|Died||March 14, 1996(aged 82)|
|Children||Wang Haiyan, Wang Haixing, Wang Haicheng|
|Awards||UNESCO Outstanding Contributions to the Exchange of Western and Eastern Cultures|
|Origin||People's Republic of China (China)|
|Genres||Chinese folk music|
Wang was born in Beijing on 28 December 1913. He graduated from the Music Department of Beijing Normal University in 1934 and actively participated in the Second Sino-Japanese War on China's behalf beginning in 1937 in Shanxi Province. In 1938, in Lanzhou in Gansu Province, Wang published his first Xinjiang-inspired song, "The Girl from Dabancheng". He took up residence in northwestern China for more than 50 years since then, and devoted his time there to transcribing, adapting, collecting and revising western Chinese folk songs. In all, Wang wrote seven operas and edited six songbooks, and published some 700 Xinjiang-style songs, the most famous of which include "Alamuhan" (阿拉木汗, inspired by a Uyghur song), "Awariguli" (also supposedly an Uyghur song), "Flowers and Youth" (pinyin: Hua'er Yu Shaonian, a Hui Muslim folk song), "In that place wholly faraway" (a song from Qinghai Province), "Lift Your Veil" (掀起你的盖头来), "Duldal and Maria" (a Kazakh folk song), "Mayila", and "The Crescent Moon Rises" (半个月亮爬上来; pinyin: Ban Ge Yueliang Pa Shang Lai).
Wang began to win accolades for his work towards the end of his life. In 1993, "At a Faraway Place" and "The Crescent Moon Rises" were selected as the Chinese music classics of the 20th century. A year later, in July 1994, Wang received the Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Exchange of Western and Eastern Cultures from UNESCO. Wang was made the honorary town head of Dabancheng in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by the local government in December of that year.
When Wang tried to copyright “Xinjiang-style” songs he had published, a controversy evolved about whether he had stolen these folk songs from minority peoples’ traditions, i.e. whether he had actually “composed” (chuàngzuò 创作) them, or just “transcribed” (jìlù 记录) and “added [Chinese] lyrics” (yìpèi 译配) to traditional songs. In 1994 Sidiⱪ Haji Rozi, who now lives in the United States, published an article in the Ürümqi keqilik geziti (Wūlǔmùqí wǎnbào 《乌鲁木齐晚报》) titled “Song Thief Wang Luobin, Stop Stealing!”.
Wang married Huang Yulan in Lanzhou in 1945 and had three sons, Wang Haiyan, Wang Haixing and Wang Haicheng. Huang died in 1951 as a result of tuberculosis. Wang had lived in Australia for a period of time with his son Haiyan who immigrated in 1981, and stated that some of his later work was inspired by the Australian landscape and natural flora and fauna.
Wang died of cancer on 14 March 1996 at the age of 82. His songs continue to be popular today, and modern adaptations of them have been recorded by the Beijing Angelic Choir, a Chinese children's choir that has earned recognition both at home and abroad; by China's popular Twelve Girls Band; and by the famous Chinese rock singer Dao Lang, who is known for his western China-themed pop music.
- Rachel Harris: “Wang Luobin: Folk Song King of the Northwest or Song Thief? Copyright, Representation, and Chinese Folk Songs”. In: Modern China, Vol. 31, No. 3 (July 2005), pp. 381–408.
- Wang Luobin and His Western Folk Songs
- Harris 2005, passim.