《天涯歌女》 (The Wandering Songstress) and Can You Trust Women?

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .
Lust, Caution (色, 戒), The Wandering Songstress scene. Buy Lust Caution


From the end of the earth, to the farthest sea
I searched for my heart's companion
A young girl sings, while he accompanies her
Your heart is my heart

Looking north from my mountain nest
My tears fall and wet my blouse
Missing him, i will not rest
Only love that lasts through hard time is true

In life, who does not
Cherish the springtime of youth?
A young girl to her man, Is like thread to its needle
Ah my beautiful man
We're like a threaded needle
Never to be separated

English translation is from the DVD of the movie.

天涯歌 is a theme song from the movie 马路天使 (Street Angel (1937 film)), sung and starring 周璇 (Zhou Xuan) 1918?-1957. Music by 賀綠汀 (1903-?). Lyrics by 田漢 (1898 to 1968).

wandering songstress
The music sheet for The Wandering Songstress. (It uses the “numbered musical notation”.)

Numbered Musical Notation

The numbered musical notation (Chinese: 简谱; pinyin: jiǎnpǔ; literally: “simplified notation”), is a musical notation system widely used in music publications in China. Not to be confused with the integer notation. It dates back to the system designed by Pierre Galin, known as Galin-Paris-Chevé system. It is comparable to the Gongche notation from the Tang Dynasty.

It is also known as Ziffersystem, meaning “number system” or “cipher system” in German. It should be noticed that some other unrelated musical notation systems are also called cipher notations.

The same system or very similar systems are used to some extent in some other countries such as Japan (with 7th being si), Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Hong Kong, and English-speaking Canada.

[2018-07-13 Wikipedia Numbered musical notation]

簡譜(英语:numbered musical notation)為記譜法之一,主要以數字作表達,故亦稱為數字譜。今天在東亞地區的台灣、日本和中國大陆較為常見。其起源於18世紀的法國[1],後經德國人改良,遂成今日之貌。

The song is one of the most beautiful love song there is.

lust caution 3
Scene from “Lust, Caution”, while the girl is singing the song “The Wandering Songstress”, during the phrase “郎呀, 患难之交恩爱深” (Only love that lasts through hard time is true). You can see the tinge of sad expression on her face.
lust caution 4 lust caution 7
Scene from the movie Lust, Caution (色, 戒). Buy Lust Caution

Here is some info about the music and lyrics authors of this song, from 鼓吹小站—民族音樂論壇 十五16周璇老歌目錄 http://cmusic.idv.tw/suona/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=1086 (2001-07) by 孫心裁:

賀綠汀, 是湖南邵陽東鄉人, 生於農民家庭, 小時候喜愛聽民歌、戲曲、彈風琴、吹簫、 1922年中學畢業後, 在邵陽縣任小學教員, 同時開始自學音樂基礎知識。

1924年入長沙岳雲學校藝術專科學校 學習鋼琴、小提琴、民族樂器及音樂理論。 1926年北伐戰爭時, 在工人、農民運動中作組織宣傳工作。 1927年大革命失敗後參加廣州、海豐起義。 1931年入國立音專, 從師於黃自學習作曲、和聲, 同時選修鋼琴。 在此期間, 他開始創作歌曲和鋼琴曲。 1934年俄國鋼琴家作曲家齊爾品 在上海徵集中國風味的鋼琴曲。 賀綠汀以一首《牧童短笛》奪得了此次比賽的冠軍。

1934年他為沈西苓編導的電影《鄉愁》 創作了電影插曲《鄉愁曲》 (郎毓秀演唱, 作詞) 從1934年至1979年他陸續為 《鄉愁》(1934)、《船家女》、《熱血忠魂》、《風雲兒女》、《都市風光》(1935)、 《.長恨歌》、《桃源春夢》、《狂歡之夜》、《小姐妹》、《生死同心》、《清明時節》 (1936)、《春到人間》、《壓歲錢》、《十字街頭》、《社會之花》、《馬路天使》、 《古塔奇案》 (1937)、《抗戰歌輯(三)卡通鼓動片》(1938)、《抗戰歌輯(五) 卡通鼓動片》、《中華兒女》(1939)、《青年中國》(1940)、《塔山阻擊戰》、 《閱兵新聞記錄片》(1949)、《上饒集中營》(1953)、《宋景詩》(1956)、《曙光》(1979)、 等27部影片配樂, 並創作了許多歌曲和合唱曲, 如《遊擊隊歌》、《嘉陵江上》、《墾春泥》、《保家鄉》等, 同時還創作了管弦樂曲《晚會》、《森吉德馬》等, 在管弦樂創作民族化上取得了進展。

中國人民共和國成立之後, 他先後擔任了中國音樂家協會副主席, 上海分會主席和上海音樂學院院長。 1979年被選為中國文聯主席。 賀綠汀長期致力音樂教育事業, 為我國培養了許多音樂專業人才。

在文革十年動亂期間, 他是最早受迫害的知識分子之一。 但是它他在批鬥大會上, 在電視攝影机面前, 鐵骨鋒鋒, 大義凜然, 威武不屈, 顯示了中國知識份子的可貴品質。

做為一位知名的作曲家。 他既創作了一些藝術性、專業性很強的作品, 也采用人民喜聞樂見的形式 創作了-些都會流行歌曲風格的通俗作品。 其中《古塔奇案》的插曲《秋水伊人》 是我最喜愛的歌。

Here's about 田漢, the lyrics writer for the song:

田漢, 原籍湖南長沙。 也是一位知名的劇作家, 詩人。 早年留學日本, 20年代開始戲劇活動, 寫過多部著名話劇, 成功地改編過一些傳統戲曲。

他也是《中華人民共和國國歌》作詞者。 http://mayasun.idv.tw/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=350 中華人民共和國成立后 歷任中央人民政府政務院文化教育委員會委員, 文化部戲曲改進局局長, 藝術事業管理局局長, 中國劇協主席和黨組書記, 全國文聯副主席等職, 在歷史劇的創作和改編方面達到了新的高度。 “文革”中慘遭殘害, 1968年病死獄中。

Here's the Wikipedia articles: Composer 贺绿汀 (He Lüting) and lyricist 田漢 (Tian Han),

Lust, Caution

I was watching on DVD, 李安 (Ang Lee)'s movie Lust, Caution (色, 戒).

It is a fantastic movie. There are 2 greatest scenes in this movie. One is the diamond scene near the end (2:18:10-2:21:10). The other is the also near the end, where the girl sings his man a song (2:03:43-2:06:39). I've watched these 2 scenes repeatedly for like 10 times, and each time it deeply touches me.

Other fantastic scenes, are the dining table scene (~0051:00), the good night scene in front of her apartment (~0054:40), and the first hotel meeting scene (01:30:30). Here, we see the woman's charm and the showing of her willingness to mate, most lucidly.

It turns out, that the love song is a oldie called 天涯歌 from 1940s of Shanghai, sung by the famous 周璇. It was a theme song in the same war-era context. It is a beautiful song and beautifully sung, and the lyrics are beautiful and the English translation is superb.

China Censorship

[2020-09-18 note, the censorship is lifted after several years]

The mainland China's version cuts out many scenes. Its cutting out of sex scenes is mundane and understandable. However, it also cuts out the remark the girl made in the ending diamond scene, where the girl tells the guy urgently: “快走” (go now). (about 10 seconds of the film) This 10 seconds, is the cream of acting of the whole film, and is also the quintessence of this film.

This film, missing this 10 seconds, completely destroys it. Apparently, the reason for cutting this 10 seconds is that its too strong a gesture of loving a traitor to be shown nationally.

Either China made a blunder in their decision to cut this, or that the Art of Cinema in China's has still ways to go.

The Question of Trust in Females

I've always have wondered, a female nature that often colloquially ascribed as un-loyal, can't be trusted, fickle, unreliable, or can't carry great missions or deeds. The question has been on my mind for a few years, to find the truthfulness or origin of this from a Evolutionary psychology point of view.

Today, from the diamond scene, and reading a blog (【色戒影评】天涯呀海角,觅呀觅知音…… By Niceviola. At http://www.xici.net/b5293/d62939591.htm), i had a insight.

The last sentence of the blog says: «什么伟大事业、民族己任, 女人若是痴傻起来, 是什么都可以不顾的。她要留住他, 她要他活着, 即使自己都不曾活过。“人生呀, 谁不惜呀惜青春…”». (Translation: «What great deeds? What national duty? When a woman becomes foolhardy, she can be quite reckless. She wants to keep him, she wants him to live, even though herself never lived well. “In life, who does not, cherish the springtime of youth?”»)

My brother also gave a comment to the last scene. He said: “嘴上无毛,办事不劳” (“no mustache; not reliable”), which is a colloquial Chinese saying. This comment is funny and also on the spot.

These lead me to realize, that gist of this female characterization, is because females, are the ones that carry the offspring of the human progeny. It is this, the instinctive nature to get conception, protect their young, gives them their untrustful, un-loyal, un-ambitious, characteristics. Men, in contrast, can be logical or thinking or build a bridge or following a regime or do great deeds. Women, by nature, are wholly devoted to the very task of getting conception to happen, and bring to life new human animals in their womb.

Male's contribution to the multiplication of the human species, is spreading seeds, due to the fact that male ejaculates. Thus, this is what men do and are conditioned to do. In not so noble a description: men maximize the propagation of human animals by womanizing. For women, the conception of a baby, and its growth, actually happens in their tummy. It is they, the process of breeding ultimately and critically depends on. This is far greater a mission and dedication, with respect to preserving the human species, than man-made social ones such as logic, philosophy, inter-personal trust, state allegiance.

On Being a Love Spy

Consider being a love spy for a moment. The life of a love spy is somewhat fascinating, not just because the sex. It asks the question of what is love. When one becomes a love spy, one must act whole heartedly as depicted in this movie. It is somewhat like acting in a movie, except for real and actually live it. In great acting, it is not possible to simply physically act out a scene, but must really think like the person he pretends to be, to the degree that all involuntary muscle activities are generated spontaneously according to the situation. We can see this in great films, of all the involuntary muscle twitches, subtle breathing changes, blushing, sweating, and unconscious body languages.

As a human animal, our physical body are intimately tied to our mind. It is impossible, for a person, to act out behaviors and mental makeup, involving physical intimacy in a prolonged period of time, without actually developing genuine emotions and attachment. Our physical behaviors, from a smile to love making, are connected to our mental states in the chemistry in our blood. (i.e. by physiology, muscles, nervous system, are bi-connected to thought, in a measurable way.) (e.g. fake smile and genuine simle are easily distinguished. It is known that genuine smile involves involuntary muscles. For actors, they must act by controlling their mind, not body. See for example: Facial expression, Microexpression, Affect display. )

So, given that it is impossible to act out a love spy with complete emotional detachment, how can love spies be what they are or what they do? I think, that for love spies, they essentially live their lives in a illogical, abnormal way. First of all, i do not think all love spies are successful. Either they fail at some point in their pretension, or that they broke their mission and love their target, or ceases to be a spy for some reason. For the successful ones, their lifes are essentially un-human, with a cold heart such that the meaning of love and the normal behavior and expectations of people in love, are wholly deviated.

真实版色戒:轰动上海滩的郑苹如女间谍案 the Real Story Behind “Lust, Caution”

Note that the movie “Lust, Caution” is based on a novel of the same name, and the novel is based on true story. In the real story, the failure of assassination wasn't due to her.

The spy girl is 鄭蘋如 (1918年-1940年)





Songs and Humanity