The Fragrance of the Night

Posted by M ws On Wednesday, February 6, 2013 0 comments
If truth be told, I do not enjoy Chinese New Year any more. :-( That is the time when I really feel alone, much like an orphan because since my father passed away in mid-October 2007, Chinese New Year has never been the same again. Last night, I spent the whole evening thinking about past Chinese New Year celebrations and listened to over thirty YouTube versions of one of my late mom's favourite songs which is 夜来香 (Yè Lái Xiāng) which means Fragrance of the Night. Yè Lái Xiāng actually refers to the tuberose and was also featured in 1993 film "The Joy Luck Club".

According to THIS SITE:

No note in perfumery is more surprisingly carnal, creamier or contradicting than that of tuberose. The multi-petalled flower is a mix of flower shop freshness and velvety opulence. Which is why it is the perennial polarizing flower note having as many ardent fans as passionate detractors. The Victorians must have been among the latter: they forbade young girls of inhaling the scent of tuberose in the fear they might have a spontaneous orgasm! Roja Dove is right when he says that tuberose is really loose, the "harlot of perfumery".
More HERE.

Dr Herong Yang cited this in his website on Best Chinese Music here:

Year: 1944

Title: Ye Lai Xiang (夜来香) - Night Jasmine
Original Performer: Yu Shuzhen (于淑珍)
Lyrics: Li Jinguang (黎锦光) 
Music: 森冈敬一郎
Original Performer: Li Xianglan (李香兰)
Genre: Folk Song
Rating: 7/10

One forum I visited cited Zhou Yuan as one of the singers who popularised this song. I could not find any uploads of her version and cannot remember if I have her rendition in my collection of CDs. Peter Chan, who also sang this song in his channel, said that the song was originally written for Zhou Xuan but she did not sing it for some unknown reason.

“Yè Lái Xiāng” was famously recorded by Lǐ Xīanglán, who was one of the Seven Great Singing Stars of Japanese-occupied Shanghai:

English/Pinyin Name Alternate Name
Bai Guang         White Light     白光 1921-1999
Bai Hong White Rainbow 白虹 1919-1992
Gong Qiuxia "Big Sister" 龔秋霞 1916-2004
Li Xianglan Yoshiko Ōtaka 大鷹淑子 李香蘭 1920-2002
Wu Yingyin Queen of the Nasal Voice 鼻音歌后 吳鶯音 1922-2009
Yao Lee Silvery Voice 姚莉 1922
Zhou Xuan Golden Voice 周璇 1918-1957

Still in my “Yè Lái Xiāng” mood, I did more research and was very surprised to discover that Li Xianglan was actually a Japanese born as Yoshiko Ōtaka but renamed Lǐ Xīanglán for political reasons.


Yoshiko Ōtaka (大鷹 淑子 Ōtaka Yoshiko?), (English stage name: Shirley Yamaguchi) (born February 12, 1920) is a China-born Japanese actress and singer who made a career in China, Japan, Hong Kong, and the United States. She was elected as a member of the Japanese Diet in the 1970s and served for 18 years. Yoshiko Ōtaka was born Yoshiko Yamaguchi (山口 淑子?) to Japanese parents, (father, Fumio Yamaguchi 山口 文雄) who were then settlers in Fushun in Manchuria.... More HERE.

This link reveals how her ambiguous nationality and involvement as a singer and actor in pro-Japanese nationalist films eventually led to her arrest for treason at the end of World War II. Later on, she escaped execution by fleeing to Japan, and later to Hong Kong and Hollywood.

You can watch a video about her life HERE.



I like Teresa Teng's version:



Interestingly, in the 1950's, Yè Lái Xiāng was a phrase used to describe the night stench of open sewers and emptied chamber pots.

Whatever the case, this is a very beautiful Shanghai song and holds beautiful memories for me of my mom. my beloved aunt in US who used to dance the cha-cha-cha to this song. Here are the lyrics for the song:


Na nanfeng chuilai qingliang, 
Na yeying tisheng qichuang, 
Ywexiade huaer dou rumeng, 
Zhiyou na yelaixiang tuluzhe fenfang. 

Wo aizhe yese mangmang, 
Ye aizhe yeying gechang, 
Geng ai na hua yibande meng, 
Yongbaozhe yelaixiang. 
Wenzhe yelaixiang, 

Yelaixiang, wo wei ni gechang, 
Yelaixiang, wo wei ni siliang, 
Ah ah ah....Wo wei ni ge chang, 
Wo wei ni siliang. 

Na nanfeng chuilai qingliang, 
Na yeying tisheng qichuang, 
Yuexiade huaer rumeng, 
Zhiyou na yuelaixiang. 

Yuelaixiang! Yuelaixiang! Yuelaixiang! 
Wenzhe yelaixiang. 
Yelaixiang! Yelaixiang! Yelaixiang! 

My CNY project will be to do a recording of this song with my two boys - a jazzed up version or something along those lines...

Please leave a comment to share your thoughts. Thanks!

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