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Green Island Serenade remains a romantic mystery
(HK Edition)
Updated: 2009-07-21 07:40

"This green island is like a boat drifting under the moonlight. Darling, you are floating in the ocean of my heart."

Thus began the Green Island Serenade, a tune whose origins have been the subject of mystery and speculation for decades. Lyudao (which may be translated as Green Island) has become imprinted on the minds of Chinese all over the world through the song made popular by Teresa Teng.

One story holds Green Island Serenade began as a poem, written by an inmate serving a sentence at Lyudao Prison for committing a crime of passion.

According to the romantic tale, the prisoner wrote the poem for his beloved and tossed it into the water, from which it was recovered and given to a composer who put the words to music.

Less romantic, though more deeply mysterious, is the story that the song was composed by a political prisoner exiled to the island in the 1940s. In this instance, the Green Island is said to refer to Taiwan. An analogous reference to a boat hints at the instability of the government and "darling" is thought to represent the writer's feelings and even political aspirations.

In 2002, a woman living in Kaohsiung claimed her husband Gao Yu-dang co-authored the song with a man named Wang Bo-wen while the two men were incarcerated on Lyudao. The woman was unable to furnish proof. Then comes poet, Pan Ying-chieh, who says the legends are no more than imaginative fiction; that it was he who wrote the lyrics to the song in 1954 and his colleague at the Broadcasting Corporation of China, Chow Lan-ping, composed the music.

Pan said the inspiration came when the two collaborators discussed pop songs and agreed that serenade-style melody suits love songs.

Green Island, he said, refers to the beauty of nature in Taiwan. And the fact that the island, which holds the infamous prison, is known as Green Island, is mere coincidence, Pan said.

He accounted for the story that the song was written by a man imprisoned for a crime of passion to a newspaper report in Malaysia. Pan speculated that the story may have been seeded by a record company bent on promoting the song.

Thus, while the legends about the origins of Green Island Serenade probably have been dispelled, the song's expression of love and sorrow have come to express Lyudao in the minds of many, and they continue to hold to their belief in the romantic tale, because it makes for a much better story.

China Daily

(HK Edition 07/21/2009 page2)