Introduction to “Thoughts”


張九齡 作詞

江南有丹橘, 經冬猶綠林
豈伊地氣暖, 自有歲寒心
可以薦嘉賓, 奈何阻重深
運命惟所遇, 循環不可循
徒言樹桃李, 此木豈無陰。



(程路禹 注解)。

Thoughts, by Jiuling Zhang

In the south, a tangerine tree grows;
its leaves stay green all winter long.
Is it because the weather there is mild,
or does it have a heart familiar with the touch of cold?
It would make a fine gift for an honored guest;
why, then, do you leave it there, so far away?
To each of us, a destiny that holds us firm;
the circle’s closed; there’s no way to break free.
Peaches and plums are the popular choice,
but doesn’t this tree also make fine shade?

Translated by Geoffrey Waters (p. 38 in “300 Tang Poems” by Geoffrey Waters, Michael Farman and David Lunde, Buffalo: White Pine, 2011)

Composer Hang Kei Kwok based the music “Thoughts” on the philosophical poem of the same title written by Tang Dynasty Poet Jiuling Zhang. The poem was written just as Zhang was being barred from office.

Through the metaphorical comparisons between a citrus tree and humanity, composer Hang Kei Kwok juxtaposes humanity against the lofty ideals, fresh, untainted scent of the citrus, and in the same line of thought as the Tang poet Jiuling Zhang, compares his political misfortune with the circumstance of being divided by mountain ranges and gorges.

The music uses classical elements of Chinese music in terms of tempo, tonality and stylistic expressions. The pairing of the choral and the orchestral richly presents the multitude of variations while the climactic finale of the piece is abrupt, leaving listeners with an empty feeling of loss and empathy towards the poet’s multiple tragedies.

by Roy Cheng
Translated by Yinhao Ye