The moon has been one of the most important elements of inspiration in Chinese poetry. Chinese people, especially the poets worship the moon and have magnified the moon in countless poems. In many of them, the moon is the emotion carrier of the yearnings towards purity and beauty, the longings for family and love.
In this blog, we share with you 3 most famous moon-themed Chinese poems that you should know. All 3 poems are from Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD), a period which witnessed the flourishing of Chinese poems.
No. 1: “Quiet Night Thoughts” (静夜思) by poet, Li Bai (李白, 701–762 AD). Li Bai is one of the most prominent Chinese poets from his own time till present days. His works are full of passion, imagination and also elegance. Even today, his “Quiet Night Thoughts” is one of the must-know and it is often one of the first poems learned by children.
静夜思 jìng yè sī – Quiet Night Thoughts
|床前明月光chuáng qián míng yuè guāng||I wake, and moonbeams play around my bed,|
|疑是地上霜yí shì dì shàng shuāng||Glittering like hoar-frost to my wandering eyes;|
|举头望明月jǔ tóu wàng míng yuè||Up towards the glorious moon I raised my head,|
|低头思故乡dī tóu sī gù xiāng||Then lay me down — and thoughts of home arise.|
One bright night during the mid-autumn season, the poet Li Bai is somewhere away from home. A full moon is shining brightly in the sky, peaceful and beautiful. When the poet looked up at the moon in the sky, he saw the fullness of the moon and then thought about his family thousands of kilometers away. How wonderful would it be if he could be united with the family! The more he thought about his family, the more he missed them and the more his sorrow of homesickness. The moon here triggered the poet’s longings for home.
No. 2: “Looking At The Moon And Thinking Of One Far Away” (望月怀远) by another Tang poet, Zhang Jiuling (张九龄, 675-740 AD). Apart from being a noted poet, Zhang Jiuling was also a prominent minister and scholar of the Tang Dynasty, serving as chancellor at his time.
望月怀远 wànɡ yuè huái yuǎn – Looking At The Moon And Thinking Of One Far Away
|海上生明月，hǎi shànɡ shēnɡ mínɡ yuè||The moon, grown full now over the sea,|
|天涯共此时。tiān yá ɡònɡ cǐ shí||Brightening the whole of heaven,|
|情人怨遥夜，qínɡ rén yuàn yáo yè||Brings to separated hearts|
|竟夕起相思。jìnɡ xī qǐ xiānɡ sī||The long thoughtfulness of night….|
|灭烛怜光满，miè zhú lián ɡuānɡ mǎn||It is no darker though I blow out my candle.|
|披衣觉露滋。pī yī jué lù zī||It is no warmer though I put on my coat.|
|不堪盈手赠，bù kān yínɡ shǒu zènɡ||So I leave my message with the moon|
|还寝梦佳期。huán qǐn mènɡ jiā qī||And turn to my bed, hoping for dreams|
This poem was written when the poet Zhang Jiuling was demoted. It expresses the feelings that he missed his family or lovers at a full-moon night. Above the ocean, the bright full-moon rises slowly, the poet wished his family or lovers far away were sharing this moment together with him. During this long night, lovers thought of each other, and found it hard to fall asleep. The brightness startles the poet’s eyes, so he extinguished the candle. The poet was unable to send his heart filled with longing and his handful moonlight to the one far away. He could only sleep and meet the lover joyfully in his dreams. The beauty of this poem is that the poet expressed the feelings through imagining how his family or lover was thinking of him at the same time.
No. 3: “A Night-Mooring Near Maple Bridge” (枫桥夜泊) by the Tang poet, Zhang Ji (张继, approximately 712-715 to 779 AD). Little is known of the poet Zhang Ji’s life. He rose to be a secretary in the Board of Revenue. “A Night-Mooring Near Maple Bridge” is one of his most famous poems.
枫桥夜泊 fēng qiáo yè bó – A Night-Mooring Near Maple Bridge
|月落乌啼霜满天，yuè luò wū tí shuāng mǎn tiān||While I watch the moon go down, a crow caws through the frost;|
|江枫渔火对愁眠。jiāng fēng yú huǒ duì chóu mián||Under the shadows of maple-trees a fisherman moves with his torch;|
|姑苏城外寒山寺，gū sū chéng wài hán shān sì||And I hear, from beyond Su-chou, from the temple on Cold Mountain,|
|夜半钟声到客船。yè bàn zhōng shēng dào kè chuán||Ringing for me, here in my boat, the midnight bell.|
The poet Zhang Ji’s boat arrived at a bridge in Suzhou (苏州，also known as Gusu, its old name) at night. It was a chilly night in the autumn. The poet was awoken from a troubled sleep. His mood was affected by the cry of crows, the fisherman’s light and the sound of the temple bell. The poet expressed in this poem the feelings that every traveler far from home has: homesick, depressing and sleepless. This poem is so famous that the bridge depicted in this poem is made famous too.
Well, that is all for the moon in the Chinese poems. Make sure you spend sometime and recite one of them. Next time, when you hang out with your Chinese friend, quote one of the sentences. We guarantee that your Chinese friends will be very impressed!
Now that you’ve learned 3 beautiful poems about the moon. We’ve got a small quiz for you! In Chinese, moon is called yuè, which is written as “月”. Thus,
liǎng gè yuè shì yī gè shén me zì ?
What’s the Chinese character with two moons?
(Hint: it’s somebody we cherish)
Got it? Leave your answer below!