Shanzhai, which is Chinese for counterfeit, translates literally to “mountain hamlet,” referring to an area on the outskirts of town where bandits stockpile goods to share among the people. Shanzhai lyrics are the strings of exuberant, experimental text that often appear on shanzhai t-shirts, mostly made in China and sold around the world. We read shanzhai lyrics as one long poem whose found, collaged, and creatively mistranslated phrases destabilize authorship, ownership, and the hegemony of English as an imperial tongue.
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