“Dating the Moon Through Music”
Two weeks ago, days before the approaching Mid-Autumn Festival, the full moon rising above, I go to the CityU Circle and drown myself into the ethereal Chinese Orchestra Concert. The moon (月) possesses various meanings in Chinese culture and enjoys an extraordinary status in the hearts of Chinese. The moon, as well as the orchestra itself, teaches me a vivid lesson of the diversity and spiritual essence underlying the traditional Chinese culture.
The musical ensemble of Erhus strikes me most and engages me into a wonderland where nomads of northern China race horses over the great prairie in the Plateau of Inner-Mongolia. Erhus, nomads, grasslands reveal the diversity and whisper to me. Long ago, the ancient Chinese imported the portable Erhu from nomads and those skillful riders played the violin-like instruments on the backs of horses.
Now at the concert, the young musicians fiddle these bizarre violins, with horse heads and python skins covering eight-sided sound boxes. Deftly and dexterously, the musicians weave the hair of the bow between the strings while their wrists sway like swans twisting their elegant necks. Brisk tunes portray the scene of those minorities racing horses against each other during the celebration.
The music pulls me into my imagination where I travel over prairies and see young men and ladies riding their horses under the blue, blue sky with white, white clouds, flowing and chasing other clouds like the men chasing their future brides. At times, the riders make their mounts speed up, leaving the girls behind and letting them chase after, and sometimes the men slow to ride side by side. The youths laugh and smile at their beloveds with deep affection, dipped into love and happiness.
Now, having enjoyed the tune, my mind fills with numerous items: Erhu, Inner-Mongolia plateau, prairie, vigorous be-borne riders. I realize my country stands as a nation with diverse cultures for various kinds of civilizations incorporated, just like the one in Mongolia.
Apart from the piece of music performed by the Erhus, other songs in the concert also sound delicate; yet one thing really moves me. And that is the moon. After the performance I go out to the CityU Circle, raising my head and seeing the mostly full moon in the lonely dark dome of the sky above.
In Chinese traditional culture the full moon in Mid-Autumn represents unification and perfection, which means the family, and no matter how far the members travel away from home, will one day come together so that they can be as perfect as the moon. Yet I, an exile staying in this region, distant from my Beijing, cannot get together with the people I love and who love me. I am not full nor am I perfect. Not yet. When I was a child I could not perceive in Chinese civilization why people far from home acted sentimental and missed their families. But now I gradually understand the emotion and meaning inside the moon.
From this experience with the music and moon, I am for the first time aware of my culture and its diversity. As the music fades into memory and I leave the Chinese Orchestra Concert, I recall the famous poet Su Shi, who over a thousand years ago, expressed in an ancient poem, “The moon may be dim or bright, round or crescent shaped. This imperfection has been going on since the beginning of time. May we all be blessed with longevity, though thousands of miles apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together.” Eventually, and one day for sure, I will reunite with my family.
CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), and a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU. He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; A Time to Forget in East Berlin; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can also follow the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 390,000+ followers