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Night Mooring at the Maple Bridge 1

Zhang, Ji 2 (fl. 740-780 CE)
The moon set, ravens crowed,
And the frost swept all over the sky.
Facing the red maple trees and fishermen's fires along the river,
I was inflamed with worry 3 and could not sleep.
Bell tolls 4 from Han-shan Temple 5 outside Gu-su City 6
Reached our passenger boat at midnight.


1 The Maple Bridge was located in the Feng-qiao Borough, outside Chang Gate of Su-zhou City. The bridge is six miles from downtown Su-zhou City. One may visit
to learn how this poem is sung by local musicians. In this video, a man and a woman sing in a local dialect. After every half line the man sings, the woman repeats his words with a different tune. For the last half line in a stanza, they sing together. Their song is full of local flavor. This video is a good example of how we should popularize poetry: How do we add accompanying background music to make a poem more interesting and more closely related to our daily lives?

2 Yi-sun was Ji Zhang
's alternate first name. His ancestral home was in Xiang-zhou City (present day Xiang-yang City in Hubei Province). His family was an eminent clan in Nan-yang City (in present day Henan Province). He passed the Advanced Exam during the Tian-bao Period. He was the minister overseeing sacrificial rites and then a judge in charge of the affairs concerning salt and iron in Hong-zhou City. Most of his poems were his travel notes written in a simple style. Zhong-wu Gao said, "Ji Zhang was from a family that produced poets generations after generations. He clearly inherited the talents of his ancestors. His poems are simple and natural without ornamentation. They give readers a lingering appeal as though they were written by a philosopher. His description of an event is concise but thorough; his analysis is to the point."

3 "Worry" is often explained as the feeling of homesickness. It can also refer to the various problems of life in general.

4 In Zen philosophy, a sudden beautiful thing, such as the tolling of a bell, is known to bring inspiration or epiphany.

5 Han-shan Temple was located one mile west of the Maple Bridge. The temple was first built during the Southern Liang dynasty. Poet Monks Han-shan and Shi-de lived here. This was how the temple gained its name. It was destroyed by the flames of war many times. The current temple was rebuilt at the end of the Qing dynasty.

6 Gu-su City is another name for Su-zhou City. The city was so named because Gu-su Mountain was located southwest of Su-zhou City.