Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.


Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



The music of He Yong and Zhang Chu, two of the Three Heroes of Magic Stone, has played an integral part in the development of Chinese rock. Often relegated to footnotes in the music’s history, this thesis aims to prove their cultural and musical significance during the late-eighties and early-nineties of China’s Reform and Opening period. The term “voices against an era” was chosen to define He Yong and Zhang Chu’s role as rock musicians with alternative voices during this historical period, with an investigation of the term’s role in creating an alternate dialogue. To do this, I first define what it means to be a “voice of a generation” and “cultural hero” and the mythicizing of these terms as a method of crafting a dominant discourse supporting the illusion of economic reform and globalization. He Yong and Zhang Chu’s implication in the myth is explored through their record company’s promotion of them as “heroes.” I follow this up by establishing the artists as alternative voices utilizing the tools of “noise” and “poetry” to present an alternative depiction of China’s Reform and Opening. Chinese societal issues such as identity loss, alienation, the negative effects of modernity, nature, freedom, and social pressure are then identified and analyzed as central themes in six of the artists’ songs. Lastly, I examine how He Yong and Zhang Chu navigated the paradox of fame to influence subsequent generations of rock musicians and fans through their musical legacy. By following a holistic approach that includes analysis of historical and cultural contexts, biographical information, artist interviews, music, lyrics, promotional material, music videos, and scholarly articles, this study proposes that the role of these two rockers was vital in shaping Chinese popular music and providing alternative interpretations of Reform and Opening.


First Advisor

Enhua Zhang