Old Dreams Resemble Soft Smoke

I was considering making this week’s post about an early Fong Fei-fei Song “Old Dreams Resemble Soft Smoke” (Jiù Mèng Sì Qīngyān / 舊夢似輕煙). Then, just as I was thinking about what I would to say about the song, I heard the news. So I am turning this into a special post – there will be a regular post later this week.

Original Lyrics:
dàizhù gū’er lèi liánlián, tā láidào dī ànbiān
xīnlǐ shì suān ya yòu shì kǔ, yù kū wú shēng wèn cāngtiān
wǎngshì jiù mèng sì qīngyān, tā xīn suān yòu shéi lián
xīnlǐ shì suānya yòu shì kǔ, bù zhī liúlàng dào nǎ tiān
shōushi nà jiù chóu yǔ chánmián, láidào dī ànbiān
pāokāi le zuótiān yǔ qiántiān, qídǎo míngtiān
wǎngshì jiù mèng sì qīngyān, tā xīn suān yòu shéi lián
xīnlǐ shì suān ya yòu shì kǔ, bù zhī liúlàng dào nǎ tiān

Translation:
Carrying an orphan, brimming with tears, she came down by the dike,
Her heart is sour as well as bitter, wishing to weep she silently pleads heaven,
Old dreams of things past resemble soft smoke, her heart is sour and who pities her?
Her heart is sour as well as bitter, she does not know how long she will roam.
To put aside her old, lingering cares, she came down by the dike.
She discarded yesterday and the day before, she prays for tomorrow.
Old dreams of things past resemble soft smoke, her heart is sour and who pities her?
Her heart is sour as well as bitter, she does not know how long she will roam.

I was originally thinking about this song because of Ily’s post on loneliness. Of course, one guesses that the subject of this song became lonely quite abruptly. Nonetheless, there is a sense that the loneliness is a part of a process. It touches me that the subject does not just want to get rid her past – she wants a future at the same time. But it is neither yesterday nor tomorrow, it is today. And today is sad.

One of the things which intrigues me about the Fong Fei-fei version is that she recorded it when she was young – and she sounds young. I always presumed that she was singing about a woman much older than herself. I have pondered what it means that a young woman is singing about an older woman whose “heart is sour as well as bitter” … and I keep on changing my mind about what it means. That’s why I can come back to this song again and again – even though it’s the same song, I hear something different when I hear it again.

I wish I had some penetrating insight to offer about the song. I do not. Fong Fei-fei is gone. She will be missed.

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