It will be five more days before the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration ends officially on the Lantern Festival. (Click here to see instructions for making a simple paper lantern to display on your desk.) It’s not too late for you affix a good luck charm onto your door or one of the walls. One of the four major blessings for the Chinese is good fortune, or 福 (fú). You will often see this symbol displaeddao up side down because the Chinese words for “inverted”, 倒 (dào), and “to arrive”, 到 (dào), sound exactly the same. Hence, the inverted 福 (fú) stands for 福到了 (fú dào le), i.e. good fortune has arrived (at this household). To add excitement and animation, the calligrapher will often write the blessings in the “running” style. Trust me, the character in the displayed image is the word 福 (fú), just inverted.
When we have family who love us, friends we get along with, or things we like to eat or work with, we are said to have good fortune. If we appreciate the good fortune and live and behave accordingly, it will likely stay with us. It’s inconceivable why some people willfully turn away from their good fortune. Fate, or 命运 (mìngyùn destiny), probably plays a role.
Last week we talked about the scholar/philosopher, 胡适 (Hú Shì). Among his younger friends was one named 徐志摩 (Xú Zhìmó), who actively promote the form of modern Chinese poetry. Xu Zhimo was born into a well-to-do family. His parents doted on him, gave him the best education and found him a good wife. How this young man managed to turn his own life upside-down was simply beyond comprehension. You can read the whole story by clicking on this link.
Xu Zhimo wrote many romantic poems that were the rage among the young people in his time, and are still much loved today. The beautiful poem, titled 偶然 (ǒurán “By Chance”), features an ingenius play of metaphors. It has been fitted to a few different melodies, and one westernized version can be found at this link.
Click on this link and locate the second poem to see the verses in simplified Chinese.
There are several adjective phrases and adverbial phrases used in this poem. Please read Chapter 10 in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to learn the proper placement of adjective phrases, and Chapters 17 and 18, for the adverbial phrases.
天空里的 (tiānkōng li de) in the sky
一片云 (yī piàn yún) a cloud
偶尔 (ǒuěr) occasionally
投影 (tóuyěng) to project, projection
波心 (bō xīn) center of the waves
不必 (bùbì) need not
讶异 (yà yì) be surprised, to wonder about
更 (gèng) further more, and also
无须 (wúxū) is a formal way of saying “need not”
转瞬间 (zhuǎnshùnjiān) in a blink
消灭 (xiāomiè) perish, to wipe out
踪影 (zōngyǐng) a trace, a shadow
相逢 (xiāngféng) meet by chance
黑夜 (hēiyè) dark night
海上 (hǎishàng) on the sea
方向 (fāngxiàng) direction
记得 (jìde) remember
最好 (zuìhào) best, it would be best
忘掉 (wàngdiào) forget
交会时 (jiāo huì) to cross path
互 (hù) mutually
放 (fàng) release
光亮 (guāngliàng) brightness
If you would like to sing this song in English, you could try my translation:
I am a lone cloud drifting in the sky,
Sometimes I stumble on your waves.
Don’t you be frightened, nor excited.
Soon all this shall pass, without a trace.
By chance we meet in the dark night at sea.
You’ll take your way, and I shall keep mine.
Will you remember? Best to forget it –
In that spellbound moment, two fond hearts did shine.