Blog Culture

周璇 (Zhou1 Xuan2) and Her Songs

In this post, I will talk about one of the most beautiful (美丽的) (mei3 li4 de) Chinese women in Chinese history (历史) (li4 shi3): 周璇。From the Wiki link, you will know about her life in summary.

As you see, Zhou Xuan had a stunning looking, however she had a short miserable but highly achieved life.

There is a Chinese saying: 自古红颜多薄命 (zi4 gu3 hong2 yan2 duo2 bao2 ming4), it means: During the whole history, beauties usually had miserable lives.

Zhou Xuan’s life is another evidence for this statement.

Zhou Xuan’s biological parents were well educated. She had a beautiful birth name: 苏璞 (Su1 Pu2). 璞 means: unpolished gem.

However, when she was 3 years old, she was kidnapped by her uncle (舅舅) (jiu4 jiu) from her mother side who was addicted to opium (鸦片) (ya1 pian4).

Later, Zhou Xuan was adopted by a family in Shanghai and was given a new name. Zhou Xuan was her stage name.

By the way, Xuan (璇) means: beautiful jade.

If you read my post: Basic Rules for Reading Chinese Characters, you might notice 璞 and 璇 share a same radical “王” that has the meaning of “jade”, “gem” or “treasure”.

Next time, when you find a Chinese character with radical “王”, you can try to guess the character might be related with jade, gem or treasure.

Most of time, you guess is right.

Zhou Xuan was not only a beautiful woman, she was also a talented actress and singer.

She was one of the most famous actresses back in 1930s and 1940s, in addition, she also sang a lot of well known songs that are still popular today.

No wonder, she gained a nickname: 金嗓子 (jin1 sang3 zi3) (golden voice).

On this link, you will take a glance of her performance and singing.

On this movie clip, you will hear two songs: 四季歌 (si4 ji4 ge1) (Song of Four Seasons) and 天涯歌女(tian1 ya2 ge1 nv3) (Wandering singing Girl).

In this post, I will explain the meaning of the latter song: 天涯歌女.

This song was form the movie: 马路天使 (ma3 lu4 tian1 shi3) (Street Angel). Zhou Xuan was one of leads in this movie.

Attention: When you watch the movie clip, you might notice: You have to read characters from right to left instead of left to right.

If you do notice this, good observation.

In the past, Chinese characters were written in the order from right to left and from top to bottom, actually, even in some areas today, for example, in Taiwan, people still read books in this way.

However, with the influence of western culture and other factors, mainland Chinese people started to write characters from left to right during 1950s.

Let’s take a look at the lyric of this song on the below.


tian1 ya2 ya, hai3 jiao3

From one remote place to another one


mi4 ya, mi4 zhi1 yin1

I am searching for my soulmate


xiao3 mei4 mei chang4 ge1, lang2 zou4 qin2

I sing while you accompany me


lang2 ya, zan2 men liang3 shi4 yi4 tiao2 xin1

My lover, we are of one mind


ai4 ya, ai4 ya, lang2 ya

Ai-ya-ai-ya, my lover


zan2 men liang3 shi4 yi4 tiao2 xin1

We are of one mind


jia1 shan1 ya,  bei3 wang4

I look at the mountain in the north where is my hometown located


lei4 ya, lei4 zhan1 jin1

My tears fall down and drop on my clothes


xiao3 mei4 mei xiang3 lang2 zhi2 dao4 jin1

I’ve never stopped thinking about you


lang2 ya, huan4 nan4 zhi1 jiao1 en1 ai4 shen1

Our love through adversity is deep

哎呀, 哎呀, 郎呀

ai4 ya, ai4 ya lang2 ya

Ai-ya-ai-ya, my lover


huan4 nan4 zhi1 jiao1 en1 ai4 shen1

Our love through adversity is deep


ren2 sheng1 ya, shui2 bu4 xi1 ya, xi1 qing1 chun1

Everyone cherishes youth

小妹妹似线, 郎似针

xiao3 mei4 mei si4 xian4, lang2 si4 zhen1

I am the thread, you are the needle

郎呀, 穿在一起不离分

lang2 ya, chuan1 zai4 yi4 qi3 bu4 li2 fen1

We are penetrated together, never separate


Ai-ya-ai-ya, lang2 ya


chuan1 zai4 yi4 qi3 bu4 li2 fen1

We are penetrated together, never separate

 Based on what you read, you will find this song is a very beautiful work to express  a girl’s deep affectionate feeling for her lover.

As I mentioned, this song is still popular today, as a result, there are many cover versions.

Let’s listen to a cover version by a singer named 陈佳 (Chen2 Jia1) .

Appreciate this song while you learn something new about Chinese language, people, music and history.

Enjoy your learning.

(Traditional Characters)

天涯呀 海角 覓呀 覓知音
小妹妹唱歌郎奏琴 郎呀咱們倆是一條心
噯呀噯呀 郎呀咱們倆是一條心

家山呀 北望 淚呀 淚霑襟
小妹妹想郎直到今 郎呀患難之交恩愛深
噯呀噯呀 郎呀患難之交恩愛深

人生呀 誰不 惜啊 惜青春
小妹妹似線 郎似針 郎呀穿在一起不離分
噯呀噯呀 郎呀穿在一起不離

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