Chinese poem — 静夜思 (jìngyè sī) Nostalgia

One of the most famous, classical and beautiful poems in Chinese was written in the Tang dynasty by the poet Li Bai. Like many famous poems in Chinese this one has been translated into English by a number of people into a number of translations. However, like any aspiring Chinese student I too want to take a stab at getting a picture perfect, accurate translation:

床前明月光,
疑是地上霜,
举头望明月,
低头思故乡.

Chuáng qián míng yuè guāng,
yí shì dì shàng shuāng,
jǔ tóu wàng míng yuè,
dī tóu sī gù xiāng.

Here is my proposed translation below:

Moonlight beams before the bed,
Suspected frost on the ground, 
Raised head — beholds the bright moon, 
Lowered head — Nostalgic for hometown.

Funnily enough my translation  also has a rhyme (ground and hometown) — the original poem has a rhyming scheme of A A B A.

This is a beautiful poem that depicts the writer far away from home — probably working. Written out in a more coherent story it is that in the deep of the night he is awake and sees the bright moonlight beaming in front of his bed. It’s clearly very cold as he says he suspects frost has fallen on the ground. He raises his head looking up towards the bright moon, lowering it again missing his homeland.

Many young children in China memorise this poem as part of their curriculum. It is considered an iconic poem in Chinese history. The imagery and succinctness of this poem are also very well written.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *