Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Woman In The Moon

China sent its first woman astronaut into space this week. The news prompted a source of mine, James Chan, to muse about a Tang dynasty poem that tells the myth of Chang'e, the goddess who lives on the moon.

The poem, by Li Shangyin, predicts the regret Chang’e must feel, for though she has gained the perfection of heaven, she no longer has love and companionship. The poem "strikes an unbearable melancholy and anguish in the heart of anyone who understands and values love and human companionship," James writes. (Pretty artsy stuff for a business consultant, but as a former English major, I'm with him all the way!)

Watch the YouTube video of James reciting the poem and remembering his own childhood growing up in Hong Kong, where his mother's longed to have the same opportunities as a man.

Here's the poem's literal translation:

On the screen made with mother-of-pearl, shadows of burning candles get deeper and deeper
The Milky Way (Long River in the sky) gradually descends with nightfall and the morning stars have sunk low.
Chang’e should regret having stolen the magical pill (of immortality)
Because, every night, facing the deep blue sea, an azure sky, her lonely heart yearns for her love.
"All Chinese people, with no exception, knows of the myth and the story. I hope my inadequate command of the English language could help you come up with a translation that gets into the hearts of all Americans. That would be lovely," James writes. No need for my help, James, your translation is beautiful, thank you.


  1. Wonderful poem and reading by James. I'm currently reading "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See. It gives a peek into the lives of Chinese women of an earlier era. They have come a very, very long way.

  2. I read See's On Gold Mountain, about her immigrant ancestors and their journey to California, it's great.