Poet: Su Shi

水调歌头 (Water Music Song) by Su Shi / Su Tung-P’o

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The great Song Dynasty poet, statesman and intellectual Su Shi or Su Dongpo (Wade-Giles: Su Shih, Su Tung-P’o) wrote this poem in the song-like ci form in 1076, one of several poems about the autumn moon that remain among his most often anthologized works. Beijing artist Hong Huo, currently a student in the Department of Kinetic Imaging at VCUarts in Virginia, notes on Vimeo that this is

A video poem I made recently that is related to the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival couple weeks ago. I chose this Chinese poem that describes the nostalgic feeling of a person that is away from home and family during this time for family and friends to get together and celebrate. Poem written by Su Shi from the Song Dynasty, which still remains popular today. I want to address not just my passion for my culture but also the sense of belonging and loneliness in part of me about how I have passed a journey to become who I am today. Special thanks to my dearest friend Jiaxin Zeng as she has been such a great model for this project.

The English translation in the subtitles is certainly adequate, and it’s a pleasure to hear the poem in Mandarin while reading it. I found another translation online included as apart of an essay by A. R. Davis, “On Such a Night: A Consideration of the Antecedents of the Moon in Su Shih’s Writings,” which is worth reading to learn about the greater cultural milieu as well as the direct influences and allusions at play here. (The translation itself is rather wooden and not worth reproducing here.)