Chinese

082 How About Learning Some Chinese Today?

Rain was intermittent and the winds were gutsy last night. A deep sleep did not dispel the residual effect of wine on me. I had to ask the servant who was rolling up the curtain, “How are the begonia flowers out there?”

She replied nonchalantly, “They are still the same.”

I retorted, “Do you know? Do you know? By now, the green leaves probably remain luxuriant, but the red flowers must have withered.”

Could have you imagined that these words were uttered by a sixteen year old young lady, Li Qingzhao (李清照)who lived nine hundred twenty years ago, at around the year 1100?!

I was instantly drawn to the innocence of a young girl who became concerned about the begonia flowers outside the window after a night of sporadic rain and blustery winds. And I was bemused to find out that Li wrote this poem at about sixteen years old, which is beneath the legal age of drinking at eighteen in contemporary times.

An illustrated portrait of Li at sixteen years old. Image taken from http://m.nxhh.net/chuntian/1998.html

The lyrical poem, or more rightly called a verse as it was written to an ancient tune, was brought to my attention by a friend, PH who sent me a YouTube link to a Mainland Chinese Singing Program that attempted to revive ancient verses with modern music and popular Singers.

Li’s original verse. Image taken from https://kknews.cc/

A newly-composed song borrowed Li’s verse to be the chorus. I was immediately won over by the beautiful rendition of the song, which was performed as a duet by two of my favourite singing artistes, Hu Xia (胡夏)and Yu Ke Wei (郁可唯)who are both well-known for their melodious and storytelling vocals in the Chinese music industry. Check out their performance below.

(Source: China Central Television 中国中央电视台)

I liked the song so much that I listened to it repeatedly for days . I found the original verse intriguing but somewhat obscure, so I rewrote in contemporary Chinese prose after doing some research. Then I thought it might interest others to learn more about Chinese culture and language if I could translate into English. So, for your ease in learning, I have created two charts for both the English language and Chinese language users. Hopefully, you’ll find these tools useful.

Eight lines of lyrics were newly added to Li’s verse to make this song that is titled “Do you know? Do you know?” (知否知否). These lines make reference to a heartrending love story in the yesteryear featured in a TV drama. The added lyrics connect seamlessly with Li’s verse using a thread of shared sentiments — a worry over the fate of fallen flowers (protagonists) that were battered by the rain and winds (troubles and trials). I had not translated these added lyrics in order not to distract you from focusing on Li’s verse.

An illustration taken from https://www.aboluowang.com/

I would suggest these tips to help you enjoy your learning:

(1) Increase familiarity

Listen to the song repeatedly and focus at learning the chorus.

(2) Increase relevance

Relate to your personal experiences and sentiments. Because the greater the relevance, the easier for you to pick up more words and vocabularies.

(3) Increase applicability

Sing and read aloud the phrases that you love most. You will be surprised how much easier it is to learn Chinese language through songs.

Finally, here is a list of Chinese phrases that you might pick up from learning this verse:

1. 昨夜 last night

2. 雨疏 intermittent rain

3. 风骤 gusty winds

4. 浓睡 deep sleep

5. 不消 does not dispel

6. 残酒 the residual wine

7. 试问 tried asking

8. 卷帘人 the person who raises the curtain

9. 却道 but was told

10. “海棠依旧” “the begonia flowers are as usual”

11. “知否?” “Do you know?”

12. 应是 “Should be”

13. 绿肥红瘦 flourishing green leaves and withering red flowers

How many phrases have you learnt? And which one is your favourite? Most importantly,  let me know if this article ignites an interest in you or your children to learn more Chinese. That will motivate me to prepare more such lessons.

William WK Tan

9 May 2020, Saturday

爱唱歌的朋友,以下是《知否知否》的歌词。前八句是后来的人为配合电视剧主题而加的。后六句是李清照的《如梦令:昨夜雨疏风骤》原文。

演唱:胡夏 、郁可唯

作词:李清照、张靖怡

作曲:刘炫豆

编曲:刘炫豆

郁可唯:

一朝花开傍柳

寻香误觅亭侯

纵饮朝霞半日晖

风雨著不透

胡夏:

一任宫长骁瘦

台高冰泪难流

锦书送罢蓦回首

无余岁可偷

郁可唯:

昨夜雨疏风骤

浓睡不消残酒

试问卷帘人

却道海棠依旧

知否 知否

应是绿肥红瘦

胡夏:

昨夜雨疏风骤

浓睡不消残酒

合:

试问卷帘人

却道海棠依旧

郁可唯:知否

胡夏:知否

合:应是绿肥红瘦

郁可唯:

一朝花开傍柳

寻香误觅亭侯

纵饮朝霞半日晖

风雨著不透

胡夏:

一任宫长骁瘦

台高冰泪难流

锦书送罢蓦回首

无余岁可偷

郁可唯:

昨夜雨疏风骤

浓睡不消残酒

试问卷帘人

却道海棠依旧

知否 知否

应是绿肥红瘦

胡夏:

昨夜雨疏风骤

浓睡不消残酒

合:

试问卷帘人

却道海棠依旧

郁可唯:知否

胡夏:知否

合:应是绿肥红瘦

郁可唯:

昨夜雨疏风骤

浓睡不消残酒

试问卷帘人

却道海棠依旧

知否 知否

应是绿肥红瘦

胡夏:

昨夜雨疏风骤

浓睡不消残酒

合:

试问卷帘人

却道海棠依旧

郁可唯:知否

胡夏:知否

合:应是绿肥红瘦

胡夏:知否

郁可唯:知否

合:应是绿肥红瘦

来源: https://mojim.com/cny108440x30x1.htm

2 replies »

  1. Interesting article.Thank you for the link to the song too.
    Would be helpful if you could kindly insert hanyu Pinyin below the Chinese characters in the vocabulary list so that we don’t have to scroll back to the text.
    Thank you

    Like

    • Hi Christina, your wish is my command! I am so happy to introduce a great song and its beautiful verse to you! Yesterday, I received many interesting questions from an old friend JK (by the way, you know her too. Like you, she speaks and carries herself very well). She was asking me how to construct sentences using some of the phrases in the verse. And her questions were excellent. For example, it did not occur to me to use (10)“海棠依旧” (hǎitáng yījiù), which means “the begonia flowers are as usual” to describe someone who is still as beautiful as she was before until JK asked. JK is absolutely right! And I would like to use this phrase “海棠依旧” to describe you, my dear friend, mentor and teacher.☺️

      Like

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