Du Fu: On a Moonlit Night while Imprisoned in Chang'an (From Chinese)

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 8th century Chang'anese pronunciation sounded like

Tonight the moon shines also on Fuzhou    
  There she alone  watches it with me gone   
I am moved here  to think of our children there     
  they do not know yet what she knows of Chang'an1 
Her cloud-like hair in fragrant mist is damp   
  Her jade-white arms  in the chill glow — alone   
When shall we lean together at the one window 
  to dry our cheeks' tear-trails by one bright moon?   

1: i.e. that Du Fu is being held there.

The Original:

(Medieval Chinese transcribed using a slight modification of David Branner's system)

Han Characters 


Medieval Chinese 

ngwat3a yà3
dúo1 púo3c

kem3x yà3 phuo3c tsyou3b ngwat3a
kwei4 trung3b tsyí3b duk1b khan1
yau3 lan4 sáu3 nyi3b núo3b
3a 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  

Yuè yè  
Dù Fǔ  

Jīnyè fūzhōu yuè  
Guī zhōng zhǐ dú kān  
Yáo lián xiǎo ér nǚ  
Wèi xiè yì cháng'ān  
Xiāng wù yún huán shī  
Qīng huī yù bì hán  
hé shí yǐ xū huǎng  
shuāng zhào lèi hén gān  

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