About this Recording
8.225845 - Vocal Recital: Lee, Bing (Lee Bing Sings Ancient and Modern Chinese Poems)
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Lee Bing Sings Ancient and Modern Chinese Poems

The art of poetry has exercised an immense influence on China during its various stages of development. Since the appearance of the Shi Jing (Book of Poems) in the Zhou Dynasty (1066–256 B.C.), poetry had developed into a large variety of forms, with particularly fruitful results during the Tang (A.D. 618–907), Song (A.D. 960–1279) and Yuan (1271–1368) dynasties.The present recording consists of 21 Chinese art-songs based on a wide range of poems from various periods set by Chinese contemporary composers.

Chinese art-song has a relatively recent history, under the influence of Western music at the beginning of the present century, the effect of the so-called Movement of 4th May. On the other hand, the setting of poems to music according to traditional rules of Chinese composition has a long history, based always rather on the Chinese custom of respect for ancient modes of art than on the spirit of creative originality and innovation that has been a feature of Western art.

Peach Blossom

Peach Blossom is a poem taken from Zhou Nan of the Shi Jing, the ancient collection of Chinese poems dating from a period from the 11th to the 6th century B.C. The poems, presumably sung by the attendant to a bride before she leaves her house, makes metaphorical reference to the strength of the peach-tree, a symbol of harmonious marriage.

Magpie Fairies

This is based on a famous legend about a cow herd and a weaving maiden. The two parted lovers make use of the clouds and stars to bring them together. The poem tells of a bridge of birds suggesting to them their desired reunion.

A New Poem and A Bowl of Wine

A New Poem and A Bowl of Wine belongs to a type of Chinese verse known as ci, originating in the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618–907) and developing more fully in the Song (A.D. 960–1279). The poem uses the images of the swallow and wine to represent the missing lover and the inevitable sorrow that ensues.

Tearful Parting

Tearful Parting is a nostalgic poem looking at the willow-tree, a traditional Chinese symbol for departure. The poet contrasts his happy memories with his present loneliness, waiting in vain for his return to his beloved homeland.

Sorrows of Parting

The famous poet Li Yu symbolises the sorrow of departure by means of unwanted plum blossom and weeds in spring, growing along the path of the absent friend, no matter how far he goes.


The poet Bai Ju Yi makes use of the symbols of flower and mist to represent the transitory nature of friendship.


The poet Li Qing Zhao introduces her poem in a sombre mood. The poet’s solitude as spring begins is represented symbolically as enduring the strong wind of evening fortified only by a few cups of weak wine. The wild goose reminds the poet of an old friend, while the raindrops bring sorrow to the heart.

Green Islets

The poet Zuo Fu chooses the symbol of a solitary boat to express his own loneliness. He comes across a beautiful pavilion surrounded by plum blossom, set against cloud-capped mountains. He dreams, but the boat moves on until it reaches the sea.


The poet offers his friend a cup of wine to delay his departure. The spring rain adds to his sorrow. He will wait presumably forever for his beloved friend’s return.

Song of the Red Bean

The poet describes the sad feelings of a girl thinking about her absent lover on a windy, rainy evening. Looking at the mirror, she realises she is becoming thinner, but cannot help her sadness.

Song of Yang Guan

Song of Yang Guan, by the well-known Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei, describes the scene of departure at Yang Guan by contrasting the beautiful atmosphere created by the morning rain and green willows with the cup of wine taken as he bids his friend farewell.

Morning at the Sun-Moon Lake

The poet Wei Hanzhang takes us to the often visited Sun-Moon Lake in Taiwan. The calm surface of the water reflects perfectly the neighbouring trees and mountains, while the morning bells from the Buddhist temple wake up the heaviest sleepers.

Whispering to Orioles and Swallows A pair of orioles and swallows in the green willow-branches and red plum-blossom remind the poet of his vain search for his beloved. He asks the birds why she never comes.

In the Mountain

The poet through the calm serenity of his courtyard at night, with pine-trees casting their shadows on the ground, imagines the mountain. He fancies himself to be the gentle wind blowing a pine-needle against the window of some acquaintance.

Wheel of Change

The twentieth century poet of Wheel of Change drinks alone at night, while the stars he knows are asleep. He sees life as a series of events that recur, the meeting and parting of friends and the appearance and disappearance of flowers. Life is between the bright and the dark.

Falling Petals

The poet writes of the misfortune of a beautiful girl who has to work in a brothel, after being jilted by her lover. She realises the difficulty of finding a true lover and would rather die than beg for sympathy.


The poet meets someone at sea at night, but does not expect their friendship to last forever, as they are heading in different directions. This short friendship is described as a cloud casting its shadow on the sea.

Thinking about Home

The feeling of loneliness after the Qing Ming Festival, a time for the worship of ancestors is particularly strong because of the green willows. The poet, standing by the fence, wants to follow the fallen flowers as they float down the river.

A Light Smile

The poet writes of the smile of a beautiful girl that he has met only briefly. He hangs his poem on a plum-tree for the nightingales to learn. Men may understand the beauty of the poem, but fail to realise its source–a girl’s smile.

Love in the Rain

The poet meets his beloved in the rain but is frustrated by all the anxieties that love brings. She leaves him, but he resolves to seek her out, however vain his efforts. What has happened is no more than a dream.

Heavenly Bliss

In Heavenly Bliss an orphan laments his lack of a father and mother to love him. He finally realises that he must forget his own misfortune and act positively in order to enhance love among all men.

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