Thursday, October 07, 2010

正月春联八月灯 – eighth moon lantern

The autumn equinox day - 秋分–qiu fen – fell on 23Sep, a day after the Mid Autumn Festival – 中秋节。

Just as 春分 – chun fen - heralds the start of Spring - 秋分–autumn equinox marks the start of autumn. In the Chinese Lunar Calendar – the major festival to celebrate autumn equinox is the Mid-Autumn Festival.

(Similarly 春分- chun fen - spring equinox day is celebrated with the Lunar New Year)

Synonymous with the Mid-Autumn Festival is moon cakes and lantern, so much so that this festival is more popularly known as the Moon-cake Festival or the Lantern Festival.

When the Moon-cake Festival - 月饼节 - yuebing jie - is written in Chinese – how very - 俗 – su – coarse, crude and uncultured it rendered this festival. It is the most understatement and injustice to the celebration of the of autumn.

Well, to the many of us English educated and the anglicized – does it matter?

This is what Mid-Autumn festival is, namely moon-cakes and lantern, or at most the story of Chang-er floating to the moon after taking the elixir pill.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is more that just the many increasing varieties of moon-cakes that meet the eyes, and where the packaging cost seems more expensive than the cost of the moon-cake ingredients itself.

However, there is more to the Mid-Autumn Festival than just moon-cakes!

While listening to Capital FM95.8 (Chinese language channel) - over the Mid-Autumn Festival, it presented a facet of the festival that was much more refined and elegant that what the taste buds brought. The moon was serenaded in this season with music, songs and poems. It was of poems composed by poets more than a millennia ago, and the many beautiful pieces of Moonlight Sonatas of the orient, with - 月满西楼 –yue man xilou - Moon over West Pavilion - being one of the evergreens – and a must listen during the Mid-Autumn Festival season .

Further more, living in the tropics with the bright city lights does not do justice to celebrating the autumn moon. One would never be able to feel the gradual change in weather and enjoy the cool lightness of a moon-light autumn night where the hot sultry summer has given way to. Or witness the visual feast of autumn colors rendered by nature.

Perhaps the title – 正月春联八月灯 – is a manifestation of a yearning for this poetic side of autumn. Never mind it being amateurish, but it is an earnest attempt – to learn composing poems in the old style – the style that reached its celebrated height during the Tang Dynasty (618- 960 CE) – with what little self-tutored Chinese.

In the mood of being creative - the left over spring couplet –春联- chunlian - two lengths of red paper printed with gold motif and brush writing - were used to make two lanterns created out of the twigs of palm leaves

As such:

正月春联八月灯 – zhengyue chunlian bayue deng – literary means - First Moon spring couplet Eight Moon lantern.

That is - the spring couplet written in the First Lunar Moon was used to make lantern for the Eight Lunar Moon.

Being made of palm twigs the lantern looks distorted. However it’s a very green tropical autumn lantern – with no carbon footprint ...…..

Well, so much for the atumn lantern, a belated Mid-Autumn Festival greeting - from a millennia year old quote dating back to the Song Dynasty - 宋朝 (960-1279CE):

- danyuan ren changjiu, qianli gong chanjuan -

Wishing you long life, and though separated by a thousand li, together let’s enjoy the moon.


1. 水调歌头 – Poem by Su-Dongpo 苏东坡 (1037-1101CE)

2. 但願人長久 (詞牌-水調歌頭) - Wishing we last forever
Song sung by Teresa Teng ( 邓丽君) & the lyrics is the poem by Su Dongpo.

3. 月满西楼 –yue man xilou - Moon over the west Pavilion

One of the favorites – by Liu Jiachang- 刘家昌,
a very talented Taiwanese singer-song-writer of the 1970/s fame