1

Beyond released a song called 长城, The Great Wall. It seems to reflect mixed feelings and a sense of the human cost that went into building the Wall.

https://youtu.be/IOXoAvF6r_A?si=bOuI6TCa67321S2I

In the third verse there is a line with a striking image:

无冕的身躯  忘我的思想

Literally, this seems to be: Uncrowned (dead) bodies, and idealistic ideology. I'm unclear about the meaning, because although many people did lose their lives constructing the Wall, they would have mostly been ordinary people, not the sort who might have been expected to ever wear a crown of any sort. And my understanding is they were compulsorily requisitioned, hence not motivated by any sort of ideology.

Could a native speaker please help me to understand what the songwriter might have been intending with these lyrics in context. Why were the bodies uncrowned? What could the idealistic ideology have been?

3 Answers 3

3

1.無冕皇帝 is a nickname for reporters in Hong Kong

2.冠冕 is a symbol of power, 無冕 might mean powerless in this context

无冕的身躯

无冕 could mean one or both below

  1. Reporters' bodies (truth seekers' bodies),

  2. powerless people's bodies

This song is not about the history of the Great Wall, but about the isolation of China throughout history, and The Great Wall is symbolic of a prison where telling the truth is not allowed

~

My translation and explanation of this song ten years ago:

Translation:

『長城』『The Great Wall』 By: Beyond 作曲: 黃家駒 填詞: 劉卓輝

[1]*遙遠的東方,遼闊的邊疆, The faraway East, the vast frontier,

[2]*還有遠古的破牆, and the ancient ruined wall,

[3]*前世的滄桑,後世的風光, Vast history lifetimes before (us), pride of (people) lifetimes after (it,)

[4]*萬里千山牢牢接壤。 Firmly connected (across) thousands of miles and mountains.

[5]*圍著老去的國度,圍著事實的真相。 Enclosing an aging nation, enclosing the truth of facts.

[6]*圍著浩瀚的歲月,圍著欲望與理想。 enclosing a vast period, enclosing desire and ideal.

[7]*迷信的村莊,神秘的中央, Superstitious villages, mysterious central,

[8]*還有昨天的戰場。 and yesterday's battlegrounds.

[9]*皇帝的新衣,熱血的纓槍, Emperor's new clothes, hot-blooded spear,

[10]*誰卻甘心流連塞上? But who would be reconciled to linger in the frontier?

[5]*圍著老去的國度,圍著事實的真相。 Enclosing an aging nation, enclosing the truth of facts.

[6]*圍著浩瀚的歲月,圍著欲望與理想,(叫嚷) enclosing a vast period, enclosing desire and ideal. ( Shouting)

[11]*矇著耳朵, 哪裡哪天 不再聽到 在呼號的人。 WOO-AH AH AH Cover the ears, somewhere someday no longer hear the crying people. WOO-AH AH AH

[12]*矇著眼睛, 再見 往昔景仰的 那樣一道疤痕。 WOO-AH AH AH Cover the eyes, to see the once worshiped long scar again.

[13]*留在地殼頭上。 (Which was ) left on top of the surface of the earth.

[14]*無冕的身軀,忘我的思想, Crown-less body, self-forgetting thought,

[15]*還有顯赫的破牆。 Still has the famous ruined wall.

[16]*誰也衝不開,誰也拋不低, No one can break free, no one can give up,

[17]*誰要一生也流離浪蕩。 No one wants to aimlessly wander for their entire life.

[5]*圍著老去的國度,圍著事實的真相。 Enclosing an aging nation, enclosing the truth of facts.

[6]*圍著浩瀚的歲月,圍著欲望與理想,(叫嚷) enclosing a vast period, enclosing desire and ideal. ( Shouting)

**repeat [ 11-13 ] twice

Explanation:

[1]*「遙遠的 (far away)東方( East),遼闊的 (vast) 邊疆 (frontier)」 The faraway East, the vast frontier,

[2]*「還有( also)遠古的( ancient) 破牆( broken wall),」 and the ancient ruined wall,

*Lines [1] and [2] are like the beginning of an essay, or an opening scene of a film.

**「In the faraway East, in a vast frontier, stands the ruin of an ancient wall,」

[3]*「前世的( previous world's ) 滄桑( vast history),後世的( later generations' )風光(pride / glory),」 「Vast history lifetimes before(us), pride of (people) lifetimes after (it,)」

**「this wall came from a world before our time, and it has been the pride of the subsequent generations ever since.」

[4]*「萬里( ten of thousands of miles ) 千山( thousand of mountains)牢牢( firmly)接壤( connected。」 Firmly connected (across) thousands of miles and mountains.

*「接壤」actually mean " shared border"-- there's no other usage. 「美國與加拿大(接壤)」~「The United States and Canada (shared border)」 「中國與印度(接壤)之處」「the place where China and India ( shared border)」

[5]*「圍著( enclosing) 老去的( aging)國度( nation),圍著( enclosing)事實的( fact's)真相( truth)。」

*both「國度」and 「國家」mean " nation/country" the difference is: the term 「國度」is emotionally more distanced than 「國家」 we never refer to our own country as 「我的國度」we don't even refer to any known country as 「國度」

「國度」is the preferred term in storytelling when we mention:

  1. A nation exists only in legend,
  2. A nation existed a long time ago, far far away,
  3. A tiny unknown country, alien to most people on Earth.
  • " The truth of the facts" seems redundant. Truth is fact, and fact is truth. Maybe 「事情的真相」~"The truth of an event" is easier to comprehend,

Another way to read it is: to imagine the " fact" in the lyric refers to the official version of facts, given by the victor / the current government.

It makes me sad to think that most Chinese children consider 「六四」was just a riot, and many Japanese think Japan was the victim of WWII

[7]*「迷信的村莊」~ 「Superstitious villages」 I think I don't have to tell you how much misery superstition can bring to people. People die for stupid beliefs like " to make a bridge last, we have to sink a person under the bridge tower" or " the neighbor's construction is destroying our ' Feng Shui ' let's go fight them!"

「神秘的中央」,~ 「mysterious central」 「central」seemingly refer to 「黨中央」~「Party central committee」of CCP But across China's history, the " inner circle" of any ruling body was all mysterious to common people. "mysterious" because they're all secretive. Therefore, this line fits the governing system of any period. ( for most countries actually)

[8]*還有昨天的戰場。 and yesterday's battlegrounds.

  • No country experienced more civil wars when countrymen killing countrymen than China. Numerous ancient battlegrounds remain today attest to this sad fact.

[9]*皇帝的新衣,熱血的纓槍, Emperor's new clothes, hot-blooded spear,

  • when confronted by the modern industrial nations from the West in the late Qing Dynasty, The Chinese court was as self-deceiving as the emperor in " Emperor's new clothes" Chinese soldiers equipped with only antique weapons like 纓槍 ( a long spear with a red beard below its tip) and hot-blooded patriotism were sent to fight the modern armies. Line [9] summarizes this dark time for China in two phrases.

[10]*誰卻甘心流連塞上? But who would be reconciled to linger in the frontier?

*No matter how corrupt the government is, most Chinese still blindly rally around their rulers like so many mindless ants, the further away from the capital, the less superior they feel,

[11]*矇著耳朵, 哪裡哪天 不再聽到 在呼號的人。 Cover the ears, somewhere someday no longer hear the crying people.

[12]*矇著眼睛, 再見 往昔景仰的 那樣一道疤痕。 Cover the eyes, to see the once worshiped long scar again.

[11][12] 「矇」( cover) imply " make unseen / cover from sight" 「矇著眼睛」is correct but「*矇著耳朵」is better be replaced with 「掩著耳朵」( cover ears) because 「掩」( cover) imply " cover with hand / place cover over~"

「再見( to see again) 往昔( past) 景仰的 ( worshiped) 那樣一道疤痕 ( a long scar like that)。

  • The ruling class covers their eyes from reality, ignoring the fact that people are suffering, seeing only the glorious past in their mind, which is an ugly long scar. ( their glory was built on the blood, sweat, and tear of the common people)

[13]*留在地殼頭上。 (Which was ) left on top of the surface of the earth.

The following line [12]* that scar was left on 「地殼」~「earth-crust」which is the surface of Earth.

[14]*無冕的身軀,忘我的思想, Crown-less body, self-forgetting thought,

「無冕」(Crown-less) means "uncrowned king" which is a nickname for news reporter. But in this lyric, Crown-less suggests " without title "and therefore " without any power"

The term「忘我」( forget oneself) describes "a state of total- focus" Here, 「 seems to imply " a mind never think of itself" simply forgetting we're individuals. - noble enough to suffer for the greater good, but not wise enough to know what is the greater good.

[15]*還有顯赫的破牆。 Still has the famous ruined wall.

Following line [14] the ruined Great Wall represents our past greatness, which is the motivation for us to continue to think the way we think, and act the way we act.

[17]*誰要一生也流離浪蕩。 No one wants to aimlessly wander for their entire life.

  • Common Chinese desire stability the most, because we have suffered too much war and killing throughout history, and for that reason, even the cruelest regime is slightly more preferable than the chaos rebel would bring. Ironically, being sheep-like never saved us from chaos, for most bloodshed was caused by power struggles within the ruling class.
1
  • This is interesting. I had not considered the song a political statement, although the line 围着事实的真相 sort-of implies that in retrospect. I'll have to revisit my own translation and see what else I may have missed. Thanks. Feb 5 at 2:57
0

Crown can be a symbol of social status; so "Crownless" here reads more like "of common people (who were not part of the ruling class)". The Great Wall was built by such common people after all.

0

A lyric is usually similar to a poem, which requires a little thought and imagination to understand. Here is my thought:

无冕的身躯, the phrase came from the respectful title usually referred to the journalist - "无冕的皇帝 - a professional, who has great achievement, and is deemed valuable/indispensable to society, without physical crowning". It emphasizes and indirectly praises the wall's status as the greatest structure on earth, albeit without a physical crown to decorate it.

忘我的思想 - selflessness thought. It artistically treats the wall as a person who selflessly offered his body to defend those who relied upon his protection

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.