Episode 165: Bottled Moonlight

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Today I want to share a romantic story I adore. Not a love story. In my opinion it is a Romanticism story.

The story is from the book SongBeiLeiChao 宋稗类钞, a book from the Qing dynasty 清朝around 17th century, a collection of stories and anecdotes from the Song dynasty 宋朝, around 10th ~ 13th century.

The story says in the place GuiLin 桂林, there was a man Mr. Han 韩. He loved drinking and he knew some tricks from Taoism. One day, Mr. Han and two other people traveled to another place. They stayed in a Buddhism temple in the suburb for the night. Mr. Han carried a basket and walked out of the room. He stood in the yard and it seemed like he was using a wooden ladle to obtain something in the air and put it into the basket. The other people were curious and asked, “what are you doing?”

Mr. Han replied, “it is such a nice night with beautiful moon. I am collecting the moonlight just in case in the future we can use it if it was cloudy or rainy at night.” The other two people laughed and thought he was joking.

The next few days, they were still on the trip. One day, their boat arrived at the place ShaoPing 邵平. They sat in the pavilion in the middle of the lake at night tasting food and wine. Not too long, wind started to blow, candles couldn’t be lit. It was cloudy at night and nobody could see anything. Everyone was upset that the weather ruined their party.



Mr. Han got his basket. He poured something with his ladle in the air, a splash of bright light appeared in the pavilion. He poured ten times, it was as bright as a bright moon night in the fall. Everyone was amazed and drank wine until late at night. Mr. Han used the ladle to collect back the moonlight into his basket. The night went back to silent darkness.

The reason I share this story was the other night Eric looking at light bulbs and asked me, “electricity is weird. It is originated the energy from the Sun” The light bulbs are basically small suns that brightened the night. It is interesting that how pragmatism sometimes is related to Romanticism.

The story also reminds me of an ancient Chinese article called Qian ChiBiFu 前赤壁赋 by the author Su Shi 苏轼 from the Song dynasty, the same dynasty when this story is set. Su Shi was a famous Chinese writer, poet, painter and calligrapher between the year 1037 ~ 1101. The article is a classic in Chinese literature. I want to share a small part from it with you. 且夫天地之间, 物各有主, 苟非吾之所有, 虽一毫而莫取。惟江上之清风与山间之明月。 耳得之而为声, 目遇之而成色。取之无禁, 用之不竭, 是造物者之无尽藏也, 而吾与子之所共适。It means, in this universe, everything has its rightful owner. If something does not belong to you, then you shall not even have a bit of it. However, the fresh breeze over the rivers and the bright moon above the mountains are exceptions. If you can hear it, it is a sound to you. If you can see it, it is a view to you. It never ends and is never exhausted. It is the infinite treasure that nature has for both of us to enjoy.



宋稗类钞 SongBeiLeiChao

前赤壁赋 Qian ChiBiFu

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