A Shared Perigean Moon

該內容僅提供英文版。

Viral Alarm

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
歲次庚子鼠年
農曆三月十六日
庚辰 辛巳


Su Dongpo

Mid-Autumn,
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,
So bright,
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.

蘇東坡

辰中秋,
歡飲達旦,大醉。
作此篇,兼懷子由

水調歌頭

 

明月幾時有,
把酒問青天。

不知天上宮闕,
今夕是何年。

我欲乘風歸去,
又恐瓊樓玉宇,
高處不勝寒。

起舞弄清影,
何似在人間。

轉朱閣,
低綺戶,
照無眠。

不應有恨,
何事長向別時圓。

人有悲歡離合,
月有陰晴圓缺,
此事古難全。

但願人長久,
千里共嬋娟。

— translated by John Minford

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‘Reunion’, by Feng Zikai 豐子愷 of Yuanyuan Hall 緣緣堂.

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Related Material in:

Viral Alarm

China Heritage Annual 2020