Sing Chinese Song – Crescent Moon Shines over the Land

There is a Sung Dynasty folk song that starts with these lines:

月儿弯弯照九州,
Yuè er wān wān zhào jiǔzhōu,
The slim crescent moon shines all over the land,

几家欢乐, 几家愁.
Jǐ jiā huānlè, jǐ jiā chóu.
Some families happy and others sad.

九州 (jiǔzhōu) refers to the nine regions of ancient China. This term is still used in songs and poems to refer to China. Please note that 九州 (jiǔzhōu) is also the Chinese word for Kyushu, one of the four main islands of Japan.

Although the moon graces all the people equally, a few families enjoy prosperity while the majority endure hardship.

This old song was later transformed into a theme song for a movie. I am not familiar with the movie, but from the lyrics of the song and a short movie clip on Youtube, I gathered that it’s about a girl from a fisherman’s family who left her village for the city and later became a famous singer. The glamorous new life also brought her unexpected trouble.

Click on this link to hear 月儿弯弯照九州 sung in a male voice. At this site there is an English translation of this song. The lyrics are provided in Traditional Chinese characters.

Let’s look at some of the terms used in the first three stanzas of the lyrics, which depict the plight of a fisherman’s life.

(wān) means curved or bent. The crescent moon has a curved shape. (zhào) has a few different meanings. Here it means to shine or to illuminate.

渔船 (yúchuán) is a fishing boat, and 渔家 (yú jiā) is a fisherman’s family.

到处 (dàochù) means everywhere. 停留 (tíngliú) means to stop and stay.

风光 (fēngguāng) is a scenery. 青山绿水 (qīngshān lǜ shuǐ) is a commonly used term that describes green hills and clear green water, i.e. a nice scenery.

Among common folks, the male in a couple may be addressed by the female as 哥哥 (gēgē), and (mèi) is the female counterpart.

吹笛 (chuī dí) is to play a flute, and 梳头 (shū tóu) is to comb one’s hair. Both are leisurely activities.

工作 (gōngzuò) means a work (noun), a job, or to work (verb).

几时 (jǐshí) is another way of saying 什么时候? (shénme shíhòu), which means “When?”. (xiū) means to stop or to rest. In regular parlance, 几时休 (xiū) would be expressed as:

什么时候才会停止?
Shénme shíhòu cái huì tíngzhǐ?
When will it stop?

白天 (báitiān) is daytime, and (yè) is night or evening. 摇船 (yáochuán) is to row the boat and, 补网 (bǔ wǎng) is to mend the fishing net.

青春 (qīngchūn) means one’s youth, youthfulness or being youthful.

水里 (shuǐ li) means in the water.

(diū) means to throw, to throw away or to lose something.

风浪 (fēnglàng) are stormy waves. 翻天 (fāntiān) means overturning the sky. It describes the worrisome turbulence of the storm.

使人 (shǐ rén) translates to “causes a person to” or “to enable a person to”. So, 使人愁 (shǐ rén chóu) means “makes one worry”.

那件事使我感到不安.
Nèi jiàn shì shǐ wǒ gǎndào bùān.
That incident made me feel uneasy.

要吃 (yào chī) means needing to eat; 要穿 (yào chuān) means needing to have clothing to wear. (gù) is to care about or to take into consideration. (xiǎn) are dangers. 哪顾得险 (nǎ gù de xiǎn) means not having the luxury to care about the dangers (of fishing in stormy weather).

可怜 (kělián) means pitiable, pitiful or poor. 流泪 (liú lèi) is to weep. (shuāng) is a pair, or two of something. 泪双流 (lèi shuāng liú) indicates there are two people weeping together.

Sing Aura Lee in Chinese

桃花 (táohuā) Peach Blossoms

桃花 (táohuā) Peach Blossoms


Spring is just around the corner. I hope this blog post finds you with a twinkle in your eyes, a smile on your face and a spring in your steps, ready to conquer the world and take on the challenge of studying Chinese.

Unbeknown to you, I made a New Year resolution for you, namely to learn to sing a song or two in Chinese by the end of this year. There are many simple songs you can choose from the “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” book, and we have talked about quite a number of other songs in my past blog posts. If you are able to record your performance, we hope you will share it with us by providing the link to your video or audio file.

Here is a traditional song that might help put you in the mood for the season. The lyrics for “Aura Lee” were written by W. W. Fosdick and the music was composed by George R. Poulton. You can download an audio file for the melody from the Microsoft OneDrive site at this link.

The first stanza of the original lyrics goes like this:

When the blackbird in the Spring
‘On the willow tree.
Sat and rocked, I heard him sing,
Singing Aura Lee.
Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
Maid with golden hair.
Sunshine came along with thee,
And swallows in the air.

As you know, Elvis Presley changed the verses of this song and turned “Love Me Tender” into a hit.

Following is my Chinese translation.

春风飘来, 桃花迎,
Chūnfēng piāo lái, táohuā yíng.
Peach blossoms cheer the breezy spring.

湖面起涟漪.
Hú miàn qǐ liányī
Ripples dance in glee.

枝头小鸟诉衷情,
Zhī tóu xiǎoniǎo sù zhōngqíng,
The bird on the treetop heartily sings

歌颂欧儿丽.
gēsòng Ōu Ér Lì.
in praise of Aura Lee.

欧儿丽, 欧儿丽,
Ōu Ér Lì, Ōu Ér Lì.
Aura Lee, Aura Lee.

金发多秀美!
Jīn fǎ duō xiùměi!
How fine your golden hair!

阳光照耀在大地,
Yángguāng zhàoyào zài dàdì,
Sunshine glistens in the fields,

燕儿漫天飞.
yànr màntiān fēi.
and swallows fill the air.

The following word list is for your reference. If you’ve been following this blog, you will find that you already know most of the words used in this song. Congratulations!

春风 (chūnfēng) is a breeze in the spring. It also refers to happiness. 飘来 (piāo lái) describes how the breeze wafts towards you.

(yíng) or 欢迎 (huānyíng) is to greet or to welcome.

Here, (miàn) is a surface, and 湖面 (Hú miàn) is the surface of a lake.

(qǐ) is to rise, to raise, to appear or cause to happen. 涟漪 (liányī) are ripples.

枝头小鸟 (Zhī tóu xiǎoniǎo) is a commonly used term referring to a bird or birds perching on the treetop.

(sù) is to tell or to tell of. 衷情 (zhōngqíng) are one’s inner feelings. If instead of 诉衷情, you prefer to sing 唱不停 (chàng bùtíng to sing incessantly), be my guest.

歌颂 (gēsòng) is to sing the praises of someone.
金发 (jīn fǎ) refers to blond hair.
秀美 (xiùměi) means elegantly beautiful.
阳光 (yángguāng) is sunshine.
照耀 (zhàoyào) is to shine or to illuminate.
大地 (dàdì) is the earth.
燕儿 (yànr), or 燕子 (yànzi), are swallows.
(màn) means all over the place.
(tiān) is the sky or a day.
(fēi) is to fly.

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