On 7-8 April 2020, people around the world were able to see a perigean full moon, that is a full moon that coincides with the orbiting moon’s closest approach to Earth. In popular parlance it is known as a ‘supermoon’, or a ‘pink supermoon’. The April perigean full moon, when that celestial body appears larger and closer than usual, is the biggest of the year. It has appeared as the Covid-19 pandemic ravishes the world, a time when any distraction, or sign of nature’s beauty and bounty, is welcome. When pestilence visits humanity, it is all too easy to look down rather than to marvel at the vaulted skies overhead.
To mark the April 2020 perigean full moon we are reprinting an immortal poem by the Song-dynasty littérateur Su Dongpo (蘇東坡, 1037-1101 CE). This poem originally featured in ‘The Same Fair Moon 千里共嬋娟’ in our series of New Sinology Jottings 後漢學劄記. It was published at the time of Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋節 on 4 October 2017, a festival that has been a major public holiday in the People’s Republic of China since 2008. That traditional moment of celebration is also known as 團圓節, the Festival of Reunions, a time to extol unity, togetherness, familial harmony and even conjugal felicity. Reunions were so rare and hard won both in China’s dynastic and modern eras that it is hardly surprising that they feature prominently in the calendar.
In 2020, as people everywhere are sheltering in place and isolated from those outside their immediate ‘bubble sanitaire’, the shared light of the April perigean full moon offers a glimpse of possibility, promising, for some, future reunions. In light of the aggravated geopolitics of the world, however, comity and a shared future are less than assured.
— Geremie R. Barmé,
Editor, China Heritage
8 April 2020
I stayed up till dawn drinking,
and wrote this thinking of my brother
To the tune ‘Water Song’
When did such a bright moon ever shine?
Raising my goblet, I question the dark firmament:
What year is it tonight
in the Bright Palace of Heaven?
How I wish I could return home to the moon,
That I could ride the wind there,
but I fear that the cold,
high in those jade towers, in that crystal world,
might be too intense to bear.
So I’ll dance here instead
down in the mortal world,
I’ll play with my bright moonlit shadow.
Here it comes again,
moving round the vermilion mansion,
shining through the fretted casement,
in on the sleepless.
What right does it have
to be so cruel?
What right to choose
To shine so full,
when we’re so far apart?
Mankind has its
Sorrows and joys,
Meetings and partings.
The moon waxes and wanes
in clear or cloudy skies.
Things were ever imperfect.
May we all live long,
May we all share,
though a myriad miles apart,
the same fair moon.
— translated by John Minford
Related Material in:
China Heritage Annual 2020
- Josh Rudolf, comp., ‘Wolves Everywhere Under Heaven — China’s Covid-19 Global Diplomacy’, China Heritage, 3 May 2020
- Zi Zhongyun 資中筠, ‘1900 & 2020 — An Old Anxiety in a New Era’, China Heritage, 28 April 2020
- Li Zehua 李澤華, ‘Holding Fast’, China Heritage, 23 April 2020
- Lee Yee 李怡, ‘The End of Hong Kong’s Third Way’, China Heritage, 22 April 2020
- Kristin Shi-Kupfer, ‘Beijing’s Battle with Viral Humanity’, China Heritage, 20 April 2020
- Tsering Woeser and Ian Boyden, ‘Poems from a Plague — a Tibetan Meditation’, China Heritage, 18 April 2020
- ‘Insisting and Acting on the Truth’, China Heritage, 16 April 2020
- ‘Freedom from Fear & an Inconvenient Truth’, China Heritage, 14 April 2020
- ‘A Shared Perigean Moon’, China Heritage, 8 April 2020
- ‘Thanatopsis — 4 April 2020’, China Heritage, 4 April 2020
- Joan Judge, ‘The Truth is the Most Effective Vaccine’, China Channel, 3 April 2020
- ‘The Stone Monkey’ — a diversion during a plague, China Heritage, 1 April 2020
- ‘The Heart of The One Grows Ever More Arrogant and Proud’, China Heritage, 10 March 2020
- Ren Zhiqiang 任志強, ‘Denunciation of Xi Jinping: stripping the clothes of a clown who is determined to be emperor’ ‘任志強「討習檄文」：剝光了衣服堅持當皇帝的小丑’,《新世纪》, 2020年3月6日 (for a partial translation, see Josh Rudolph, ‘Essay by Missing Property Tycoon Ren Zhiqiang’, China Digital Times, 13 March 2020; and for a full translation, see You Shu, ‘Ren Zhiqiang’s Essay’, 5 April 2020)
- Zhao Shilin 趙士林, ‘Gengzi Memorial to the Throne’, ‘庚子上書’, 《中國數字時代》, 2020年3月9日
- Xu Zhiyong 許志永, ‘Dear Chairman Xi, It’s Time for You to Go’, ChinaFile, 26 February 2020
- Guo Yuhua 郭於華, ‘The Poison in China’s System’, China Heritage, 6 March 2020
- Xu Zhangrun 許章潤, ‘Viral Alarm — When Fury Overcomes Fear’, China Heritage, 24 February 2020
- 2019-nCoV — A Teaching Moment, Spring Term 2020, China Heritage, 12 February 2020