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INTRODUCTION to CHINESE SONGS

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Introduction to Chinese Songs

 

Compiled by Hongchen Wang

Edited by Lucas Fried

 

(2016)

 

******

 

Table of Contents

10 Movie Songs:

Where Is the Road 敢问路在何方

Jiu Er 九儿

Night in the Grassland 草原之夜

Ode to Coral 珊瑚颂

Let’s Row 让我们荡起双桨

Miss My Comrade 怀念战友

Any Empty Bottles for Sale? 酒干

A Beautiful Legend 一个美丽的传说

A Rose in the Heart 心中的玫瑰

I Love You, China! 我爱你中国!

10 Folk Songs:

Jasmine Flower 茉莉花

Paradise 天堂

Kangding’s Love Song 康定情歌

Thirty-Li Village 三十里铺

A Crescent Moon in the Sky 半个月亮爬上来

Shanxi Is Beautiful 人说山西好风光

South of Colorful Clouds 彩云之南

Alamuhan 阿拉木汗

Old Hua’s Tunes 华阴老腔

Daban Town’s Girl大阪城的姑娘

10 Modern Songs:

Sweet Honey 甜蜜蜜

Tomorrow Will Be Better 明天更美好

My Chinese Heart 我的中国心

Love of My Small Village 小村之恋

Please Come with Me请跟我来

Meeting You, My Destiny 遇上你是我的缘

Happy New Year! 过年好!

In the Future 以后的以后

Mother’s Kiss 妈妈的吻

Song of Yangzi River 长江之江

About Author

 

******

10 Movie Songs:

[Where Is the Road] 敢问路在何方

 

Link to the Music Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGW0ZvyqKqg

 

Lyrics in English:

 

You carry the luggage by a shoulder pole

I lead the horse

Greeting the sunrise

Sending away the sunset

On a rough trail,

Our steps made a big road

Overcoming hardship and danger

Going forward, going forward

La-la-la-la,,,

 

Four seasons come and go year after year

Sending all kinds of hard experiences

Where is the road?

The road is under our steps

 

You carry the luggage by a shoulder pole

I lead the horse

Climbing over the mountains

Crossing the streams and rivers

Cold frost falls on our shoulders

A storm roars with lightning 

We are singing and going

Going toward the edge of the sky

La-la-la-la,,,

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

你挑着担,我牵着马

迎来日出,送走晚霞

踏平坎坷,成大道

斗罢艰险,又出发

啦啦…

 

一番番春秋、冬夏。

一场场酸甜、苦辣。

敢问路在何方?

路在脚下。

 

你挑着担 我牵着马

翻山涉水 两肩霜华

风云雷电 任叱诧

一路豪歌,向天涯,向天涯

啦啦…

 

一番番春秋、冬夏。

一场场酸甜、苦辣。

敢问路在何方 路在脚下。

敢问路在何方 路在脚下。

 

Story:

This is the theme song of the Chinese movie Journey to the West, which was adapted from the Chinese classical fiction novel with the same title. The story is based on the real journey of a Chinese Monk, who traveled to India in the seventh century in order to obtain the Buddhist sacred texts. He crossed many mountains, rivers, and desolate deserts. He finally reached India. He stayed in India for 17 years to learn the language and about Buddhism. During his time in India, he also traveled to West Asia where he visited and studied at many Buddhist temples. When he returned to China, he brought back 657 scrolls of sacred Buddhist texts. Then, he spent the rest of his life translating the texts into Chinese and enriched the teaching of Buddhism in China. This song sings about the difficult situations he experienced on the road to India from China: he encountered all kinds of dangers, fought with scary demons, and came upon places where humans lived very differently. Finally, he overcame all the difficulties to fulfill his great mission.

 

***

 

[Jiu Er] 九儿

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry49mFR53vc

 

Lyrics in English:

 

The field lies around me

The fragrance of jujube flowers

Touches my hands

Red sorghum has ripened

Reddening the whole sky

Jiu Er, I’ll see you off to a far place

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

身边的那片田野啊

手边的枣花香

高粱熟来

红满天

九儿我送你去远方

 

Story:

This song is from the Chinese TV series Red Sorghum (红高粱), which was adapted from the novel [Clan of Red Sorghum _]by[ _]Mo Yan, the Chinese novelist and Nobel laureate.  

The story tells a tragic legend that happened in the 1930s-40s in Shandong province of China. A teenage girl named Jiu Er was arranged to marry a man with leprosy. The man’s father owned a brewery. A strong young man who worked in the brewery loved Jiu Er, so he killed the sick man and his father, and then he and Jiu Er lived together. They loved each other and had two children. However, their love was against common morality and offended Chinese tradition. The villagers disliked them.

 

Jiu Er successfully continued the brewery business. In the later years, she became a mature women and a capable business owner. She made the brewery prosperous. The man, her partner, (they could not get married in this circumstance) organized his friends into a brotherhood to protect the brewery from the villagers who hated and bullied them. Another few years later, the Japanese invaded China and occupied their region. In order to fight against the Japanese, one day, Jiu Er and the brotherhood trapped a platoon of Japanese soldiers in a field of red sorghum. Then, they lit the dry sorghum to burn the enemies. Yet, they too died in the flames.

 

There is a Chinese saying: “The land holds the roots of our life.” Yes. We grow grains on it to feed us. We build shelters on it to live in. We do everything on it. It provides us all the opportunity to survive and develop. We would die without land. We could live better with more land, as it would give us more resources. We humans have been fighting against each other for thousands years to occupy land. We invented borders to separate land and keep peace between neighbors. We protect our land from other’s invasion. However, in order to enlarge their land and enrich their living resource, some people always invade other’s land. The local people have to fight against these invaders. War occurs all the time throughout human history. It is the difficult way to settle the argument about the land, since we live on and rely on it. We all praise and protect our land when we think of it as ours!

 

***

 

[Night in the Grassland]

草原之夜

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94hSSOEE6DU

 

Lyrics in English

 

The beautiful night is so quiet

There is only my guitar 

Singing on the grassland

I want to write a letter to my girl 

Who lives far away

But there is no mailman here 

To deliver the letter

 

Waiting for the icy-snow to melt away

Waiting for the spring breeze to come

The scene on the grassland will change

My girl will come

To accompany my singing

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

美丽的夜色多沉静

草原上只留下我的琴声

想给远方的姑娘写封信

可惜没有邮递员来传情

 

等到那千里冰雪消融

等到那草原上送来春风

可克达拉改变了模样

姑娘就会来伴我的琴声

 

Story:

During the 1950s – 60s, the Chinese government sent many city youth to remote border areas. They were organized in military units to open the virgin land near the border and grow grains to feed themselves. They were supposed to live and work there for the rest of their lives. A slogan at the time said: “To be a farmer-soldier taking root on the border is to protect our motherland!”

 

The first such farmer-corps was established in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in the north-west of China. Xinjiang is a vast land with many geographical features such as mountains, steppes, and deserts. The weather is unpredictable, and the living conditions are harsh. However, the farmer-soldiers overcame all these difficulties to start building their lives there. In 1959, a documentary film was made to praise their brave spirit and devotion of their young lives to the border. The song of “Night in the Grassland” is from this film. It describes how isolated life in the grassland was, how terribly cold it was in the winter, and how eagerly the famer-soldiers waited for spring to come.

 

Compared to their bitter life, this song sounds sweet, however, it was an effective propaganda. The song also sang about the separation of loved ones, though, and it quickly became an applauded love song. Now, people have forgotten the film while the song is still popular everywhere. It is respected as a classic Chinese folk song.

 

Sending city youth to the remote border is already history. The whole China has changed, including the border areas. Today, the famer-soldiers are in their 70s or 80s, living as grandpas or grandmas. Their grandchildren have almost no idea about their grandparents’ youth experiences. Occasionally, the old farmer-soldiers have a chance to tell their stories to the media. In these interviews, they are often asked how they feel about their life in those years. They all feel the pain of suffering for so many years on that far, poor land. They regret that they wasted the best years of their life there. However, most of them always conclude their stories: “We contributed our youth to our country. The hard experience made our lives meaningful; we are proud of this.”

 

***

 

[Ode to Coral] 珊瑚颂

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_V2S6m8R2uA

 

Lyrics in English

 

A tree of red flowers illuminating the sea

A cluster of flames rising up from the water

The corals are red in the everlasting spring

The flowers bloom in the wave and wind

 

A red lamp shines on the sea

A glow of flames rises up from the water

The red lamp shines high and far

The raging flames open a path

 

The clouds bury it and fogs cover it

It still shines through

The wind blows it and the waves beat it

The flowers still blossom in the sea!

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

一树红花照碧海,

一团火焰出水来,

珊瑚树红春常在,

风里浪里把花开。

 

一盏红灯照碧海,

一团火焰出水来,

红灯高照云天外,

火焰熊熊把路开

 

云来遮,雾来盖,

云里雾里放光彩。

风吹来,浪打来,

风吹浪打花常开。

 

Story:

This song is from the Chinese movie Red Coral, which was adapted from the opera with the same title. The story tells about how a fisherman’s girl and her family suffered during the Chinese Civil War of 1948, which was between the Communists and the Nationalists. The girl and her family lived on a coral island located in the East China Sea. When the Chinese Liberation Army came, the girl bravely joined the fighting to support the army to defeat the enemy – the Nationalists government. She believed that the Communists could make her life better. She loved her hometown and her people dearly. She had a strong and beautiful heart like a piece of red coral!

 

***

 

[Let’s Row] 让我们荡起双桨

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GLDUL_UQaQ

 

Lyrics in English

 

Let’s row

The small boat opens up a furrow

In the waves

The beautiful pagoda is reflected

In the lake

Surrounded by green trees and red walls

The small boat swings lightly

Cool wind caressing our faces

 

Red scarves are shining

Under the sun

The splendid sunshine spread

On the water

Fish swim in the water quietly

Listening to our singing

We play cheerfully

After finishing our homework

I ask you my dear friend:

Who makes this happy life for us

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

让我们荡起双桨

小船儿推开波浪

海面倒映着美丽的白塔

四周环绕着绿树红墙

小船儿轻轻飘荡在水中

迎面吹来了凉爽的风

 

红领巾迎着太阳

阳光洒在海面上

水中鱼儿望着我们

悄悄地听我们愉快歌唱

小船儿轻轻飘荡在水中

迎面吹来了凉爽的风

 

做完了一天的功课

我们来尽情欢乐

我问你亲爱的伙伴

谁给我们安排下幸福的生活

小船儿轻轻飘荡在水中

迎面吹来了凉爽的风

 

Story:

North Sea (北海) is a famous public park in Beijing located behind the Forbidden City. It has a beautiful lake surrounding a white pagoda. Around the lake, there are many elaborate pavilions, rockeries, beautiful gardens, and old trees. It attracts locals and tourists every day. During the 1960s, it was our paradise – we, the children of Beijing often went to the park for fun. We used to rent small boats and go rowing in the lake, laughing and shouting. A film made in those years named Motherland Flowers depicted the scene best. In the film, as the kids enjoyed the rowing they sang this song. The song became a very famous children’s song in China, which all of us could sing.

 

***

 

[Miss My Comrade] 怀念战友

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k80JV2POnOI

 

Lyrics in English

 

My lovely home

Is at the foot of Tianshan

When I left it

It was as if a honey melon

Was cut off the vine

 

My dearest girl

Lives under the white poplar

When I left her

It was like hanging a guitar

On the wall

 

The honey melon is still sweet

Without the vine

The guitar will sing again

After the player comes back

 

When I lost my comrade

It was like a big avalanche

Tumbling down 10,000 yards

 

Ah! Dear comrade

I can no longer see your great body

And smiling face!

 

Ah! Dear comrade

You can never hear my singing!

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

天山脚下是我可爱的家乡。

当我离开它的时候,

好像那哈密瓜断了瓜秧。

 

白杨树下住着我亲爱的姑娘。

当我离开她的时候,

就像那都它尔闲挂在墙上。

 

瓜秧断了哈密瓜依然香甜,

琴师回来都它尔还会再响。

 

当我永别了战友的时候,

好像那雪崩飞滚万丈。

 

啊!亲爱的战友,

我再不能看到你雄伟的身影,

和蔼的脸庞。

 

啊!亲爱的战友,

你也再不能听我弹琴,

听我歌唱。

 

Story:

This song is from the Chinese movie The Guests on the Icy Mountain (1963). The movie tells the story of how Chinese border guards suppressed a disturbance at the China border in 1951. The border was located in the Tianshan mountain area in the northwest of China. During a stormy night, a group of rebels supported by foreign forces attacked the border guard posts. The posts were set in caves in the mountain. During the battle, the border guards killed the enemies, but one of their soldiers was killed and another seriously wounded. All the soldiers were very sad at the loss of a comrade. They missed him. He was a good young man coming from a lovely hometown where a girl was waiting for him to return. However, he could never go home and marry her. This song expresses the tragedy with mixed feelings of heroism and sorrow.

 

***

 

[Any Empty Bottles for Sale?]

酒干倘卖无

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k80JV2POnOI

 

Lyrics in English

 

How familiar the sounds are

That accompanied me

For many years in wind and rain

There’s no need to remember it

But I’ll never forget it either

 

Where is the Earth without the sky?

Where is a home without the Earth?

Where are your without a home?

How could I survive without you?

 

What would my fate be

If you didn’t raise me up

Give me a warm life and protect me

It was you who brought me up

And taught me to speak my first word

It was you who gave me a home

And let me own it with you

 

Although you cannot speak,

You can tell truth from lies

Although you cannot express

Your feelings,

You dedicate all your energy to life

 

How familiar the sounds are

That I hear from a distance

Reminding me to remember

Your tender heart

When can I return to be with you

Let us sing together again

“Does anyone sell empty liquor bottles?”

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

多么熟悉的声音,

陪我多少年风和雨,

从来不需要想起,

永远也不会忘记,

没有天哪有地, 没有地哪有家

没有家哪有你, 没有你哪有我

假如你不曾养育我

给我温暖的生活

假如你不曾保护我

我的命运将会是什么

是你抚养我长大,

陪我说第一句话

是你给我一个家

让我与你共同拥有它

虽然你不能开口说一句话

却更能明白人世间的黑白与真假

虽然你不会表达你的真情

却付出了热忱的生命

远处传来你多么熟悉的声音

让我想起你多么慈祥的心灵

什么时候你再回到我身旁

让我再和你一起唱!

 

Story:

This song is from the Chinese movie Riding the Wrong Bus (搭错车), made in Taiwan in 1983. It tells the story of an abandoned baby girl being raised by a man who is dumb and poor. When she grows up and becomes a star singer, she lives in a luxurious place, gradually drifting apart from her father. Her father is old, but she has no time to take care of him since her life is controlled by her manager. She is busy singing one concert after another until one day her father dies of a stroke. She rushes to the hospital to see him. She feels deep sorrow for the poor man who saved her life so that she has everything today. Her memory flashes back as she sings the song “Any Empty Bottles for Sale?” that she used to sing with her father when she was a little girl.

 

*****

 

[A Beautiful Legend]

有一个美丽的传说

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xy5Odkd3cwM

 

Lyrics in English

 

There is a beautiful legend

Telling of a fine stone

That can sing

It can give wisdom to a brave man

It also can reward

A hardworking person

If you understand its preciousness

You can gain it

Through crossing over

High mountains

And traveling a long road

 

There is a beautiful legend

Telling of a fine stone that can sing

It can make a weak person strong

And also can bring joy

To a good person

If you bury it in your heart

You will never be lost

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

有一个美丽的传说

精美的石头会唱歌

它能给勇敢者以智慧

也能给勤奋者以收获

只要你懂得它的珍贵呀啊

山高那个路远也能获得

 

有一个美丽的传说

精美的石头会唱歌

它能给懦弱者以坚强

也能给善良者以欢乐

只要你把它埋在心中啊

天长那个地久不会失落

 

Story:

This song teaches how one becomes a good man – by burying a powerful stone in one’s heart. Then, one will gain all the virtues a human being should have. Can you find such a stone? Do you believe that a good stone can make you a better person?

 

I was raised with various such teaching-songs. In my generation, a large part of education was set in songs. We learned some great ideas and moral standards by singing these songs. I remember that when China began to practice the policy of “One family one child” in the 1978, there was soon a song about it, entitled Sweet Mission from the movie with the same title.

 

Many of our ideas have been formed by these teaching-songs. However, life has proven some of the ideas wrong.  Still, when I listen to them, I have an automatic emotional response, as if I were drinking alcohol—alcohol can make me brave and honest, but when its effects are gone I become myself again. For this reason, I now prefer simple songs that sing about real things in life. They often sing about little things using true emotion. They can make us laugh or cry. This is why we like listening to songs.  

 

*****

 

[A Rose in the Heart] 心中的玫瑰

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y60OFrs-o9E

 

Lyrics in English

 

In the depths of my heart

A rose is blooming

I water it with the spring of my life

Ah, the rose in my heart

I hope you blossom forever

Always be my companion

 

When I feel sad

You soothe me

When I am happy

You illuminate my life

Ah, the rose in my heart

I hope you blossom forever

Always be my companion

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

在我心灵的深处 开着一朵玫瑰

我用生命的泉水 把她灌溉栽培

啊 玫瑰 我心中的玫瑰

但愿你天长地久

永远永远把我伴随

 

在我忧伤的时候 是你给我安慰

在我快乐的时候

你使我生活充满光辉

啊 玫瑰 我心中的玫瑰

但愿你天长地久

永远永远把我伴随

 

Story:

This song is from the Chinese movie Trace of Tears (1980), which tells a story set at the end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In those years, China was a mess everywhere after ten years of anarchy. People lived in very poor conditions. The Chinese government had just woken up from the nightmare and decided to institute new policy to pull China out of the hell.

 

When a new county secretary was sent to his post—in charge of a region with a population of 300,000 people—he immediately started working to restore social justice, organize people to go back to work, solve peoples’ problems, and help them create a new life. The people saw hope again in their lives. They had always hoped to live in a better life. Now, they believed that they could improve their living condition by working hard.

 

We all have a hope in life and work hard for it. Although we often struggle with many difficulties, we don’t easily give up. It is because we have a “rose” in our heart that gives us courage to overcome the difficulties. The “rose” could be a dream, a belief, a love, or a friendship. It inspires us to pursue our goals with perseverance.

 

***

 

[I Love You, China!]

我爱你,中国!

Link to the Music Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aw0kpFruXe0

 

Lyrics in English

 

Larks fly overhead in the blue sky

I love you, China!

 

I love your vibrant seedlings in Spring

I love your ripe fruits in Autumn

I love your temperament like a pine tree

I love your character like a red plum

I love your sweet native sugar cane

Like milk nourishing my heart

 

I love your green waves

In the South China Sea

I love your white snow

In northern China

I love your forests stretching to the sky

I love your high mountains

I love your gurgling rivers

Their wavy ripples running

Through my dreams

 

I love you, China!

I want to devote my beautiful

Youth to you

My mother! My China!

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

百灵鸟从蓝天飞过

我爱你中国

 

我爱你春天蓬勃的秧苗,

我爱你秋日金黄的硕果

我爱你青松气质,

我爱你红梅品格

我爱你家乡的甜蔗,

好像乳汁滋润着我的心窝

 

我爱你碧波滚滚的南海,

我爱你白雪飘飘的北国

我爱你森林无边,

我爱你群山巍峨

我爱你淙淙的小河,

荡着清波从我的梦中流过

 

我爱你中国,我爱你中国

我要把美好的青春献给你,

我的母亲, 我的祖国!

 

Story:

In the 1980s, when China re-opened the door to the world after the Cultural Revolution, more and more Chinese people living abroad returned to visit. China being their motherland, they felt like runaway children finally coming back to their home. In their eyes, every landscape was so beautiful. To reflect their feelings, a film was made at the time entitled Overseas Children (海外赤子). The story tells about a Chinese girl who has a talent for singing and wants to join a performing troop to be a singer. She was not accepted, though, because she was born into a foreign-Chinese family. Finally, however, she wins the authorities’ trust when she takes her test by singing this song. Her tender heart for the motherland moved the whole audience.

 

****

 

10 Chinese Folk Songs

[Jasmine Flower] 茉莉花

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdDZBTdLqcc

 

[*Lyrics in English: *]

 

How nice a Jasmine flower is

It is most fragrant flower in the garden

I want to pick it

But I am scared of being scolded

By the flower guardian

 

How nice a Jasmine flower is

When it is blossoming

It is whiter than snow

 

I like to pick it

But I am scared of being laughed

By people

How nice a Jasmine flower is

No flowers can compete with it in the garden

I like to pick it

But I am scared of it won’t sprout in the next year

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

好一朵茉莉花

好一朵茉莉花

满园花草香也香不过它

我有心采一朵戴

又怕看花的人儿要将我骂

 

好一朵茉莉花

好一朵茉莉花

茉莉花开

雪也白不过它

我有心采一朵戴

又怕旁人笑话

 

好一朵茉莉花

好一朵茉莉花

满园花开

谁也比不过它

我有心采一朵戴

又怕来年不发芽

 

 

Story:

Jasmine Flower is a Chinese folk song from Jiangsu province in southern China.  The lyrics were written in 1730s for a play, the music for the song appeared in 1830s. Somehow the song spread out of China and Puccini, the famous Italian opera composer, who found it and use it for his opera Turandot.  Then, it became popular with Turandot and has been sung for one century in the world. The opera story was set in ancient times of Beijing, China. In the opera, besides the well-known aria Nessun Dorma, there is a nice-sounding accompany chorus that is Jasmine Flower.

 

A legend tells about how the term of Mo-Li (Jasmine) became a Chinese language: In Ming and Qing Dynasties in Suzhou city of China lived a farmer whose family name was Zhao. He and his wife had three sons, and they lived together in poverty. One year, Old Zhao left his hometown to make money for his family and settled in a village in Guangdong. Every two or three years he returned home to see his family. His wife and sons stayed at home, farming. The sons gradually grew bigger. They divided the land into three, each son getting one part. They all relied mainly on growing tea. 

 

One year, Old Zhao returned home bringing with him a bundle of flower seedlings. He explained that they were fragrant flowers that the Southerners liked, but he could not figure out their name. Regardless of whether his sons would like them, Old Zhao planted the flowers seedlings on the edge of his oldest son’s tea field. After a year, they grew into trees and blossomed with many small white flowers. The flowers were very fragrant, but they were not of much interest to the villagers. One day, the oldest Zhao sons were surprised to find that the tea plants had the aroma of the small white flowers. Immediately, he checked all the tea fields and found that they all bore the aroma. He quietly picked a basket of tea leaves and brought it into the city of Suzhou to sell. Unexpectedly, the fragrant tea was immensely popular, and soon he had sold it all. That year, the eldest son earned a lot of money from selling the aromatic tea. 

 

The news spread, and the two younger brothers learned of the tea and went looking to get even with their brother. They believed that their older brother’s tea was caused by their father’s flowers, and the profits should be split three ways. Because the older brother refused to give the younger brothers their share of the money, the three brothers quarreled continuously. The two younger brothers wanted to destroy the flowers.

 

In the village there was a very wise old man. The three Zhao brothers went to find him to judge the situation. The old man said, “you are three brothers, you should care for each other. You shouldn’t think only of the tiny benefit that this fight will bring you. The eldest brother found the tea and sold it to make money. That is a good thing. The whole family should be happy. You should plant the flower seedlings in each of your fields, so everyone will have the flowers. You can all sell the aromatic tea, and each one of you will make a fortune. Look here, I’ll give your flower a nickname: Mo-Li, Jasmine flower.

 

The three brothers heard the old man’s words. All of them grew the flowers next year, and each one sold the aromatic tea. Year after year they all became more and more wealthy. Later, their flower tea became famous.

 

The wise old man gave the flower the nickname, Mo-Li (末利): Mo(末)means the last thing, Li (利) means profit. Later, 末利 was written as 茉莉 to make the character’s shape beautiful. The word was translated in English as Jasmine. Nevertheless, everybody should bear in mind the original meaning of Mo-Li: handle affairs in the interest of others, and put personal gains last. 

 

***

 

[Paradise] 天堂

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvptJpHtMQ8

 

Lyrics in English

 

Blue sky

Clear lake 

Green grassland

That is my home!

 

Galloping hansom horses

Pure white sheep

Also you, girls

That is my home!

 

I love you, my home!

My home, my paradise!

 

Lyric in Chinese

 

蓝蓝的天空, 清清的湖水 

绿绿的草原, 这是我的家 

奔驰的骏马, 洁白的羊群 

还有你姑娘, 这是我的家 

我爱你我的家, 

我的家, 我的天堂!

 

Story:

This song sings about “my hometown” – Inner Mongolia. The singer, Tenger, is a Mongolian native who lives in Beijing. He misses his hometown and praises it as a paradise.  

 

When I was 15 years old in 1970, I left my hometown Beijing for Inner Mongolia. I went to there not because it is beautiful but I bored of city and school. At the time, I knew nothing about it, only heard that it is a huge of grassland with people living in the round tents. I wanted to change my life, so when the government implemented the policy of sending city youth to the countryside to accept re-education. In those years the teen-agers must go to countryside to be peasants after they finished their middle school. I joined thousands of city-teenagers for the mission – I went to Inner Mongolia.

 

When we arriv our destination in Inner Mongolia, we found that we had been sent to a barren land. A huge desert was just one mile away from our barracks. From that day, we started to open up the poor land, tried to grow grains to feed ourselves. I worked and lived there for seven years as a farmhand. I began to miss my home since the second year. All of my fellows got homesick. We started to seek a chance to go back to city, but it was not allowed by the government. In the desperation, “my home” became the warmest word in the world. We swore: if I were allowed to return to Beijing, I would be willing to do any work, even sweeping street for my whole life.

 

I finally left Inner Mongolia seven years later to return to Beijing. I was sure about that I would never misses Inner Mongolia. It was a nightmare for me! However, ten years after that time I heard it to come back and knocked at the door of my memory. The barren land and desert awoke in my heart. I realized that the Inner Mongolia had made a trace of my experience and inlaid in my life. I could not erase it.

 

Today, I have left Inner Mongolia for forty-five years and have been living in America. In my memory, the Inner Mongolia has become a nice place: The seedlings of the corn we have planted are spreading on the poor land like a beautiful oil painting. The desert becomes a golden sea expending to the edge of sky. The nightmare has turned into a sweet dream. I wonder why has everything changed its meaning when I am looking back over it now? When I listened to this song for the first time, tears swelled in my eyes. It was my paradise too! My seven years of youth spend there. My first dream dreamed there. My muscles grew there. My journey of life started there. It formed my spirit and bones! Although I have never got a chance to see it again, I have been a part of it already. I like to share this song and my experience because I want to boast Inner Mongolia – my second hometown.

 

***

 

[Kangding Love Song] [*康定情歌 *]

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cF1bpMVX5kE

 

Lyrics in English

 

On the mountain of horse running

One Piece of cloud floats above

The crescent moon illuminates the Kingding Town

 

Li family’s big sister is a nice girl

Zhang family’s big brother loves her

He first loves her as a good person

He secondly loves her

To be able a good house wife.

 

The girls in the world everywhere

I can chase one I love

The men in the world everywhere

You can find one you like

 

The crescent moon shines—-

 

(溜溜的has no meaning

but as the beats in the singing.)

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

跑马溜溜的山上,一朵溜溜的云哟

端端溜溜的照在,康定溜溜的城哟

月亮弯弯, 康定溜溜的城哟

 

李家溜溜的大姐,人才溜溜的好哟

张家溜溜的大哥,看上溜溜的她哟

月亮~弯~弯~, 看上溜溜的她哟

 

一来溜溜地看上,人才溜溜地好哟

二来溜溜地看上,会当溜溜的家哟

月亮~弯~弯~, 会当溜溜的家哟

 

世间溜溜的女子,任我溜溜地爱哟

世间溜溜的男子,任你溜溜地求哟

月亮~弯~弯~, 任你溜溜地求哟

 

 

Story:

It is a folk song from Sichuan province of China. A story tells about how the song was born: In the year of 1920s, a boy was from the town of Kangding and studied at a college in the city of Chengdu. He fell in love with a girl in his class. One day, he brought her to the mountains of Kangding to ride horse for fun. Both were very joyful. That evening, the boy wrote a lyrics according to a local tone to express his happiness.  In that way he made the local tone a complete song. In the 1941, a music teacher passed Kangding and heard this song. Later, he revised the song of music and lyrics and entitled it as The Mountain of Horses Running. Then the song became popular in China. Afterward people call it Kangding Love Song.

Tan Weiwei, a current famous soprano in China, sings this folk song by mixing it with American Rock and Roll style that was very welcome to Chinese audience. She also has tried singing other several Chinese folk songs in this style. The all of those songs were called Chinese Rock and Roll new, and the all got very successful on audience.

 

***

 

[Thirty Li Village] 三十里铺

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnfvdesCDEs

 

Lyrics in English

 

My hometown has a name -

Thirty-Li Village in Sui-De County

I, the fourth sister, love you, the third brother

You are the person in my heart

 

There is a big road in Thirty-Li Village

A theater was knocked down to build it 

The third brother is nineteen-years-old

The two of us like to be together

 

The third brother is nineteen-years-old

The fourth sister is sixteen-years-old

People say we two are matches by heaven

But you leave me at the intersection

 

My dear fourth sister, please do not cry

The third brother will return

Tell me the words you want to say

Do not worry do not be shy.

 

Washing my hands then making a dough

Third brother is going to the frontline today

The task is at the area of Ding County

I cannot see you for two to three years

 

The third brother is a soldier posting in town

The fourth sister stands on a hill

She wants to turn her head to look at him

But feeling embarrassed in her heart.

 

The third brother stands downhill as a soldier

The fourth sister stands dazed on a hill.

She wants to chat with him

But is afraid of others making fun of her.

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

提起个家来家有名

家住在绥德三十里铺村

四妹子儿爱见那三哥哥

你是我的知心人

 

三十里铺来有大路

戏楼拆了修马路

三哥哥今年一十九

咱们二人没盛够

 

三哥哥今年一十九

四妹子儿今年一十六

人人说咱二人天配就

你把妹妹闪在半路口

 

叫一声凤英你不要哭

三哥哥走了回来哩

有什么话儿你对我说

心里不要害急

 

洗了个手来和白面

三哥哥今天上前线

任务你在那定边县

三年二年不得见面

 

三哥哥当兵戏楼站

四妹子儿又在崖畔上站

有心掉头把你看

心里头害麻烦

 

三哥哥当兵坡坡里下

四妹子儿崖畔上灰塌塌

有心拉上个两句话

又怕人笑话

 

 

Story:

This folk song tells a true story from the Shanxi province of China. In 1937, in a small poor village, which had only 30 families, a young girl fell in love with a young man. She broke the tradition of arranged marriage to express her love bravely to the young man. When the young man joined the army and left the village, the girl stood on a hill to see him off. Her felt bitter and sweet, embarrassed her free love A peasant in the village knew her love story and described the scenes in a ballad, to sing it with the local tunes. Later the song spread widely, which was just this song.

 

Love is a free spirit like a bird belongs to the sky. Any constraint on it will damage its healthy live. The arranged marriage is like to put two birds in a cage, which looks nice but both suffer inside. In old China, many young people’s marriages were arranged in this unnatural way. Some of them had their lives hurt. Fortunately, that page has turned over in the modern China. The Chinese women have all rights equally to men now. They have been respected as the half of the sky – another half is men. A man or woman can choose his/her lover or marriages in free will.  Today, when we listen to this folk song, we applaud for the brave girl of Thirty-Li Village and have sympathy to the elder generals used to live in the unhappy marriage.

 

***

 

[A Crescnt Moon in the Sky]

半个月亮爬上来

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEtsHCCu8hE

 

Lyrics in English

 

A Crescent Moon Climbs Up in the Sky

Yi-la-la, climbs up

It illuminates my girl’s makeup desk

Yi-la-la, makeup desk

 

A Crescent Moon Climbs Up

Yi-la-la climbs up

Please open your window quickly

Yi-la-la, open quickly

 

You pick up your rose again

Then gently drop it down

Why doesn’t my girl come out?

Please open your window quickly

 

Yi-la-la, open quickly

Yi-la-la, open quickly

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

半个月亮爬上来

咿啦啦 爬上来

照着我的姑娘梳妆台

咿啦啦 梳妆台

 

半个月亮爬上来

咿啦啦 爬上来

请你把那纱窗快打开

咿啦啦 快打开

 

再把你那玫瑰摘一朵

轻轻的 扔下来

为什么我的姑娘不出来

请你把那纱窗快打开

 

Story:

This folk song is from the north-western area of China singing about a romantic scene. A boy is waiting for his girlfriend under her window for a date. The crescent moon has created a beautiful environment for them. However, the girl shows up slowly, and the boy waits impatiently. The girl probably comes out late intentionally because she knows if she makes him wait, he will say more sweet words to her. She wants to exploit this chance to hear more sweet words out his mouth. 

 

The song writer, Wang Loubin, is a well-known romantic song writer. He knows the sweet trick and game of romance. He collected many folk songs and revised them to become love songs. All the songs have been popular in China for three generations. I have picked up this one because it is simple and vivid. More interestingly, it is a version sung by some African young people in Chinese language. They must have been learning the Chinese in China at the time. They pronounced Chinese words clearly. How nice their singing is of this song!

 

***

 

[Shan-Xi Is Beautiful]

人说山西好风光

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ufa0hgWjEQ

 

Lyrics in English

 

People say Shan-Xi is beautiful

The land is fertile, water, pretty 

And grains, delicious

Point to the left

That is Mountain of Taihang;

Point to the right

That is Mountain of Luliang

Standing on a high ground to look down

You can see the Fen River

Flowing past by my small village

 

The apricot flowers blossom

In the Apricot Village

Young people are in their good years

Men are not afraid of any hardship;

Women can embroider all kinds of flowers.

A person will never be old

If he has an ambition

You see that gray-haired grandma

She straightens her back

Like a girl of seventeen or eighteen

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

人说山西好风光

地肥水美五谷香

左手一指太行山

右手一指是吕梁

站在那高处

望上一望

你看那汾河的水呀

哗啦啦啦流过我的小村旁

 

杏花村里开杏花

儿女正当好年华

男儿不怕千般苦

女儿能绣万种花

人有那志气永不老

你看那白发的婆婆

挺起那腰板

也象十七、八

 

Story:

The province of Shanxi in China is located 300 miles south-west of Beijing. This song sings about how beautiful it is. Shanxi has 3,000 years history and to be called the cradle of Chinese civilization. The famous Chinese legendary story of Niuwa Fixes the Sky (女娲补天) happened in Shanxi. The earliest kings of Chinese tribes called Huang Di and Yan Di (黄帝,炎帝) led their people living around Shanxi in 2,000 BC。The following Kings of Yao, Shun, and Yu (尧、舜、禹) also started their kingdom and governed China in Shanxi. The first feudal dynasty Xia (夏) was established there too. In the later, during Qin (秦朝), Han (汉朝), Tang (唐朝), and South-North dynasties (南北朝朝), Shanxi played a very important role on politics, economy and culture.

 

Shanxi is an extensive loess plateau with 156,700 square kilometers area covered with mountains. It has more than 1,000 rivers in various sizes flowing to the south and east, which belong to Yellow River system. It has one hundred and twenty kinds of minerals that have been found in the land. Agriculture is the main sources to produce food to feed four millions local people. 

 

Shanxi people are smart and hard working. They are good at trading as well. The first bank in China was invented by Shanxi tradesmen. Shanxi is also famous for its beautiful women. This singer, Guo Lanying, is a beauty. When you listen to her singing, you may find her voice nice and attractive. Sangxi people are proud of their hometown

 

If you are interested in Shanxi, please visit it when you go to China next time.

 

***

 

[South of Colorful Clouds] 彩云之南

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otSo5Hld_SA

 

Lyrics in English

 

The south of colorful clouds

Is my heart toward

The peacock flies there

Memory reaches far

Jade-dragon-snow-mountain

Shines in the silvery light

Li River is beautiful

People are on their road.

 

The south of colorful clouds

Is the place I return to

The past things are fragrant

Flapping in the wind

Around the Butterfly Spring

Songs flowing

By the Lu-Gu Lake

My heart still ripples

 

I remember how blue the sky was

That time there

Your eyes softly shine out sunshine 

The world changes constantly

Where are you today?

Forgive me not able to go 

That far with you

Other people’s paradise

Is not our destination

No need to regret for a worthwhile trip

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

彩云之南

我心的方向
孔雀飞去

回忆悠长
玉龙雪山
闪耀着银光
秀色丽江
人在路上

彩云之南

归去的地方
往事芬芳
随风飘扬
蝴蝶泉边
歌声在流淌
泸沽湖畔
心仍荡漾

记得那时那里的天多湛蓝
你的眼里闪着温柔的阳光
这世界变幻无常
如今你又在何方
原谅我无法陪你走那么长
别人的天堂不是我们的远方
不虚此行别遗憾

 

Story:

Some year ago when I was looking for a Chinese song for my students to listen, I found this song on the internet. I played it in the class, and all the students liked it. Then, I used it every day as background music for the meditation in the afternoon class. Later, I overheard some students humming it. So I taught the all students to sing it. Considering they were just learning the Chinese language, I replaced lyrics with some simple words. The students learned and enjoyed singing it. Since then, I taught this song to all my classes every year. All of them could sing it. If they are reading this writing now, they may hum it again. I also taught some other songs to my classes. What a happy time when we sang together!

 

Switching my thought back to this song, it sings about a traveler who misses her hometown Yun-Nan, a province in the deep south of China. The song title cai-yun-zhi-nan, the south of colorful clouds, is the nick name of the province of Yun-Nan. Many beautiful sceneries scatter over in Yun-Nan: Li River, Dian Lake, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Shangri-la, Stone Forest, Butterfly Spring, and Ancient Town of Da-Li, etc. There are more than twenty ethnic groups living there and all of them are good at singing and dancing. This song depicts the beautiful sights of Yun-Nan. The singer represents the local people to praise their hometown – no matter where they go, they cannot forget the place.

 

Since I have shared this song with my students for many years, the melody has been stored in both memories my students and I. I guess wherever we go, we will remember it.

 

***

 

[Alamuhan] 阿拉木汗

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOFSKhqbl3w

 

Lyrics in English

 

What does Alamuhan look like?

She is neither fat nor thin.

Her eyebrows are like two crescent moons.

Her waist is like the supple willow.

Her little mouth smiles mysteriously.

Her eyes make you shiver.

What does Alamuhan look like?

She is neither fat nor thin.

 

Where does Alamuhan live?

360 miles west to Tulufan.

My nights are sleepless for her

I cough during the daytime for her

I travel through a blizzard for her.

I often run through the soles of my shoes for her.

Where does Alamuhan live?

360 miles west of Tulufan.

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

阿拉木汗什么样? 身段不肥也不瘦。

阿拉木汗什么样? 身段不肥也不瘦。

她的眉毛像弯月,她的腰身像绵柳,

她的小嘴很多情,眼睛能使你发抖。

阿拉木汗什么样? 身段不肥也不瘦

 

阿拉木汗住在哪里? 吐鲁番西三百六。

阿拉木汗住在哪里? 吐鲁番西三百六。

为她黑夜没瞌睡,为她白天常咳嗽,

为她冒着风和雪,为她鞋底常跑透。

阿拉木汗住在哪里? 吐鲁番西三百六。

 

Story:

There are some ethnic minorities living in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, located in the northwest of China. Most people there are Muslims. The women wear a long skirt with a scarf on the shoulders, and the men wear a cap on the head. They generally grow up handsome; the girls especially are very pretty. Probably because it has various geographic appearances: the mountain, grassland, and desert, the people are inspired by the beautiful landscape so that they like singing and dancing.

 

A legend tells that in 1800s a Uighur beauty named Alamuhan lived in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang today. She was often bothered by crowds of admirers. The prince, wealthy men, and playboys often invited her to their parties. She became bored with them and she moved to Tulufan, a remote place, and lived there alone. After ten year she returned to Urumqi. She set a stage in public place to choose her groom. She tested the men who wanted to marry her by making them answer her riddles and sing and dance for her. Then, she chose the best one among them. 

 

This folk song sings about another case. A young man loved Alamuhan, and he described how beautiful she was, how much he adored her, and how hard he chased her. By asking himself questions and answering himself, he expressed how helpless and ridiculous his love for her made him feel. The Chinese song king Wang Luobin found this song and revised it. Then, it became a famous romantic folk song.

 

***

 

[Old Hua’s Tunes] 华阴老腔

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLyRcS4dLKc

 

Lyrics in English

 

Goddess finished mending of sky

One stone left to become Hua Mountain

Bird carries the sun

Flying from east to west

 

The sky is accompanied by the earth

Bird carries the sun flying in circles

Hua Mountain is accompanied by Yellow River

The grains in farmland bend with smile

 

Why has the sky become gray?

Why has the land lost green?

Why have the people’s hearts been not red?

Why have the snowy mountains turned into black?

 

Why have the rhinoceroses lost their horns?

Why have the elephants lost their teeth?

Why have the sharks lost their fins?   

Why have the birds lost their wings?

 

The round sun and crescent moon

Both hang in the sky

 

Why has the desert lost its oasis?

Why have the stars never glittered?

Why have the flowers never blossomed?

Why have the world become colorless?

 

Why do we continue to squander

When we know the consequence?

We should stope our steps

To give back the world a little color 

 

Lyric in Chinese

 

女娲娘娘补了天

剩块石头成华山

鸟儿背着太阳飞

东边飞到西那边

 

天空有大地做伴了

鸟儿背着太阳打转了

华山有黄河做伴了

田里的谷子笑弯了

 

为什么天空变成了灰色

为什么大地没有绿色

为什么人心不是红色

为什么雪山变成黑色

 

为什么犀牛没了角

为什么大象没了牙

为什么鲨鱼没了鰭

为什么鸟儿没了翅膀

 

太阳圆

月亮弯都在天上,

 

为什么沙漠没了绿洲

为什么星星不再闪烁

为什么花儿不再开了

为什么世界没了颜色

 

为什么我们知道结果

为什么我们还在挥霍

我们需要停下脚步

还给世界一点颜色

 

Story:

I heard this song in WeChat by a chance. I was amused by the lyrics, and then touched by its honest words. The singer sang in yelling to tell about what she had seen and felt of the declined environment in the world. It reminds me a simple truth – we should stop our bad behavior to protect and maintain the natural world in the good shape. It is human beings responsibility.

 

It is said that the Hua’s Old Pitch was born in during Han Dynasty in 2,000 year ago. By the Hua Mountain, which located 600 miles north of Beijing, a village had a military granary. The villagers often transported the grain by boat in river. They invented a boatman chant to inspire their rowing. Afterward, the melody became a local song named Hua’s Old Pitch. In the late of nineteen century, the shadow play appeared in the area, it used Hua’s Old Pitch to sing the lyric. The accompany music was played with some simple strings and percussion made by local people. The shadow play often tells the stories of ancient wars. The singing in the play always sounded rough and uninhibited, sad and stirring. 

The Hua’s Old Pitch was forgotten for some years, and then it becomes popular again today. Some Chinese musician found it and tried to combine it with American Rock N Roll. This song is one of their experiments of the style. In 2006, Chinese government collects the Hua’s Old Pitch into the list of national intangible cultural heritage. Since then, the local singers perform it regularly at the local hotels to attract tourists. They also have opened workshop to teach people who like to sing. Some foreign musicians find there to study the local original songs. The Emperors of Han Dynasty may hear the strange singing under the ground.

 

***

[Daban Town’s Girl]

大阪城的姑娘

 

[+ Link+] to the Music Video

[+ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLBKQv0cMzg&feature=youtu.be+]

 

Lyrics in English

The stone road in Daban Town

Are hard and smooth

The watermelons are big and sweet

Daban Town’s girls have long plaits

Their eyes are really beautiful

If you want to marry a man

Don’t marry other men

But must marry me

To bring your dowry

And sing your song

Sitting in a horse-cart to come

Lyrics in Chinese

 

大阪城的石路硬又平

西瓜是大又甜
大阪城的姑娘辫子长

两个眼睛真漂亮

你要是嫁人不要嫁给别人

一定要嫁给我

带着你的嫁妆

唱着你的歌儿

坐着那马车来

Story:

Daban Town’s Girl is also the folk song from Xinjiang area. In 1930s, Wang Luobin, a Chinese music teacher and song lover often visited Xijiang to collect beautiful folk songs. He revised them to become popular love songs later. Daban Town’s Girl, Alamuhan, and Crescent Moon in the Sky are the most famous songs among those love songs.

 

Once When Wang Luobin visited Xinjiang, it was said, one day he was travelling in a horse-cart. The driver was a happy Uighur man, wearing a small flowery cap on his head and having a small moustache. When he hummed a local song along the road, the song impressed Wang Luobin with its lovely beats. He asked the driver through his local guide who can spoke Uighur language, “What did the song sing about? “ The driver told a story.

 

Long ago, some bandits from Tulufan often came to rob Daban Town. Once, they came again. The head of the bandits saw a girl who was very beautiful. He wanted to force her to marry him. The girl asked him, “Why do you want to marry me?” The head of the bandits said, “Because you are beautiful as a flower.” The girl said, “If you want the flower fresh, you should water it, but it will be withered soon.” The head of the bandits asked the girl, “How should I water you?” The girl said, “Go back to your home and let my home peaceful. If you really love me and want to marry me, you should send a messenger to me with your proposal,” The man listened to the girl and brought his men away. Some days later, a decent man visited Daban Town and found the girl’s home. He said to her, “I have some words for you from my boss. “ Then, he took out a hand-drum, started playing and singing this song to the girl. The girl smiled secretly and thought that the head of the bandits really loved her. She accepted his proposal and went to Tulufan to marry him. Since then, the bandits never came to rob Daban Town.

 

Today, the story was almost forgotten by people, but the song has been singing everywhere. The story is like the grapes that taste sweet for a moment. However, the song is like the wine that can intoxicate people.

 

****

 

10 Chinese Modern Songs

[Sweet Honey] 甜蜜蜜

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iij982BH8kQ

 

Lyrics in English:

 

Sweet honey

You smile so sweetly

It’s like flowers blooming in spring wind!

Where? Where did I meet you?

Your smiling face is so familiar

I can’t remember right now.

 

Ah – in a dream!

A dream was where I saw you.

Your smile is so sweet

It was you, I dreamed about you

Ah, in a dream !

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

甜蜜蜜, 你笑得甜蜜蜜

好像花儿开在春风里

开在春风里

 

在哪里, 在哪里见过你

你的笑容这样熟悉

我一时想不起

啊, 在梦里!

 

梦里梦里见过你

甜蜜笑得多甜蜜

是你, 梦见的就是你

啊, 在梦里!

 

Story:

There were fourteen American kids in my Chinese level 3 class.  They were junior and senior high-school students.  Last month, I taught them this Chinese song as a kind of exposure to Chinese culture. They learned it quickly and could sing it nicely. Then, I gave them an assignment to translate the Chinese lyrics into English. I encouraged them to use their own words to translate it, but keep the meaning. The next day, the students handed in their homework. When I read them, I was so moved by their translations. None of them were the same. Almost everyone translated the lyrics into English with different words – their own words. Below are the lyrics from three of the students’ translations. I believe that these words express the original meaning the most beautiful. After the song, I listed other students’ translation of the first sentence of the lyrics to show how differently they had used their own words to express the same meaning.

           

The first sentence of the lyrics translated by the students in different words:

 

Sweet honey, your smile is as sweet as honey

 

Sweetie, you smile sweetly like honey

 

Sweet honey, you smile like honey from the bees.

 

Sweet honey, you smile so sweetly.

 

Sweet pie, your smile is as bright as fresh blossoming flower in the open field.

 

Sweet honey, your smile likes petals opening in spring wind.

 

Sweet honey, your smile is like flower blossoming in the spring breeze.

 

Darling, your smile is so sweet.

 

I was so intrigued by the comparison. Everyone translated the word “sweetly” with different subtle nuance. I once asked them how they usually check their English writing. They told me that they check their writing by how they feel when they read it. If they felt the writing sounded correct, they usually would not have make mistakes. I understood their point. The mother tongue is our built-in language. We speak it without thinking even uneducated people can speak their mother tongue correctly. On the other hand, when my students use their mother language to interpret the Chinese song, why did they choose different words? Did they choose the words by their feelings? If yes, does it mean people have different feelings when they express the same meaning? In other words, to say the same thing, people do use different words. It is the colorful feelings that make the words colorful. How amazing language is: it can be tinted with all kinds of colors and formed into multiple styles. Our languages are so flexible that people can use them to express their kaleidoscope-like minds!

 

***

 

[Tomorrow will be Better]

明天更美好

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xv3yvRa4F4Y

 

Lyrics in English

 

Quietly, wake up your heart

Opening your eyes slowly

Looking at the busy world

Whether it still turns alone

Spring wind doesn’t understand the feeling, 

It stirs up teenagers’ heart

Let yesterday’s tears dry with wind

Look up at the wings of the sky

Migrating birds leaving their trace

Bringing the news of famine and war

From far places

 

The snow falls from Jade Mountain

To burn young people’s heart

Making their true feelings dissolve to musical cords

Telling their good wishes from a distance 

 

Singing out your warmth,

Stretching out your hands,

Let me embrace your dream

Let me own your true face

Let my smile full of youthful pride

Give tomorrow our sincere prayers

 

Who can ignore his hometown

And forget his memory of childhood?

Who can bear yesterday’s sadness

That took away our smile?

Youth doesn’t understand the mundane

Rouge was stained by dust

Let the tears moisturize your face

 

Singing out your warmth

Stretching out your hands

Let me embrace your dream

Let me own your face

Let my smile full of youthful pride

Give tomorrow our sincere prayers!

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

轻轻敲醒沉睡的心灵

慢慢张开你的眼睛

看看忙碌的世界

是否依然孤独地转个不停

春风不解风情

吹动少年的心

让昨日脸上的泪痕 

随记忆风干了

 

抬头寻找天空的翅膀

侯鸟出现它的影迹

带来远处的饥荒无情的战火

依然存在的消息

 

玉山白雪飘零

燃烧少年的心

使真情溶化成音符

倾诉遥远的祝福

 

唱出你的热情

伸出你的双手

让我拥抱着你的梦

让我拥有你真心的面孔

让我们的笑容充满着青春的骄傲

为明天献出虔诚的祈祷

 

谁能不顾自己的家园

抛开记忆中的童年

谁能忍心看那昨日的忧愁

带走我们的笑容

青春不解红尘

胭脂沾染了灰

让久违不见的泪水 

滋润了你的面容

 

唱出你的热情

伸出你的双手

让我拥抱着你的梦

让我拥有你真心的面孔

让我们的笑容充满着青春的骄傲

为明天献出虔诚的祈祷!

 

Story:

This song was popular in the 1980s in China. In those years, the Chinese people didn’t have hope for the future since they had lived under strict political control for three decades. The government decided everything for the people. In 1979, a new leader, Deng Xiao Ping, came to power. He implemented many new policies. China opened the door to the world and practiced free market economy. Chinese people felt like had stepped out of a dark room and were seeing the blue sky. They were so happy with the new day. A little hope quietly grew in their hearts – tomorrow will be better! However, they were still worried about some unstable things. They prayed for a better tomorrow though they had been taught to be atheists. You can see the mixed emotions in the lyrics.  

 

***

 

[My Chinese Heart] 我的中国心

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wV8eZfv6Gk

 

Lyrics in English

 

The rivers and mountains

Are in my dreams

Motherland,

I haven’t been near you

For many years

But no matter what

Nothing can change

My Chinese heart!

 

Although I wear western style clothes

My heart is still a Chinese heart

My ancestor has already marked

Everything on me

With a Chinese vestige

 

The Yangzi River, the Great Wall

The Yellow Mountain, the Yellow River,

They weigh thousands of pounds

In my heart

Whenever, wherever

They are always dear to me

 

The blood runs in my heart

Surging in my Chinese voice

Although I live abroad

It cannot change my Chinese heart!

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

河山只在我梦里

祖国已多年未亲近

可是不管怎样也改变不了

我的中国心

 

洋装虽然穿在身

我心依然是中国心

我的祖先早已把我的一切

烙上中国印

 

长江, 长城

黄山, 黄河

在我心中重千斤

无论何时 无论何地

心中一样亲

 

流在心里的血

澎湃着中华的声音

就算生在他乡也改变不了

我的中国心!

 

Story:

A Hong Kong singer sang this song for the first time in 1984 in Beijing. It expressed most Hong Kong people’s feelings in those years. At that time, China had just opened its door to the world after thirty years of isolation. Hong Kong people could set their foot on the motherland for the first time since 1949. They are Chinese but had been governed by Britain for 150 years. (1840-1997). Furthermore, Hong Kong was treated as an enemy territory by China after 1949. So, as soon as China changed its policy to allow Hong Kong people to come back to China, so many feelings stirred up in their hearts. They were in tears with happiness and grief like a lost child having found his family. They cried out from their hearts: China is our China too though we are living in Hong Kong. The Chinese people warmly applauded this song. It soon spread around the entire Country. All the Chinese people knew this song at the time. Today, people still sing it sometimes.

 

***

 

[Love of My Small Village]

小村之恋

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKmm6YOKY14

 

Lyrics in English

 

The bending stream

The clear green hill

A small village nestles in there

The blue sky

The fragrant flowers

How come my heart yearns for them?

 

Ah, asking my hometown

Have you been fine since I left?

I always miss you

I would like to go back to you

The beautiful village

The beautiful view

You often appear in my dreams!

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

弯弯的小河 

青青的山冈
依偎着小村庄
蓝蓝的天空 

阵阵的花香
怎不叫人为你向往

 

啊! 问故乡
问故乡别来是否无恙
我时常时常地想念你
我愿意, 我愿意
回到你身旁 

回到你身旁
美丽的村庄 

美丽的风光
你常出现我的梦乡—-

 

Story:

In 1978, I finally came back to Beijing from Inner Mongolia where I had been re-educated for 7 years. One day, a friend told me that his father had bought a small cassette player in Hong Kong. He invited me to see it and listen to songs played with it. I rode a bicycle to his home. He showed me the player: a small brick-like machine, put a cassette in it, and pressed a button. Immediately, a sweet melody floated out and swirled in the air. The girl’s singing was like whispering to my ears. My heart was caught. My friend told me the singer’s name was Deng Li Jun (Teresa Teng). She was a famous pop singer in Taiwan. The song was called Love of My Small Village – just this one. We enjoyed the song very much and played it repeatedly.

 

***

 

[Please Come with Me] 请跟我来

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biy5SOvQQ3o

 

Lyrics in English:

                           

I step with the same pace

To match the time you arrive

When you are in panic and hesitation

Please come with me

 

With dreams and expectations

I feel exciting

When you do not pay attention

Please come with me

 

Don’t say that

It is an unpredictable world

Don’t say, no need to say

Your eyes have already told me

 

When the spring rain fall down

Dripping along your hair

Wearing your crystal beads

Come with me please

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

我踩着不变的步伐

是为了配合你到来

在慌张迟疑的时候

请跟我来

 

我带着梦幻的期待

是无法按捺的情怀

在你不注意的时候

请跟我来

 

别说什么

那是你无法预知的世界

别说你不用说

你的眼睛已经告诉了我

 

当春雨飘呀飘的飘在

你滴也滴不完的发梢

戴着你的水晶珠链

请跟我来

 

 

Story:

This is a nice song. However, I have some problems with the meaning.

First, the refrain is very provocative, singing “Please come with me”, the boy calling the girl. The girl should ask him, “Why should I come with you?” But she does not.

 

Second, even in a two-person-world, one still leads another. Is it human nature that some people must guide others and some people must be guided? In a romantic relationship, the rules for the game seem to be that the boy chases the girl then leads her. However, the boy might be not qualified for the role. Can he bring her to the places she likes? Although he promised her he can, it is not guaranteed. In fact, she has already doubted, “It is an unpredictable world”. Truly, life is full of gambles.

 

Third, if the boy makes the girl disappointed, it is not boy’s fault. It is because the boy has said “When you do not pay attention, come with me”. The girl should pay attention to him before she goes with him. She is responsible for her to be captured by his coaxing.

 

If someone asks you, “Please come with me?” Do you go with him? Before you make the decision, you should do two things: 1) Check his purpose behind the colorful fogs. Is the merit for you or himself? 2) Find some ways to test him several times. (One time is not enough).

 

I think those two suggestions apply not only for the girls, but for all people. We have to pay attention to the people who want to be the leader as they may not lead us to a better place.

 

***

 

[Meeting You Is My Destiny]

遇见你是我的缘

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6P9Et7N24k

 

Lyrics in English

 

The love song beneath the mountain

Is like a meandering river

My heart is flowing in the river

 

The lovesickness under the blue sky

Is like a winding road

My dreams are all packed in my luggage.

 

All the waitings is no longer

I have chosen you to be with me

For my whole life

Meeting you is my destiny

Watching over you is my song

Dear, dear, I love you –

Like a snow lotus

Blossoming on the mountain

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

高山下的情歌是这弯弯的河

我的心在那河水里游

蓝天下的相思是这弯弯的路

我的梦都装在行囊中

 

一切等待不再是等待

我的一生就选择了你

遇上你是我的缘

守望你是我的歌

亲爱的 亲爱的 我爱你

就象山里的雪莲花

 

Story:

What is love? Love is miracle. It can turn a glance into sunshine. It can reveal a fact as a dream. It tortures the lovers ruthlessly with time to show them whether they are truly right for each other. Love is a mystery and everyone is irresistibly attracted by it.

 

***

 

[Happy New Year 过年好!]

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etEAVeePVG0

 

Lyrics in English

 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Men, women, elderly, young

Are laughing happily together!

 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Each year is better than the last!

 

New Year is here

No need to give a red envelope

No need to put money in the envelope

Health and happiness

Are the most important!

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

问声过年好

问声过年好

男女老少齐欢笑

问声过年好

问声过年好

一年更比一年好!

过年好!

 

新年到

问声过年好

倒没需要给红包

您给的红包不需要钞票

健康快乐最重要!

 

Story:

To celebrate the Chinese New Year in 2016, my colleague recommended me to teach my students to sing this 2013 song of Happy New Year because it is a good song for the students to sing together. I changed lyrics a bit from the original to adapt the song to the students singing. I helped my students practice it and they sang it well. We were going to perform it during the school morning-assembly on February 8, the day of Chinese New Year. Unfortunately, it was a snow day and school was canceled. Afterward, we were seeking another opportunity to sing but could not find a proper chance throughout the rest of the term. My students and I were very disappointed. Now I just hope there will be a chance for the students to sing it next year.

 

***

 

[In the Future] 以后的以后

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv450hl173g

 

Lyrics in English:

 

The wind has decided to go

How can the clouds keep it?

We held each other tightly before

Now my hands relax

Love is like the spilling water

You cannot collect it back

I still stand at the intersection

Where you have left

 

I know that you don’t really love me

So, I should let you go

Why do I insist on you staying with me

I seem to be a fool

Is it because our love has no future 

So that we’ll feel pity for our whole lives

Or do we live together just by fate, not love

So that we’ll always complain to each other

 

After you leave

You should limit your drinking of alcohol

Don’t forget to collect the clothes after laundry

In the future

You will be the boyfriend of another girl

If we run into each other,

It would only make me suffer 

 

After I don’t have you with me,

I will travel by myself

Making a few friends somewhere sometimes

In the future

Perhaps I will hold another man’s hand

If we run into each other,

I wll learn to say hello to you with a smile 

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

风决定要走, 云怎么挽留

曾经死纠缠, 放空的手

情缘似流水, 覆水总难收

我还站在你离开的路口

 

你既然无心,我也该放手

何必痴痴傻傻纠缠不休

是情深缘浅,留一生遗憾?

还是情浅缘深, 一辈子怨偶?

 

没有我以后,一个人少喝点酒

窗台外的衣服有没有人来收?

以后的以后,你是谁的某某某

若是再见,只会让人更难受

 

没有你以后,一个人四处旅游

在某时某地交上三两个朋友

以后的以后,我牵着别人衣袖

若是有缘再见,也要学会笑着问候

Story:

It seems that the girl is talking to her boyfriend in her heart. Her boyfriend has just left her, but she still cares about him. She doesn’t scold him even though he no longer loves her. Instead, she convinces herself to manage her sad feelings. She prepares herself for the future. In addition, although hurt by him, she still reminds him to take care of himself. The girl really has a big heart – big enough to contain the betrayal.

 

Love, as the lyrics sing, is like water. The water consists of two lives that flow together. It should hums happily not only when it runs on a nice place, but also hold together when the time comes to jump over rocks.

 

Love means devoting oneself to another. If the value of love changes through changing condition, love will become a trade between partners. However, many marriages are based on trade. In fact, even a seemingly real love may have hidden purposes to it. So, love often inevitably turns a lovely face into an ugly one. The tragedies of love provide various materials for the musician and novelist. They can make songs and stories from love. Sometimes, when we listen to the songs and read the stories, we actually enjoy our bad luck in tears. It is ironic.

 

***

 

[Mother’’ Kiss] 妈妈的吻

 

[+ Link+] to the Music Video

[+ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBenu7_fn-g&t=25s+]

 

Lyrics in English

 

In that distant mountain village

My dear mother lives

Her hair has already turned gray

Those unforgettable days in the past

How many kisses Mom gave me?!

Her kiss dried the tears on my face

Her kiss warmed my young heart

Mother’s kiss, sweet kiss

I miss those kisses till today

 

Longing for my mountain village in the distance

Has my lovely little swallow returned home

As a daughter, I have a wish

I wish to kiss my mother in return

To dry her tears of missing me

To soothe her lonely heart

A daughter’s kiss, a pure kiss

Wishing my mother happiness!

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

在那遥远的小山村 小呀小山村

我那亲爱的妈妈已白发鬓鬓

过去的时光难忘怀

妈妈曾给我多少吻

 

吻干我脸上的泪花

温暖我那幼小的心

妈妈的吻, 甜蜜的吻

叫我思念到如今

 

遥望家乡的小山村

我那可爱的小燕子可回了家门

女儿有个小小心愿

再还妈妈一个吻

 

吻干她那思儿的泪珠

安抚她那孤独的心

女儿的吻, 纯洁的吻

愿妈妈得欢欣

 

Story:

Chinese people have copied many American holidays for China. They celebrate them at the same time and in the same ways. On Mother’s Day last year, I read many nice essays devoted to mothers on WeChat, which is the largest social media platform in Chinese. Inspired, I posted this Chinese song, Mother’s Kiss, to my English blog to praise our mothers. It received many responses from English readers. There are many differences that have divided people into separate cultures. However, there are also many similarities that connect us in a certain ways. No matter where we come from, we all have a mother. We love her and thank her. She gives us life and hopes we live in peace and happiness!

 

***

 

[Song of the Yangzi River]

长江之歌

 

Link to the Music Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whoCjiTIUW0

 

Lyrics in English

 

You come from the snow-capped mountain

The spring waves create your elegant appearance

You walk toward to the East China Sea

Billowing in your heroic manner

You nurture every race of Chinese

Using your milk-like water

You connect the mountains and ocean

With your strong arms

We praise the Yangzi River

You are the endless source of our life

We are attached to you, Yangzi River

Like you’re our mother’s breast.

 

You come from ancient times

Big waves wash away the dirt

You run into the future

The billowing resounds in the sky

You irrigate the land with clear streams

You promote the new era with strong power

We praise the Yangzi River

You are the endless source of our life

We are attached to you, Yangzi River

Like you’re our mother’s breast.

 

Ah! The Yangzi River!

 

Lyrics in Chinese

 

你从雪山走来

春潮是你的风采

你向东海奔去

惊涛是你的气概

你用甘甜的乳汁

哺育各族儿女

你用健美的臂膀

挽起高山大海

我们赞美长江

你是无穷的源泉

我们依恋长江

你有母亲的情怀

 

你从远古走来

巨浪荡涤着尘埃

你向未来奔去

涛声回荡在天外

你用纯洁的清流

灌溉花的国土

你用磅礴的力量

推动新的时代

我们赞美长江

你是无穷的源泉

我们依恋长江

你有母亲的情怀

啊, 长江啊长江!

 

Story:

The Yangzi River is the longest river in China. It is 6,211 kilometer long, originated in the snow-capped mountains in the west of China, running toward the east to enter the East China Sea in Shanghai. It passes through 11 provinces and cities with beautiful landscapes on both banks. Chinese respect it as the cradle of Chinese civilization, sharing the same reputation with Yellow River. The both rivers have nurtured Chinese generation after generation. In the 1980s, China Central Television made a documentary film introducing the Yangzi River and its surrounding areas entitled Talking about the Yangzi River. This song is the theme song in that film.

 

****

 

About author:

Hongchen Wang is a Chinese teacher and author. His other books can be found on amazon.com:

https://www.amazon.com/Hongchen-Wang/e/B009YZOXVY

 

Lucas Fried is an American High School student. He has been learning Chinese and Spanish.

 


INTRODUCTION to CHINESE SONGS

These songs are selected from Chinese movie songs, folk songs and modern songs. Although they are from different decades, all of them are still popular now in China. Each song reveals a bit of Chinese history and culture. In the linked music videos, the singers show their various singing styles and musical renditions. Through listening to these songs, Chinese learners can practice their kills of the language. The music lovers can enjoy more melodies. The author also tells the background stories of the songs, discusses and shares his experiences related to the songs with short comments.

  • ISBN: 9781370389056
  • Author: Hongchen Wang
  • Published: 2016-12-06 23:20:23
  • Words: 11266
INTRODUCTION to CHINESE SONGS INTRODUCTION to CHINESE SONGS