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      • On Chao's Book Out of Chaos 2015-3-27 13:48

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      • Moon Poems 2014-9-7 15:44

        by   Ge Tian   

            Chinese poets show special preference for the theme of the moon all the time. In both classical Chinese poetry and modern Chinese poetry, there are numerous lines about the moon. In these lines, the image of the moon or the moonlight always plays a role of the environmental setting, which brings a sense of clearness or chill to readers. However, Chao, who is also a Chinese poet, breaks the routine. In his poems, the moon or the moonlight becomes the main part, instead of just being the background. He endows the moon with some special meanings, which make it an active participant in his poems.

            As a Chinese poet who writes a lot of poems in English, he attracts attentions from many well-known writers and critics. One of them, Nicholas Jose, a famous Australian in this field, has made such comment on Chao’s works in Australian Book Review. “Chao's poetry brings a Chinese sense of extension in time, down the generations and through history, into the Australian context.”This commentary exactly tells the feeling which is brought by Chao’s poems about the moon. The image of the moon and its cultural values related are just the“Chinese sense of extension in time, down the generations and through history”. And this sense is brought to foreign contexts through the use of English language, the creative arrangement of the moon’s role and the combination of Chinese cultural and Christian elements.

            The Moon Festival is one of Chao’s poems that impresses me deeply:

        The stone rejected by builders
        shines fully in the heavens,
        bringing a nation into unity
        in the form of a family.

        It goes without any doubt that the moon here is not simply a part of a set but the one who makes the movement “bring”. It helps make family reunion on the Mid-autumn festival. And the poet also tells us the reason that the moon has this magic power, that is, it is the “stone rejected by builders”. This definition of the stone is from Acts4:11: This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which has become the head of the corner. According to Acts4:10-12, the stone rejected by builders was Jesus Christ by whose name we are saved, because no other name under Heaven was given among men. In the poem, the moon is compared to the stone rejected by builders, which can save others. Therefore, it has the power to reunite families. In these four lines, combining Chinese culture values of family reunion with an allusion to the Bible, the poet Chao shapes the moon as a kind helper. His creative work makes an object which was far away from us before enter into our lives, just like transforming an intangible dream into something that can be touched and felt.

            There is another poem with the same title The Moon Festival  in Chao’s poetry. I do not know if it is a compilation error but I guess that it is a poem written by the poet in another festival:

        The Moon Festival

        A desolate planet
        is a longing land for tonight
        in the possession of light.

        Diasporas of the earth
        gaze upwards--
        when shall we meet up there
        to repose our heads?

        In this poem, the moon is a longing land, instead of a helper. It is desired by the people, the diasporas on the earth. In Christianity,the diasporas are the Jewish people scattered away from Jerusalem. They are punished by God because they abandoned the words of the covenant of the LORD. Like this, the moon in this poem stands for the hometown of people on earth and the birthplace of Christian faith. It also presents the homesick psychology of Chinese people who cannot return home onthe festival for reunion. In two poems with the same title under the same theme, the poet gives the two moons different meanings and shows different feelings—happiness of reunion and homesickness, respectively.

            In the poems about the moon written in Chinese by Chao, there also exist the cultural elements of his Biblical knowledge. For example, the poem《月亮像一位先知》(The Moon is Like a Prophet) is one of them. The poet uses a simile this time. The poem suggests that the moon is like a prophet, who supervises mortals and nurtures them with the food and the water mentioned in Exodus. On the other hand, humans in this poem are like Saul. There is not a special Chinese cultural image in this poem. However, the contents expressed in Chinese are also a kind of combination of the two cultures. Anyway, the Biblical allusions, such as Noah’s Ark, the Lamb and mount Zion, have often appeared in his poems like 《月圆之梦》 (The Dream of a Full-moon Night) and 《中秋之梦》(The Dream of the Mid-autumn).

            To conclude, different from other Chinese poets, Chao does not use the image of the moon as mere scenery for poems. He endows the moon with special cultural meanings, especially Christian meanings, to make the moon possess real implications. At the same time, these poems somehow show and form certain Chinese cultural values. Therefore, Chao’s poems are representatives of culture fusion. They interpret Chinese culture through Christian conceptions and introduce these religious ideas to Chinese literary world.

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