vendredi 18 septembre 2015

Ye Lai Xiang - 夜来香 (Eng)

In counterpart to my article on Shinda onna no ko, I'm going to introduce a love song that could probably call the Japanese Lili Marleen due to its history which confounds with the one of the Chinese-Japanese war and due to the extraordinary destiny of her first performer with multiple aliases, Yamaguchi Yoshiko (山口 淑子) aka Li Xianglan...

Ye Lai Xiang - 夜来香

Lili and the Twilight Tuberose

Version française ici.
English version: 18/09/2015.
Last update: 08/08/2016.

Personal Translation
Anecdotes, posterity
Main Performers


Like Lili Marleen, German love song born on the eve of the World War 2 from a poem written during... the 1st World War and having met a fame as great on the nazi side as on the Allied side (thanks to the political exiled Marlene Dietrich), Ye Lai Xiang, song in Chinese sang in 1944 by... the Japanese occupants, bears too an aura of light and shadow, finally saved by the political trajectory of its 1st singer.
Yamaguchi Yoshiko (山口 淑子) was indeed born in 1920 from Japanese parents settled in Manchuria, still Chinese at that moment, and received at 13 Chinese surnames from his father's friends acting as godfathers: Xianglan (fragrant orchid) and Shuhua. It is under the name Li Xianglan, translated Ri Kôran (李香蘭) in Japanese, that she debutes her actress career, in propaganda movies aiming the Chinese public. She moves then to Shanghai where she called herself sometimes Pan Shuhua, after the name of the family who shelters her. She becomes too a very famous singer, acknowledged as one of the Chinese "Seven Great Singing Stars" in that time (Qi Da Gexing). Arrested at the end of the war, seen as a Chinese treatress, she escapes the death penalty only thanks to a friend who retrieved her Japanese birth certificate and then moves to Japan where she continues her career. She marries an ambassador installed for some time in Burma, then engages herself in politics, where she will work for the reconciliation with China and for the acknowledgement and compensation of the "Comfort women" (more details in Yamaguchi's profile page).

One of her biggest hits is "Ye Lai Xiang" (夜來香), from the Chinese name of tuberose. It is a high-scale-amplitude rumba, that she also performed in Japanese (keeping the close pronunciation Ye rai shan). Tuberose produces a heady perfume particularly in the evening (hence the kanji writing). It is told that it has aphrodisiac powers. In the song, this perfume reminds her of former love stories, which makes her feeling blue and thus everything seems a little bit sad, from the wind to the nightingale.

Made by Li Jinguang, it was first sung in 1944 in Chinese by Yamaguchi, then translated in Japanese by par Saeki Takao (佐伯孝夫) in 1951 (both versions in below movie). Particularly difficult to sing, its author doesn't find anybody to sing it until a visit of Yamaguchi who gives it a try and make it very well. It is then used in the eponym movie where she plays.  It has been censured during some time in communist China as some decadent imperialist song and of course due to its relation with Japanese occupation but it will come again in Chinese thanks to Taiwanese singers.


Lyrics (Japanese version) and romaji:

あわれ春風に 嘆くうぐいすよ
Aware harukaze ni nageku uguisu yo
月に切なくも 匂う夜来香(イェライシャン)
Tsuki ni setsunaku mo niou Ye Rai Shan
Kono kaori yo
長き夜の泪 唄ううぐいすよ
Nagaki yoru no namida utau uguisu yo
恋の夢消えて 残る夜来香
Koi no yume kiete, nokoru Ye Rai Shan
Kono Ye Rai Shan
夜来香 白い花
Ye Rai Shan, shiroi hana
夜来香 恋の花
Ye Rai Shan, koi no hana
ああ 胸いたく 唄かなしい
Aah ! Mune itaku, uta kanashii

あわれ春風に 嘆くうぐいすよ
Aware harukaze ni nageku uguisu yo
つきぬ思い出の 花は夜来香
Tsukinu omoide no Hana wa Ye Rai Shan
Koi no Ye Rai Shan
あわれ春風に 嘆くうぐいすよ
Aware harukaze ni nageku uguisu yo
つきぬ思い出の 花は夜来香
Tsukinu omoide no, Hana wa Ye Rai Shan

Koi no Ye Rai Shan
夜来香 夜来香 夜来香
Ye Rai Shan x3

Personal Translation:

A poor spring breeze brings the laments of a nightingale
Under the moon, smelling the tuberose perfume, Ô it's tearing me apart !
This perfume !
The nightingale sings the neverending nights tears.
The dream of romance disappears, the tuberose (perfume) remains,
This "Ye Rai Shan".
Ye Rai Shan, white flower
Ye Rai Shan, romance no flower
Aah ! Painful heart ! Sad song !

A poor spring breeze brings the laments of a nightingale
Ye Rai Shan, flower with unexhausting memories
Ye Rai Shan of romance
Poor spring breeze, nightingale is lamenting.

Ye Rai Shan, flower with unexhausting memories
Ye Rai Shan x3

Anecdotes et Posterity

The History, with a great H, of the song overcomes any additional anecdote. The fact that it was not associated to a particularly caricatural propaganda movie nor to a military image, and mainly the artistic appeal of song itself, were sufficient to have it fame long in the Chinese cultural area, to the point where most of its famous following covers will be made by Chinese and Taiwanese singers or musicians rather than Japanese ones. It is fortunate that Yamaguchi Yoshiko - Li Xianglan contributed, through her following commitments, to rehabilitate it a bit.

It is to be noted that Ryouichi Hattori, great compositor of jazz, ryuukouka and kayoukyoku created a spectacle inspired by this song, which was given during 3 days in a row in June 1945 in Shanghai.

Main performers:

Yamaguchi Yoshiko (山口 淑子): (detailed page here) as indicated above, she was its firts performer.
Densetsu no Utahime Li Xianglan no Sekai / Li Xianglan (Yoshiko Yamaguchi)
Li Xianglan (Yoshiko Yamaguchi)
April 2015: compilation in 2 discs released few time after her death; includes in particular both Chinese and Japanese versions of Ye Lai Xiang...

- Among the performers of the Chinese version, there was the famous Taiwanese Teresa Teng, who had a lot of success in Japan too...

... or recently Joanna Wang.

- In Japan, we can notice the recent covers album by members and ex-members of the famous music-hall troop Takarazuka in which it is sung by Takane Fubuki (高嶺ふぶき) :
REIJIN -Showa Era- / REIJIN (Takarazuka Revue OG)
REIJIN (Takarazuka Revue OG)

Sources :,, (kanji), Wikipédia

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