Picking Tea Leaves & Chasing Butterflies

Ah~ the power of the Internet! I wanted to find a song that I heard many years ago, back in my childhood days. After a bit of Googling and trawling YouTube, I finally found it!

I don’t remember what year or how old I was, but my brother and I used to attend Chinese school on Saturday mornings run by the Chung Wah Association. They had three options for extra-curricular activities: kung fu, Chinese painting, and dancing. My brother did kung fu and I did Chinese painting. It seemed to me that the dance class only had one song/dance routine, so I would hear the same Chinese folk song every Saturday, and they would always perform the same dance to the same song at every end-of-term assembly.

I liked that song, and even though I stopped attending that Chinese school many, many years ago… that particular Chinese folk song has stuck with me ever since I first heard it, and to this day I would hum the tune to myself every now and then.

Today I was watching the documentary series “The Story of Maths” on Netflix, and one episode focused on mathematics in ancient China, and the Chinese folk music they were playing in the background reminded me of that song. So I set out on an online journey to find that song…

The challenge was that I knew what the song sounded like, and that it was a Chinese song that had something to do with picking tea. I had no idea what the song was called, and I thought it might be a famous or well-known folk song, but I wasn’t sure. So the first thing I Googled was “chinese folk song picking tea”, and this was the first result:

Bingo! This is the song I was looking for!

But the sound quality of that particular YouTube video isn’t very good. In fact, it reminds me exactly of the screechy cassette tape recording they used at the Chinese school. I wanted to find a better quality version of the song, and later I wanted to look for sheet music so I could try and play it on the keyboard. The YouTube video did not have a description, but based on the title, I concluded that the song was called “Picking Tea Leaves” or “采茶”. Since it is a Chinese song, I figured I would have better luck searching for a better quality version of the song if I searched using the Chinese title, so I entered “采茶歌” (picking tea song) into Google.

Apparently there are many different Chinese folk songs about picking tea, with several provincial variations, so my search yielded many results, but after watching a few of the videos that came from the results, none of them were the song I was after. I was worried that by listening to these other ‘incorrect’ songs, I would forget what the song I wanted sounded like. I watched a few more videos and finally found some that matched the song I wanted:

Again, the sound quality was not good. I wanted to find either a video or sound file that was worthy of adding to a play list of songs. The title of this video also indicated that the song is called “采茶”, same as the first video I found, which didn’t really help when used as a search term. But I had a look at the video description which is in Chinese. My Chinese isn’t that good, I can recognise some characters, but usually cannot read whole sentences unless they are simple ones. I couldn’t be bothered to use an online translator, but I did recognise these characters: 福建民歌, well, I know 福建 is “Fujian” and “歌” is song, and I had a hunch that “民歌” is folk song. So I Googled “fujian tea picking song” and this was the first result:

Bingo again! Plus the video is good quality, but the tempo was a little too slow for my taste…

The above was the second result, and while it is the right song, it was a modified arrangement of the song I wanted. It sounds great and I like it, just not quite what I’m after. But these two videos finally confirmed the real name of the song: “采茶扑蝶”, which was commonly translated as “picking tea and chasing butterflies”. Further Googling indicated that some people translated the song as “picking tea and catching butterflies”.

Now that I had the correct song title, I was able to find several quality YouTube videos of the song, here’s some of my favourites:

Orchestra with pretty pictures of scenery~

Such a talented kid, and playing from memory, no sheet music!

Another piano version, although I think it is played a little too fast.

With Mandarin vocals~

With vocals, I don’t know what Chinese dialect this is (Cantonese?), but it sounds really nice~

I may have little to no skill in kung fu, but I’m pretty good with my Google-fu :D