The German version says three, but in the Hebrew version one of them got lost. The German version says the policeman asked a question, the Hebrew version he drove them away. Help me find where one Chinese man went missing to and how come the policeman turned aggressive.

When I grew up, my parents loved to play this singing game with me (Hebrew, followed by English):

שניים סינים עם כינור גדול
ישבו בצד הכביש ופיטפטו בקול גדול.
בא שוטר, גרש אותם, וזה הכול.
שניים סינים עם כינור גדול.

2 Chinese men with a big violin,
were sitting at the side of the road and chatting loudly,
then came a policeman, drove them away, and that is all.
2 Chinese men with a big violin.

The game was to change the vowels of the song from a to e to i to oo, repeating the song over and over again. You can listen to the tune on Wikipedia. Now, I’ve always wondered about the meaning of this song and what it was about, but I eventually forgot about this game.

Thanks to Mireshtnet, nostalgia overcame me, especially since I could never remember anything in my childhood that was even remotely connected to China or Chinese culture. But there it is. Could it be that I had Chinese men drilled into my subconscious since I was a kid?

Seems like this song is a Hebrew version of a famous German song :

Drei Chinesen mit dem Kontrabass
saßen auf der Straße und erzählten sich was.
Da kam die Polizei, ei was ist denn das?
Drei Chinesen mit dem Kontrabass.

Three Chinamen with a double-bass
sat on the street and chatted
along came the police: ‘Now what is this?‘
Three Chinamen with a double bass.

Here, listen to the German song:


Here’s some background from Wikipedia :

[…] In 1913 the first printed version was published in Berlin with the title Drei Japanesen mit ‘nem Bass. Not only the nationality of chatting Asians varies in the early records, but also their number. […]

In fact, there are hardly two identical versions in the early records. While this holds true for most folksongs, the fact that the Three Chinesemen are not only a song but also a game may account for the irregularities. Almost every single word has been changed over time. Thus, there are variants that have the Asians sitting, standing, or walking on the street, while they were chatting or singing, and at times they even did all this not on a street at all, but rather in the woods. […]

But this doesn’t explain the odd differences in the Hebrew version. Suppose we accepted minor changes in the number of Chinese men, it is still a very different story. Why would a policemen drive away the Chinese men who are chatting in the street with their big violin? furthermore – why is that "all", should there be anything else?!

I will spare you my conspiracy theories on this. Do you know this song? do you know a different version? do you have any clue about the strange plot?

Tags: Asia-Israel connections; chinese_man; General; german_version; hebrew_version; policeman;

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hey there, saw your trackback to my blog (

if you look in hebrew wikipedia, you will see the assumption that the reason for the different plots, leading to your conspiracy theory, is just a question of rhyming and rhythm:

נראה כי שינויים אחרים מהמקור בתרגום המקובל נובעים מהרצון לשמור על החריזה ועל המקצב.

it makes sense, since the song has the same rhythm as the original song in german (which is VERY funny to hear) and all the lines rhyme with each other.


well yeah, you know, middle east and all…


I remember having so much fun with that song when I was a kid!! I had no idea it came from German. A very exciting discovery.

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