Happy Moon Cake

At this time of year the Chinese celebrate their Mid-Autumn Festival.

With a click of the chop-sticks to Cha Xiu Bao:

Bright moon, when did you appear?
Lifting my wine, I ask the dark night sky.
Tonight in the palace of heaven
what year is it, I wonder?

I pray to ride the wind and fly home there,
Only to hide in the jade and crystal mansion,
As I could not bear the cold up high.
So I dance and play in your showers,
this human world — how can it compare with yours?

Circling red chambers,
Leaning the curtained door,
You shine on the sleepless.
Surely you bear us no ill will —
why then must you be so round at times when we are parted!

People can be sorrow or joy, close together or far apart,
The moon may be dim or bright, full or null.
Things are like this since time immemorial.
I only hope we two may last forever,
So that we may share the moon’s beauty even though we are a thousand miles apart.

        ~ Shui Diao Ge Tou (水調歌頭) by Su Dongpo (1037 – 1101); gorgeous Chinese calligraphy of the poem can be found here.

Though it’s one of the most beautiful poems ever written in history, it’s one meant for singing instead of reading, especially ever since the 80’s, thanks to the everlasting adaptation "May We Last Forever" by Teresa Tang]

[Painting by Liu Danzhian]

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Matthew Mattingly says:

    Thank you for printing this poem and picture, and the link for the calligraphy.
    I love Chinese culture, history, and religion. The period when this poem and picture were created is among the highpoints of Chinese history/culture. Several centuries after the classical Han period, but a good 100 years Before the Mongol invasions. Some people claim that Chinese culture and the arts were corrupted by the Mongols (Yuan dynasty), and later the Manchus (Ch’ing Dynasty), but that the zenith in civilization was abound this period depicted.
    I have a lot of respect for Chinese Buddhist religion which also flourished at this time. It is far more serene and medative than the rather barbaric Tibetan Buddhism. At this time (1100’s) in China, Buddhism was very well established, and huge Buddist monasteries with hundreds of monks existed much like the great abbies of Catholic monks during the same period (centers of learning, prayer, contemplation). There even existed a hierarchy in some ways similar to Catholic bishops. It’s a fantastic culture and history, especially around this period when all the arts and religion flourished.

  2. Guy Power says:

    We bought two tins of moon cakes and are aching to eat them soon!!!! Red bean, mung bean, etc. Red bean (餡こ[b][i]anko[/i][/b] in Japanese) is my all-time favorite! The Chinese mooncakes are about 3 times the size of Japanese moon cakes — Yum Yum!!!

    Gutten Appetit
    A’guitn (auf boarisch)

  3. catholiclady says:

    The poem, the music and Theresa are all lovely as was the full moon rising last night.

    How did she die? May she last forever.

  4. J. Wong says:

    Fr. Z., Thank you for posting this beautiful poem and also for the link to the Teresa’s song. Teresa Teng 鄧麗君(Teng or Deng are the Mandarin tranliteration of her last name, Tang is in Cantonese). This song is from her album “Poetry and Rhyme” (淡淡幽情). All the songs in this album are of Sung and Tang Dynasty poems set to music. It happens to be my favorit.

    Catholiclady, Teresa died in 1995 from an asthma attack. She was 43. Born in Taiwan, she was one of the most popular Chinese singers during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

    God bless.

  5. J. Wong says:

    Fr. Z., Since you mentioned chop sticks, I thought you’d like to know that the blog (Cha Xiu Bao) stands for “steamed pork bun” which is a staple of dim-sum (small dishes served with tea, usually served from morning to mid-afternoon).

  6. Rose says:

    What a sweet surprise? I dug out my thread bound classical texts and found the poem, circled at the appropriate phrasing by my father with a red ink brush, to denote the proper cadences when reciting it. Thank you.

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