gan lan xu

One day last month or a few months ago, Jenny and I were in her car and she said “Judy, do you know what genre of music I just discovered? Taiwanese folk music. I really like it.” I thought she meant like… OLD folk music, like the stuff we used in chinese dance, but she meant the folk movement in taiwan in the 70s and 80s.

So she played me this song:

don’t ask me whence i came
my home is far, far away.
why wander so far?

for the little birds flying carefree in the big sky
for the small streams flowing clear and blue from the mountaintops
for the grass fields swept across the wide steppes
i wander so far.

and… also…
for the olive trees in my dreams.
don’t ask me whence i came…
my hometown is far, far away.

why do you wander so far?
for the olive trees that i see in my dreams.

I love this song very much. Here are the lyrics in chinese after the jump. Lisa, I’m thinking of you when I do this detailed writeup.

Note: the pinyin is wrong. I’ve forgotten real pinyin, so this is just me sounding out the words.

bu yao   wen    wo   cong    na li     lai
don't    ask    me   from    where     come

wo de    gu xiang    zai   ruan        fang       ("gu" means "ancient" too, in other words. so it's like "originating point")
my       hometown    is    far away    direction  (so "ruan fang" is a word that means "far, far away")

wei se me     liu lang   (the word "liu" is also used for water and streams, so that's the kind of wandering liu lang is... flowing and going whatever direction it's taken)
why           wander (like a dude with a bag on a stick on his back, like a hobo)

liu lang      ruan fang
wander        very far away

liu lang.


wei le    tian kong    fei xiang             di      xiao   niao       (tian=sky/god/etc, kong=empty. tiankong just means sky)
because   sky-empty    flying on the wing    's      little birds

wei le    shan jian         qing liu         di      xiao   xi
because   mountain-sharp    clear-flowing    's      little streams

wei le    kwan   kwoh      di     cao   yuan
because   wide   steppes   's     grass fields

liu lang ruan fang
liu lang.


hai yo, hai yo
also,   also

wei le     mong     zhong    di   gan lan    xu,     gan lan xu
because    dream    inside   's   olive      tree,   olive trees

bu yao  wen  wo  cong  na li  lai
do not  ask  me  from  where  come

wo de gu xiang zai ruan fang...
my    home     is  very very far...

wei she me liu lang?
wei she me liu lang, ruan fang?

wei le    wo     mong   zong   di     gan lan xu.
because   me/i   dream  inside 's     olive trees.

We hung out at J’s house with her mom, who helped us with the lyrics and translated them for us. She said to me that I should go to Taiwan and try out for their version of Idol. She told me in chinese: “you can DEFINITELY PK those other people!” and I could not stop laughing. PK has entered the language. (the letters PK in english. so she said something like “ni jue de ke yi ba ren jia PK diao!”) PK stands for player-kill in english and is used in video games. Ha ha haha haha.

The lyrics come from writings by Sanmao, a Taiwanese writer. The singer of this song is Chyi Yu. As far as I can tell, this version is the original. J’s mom said something like it was set to music by some famous music professor in Taiwan.

It is covered a lot, though. One cover that I found that I really really dislike in every way is here. Ugh. It’s awful.

Now I can add my own! http://www.midomi.com/index.php?action=main.profile&recording_id=65aa6f42a8fdda533105839ff84777c4&from=mini_updates&type=mini_feed_type_songs&position=1

3 thoughts on “gan lan xu

  1. Wow! She’s like the Taiwanese Simon and Garfunkel! Right down to the acoustic guitar arpeggios. I like it though! Also, I appreciate your translation. I wonder, could the second part be translated as “because the x wanders” instead of “for the x, I wander”? I think I remember the verb doesn’t change and person is implied through context… ???

    Finally, I like thinking of the sky’s little birds.

    1. Not sure. There’s another word that means “because” that is “ying wei” … “wei le” is more like “for the ___” … it never occurred to me to think it could be translated as “because of the wanderings of the little birds in the big sky” or something. or “because the little birds wander, i wander.” well of course it is implied that the little birds and the little stream are doing wandering also.

      also i don’t know if i should put in “i wander” because she doesn’t say “i wander.” she just says “wander.” so i don’t know if it’s like “the state of wandering” or “the desire to wander” or “the noun, wander” or “i am a wanderer and i am wandering” or “you wander too” or what, because my experience with chinese poetry is exceedingly limited.

      p.s. how could you possibly have not commented on my agricola post? LOOK AT THE ANIMEEPLE. I’M GOING TO GET A COPY OF AGRICOLA AND YOU ARE HELPING ME MAKE SOME ANIMEEPLE OK. WE MUST DO THIS. DO YOU KNOW WHERE TO GET SCULPEE. TINY SHEEP!!!!!!!!! OMAGOD!!!!

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