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闕 here is obviously a classifier. Is it another name for 首 or 段?

in short, 一闕短歌 is 一首歌or 一段歌?

But I am not sure 闕 doesn't mean a complete short song. If so, " "classifier for short song" would be a better definition

If a song has only four lines, you can say it is a completed short song, but it also sounds like an incompleted song

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  • There is actually some confusion between 闕 & 闋. There is a popular Cantonese song sung by the same singer in which it was written as 千千阙歌, (youtu.be/FBXsiYFZUtU), and 千千闋歌, (youtu.be/n3B5XpRvyhI), in another. My view is that 闋 is correct because 阙 does not make sense, the former having the meaning of a "stanza", (so, songs with numerous stanzas), while the latter meaning something quite unrelated. The two words are of course pronounced exactly the same, hence the confusion? My Cantonese is of course amateurish. Feb 4, 2022 at 4:20

3 Answers 3

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闕 que4 refers to the two pillars of the gate of palace or tombs; later extended to mean watchtower. 闕 que1 is to leave empty, to lack, broken, to err. Using 闕 as a classifier of song/詞 is a mistake that should be avoided.

闋 que4 is completely different. It is to finish or end, extended to music ends, extended to a piece of music. Since 詞 is also sang, 闋 became a name and a classifier for 詞.

It's used as a classifier or a pronoun to a complete piece of music from at the latest Warring States Period (found in 《吕氏春秋》). In Qing Dynasty, it's still only refers to a complete piece.

投足以歌八闋。 (戰國)《呂氏春秋》

戲作《如夢令》兩闋。 (北宋)蘇軾

一闋長亭暮。 (北宋)林和靖

今僅存二十餘闋也。 (清)朱彝尊

etc.

In two-part 詞, for the first part we could use 前段、上片、上疊. But someone wrongly used 上闋 to refer to the first part. There is interlude in a song but by no means it's an end. In the case of two-part 詞, the two parts are also closely connected. But somehow the terms 上闋、下闋 have got popular. Even 王力 used it.

Nevertheless, up to now, in 《漢語大詞典》, 闋 still refers to a complete piece.《新华字典》only includes the meaning of a complete song/词, while 《现代汉语词典》accepts 上阕、下阕. So in the context of standard Mandarin, I would say 一阕歌 should refer to one complete song. 上阕、下阕 are considered by some as correct usage for parts of 词. Since standard Mandarin is a standardized lingua franca, not a dialect, I would use the authentic source as a guideline, especially for something that is controversial. In the context of Cantonese, stories are different, though. I don't know enough Cantonese to speak about it.


In sum, the current standard meaning of 闋 as a classifier is a complete piece of music/詞, but it's popularly used as 段, especially in 上阕、下阕. As time goes by, it's likely that the wrong usage of 闋 as 段 would be incorporated and considered correct.

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  • According to the article I posted, 闋 is a classifier for a complete song/poem or a section of a poem. 上闋、下闋 refers to the first part and second part of a poem
    – Tang Ho
    Feb 3, 2022 at 23:55
  • 《新华字典》only includes the meaning of a complete song/词, while 《现代汉语词典》accepts 上阕、下阕. So in the context of standard Mandarin, I would say 一阕歌 should refer to one complete song. 上阕、下阕 are considered by some as correct usage for parts of 词. Since standard Mandarin is a standardized lingua franca, not a dialect, I would use the authentic source as a guideline. In the context of Cantonese, stories are different, though.
    – lilysirius
    Feb 4, 2022 at 0:54
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From the answer I got at CantoPlus

cyruschiu wrote:

First of all, the classifier for song should be 闋, not 闕 (both are read as kyut3). 現代漢語詞典 has both characters on the same page (p.1081) -- 闋 is defined as a classifier for a song or a ci (詞) poem; 闕 carries the double meanings of “watchtower; imperial palace” and “stone carvings”. See also

錯足三十年

I repost and answer this question because I have been mistaken 闕 as a classifier for songs all my life, now I know it is 闋 and I want more people to know that too

I am glad that least someone got it right 千千闋歌 MV 陳慧嫻 1989

So the song title 一闕短歌 used the wrong character. Since 闕 means 缺(missing) I presume when it is acting as a classifier, it would mean a section. 闋 on the other hand can be a classifier for a complete song/poem or a section of a poem

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For short, both usages are justified. "上闋" and "下闋" are commonly used in modern textbooks and literature. The definition of 闋 includes "止", "息" and "終". Using the first two meanings, it can be used to denote a relatively completed segment (paragraph) of a song, but it is more commonly used t refer a whole song.

As for the correct character to use, according to dictionaries, particularly, Konghi, "闋" shall be the "correct" word to use, as it means "stop" or "end". However, I have personally seen many people using "闕" as a "borrowed word" for "闋", and it did appeared on a few textbooks. As using "borrowed words" is a wide-spread habits of classic Chinese, the usage of "闕" might be justified. However, modern users shall refrain from using it.

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