have been translating old mandarin songs for a while- memorizing them afterwards is fun and somewhat helpful. Lately did the "Four Season Song" or "四季歌". I've got a very rough translation wrapped up save for one line that is mighty mysterious. The meaning lies somewhere outside the actual lyrics- it's an allusion to something, perhaps from the movie from whence it comes: "馬路天使". I took a wild stab at it after consulting with a couple of Taiwanese friends, but I'm likely at least partly wrong. here are the lyrics with the line in question bolded:
chūnjì dàolái lù mǎn chuāng
Spring has arrived and the world outside the window is green
dà gū'niáng chuāng xià xiù yuānyāng
Big sister is embroidering a cloth with Mandarin ducks*
hūrán yīzhèn wú qíng bàng
Suddenly a loveless blow strikes
dǎ de dé yuānyāng gè yīfāng
and forces the ducks to separate sides.
xiàjì dàolái liǔsī cháng
Summer has arrived; the the tendrils of the willow are long
dà gū'niáng piāobó dào chángjiāng
Big sister drifts along to the Yangtze River
jiāng nán jiāng běi fōngguāng hǎo
Toward the south and to the north of the river, the scenery is beautiful
zěn jí qīng shā qǐ gāo liáng
But how can it compare to the drinks shared behind the blue curtain?
qiūjì dàolái héhuā xiāng
Autumn has arrived; the lotus flowers are fragrant
dà gū'niáng yèyè mèng jiāxiāng
Big sister dreams of home each night
xǐnglái bú jiàn diēniáng miàn
But when she awakens she cannot see her parents’ faces
zhǐ jiàn chuāng qián míng yuè guāng
She sees only the bright moon outside her window.
dōngjì dàolái xuè mángmáng
Winter has arrived; the snow is boundless
hányī zuò hǎo sòng qíng láng
She has made winter clothes and given them to her lover
xiěròu zhú chū chángchéng cháng
It is flesh and blood that built up the length of the Great Wall
nóng yuàn zuò dāngnián xiǎo mèng jiāng
I wish I could be like Meng Jiangnu of years past**
*Mandarin Ducks are a common symbol of lovers in Chinese song
* *Meng Jiangnu’s husband was conscripted to work on the Great Wall on the day of his wedding. When he did not return, his wife went to look for him and found he had died and was buried in the wall, whence she began a weeping that caused a section of the wall to collapse. The emperor was angry and had her brought before him; but rather than execute her, he became bewitched by her beauty and made plans to marry her. She threw herself into the sea to escape marriage to the man she held responsible for her husband’s death. Anyway, this line means that our heroine is distraught.
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