green island tropical lagoon and mountain scene in Taiwan

Green Island Serenade: Thoughts on a Taiwanese Love Song

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Today, an old song found its way to me. Maybe it was the wind rustling the broad branches of the fig tree by our window, after the rain we had last night. It put me in a certain mood… So this morning, I sat down at our rickety piano with the baby on my lap, and played this song.

"Green Island Serenade" is a love song written in Mandarin Chinese and composed in 1954. The song was made popular in Taiwan during the 1950s for somewhat political reasons. There does exist a real Green Island, a small piece of land off the coast of Taiwan, and political prisoners were kept there in the years when Taiwan had only one political party in power. Two of these prisoners, Gao Yudang and Pan Yingjie, both claim authorship to "Green Island Serenade". Pan Yingjie said that the "Green Island" in the song refers to Taiwan itself, likened to a maiden that the lover gently calls out for, but in vain. The song became popular for its expression of unrequited love, not only from a beautiful maiden but also from a beloved homeland that had turned its back on some of its people.

Today, the situation in Taiwan is generally peaceful and prosperous. The people of Taiwan are courteous, original, down to earth, and amiable to foreigners. I think that the sentiment captured in "Green Island Serenade" expresses the hearts of Taiwanese people: not forceful or demanding, nor overly given to displays of wild emotion, but always, persistently, hoping for a better life and future. An honorable sentiment that I believe we can all relate to.

Although I was in fact born in Taiwan, I never lived there long enough to call Taiwan my "home". But, I still appreciate the heritage it has bestowed on me. Below is a simple rendition of the "Green Island Serenade", with just piano and vocals. The English translation is written out underneath.

This green island is like a boat,
floating in the moonlight.
My darling, you too
are floating in the sea of my heart.
Let the sound of my song follow the breeze,
blowing open the curtain of your window.
Let my love follow the flowing water,
endlessly pouring out its feelings for you.
The long shadows of the palm trees
cannot conceal my love;
the bright beauty of the moonlight
casts its brilliance into my heart.
This green island night is so calm and serene 
my darling, why are you silent, saying nothing?


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