I wrote this song based on a meeting with a poor man wearing rags one cold and misty morning in the forecourt of a temple in the town of Tai'an. The lyrics are an accurate reflection of the conversation. I extrapolated very little. Chairman Mao features at the start, declaring the establishment of the communist government on October 1, 1949 . He did not say "The Chinese people have stood up." This song sums up in a certain way China's history for the 30 years from 1949. I was delighted to meet the gentleman featured and am honored to pass on his story. He really said the words "bird in a cage" to me. In English.
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Recorded in Studio 1 in Hong Kong. Me on guitar and vocals. Eugene Pao on lead guitar.
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Lyrics copyright 2013 Graham Earnshaw
Bird In A Cage
Swirls of mist hugged the mountainside
In a forest of stoneIn a forest of stoneIn a forest of stone
Round about, a dozen dragons hide
Cold to the bone
At the centre of the creation
On the mountain of the gods
Temple eaves swooped down low and wide
I was almost alone, almost alone.
There he was, from another world,
An old peasant man
He was dressed, in ragged padded clothes
A deep, weathered tan
He smiled and in an Oxford accent
He said to me "good afternoon",
Cross the gulf I asked him who he was
And he slowly began, slowly began.
When the world and I were younger, I bid my home goodbye
Left the heartland of Confucius, for the seaport of Shanghai.
But that didn't ease the hunger, so I sailed the sea in ships
Felt the sun upon my shoulder, tasted salt upon my lips.
Oh, the places that I went to, oh, the sights, the things I did
Wonders that, if I had stayed here, would have stayed forever hid.
I learned that life is full of sadness, I learned that life is but a game
I learned that everyone is different, I learned that we are all the same.
We're birds in a cage.
Then the tides of history shifted, left me washed up on the shore
And the commissars they told me, I could go to sea no more.
So I came back to this village, still I wasn't left alone
I was persecuted, beaten, for the foreign things that I had known.
So the tide of red rolled onwards, in its wake a million drowned
While the children of the Helmsman, rode the crest up to the mound.
Yes, they tried their best to cow me, those petty emperors of shame
On the outside they could chain me, but inside I stayed the same.
A bird in a cage.
For thirty years they kept me waiting, and now my life is almost gone
And while I stayed here in this village, the world outside was moving on.
No I wouldn't say I'm bitter, no, I'm not consumed by rage
I just envy those who stayed here, they do not know we're in a cage
That we're birds in a cage.