Clad in baggy army clothes with a mimicked rifle in hand, Liu Liang stood on the stage and posed for a camera-wielding audience, many of whom are his friends and colleagues at a local taxation office in the land-locked Chinese province of Hunan.
Liu, 24, plays in an opera that features revolutionary communists fighting in a guerrilla war against the corrupt ruling class in the 1930s.
He charms the audience by singing perfectly in tune to a high-spirited guerrilla song popular during the reign of the late leader Mao Zedong.
Hunan is the birthplace of Chairman Mao. More than three decades after his death, red revolutionary songs such as the one played by Liu have made a comeback in China.
The most widely-sung red songs include "East is Red," "Without the Communist Party, There is no New China," and "Sing a Folk Song to the Party."
Party cells in government agencies, State-owned firms, schools, and residential communities across the country organize red song concerts and competitions, and the most unlikely of individuals, such as monks and nuns, are seen singing red songs in chorus.
In a twist of humor, a micro-blogger called E2Man posted an eye-popping photo of a person dressed as alien singing to a karaoke machine the red song "Return Home After Shooting Practice." Thousands of people followed the post.
The red campaign is launched in celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which falls on this Friday. Although independent-minded scholars have questioned whether it is appropriate to organize such "mass campaigns," many campaign participants say they sing to their hearts' content.
"It is a truly different experience, and I feel as if I am being taken into the revolution myself and get really exited," said Liu, the young opera performer.
In the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, where the red campaign was initially mobilized, nearly 100,000 gathered in the city's grand stadium on Wednesday to sing at a ceremony to kick off a nationwide red song competition.
More than 8,000 people, aged from eight to 70, were to compete in 90 groups, according to organizers, which includes the Ministry of Culture. And former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger -- a pivotal figure in thawing US-China relations in the 1970s -- was invited to hear the chorus.
Bo Xilai, Chongqing's party chief and a member of the elite Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, has been seen an enthusiastic promoter for the red song campaign.
In Beijing, offspring of senior Communist revolutionaries held a concert Wednesday to sing in chorus the red songs.
Red old days
The red campaign seems to be well supported by people who grew up before the 1980s when revolutionary songs and dances were among the few entertainment available -- there were virtually no pop songs or rock' n' roll. Young people joined various choruses organized by party cells or tuned in the radio looking to learn the revolutionary songs.
"Every time I sing these songs, I am reminded of the old times, " said Wei Anliu, a laid-off worker in the city of Changsha, capital of Hunan.
Wei is among the estimated tens of millions of urban youth sent to the countryside from the 1950s to the 1970s, a mass campaign in which Chairman Mao ordered young people from cities to learn from the peasants by eating, working, and living together.
Back then, Wei was a top student who strictly followed the party's call and immensely loved arts.
"We had almost nothing, but we were truly happy and sang the red songs in high morale," said Wei, who has been laid off for seven years from a cradle-to-grave style factory closed amid market competition. "The time when the whole society is upbeat is worth remembering," she said.
Zhao Baozhu, a retired factory worker in Beijing, agreed.
"The passionate tunes remind me of my youth, and at that time, people sweated blood but felt full of energy," Zhao said.
Red songs, along with other symbols of Mao's era, gradually faded in history after Mao's successor Deng Xiaoping unleashed the sweeping market reforms in the late 1970s, phrasing out the planned economy that drove China in its first two decades.
Today, few of the younger generation can hum the rhythms that their communist forefathers sang to win the revolution that resulted in the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.
While some were caught off-guard by the sudden revival of the red songs, the party said the red campaign was launched for specific reasons.
Wang Xiaohui, vice director of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, said at a press conference last Thursday that the popular red song performances do not signal an ideological return to the past.
"Today we have a very rich and diverse culture, and some like red songs, while others like pop songs," Wang said. "But this year is a special occasion for citizens to get together and remember the revolutionary martyears who helped to create the nation as it is today."
But Yu Jianrong, head of the Center for Social Research at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said a cultural campaign to arouse revolutionary enthusiasm in the public might face significant difficulties in today's China.
Already, some of the campaign propaganda that seems to have gone to the extreme were ridiculed by the public.
An online post that referenced a local newspaper's article that touted the "medically curing effect" of singing red songs was attacked by Internet users who felt the post distorted the article. According to the newspaper, a cancer patient in Chongqing endured the pains of the chemotherapy by singing red songs.