Sing “Die Gedanken Sind Frei” in Chinese

Canada Geese Formation

The other day an old song popped into my mind, and I was able to recall two stanzas of the verses. Those I have translated into Chinese, and I am pleased to share them here with you. This German folk song is called “Die Gedanken Sind Frei”, which means “Thoughts are free”. The powerful lines in this song remind me of “Invictus”, a poem written by the British poet William Earnest Henley.

You can find the complete lyrics in German and English at:

To hear Peter Seeger’s version, you can click on this link:

To download the piano sheet music for this song, click on the “Music Sheets” tab at the top.

Sīxiǎng zìyóuzìzài.
One’s thoughts are truly free.

Yǒu shéi néng jiàng tā cāi tòu?
Who is able to guess them?

Tā suíyì qù lái,
They come and go at will,

xiàng lüè yǐng sìchù yóu zǒu.
Like fleeting, roaming shadows.

Biérén wúcóng zhuōmō;
Others cannot fathom them;

lièrén wúfǎbǔhuò.
Hunters cannot capture them.

我们大家都明白 –
Wǒmén dàjiā dōu míngbai –
It’s obvious to all of us –

Sīxiǎng zìyóuzìzài!
One’s thoughts are truly free!

Zòngrán jiāng wǒ qiūjìn
Should someone lock me up

zài yīn’àn de dìjiào lǐ,
in a sinister dungeon,

nà shì báifèi xīnjī
That would be wasteful scheming,

多此一举, 毫无意义.
duōcǐyījǔ háowú yìyì
Unnecessary and without meaning.

Wǒ de sīxiǎng huì cuīhuǐ
My thoughts will destroy

铜墙铁壁, 冲出重围.
tóngqiángtiěbì, chōng chū chóngwéi
The bastion and the close siege,

bǎ xié’è dǎbài
And defeat the evil.

Sīxiǎng zìyóuzìzài!
One’s thoughts are truly free!

As you may have noticed, I have included many four-character Chinese idioms and expressions in the above lines. There are many advantages of using four-character Chinese idioms, espcially in poems and lyrics. They are concise word nuggets that pack a powerful punch in them. Some idioms make a long story short, and many will elicit a knowing knod or smile from the audience.

自由自在 (zìyóuzìzài) means being unrestrained and carefree.

四处游走 (sìchù yóu zǒu) is to wander all about.

无从捉摸 (wúcóng zhuōmō) means no way to fathom or ascertain.

白费心机 (báifèi xīnjī) is to bother one’s head for nothing; in other words, to scheme in vain.

多此一举 (duōcǐyījǔ) means to make take an unnecessary action.

毫无意义 (háowú yìyì) means totally meaningless.

铜墙铁壁 (tóngqiángtiěbì) are copper and iron walls. They represent an unassailable fortress.

冲出重围 (chōng chū chóngwéi) is to fight one’s way out.

Please also review Chapter 28 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” – Chinese Idioms.

Here’s wishing you

Shèngdàn kuàilè!
Merry Christmas!

Xīnnián kuàilè!
Happy New Year!

Learn Chinese word radical – Small Ear

The “small ear” radical, , which is a good graphical representation of the human ear, is officially known as the “mound” radical when it is placed on the left side of a character. When it is placed on the right side of a character, it is known as the “city” radical. You could, if you wish, imagine your ears to be a pair of radar antennas that help determine the location of things within their range.

(péi) is to accompany someone or to keep someone company.

Wǒ péi nǐ qù.
Let me go there with you.

(suí) means to follow or to go along with someone. When you ask someone what he or she would like to eat or drink, you may get this response: “随便. (Suíbiàn. Whatever is convenient.)”

(duì) is a row of people. 排队 (páiduì) is to form a line, as in a cafeteria.

(fù) is the action of attaching or enclosing something as an appendage. 附和 (fùhè) is to second someone’s opinion. 附近 (fùjìn) means in the vicinity.

Tā zài xìn li fù le yī zhāng zhàopiàn.
He enclosed a photo with the letter.

Tā jiā jiù zài fùjìn.
He lives right in the vicinity.

(fáng) as a verb means to guard against someone or something. 防火 (fánghuǒ) means fire-retardant or fireproof. Yes, you guessed it, waterproof is 防水 (fángshuǐ).

A well known Chinese saying goes like this:

害人之心不可有; 防人之心不可无.
Hài rén zhī xīn bùkě yǒu; fáng rén zhī xīn bùkě wú.
Never think of harming others, but do always stay on your guard.

(xiǎn) means dangerous or by a close call. 危险 (wēixiǎn) means dangerous, or danger. 险胜 (xiǎnshèng) means to win by a hair’s breadth.

(lòu) means ugly, crude or otherwise undesirable. In everyday speech, when you want to say that something is ugly or disgraceful, use (chǒu), or 丑陋 (chǒulòu).

(yuàn) could refer to a courtyard, an institute or a government office.

(gé) is to separate or to be separate. 隔壁 (gébì) means next door.

(jì) is a border or a boundary, or that which is between two entities. 国际 (guójì) means international.

You already know that (nà) means “that one”. Following are a few other commonly used Chinese characters featuring the “small ear” radical on the right side.

(bāng) means a nation or a country. Therefore, 友邦 (yǒubāng) refers to a nation that is on friendly terms with one’s own country.

(dū) as a noun refers to the capital or a big city.

(jiāo) or 郊外 (jiāowà) are the suburbs or outskirts of a city.

(xié) or 邪恶 (xiéè) means evil. (xié) also means unorthodox.

(láng) is an official title used in ancient China. Nowadays it is taken to mean a person, usually a male, as in: 新郎 (xīnláng bridegroom), 牛郎 (niúláng, cowherd) and 情郎 (qíng láng lover). An exception is found with 女郎 (nǚláng), which refers to a young woman.

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