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Moon Poems for the Moon Festival

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

China, Vietnam and many Americans who trace their heritage to those countries celebrate the annual Moon Festival today, Sept. 30. The holiday, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, dates back more than 3,000 years to China's Zhou Dynasty. 

The quintessential dessert of Moon Festival is shaped like the full moon, which symbolizes family reunion to the Chinese. 

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

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 resembles other Bay Area 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
Nostalgically

Editor's note: Crystal Tai is a regular contributor to Los Altos Patch and Palo Alto 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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