Longing 相思

红豆生南国,Red berries* grow in southern land,

春来发几枝。In spring they overload the tree.

愿君多采撷,Gather them till full is your hand:

此物最相思。They would revive fond memories.

*commonly known as jequirity, its Chinese name is much more poignant, literally ‘longing seed’ (相思豆).

Wang Wei (701-761) was a painter and musician but is best known as one of the outstanding poets of the Tang Dynasty. He lived in seclusion in the mountains, embracing Buddhism and nature (perhaps in a bid to manage his purported depression), leading to his informal title of ‘Buddha Poet’ 诗佛. His poetry reflects his austere lifestyle, with common themes of Buddhism and nature running through his prodigious output.

“A lone poet in Tang Dynasty robes sits calmly in a bamboo forest, composing the first two lines of the poetry as a light veil of rain starts to fall around him. He starts playing the 古琴(guqin :an ancient zither) restlessly in a bid to find peace and inspiration to finish his work. As his thoughts begin to wander to his loved one faraway, the music starts to get more agitated – eventually as the rain comes to a stop, so too does his quiet ruminations come to an end as he completes the poem.”

In the appassionato section, the male soloist may make suitable embellishments to the melody. The music also quotes a short chorus excerpt from 信乐团’s (Xin Yue Tuan) 離歌. An earlier version of this work was premiered by the choir Evokx under the direction of Terrence Toh on 27 October 2013 @ SOTA Concert Hall.