Li Bai's poem "A Quiet Night Thought" is often learned by schoolchildren in Hong Kong.
Ray Lee, who grew up in Hong Kong, wrote, "It is a very common poem. I can still recite it by heart."
Quiet Night Thought
Mid-Autumn Festival Poem
Mid-Autumn Festival Poem
Moonlight in front of the bed,
Perhaps frost on the ground.
I look up at the bright moon
I look down and think of my hometown.
See the image of the phonetic transcription of Chinese text (using the Jyutping romanization system) lower down on this page.
Written by Li Bai 李白 (701 – 762), who is also known as Li Bo. He was a prominent poet in the Tang dynasty. He was born in Suyab, which is now in Kyrgyzstan. Ray Lee mentioned that Li Bai is a very well-known poet.
I asked Ray Lee if the poem rhymes since it was written in the 700's and there are many Chinese languages which use the same exact writing system. So people speaking different Chinese languages can all read the same poem but it might not necessarily rhyme in every Chinese language. Ray wrote, "It does rhyme in Cantonese."
This brings up the interesting question of which Chinese language Li Bai wrote in. I found two different answers.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Li Bai wrote in Classical Chinese, which was mainly a literary language (see explanation at link).
According to someone on Quora, he wrote in Middle Chinese which was spoken during the time of the Tang Dynasty.
I'm assuming the Encyclopedia Britannica has the answer right, but we welcome more discussion on this point, if anyone has more knowledge on the subject please email me. -Mama Lisa
In the poem, the author is far from home. "In a mere 20 words, the poem uses the vivid moonlight and frost imagery to convey the feeling of homesickness." -Wikipedia
According to this site: "Li Bai's 'Silent Night Thoughts' was created in the Yangzhou Hostel on September 15th in the 14th year of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang Dynasty (726) when Li Bai was 26 years old."
According to some sites, the poem was written at the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival in which family get togethers are very important. That could have added to the sense of homesickness in the poem. I asked Ray Lee if he associates the poem with the Mid-Autumn Festival and he said no he doesn't.
Listen below to this poem recited in Cantonese ...
Many thanks to Ray Lee for recording this poem for us!
Thanks and Acknowledgements
Translation by Lisa Yannucci. Thanks to Ray Lee for checking the translation and for commenting on the poem!
Source of 1st Image Unknown - If anyone has any info on the painting, please email me. Thanks! -Mama Lisa
Image of Phonetic Transcription comes from EasyPronunciation.com.