Su Shi on a Mid Autumn Night

Cosway Mooncakes

Cosway Mooncake

I am a banana. By that I don’t mean that I am B1 or B2 but rather that I am yellow on the outside and white on the inside. By this I mean that I do not read or write in Chinese, not in any significantly useful amounts anyway. I can write my own name (sort of) and a couple of simple words. About the level of a typical 3 year old in China I reckon. So what I thought I’d do today is to talk about Chinese Poetry.

Oh God! Not them again.

Strange? Not really. All the information can be had by using the Great Library of our time, the Internet and its librarian, Google. From there I was able to learn more about Chinese Poetry and in particular Su Shi. Su Shi was a famous poet during the Song Dynasty around a millennia ago in China. In fact, he was more than a poet, he was an artist, calligrapher, pharmacologist and a statesman. However he was not a very good politician in my opinion as his clashes with other political factions had caused him to be exiled not once but twice in his lifetime!

Some good did come out of this because it was during the first of the two exiles that he wrote his best poetry. Three of his most notable works in poetry includes two that were about the Battle of Chibi. Yes. The Red Cliff. The same topic as the movie of the same name!

Zhuge Liang Vs Cao Cao Round 1 Fight!

The third is the poem is called Shui Diao Ge Tou (水调歌头), literally Water Tune Song Head, which is is the name of a traditional Chinese melody to which a poem in the cí style can be sung. The actual one that Su Shi wrote is called Bing-Chen Zhong Qiu (Bing-Chen Mid-Autumn).

Shui Diao Ge Tou
–By Su Shi (Su Dongpo)

Will a moon so bright ever arise again?
Drink a cupful of wine and ask of the sky.
I don’t know where the palace gate of heaven is,
Or even the year in which tonight slips by.
I want to return riding the whirl-wind! But I
Feel afraid that this heaven of jasper and jade
Lets in the cold, its palaces rear so high.
I shall get up and dance with my own shadow.
From life endured among men how far a cry!

Round the red pavilion
Slanting through the lattices
Onto every wakeful eye,
Moon, why should you bear a grudge, O why
Insist in time of separation on filling the sky?
Men know joy and sorrow, parting and reunion;
The moon lacks lustre, brightly shines; is all, is less.
Perfection was never easily come by.
Though miles apart, could men but live for ever
Dreaming they shared this moonlight endlessly!
Tr. A. Ayling & D. Mackintosh

水调歌头
苏东坡(北宋)

明月几时有?把酒问青天。
不知天上宫阙,今夕是何年?
我欲乘风归去,
又恐琼楼玉宇,高处不胜寒。
起舞弄清影,何似在人间?

转朱阁,低绮户,照无眠。
不应有恨,何事长向别时圆?
人有悲欢离合,月有阴晴圆缺,此事古难全。
但愿人长久,千里共婵娟。

Míng Yuè jǐshí yǒu .. hic

If you haven’t gathered from the title, he wrote this during the Mid-Autumn Festival and apparently he was drunk while writing it! I can just imagine him sitting outside, gazing at the moon while having a sip of good Chinese wine. Drinking does make a person get the munchies. So it stands to reason that he would be munching on mooncakes.

Yes mooncakes! Those lovely pastry filled will sweet delicious fillings. It is definitely a must during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Nowadays you get like tons of different fillings with tons of different flavoured skins. A good mooncake is so sort after that the stock will run out before the demand ever would. As a matter of fact, I had to beg a friend of mine (who happened to be a stockist that have ran out of his stock) to help look for a measly box from others. Thank goodness he did find it. Thanks Benny!

So what is this best selling mooncake you ask? Believe it or not, it is from Cosway. Yes the Multi Level Marketing Company. You can get them at any Cosway store (which is everywhere) but I will recommend the one at Hui Sing as it is Benny’s store!


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I was introduced to them a decade ago and I was instantly hooked! I always try to get them each year but my procrastinating self always put a spanner in it. This year I made it a point to get them early but apparently it wasn’t early enough. Anyway, the reason why it is so delicious is because it is actually not too sweet. A lot of mooncakes are designed to turn you into a diabetic after consuming a box of them. Maybe the sugars will get the kids addicted. I don’t know. What I do know is the ones from Cosway are in the Goldilocks zone. Not too sweet. Not too plain. Just nice.

Just for the record, I bought 2 Pandan Lotus with Salted Egg Yolk, 1 Glutinous Rice Yam and 1 R. Yeast with Sweet Potato. Hey I didn’t have any choice. Beggars can’t be choosers. I wouldn’t have chose the latter two if I had others to choose from but on the bright side I wouldn’t have tasted those two surprisingly good mooncakes! All of them were good. The latter two actually had faux yolks made out of what I guessed to be Yam and Sweet Potato. It is easy being a detective when you have the bill!

So next year, please go get yourself a box of these mooncakes and like Su Shi a thousand years ago, enjoy it with an alcoholic beverage of your choice or even a non-alcoholic beverage. But since I doubt most of us can write Chinese Poetry like he did, we can settle for the next best thing, listening to his words sung by another legend, Theresa Teng.


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