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  • Julia Min

阳关曲.中秋月 The Mid- Autumn Moon



原作: 苏轼(字子瞻, 号东坡居士; 11世纪北宋)

旧版英译:戈登.奥赛茵, 闵晓红, 黄海鹏(1990)

新版修改及赏析: 闵晓红(2023)





The Mid- Autumn Moon (to Ziyou)

-composed to “Yangguan Tune”

written by Su Shi (11th AC, social name 'Dongpo')

old En. trans. by G. Osing, J. Min & H. Huang (1990)

Revision+ annot. by Julia Min (2023)

Evening shadows gathered-in,

A bright chill spills over the land.

The jade plate spins

As the Milky Way remains silent.

This night, this life, --

No good time stays for good.

Who knows, next year’s full moon,

If we’ll see her together again?


1. Jade plate: the full moon;


The Moon Festival is an important day for family reunion after the harvest, as Chinese believe the full moon represents fulfilment and union. This has been reflected in many things. For example, Chinese usually use round table for dining, and people with a round face is regarded as a happy face that would bring luck to the family. A circular shape corresponds with a square shape, a yin-yang balance as in nature with human society deriving ideas that, to a degree, shaped Chinese culture.

This short ci lyric excels not only in the rhymes but also other poetry features like ‘pin ze’ and ‘dui zhang’ (平仄和对仗) which are special to Chinese poems thanks to the character form and sound benefits. It’s a ‘qi jue’ (七绝),a strict 4 line format with 7 characters which is deliberately arranged based on yin-yang theory. This has been a popular poetic form (since 200s AC) with two couplets where every word or phrase echoes the previous line in grammatical function and tone, and the subjects should correspond with each other as well, such as ‘此生此夜’ with ’明月明年’( ‘this night this life…/ next moon, next year….’)

The subject is easier to capture for this short poem. It’s been 7 years separation for the brothers before this day and it happened to be such a blissful night together under the beautiful full moon and a serene cloudless sky dotted with the Milky Way. The first two line usher us into the natural scene, and then the subject turned to his sentiment in the second couplet, hinting the unpredictable future of official careers in a chaotic time of the Song during the practice of the New Law, where Su Shi and all his followers were faced with more turmoil on the way. A profound impact on the readership – ce la vie!


1. Blooming Alone in Winter by Gordon Osing, Julia Min and Huang Haipeng,published by the People's Publication House Henan Province in 1990 (《寒心未肯随春态》戈登.奥赛茵,闵晓红,黄海鹏) (The Mid- Autumn Moon -- Evening shadows gathered-in, a bright chill spills over the land. / The Milky Way is silent and the jade plate spins. / This night – this life – we don’t have the good things for long. / And next year’s moon – who knows? – if we’ll see her together again.”)

2. picture from calligraphy by Pan, Wangjing (潘望京书法);


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