Moon Poems for Moon Festival

To celebrate Moon Festival, an East Asian holiday falling on Sept. 30 this year, here are translations of the most widely known moon poem in classical Chinese literature and an original English poem on the holiday's meaning to Chinese Americans

With the increase of East Asian immigrants in the Bay Area, Moon Festival sounds more and more familiar to mainstream residents. The holiday dating more than 3,000 years back to China's Zhou Dynasty now brings moon cakes here every September. 

For detailed information about various flavors of moon cakes, click here.

The quintessential dessert of Moon Festival is shaped like the full moon, which symbolizes family reunion to the Chinese. As this year's Moon Festival comes on Sunday, this weekend you will see local Chinese restraunts more crowded than usual for family banquets.

To celebrate Moon Festival as a Chinese-American, I have written an English poem to depict my extensive family's banquet for the holiday, which definitely resembles other local Chinese family reunions. The poem features my maternal grandfather, to whom I am sure many Chinese seniors here can relate.

I have also translated a Chinese moon poem almost every Chinese child is taught to recite. I hope this contributes to CSL (Chinese as a second language) education in Silicon Valley.

静夜思 Meditating in a Serene Night
作者:李白 By Li Po (701-762)

床前明月光 Moonlight glistens on the floor by my bed post
疑是地上霜 At first sight I mistook it for frost
举頭望明月 After looking up at the bright moon
低頭思故鄉 I lower my head, feeling homesick and lost

Moon Festival

Family members reunite at a dining table

As round as the full moon's circle

Steamed crabs and moon cakes aromatize the banquet

For Moon Festival


Also tasty are noodles and a cake for Granddad's birthday

That coincides with the holiday

Marked by the eighth full moon of the lunar year

Celebrated by all Chinese in every way


An auspicious birthday

Eight decades ago he heard fortune tellers say

The harvest moon at birth signifies a lifetime of abundance

Come what may


What came year after year was war after war

Too much gore

He fled farther and farther away from home

With only his mother's ring from the idyllic life before


The pearl on the ring resembles the full moon shimmering over California

And the full moon that delighted his youthful years in China

The same moon had silvered the Silk Road

Across Eurasia


The eternal moon has accompanied the uprooted osmanthus tree

To transplant to the western territory

She continues to bless his golden years



Note: Crystal Tai is a regular contributor to Patch. She has published A Poetic Portal to Chinese culture, which introduces Chinese culture and holidays through English interpretations of Chinese poems, available on Amazon.com.


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