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Indie Pop



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Indie pop is my translation of xiaoqingxin. Xiaoqingxin, which literally means ‘little clear new’, is used to describe a kind of cute (or kawaii) yet empowering urban sound that is popular among middle-class girls. It is also used as a shorthand for this social group and as such related to older group labels such as wenyi qingnian, ‘cultural youth’, xiaozi, ‘petite bourgeoisie’ and xiaozhong, ‘small mass, small group, semi-elite’. Next to PRC propaganda music it is one of the few Chinese popular music styles that may develop into a fully fletched indigenous genre.

That said, indie pop combines folk, pop and rock elements. Singers usually play self-composed songs on an acoustic guitar that recount personal experiences. Next to heartbreak, traveling is a returning topic. That some singers have recorded whole albums in English further illustrates the cosmopolitan aspirations of xiaoqingxin. The vocal delivery is melodic, girlish and poppy, and also the production of the albums is relatively slick. Still many of the female singers portray a kind of fragile independence that borrows some of its power from the rawer sounds of rock, audible also in the instrumentation of the songs and the stress on liveness.


  • The novels and lyrics of the Taiwanese writer San Mao, often sung by Qi Yu. Mainly in the 1980s.
  • The Hong Kong pop diva Faye Wong, who presented dreamy, disinterested and  autonomous femininities, combining rock, pop, triphop and other sounds. Mainly in the 1990s.
  • Taiwan-based female singer-songwriters, including Tanya Chua, Sandee Chan and Mavis Fan, who since the late 1990s have sought to introduce alternative, gothic and experimental sounds into the mainstream.



  • Cheer Chen scored a hit with “The Meaning of Traveling” in 2004.
  • Deserts Chang performs with her band Algae and is signed to Sony BMG in 2006.
  • The band Natural Q was formed in 2003. In 2006 lead singer Waa Wei embarked on a solo career.
  • So Dark Green is one of the most popular Chinese bands. It consists of men, but has a similar aesthetic as the indie pop singers.
  • Joanna Wang is the daughter of a famous producer. She grew up in the US and mostly sings English covers.
  • Many contestants in talent shows sing in this style.



For the complete chapter, please download the PDF below