Shui diao ge tou

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Shui diao ge tou (simplified Chinese: 水调歌头; traditional Chinese: 水調歌頭; pinyin: Shuǐ diào gē tóu) is the name of a traditional Chinese melody to which a poem in the style can be sung. Different poets have written different lyrics to the melody which are usually prefixed by the title "水調歌頭". The poem by Song dynasty poet Su Shi, also known as Su Dongpo, 水調歌頭·丙辰中秋 being the most famous.

Cí(詞) is one of the literary genres that are unique to the Song dynasty, and can be sung to melody. Many ancient melodies are lost to history, but modern composers often compose new melodies for cí.

Text of Su's poem[edit]

Original text in Chinese English translation
水調歌頭1 Thinking of you
丙辰2中秋3

歡飲達旦,
大醉,
作此篇,
兼懷子由4

Mid-autumn of the Bing Chen year

Having been drinking happily over night
I'm drunk
So I write this poem
Remembering my brother, Zi You

明月幾時有?

把酒問青天。
不知天上宮闕5
今夕是何年?

When will the moon be clear and bright?

With a cup of wine in my hand, I ask the clear sky.
In the heavens on this night,
I wonder what season it would be?

我欲乘風歸去,

唯恐瓊樓玉宇6
高處不勝寒。
起舞弄清影7
何似在人間8

I'd like to ride the wind to fly home.

Yet I fear the crystal and jade mansions
are much too high and cold for me.
Dancing with my moonlit shadow,
It does not seem like the human world.

轉朱閣9

低綺戶10
照無眠11
不應有恨,
何事長向別時圓?

The moon rounds the red mansion,

Stoops to silk-pad doors,
Shines upon the sleepless,
Bearing no grudge,
Why does the moon tend to be full when people are apart?

人有悲歡離合,

月有陰晴圓缺,
此事古難全。
但願人長久,
千里共嬋娟12

People experience sorrow, joy, separation and reunion,

The moon may be dim or bright, round or crescent shaped,
This imperfection has been going on since the beginning of time.
May we all be blessed with longevity,
Though thousands of miles apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together.

Notes on the poem[edit]

  Characters Pinyin Explanation
1. 水調歌頭 shuǐ diào gē tóu The name of a tune.
2. 丙辰 bǐngchén the ninth year of the reign of Song Emperor Shenzong (1076 C.E.), when Su Shi served as magistrate in Mizhou, present-day Zhucheng county-level city in Shandong Province.
3. 中秋 zhōngqiū the Mid-Autumn Festival, on the fifteenth day of the eighth month (lunar calendar); a traditional Chinese holiday when people gather to enjoy the moon, drink wine, and eat. moon cakes
4. huái to think of, miss.
  子由 Zǐyóu Su Zhe, courtesy name Ziyou, Su Shi's younger brother, also a famous author; at this time Su Zhe was in Jinan, Su Shi in Mizhou; the brothers had not seen each other for seven years.
5. 宮闕 gōngquè a spectacular palace.
6. 瓊樓玉宇 qiónglóu-yùyǔ a building made of beautiful jade, here, the Moon Palace.
7. nòng to play, to sport; here, "to dance".
  清影 qīng yǐng crisp, cold shadow in the moonlight.
8. 何似 hé sì how can it compare to...
9. 朱閣 zhū gé a red pavilion.
10. 綺戶 qǐ hù a door or window with carved patterns and designs.
11. 無眠 wú mián sleepless; here, refers to a sleepless person.
12. 嬋娟 chánjuān may refer to either Chang'e, the goddess of the moon, or simply the moon itself.

Modern settings[edit]

In 1983, Liang Hong Zhi (梁弘誌) set Su's poem to new music as the song "Danyuan ren changjiu" (但願人長久; translated "Wishing We Last Forever" or "Always Faithful"[1]). This new setting was recorded by Teresa Teng in her album dandan youqing (淡淡幽情), which also contained songs based on other poems from the Tang and Song dynasties. Later artists such as Faye Wong, Jacky Cheung and China Flowers (芳華十八) covered this song in albums and concerts.

Other uses[edit]

Mao's poem "Swimming" inscribed on a monument in Wuhan

In June 1956, Mao Zedong wrote the poem "游泳" ("Swimming") which is also rhymed to the tune of Shuǐ diào gē tóu.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lee, Vico (6 February 2004). "Faithful to a classic: Teresa Teng". Taipei Times. 
  2. ^ "Swimming"

External links[edit]