Quiet Night Thoughts
Before my bed, the moon is shining bright,
I think that it is frost on the ground.
I raise my head and look at the bright moon,
I lower my head and think of home.
My first Chinese holiday was this. I didn’t understand it at all. We all (students, teachers, everyone) sat at long tables outside on the “playground” which was really a big track encircling a soccer field. Kids carried round red lanterns. We ate moon cakes and pomelos, neither of which I had eaten before. My students asked me, “Teacher, are you missing home?” I had been in Guangzhou for two weeks. I was missing the mountains of Colorado, but nothing else (as of then).
It is a poem to homesickness and longing. Li Bai had been sent to the frontier, far away from friends and his family. As he looked at the moon, he knew his friends and family back home were looking at it, too, so they were not so far apart after all.
This is the most famous poem in Chinese, written by China’s most loved poet. Li Bai lived 1300 years ago. I have a little statue of him sitting on a shelf. He watches me write, and he has watched me for more than 30 years.