The original Chinese article is here. This is our translation:
“My love is real, and my love is deep, and the moon represents my heart.” Last Saturday at 7pm, Roy burst out in heartfelt song from a subway station. He sang “The Moon Represents My Heart” three times, and finally an old lady gave him the only money he made that night—one yuan.
Actually, 24 year-old Roy isn’t a professional singer, and that night was the first night that he’d ever tried singing for money.
Roy works in a foreign bank, and has a monthly income of 5,000 yuan. But Roy believes that singing on the streets is a kind of experience that he could never get through work, and so, following a bit of inspiration, decided to try it out.
“The purpose of street singing is to have fun”
When the Shanghai Oriental Morning Post reporter first met Roy, he was full of smiles. Even though Saturday was his first time performing, he felt it was exhilarating and has decided to try it again some time around the end of the month, “But first I am going to send some messages out on the web about the specific time and place., and thus maybe some of my friends will come out, and if everyone gives me one yuan, my earnings for the night should be a little more fruitful.”
Roy says frankly that he has creative leanings and that street performances in Shanghai are, for him, something fresh and new, so he decided to put this idea into practice. “The original impulse behind performing was just to have fun, and also to experience first-hand what it’s like to ‘beg’ in order to get by.” Thus, last Saturday at 7pm, Roy went to the Huangpi Lu subway stop and sang acapella, without a break, for one hour. “When I sat on the gorund, I put a few coins and bills in front of me,” Roy said. He thought that doing it this way would make him seem more authentic.
Although it was long past rush hour, every few minutes four or five people would walk by, and Roy did manage to attract some attention. “Some people would stand for awhile and listen, some others would look at me strangely, and some would even stop and sing along with me. The only money that I made was the money given by the old lady.”
This left a deep impression on Roy—at the time he had finished singing “The Moon Represents My Heart” three times consecutively, a family of four had just walked by. One of them was an old lady, and after walking about 100 meters she turned back and put one yuan in front of Roy and then hurriedly rushed off again. “I felt moved, looking at that one kuai,” Roy said. “It’s a hard feeling to describe.” Roy said that at the time, he quickly snatched up the coin, stuck it in his pocket, and kept flipping it around in his fingers.
Roy says that his street performances are a way of affirming himself, because “it takes courage to go out and perform, and most of the people in the city move too fast, maybe if they hear my voice, they will, for a brief moment, feel moved.” Roy believes that there’s something pure about street performances, freed from his usual attire of suit and tie, he feels restored to his “real self,” and can his open his heart to the world, free of the usual worries and constraints.
“If I could sing in crowded place, perhaps there would be more onlookers, in which case I’d try even harder and put more emotion into my singing,” Roy said. He believes that street performances are not an affront on those who are forced by circumstances to actually beg in order to survive because he believes “that this is also a way of getting money, and when I decide to do it, I do it wholeheartedly, and so I consider no different from them—I sell my labor in exchange for money.”
Lastly, Roy told the reporter with some certainty that he would not perform that often.
After Roy performed and wrote about it on the internet, his internet post was hotly debated by hundreds of netizens.
One netizen asked, “You must really be bored or have too much time on your hands. What do you suppose those people that actually have to beg to survive think of this? Don’t you think that by doing this you are ridiculing them?”
However, most people thought Roy was brave and said they’d go and watch next time he performed. Roy told a reporter, that a netizen who was unwilling to disclose his/her identity said that next time he’d go and sing as well, and “this person is six years older than me, and is a white-collar worker as well; she’s probably not in it for the money, but rather so that she can express herself.”
The Shanghai Metro company’s representatives said, according to the “Safety Measures and Punishment Regulations” and the “Shanghai Railway Transportation Management Regulations” that performing, begging, or any kind of unapproved business is strictly not allowed in subway stations.
A PSB representative said, the reason that performances are forbidden is out of safety consideration—performances have audiences, which during peak hours could result both in excessive crowding and a less than favorable image. This representative also said, “This pertains to the relationship between private and public interest, this kind of behavior influences the interests and well-being of other people.”
Shanghai Law and Politics Institute sociology professor Zhang Youde believes that for a white-collar worker street performance is a very individualized way of expressing oneself and could not become a widespread phenomenon. Zhang Youde said the reason why a white-collar worker would do this has much to do with the current state of society. Society has gone from being homogenous and egalitarian to being one in which there are heterogenous classes and these different classes or groups within society have different jobs and lifestyles. This white-collar worker attempting to experience a life different from his own is a way of letting off some steam and on the other hand, deepening their understanding of the social conditions of other groups and increasing their appreciation for their occupation and lifestyle.
Photo from bestbbayou.