Full Moon Parti-ng

A very well-known poem below on the Full-Moon theme, penned by the Song dynasty poet 蘇軾 Su Shi, more commonly known as Su Dongpo (蘇東坡). Su Shi is known especially for writing a form of lyrical poetry flourishing at the time called 詞/ci, set to a particular rhythm, rhyme, and tempo.

This particular poem by 蘇軾 Su Shi, probably the most famous of his work (at least in recent popular culture), was given the rather annonymous and common/interchangeable title (at that time for 詞/ci poetry) of “水調歌頭 – A song to the melody of water”.

[蘇軾 Su Shi is a master of descriptive prose-verse on water, with many poems on rivers brooks streams…

One of his ‘water’ poems may be even more popular than the ‘full-moon’ one featured here; this other water poem has captivated Chan and Zen practitioners over the years and apparently was found to be the most popular chinese poem of the Japanese at a time…

水調歌頭 by 蘇軾/Su Shi





When will the bright (full) moon come again?
Raising my (cup of) wine, I ask the blue (open) sky.
I wonder up in the heavenly palaces and halls above,
What year is it tonight?

I wish to ride the wind and return home there,
Yet I fear that in the crystal towers and jade chambers,
Though they be majestic in the high reaches, cannot deter the chilling cold.
Dancing and playing in this cool-silvery shadow,
It almost seems I’m not in the world of man.

Around the vermilion-red chamber,
Beneath the silk-paneled door,
(The rays of moonlight) shines on the sleepless.
There should be no ill will,
Yet why does the moon tend to be full during partings?

Man has times of grief and joy, of separation and union,
The moon has its times of being dark and bright, of being full and wanting (waxing and waning),
This matter is as old as time and impossible to reconcile.
We can only hope to have long enough years,
To share in the beauty of Chang (the moon) though we are a thousand miles apart.


Su Shi is believed to be alluding to the myth of Chang’e in this poem, where Chang’e ate (and overdosed) on the pill of immortality and found herself floating and ascending so high towards the heavenly realms that she ended up on the moon;
and resigned to her fate of spending eternity within the beautiful (but bone-chillingly cold) jade towers and mansions on the moon, alone and away from her lover in the mortal world.

This poem and its lines have in recent decades been more famously known as the lyrics to the massively-popular song, 但願人長久 (title taken from the 2nd-last line), with the melody composed by Liang Hong Zhi/梁弘誌 in 1983, and performed by the one and only, 鄧麗君/Teresa Teng.

Here is Teresa Teng singing the 1000-year-old lyrics by Su Shi, to the modern tune of “但願人長久/Wishing We Last Forever”, with the melody composer himself accompanying on the piano:

[This song was a perennial favourite amongst Mum’s music collection of LP records…I grew up hearing this tune, amongst others from those curious vinyl discs.]


5 thoughts on “Full Moon Parti-ng

  1. The lines of the old poem and the tune of the also-not-so-recent 1980s song, came to mind tonight, as I was trudging along on a familiar coastal path, with a large and brimming full moon staring balefully down at me, as I tried not to lose my footing on the slippery path and fall into the eastern seas.

    I like walking on full-moon nights. The cool-silver shine thrown upon everything, does indeed lend an otherworldly sheen to this mortal realm; and I was almost tempted to ‘dance and play in the cool-silvery shadows’…

    But while enjoying myself within mellow thoughts and tunes of full-moon partings, I began to hear unfamiliar and discordant sounds coming from the distance. The strange low thudding sounds got progressively louder and as I rounded a headland, I was blasted with the very loud stereophonic booms of dance music. The music was blasting away, not from land, but from the sea:
    from a large and sleek catamaran-yacht moored some ways off from the Changi Beach Club, with its trimmings lined not with sails but with bright gaudy disco lights and very loud music blasting away.

    Some well-heeled kids having a private full-moon party, offshore.

    I guess everybody reacts to the full moon differently…

  2. Another live version of the song. This time the Ice Queen, 王菲/Faye Wong, reprising Teresa Teng’s 但願人長久/Wish We Can Last Forever:-

    王菲 Faye Wong – 但願人長久 Wish We Can Last Forever (Live):

    And the same performance, but with subtitled lyrics in Japanese…Nice.

    王非 – 但愿人長久 (with Japanese lyrics):

    While Faye’s voice is slightly off during this performance, she is, as always, breath-takingly and coolly beautiful, and as regal as royalty…

  3. Hi TS,

    Yep… Teresa Teng’s early 80’s poem-songs album and her performances in period dresses. Perfect showcase of her glowing translucent beauty.

    And I really like this video where she gave short presentations on the backgrounds of the poets and their lyrical poems before she performed the songs.

    And in this other video here on the 独上西楼 poem-song by the tragic Tang emperor 李煜 Li Yu, she shared that she first learnt these old poems from her mother, like so many of us also did…

    And I love what she said about how in this album, she was collaborating with the finest lyricists, not just of this year or this decade, but literally of the last 1000 years !
    Su Dongpo and Li Yu, of course, were the masters of 詞/lyrical poetry; her songs are just the latest in a long line of music which these immortal lines have been set and sung to.

    Now trying to find if a complete video of her performances of this album is available…


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