A Story and a Phrase builds bridges between China, Korea, and Japan

Image credit: Kim Ki Chang, Green Mountain Painting / 1970 Color on silk 82 x 101 cm


Original Simplified Pinyin
臨江仙 – 楊愼













临江仙 – 杨慎













Línjiāng xiān – Yáng Shèn


gǔngǔn chángjiāng dōng zhè shuǐ

lànghuā táo jǐn yīngxióng

shìfēi chéngbài zhuǎn tóu kōng

qīng shān yījiù zài

jǐdù xīyáng hóng


bái fà yú qiáo jiāng zhǔ shàng

guàn kàn qiūyuè chūnfēng

yī hú zhuójiǔ xǐ xiāngféng

gǔjīn duōshǎo shì

dōu fù xiàotán zhōng


Transliteration of Hanja Romanization
『임강선』   – 양신












『im gang seon』 – Yang Sin

gon gon jang-gang dong jeol su

nanghwa do jin yeong-oong

sibi seongpae jeon du gong

cheong san uigu jae

gi do seokyang hong


baek bal eo cho gang jeo sang

gwan gan chuwol choonpoong

il ho tak ju hwae sangbong

gogeum daso sa

do bu sodam joong

Translation into Korean Romanization
『도도장강』 – 양신

동쪽으로 꺾여 흐르는 도도한 장강의 물결에

거품처럼 사라진 영웅들이여!

시비와 성패가 무슨 소용이 있겠고

청산은 의구하다 하지만

몇 번이나 석양을 붉게 물었을까?


강심의 섬 안에 숨어사는 백발의 어부들는

가을달과 봄바람을 구경하면서

탁주 한 병 들고 서로 만나

고금의 수많은 크고 작은 일들을

웃음 속의 담소에 담았다네

『dodojang-gang』 – Yang Sin

dongjjog-eulo kkeokk-yeo heuleuneun dodohan jang-gang-ui mulgyeol-e

geopumcheoleom salajin yeong-ungdeul-iyeo!

sibiwa seongpaega museun soyong-i eetgetgo

cheongsan-eun uigoohada hajiman

myeot beon-ina seo-gyang-eul bulg-ge mul-eoss-eulkka?


gangsim-ui seom aneh soomeosaneun baekbal-ui eobudeulneun

ga-euldalgwa bombalam-eul gugyeong-hamyeonseo

takju han byeong deulgo seolo man-na

gogeum-ui soomahn-eun keugo jageun ildeul-eul

ooseum sogui damso-e dam-atdaneh


「臨江仙」- 楊慎

滾滾たる 長江  東に逝(ゆ)く 水,

浪花は  英雄を 淘(あら)ひ尽くす。

是非 成敗  頭を 転ずれば 空なり。

青山  旧に依りて 在り,

幾度の  夕陽 紅し。


白髪  漁樵 江渚の上,

看るに 慣れたり  秋月 春風を。

一壺の 濁酒  相ひ逢ふを 喜ぶ。

古今  多少の事は,

都(すべ)て  談笑の中に 付す。

「Rinkō Sen」 – Yō Shin

Konkontaru Nagae azuma ni yuku mizu,

Naniwa wa eiyū o tō ara hi tsukusu.

Zehi seibai atama o tenzureba soranari.

Aoyama kyū ni yorite ari,

ikudo no yūhi akashi.


Shiraga gyoshō kō sho no ue,

miru ni nare tari shūgetsu harukaze o.

Ichi tsubo no dakushu ai hi hō fu o yorokobu.

Kokon tashō no koto wa,

subete danshō no naka ni fusu.

English: (for meaning purposes)

Riverbank Fairy – Yang Shen, trans. John Balcom


Rolling, rolling the Yangtze flows east,

The waves washing away heroes.

Right and wrong, success and failure, all empty.

The green mountains remain,

How many red sunsets?


White-haired fisherman by the riverside,

Watching the autumn moon and spring breeze;

A pot of unstrained wine welcomes me again.

How many events, from antiquity until now,

Are matter for our laughter and talk?


This poem was composed by Yang Shen (1488-1559) to the rhythm of a previous poem called “Riverbank Fairy” by Li Yu (c.937-978) and is a proem for the classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong (c.1330-1400 or c.1280-1360); however, the novel’s original text did not contain the poem until the 1660s, when Mao Lun and Mao Zonggang edited the text. Nevertheless, the poem is a recognized part of the classic and is one of the few literary works valued by the Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese. Therefore, the Yang Shen’s poem was translated to Korean and Japanese. The scripts of the languages demonstrate the density of Chinese compared to Korean and Japanese. Japanese adds helper hiragana characters between kanji characters while Korean utilizes longer grammatical structures with some hanja (traditional Chinese script) based words written in hangeul (Korean script).

All three translations include the word Blue-Green Mountain (Chinese靑山, Korean 청산, Japanese 青山 (あおやま)). The character 靑 in Chinese means green or blue depending on context; in Korean, 청 can mean blue or green or blue-green regardless of context; in Japanese, 青 means blue or even black unless it describes a plant, in which case it would be green. This contributes to the different nuances of 靑山 for all three languages. Moreover, perceptions of 靑山  differ due to different cultural backgrounds. The Chinese perception of green hills stretches from beautiful imagery to longing for prosperity. For Koreans, the word would call to mind a Goryeo dynasty (918-1392) folk song called 청산별곡 (Cheong San Byeol Gok), where the speaker longs to live in green hills and a peaceful life: the color 청 elicits a sense of peace. In Japan, 青山 also functions as prevalent surname, and therefore country name, due to the abundance of blue/green hills in Japan. All these nuances combine to form a purer meaning of靑山, that incorporates the images of prosperity, inner peace, and natural landscape. One can wonder if this is the closest to the green hills where China, Korea, and Japan forget past grievances and collaborate to create purity.


The Spirit of Han (恨)

I first heard this minyo (Korean traditional style) singer, Song Sohee, when she was five years old. I guess you could call her the Jackie Evancho of Korea. She is currently 19 years old, and has appeared in the television music competition program Immortal Songs 2. This is a video of one of her performances, and I chose this one because the song really struck a chord (pun intended) with me as a Korean.

Because of her singing style, I felt that the song was a traditional folk song, though the melody is definitely in the style of the 1960s. Despite its modernity, the elegy style of song is deeply rooted in Korean tradition, and this song is just a ’60s continuation of the style. As one Korean blogger stated “한국인의 피에는 한(恨)이 녹아 있다.” which translates as in every Korean there is the Han (regret, desire, sadness) spirit. This Han spirit originates from the many painful times in Korean history.

The lyricist was Han Sando, the composer Baek Yeongho, and the original singer was Son Inho. There are only 3 stanzas, and the lyrics go as follows (along with translation):

언제까지나 언제까지나  헤어지지 말자고
맹세를 하고 다짐을 하던 너와 내가 아니냐
세월이 가고 너도 또 가도 나만 혼자 외로이
그때 그 시절 그리운 시절 못 잊어 내가 운다


백사장에서 동백섬에서 속삭이던 그 말이
오고 또 가는 바닷물 타고  들려오네 지금도
이제는 다시 두 번 또 다시 만날 길이 없다면
못난 미련을 던져 버리자 저 바다 멀리 멀리


울던 물새도 어디로 가고 조각달도 기울고
바다마저도 잠이 들었나 밤이 깊은 해운대
나도 가련다 떠나가련다 아픈 마음 안고서
정든 백사장 정든 동백섬 안녕히 잘 있거라


Are we not the ones who swore
To never ever fall apart?
Time goes by and so have you, and I am left alone
I cannot let go of that time, so I cry.

The words you whispered on the Dongbaek’s white beach
Even now come back and forth along the sea
If there is no way for us to see each other again
Let’s throw our false hopes far across the sea

Even the crying waterfowl flies and the crescent moon still tilts
And even at night, I can hear the sea sleeping at Haeundae
I too, wish to leave with a heavy heart
I bid farewell to the white beaches of Dongbaek

This post was inspired by two Daily Post Discover Challenge: –  Song  –  For this week’s challenge, tell us the story of your special connection to one song (or another discrete musical composition, from a jazz tune to a techno track or opera aria). When did it start? How has it changed over time? Does the song’s meaning reside in the melody, the lyrics, the performer’s voice — or some other intangible element?

A Translation of Colors

If expanding in all directions was only Wood,
Soon ash will cloak the Earth,
Defenseless to the scorching of Fire;
But above, within, and below, flows blue Water
Washing away the dust of Earth

Covering gems mixed in with Metal.

Foam froths the salt-filled Sea,
Its floors bedecked with rocks and Sand,
But not the radiance of Light;
Seas swell, surge, and roll with Time,
Beaten about by the gusts of the great green Wind

Withering the round cloud into Nimbus.

But the excess of steam and Shadow
Causes the earth to quiver, Quake
Till it be overrun and leveled by a red hot Blaze;
Silence conquers the Storm
With the soothing sound of the Mind

And the cool frozen chill of icy Frost. 

Balance allows the flower’s Bloom
Near the north sea of Dark Snake-Tortoise,
East woods of Azure Dragon;
At center, sits the Golden Emperor,
Who entrusts the south desert to Red Bird

And the west snows to kingly White Tiger.

What inspired my track, “The Portrait”

It was a portrait of a boy, dressed in the finest apparel in a rather bright setting, sitting at a desk of mahogany. Architectural diagrams filled the walls. A gramophone, the first recorder to use disks, lay on his desk. Around him were books, literature ranging from mathematics to great classics. Trophies for the arts, athletics, and public speaking surrounded him. It was obvious that this was a portrait of a Renaissance boy. Benigno glanced at every inch of the portrait, and finally gazed at the face. To his utter shock, the boy was smiling. To Benigno, it was more like a smirk. Benigno froze. Were the portraits themselves laughing at him also? Was he that fit for mockery?

Return of Darkness, Ch 2
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Boy and Rabbit (1814), Henry Raeburn, oil on canvas

My track, The Portrait, was released Oct. 17 and is both on SoundCloud and YouTube. The track is based off of the quote above. The author of the blog commissioned original soundtracks and drawings for her novel project, and this is one of my first tracks for the project. I meant for the track to be both a reflection of the portrait’s subject and the character, Benigno.

The YouTube video contains actual portraits of boys from Roman times to the early 19th century. None of them quite fit the description of the quote, but I chose these portraits because A) they’re public domain and B)they contain something that is similar to the one described in the novel.

As for why I chose harp and cello? I love the harp, but I was unable to use it for previous tracks because it didn’t quite fit any of the moods. I finally placed the harp here because it creates a tranquil mood, and the note progression gives a hypnotizing sensation, just as Benigno is drawn to the portrait in the story. I chose the cello for its rich, deep sound that matches the personality of the boy and Benigno.

I hope you enjoy the track as much as I have enjoyed composing it. Coming up next will be a post on Wind Flower, a piece centered on the character FengHua Nakasone, and I will be mixing influences from traditional Chinese, Korean, and Japanese music styles to compose this piece.