Notes Made When Translating: Loyal Blood Runs Forever Red

The Third Song 第三首歌

《赤血长殷》 – "Loyal Blood Runs Forever Red" is an allegorical memorial song for the novel 《琅琊榜》- The Langya List, which is the original novel on which the drama "Nirvana in Fire" was based. It is a story-retell (剧情歌) song which narrates the life of Mei Changsu and the Chiyan army.

The song was written and produced by fans of the novel and published on April 26th 2014. It became very popular amongst the novel's fan base. During the filming of “Nirvana in Fire” the production team held a competition to find songs for the drama. The collection period lasted for a month during which almost 1000 songs were received. “Loyal Blood Runs Forever Red” was eventually chosen after being highly recommended by the fan community.

2 versions of the song made and published - song only version and one in which parts of the novel was narrated and interspersed throughout the song. The full dialogues in the story interspersed version can be found on Baidu Baike.

Original song only version: 

Original song with story interspersed version: 

The eventual version of “Loyal Blood Runs Forever Red” that was used in the drama actually differed very little from the original fan version. The melody and lyrics remained unchanged. However the accompanying music was more fleshed out and full bodied and Wang Kai was given the honor of singing this version.

Notes Made when Translating: Loyal Blood Runs Forever Red 翻译《赤血长殷》的笔记

Title: 赤血长殷 Loyal Blood Runs Forever Red
Lyrics: 冰封江湖殇 Bing Feng Jianghu Shang
            清彦 Qing Yan
Composition: 阿濑耶识 Ah Lai Ye Shi
Singers Original Fan Version:
            五色石南叶 Wu Se Shinan Ye
            Smile_小千 Smile_Xiao Qian
            慕寒 Mu Han
Singer Official Drama Version: 王凯 Wang Kai

Official drama version MV:

Again the lyrical translations posted on Drama Addict which is used as reference were created by the NiF translator team on Viki.

The Title 歌名

The word 赤血 (chì xuě) in the title of the song means literally means ‘crimson blood’, but if you took that meaning you’ll end up with a rather repetitive title – crimson blood runs forever red XD. The 赤血 is actually part of the phrase 赤血丹心 (chì xuě dān xīn) literally “crimson blood scarlet heart” which means “a heart of pure loyalty”.

Presentation Chapter 承

The first section of the song is the 承章 (chéng zhāng) - presentation chapter.

We oft lament about the passing of time by comparing the changes in people to the stasis of things unchanged. Those thing remain the same over the years, but people do not. The first line of the song brings to mind the scene from the first episode where Mei Changsu returns to the Capital, Jinling City after 12 years in exile. The grey bricks and black tiles of the city wall, the hustle and bustle of the city is still the same, but the people in it are no longer the same.

青砖黛瓦 故景如旧
Lit: Grey bricks and black tiles, the scenery is still the same.
Lyrical: The scenery has remained the same

People often carry burdens that others cannot understand or cannot be shared, in that sense they are lonely and isolated. The next line focuses in on the isolation by figuratively saying that the only companions are trees and grass but they of course cannot understand or provide for any comfort.

草木无情 不解凡忧
Lit: nature (grass and trees) has no feelings and does not understand mortal worries.
Lyrical: though nature has mercilessly left its mark on mortal belongings.

The character 凡 (fán) means common or ordinary and is another way of saying the mortal (ordinary) world. So 凡忧 (fán yōu) means the worries of mortal people or worldly worries.

The turmoil in the past struck without warning leaving nothing much except painful memories. Paying respect to the departed can only provide for momentary relief. We cannot force those who’ve passed but those who remain should not forget.

当时烽火骤 焚尽几多残留
Lit: At the time the flames of war came suddenly, burning everything leaving how much behind?
Lyrical: The flames of war left little behind.

一袭白衣祭故人 陈情此时休
Lit: In funeral attire to pay respect to the departed and old feelings rest for now.
Lyrical: In funeral attire, he pays respect to those who have left.

白衣 (bái yī) literally white cloths. The customary Chinese funeral wear color is white and hemp cloth drapes if you are a decedent or spouse of the deceased.

Momentary relief
What we see today, what we are today how different is it to the past? What has caused it? Who remembers?

霁月清风 琅琊榜首
Lit: A clear moon and light breeze, he who ranks first on the Langya list.
Lyrical: A light breeze blows, and he who ranks first on the Langya List is seen under the clear moon.

谁记昔年 策马风流
Lit: Who still remembers the yesteryear, riding horses unbridledly.
Lyrical: Who still remembers the carefree years of the past?

霁月清风 (jì yuè qīng fēng) is not a chengyu, it’s two phrases “a clear moon and light breeze”. Below a clear white moon, a light and cool breeze brushes across your face – it gives a sense of beautiful tranquility just as how Mei Changsu presents himself as. Whereas the second line for Lin Shu, “unbridled horse riding” gives a sense of movement and energy.

For those who still care no matter how many years have passed will always remember unerringly or unavoidably. We get a glimpse of the causes of the change, the burdens that rest on his shoulders.

十载倏忽过 几回魂梦旧游
Lit: A decade passes in an instance but how many times has the soul wandered to the past in dreams.
Lyrical: A decade passes in an instant, yet he constantly wanders back into the past.

又多少冤魂织就 那缓带轻裘
Lit: How many wronged souls did it take to weave that simple robe?
Lyrical: How many wrongful deaths did it take to turn the soldier into a scholar?

缓带轻裘 (huàn dài qīng qíu), chengyu, it literally means “a wide loose belt and light fur coat”. The phrase is derived from a description of Yang Hu in 《羊祜列传》“The Biography of Yang Hu” which is collected in《晋书》“Book of Jin”. Yang Hu (221-278) was a General in the Western Jin period. He often wore light fur coats with a wide belt in the barracks and held himself in a leisurely, elegant and refined manner without the airs of a martial man and seemed more like a scholar. So the phrase became a byword for “a scholar with a leisurely and refined air”.

Change Chapter 转章

We come to a turning point in the story where we see a sudden change in the world after the arrival of Mei Changsu. In a power struggle there is schemes and tricks that just a fact of life as is has always been.

尔虞我诈斗 无论缘由
Lit: Tricking, out witting each other without reason
Lyrical: A world of unexplained deceit

Lit: It’s but called “winners be kings losers be bandits”
Lyrical: has led to the victors reigning supreme.

尔虞我诈 (ér yú wǒ zhà), chengyu, which literally says “You deceive, I swindle”. This phrase is derived from the sentence:

I do not swindle you, you do not deceive me.

which came from the book《左传》”Commentary of Zuo” and was later turned into a chengyu used to mean people suspecting and deceiving each other. 

There are so many examples of this in the series but my favorite is the conclusion to the Xie Yu take down arc. Sowing discord (挑拨离间), making things out of nothing (无中生有), out right lies (口是心非),  mantis stalks the cicada unaware (螳螂捕蝉), take the trap as it is (将计就计), killing with someone else's knife (借刀杀人), the crane and clam fight (鹤蚌相争), so on so forth (I should just paste the 36 stratagems from the Art of War here), how many of these and what other ones are you able to pick up?

And in these battles Mei Changsu walks alone (fights alone) leaving behind mortal worries and feeling. This is really in a figurative sense which re-enforces on the sense of isolation that Mei Changsu imposes on himself. That he should be the one to take in all the darkness and perform the deeds.

这风雨一路 他只影独走
Lit: on this turbulent road he walks alone
Lyrical: He walks alone on this turbulent path,

Lit: leaving behind all feelings of happiness and grief
Lyrical: and leaves behind all mortal emotions.

We can keep trying to fool ourselves but that never works.
When the tasks are done and he is ready to leave what does he see when he looks back, what is it that he feels? Perhaps he can see something that was good in all the things that he has done.

尘埃落定后 提缰回首
Lit: Once the dust has settle, looking back while holding the reigns
Lyrical: Looking back after everything has settled,

Lit: All the things in the past are branded in the heart.
Lyrial: the past is forever imprinted in his mind.

暗香幽幽 江山皆没入一眸
Lit: A subtle fragrance and the whole world is taken in with a glance.
Lyrical: The fragrance imbues the world that is taken in with a glance.

幽幽 (yōu yōu) is a word that describes something as looming and far away in the distance, or faint such as a faint light.
A peaceful scene that was preserved
Verse two of the ‘Change Chapter’ continues the dive into the world of schemes and deceit, just as the story progresses and the battles get fiercer and fiercer and pieces start falling into place.

朱墙宫深 人心难嗅
Lit: Scarlet walls an endless Palace, peoples’ hearts hard to decipher
Lyrical: People's motives are hidden deep within palace walls.

黑白纵横 杀伐无由
Lit: Black and white crisscross the world, killing needs no reason.
Lyrical: In a game of chess, killing needs no reason.

朱墙 (zhū qiáng) means scarlet walls, this refers the Imperial Palace. The walls of the palace are often painted red.

The lyrics used the word 难嗅 (nán xìu) which literally means “hard to sniff out” to mean hard to decipher.

The next line made use of an interesting metaphor in the phrase 黑白纵横 (heī bái zòng héng) which literally means “black and white crisscrossing”. ‘Black and white’ can refer to people in the ‘criminal world’ – 黑道 (heī dào) literally ‘black road’, and people who are not – 白道 (bái dào) literally ‘white road’. And these people are literally running amok – crisscrossing with world, a lawless world.

However the better interpretation of this should be that it’s referring to the game of weiqi (or Go as it’s known in English) - not actually chess. Some legends trace the game of weiqi (围棋) literally the ‘encircling board game’ to the mythical Chinese Emperor Yao (尧) (2337–2258 BC), who was said to have asked his councilor Shun (舜) (who also later became Emperor) to create a game to help reign in his playboy of a son Danzhu (丹朱). Current concrete records trace the game to have originated at some point during the Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256 BC) and has been played ever since till even today. 

This is not a game, this is the world
The game is played by placing small black and white stones on a board marked by grids. Hence on the game board you’ll see black and white stones crisscrossing across the board. To win the game you must use your game pieces to ‘encircle’ as much of the board’s area as you can. Whoever has the larger area wins.

The fundamental philosophy in weiqi differs from that of chess, this can be seen in the way the two games begin. In weiqi you start with an empty board, whereas chess has all the pieces laid out. Hence in chess, your targets are visible, can you can employ clear tactics to capture enemy pieces and win. However in weiqi your targets are elusive and hidden - maybe not even in existence yet. Each individual game piece in weiqi has very little power, they are no different from every other piece. You must build from nothing, strategise your moves in order to have the pieces work together and ‘encircle’ the board and overpower the opponent. A single innocuous game piece sitting in a corner of the game board could become the foundation of a sweeping tide that you cannot stop.
Who me? Lol that'll never work.
At this point I’m sure it’s not hard to link this back to the overarching story in NiF. Our innocuous game piece is Prince Jing, he starts with nothing. The other pieces are the various ministers and deeds that Prince Jing performs. They by themselves do not amount to much and no one paid them much heed. So slowly, piece by piece they were placed on the ‘board’ and suddenly one day when you looked back they had formed an impregnable fort, an unstoppable force that sweeps the world. 

The phrase 纵横 (zòng héng) literally ‘vertically and horizontally’ or ‘in length and breadth’ or ‘crisscross’ does not only describe literally the state of the weiqi game board but takes on an additional meaning of moving about unscrupulously or to overrun. If you are able to move about as you wish without having to ‘bend’ your movements then you have absolute power and freedom. 

With this kind of elusive strategizing it is hard to see what it was that caused ones downfall - perhaps even a simple conversation is enough to do so. To be able to play such games and calculate all possible outcomes of a situation and have absolute control over all outcomes we should toast your abilities.

权倾谈笑变 妙计敛藏于袖
Lit: Powers and failures change even as we converse, brilliant stratagems hidden in his sleeves.
Lyrical: The power balance changes in an instant with the use of brilliant ideas hidden up his sleeve.

负手算尽天下事 当饮一樽酒
Lit: Easily you calculate everything below heaven, you should be toasted with a drink
Lyrical: After calculating everything that could happen, he should congratulate himself with a drink.

负手 (fù shǒu) literally folding one’s arms behind one’s back. This phrase conveys a sense of a leisurely stance and posture, as if all this strategizing really isn’t all that hard. 

I will toast you with tea instead of wine
Only a small number of people were able to see through his disguises and even less could discern what it is that he’s planning or how his machinations would work. For the majority of the series how many realized that he will not be with them for long? How many layers of disguises do people need to go through. However all of this was done for one purpose only and that purpose has nothing to do with his own future.

病骨一身 未雨绸缪
Lit: With a sickly body, he plans ahead
With his ailing body, he plans ahead,

心中算谋 几人看透
Lit: the stratagems in his heart, how many can see through
Lyrical: and few could decipher his schemes.

未雨绸缪 (weì yǔ chóu móu), chengyu, literally “tie down the doors and windows tightly before the rain comes” and is used to mean prepare things beforehand. The phrase was derived from a verse in the song 《鸱鸮》 (chī xiāo) - “Owl” collected in the book《诗经》- “Book of Songs”. 

纵年寿难永 无愧一生所求
Lit: Even if he cannot live forever, he did not disappoint his wishes in this life
Lyrical: Though he could live no longer, no regrets were left behind.

此去踏关山千重 将前尘挥袖
Lit: In this departure he’ll pass through thousands of trials, bidding farewell to this world
Lyrical: He bids farewell to the past as he departs for the dangerous journey ahead.

关山千重 (guān shān qiān chóng) – literally “thousands of (layers) of borders”. 关山(guān shān) I mentioned before in the last post, it basically mean border passes or just passes. Here, 关山 is figuratively used to describe trials and battles that must be fought – since to get through these passes sometimes you need to fight it out.

For the second part of this line of lyrics, before reading the actual lyrics I thought the song said “将前程挥袖”. Note the one character difference: 程 (chéng) and 尘 (chén). However 前程 (qián chéng) means “the future” where as 前尘 (qián chén) means “the past and now”. 程 (chéng) means section of road, so 前程 is literally “the road ahead” and hence the future. 尘 (chén) is “dust”, so 前尘 is literally “the dust before you”. This is a Buddhist term which refers to the world that people sees as a mirage that is generated from people’s delusions. It was later used to mean the things that were experienced in the past. 

They say that promises last for 3 life times
Final Chapter 合章

The memory of the Chiyan army is forever remembered by those who believe in them. In songs, in records, in their spirit that survives through people’s memories. The "Chiyan army" embodied in Lin Shu and in those memories that have yet to rest to "return" one last time. In which they protected their home and country and re-forged a new "Chiyan" - Changlin. Among the tragedy and grief there is still hope and you cannot help but feel respect and admiration.

泣血书千轴 悲歌唱彻
Lit: Bloody tears write the thousand memorials, singing all the songs of grief
Lyrical: A thousand memorials made from bloody tears lamented the sacrifices.

Lit: The bones of war may all shatter but their will shall never rest.
Lyrical: The soldiers may perish but their aspirations will never falter.

且待赤焰归 整军再从头
Lit: Waiting for the Chiyan to return, to re-organize the troops and start anew
Lyrical: Wait for the return and re-organisation of the Chiyan Army,

Lit: and protect our Kingdom as before
Lyrical: who will continue to protect our kingdom.

Forged from the flames of the Scarlet Flame (Chiyan) Army
In the very end Lin Shu held onto his loyalty to his friends, to the kingdom and returned to where he believed he should be and best be able to fulfill his beliefs.

Lit: The grief of separation is traded away for spears
Lyrical: Grief was traded with spears,

Lit: Using all the rest of his life, an upright spirit shall guard along with you
Lyrical: and he spent the rest of his life upholding righteous values.

此血仍殷 此身豪情仍未收
Lit: This blood is still red (loyal), this chivalry has not been stowed
Lyrical: The blood still flows, and the vigor of a soldier has not been buried.

风骨 (fēng gǔ) means strength of character and having moral integrity. 

The last lines bring us back to the theme of the song that no matter what the ties of friendship and brotherhood will be eternal. The heaven and earth entombs the 70 000 Chiyan soldiers and they would remain buried in the snows of Plum Blossom ridge forever.

Lit: friendship and brotherhood eternal
Lyrical: Brotherhood and friendship

Lit: will remain in the snows of Plum Blossom ridge forever
Lyrical: will remain in the snow covered plum blossom ridge forever.

情义 (qíng yì) is ties of friendship, in literal terms its “sentiments (affection) and righteousness”.


Conclusion 结论

The main themes of NiF are presented in this song, it is about the ties of friendship, brotherhood, loyalty and sacrifice. These ties survive through trials and separation of life and death. Friends are friends no matter if they see each other or not. Loyalty lives on through people’s spirits and guides their actions. 

In both versions the tone of the music and singers varied from section to section, it is at times imbued with a pervasive sadness or great momentum and vitality or the solemn stirrings that can only come from an understanding of the transcendental nature of spirit through life and death.

Lastly really love how the NiF production found this song by accepting song from the fan community.