To celebrate Chinese New Year, we are presenting a few classic Chinese songs and tying them in with a few aspects of Chinese culture. We don’t want to overwhelm you, so we’ll just do three. There are thousands of classics. This is just a granule.
Red Bean, Faye Wong
More than 4600 years ago, violent conflicts broke out in northern China. One day, a herder was pressed to go into battle. With great reluctance, he left his wife and children. The wife spent every day looking for the return of her husband. She leaned on a large tree on a high mountain, scanning the horizon for any sign of him. Her husband never returned. Because of her deep love, the woman wept under the big tree. As time passed, her tears turned to blood, and as these tears dropped to the ground they hardened and became red beans. The red beans sprouted and eventually a forest of big trees grew at the site where the wife had expressed her devotion and love. The legend of this love story grew and the people started calling the fruit of this tree love beans. Red beans have a a strong foundation of meaning in Chinese culture. Red beans often come in a heart shape. These love beans are similar in colour to that of blood and can be stored for a very long time without rotting, or fading in colour. Red beans symbolize love and fidelity.
Born in Beijing and relocating to Hong Kong, Wang Fei, or Faye Wong is one of the biggest superstars of all-time. In fact, her song “Hong Dou” or “Red Bean” is considered the third biggest of all time (after Teresa Deng’s “The Moon Represents My Heart” and Jacky Cheung’s “Goodbye Kiss”). Apparently, it stayed at #1 on the karaoke charts for 18 months straight back in the day. It has a subtle melody that may require a few listens before getting into its groove. But once you do, you’ll be hooked for life.
The Common Jasmin Orange, Jay Zhou
The common jasmin orange is a plant with white flowers and vermillion berries. The Chinese term for it is Qi Li Xiang. Taking the characters individually, they mean seven-mile fragrance. The idea is that it is so fragrant, you can smell it from seven miles away. Jay Zhou, from the island of Taiwan, uses it as a metaphor, that the love between a couple is so intense, they can smell its fragrance even if seven miles apart.
Firework, Gigi Leung
Chinese New Year wouldn’t be the same without an array of fireworks. Lots and lots and lots of fireworks. The nation that discovered gunpowder, making and setting off fireworks are the country’s speciality. They say the Inuit have many words for snow and the Arabs for sand. The Chinese have many for the different types of fireworks based on their effects. We have rough English words to describe them as well. Hong Kong’s Gigi Leung composed the song “Hua Huo” which is the type that rains down a shower of sparks. Of course, it is used in the song as a metaphor. One of the most beautiful songs ever recorded in any language.