Monday, January 23, 2012

Secret Origins of: The Sea Laughs


滄海一聲笑 (The Sea Laughs) is a beloved song in Hong Kong and I believe, in most of China. Actually, where ever the movie and the novel, 笑傲江湖 (The Smiling, Proud Wanderer) had touched. Written by (金庸) Jin Yong (aka Louis Cha), 笑傲江湖(The Smiling, Proud Wanderer) was first serialized in 1967 in a Hong Kong newspaper, 明報 (Ming Pao). The serial ran from April to October and then later the story was collected into a novel. The novel got so popular that it was adapted into many movies and TV serials. The 2 most well known are the 1991 笑傲江湖 (The Swordsman) starring 許冠傑 (Sam Hui) and the 1992 笑傲江湖-之-東方不敗 (Swordsman II - Invincible East) starring 李連杰 (Jet Li). The song, 滄海一聲笑 (The Sea Laughs), first appeared in the first of the two movies mentioned above, 笑傲江湖 (The Swordsman). Both the lyrics and the composition were penned by 黃霑 (James Wong), a prolific writer and artist. The song is about departure, looking at the big picture and basically being able to achieve a state of divinity. Which reflects the heroes in the story who are trying to retire from the drama and pettiness represented by the different sects, clans and government. 笑傲江湖 (The Smiling, Proud Wanderer) was written as an allegory for the real world super powers whom were in conflict with each other during the late 60's. Not much has changed.

As for the conception of 滄海一聲笑 (The Sea Laughs), 黃霑 (James Wong) felt that Chinese holiday music is missing. For example, Christmas has Joy to the World. Where's the Chinese version of Joy to the World? He took 5 of the 7 notes from Joy to the World (he didn't use "Fa" and "Di"), added his own lyrics and 滄海一聲笑 (The Sea Laughs) was written. Actually, he copied some of 毛澤東 (Chairman Mao Zedon) writings for the lyrics. So, it's not entirely original. I wonder if the Chairman would like the song? For those of you who understand Cantonese, check out the the video below. I couldn't a version with english subtitles. The origins of 滄海一聲笑 (The Sea Laughs) starts at 4:14. I recommend watching the entire 10:15. As always, the late Maestro, 黃霑 (James Wong) is highly entertaining.

滄海一聲笑 (the Sea Laughs) might not be accepted as a holiday song in the Chinese culture but, it's on my Chinese New Year play list. 黃霑 (James Wong)'s explanation on how the song came to be should give it that credit.

The lyrics and two more versions of 滄海一聲笑 (The Sea Laughs) are after the "JUMP!"

歌手:許冠傑    作曲:黃霑    填詞:黃霑

滄海一聲笑 滔滔兩岸潮

蒼天笑 紛紛世上潮

江山笑 煙雨遙

清風笑 竟惹寂寥

蒼生笑 不再寂寥
豪情仍在痴痴笑笑 啦......
(a very rough translation)
the Sea laughs, tides crashes on both shores
riding the waves in the present (only worrying about the here and now; go with the flow)

the Heaven laughs at our turmoil
only the Heaven knows who will win and lose

the Mountain laughs,  from afar/remote (literal: the mist mist is far)
even after the waves die how long will the world last?

the Wind laughs, unintentionally provoking loneliness
nostalgia causing melancholy

the World laughs, I'm no longer lonely
now, I can be be proudly foolish and laughing


  1. I'm so thankful for this post.
    Beloved this song after watching Swordsman II with Jet Li.
    I awe Chinese Culture and history and that is why this song have special place in my heart.

    I have found other translation to english. Mayby it will be interesting for You:

    The sea laughs, crashing on both coasts
    Carried in the waves, we only have now
    The heavens laugh at the troubled world
    Only they know who is to win and lose
    The mountains laugh, the rain is afar
    When the waves grow old, the world still goes on
    The clear winds laugh, such a feeling of solitude
    Bygone fellowships leaving behind a tinge of melancholy

    Greetings from Poland

  2. Hello Poland and Thanks Maciej! That means a lot. I'm glad you like the post. There will be more posts with Chinese Culture in the future. Actually, American-Chinese culture. Thanks again!