仓颉

一颗葡萄有多甜美 用尽了所有的 图腾和语言 描写

想一个人有多想念 那又是文字失效瞬间

 

结一个纪念的绳结 记录你离去后 万语和千言 瓦解

升起了慌张的狼烟 我遗落在最孤独史前 的荒野

 

多遥远 多纠结 多想念 多无法描写 疼痛 和疯癫 你都看不见

想穿越 想飞天 想变成 造字的仓颉 写出 能让你快回来 的诗篇

 

一只蝴蝶有多鲜艳 能不能飞越过 猜忌和冷漠 世界

给你的简讯和留言 说不清万分之一追悔

 

当星宿都沉没山岳 只盼你会抬头 看我寄托的 弯月

当一个文明即将熄灭 有什么证明你我存在 的岁月

 

多遥远 多纠结 多想念 多无法描写 疼痛 和疯癫 你都看不见

想穿越 想飞天 想变成 造字的仓颉 创造 能让你想起我 的字眼

 

多遥远 多纠结 多想念 多无法描写 疼痛 和疯癫 你都看不见

想穿越 想飞天 想变成 造字的仓颉 写出 能让你快回来 的诗

 

需要你 需要你 需要你 想逆转时间 回到 最开始 有你的世界

想穿越 想飞天 想变成 造字的仓颉 写出 让宇宙能重来 的诗篇

 

天雨粟 鬼夜哭 思念漫太古

 

专辑: 第二人生

Album: Second Round

作词:阿信

Lyricist: Ashin

作曲:石头

Composer: Rock

I think this is the best song in this entire album (formal declaration)! While I love 诺亚方舟 (which was nominated and won multiple awards in the Golden Melody Award 2012), 仓颉 steals my heart and brings tears to my eyes (melodramatic drumroll…) with its poignant lyrics. Ashin has really transcended the rock ballad nirvana with this song!

With my limited Chinese, I was bewildered by the title in the beginning. After much research, I found out that 仓颉 is this old man who is a legendary figure in ancient China.

Apparently, he is the inventor of the Chinese characters! Ashin has definitely shown his intellectual prowess with this song as he explores the relationship between words and memories. He starts the song by evoking the pain of missing someone with the emphasis on the ineffectiveness of words: 描写想一个人有多想念 那又是文字失效瞬间.

Words (万语和千言) are essential in the creation of memories (结一个纪念的绳结) as one needs words to record the past memories and verbalise the pain of losing someone. However, it seems that words are still unable to capture the memories as Ashin illustrates the desolate image of a person who is abandoned in the wilderness of traumatic memories, which could not be tamed by words (我遗落在最孤独史前的荒野).

I feel that the chorus elucidates the essence of the song.

多遥远 多纠结 多想念 多无法描写 疼痛 和疯癫 你都看不见

想穿越 想飞天 想变成 造字的仓颉 写出 能让你快回来 的诗篇

The choice of word 纠结 intrigues me as I do not fully comprehend its meaning. According to Baidu, 纠结 seems to refer to 难于解开或理清的缠结. The Google translator matches 纠结 with the word “entanglement”. I guess memories are always 纠结 as one is entangled by the pre-post-memories that continue to haunt the consciousness and even sub-consciousness.

In this emotive chorus, Ashin expresses the common idea associated with the limitations of words in such a stunning manner. He uses the notion of the word bank (造字的仓颉) to describe the intense longing for someone’s return. As words become futile in the presence of such consuming emotions and desires, one yearns for the ability to create more words or even a different language that would be able to express that pain, longing, desire or even desperation. I guess if one is able to articulate that pain, the trauma is somewhat reduced as it is “cured” by the outward, verbal catharsis of emotions through words. However, it is precisely the fact that one is unable to use words to express the pain successfully that the pain becomes a corrosive plague  (疼痛和疯癫).

Past memories are always linked to a deep sense of regret. The memories become vessels which contain the haunting “what if”. What if I did this? What if I did that? What if I did not do this? Would the ending be different? The constant bombardment of the ‘what if’ drowns one in this quicksand of regrets. However, it is almost impossible to articulate this complicated emotion of regret as Ashin succinctly puts it: 给你的简讯和留言 说不清万分之一追悔.

Interestingly, Ashin changes the last verse of the final chorus to 造字的仓颉 写出 让宇宙能重来 的诗篇. The rock poetic spirit in Ashin emerges here as he seems to hope for poems which can create a new world –  a new universe that is generated by the pure, redemptive power of words.

Unfortunately, that idealism of this hope is betrayed by the final line of the song that admits the brutal fact of life: 天雨粟 鬼夜哭 思念漫太古. I was extremely perturbed by this final verse. I feel that there is something more lurking behind this deceivingly simple verse and I decided to investigate!

My suspicions were validated by the information from a Baidu website. The verse “天雨粟 鬼夜哭” is a line from the “淮南子” (The Huainanzi or literally “The Masters/Philosophers of Huainan”). According to Wikipedia, it is a 2nd century BCE Chinese philosophical classic from the Han dynasty that blends Daoist, Confucianist, and Legalist concepts, including theories such as Yin-Yang and the Five Phases. It was written under the patronage of Liu An, Prince of Huainan, a legendarily prodigious author.

“昔者仓颉作书而天雨粟, 鬼夜哭” – this cryptic statement appears in the Huainanzi. In his blog, Professor Galambos translates this line into English: “When Cangjie created writing, Heaven rained millet and the ghosts wailed at night”. In the Baidu source explains this line:

“天雨粟” 寓意中华民族因为有了文字, 变得更聪明, 思想更开阔, 生产能力, 创造能力大大增强; “鬼夜哭” 寓意汉字的产生真正揭开了天地的奥秘, 使中华民族智慧增强, 鬼神从此难以主宰人类的命运了, 因此只能在黑夜里哭泣.

Professor Boltz quotes Gao You from the early 3rd century A.D., and offers a similar explanation in English. He clarifies that because when people knew how to write, they turned away from “the basics and busied themselves with the peripheral… Heaven knew of their impending hunger, and so made it ‘rain millet’ for them. Ghosts feared they would be impeached by written records, so they ‘wailed in the night’. ” (tr. Boltz 1994: 132).

Ashin has effectively transformed this verse by adding the last five characters: 思念漫太古. By incorporating his own phrase to end the quote from Huainanzi, Ashin has fearlessly linked the literary classic to his song. What a bold move! I believe that Ashin is trying to state that no matter how brilliant humans have become as they mastered the intricacies of language, they are still defeated by their inability to articulate their 思念 using words. The pain of losing someone, the pain of holding on to past memories and the simple obsession with one’s 思念 are beyond 造字的仓颉.

Ashin’s brilliant allusion to this famous verse has definitely elevated the poetic status of this song. Columbia University Press’s review states that, “The Huainanzi locates the key to successful rule in a balance of broad knowledge, diligent application, and the penetrating wisdom of a sage”. The insightful ending of the song with an incisive allusion to Huainanzi has established Ashin as the Sage in Chinese Rock Music scene! This song has established Ashin as our contemporary 仓颉 who creates a rock language! 赞!

From 仓颉’s ancient China to our dear Bard’s Renaissance England to Mayday’s modern era, the emptiness of words has always traumatized all men and women who struggle with painful memories and emotions. Shakespeare laments in Macbeth:

Give sorrow words;
 the grief that does not speak

Whispers the o’er-fraught heart
and bids it break.

Just like our dear Bard, Ashin laments about the limitations of words…when words fail…

Moving on to the music video, I was initially disappointed by the music video as I was expecting a 中国风 (China Wind) style because of the association to 仓颉. Hence, I was not very receptive of Mayday’s decision to cast non-Chinese performers in the video.

Despite my initial resistance to the video, I was blown away by the “dream catcher” motif and scenic setting after repeated viewings. I was quite excited when I saw the “dream catcher”. When I was in Las Vegas/Nevada in 2006/7 (I could not even remember the exact year currently – this totally attests to the fallibility of memory), I took a day trip to Grand Canyon. On the way, we stopped at the usual souvenir shop and I held a “dream catcher” for the first time. I thought it was just another touristy, commericalised product and I did not pay much attention to it. However, after seeing how the male protagonist and even Ashin interacted with it, I had to find out all about this object!

Wikipedia states that a “dream catcher” is part of the Native American culture. It is a handmade object based on a willow hoop, on which is woven a loose net or web. According to the “dream catcher” lore, Native Americans believe that the night air is filled with dreams both good and bad. The “dream catcher” when hung over or near your bed swinging freely in the air, catches the dreams as they flow by. The “good” dreams know how to pass through the “dream catcher”, slipping through the outer holes and slide down the soft feathers so gently that the sleeper does not know that he is dreaming. Not knowing the way, the “bad” dreams get tangled in the “dream catcher” and perish with the first light of the new day.

I am impressed by Mayday’s use of the “dream catcher” motif in this music video. The inclusion of the “dream catcher” sequences highlights the inseparability of dreams and memories. The differences between dreams and memories become indistinguishable when one is unable to separate reality from illusion.

The video starts with this enigmatic question: 如果世界上不存在语言与文字,我们的相遇究竟是命运或几率? In a cyclical way, the video ends with a similar question: 如果世界上不存在语言与文字,我们的曾经究竟是真实或梦境? If words and language do not exist in the world, will our encounter be a result of fate or chance? This is indeed a thought-provoking question. 命运, fate or predestination is a romantic idea as it means that two people are destined to meet and live happily ever after. On the other hand, the notion of chance suggests a random encounter that is not determined by fate. If it is just a chance encounter, it may be a transitory relationship that can be disrupted as easily as it started.

如果世界上不存在语言与文字,我们的曾经究竟是真实或梦境?
If there are no words to articulate our memories, will the memories cease to exist in reality? If there is no language, there is no “造字的仓颉” to  “写出能让你快回来的诗”, will 我们曾经=梦境?

In an uncanny way, the landscape captures the essence of the song. The loneliness of nostalgia is poignantly illustrated by the images of Mayday performing this song in the absence of audience but the presence of emptiness in the vast landscape.

So, where is this landscape? In Youtube, someone commented that the setting is somewhere on road number 5 (on the way to Las Vegas). I thought the backdrop resembles the reddish mountains of the Grand Canyon. Datong Sun’s blog provides the most accurate analysis. Employing the Flightaware website and Googlemaps, he deduces that the video is filmed in the Boulder City Municipal Airport. He analyses the details in the video with clues like the SCENIC N146SA plane. I am truly impressed by his astute investigation. It is nice to know that there are serious Mayday fans out there who are as mad as me!

Finally, to conclude this lengthy post, I believe that this music video demands repeated viewings such like how the song lyrics requires repeated analysis!

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8 responses to “仓颉

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