Home > culture, music > "茉莉花 (Molihua)" / "Jasmine Flower," a piece of Chinese culture that has taken root around the world

"茉莉花 (Molihua)" / "Jasmine Flower," a piece of Chinese culture that has taken root around the world

Chinese culture is rich and amazing. Did you know that the main melody at the 2008 Beijing Olympics medal ceremonies were composed using only musical instruments that were made 2,450 years ago? That melody was a version of “茉莉花” or “Jasmine Flower.” It was adapted by famous Chinese composer Tan Dun and Wang Hesheng (of the Chinese Army orchestra) using the ancient instruments for the 2008 Olympics medal ceremonies. According to this China Daily article, “Classical piece will ring in ears of winners“:

“The main melody, which Tan described as “glorious, heartwarming and full of respect”, was recorded using the digital recording of a 2,450-year-old bell set excavated from a site in Hubei.”

The original was a Chinese folk song created during the Qianlong Emperor period of the Qing Dynasty (1711-1799). “茉莉花” became known in the West first due to its inclusion by Giacomo Puccini in his opera Turandot in Italy.

Below are lyrics to this song and various renditions:

Simplified Chinese


Literal Translation

What a beautiful jasmine flower
What a beautiful jasmine flower
Sweet-smelling, beautiful, stems full of buds
Fragrant and white, everyone praises
Let me pluck you down
Give to someone
Jasmine flower, oh jasmine flower

“茉莉花” has been performed all around the world. Below are various incarnations.

CCTV-7 Commercial: “Let the world hear our sounds” based on “茉莉花” (Jasmine Flower)

By a Trio using Western instruments at the 2009 Cultural Spring Festival Show

By Kenny G

By the Vienna Boys Choir in Korea in 2002

By 宋祖英 (Song Zuying) at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2006 accompanied by an American Orchestra

By a Japanese choir

According to the China Daily article, “from Puccini to the Beijing Olympics, this melody is a gift from the Chinese people to the world’s athletes,” Tan said.

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  1. January 19th, 2010 at 22:01 | #1

    Song Zuying again? You would think that in this day and age a girl wouldn’t have to sleep with the president just to get ahead.

    They always used to play Molihua on Jiangsu TV during the time it was off-air over night – I always wondered if there were some kind of Nanjing/Jiangsu connection for this song?

  2. Cissy
    January 19th, 2010 at 23:07 | #2

    It was originally a Jiangsu folk song, most popular in the Jiangnan area where Wuu language is spoken. The Wuu language edition sounds much better than the mandarin one.

  3. Berlin
    January 19th, 2010 at 23:31 | #3

    It’s definitely a beautiful piece, and very well known. Chinese however has a lot of hidden treasures that do not get as much attention as this one. My favorite is Moon Reflected in Two Streams by the blind artist A-Bing.

  4. January 20th, 2010 at 08:26 | #4

    Hi Cissy – wow, I’d really like to hear it in the Wuu dialect. Post it here if you find it before me! thx.

    Hi Berlin – I’ve found a performance of it on Youtube – looks like this was performed in Japan:

    This is a classic for sure. It’s only a matter of time before the “crouching tiger” effect takes hold for this thing to spread around the world. 🙂

  5. January 21st, 2010 at 21:15 | #5

    I was surprised that this song was chosen in the Olympics played by the Chinese girls with low-cut Cheongsam. What makes the dress sexy is not the exposure (G string is not that sexy to me) but the little V-shaped exposure that leads to mystery, suggestion and imagination. I hope it was played by the 12 lady band.

    This song was very popular in pleasure houses in Shanghai at the time, so it was a surprise. Would any one verify it?

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