While Searching for Tabs…

10 Aug 2005

I have gotten several requests for the guitar tablature for the song 月亮代表我的心, so I did a search for them and found them in about 20 minutes. They’re hosted by a Chinese music site: www.yf66.com.

In the process, I necessarily learned the word for “guitar tabs” in Chinese. It’s 吉他谱. This is unsurprising, as the character has the meaning of “musical notation” itself, so you can just tack the word for “guitar” (吉他) onto it. Normal musical notation with the staff and all that is called 五线谱 (“five line musical notation” Heh…). There’s also a simplified musical notation which uses numbers in place of notes, and you can see amateur pianists all around China using it. It’s called 简谱 (“simplified musical notation”). If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this 简谱 for 月亮代表我的心.

Anyway, as with any search, my search for guitar tabs for “The Moon Represents My Heart” resulted in quite a few deadends before I found what I was looking for. Most of what I found was annoying crap, but I did discover a video that sort of cast a spell on me.

The video is just a short clip of a Chinese girl playing 月亮代表我的心 on her guitar and singing the song. It’s not that the girl is a babe or an amazing singer. She’s rather ordinary-looking. In fact, she could easily have been one of the many students I taught in Hangzhou. So what makes the video special?

I was struck by how incredibly Chinese it was, down to the last detail. The girl looks like a typical Chinese college girl, and even when she’s filming herself, she never even looks the camera straight on. She’s wearing the same kind of white puffy coat that I’ve seen so many girls here wear in the winter, complete with faux fur trim on the hood. The bare white walls behind her, the simple shelf holding just a few knicknacks guarded by a stuffed bear, the folded up Asian-style comforter behind her that’s just barely peeking out… so Chinese.

I don’t mean to imply that all Chinese girls are just like this girl or anything ridiculous like that. I’m not trying to reinforce stereotypes here. I was just really amazed how the sweet song of a girl on video could just scream “China.”

Take a look for yourself.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. That “simplified music notation” is also used extensively for singing. But that’s even simpler than the example you linked to.

  2. I’m sure that your former students will be flattered. Good thing you don’t live in Hangzhou any more.

  3. Tim P,

    What? Most people are ordinary-looking. That’s not an insult.

    The girl’s certainly not bad looking, and there’s nothing wrong with her singing. But that’s beside the point of the entry.

  4. She sings well. We have to learn from the average Chinese on this aspect: how come so many of them sing so well, when the average Laowai usually sounds awfully pathetic?

  5. And 菜谱 is menu or recipe, depending on context.

    when the average Laowai usually sounds awfully pathetic

    Hehe, I must be the average laowai.

  6. Tim P,

    Haha, he’s so Chinese now. Very true, calling Chinese girls average will not be an insult. In fact, in the old days, calling them beautiful might just be considered searious ribaldry and earn yourself a big slap across the face! Whereas stateside, even Garrison Keillor is obliged to praise the Lake Wobegon children (esp. girls?) as “all above average.”

    On the other hand, what does he know? He’s still a kid, right, what being unmarried and all?

  7. Sometimes I don’t think that any of us appreciate how technology has allowed us to have the pleasure of music every day, and what the ripple effects of that accessibility has afforded to all of us. Before Edison invented the first device that could record sound, music was fleeting and not a common presence in people’s every-day lives. People, if they were lucky, had the pleasure of a live performance, and that’s about it. Now, John… check it out: your point here is about how this clip embodies a distinctive flavor in music, performance, expression, temperament, and unfettered energy which at its very core projects: Chinese. And I don’t believe there is any reason to be apologetic about that observation. In fact, all the contrary. If you take into consideration that we can never know what ancient Egyptian musicians sounded like, or never know how “Toccata and Fugue” was expressed when Bach himself played the piece, we have lost so much. Now-a-days, we take music for granted so much that we trip over ourselves as to not offend by referencing stereotypes. In doing so, we miss the forest for the trees. Take me, for instance. When would I have ever had occasion to listen and enjoy a piece like the one you’ve included on this entry? For me, this clip imparts so much. To delineate all the aspects would be silly to do here. I just hope you take my word for it. The point is that I have had the singular pleasure of listening to a medium of expression, which is often thought of as universal to all humans, at the hands of a person who comes from a world that is entirely not my own. And I love it, baby! (Even though I am not qualified to say what is or isn’t “Chinese.” But, hey, John… I trust you implicitly on this one.)

  8. Da Xiangchang Says: August 11, 2005 at 2:29 am

    As for the Chineseness of it, I don’t have, alas, enough experience to have an opinion. But if this is the “average” Chinese girl’s life, that’s pretty damn good! She has a decent guitar, spare time to practice, warm clothes, looks well-fed, etc. She’s better off than at least 75% of the world’s population, and has certainly come a long ways since Mao’s era.

  9. greg pasden Says: August 11, 2005 at 6:40 am

    I guess you were not meaning that this video was not like a stereotypical MTV video with the over enhanced girls? Which do you prefer?

  10. thanks for the link! i think she is pretty with a pretty voice. i just wish i could understand the whole song. i also get the intention behind your post.

  11. Spicy Mamma Says: August 11, 2005 at 12:07 pm

    Some (english) info on the song & meanings:

    -Spicy Mamma. Find the chicken in the chili, and other tongue burning fun foods

  12. http://www.cfguitar.net/media/03yueliang.asf

    I cannot download …. perhaps not here ….

    Please help

  13. man ~r u in china now~?l read your artical .It’s very usefull to me~!cause im searching a guitar tab on the English wedsite.i dont excactly kown how to say “guitar tab” in english~!ha ~!but after reading i knew it~!thanx~!
    this artical is also useful to english study~!
    and i think your chinese may be very good~!ha ~keep in touch~
    you can leave message on my blog~!

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