Chinese Song – Words from the West Wind

Lotus Pond at the Botanical Garden in Taipei, Taiwan

Thanks (but, no thanks) to slugs, deer, squirrels and wild rabbits, we did not have much to harvest from our vegetable garden this year. Still, I am happy to have autumn come and ease us into winter. Admiring the fall scenery of green, gold and red, I think of an old song named “Words from the Westwind”, with music by 黄自 (Huáng Zì), and lyrics by 廖辅叔 (Liào Fǔshū). Here is the link to a nice performance of this song.

Xīfēng de Huà
Words from the West Wind

Qùnián wǒ huílái,
When I came back last year,

nǐmen gāng chuān xīn mián páo.
You had just donned your new gown.

Jīntiān wǒ lái kàn nǐmen;
Today I come to visit you,

Nǐmen biàn pàng yòu biàn gāo!
How stout and tall you have grown!

Nǐmen kě jìde,
I wonder if you still remember,

chí lǐ héhuā liánpeng?
The lotus in the pond formed pods?

Huā shǎo bù chóu méi yánsè,
Blooms are scarce, but there’ll still be colors,

wǒ bǎ shùyè dōu rǎn hóng
For I shall tint the leaves with red.

As you may know, west winds are associated with fair weather. Therefore, you would expect kind words from the west wind. In fact, you can tell that the west wind is talking to a bunch of children. (xīn) means new, and 棉袍 (mián páo) are quilted cotton gowns or jackets. Before winter arrives, parents usually give their children new jackets to wear to keep them warm. The big give-away is on the forth line. Only children and youth can keep growing big and tall. (biàn) means to change or to become. (pàng) means plump, chubby or stout, and (gāo) means tall. (yòu) means again or also.

There is no mention of the season of the year in the lyrics. However, you can guess from the context that it is autumn, or 秋天 (qiūtiān). In the fall, the lotus flowers turn into pods, which contain edible lotus seeds. Lotus seed paste makes delicious filling for moon cakes. Here is an interesting article about lotus pods and lotus seeds.

不愁 (bù chóu) means need not worry about something.

Wǒ xīwàng shìjièshàng suǒyǒu de rén dōu bù chóu chī bù chóu chuān.
I hope all the people in the world won’t have to worry about want of food or clothing.

There are fewer flowers in autumn than in spring, but we need not worry about lack of colors. The west wind will color the leaves red for us. Here the word (rǎn) means to dye. This word also means to contaminate, to acquire a bad habit or to catch a disease.

Dāngxīn bùyào bèi chuánrǎn dào gǎnmào.
Take care not to catch a cold.

Please see Chapter 23 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” for additional words, expressions and songs related to the four seasons.

What’s a good way to learn Chinese words?

No habla español. I don’t speak Spanish, but if you ask me to say “I am a sincere man.”, I can do that in a blink of the eye. That’s because “Yo soy un hombre sincero” is the first line of the “official” lyrics for the song “Guantanamera”. I like that song so much that I have committed it to memory, Spanish and all.

How many of you recognize a popular song or a piece of elevator music right away even if you have never sung or hummed it? You may even be able to recite part or all of the associated lyrics. This is because the songs have been repeated to you so many times that they have gotten stuck in your mind. Repetition plays a major role in memorization. It helps the language student to read the same passages, listen to the same audio tapes, or watch the same TV program or movies repeatedly. So, why not learn songs in the new language and sing them whenever and wherever you like?

The songs will be easier to learn when you are already familiar with the tunes. Take, for example, the song “The More We Get Together” included in the book “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” written by yours truly. Hearing the title of this song, have you not already begun to nod your head and tap your feet? Sing it in Chinese, and in no time at all you will know how to say (nĭ you), (wǒ I), 我們 (wǒmén we), 一起 (yīqǐ together) and (xiào smile, laugh).

Remember the song called “Love Somebody”? Sing the following simple version three times in Chinese and I’m sure you’ll have the words in the first line down pat. On the other hand, I know you’d hate me if I asked you to read this line out loud eighteen times in a row. If you’ve forgotten the music, click on this link then select “Love Somebody” to hear the tune.

我有一个心上人. Wǒ yǒu yī gè xīn shàng rén.
Love somebody. Yes, I do.
我有一个心上人. Wǒ yǒu yī gè xīn shàng rén.
Love somebody. Yes, I do.
我有一个心上人. Wǒ yǒu yī gè xīn shàng rén.
Love somebody. Yes, I do.
他是谁? 你们不要问. Tā shì shéi? Nĭmen bùyào wèn.
Love somebody, but I won’t tell who.

我有一个心上人. Wǒ yǒu yī gè xīn shàng rén.
Love somebody. Yes, I do.
我有一个心上人. Wǒ yǒu yī gè xīn shàng rén.
Love somebody. Yes, I do.
我有一个心上人. Wǒ yǒu yī gè xīn shàng rén.
Love somebody. Yes, I do.
但愿我也是他的心上人. Dànyuàn wǒ yě shì tā de xīn shàng rén.
And I hope somebody loves me, too.

(yǒu) is the verb “to have”.
(gè) is a unit of counting individual entities.
心上人 (xīn shàng rén) means someone in my heart, or sweetheart.
一个心上人 (yī gè xīn shàng rén) translates to “a sweetheart”.
你们 (nĭmen) ) is the plural you.
(shì) is the verb “to be”.
(shéi Who?) means the same as 什么人? (shénme rén Who?). 他是谁? (Tā shì shéi?) means “Who is he?” (Please note that the Chinese way of asking this question is: “He is who?”)
(bùyào wèn) is the verb “to ask”.
不要问 (bùyào wèn) means “Don’t ask.”
但愿 (dànyuàn) means “I wish” or “if only”. You could substitute it with the word 希望 (xīwàng), which means “to hope”, or “a hope”.
(yě shì) means “also”. You can see why is the character adopted for the third person (he or she).
Just as 我的 (wǒ de) means “mine”, 他的 (tā de) means “his” or “hers”.

Now, you should be able to ask someone this question in Chinese: “Who’s your sweetheart?”

If you have a question related to learning Chinese words or language rules, send me a message by using one of the “Leave a Comment” links. Before you have learned how to input the Chinese characters, you could use pinyin to spell out the Chinese words in your message. Adding the tone numbers to the pinyin will help reduce ambiguity.

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