"China Doll" as written by Jerome J. Garcia and Robert C. Hunter....
A pistol shot at five o'clock
The bells of heaven ring
Tell me what you done it for
No I won't tell you a thing

Yesterday I begged you
Before I hit the ground
All I leave behind me
Is only what I found

If you can abide it
Let the hurdy gurdy play
Stranger ones have come by here
Before they flew away

I will not condemn you
Nor yet would I deny
I would ask the same of you
But failing, will not die

Take up your china doll
It's only fractured
And a little nervous from the fall
La la la la la la la

Lyrics submitted by itsmyownmind

"China Doll [Studio Outtake]" as written by Robert C. Hunter Jerome J. Garcia

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

China Doll song meanings
Add your thoughts


sort form View by:
  • +3
    General CommentTo me this song is a shining example of the genius of the Hunter/ Garcia legacy.I am often completely and totally blown away by some new thought about a Hunter Garcia song I have heard for decades. To me China doll is the gentle argument between the suicidal and someone questioning that choice. I have sung this song for years for my mom who took her life, never quite having the whole meaning of the song jell. Today it was the ending that blew me away...The china doll to me has come to represent an acknowledgement of the fragile ego and it is a doll because the fragile ego is often like a child who never outgrows the need for external approval. Sad, and touching. The thing that wows me as much as Hunter's lyrics is how Jerry put the lullaby ending on to it. Of course, as with all great lyrics ...YMMV. ( But really folks, the songs were not about doing drugs ... )
    riteron April 20, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is one of the Deads greatest songs. Simple, slow and very profound.
    bleach1229on October 15, 2004   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThere is a dialogue between a person that attempted suicide and the ferryman who carries the dead across the river Styx. Charon asks, “tell me what you done it for”, and the dead person says, “no, I won’t tell you a thing.” The dead person is bitter that Charon did not grant his request that “all I leave behind me is only what I found”, suggesting that he wanted no memory of himself left in the world of the living.
    The boatman offers to return the dead person to the world of living, by “letting the hurdy gurdy play”. This suggests that he is not dead yet and has not yet crossed the river to the realm of the dead. The boatman has seen many stranger ones return to life when they were on his side of the shore.
    Charon refuses to condemn the dying man and offers that if their positions were switched, he would want to live again.
    The china doll represents the dying man’s life and fragile ego. Charon pleads to the man to give life a second chance and that his life and ego is not broken, but “it’s only fractured, and just a little nervous from the fall”.
    Deadhead1on November 17, 2019   Link
  • 0
    General CommentA song about Suicide.

    Never a real huge fan of this song but i heard the Dead do it in the summer of '03 with Joan Osborne and she had my arms infested with goosebumps.
    Hedgeson June 08, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is one of the Deads greatest songs. Simple, slow and very profound.
    bleach1229on October 15, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentalways makes me think of getting dumped in high school by a girl I really dug...I was that broken china doll :(
    grenon December 26, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentah...poor gren, so sad. everyone loves this song. come on hedges joan is good but jerry!...JERRY!!!!
    nanukrbsiton September 13, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe song is actually about a suicide. In fact, its original title was to be "Suicide Song." It's discussed in David Dodd's Annotated Dead Lyrics.

    The deceased is answering the living's query as to why s/he took his/her own Life.

    I'm just glad/half surprised no one's sayig the song's about drugs like they do in all the other GD song threads.:P
    SocietysPlierson July 10, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree its about murder , loss and betrayal

    Love the last lines ... and the redemption and hope they declare

    " I will not condemn you nor yet would I deny,
    I would ask the same of you, but failing, will not die.
    Take up your china doll, take up your china doll,
    it's only fractured and just a little nervous from the fall"
    jimmyjackjoneson March 13, 2009   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningWell no one's got it exactly right. It is about a suicide, but it's a dialogue between the victim and God. Strong Christian overtones in this one.
    yoachon March 19, 2009   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top