There is this Min song called 三声无奈, lit. "three sounds helpless". This seems to be an idiomatic expression. I am not totally sure what it means though. It seems to mean "completely helpless". This is also suggested by the fact 三声 is said here to 旧指军中用以传令的金鼓、笳、铎之声, i.e. "have originally indicated the (three) sounds of the golden drum, the whistle, and the bell used to transmit orders in the military", so after three sounds the transmission was complete, meaning that 三声 would mean "complete", or "completely". But this is pretty much guesswork. Does anyone know if the guesswork is correct or if it means something else?

  • 1
    I think it is just used to rhyme with the first two "一时贪着阿君仔媠...二更过了月斜西...三声无奈哭悲哀...", which i think just means crying 3 times "无奈,无奈,无奈..." to show sorrowness
    – Mindless
    Aug 30, 2017 at 2:08

2 Answers 2




參考資料: http://yifertw.blogspot.tw/2010/10/blog-post_01.html


I think you should read and understand the Chinese I've written.

三聲無奈 means:

I shouted "helpless" three times

and shows extreme helplessness (three times is also not a precise number, it's just to mean a lot, a plural concept).

I reference you to this resource: http://yifertw.blogspot.tw/2010/10/blog-post_01.html

Reading Chinese songs, the focal point is not the meaning of the characters. The focal point is on the artistic conception (the feeling the author wanted to convey).

  • So basically I understood it correctly: it roughly translates to "completely helpless" (or perhaps "extremely helpless").
    – MickG
    Aug 30, 2017 at 9:29
  • it is used to express emotion, no particular meaning, it is just used to portray sorrowness or sadness, it could be 两声无奈,四声无奈, doesn't matter, 三声无奈 is used to thyme with 一and二 and show sorrowness.
    – Mindless
    Aug 31, 2017 at 1:38



The numbers in Chinese set phrases (chengyu) and old Chinese literary texts mostly do not express an actual quantity, they are generally for the rhythm of the sentence, and are only approximate numbers used to describe "many times" or "very many times".

For example "Flying and flowing down vertically for 3000 chi, I suspect it's the Milky Way falling from the 9th Heaven", the "3000" and "9" here are both not real numbers.

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