Poetry and the Mid-Autumn Moon

September 12, 2011 1:39 am Last Updated: October 1, 2015 3:40 pm
The illustration includes the text of 'Drinking alone with the Moon' by Li Ba, a famous poet from Tang Dynasty. (Xiao Yun/The Epoch Times)
The illustration includes the text of 'Drinking alone with the Moon' by Li Ba, a famous poet from Tang Dynasty. (Xiao Yun/The Epoch Times)

Since ancient times, the moon has had rich meaning for the Chinese people whose calendar, planting season, and life were all tied to the moon. The moon also held deeper mysteries in ancient Chinese culture and has been the subject of legends and poetry.

Traditionally, the Chinese people would stand on a high hill in the autumn night, or simply open their windows, to watch the bright full moon, marvel at its beauty, and send their wishes to the moon.

Throughout history, many poems and songs about the moon and mid-autumn have been written, simply too numerous to be counted. Writing poetry was an art form and also a philosophical and spiritual discipline that was widespread among scholars, officials, and emperors. Inspired by the clear and bright moon, many great poems have been written by the ancient poets as well as the poets today.

Even if one is alone on the Mid-Autumn Festival when family members are supposed to be together, one can still have the moon as a companion, according to Chinese custom.

The famous Chinese poet Li Bai (701-762 A.D.) from the Tang Dynasty wrote a poem titled “Drinking alone with the Moon” which portrays humanity as lost in delusion and loneliness, yet still yearning for a connection with heaven. The poem reads as following:

Drinking alone with the Moon

From a pot of wine among the flowers,
I drank alone with no companion.
Raising the cup I asked the bright moon,
Bring me my shadow and make us three.
The moon cannot understand my drinking,
My shadow follows silently where I go.
The moon accompanies temporarily the shadow,
Take the opportunity to have a joyous time.
Moonlight wandering around when I sing,
The shadow floats along when I dance.
Enjoying to be friends while I am awake,
The companionship ends while I am drunk.
Let’s have friendship forever,
We will meet again in the vast sky.

In the present moonlight night, do we have a deeper understanding about the moon? What kind of good wishes do we have for friends, relatives, and each other?