花样的年华 (Age of Blossom)

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .
Age of Blossom.mp4 Clip of from the movie 长相思. Buy at amazon






an age of blossom
affectionate as the moon

bright as the snow
splendid is living

caring is spring water
in union are families

the lonely islands in the graveyard,
shrouded in torn clouds and grief-stricken mists

O my dearly beloved country,
when would i be in your embrace

to see clouds dissipate
and see you shine again

an age of blossom
affectionate as the moon

The Poem

Note the sudden twist in this poem.

I was listening to this song and like it fairly and have been listening to it repeatedly. Though, i was not quite sure what it is singing. I thought it is a song for lovers. Then, i searched and found the lyrics.

Note how the lyrics made a about-face at line 7: “the lonely islands in the graveyard…” This immediately changed the nature of the poem. All lines before that is tame and serene. The “torn clouds and grief-stricken mist” drives the misery into the readers in a terse dismay. Then, the next line “O my dearly beloved country…” is another sharp twist that immediately adds the context, to the misery of the previous line, and as well as fixing the beginning six serene lines into a sublimely beautiful quality by context. Such lines as these (8th, 9th) have incredible weight, making this a heavy poem.

Now if we go back and look at the beginning serene lines. “An Age of Blossom, affectionate as the moon”. When lives are at stake, one does not wish to have lots of money or fancy cars, but as simple as a loving and prosperous society. “Bright as snow, splendid is living”. How the good things are chosen to be cited tells us a lot about the wisher's situation. Note the way it is said: “splendid is living”, as oppose to, say, “all are rich”, or “life is great”, or “party every day”. The next line “caring is spring water”. This is a critical verse, because of all needs and desires in a human animal, nothing is more precious than clean, drinkable water. This fact cannot be known until subsistence is on the brink. Then “in union are families”, again, a universal yearning not to surface in peace time.

Note: there's some discrepancies in the lyrics that i wasn't sure which is correct. In the line 月样的情深, alternative version found on the web is 月样的精神, which seems to be the phrase sung. Also, i used 冰雪样的聰颖 and there's 冰雪樣的聰明, and i used 多情的泉 水 and elsewhere i've found 多情的眷顾. In all cases, i prefer the one i used. Not sure which ones are the original lyrics. If you know, please let me know.

Wartime China

This song says so much. It is sung by 周璇 (Zhou Xuan, 1918 to 1957), a Shanghai superstar. During the early 1900s, China was in a state of devastation, besieged by Western invasions, Second Sino-Japanese War , and more civil wars. Modern people in affluent states couldn't imagine this, especially the fat WASPs in USA. In such a era, one lives in blood, in famine, in broken families, missing members and limbs, in perpetual flight and fear. This song is very sad, sung by a feminine high-pitched style idiosyncratic to Shanghai. In this era, there are many such songs like this, usually in a extremely beautiful, serene, tune, and the lyrics are often exceedingly sad in a poetic way. (many of these are de facto poems) The contents are often about separation, or the wish for peace and union. Many songs of sexual love are also in this bleak, masochistic depressive style.

As time moved on, eras and sentiments come and go. Songs like this do not get written as much today, but the devastation of war and misery have left a indelible mark in Chinese people, still can be seen in their thoughts, aspirations, culture, and songs today. (after Nationalist vs Communist Civil War, then China is devastated by Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution of Mao).

It is interesting a psychological phenomenon, that what a person's propensities and life style are deeply connected with his life. As in, if one suffers thru hardship, one tends to like songs that sang their wishes and dreams. A culture sacked by prolonged war, will not, for example, develop into Rock'n'Roll or Heavy Metal. In other words, different era and cultural make up instigates its music. Here, we might presume that Heavy Metal, was born in a environment of rich boredom and modern technology.

baby sitting alone in a rail track among destruction
A very popular photo, of a baby sitting amidst destruction, published by LIFE magazine. (photo may depict Shanghai in 1937. The LIFE Mag publication date may be .)

Singer Zhou Xuan

Zhou Xuan
Photo of the singer, Zhou Xuan (周璇 1918 to 1957).

Zhou Xuan herself is a interesting story. She was a orphan, and throughout her life she searched for her parents to no avail. Although a superstar, she did not live a happy life, and ended up in a mental institution and died young.

see 周璇 《真善美》 (Truth, Virtue, Beauty)

For some other wartime era songs of this period, see:


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