The Flower that Understands My Words 1

Zhou, Bang-yan (1056 A.D.-1121 A.D.)

    The flames of candles waver in the wind. The dew moistens colored lanterns. The lantern lights in the city reflect one another. The moonlight shines on the ceramic shingles. The light clouds disperse. Crystal-like Chang-e 2 is about to descend. Her clothing is simple yet elegant. Her waist is slender like that of a southern girl. Flutes and drums are clamorous. Human shadows are random and everywhere. The smell of musk drifts down the entire street.

    This parade reminds me of the Lantern Festival at the capital. During that night the curfew was lifted. Seen from a tower, a thousand doors were lit like day. Everyone came out from their house and celebrated. Noble women carried silk handkerchiefs and rode in carriages ornamented with gold flowers. After the people said their farewells, dust arose like smoke and followed the horses. The Lantern Festival is the brightest festival of the year. However, I no longer have the enthusiasm I had as a young man. Time goes fast. After I ride my swift carriage back, all the singing and dancing come to an end.

1 During the Mid-autumn Festival, the white lotuses bloomed luxuriantly in Emperor Xuan’s Tai-yi Pool. The emperor held a party by the pool to admire the beauty of the flowers. All his officials praised the flowers greatly. Emperor Xuan pointed to his favorite concubine, Tai-zhen Yang, and asked, "Can they compete with this flower that understands my words?" The Royal Music School composed a melody for this story and named it "The Flower that Understands My Words". Here "flower" refers to lantern lights and women in general. This poem about the Lantern Festival was written while Zhou lived in the southern part of the State of Jing.

2 According to Chinese mythology, Chang-E was the wife of an archer, Yi, during Emperor Yao's reign. Yi was humble and honest when he was young. It was very hot at that time because the sky had ten suns. Yi helped people shoot down nine of them. After accomplishing this great feat, he became proud and evil. Later, he went to the Mother of the Heavens to acquire the elixir of life. Chang-E would not allow an evil person to live forever, so she stole the elixir and swallowed it. Then she flew to the moon and lived there forever.