a line from a song that I cannot parse

July 24, 2010, 06:58 PM posted in General Discussion

have been translating old mandarin songs for a while-  memorizing them afterwards is fun and somewhat helpful.  Lately did the "Four Season Song" or "四季歌".  I've got a very rough translation wrapped up save for one line that is mighty mysterious.  The meaning lies somewhere outside the actual lyrics-  it's an allusion to something, perhaps from the movie from whence it comes: "馬路天使".  I took a wild stab at it after consulting with a couple of Taiwanese friends, but I'm likely at least partly wrong.  here are the lyrics with the line in question bolded:



chūnjì dàolái lù mǎn chuāng

Spring has arrived and the world outside the window is green


dà gū'niáng chuāng xià xiù yuānyāng

Big sister is embroidering a cloth with Mandarin ducks*


hūrán yīzhèn wú qíng bàng

Suddenly a loveless blow strikes


dǎ de dé yuānyāng gè yīfāng

and forces the ducks to separate sides.


xiàjì dàolái liǔsī cháng

Summer has arrived; the the tendrils of the willow are long 


dà gū'niáng piāobó dào chángjiāng

Big sister drifts along to the Yangtze River


jiāng nán jiāng běi fōngguāng hǎo

Toward the south and to the north of the river, the scenery is beautiful


zěn jí qīng shā qǐ gāo liáng

But how can it compare to the drinks shared behind the blue curtain?


qiūjì dàolái héhuā xiāng

Autumn has arrived; the lotus flowers are fragrant


dà gū'niáng yèyè mèng jiāxiāng

Big sister dreams of home each night


xǐnglái bú jiàn diēniáng miàn

But when she awakens she cannot see her parents’ faces


zhǐ jiàn chuāng qián míng yuè guāng

She sees only the bright moon outside her window.


dōngjì dàolái xuè mángmáng

Winter has arrived; the snow is boundless


hányī zuò hǎo sòng qíng láng

She has made winter clothes and given them to her lover


xiěròu zhú chū chángchéng cháng

It is flesh and blood that built up the length of the Great Wall


nóng yuàn zuò dāngnián xiǎo mèng jiāng

I wish I could be like Meng Jiangnu of years past**


*Mandarin Ducks are a common symbol of lovers in Chinese song


* *Meng Jiangnu’s husband was conscripted to work on the Great Wall on the day of his wedding.   When he did not return, his wife went to look for him and found he had died and was buried in the wall, whence she began a weeping that caused a section of the wall to collapse.  The emperor was angry and had her brought before him; but rather than execute her, he became bewitched by her beauty and made plans to marry her.  She threw herself into the sea to escape marriage to the man she held responsible for her husband’s death.   Anyway, this line means that our heroine is distraught.

Profile picture
July 24, 2010, 10:06 PM

I'm stealing this directly from an answer on the ever fantastic 百度知道:


Hope this helps.


Profile picture
July 25, 2010, 01:59 AM

thanks much-  it is indeed helpful.  I'll be bookmarking that page too....

Profile picture
July 25, 2010, 02:13 PM

I don't know why you translated 大姑娘as big sister,I think i will choose"the girl".

But how can it compare to the drinks shared behind the blue curtain?

what does drinks mean

I like your translation.The lyrics is really difficult to translate into English.:)

Profile picture

"drinks" = 饮料