Friday Song: ‘Beneath the Cherry Blossom Tree’ — the first love that never blooms

Society & Culture

Spring is slowly impressing its touch into the earth. As a native Cantonese, I have a springtime ritual — listening to Hins Cheung’s 张敬轩 “Beneath the Cherry Blossom Tree” (樱花树下 yīnghuā shù xià). Released more than a decade ago, this timeless, romantic ballad about first love — found in studenthood — and coming of age remains one of the artist’s most resounding works.

The song opens with this scene:

树荫有一只蝉 shù yīn yǒuyī zhǐ chán
There is a cicada under the tree shade

跌落你身边 diéluò nǐ shēnbiān
It falls down to your side

惊慌到失足向前 jīnghuāng dào shīzú xiàng qián
You panic and trip over

然后扑入我一双肩 ránhòu pū rù wǒ yī shuāngjiān
Throw yourself into my shoulders

Simple yet intimate, drenched in Cheung’s tender vocals, these first two lines instantly draw the listener into the cinematic imagery of two teenagers stumbling in an unripe relationship, with the cherry blossoms as a common symbol of puppy love. But “Beneath the Cherry Blossom Tree” hints at a richer story — how two lovebirds let each other slip away as they ventured into adulthood:

还记得樱花正开 hái jìdé yīnghuā zhèng kāi
Still remember the cherry blossoming

还没懂跟你示爱 hái méi dǒng gēn nǐ shì’ài
(I) didn’t know how to confess my love to you

初春来时 chūchūn lái shí
When spring came

彼此约定过 bǐcǐ yuēdìngguò
We promised each other

继续期待 jìxù qídài
To continue looking forward (to the future)

人置身这大时代 rén zhìshēn zhè dà shídài
People dwell in a big world

投入几番竞技赛 tóurù jǐ fān jìngjì sài
(We) devote ourselves to competitions

曾分开 曾相爱 等待 céng fēnkāi, céng xiāng’ài, děngdài
(We) separated (we) loved (we) waited

花蕊又跌下来 huāruǐ yòu diē xiàlái
The flowers fell down again

才洞悉这是恋爱 cái dòngxī zhè shì liàn’ài
(We) realized this is being in love

Hins Cheung, the 38-year-old singer and songwriter, was born and raised in Guangzhou before beginning a music career in Hong Kong. He has never been shy about his mainland roots, which has endeared him to many in both the Mandopop and Cantopop scenes.

For those interested, the live version of “Beneath the Cherry Blossom Tree” is also incredible. Happy spring!

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