Good translation for song title “二泉映月”?

Chinese Language Asked by JDługosz on December 11, 2020

I’m working on materials for a concert of Chinese music, with an audience of general people here in Texas (not for the Chinese community). So, I want meaningful and lucid titles in English along with some information to introduce the song.

Can someone help me with “二泉映月”? I get something along the lines of “Moonlight reflection in the second spring”, and I suppose they know what “the second spring” is supposed to mean — that is, it’s an idiom or cultural reference. Is this even supposed to have the literal meaning?

4 Answers

The title of : The Moon Over a Fountain, The Moon Reflected in the Waters of the Second Spring look like a rigid translation from Chinese to English.

How about : Moonlight glimmered on the lake (or pond). However, I personal prefer lake instead of pond.

Answered by Kelvin shiu on December 11, 2020

it should be introduced as (for non-chinese):

in 唐 dynasty (618-907), mr 陸羽 compared most springs (water comes out from earth naturally, not the season between winter & summer) in eastern china, ranked them; for the purpose of brewing tea.

so "二泉" here is "the second tastiest of all spring under the sky (天下第二泉) [for brewing tea].

"映月", should be interpreted as "reflection of moon", literally. based on my reading experience, it implied loneliness and sadness.

together, i would interpret "二泉映月" as "the lone reflection of the sad moon at the second tastiest spring for brewing tea", in order to trigger the interest of the audience.

Answered by 水巷孑蠻 on December 11, 2020

The Wikipedia article on Abing says,

Abing's most famous piece is entitled Erquan Yingyue (二泉映月, engl.: The Moon's Reflection on the Second Spring), which is named after a spring in Wuxi (which is today part of Xihui Park). It is still played as a standard erhu piece, although it necessitates a special set of strings that are tuned lower than normal erhu strings.

The entry on Xihui Park mentions:

The Second Spring under Heaven was the inspiration for the blind erhu player Abing's most famous composition, the Erquan Yingyue.

Second Spring under Heaven

The Second Spring or Second-best Spring under Heaven (Chinese: 天下第二泉, Tiānxià Dìèr Quán) is the name of a spring in Xihui Park at the foot of Mount Hui. The park is located in western Wuxi in eastern China's Jiangsu province.1

So the title is:

  • The Moon's Reflection on the Second Spring

where the "Second Spring" refers to the name of an actual spring The Second Spring Under Heaven, which can be found in Xihui Park, Wuxi, Jiangsu, today.

Also in the article for Second Spring under Heaven it talks about the English name of this piece and its translation:

Hua Yanjun, a famous folk musician also called Blind Abing, spread the fame of the Second Spring in his song The Moon Over a Fountain 二泉映月.[8] Although the usual English translation does not clarify what "fountain" is meant, the more literal translation would be "The Moon Reflected in the Waters of the Second Spring."

Here you can also see possible name translations:

  • The Moon Over a Fountain

  • The Moon Reflected in the Waters of the Second Spring

I personally think that the aforementioned The Moon's Reflection on the Second Spring is the most faithful translation though. But, Moon over a Fountain gets a lot of Google hits and there are even recordings of this song on Spotify by said translation.

Answered by Mo. on December 11, 2020


The name of "Er Quan" comes from the "Hui Spring" of Hui Shan, Wuxi in China, known as the "Second Spring of the World"

二泉映月 literally mean "Moon light reflecting from the world's second greatest spring" (Hui Spring)

Answered by Tang Ho on December 11, 2020

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