12 December 2015

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Notes Made When Translating: When the Wind Blows

Posted by Joyce 风风火火地 on December 12, 2015

The Second Song 第二首歌

The second song in the series is "When the Wind Blows", the ending theme of NiF. Sung by Hu Ge himself. Ms Hai Yan the author of the original NiF novel wrote the lyrics and the music composition was done by Meng Ke who also composed much of the music you hear in this series.

How many of you guys have actually listened to this? I was guilty of not listening to it until after I finished the series because I was too busy clicking on the next episode link to listen to it. However once I heard it, it soon became one of my favorites.

So without further ado let’s dig in!


Notes Made When Translating: When the Wind Blows 翻译《风起时》的笔记

Title: 风起时 When the Wind Blows
Lyrics: 海宴 Hai Yan
Composition: 孟可 Meng Ke
Singer: 胡歌 Hu Ge


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


The song starts with an immutable truth of the world using the Chinese equivalent of the metaphor of “a coming storm”. The causes of the turbulence are many, from the past and present, but no matter how the storm rages it does not stray from its essence.

变幻, 风云几卷

Lit: Changes, storms fill how many scrolls
Lyrical: How many scrolls can be filled with stories of change?

乱世起惊澜

Lit: Trouble times stir ferocious waves
Lyrical: Troubled times stirring fear

风云 (fēng yún) literally the “wind and cloud”, this phrase actually has a lot of meanings beyond just being meteorological terms. It can, depending on context mean turbulent times, great ambitions and aspirations, a high (in elevation) place. But the meaning relevant to the lyrics here is turbulent and troubled times – 风云突变 (fēng yún tū biàn) a sudden change in times.



乱世 (lùan shì) the literal translation of this term is “messy world” (hehe), but essentially it’s another way of saying turbulent and un-peaceful times. Such times stir up 惊澜 (jīng lán) literally fearful waves which means dangerous situations and keen and ferocious battles. The character 澜 (lán) by itself means a large wave.

The treachery and injustices of past threatens the present and also because of them flames, literally and figuratively have consumed the hopes of many.

血仍殷 何人心念
Lit. The blood is still red, but who remembers?
Lyrical: Blood still flows but no one cares
烈火清平愿
Lit. Fierce fire clears lifelong hopes
Lyrical: Raging fires consume lifelong hopes

殷 (yān) this character has 2 pronunciations the other one is yīn. When used as yīn it means rich, plentiful, sincere and large. But the correct usage of the character here would be its’ meaning when pronounced as yān. 殷 (yān) specifically means a dark red color – like the color of spilled blood. This line points back to the case of Chiyan massacre case, lamenting how no one remembers it or cares about it anymore.

The next line in the song uses a literary technique that shows up a lot in Chinese – concatenation and abbreviations. This song actually uses this technique a lot and makes understanding it a headache basically, unless you’re very familiar with Chinese literature in general.

The abbreviated phrase here is 平愿 (píng yuàn) the actual phrase is 平生所愿 (píng shēng suǒ yuàn). 平生 (píng shēng) means “this life time” or “all this life” and 所愿 (suǒ yuàn) means “what’s hoped for). You’ll often see people saying 平生所… (píng shēng suǒ…) followed by a verb, to say something they’ve done in this life e.g. 平生所学 (píng shēng suǒ xué) – everything that was learnt (in this life).


With the world is in a state of turmoil decisions must be made. Whether to abandon the self to save the world. To do so would mean separating from love and everything you held dear and sacrificing oneself.

慧剑 借别红颜
Lit. With the sword of wisdom I separate from my love as if by life and death
Lyrical: The sword is given away to her

无意续余年

Lit. With no wish to live out the rest of my years
Lyrical: With no wish to live out the rest of my years

The first line of the song in this section I didn’t actually understand properly until much later – after the translations were settled upon.

To start what does 慧剑 (huì jiàn) the “sword of wisdom” actually mean aside from the meaning at face value. 慧剑 (huì jiàn) is a term used in both Buddhist and Taoist philosophies and the term actually has very similar meaning in both schools of thought.

In Buddhism, 慧剑 (huì jiàn) means “the wisdom that can cut (stop) all worries”. This is explained in《维摩经》 (Vimalakirti Sutra) as: “to cut (stop) infatuation/obsession seek for the wise sword, using the wise sword, break the thief of worries”.

In Taoism the wise sword is described as “one to cut (stop) worries, two to cut (stop) immorality, three to cut (stop) greed and anger”. In essence to be one of the enlightened in you’ll need to separate yourself from worldly desires and ties. 

Just go ahead and break everyone's heart.
However when such ties are cut then we are separated from our all that we care for in the world including love. So the next section says 借别红颜 (jiè bié hóng yán). 红颜 (hóng yán)’s meaning is extended to mean “(female) lover”. The difficult phrase to understand is 借别 (jiè bié), it’s another one of those abbreviations. It should be derived from the phrase:

借如生死别 安得长苦悲
If there is no separation such as that of life and death, how can there be such enduring feelings of bitter grief.
This particular line came from 《相和歌辞∙决绝词三首》 [Songs of Departure in Step with each other ∙ 3 Songs on Separation] by 元稹 (yuán zhēn) who wrote it in memory of his dead wife.

So, putting the parts together 借别红颜 (jiè bié hóng yán) becomes “To be separated from my love as if by life and death”.

Even with the decision made the task ahead is daunting. The powers that were are still present – the grand and imposing Palace, and they must be defeated. Even with a broken body, the undying loyal heart vows to break through the pall that looms over the world.

帝阙巍 豪气仍在
Lit. The Emperors’ palace looms (towering), pride still abound.
Lyrical: The Emperor’s palace is still imposing, and towers above all

冰心誓破长夜天
Lit. The stainless heart vows to splits the long night sky
Lyrical: Crystal clear vows split the night sky

The term 冰心 (bīng xīn) literally “heart of ice” doesn’t actually mean cold hearted. It means a ‘stainless’ heart used to describe someone who is indifferent to fame.


The Forbidden Palace
It's not the one used during the Liang Dynasty but it looks nice.
The battle is hard and the ghosts of the past continue to plague but also remind us of the ultimate goal. Even if he is no longer how he was, nothing can waver the convictions in seeing justice be done and serving country.

昔年朱弓 壁上空悬

Lit. The red bow of yesteryear hangs empty on the wall
Lyrical: The red bow of yesteryear hangs empty on the wall


征途望断 铁甲犹寒
Lit. Looking as far as the eye can see on the road to war and the armor is still cold.
Lyrical: The march of battle begs for an end while the armor is still bright



明眸在心 青山难掩

Lit. The clear eyes are in my heart, the green mountains cannot hide
Lyrical: The world cannot hide my pure heart

江山如画 是我心言
Lit. The rivers and mountains be like a painting this is my belief
Lyrical: It is my belief that the world be like a painting

My interpretation of this section of the lyrics is different to the lyrical translation. The lyrical translation may have taken 望断 (wàng duàn) literally. (希)望 (xī wàng) is hope or gaze far, and 断 (duàn) is to stop, end or break off – it makes sense to wish for an end to the march of battle.

However the word 望断 (wàng duàn) actually means to look as far as you can into the distance until you can’t, to look into the horizon. The word 寒 (hán) here I took its basic meaning which is cold. I see it as a reference to 洗雪 (xǐ xuě) literally to “wash away the snow” which means to clear away injustice and humiliation.

So overall my take on the first two lines is Lin Shu expressing frustrations at not being able to actively participate in the “battles” – figuratively described as walking down that road to war and even when he’s gone so far down this path, the injustices have yet to be righted.
江山如画 (jiāng shān rú huà), chengyu, literally meaning “the country be like a painting” it essentially saying that the country is beautiful like in a painting 江山美如画 (jiāng shān měi rú huà), not only in terms of natural beauty but also being prosperous and thriving.

But who is this person of with the loyal heart who can make the world beautiful again. Who can raise the spears and defend the country the song questions. The youth of yester years, those who have an undying loyal heart the song answers.

关山横槊 谁可补天
Lit. Holding up the spear at the borders, who will repair the heavens?
Lyrical: Holding up the spear at the borders, who will repair the heavens?

碧血长枪 昨日少年
Lit. Jade blooded long spear, the youth of yesterday
Lyrical: A spear of justice and sacrifice, the youth of yesterday

关山 (guāng shān) in this context is the abbreviation for 关隘 (guāng ài) an impregnable fort and 山川 (shān chuān) mountains and rivers, at the end of the day it just means "border (of a country)".

The question 谁可补天 (shuí kě bǔ tiān) literally “who can repair the heavens?” can be taken at face value and understood correctly as asking “who can save the world?” However this line is actually referring to the legend 女娲补天 (nǚ wā bǔ tiān) – “Goddess Nuwa repairs the heavens”.


Don't ask me why she has the body of a snake.

Legend goes that in ancient times, the God of Water Gong Gong (共工) and the God of Fire Zhu Rong (祝融) had a fight near Mount Buzhou (不周山). Gong Gong lost and out of frustration knocked his head on Mount Buzhou which was holding up the skies, and toppled the mountain (lol okay). 

Having lost its support the skies collapsed and formed holes. Fires and flood spread throughout the land and monsters roamed everywhere eating people. Seeing this Nuwa was saddened so she smelted the 5 colored rocks and used it to repair the heavens thus saving the world.

So 补天 (bǔ tiān) to repair the heavens means to overcome disaster and to save the people from strife and death.

In the next line the term 碧血长枪 (bì xuě chāng qiāng) literally the spear of jade blood. 碧血(bì xuě) jade blood, means blood that was let when fighting for justice or the blood of a martyr of justice. The term was derived from a short sentence from the book 《外物》”External Factors” by 庄子 (Zhuang Zi) which said:

苌弘死于蜀 ,藏其血,三年而化为碧。
Chang Hong died in Shu, his blood was buried, after 3 years it became jade.
(okay whatever you say Zhuang Zi...)

槊 (shuò) and 长抢 (cháng qiāng) are both types of spears.

Battles are fought and perhaps won, but there will always be losses. Whether that battle was really for the right cause we cannot say, leave it to history to judge.

孤影归途 不见烽烟 
Lit. Lonely silhouette on the returning road, not seeing beacon smoke 
Lyrical: returns by his lonely self, beacon flames no longer seen
一笔千秋 后人心间 
Lit. Written down in history and people’s (of later generations) hearts 
Lyrical: It is written for all to see.

一笔千秋 (yī bǐ qiān qīu) literally “write for a thousand Autumns” this means to write down history. Chinese people sometimes seem obsessed with writing history. You would have seen multiple references throughout the series where people worried about whether they’ll go down in the history books as good or bad. One of the key factors in why the Emperor was so against re-investigating the Chiyan case was because if the case was overturned, the Emperor would be recorded in history as some who killed their own son and loyal officials and being fatuous and cruel. He will get a 千古骂名 (qiān gǔ mà míng) - eternally cursed at name.
Changlin Army
To take an example from actual history, in the 6th Century BC, there was an official by the name of Cui Zhu (崔杼) in the kingdom of Qi (齐) who assassinated King Zhuang of Qi (for being a lecher actually). So the Taishi (太史) - the official who wrote historical records, penned “
崔杼弑庄公” - Cui Zhu kills Zhuang.

Cui Zhu noting want to go down in history as someone who committed regicide told the Taishi to change it, but when the Taishi refused Cui Zhu was so upset that he killed the Taishi. At the time, the position of Taishi was an inheritable position, so the Taishi's younger brother assumed the post and similarly wrote down "Cui Zhu kills Zhuang". This brother was also killed. Cui Zhu ended up killing 3 of the brothers who became Taishi. 



Images from the manhua《东周列国故事》"Stories of the States of Eastern Zhou" - Chapter 29

At last when the 4th Taishi, the youngest brother, assume the post and still wrote "Cui Zhu kills Zhuang", Cui Zhu realized that he could not kill all the people who know about the truth nor hide it from the world. So to this day, in the history records for the Kingdom of Qi you can still see this very line.

This reminds us that there are many cases like this in history and those selfless people who fight to redress them and don’t not care whether their name is recorded in history or not.

A final answer is given back to the start of the song, not all winds stirs up a storm some clears away the storm clouds and gives you back a clear sky even if it never stops.

风起
Lit. The wind rises
Lyrical: That rising wind

云散
Lit. Cloud scatters
Lyrical: scatters the cloud

Somewhere on Mt Hua

Conclusion 结论

This song encompasses the main themes of the series wherein a loyal heart brings about the dawn of hope that breaks through the pall and miasma of a bleak and desolate world. While it may have been easier to be dead than alive, no matter how hard the path they will fight for justice to be served.

The lyrics are solemn and stirring lamenting on the many misfortunes of life bringing about much heart ache. I really think Ms Hai Yan did a great job for this song.

Thank you, have some tea (that looks kinda like water though)

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