Saturday, August 06, 2011

Li Xiang Lan In 'The Lonely Boudoir' (1957): Part I


A few years ago, my trip to one of the many 'antique' shops in Singapore proved fruitful when I managed to buy a *10-inch Pathe Long Play vinyl of 10 songs that I had been searching for some time. 

Li Xiang Lan (or Lee Hsiang Lan in Wade-Giles) who probably recorded it in 1957, was one of my mother's favourite female singers. Although she loved pop westerns and Indonesian keroncongs we listened to Mandarin songs too.

The album, Lan Gui Ji Ji - CPA 134 - (above), literally meant, Orchid Chamber, Quiet, Quiet. The back sleeve is both in Chinese and English and subtitled, My Lonely Boudoir. The promotional material went: "Soprano Lee Hsiang Lan is well known to all music fans. 

Ten years ago she made many hits with the recordings of Mandarin songs such as Song Of The Sweet Seller and We Met Too Late. She has very clear diction and an entrancing voice. Indeed one of our most outstanding artises!"
                          Li Xianglan (三 年) Three Years Video: Moisture Boy
The songs that were recorded reflected the mood of the album cover. Side One: My Lonely Boudoir, The Crow And The Phoenix, A Wandering Life, The Moon Over The River and Song Of The Heart (cover for the Western hit, Eternally). SideTwo: Young Days, Three Years, Ten Square Miles, We Met Too Late and Only You (not The Platters version).

Li Xiang Lan was one of the seven Shanghai greats. Another diva Zhou Xuan, appropriately dubbed the lady with the 'Golden Voice', is a personal favourite too. Just for the record, the other 5 divas were Bai Guang (White Light), Bai Hong (White Rainbow), Gong Qiuxia, Wu Yingyin (Queen of the Nasal Voice) and Yao Li (Silver Voice).

Li Xiang Lan, who tipped the scale as one of the most versatile entertainers born this side of the Pacific, was also a popular film star and had acted in both Chinese and Hollywood movies. 

One of her hits on the big screen was House of Bamboo. This coloratura soprano (lyric soprano of a high range) had a career in Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and the U.S. But do you know her real name and nationality?  She is also known as Shirley Yamaguchi, Li Hsiang Lan and Ri Koran. Real name: Yoshiko Yamaguchi.

More about her in the next posting.

*78 rpm versions should be available too. Any comment?

Images: Google images and Andy Lim Collection.

Information: Li Xiang Lan from Wikipedia. Others from record sleeve.


Lam Chun See said...

Although those singers you mentioned were before my time, and I don't really know their music, Li Xiang Lan was the exception. Her song 三年(Three years) was a classic and was re-recorded by many singers subsequntnly.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Chun See. Yes you are right about '3 Years'. In fact, some of her other songs have also been recorded by other artistes.

Anonymous said...

From KM Lim:

The album cover can be any period from the time of Confucius.

It depicts the moonlit courtyard of the private chamber of a beautiful lady leaning by the window overlooking the aromatic red and yellow orchids, pining for her beloved to stealthily appear and climb into her room and...

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Min for the English translated album title.

We leave the intelligent readers to guess the rest of your boudoir description.

Anonymous said...

If you're interested in Zhou Xuan, I posted yesterday one of her recordings on my blog, devoted to old 78rpm records, the song is called 襟上一朵花, you can listen to it here :

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you 'ceintsdebakelite' for the music provided by Zhou Xuan. I have visited your blog and will check it out more often.

Appreciate your visit. Please come again soon.

Raymond Fealy said...

Search 'Google' for Li Xiang Lan-Wikipaedia.
Search 'iTunes' for a Music CD with the title:-
'Antique Shanghai Pop Music'
It is FREE to download. Li Ziang Lan features as the main singer on one of the 8 CD's in this series. The title of this CD is 'WHITE LIGHT & FRAGRANT FLOWERS'
This set of 8 CD's contains much dialogue about famous singers of the 30's and 40's in Shanghai where more than 500 movies were made in that era .
(Hollywood made about 730 in the same period)
A truly fascinating period in music history.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Raymond for the information and visit.

I have chanced upon this website and find the song selection and dialogue informative and helpful for anyone interested in this genre of music.

I shall try to connect it to this posting.

Cellis said...

Hello Andy. Not to bother but would you have a link for 'My Lonely Boudoir,' ?

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Cellis, There isn't any. The links are those provided by readers.

Will write to you if any. I like your blog. Keep it going.

John M. said...

Very nice to find your site! Please see the best biography of Li Xianglan available on the internet at:
It contains links to all her Songs, Movies, Books, Photos, Intelligence Files, and more.
John M.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you very much John for such a comprehensive study of this truly great singer and actress. I shall take many hours to read and learn about her.

If you wish to contribute to this blog in any way, I would be glad. Please keep in touch and thanks for visiting.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

This posting has now been connected to Moisture Boy's video of the original recording of the singer's top hit during the Shanghai Diva Years. It's called THREE YEARS.

Thank you Moisture Boy. I hope you will not disconnect it.

Anonymous said...

I always admired old chinese songs with excellent vocal. It is not just the song I listen but to the way they sing out every notes. Seems effortless but needs strong stamina.
Love the blog. Will wait for next posting ya!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you so much Anon. I appreciate such comments and mail. It just makes my day.

I will send more postings.


This is an extremely sad and melancholic story in the film back in the fifties. I'm impressed with your research.

Thanks Andy. Wishing You and family A Happy Lunar New Year filled with lots of success and happiness.

Best Regards.


It's an old Chinese classic with a nice and easy listening tune. I had never heard any singer singing this song in a club or lounge.

I do hope that someone would give a try soon as it will bring memories of the past. For old time's sake.

YEN CHOW said...

Yes yes I like old Chinese songs. Like to hear the way they sing out each note. This song is a bit too slow for me. But it is a nice song bcos she sings well. Just surprised that she she a Japanese.

EDWIN GOH said...

Golden voice indeed. Great research work. Well done.

JAMES KWOK said...

Goor morning Andy,

Thanks for the posting on 'Three Years' by Li Xiang Lan.

As a kid back in the early 1950's, I was often lulled into slumber by songs from the seven Shanghai greats through Rediffusion, our only in-home entertainment medium.

Those songs were a most welcome (and calming) distraction against the often frightening noises made by the many adults snoring and uttering loudly in their sleep.



ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you all so much for the unexpected comments. The posting was completed in 2011 and has been re-posted since.

Unbelievable that so many of you remember this song, which I learnt from my mother, who attuned me to the radio and as James explained, 'The Seven Shanghai Greats'.

As Yen Chow puts it, "Like to hear the way they sing out each note." a trait which we don't find in many singers today.

The 'research' as Ronnie See and Edwin Goh thought, wasn't much because I happen to have a set of the original records with literature abound on the sleeve.

And as Rickie puts it, we "hope that someone would give a try soon For old time's sake."

Lastly, thanks to 'Moisture Boy' for putting up the song on You Tube.

Yours in Chinese 60's lyrics and melodies.

moisture boy said...

great article andy! thanks for the message