Learn From Lyrics: 火柴天堂 (Hǔochái Tiāntáng) – 熊天平

11 Mar

Well, I was planning to finish a present tense post for this past weekend, but after getting about halfway through I realized I didn’t actually understand it. 着 and 正在, not to mention 现在… Sigh. 😀 I’ll post that as soon as I fully get it, but for now let’s go to some vocab.

I was planning to compile an actual vocabulary list, probably of food or business lingo, but I got distracted by a 90s  song: 火柴天堂 (Hǔochái Tiāntáng – A Matchstick Heaven). Yep, change of plans – my vocab is coming from 90s music this week.

picture of match - 火柴天堂

Image thanks to Sebastian Ritter (Rise0011) from the Wikimedia Commons.

A one-sentence summary for those new to 90s China pop: I’m sure there are some happy songs out there – I just haven’t found them yet. And I’ve been improving my literacy with them for quite a while now.

(Though it is true that I’ve been searching for slow songs with clear, audible lyrics. The 90s are to learning Mandarin what Robert Frost could be to learning English. Let’s not even talk about today’s pop music.)

This particular song caught my attention while I was hunting for the lyrics to 烟花易冷, another heartbreaking song that will probably appear in a post down the road. The lyrics are very good and it was beautifully sung – the video I was watching was of Chyi Chin, a Taiwanese singer – but what really boggled my mind was the music.

Spanish influence. With guitar and chord progressions and whatever you call that distinctive up-and-down melody. I’m not sure if that made sense, but it will when you watch the video, here.

And yes, this is a very big deal. I’m still not completely sure why, but it most definitely is. That’s why 火柴天堂 has been awarded the (possibly dubious) honor of being the first Mandarin song I translate. A lot is lost in translation, so definitely only take the English as a guide.

😀 :).  Just to smile. 🙂 :D.  Yeah, I’m pretty proud of myself. 😀

You’ll probably get more out of this by going through the lyrics without the tune in your head, especially the pīnyīn ones. Memorizing lyrics are a great way to improve vocab, but the one drawback is that you can’t hear the tones.

I recommend that you first skim through this Mandarin-only version. You may want to copy-paste onto a Word Doc, as the font is a bit small. I wrote this post with semi-natives or intermediates in mind, so this could be challenging if you’re just starting out. No worries, there’s a line-by-line translated version a bit later.

Best of luck, and have fun with it!

(The underlined words are in a glossary at the end of this post, but just skim this version to begin with.)

火柴天堂

词:熊天平
曲:熊天平

歌词:

走在寒冷下雪的夜空
卖着火柴温饱我的梦
一步步冰冻 一步步寂寞
人情寒冷冰冻我的手

一包火柴燃烧我的心
寒冷夜里挡不住前行
我的脸 雪我的口
着脚步还能走多久

有谁来买我的火柴
有谁一根根希望全部点燃
有谁来买我的孤单
有谁来实现我想家的呼唤

每次 点燃火柴 微微光芒
看到希望 看到梦想
看见天上的妈妈说话

她说 你要勇敢 你要坚强
不要害怕 不要慌张
让你从此不必再流浪

每次 点燃火柴 微微光芒
看到希望 看到梦想
看见天上的妈妈说话

她说 你要勇敢 你要坚强
不要害怕 不要慌张
让你从此不必再流浪

妈妈着你的手回家
睡在温暖花开的 天堂  (Repeat again from the beginning.)

And below is the translated version. Reading the pīnyīn out loud is highly recommended. If you need a review, open this post.

Just a note: the translation is mine, with the help of a native speaker. Not exactly elegant, but hopefully they’ll convey the basic meaning.

I tried to maintain a balance between translating literally (after all, we are learning vocab) and ensuring that the intended meaning is clear. Suggestions and edits would be very much appreciated!

火柴天堂
– Hǔochái Tīantáng
– A Matchstick Heaven

词:熊天平
Cí : Xióng Tiānpíng
Lyrics: Xiong Tiānping

曲:熊天平
Qǔ : Xióng Tīanpíng
Music: Xiong Tianping

歌词:
Gēcí:
Lyrics:

走在寒冷下雪的夜空
– Zǒuzài hánlěng xiàxǔe de yèkōng
– Walking in the frigid, snowing night

卖着火柴温饱我的梦
– Mài zhe hǔochái wēnbǎo wǒ de mèng
– Selling matches, hugging my dreams close [Note: I think there’s a play on words here. See 温饱 in the glossary.]

一步步冰冻 一步步寂寞
– Yībùbu bīngdòng, yībùbu jìmò [Note: 一步步, when spoken, actually seems to be pronounced bùbu.]
– Every step freezing, every step lonely [Or, “Every step so cold, every step alone”? Up to you.]

人情寒冷冰冻我的手
– Rénqíng hánlěng bīngdòng wǒ de shǒu
– The chill of human feeling [or “sentiment”?] freezes my hands

_________________________________________________________

一包火柴燃烧我的心
– Yì bāo hǔochái ránshāo wǒ de xīn
– A single box of matches warms [“blazes in”?] my heart

寒冷夜里挡不住前行
– Hánlěng yè lǐ dǎngbùzhù qiánxíng
– The frigid night cannot stop my progress forward

风刺我的脸 雪割我的口
– Fēng cì wǒ de liǎn, xǔe gē wǒ de kǒu
– The wind needles my face, the snow slashes my lips

拖着脚步还能走多久
– Tuō zhe jiǎobù hái néng zǔo dūo jǐu
– I’m dragging my feet – how much longer can I walk?

_________________________________________________________

有谁来买我的火柴
– Yǒu shéi lái mǎi wǒ de hǔochái
– Who will come to buy my matches?

有谁将一根根希望全部点燃
– Yǒu shéi jiāng yìgēngen xīwàng quánbù diǎnrán
– Who will light every stick of hope ablaze? [Thanks to wodezitie for the edit.]

有谁来买我的孤单
– Yǒu shéi lái mǎi wǒ de gūdān
– Who will come to buy my loneliness?

有谁来实现我想家的呼唤
– Yǒu shéi lái xiànshí wǒ xiǎng jiā de hūhuán
– Who will come and fulfill my homesick cry?

_________________________________________________________

每次 点燃火柴 微微光芒
– Měicì diǎnrán hǔochái, wēiwēi gūangmáng
– Every time I light a match, dim light scattering,

看到希望 看到梦想
– Kàn dào xīwàng, kàn dào mèngxiǎng
– I can see my hope, I can see my dreams

看见天上的妈妈说话
– Kàn jiàn tiān shàng de māma shūo hùa
– I see, in the heavens, my mother speak

_________________________________________________________

她说 你要勇敢 你要坚强
– Tā shuō, nǐ yào yónggǎn, nǐ yào jiānqíang
– She says, you must be brave, you must be strong

不要害怕 不要慌张
– Bù yào hàipà, bù yào huāngzhāng
– Don’t be frightened, don’t be rattled [“Flustered” would be more literal, but it sounds weird.]

让你从此不必再流浪
– Ràng nǐ cóngcì bù bì zài liú làng
– You’ll be able, from now on, to need never again wander

_________________________________________________________

每次 点燃火柴 微微光芒
– Měicì diǎnrán hǔochái, wēiwēi gūangmáng
– Every time I light a match, dim light scattering,

看到希望 看到梦想
– Kàn dào xīwàng, kàn dào mèngxiǎng
– I can see my hope, I can see my dreams

看见天上的妈妈说话
– Kàn jiàn tiān shàng de māma shūo hùa
– I see, in the heavens, my mother speak

_________________________________________________________
她说 你要勇敢 你要坚强
– Tā shuō, nǐ yào yónggǎn, nǐ yào jiānqíang
– She says, you must be brave, you must be strong

不要害怕 不要慌张
– Bù yào hàipà, bù yào huāngzhāng
– Don’t be frightened, don’t be rattled

让你从此不必再流浪
– Ràng nǐ cóngcì bù bì zài liú làng
– You’ll be able, from now on, to need never again wander

_________________________________________________________
妈妈牵着你的手回家
– Māma qiān zhe nǐ de shǒu húi jiā.
– Mother will take your hand and lead you home

睡在温暖花开的 天堂
– Shuì zài wēnnuǎn hūa kāi de tiāntáng
– Sleep in the warm, open petals of heaven (再来一遍!Zài lái yībiàn! One more time!) ->^

Finished! Congratulations. Here the Chyi Chin video again, and here’s another one with the actual songwriter singing. The second also has traditional character subtitles, if you’re interested in those.

What I’ve been doing is printing out the lyrics and reviewing unfamiliar phrases, then writing through the entire song once or twice in the week. I try to choose songs that have lyrics resembling common speech, and I’ve found that writing 90s lyrics has quickly built a nice base for my literacy. Give it a shot if you have time.

This was fun for me, and I think I’ll be posting more of these when the mood strikes me. I’d love to hear any suggestions you have for future posts.

Wait! Don’t suggest that favorite Mandarin song yet. I have a few conditions.

1.) All of the lyrics should be clearly audible in the song, so please avoid songs that are extremely fast.

2.) No random English, Korean, or Japanese lines. And especially no English rap verses. That’s non-negotiable.

3.) No theme songs from TV shows, historical dramas, war dramas, office dramas, or actually any kind of drama.

4.) Please do not suggest anything like this video, sent to me yesterday. No offense to any fans of “Super Junior M” – I just personally don’t feel their music. Or their dance videos. Or anything that’s similar. At all.

😀

Have a great week, everyone. Happy studying!

_________________________________________________________

Vocab from this week:

(Feel free to post in the comments if you want any other terms defined.)

寒冷 (hánlěng) – Frigid, bitterly cold. Think chihuahua in the frozen tundra.

温饱 (wēnbăo) – Basic necessities: warmth and sufficient food. However, it also sounds a bit like 抱 (bào), which mean “to hug”. With the context in mind (and because it flows better), I wrote “hug” in  the translation.

冰冻 (bīngdòng) – Freeze to ice, or as cold as ice.

寂寞 (jìmò) – Loneliness

人情 (rénqíng) – Human feeling, or emotion. As in essential spirit-ness.

燃烧 (ránshāo) – Blaze, scorch, burn

刺 (cì) – Needle (v.), or jab. Could also mean thorn.

割 (gē) – Slash, cut. Invokes some kind of knife.

拖 (tuō) – Drag (v.). This translates almost perfectly.

将 (jiāng) – Has many definitions. The one in use here means to put, or to make.

点燃 (diǎnrán) – Light, or ignite.

实现 (shíxiàn) – Fulfill, or realize (as in a dream).

呼唤 (hūhúan) – Call, shout, yell, cry. That kind of loud voice action, you know. 🙂

勇敢 (yónggǎn) – Courage.

坚强 (jiānqiáng) – Endure with strength.

害怕 (hàipà) – Be afraid.

慌张 (huāngzhāng) – Panic, to be rattled.

从此 (cóngcǐ) – From here on out (American English!), or from now on.

流浪 (liǔlàng) – To wander. Think gypsies rather than being lost.

牵 (qiāng) – A combo of take, hold, and sometimes lead. Usually involves hands.

温暖 (wēnnuǎn) – Warm and cozy.

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10 Responses to “Learn From Lyrics: 火柴天堂 (Hǔochái Tiāntáng) – 熊天平”

  1. wodezitie March 12, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Hi Rene, you don’t need to post this in your comments (I will be writing another one to post). I think you did a wonderful job. Just a couple of comments: 1) “Who will prophecy that every stick of hope will catch fire?” I don’t think prophecy is the right word. I would translate this line as “Who will light every stick of hope until all my matches are on fire?”; 2) your pinyin for 谁 is incorrect (but you don’t need to tell anyone that; just correct it in your post). It should be shéi (with an “e” instead of an “a”). 🙂

    • TheZingR March 12, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

      Thank you for the edits! I’ll correct 谁 immediately.

      On “有谁将一根根希望全部点燃”, I translated 将 incorrectly and it changed my whole interpretation of the line. I went on Baike and got this definition: “3. 拿,持:~心比心。4. 把:~门关好”, which really cleared it up for me. Thanks for the correction.

      How about, “Who will light every single stick of hope ablaze?” A little archaic, but I think it’s much more correct than my original one.

      • wodezitie March 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

        That’s very poetic! Much better than my translation!

      • TheZingR March 12, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

        Thank you. The way I put in my comment makes it seem like it just came to me – ha! The honest version: only after 10 min of thesaurus.com and Baike. 😀

  2. wodezitie March 12, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Hi Rene, my comment automatically posts to your site. (You can change your settings so that you can approve and moderate comments.) I see that you put a lot of work into this piece and did a wonderful job. In fact, in my tutoring, we went over songs, and t’s fun and great way to learn. I really liked that you put down the Chinese, pinyin, and translation (which made it much easier for me, and I do hope you do more of these.) You’re right that a lot of Chinese songs from 90’s and before are contain a melancholy streak (you know, the Chinese love tragedy, especially in love). I would suggest that you check out some of the music of 鄧麗君 or 鳳飛飛 (both Taiwanese from decades ago). You’ve also inspired me to post something about music on my site! Thanks!

    • TheZingR March 12, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

      Ha, no worries on the automatic posting. The only comments I’ll block will probably be spam – I think it might be good to have edits public, in case someone else has been making a similar mistake.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I enjoyed it writing it. I’ll definitely do this again (with pre-90s music – no “Super Junior” from me), and will check out 鄧麗君 or 鳳飛飛 as soon as possible. Do they sing in Mandarin as well as Cantonese?

      Looking forward to seeing your music posts!

      • wodezitie March 12, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

        鄧麗君 sings mostly in Mandarin. 鳳飛飛 sings Mandarin as well as Taiwanese (and Taiwanese singing, I think, is actually more beautiful, but I can’t understand it. 🙂 )

  3. ailaoshi March 16, 2013 at 6:50 am #

    If you’re still having trouble with 現在,正在and 著, I’d be happy to tell you what I know about them and see if it would be any help for you 🙂

    • TheZingR March 16, 2013 at 7:44 am #

      Thank you. I’m actually in the middle of writing that present tense post right now, and it would be great to get your edits on it. I’m slightly busy right now (the joys of a full time student),but I’ll hopefully be able to get that out by tomorrow. Please take a look if you have time!

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