Vivian announced her engagement and, to the dismay of fans, dropped out of the music business. Now she is busy raising her daughter and son and is an avid golfer.