Reports About Mr. Fu-Chen Shih and Taiwanese Nursery Rhymes
Compiled by Chi-chia Lo
Source No. 1 Watchinese vol. 69 (on August 19, 2010) reported by Yung-hsi Chang Prof. Chang-hui Hsu discovered the talent in Fu-chen Shih when Shih was his student, and encouraged him to be dedicated to composing and writing Taiwanese nursery rhymes. The deceased Prof. Chang-hui Hsu once wrote in an article, “Fu-chen Shih’s Taiwanese nursery rhymes” that “...in the musical composition class, Fu-chen Shih showed me his work. They were nursery rhymes, or children’s songs with a ballad style. Some of the lyrics were common nursery rhymes, and some were imitations of these rhymes. Yet all of them were written in Taiwanese. The tunes were a combination of the meter of spoken language and musical notes. The phonological characteristics of the Taiwanese were faithfully represented in these rhymes. I was so impressed.”
In 1967, Fu-chen Shih’s nursery rhymes were presented in the composition recital known as “Prof. Chang-hui Hsu and Students,” and five of rhymes were chosen to be the boys scout. Within a year, "Asphalt” and “Shy Shy Shy” and other three rhymes were spread across Taiwan. At that period of martial law, the boys scout was the only organization that was allowed to sing any songs. Fu-Chen Shih had a pen name—“Tze-wen Fang”. After “Shy Shy Shy”, “Asphalt”, and “A-cai Riding a Horse” became hit songs, many more songs, such as “Fatty”, “Catching Crabs”, “CEO”, “Day after Day”, “Fried Peanut Shells”, “The Big Head” were released.
The most memorable song: “Cha-cha Peng’s Big Nostrils” Fu-chen Shih once complained to Prof. Hsu about the poor prospect of being a composer of nursery rhymes. Upon hearing this, Prof. Hsu still insisted that Shih should commit himself to composing nursery rhymes. He encouraged Shih to “be the bellwether in the nursery rhyme creation.” It proves that he does not disappoint Prof. Hsu. Ever since 1964, he wrote more than 400 nursery rhymes, which accounted for 70% of Taiwan’s nursery rhymes.
When asked about the source of his inspiration, Fu-chen Shih candidly said that “...many were impromptu songs. But many of them were based on a story or another.” His earlier works tended to depict the everyday lives of the original society in Taiwan, such as peddlers, how the weather was like, folk customs, popular old sayings, stories, life experiences, or local animals, which are quite a wide variety of topics.
Fu-chen Shih was most satisfied with “Cha-cha Peng’s Big Nostrils”. This song was inspired when he watched a TV show hosted by Cha-cha Peng, who laughed at himself for having very large nostrils. Then he immediately wanted to write a song that educates the children about the importance of keeping hygiene and not poking inside their nostrils; otherwise they might have big nostrils like Cha-cha Peng. Source: https://www.watchinese.com/article/2010/2334?page=2
“Cha-cha Peng’s Big Nostrils” was chosen as an appointed song in one of the primary school’s children singing contests, and quickly became popular among students nationwide. Some contestants sang this song in TV shows, which triggered debate over the intention of the writer of this song. Fu-chen Shih believed this song was enlightening; later on, it became one of the popular ringtones in Taiwan. Source: https://www.watchinese.com/article/2010/2334?page=2
Source No. 2 “Asphalt, stuck on my foot, ask daddy to buy pig’s knuckle…”, this interesting Taiwanese nursery rhyme was written by Fu-chen Shih when he was 29 years old. Now he reaches the age of 80, and has written more than 400 songs. The Changhua County Government filmed a documentary entitled “A Century with the Creation of Nursery Rhymes—the Life of Composer Fu-chen Shih,” which presented his lifetime as a nursery rhyme writer from the past century in Taiwan.
Fu-chen Shih wrote some easy-to-remember nursery rhymes, like “Fireflies” and “A-cai Riding a Horse.” Yet very few knew that he was born and raised in Changhua. The magistrate of Changhua, Ming-ku Wei, referred to Fu-chen Shih as the pride of Changhua. The above mentioned documentary was shot in his hometown, Changhua City, as well as Puhsin Township, Shioushui Township, and Yuanlin Township. Audiences could feel the atmosphere of that time, the local culture and people’s lifestyles in Changhua. This was a mirror of the past Taiwan.
Fu-chen Shih still remembered that summer afternoon of 1964, when he was taking a break at noon, hearing children saying something like “Asphalt, stuck to my foot”. He was so impressed with the harmonious rhythm, and spent less than five minutes writing this song. After that, he has kept writing nursery rhymes ever since. Over the past half century, he has always had a child’s voice hidden in his heart.
Fu-chen Shih said that when Mandarin was promoted in Taiwan at that time, he was asked to speak with the headmaster just because he taught the Taiwanese. Later, the song was banned. It was not until 1967 when a lot of songs written in Taiwanese were sung by the Yuanlin Children’s Choir. They were chosen by Changhua County Boy Scout in 1976. Afterward, these rhymes were spread across Taiwan and even around the world.
Ming-ku Wei said that Fu-chen Shih started to be devoted to publishing nursery rhymes collections and exploring the roots of Taiwanese nursery rhymes in his late adulthood. He referred to him as “the compiler of local experiences and a person who truly cares about people’s life stories”. His life story was a perfect reflection of the background in which these Taiwanese nursery rhymes were written. It was a pleasant scene to listen to these kids singing his rhymes.
Changhua County Government organized a festival called “Taiwan’s Nursery Rhymes Festival in Changhua,” in Changhua County Nan Bei Guan Music Hall. It was a premiere for the documentary entitled “A Century with the Creation of Nursery Rhymes—the Life of Composer Fu-chen Shih”. The spirit of Taiwanese nursery rhymes is vividly shown through Fu-chen Shih’s life experience in Changhua. (Chinatimes) http://www.chinatimes.com/realtimenews/20151022003178-260405 Nursery Rhymes of One Hundred Years: Introduction of Fu-chen Shih! Report of Premiere of Documentary
Interview My Father About Taiwanese Nursery Rhymes
Interviewee: my father 1: How many Taiwanese nursery rhymes do you know? Just a few: Fatty, Egret, Dark Sky, Fireflies, Rainfall, and Asphalt
2: Which one do you love the most? Why? My favourite song is Fatty, because I sang this song when I was little to laugh at other kids who were overweight.
3: How do you feel about Taiwanese nursery rhymes? A lot of them were very funny; some were mocking other people, such as Fatty. Some were used to describe a certain social phenomenon, like Choo-Choo! Taiwanese nursery rhymes are all easy to understand and easy to sing.
4: How do you feel about this interview? Quite interesting! I remember a lot of things of my childhood.
Interviewee: my grandpa 1: How many Taiwanese nursery rhymes do you know? I have heard of Dark Sky, Asphalt, Egret.
2: How do you feel about Taiwanese nursery rhymes? The lyrics of Taiwanese nursery rhymes are very interesting.
3: How do you feel about this interview? The little reporter is adorable, and explains many things very well.
Interviewee: my mother 1: How many Taiwanese nursery rhymes do you know? Just a few: Rock the Baby, Dark Sky, Rainfall, Asphalt, Fatty, The Big Head
2: Which one do you love the most? Why? Rock the Baby I don’t have the least impression of why I knew this song. But it was very natural that I would hum the tune when I tried to rock the baby into sleep. This nursery rhyme was so tender, full of motherly love and expectation for her child.
3: How do you feel about Taiwanese nursery rhymes? They are affable and funny. The depictions reflect what I remembered as a child.
4: How do you feel about this interview? The theme is worth exploring. I am very pleased to see you collecting relevant materials and having a better understanding of local rhymes. Carry on!
5: Do you know any of the stories behind these Taiwanese nursery rhymes? Rock the Baby was written shortly after World War II ended. That was a time when airstrikes, departures and deaths were so common that you just had to bear it all. Mr. Chuan-sheng Lyu had to leave his wife and children for Taipei, where he found a job to support his family. He then wrote this song to convey how he felt about a child’s growing up: as a baby, as an early adult, and getting married. This showed parental love and affection toward their children.