sung in Hainanese by Stefano Chen

Mai Ying (real name Yan Yue Ying) is a local Hainanese singer-songwriter who used to be the lead musician of the Hainanese opera troupe. She became known to local radio listeners for frequently appearing on the radio interview program “Xiang Yin Archaeology” hosted by Chong Keat Aun (who won the Best New Director at the 2020 Golden Horse Awards and had been a host and program producer for the national radio station RTM for 12 years).

Mai Ying gained even more fame for her Hainanese songwriting, making her well-known in the Hainanese-speaking world, including Hainan Island in China. Almost every Hainanese person knows Mai Ying because of her music.


In 2009, Chong Keat Aun commissioned Mai Ying to write a documentary song called “*來番(Lai Fan) ” based on her ancestors’ historical experience of “going south to Nanyang,” recording the emotional journey of Hainanese pioneers who travelled to Southeast Asia at that time.

Mai Ying’s father is from Wenchang, Hainan, but she had never heard her father talk about his experience of “Lai Fan” when she was young. She was also at a loss as to how to write about it. Fortunately, a phone call from a fan and friend she had met during a recent performance in Kelantan came to her aid.

This Hainanese fan in her 70s, known as Sister Mo Li, shared with Mai Ying how her grandfather often talked about his experience of “Lai Fan,” saying that the sailboats used at that time were simple and couldn’t withstand strong winds and waves. It was a matter of life and death, and after landing, they worked hard to save enough money to return home and reunite with their loved ones. Often, in the middle of the night, they would cry alone on the deserted beach, and the sorrowful cries could even move mountains. After calming their homesickness, they would wait for their dreams to reunite with their families.

“A journey to Nanyang starts, but only faith leads the way……”

“來番(Lai Fan)” or “過番(Guo Fan)” in Chinese refers to going abroad, it can also be specifically referred to as “migrating to Southeast Asia for work or business purposes”, particularly to Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia or Singapore to work or do business.



Translated Lyrics of “Lai Fan” ( Going to Nanyang)

Moon Lady, Moon Lady, round and round
Sailboats sway, life and death follow fate’s sound
Missing my parents, missing my hometown
Alone, tears flow, mourning mountains to the ground
Gazing at the vast sea, sighing with regret
Biting my teeth, working hard without neglect
No fear of death in a foreign land
Deathly fear without a trip to foreign sand
Enduring the hardest of hardships,
That’s how one becomes the best
Sorrow and joy set aside
Dreaming of loved ones by my side
Working hard to see them once again
In toil lies the path to kin.