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My Favorite Chinese Poem


Born in 1036, Su Tung-po was a famous Chinese poet. He was also called Su Shih. Born in present-day Sichuan province, Su was from a literary family. During the Sung Dynasty he wrote very simple poems based on Buddhist Philosophy. Su occupied many official posts, rising to president of the board of rites (which regulated imperial ceremonies and worship). He designed the parks surrounding Lake Si in Hangzhou. Five emperors came to the throne during his lifetime.

Adopted from: 林語堂中英對照 東坡詩文選 / Selected Poems and Prose of Su Tungpo / Chinese-English Bilingual Edition by Lin Yutang


明月幾時有? 把酒問青天。不知天上宮闕,今夕是何年?
How rare the moon, so round and clear! With cup in hand I ask of the blue sky, “I do not know in the celestial sphere what name this festive night goes by?”

I want to fly home, riding the air, but fear the ethereal cold up there. The jade and crystal mansions are so high! Dancing to my shadow, I feel no longer the mortal tie.

She rounds the vermilion tower, stoops to silk-pad doors, shines on those who sleepless lie.

Why does she, bearing us no grudge. Shine upon our parting, reunion deny? But rare is perfect happiness. The moon does wax, the moon does wane, and so men meet and say goodbye.

I only pray our life be long, and our souls together heavenward fly!


One Response

  1. I love the line, “I want to fly home, riding the air, but fear the ethereal cold up there.” I can definitely see why this is your favorite.

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