Pet Sounds: Winnie Chor

Pet Sounds: A series in which teaching staff and students from the English Department reflect on a piece of music or song. [Read all entries.] [Revisit the “Headspace” series.] [Revisit the “Ongoing” series.] [Revisit the “Interrogative” series.]


My father was a seaman from when I was a baby until I was around ten. When he was at sea travelling the world, I spent most of my childhood with my grandmother. My grandmother was illiterate and the only word she could write was her surname. She had no entertainment other than playing mah-jong with the neighbours, but she did know one song to amuse me, which was also the song that she sang to lull me to sleep every night: 月光光 “Bright moonlight”. It is a traditional Cantonese cradlesong originating in Guangdong province, I think. The lullaby is rather short, with only three verses:

月光光 照地堂 
Bright moonlight, shining on the ground
Little Shrimp*, you obediently go to bed
Tomorrow mother needs to quickly plant the seedlings
阿爺睇牛佢上山崗 啊… 
[Paternal] grandfather who watches the cows will need to go up to the small hill, ah…
Little Shrimp, you’ll soon grow tall and big
幫手阿爺去睇牛羊 啊… 
Help your grandfather watch the cows and sheep, ah…

月光光 照地堂 
Bright moonlight, shining on the ground
Little Shrimp, you obediently go to bed
Tomorrow your mother needs to catch fish and shrimp
阿嫲織網要織到天光 啊… 
[Paternal] grandmother weaves a net until daylight, ah…
Little Shrimp, you’ll soon grow tall and big
Row the boat out to cast the net and becoming an expert

月光光 照地堂 
Bright moonlight, shining on the ground
年卅晚 摘檳榔 
During Lunar New Year’s Eve, harvest the betel nuts
The abundant crops fill the granary
老老嫩嫩喜洋洋 啊…
Everyone, young and old alike, is beaming with joy, ah…
Little Shrimp, you quickly close your eyes
一覺瞓到大天光 啊… 
Sleep until the daylight comes, ah…

 (Translation by Pearlie Ng)
*’Little Shrimp’: a term of endearment for a child

After all these years, I still often recall my grandmother’s voice singing this tune, and it could really calm me down. Now I am a mother of two children, 月光光 “Bright moonlight” is also the song I use to get my two children to sleep. Whenever and wherever I hum this song, they feel calm and go to sleep quickly. I believe what has been passed down is not the lullaby, but also the love, the hope, and the faith—from grandmother to granddaughter and further on to great-grandchildren.

My father was a seaman from when I was a baby until I was around ten, when he returned home as a captain. I had very few memories of my father, and can only vaguely remember his face. However, I can always remember what he taught me about the two most important things in life—hard work and determination. I can really see these two qualities in my father, who became a captain after years of training, which only three others could endure and became captains in the same year. He became Head of the Marine Police Training School in his 40s, because he wanted to spend more time with his daughter on land rather than at sea; and he became an MA in English Studies graduate at the age of 62, after he retired from his role as a civil servant. I hope I have inherited these qualities from my father, and equally hope I have passed these qualities down to my children. Having said this, there is one ability that I really would like to get from my father—the ability to cope with motion sickness! Both my daughter and I frequently get (very!) sick when travelling by boat; we hope we can withstand this. Wait—maybe it is not about inheritance; maybe it is still about hard work and determination, the determination to fight against the need to throw up!


Winnie Chor.jpgWinnie Chor is an Assistant Professor at the Department of English.

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