Chinese Language Blog

Be Strong Wuhan Posted by on Mar 18, 2020 in Culture

With the whole world seemingly melting down due to the COVID-19 virus, I thought I’d take a moment here on the blog to share a bit of positivity. That’s why the title of my post today is “Stay Strong Wuhan,” although it can really apply to the entire world at the moment!

Wuhan’s icon – the Yellow Crane Tower.

Add Oil!

If you’ve had enough of hearing and worrying about the virus, imagine how the people in Wuhan feel. The city of 11 million was the epicenter of the virus and it has been on lockdown for nearly two months now.

Being trapped inside your home and all the uncertainty surrounding the virus made for a pretty hopeless situation. However, a few days into the lockdown the residents of Wuhan began opening their windows and shouting a message of hope to each other:

wǔ hàn jiā yóu

This is one of those funny Chinese phrases that’s impossible to translate directly. On its own, 加油 literally means “add oil.” Just look at the Chinese word for gas station (加油站 – jiā yóu zhàn) – it literally means “add oil station.”

While you can use this phrase in a literal sense when you’re running on empty and need to fill up, it’s also commonly used to give encouragement. It’s what you say to root for your favorite team or just to encourage friends or family members.

One of the first phrases I learned when I moved to China was “Go USA!” (美国加油! – měi guó jiā yóu) as I arrived at the start of the 2008 Olympics. Of course, in the events where we weren’t up against each other, I also joined the masses in chanting “Go China!” (中国加油 – zhōng guó jiā yóu).

Every night, citizens of Wuhan who are under mandatory quarantine have been rushing to their windows around 8 PM to shout out the rallying cry – 武汉加油! Soon enough, the phrase started trending on Weibo, China’s most popular social media platform.

A Day in Wuhan

A Message of Hope

With most Western media coverage of Wuhan showing the empty streets and crowded hospitals, the chants of 武汉加油! helped to humanize the millions of people in the city who are on lockdown. The phenomenon was even picked up by the BBC in this article.

People all over the world are sending a message of “Be Strong Wuhan,” which has become the favored English translation for the phrase. There have been a lot of touching stories coming out, like this one about the Walk for Wuhan in Newton, MA.

Hundreds of people turned out and chipped in $10 each for “Be Strong Wuhan” t-shirts. They walked for a few miles with a banner displaying the same message of hope as Chinese singers sang traditional songs. The money raised from the event went to buy much-needed supplies for the Wuhan University Hospital.

Amidst all the news of people avoiding Chinese restaurants and xenophobic statements in Western media, this is the kind of positivity we all need to focus on at the moment.

A Wuhan specialty.

A Song for Wuhan

There’s more than just the catchphrase to encourage the people of Wuhan and the entire world in the face of this pandemic. A song called “My City is Sick, But I Still Love It” (我的城市生病了, 但我依然爱它 – wǒ de chéng shì shēng bìng le, dàn wǒ yī rán ài tā) has become the hopeful theme song of Wuhan.

I encourage you to listen to the heartfelt song and follow along with the lyrics for some Chinese practice today:

街道口的风 撩醒了夏虫

热干面糊汤 一样的吃相
海角天涯 流淌唇齿香

这是我的家 在这里长大

深夜的司机 绕几圈繁华
不宵夜 不作罢

黄鹤楼的诗 烂熟在嘴巴

只准自己骂 只许别人夸
我爱的 武汉啊

江汉路的雨 淋过你几回
牛皮谁在吹 面子给不给
仆仆千里 有母劝儿归

这是我的家 在这里长大
一把蒲扇 挺得过炎夏
冬天雪花花 日子火辣辣
可爱的 武汉伢

这是我的家 我们守护她
故乡的土 亲吻过脚丫
如果有一天 她也需要我
搭把手 就过了
搭把手 就过了

Jiēdào kǒu de fēng liāo xǐngle xià chóng
zhú chuángshàng de xiǎohái zuòzhe mèng

rè gān miànhú tāng yīyàng de chīxiàng
hǎi jiǎo tiānyá liútǎng chúnchǐ xiāng

zhè shì wǒ de jiā zài zhèlǐ cháng dà
yà guo dàqiáo shuōguò xīnlǐ huà

shēnyè de sījī rào jǐ quān fánhuá
bù xiāo yè bù zuòbà

huáng hè lóu de shī lànshú zài zuǐbā
duōshǎo cì wǒ dītóu mòniàn a

zhǐ zhǔn zìjǐ mà zhǐ xǔ biérén kuā
wǒ ài de wǔhàn a

jiānghàn lù de yǔ línguò nǐ jǐ huí
èr chǎng qìshuǐ huàn chéngle jiǔbēi
niúpí shéi zài chuī miànzi gěi bù gěi
púpú qiān li yǒu mǔ quàn er guī

zhè shì wǒ de jiā zài zhèlǐ cháng dà
yī bǎ púshàn tǐng déguò yánxià
dōngtiān xuě huāhuā rìzi huǒ là là
kě’ài de wǔhàn yá

zhè shì wǒ de jiā wǒmen shǒuhù tā
gùxiāng de tǔ qīnwěnguò jiǎo yā
rúguǒ yǒu yītiān tā yě xūyào wǒ
dā bǎshǒu jiùguòle
dā bǎshǒu jiùguòle

Wind across the street
Summer insects are awakening
Children are dreaming on bamboo beds
Hot Dry Noodle Soup
People usually eat in the same style
The delicate fragrance of Hot Dry Noodles is always in your mouth, wherever you are
This is my home
I grew up here
I’ve crossed all the bridges to say what’s on my mind
Late-night drivers
Bustling around
The night cannot end
Without midnight snacks
Many poems were written to admire the Yellow Crane Tower
I have all these poems at my fingertips
How many times have I looked down and meditated?
I love Wuhan, and only I can criticize its problems
People outside of the city cannot
Wuhan, my dearest hometown
I enjoy the time on Jianghan Road
When the rain drips from my umbrella
Erchang (a company) used to make soft drinks
But now makes wine glasses
If someone is showing off, will you help them save face?
Mothers are waiting for the wandering children who are thousands of miles away
This is my home
I grew up here
The cattail leaf fan is the most important item in summer
Wuhan is adorable in snow
Our lives are happy
Wuhan residents are friendly and kind
We love Wuhan
We are always with Wuhan
The land kisses my feet
If Wuhan needs me one day
I would give it a helping hand
I would give it a helping hand


Aside from the blatant touch of propaganda about how people outside of Wuhan cannot criticize the city, you’ve got to admit it’s a pretty powerful song. Instead of sharing some panic-inducing news, I encourage you to share that video today.

Be Strong Wuhan!

Be Strong Wuhan

Having visited Wuhan, I can attest to the friendly nature of the people there. I remember having a great time at the famous Yellow Crane Tower (黄鹤楼 – huáng hè lóu) dressed up in my Santa suit taking selfies with locals. I also enjoyed a bowl of the local specialty hot-dry noodles (热干面 – rè gān miàn), much to the delight of the vendors.

You can read all about the city and my experience traveling there in this post, and check out my short travel video below as well:

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you stay safe during these trying times. Wash your hands, avoid crowded places, and do what you can to help those in need. We can get through this together, so let’s add oil! 加油!


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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.

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