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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjImaRMRg9c

西风的话
Xīfēng de Huà
Words from the West Wind

去年我回来,
Qùnián wǒ huílái,
When I came back last year,

你们刚穿新棉袍.
nǐmen gāng chuān xīn mián páo.
You had just donned your new gown.

今天我来看你们;
Jīntiān wǒ lái kàn nǐmen;
Today I come to visit you,

你们变胖又变高!
Nǐmen biàn pàng yòu biàn gāo!
How stout and tall you have grown!

你们可记得,
Nǐmen kě jìde,
I wonder if you still remember,

池里荷花变莲蓬?
chí lǐ héhuā liánpeng?
The lotus in the pond formed pods?

花少不愁没颜色,
Huā shǎo bù chóu méi yánsè,
Blooms are scarce, but there’ll still be colors,

我把树叶都染红.
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. https://avecchantillysvp.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/exotic-weird-and-wonderful-fresh-lotus-seeds/

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

我希望世界上所有的人都不愁吃不愁穿.
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.

當心不要被傳染到感冒.
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.

Some Chinese expressions involving the moon

上弦月 shàngxián yuè First-quarter Moon

上弦月 (shàngxián yuè) First-quarter Moon

It is a Chinese tradition for family to gather together and enjoy the harvest of the year when the moon is at its fullest in the middle of autumn. After a scrumptious feast, it is customary for the party to move outdoors to observe the bright moon, chat, drink some tea and eat 月饼 (yuèbǐng moon cakes).

The moon is commonly referred to as 月亮 (yuèliang). In astronomical science, it is called 月球 (yuèqiú). In literature, one might speak of 月宫 (yuègōng), the palace on the moon where the moon fairly lives. In a moon-lit night, or 月夜 (yuèyè), you will likely see a half-moon shape, 半月形 (bànyuèxíng), or a crescent moon, 月牙 (yuèyá). A lunar eclipse is called 月蚀 (yuèshí).

The word (yuè) also represents the time period of one month. 正月 (zhēngyuè) is the first month of the lunar year. The Moon Festival takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar year, i.e. 八月十五 (bāyuè shíwǔ).

岁月 (suìyuè) means years. 经年累月 (jīngniánlěiyuè) means year in year out.

他经年累月努力学习, 终于学会了中文.
Tā jīngniánlěiyuè nǔlì xuéxí, zhōngyú xuéhuì le zhōngwén.
After years of endeavoring in the study, he finally mastered the Chinese language.

蜜月 (mìyuè) is a honeymoon.

他们要去哪儿度蜜月?
Tāmen yào qù nǎr dù mìyuè?
Where are they going for their honeymoon?

The word 满月 (mǎnyuè) can refer to a full moon, or it can refer to a baby’s completion of its first month of life, which calls for a joyous celebration. After giving birth to a baby, a woman in the traditional Chinese society would be confined at home for the entire first month and eat nutritious foods and drink herbal soups so as to recuperate quickly and produce ample milk for the newborn. This is called 坐月子 (zuòyuèzi).

When you see (yuè) in front of another word, it often refers to a monthly occurrence. Following are a few examples:

月历 (yuèlì) is a montly calendar.
月刊 (yuèkān) is a monthly magazine.
月票 (yuèpiào) is a monthly ticket.
月息 (yuéxī) is the monthly interest.
月薪 (yuèxīn) is the monthly salary.

Have you ever heard of 月下老人 (yuèxiàlǎorén)? An ancient Chinese story goes like this: One night, a traveling young man happened on an old man who was reading a book under the moonlight. Out of curiosity the young man ask the old what the book was about. The old man replied, “This is the book of marriages. See that woman who is peddling vegetables over there? Her daughter is only three now. In fourteen years, that girl will become your wife.” The young man did not take to the homeliness of that little girl. He paid a local to stab her to death. Fourteen years later, the young man got married. As was the custom at that time, one would see his bride for the first time on the wedding night. When the young man lifted the veil that covered the face of his bride, he saw a scar on her eyebrow. It turned out that girl was the same one he had previously attempted to get rid of. 月下老人 (yuèxiàlǎorén), the old man under the moon, is believed to be the god who unites persons in marriage. Consequently this term is often used to refer to a matchmaker. Chapter 10 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” discusses the song “Lift Your Veil”, which you can learn to sing by following the demo in the associated audio file.

累积 (lěijī) means to accumulate. 日积月累 (rìjīyuèlěi) means accumulated over a long period of time.

(xīn) means new. (yì) is the classical Chinese word for being different. Therefore 日新月异 (rìxīnyuèyì) means changing with each passing day (and month).

The phrase 风花雪月 (fēnghuāxuěyuè) contains the Chinese words for wind, flowers, snow and moon, which was the subject matter of certain types of feudal literature. Nowadays this idiom refers to shallow sentimental writing that is devoid of content. It is also used to describe decadence and indulgence in wine and women.

海底捞月 (hǎidǐlāoyuè) means to attempt to scoop up the moon from the bottom of the sea, i.e. striving in vain for the impossible or the illusory.

这像是海底捞月.
Zhè xiàng shì hǎidǐlāoyuè.
This is a hopeless illusion.

When people gather for the Moon Festival, some may play the game of mahjong, which involves completing a winning hand of tiles by forming sets of three tiles (melds). You could form a meld using a tile that you picked up or by using a tile discarded by another player. In the rare instance where no one has won when the tiles almost run out and you pick up the last available tile to complete a winning hand, you are said to have accomplished 海底捞月 (hǎidǐlāoyuè).

中秋节快乐!
Zhōngqiūjié kuàilè!
Happy Moon Festival!

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