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罗大佑's song 皇后大道东 (Queen's Road East) is about the transition from British to Chinese rule in 1997. It seems to be full of double meanings.

In particular, there is a part which is difficult to understand:

空即是色,色即是空,空即是色,即是色即是空,空即是色,色即是空,空即是色,即是色即是空。
空即是色,色即是空,空即是色,即是色即是空,空即是色,色即是空,空即是色,即是色即是空。

The literal meaning appears to be "Emptiness is colour, colour is emptiness", repeated. It sounds like a chant and I feel like the words might be Daoist or Buddhist terminology. Could it be about how things can seem completely different from one to another, but still have the same underlying substance?

Anyway I'm guessing in this context of political transition it must be hinting at something political. Can someone help me to understand, please.

https://youtu.be/9FSFBTo_tYI?si=RKJafCEXfKkTp2KO

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  • Without going into the political sensitivities of the matter, here's one point of view youtube.com/watch?v=DySfrwFT-ew Commented Feb 2 at 3:57
  • In the Chant, “色即是空・空即是色”, "Color" represents things and phenomena that are visible to the human eye, and "Emptiness" speaks of the "Essence" of all "Things", which gave rise to all natural phenomena. This Buddhist metaphysical idea has been interpreted by "New Age" scientists as supporting the Theory of the "Big Bang", a theory of Cosmic Creation, and how the Universe was created out of Nothing, "空", but went on to Evolve into all the galaxies, stars, and planets, i.e. "Color", "色". The Chant, reversed, also evokes the "criticism" that everything in HK, (politically), is but an "Illusion" Commented Feb 2 at 4:49
  • The song's title 皇后大道东 (Queen's Road, East), a thoroughfare in HK, also holds some underlying evocation. When the British colonized any native territory, the first thing they did was to name or rename towns, roads and rivers, etc, to British ones. HK got English ones, and others like Malaysia got Scottish ones, (because that's where the top civil governors came from) The first thing a former colony did after independence was to change it all back to "native" ones, -- Burma to Myanmar, Ceylon to Sri Lanka. So, 皇后大道东, is actually a political eyesore. Wonder when "China" becomes something else? Commented Feb 2 at 5:22
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    "Hong Kong" would have to change too presumably. But it just wouldn't feel the same in Mandarin. Not to mention how awful it would sound when people start pronouncing it Gzianng Ganng. Commented Feb 2 at 8:31
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    Give it time. Beijing, (from Peking), doesn't sound all that awful?; that's because all those people who used Peking are now all dead. If it ever changes to Gzianng Ganng, Westerners being ever inventive, would just call it "GG". BTW, there are quite a few old Chinese restaurants in Malaysia still called "Peking Restaurant". Hong Kong would not change because it is a worldwide recognizable brand, and the Chinese know that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. In any case the Hong Kong people being the most superstitious of all Chinese always have one eye on the invisible power of "Feng Shui", 风水. Commented Feb 2 at 11:56

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how dare you are, sahib; asking about a prohibited song publicly 😹

《皇后大道東》面世後不久便隨即被中國大陸列為禁歌,直至2000年香港局勢大致趨向穩定,《皇后大道東》才終於獲解禁。2019年6月19日,因香港發生反修例運動,再度被中國大陸列入禁歌名單當中。

https://zh.wikipedia.org/zh-hk/皇后大道東_(歌曲)

below info is, imo, . . . not-safe-from-you-know-where 😸

“色即是空・空即是色” is a famous verses quoted from 般若波羅蜜多心經 (aka 般若心經、心經)

the minimum explanation would be:

色 —-> 色蘊 (Rūpa)

any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour (often pl.), form, shape, figure RV. &c &c ...

空 —-> 空性 (śūnya, śūnyatā)

"devoidness", "emptiness", "hollow", "hollowness", "voidness"

in the song, the sequence is changed from the original, become “空即是色・色即是空”, this metaphor, linking to the politic of hong kong, maybe:

色: the colourful, splendid life of a civil society

空: the void, emptiness of autocracy, lack of freedom & democracy

may i reveal my sadness 😿

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  • good explanation, would just add some extra english that the original reference is buddha mantra before alteration, so no need to try to google the links if not known (^ν^)
    – zagrycha
    Commented Feb 2 at 3:03
  • I don't understand why this outsider was so thrilled or desperate to write this song because the songwriter himself was based in Taiwan and makes big money now in the mainland, what happened in Hong Kong had nothing to do with him. Commented Feb 2 at 4:09
  • @NanningYouth, he’s full of empathy lah 😸 when both hong kong and taiwan is located near “that area”, 同病相憐 ? Commented Feb 2 at 5:04
  • I always knew it was a banned song. Just like in Europe most books worth reading ended up on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, around China many of the good songs get banned :-) Commented Feb 2 at 8:17
  • I've discovered the above includes a number of patriotic songs, some of them quite poignant. Commented Feb 2 at 8:18

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