During the An Lushan rebellion, the Emperor had fled the capital of Chang'an which had fallen to the rebels. Du Fu was away at the time and took his wife and children (the oldest of them maybe 5 years old) to safety at Fūzhōu, in present day Fùxiàn, about 140 miles north of Chang'an on the river Luo. Du Fu then headed for the frontier town of Lingwu to join the new court. But he was intercepted by the rebels and taken to Chang'an, and imprisoned. There, he wrote this poem.
On a Moonlit Night while Imprisoned in Chang'an
By Du Fu
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click here to hear me recite the original in Modern Chinese pronunciation
Click here to hear me recite it in my reconstruction of what Medieval Chinese sounded like
Tonight this same moon rises on Fuzhou
where she, alone, will watch it with me gone.
My heart here races for our children there
too young to learn what she knows of Chang'an1
In fragrant mist, her cloud-coiffed hair is dewed.
In the chill light, her jade-white shoulders swoon.
When shall we lean together by one window
drying our tear-scarred cheeks by one bright moon?
1: i.e. that Du Fu is being held there.
The Original, transcriptions:
|Han Characters |
|Middle Chinese |
kem3x yà3 phuo3c tsyou3b ngwat3a
kwei4 trung3b tsyí3b duk1b khan1
yau3 lan4 sáu3 nyi3b núo3b
mì3a ghèi2a ek3 drang3 an1
hang3 mùo 3c wen3a ghwan2a syep3
tsheing3b hwi3a nguk3c pì3by ghan1
ghe1 dzyi3d í3bx huo3b ghwáng1
srong2 tsyàu3 lwì3c ghen1 kan1
|Modern Chinese |
Jīnyè fūzhōu yuè
Guī zhōng zhǐ dú kān
Yáo lián xiǎo ér nǚ
Wèi xiè1 yì cháng'ān
Xiāng wù yún huán shī
Qīng huī yù bì hán
hé shí yǐ xū huǎng
shuāng zhào lèi hén gān
1- the normal reading of this character in modern Chinese (as well as most recitations I would imagine) is jiě. A traditional literary reading of this character, when it means "understand," would be the more etymologically consistent xiè which is what I went with.