Text, Performance, and Gender in Chinese Literature and Music: Essays in Honor of Wilt Idema 9004179062, 9789004179066

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Text, Performance, and Gender in Chinese Literature and Music: Essays in Honor of Wilt Idema
 9004179062, 9789004179066

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Text, Performance, and Gender in Chinese Literature and Music Essays in Honor of Wilt Idema

Sinica Leidensia Edited by

Barend J. ter Haar Maghiel van Crevel In co-operation with

P.K. Bol, D.R. Knechtges, E.S. Rawski, W.L. Idema, H.T. Zurndorfer


Text, Performance, and Gender in Chinese Literature and Music Essays in Honor of Wilt Idema Edited by

Maghiel van Crevel Tian Yuan Tan Michel Hockx


Front cover: “Da xu” 大序 (Great Preface), Qinding Shijing zhuanshuo huizuan 欽定詩經傳説彙纂 (Imperial Edition of the Book of Songs with Collected Explanations), ed. Wang Hongxu 王鴻緒 et al., 24 juan, preface 1727, printed before 1865, Leiden University Sinological Library (Sinol. KNAG 9). Back cover: Wilt Idema in 2007 (photograph by Mylène Siegers). This book is printed on acid-free paper. Text, performance, and gender in Chinese literature and music : essays in honor of Wilt Idema / edited by Maghiel van Crevel, Tian Yuan Tan, Michel Hockx.    p. cm. — (Sinica Leidensia, ISSN 0169-9563 ; v. 92)   Includes bibliographical references and index.   ISBN 978-90-04-17906-6 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. Chinese literature—History and criticism. 2. China—In literature. 3. Music—China— History and criticism. 4. Idema, W. L. (Wilt L.) I. Idema, W. L. (Wilt L.) II. Crevel, Maghiel van. III. Tan, Tian Yuan. IV. Hockx, Michel.   PL2265.T45 2009   895.1’09—dc22 2009028999

ISSN 0169-9563 ISBN 978 90 04 17906 6 Copyright 2009 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Hotei Publishing, IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change. printed in the netherlands



CONTENTS Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   ix List of Illustrations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   xi Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    1 A Poetic Narrative of Change: Du Fu’s Poetic Sequence “Going Out the Passes: First Series” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    7   Stephen Owen Autobiographical Features in Bai Juyi’s “Biography of the Maestro of Mellow Versification” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    23   Victor H. Mair and Rostislav Berezkin Luo Binwang’s Defense of a Jilted Lady: “Amorous Feelings: On Behalf of Miss Guo Sent to Lu Zhaolin” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    45   David R. Knechtges The Fall of Former Shu in 925: An Eyewitness Account . . . . . . .    59   Glen Dudbridge The Elder of the Eastern Hall Reforms a Prodigal Son: A Play by Qin Jianfu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    83   Robert E. Hegel Time Management and Self-Control: Self-Help Guides in Yuan .  113   Stephen H. West Rethinking Li Kaixian’s Editorship of Revised Plays by Yuan Masters: A Comparison with His Banter about Lyrics . . . . . . . . .   139   Tian Yuan Tan Singing in Place of Screaming: Subversion As Satire in Late Imperial China . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   153   Kimberly Besio



The Shape of Things: Locating the Self in Xu Wei’s Zen Master Yu Has a Voluptuous Dream . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   175   Shiamin Kwa Passion and Chastity: Meng Chengshun and the Fall of the Ming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   193   Katherine Carlitz The Representation of Sovereignty in Chinese Vernacular Fiction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   211   Xiaofei Tian Music and Dramatic Lyricism in Hong Sheng’s Palace of Eternal Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   233   Ayling Wang Between Performance, Manuscript, and Print: Imagining the Musical Text in Seventeenth-Century Plays and Songbooks . . .   263   Judith T. Zeitlin Guangdong’s Talented Women of the Eighteenth Century . . . .   293   Ellen Widmer Unorthodox Female Figures in Zhu Suxian’s Linked Rings of Jade . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   311   Siao-chen Hu The Poetess and the Precept Master: A Selection of Daoist Poems by Gu Taiqing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   325   Beata Grant In Search of a Genuine Chinese Sound: Jiang Wenye and Modern Chinese Music . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   341   David Der-wei Wang The Guo Guan Ritual Shadow Play of Huanxian . . . . . . . . . . . . .   361   Frank Kouwenhoven and Antoinet Schimmelpenninck



Rejective Poetry? Sound and Sense in Yi Sha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   389   Maghiel van Crevel Master of the Web: Chen Cun and the Continuous Avant-Garde .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   413   Michel Hockx Wilt Idema: A Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   431 Notes on Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   453 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   459





ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We thank Koos Kuiper, for locating a beautiful source text for the front cover illustration; Eveline Idema, for providing the early portrait of Wilt in the Introduction; Marc de Haan and Mylène Siegers, for providing the 1990s and 2007 portraits printed in the Introduction and on the back cover, respectively, and for making their work available at a very reasonable price; Hanno Lecher and DACHS Leiden, for setting up an online citation repository; and the contributors most of all, for their enthusiasm for this project and the quality of their work.






Wilt Idema in the early 1970s . . . . . . . . . . . .   2 Wilt Idema in the early 1990s . . . . . . . . . . . .   4

Stephen H. West

“Chart for Making the Most of Your Days”. 132

Judith T. Zeitlin

A song suite by Liang Chenyu. . . . . . . . . . . . 275 An aria by Hong Sheng. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 276

Maghiel van Crevel Script and notes on Yi Sha’s recitation of “St-stutter”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 396





INTRODUCTION The twenty essays in this book provide new insights into Chinese literature and music from the Tang dynasty to the present. The authors are scholars who have worked closely with Wilt Idema during his tenure as Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at Leiden University (1974–1999) and Professor of Chinese Literature at Harvard University (since 1999), and wish to honor him on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday. Paying tribute to Idema’s achievements as a scholar and translator of premodern Chinese drama, fiction, poetry, and prose, this book bears witness to the huge advances that the study of Chinese culture has made since the 1970s, when he started his academic career. The sheer volume of primary sources now available in print and in searchable online formats has enabled research on an ever wider range of Chinese texts and topics from antiquity to the present. In addition, the study of modern Chinese culture has been greatly enriched by increasing opportunities for fieldwork in the broadest sense, and for international cooperation. At the same time, shifting cultural hierarchies and changing intellectual paradigms have drawn attention to hitherto understudied texts, genres, authors and audiences, a case in point being the study of oral, vernacular, and performance literature, especially of the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Idema’s contributions have been instrumental in establishing these fields firmly in Western sinology. Performance and music, and their interaction with textual work, come to the fore as shared areas of interest for many of our contributors. The study of writing, performance, and music by Chinese women prior to the twentieth century was virtually non-existent forty years ago. Arguably, it is in this field that the most spectacular developments have taken place in recent decades, in terms both of the discovery and publication of previously unknown or ignored texts and artifacts, and of new methods and theories for studying these materials and assessing their cultural and intellectual significance. Idema’s work has made major contributions to this enterprise, and a significant number of essays in this volume take as their topic women’s literary and artistic



Wilt Idema in the early 1970s (photographer unknown).



culture of the Ming and Qing periods, which we now understand to have been particularly rich and thriving. The increased availability of source texts, radical changes to the canon and growing demand for Chinese literature courses for students without knowledge of the Chinese language have increased the need for accurate, readable and helpfully annotated translations of Chinese texts. In much of his work, Idema masterfully integrates translation with cultural-historical contextualization, in what over the years has become a uniquely recognizable style. Many of his colleagues share his passion for translation as fundamental to scholarship, and as a particularly enduring type of academic community service to a wide range of readers. Accordingly, the present volume includes first-time English translations of several fascinating texts. The essays are in roughly chronological order, and related topics have been grouped together where possible. Chapters 1 and 2 are on the great Tang-dynasty poets Du Fu and Bai Juyi. Stephen Owen translates and discusses a remarkable poem sequence by Du Fu, featuring the psychological development of a single soldier-protagonist over time, presented in a manner that is unique in Chinese poetic history. Victor Mair and Rostislav Berezkin provide a translation and an in-depth analysis of Bai Juyi’s “Biography of the Maestro of Mellow Versification,” pointing out how Bai plays with genre conventions in autobiography, and how “Biography” has contributed to the establishment of his public persona. In chapter 3, David Knechtges addresses the position of women in premodern Chinese society by presenting an annotated translation of a Tang-dynasty poem by Luo Binwang, in which the speaker comes to the defense of a “jilted lady.” In chapter 4, Glen Dudbridge introduces and translates an eyewitness account of the Fall of Former Shu, in a gripping illustration of how literary writing may be usefully employed toward the reconstruction and the experience of history. Chapters 5 to 7 deal with Yuan-dynasty literature, a field in which Idema was one of the early pioneers in the Western world. Robert Hegel offers a translation of a hilarious play by Qin Jianfu, which displays a conspicuous variation on the theme of the prodigal son. Stephen West reflects on the little-studied genre of “self-help guides,” highlighting how the study of literature has moved away from its traditional privileging of narrative and verse toward a truly rich diversity



Wilt Idema in the early 1990s (photograph by Marc de Haan).



of textual genres. Tian Yuan Tan examines a Yuan drama printing project from the Ming dynasty, challenging the traditional ascription of its editorship to the famous literatus Li Kaixian. In chapters 8 and 9, Kimberly Besio and Shiamin Kwa focus on the Ming-dynasty dramatist Xu Wei. Besio translates and comments on one of Xu’s zaju plays, with special attention to satire. Kwa presents an incisive consideration of questions of language and identity in Xu’s work. Drama is also the topic of chapter 10, in which Katherine Carlitz offers a historicized reading of Meng Chengshun’s early Qing play The Chaste Compendium, treating it as political allegory. In chapter 11, Xiaofei Tian shows how individuality in sovereigns as protagonists problematizes role typologies in seventeenth-century vernacular fiction, making them much less strict and straightforward than they are in drama. Ayling Wang’s study of dramatic lyricism in the work of Hong Sheng in chapter 12 emphasizes the synergy of all aspects of theatrical performance, including music and poetry. In chapter 13, another example of cross-genre analysis, Judith Zeitlin explores the intricate relationships between text and performance, drawing on musical texts in three seventeenth-century plays. Chapters 14 to 16 investigate issues in Qing-dynasty women’s writing. Ellen Widmer’s chapter focuses on women’s literary activity in Guangdong province, providing important comparisons with the Jiangnan and Beijing literary scenes. Siao-chen Hu’s contribution features women’s writing and womanhood-in-writing in the relatively little-studied genre of tanci or “plucking rhymes,” with the work of Zhu Suxian as a case study. Beata Grant presents a richly contextualized selection of poems by Gu Taiqing, with clear linkage to Daoist discourse and its place in Gu’s life. The final four chapters deal with modern and contemporary work. David Der-wei Wang examines attempts by the composer Jiang Wenye to create “a genuine Chinese sound,” against the backdrop of turbulent twentieth-century history and with reference to Chinese and other modernisms and traditions alike. Music is also a key element in Frank Kouwenhoven and Antoinet Schimmelpenninck’s essay, a fieldworkbased study of shadow puppet theater in Gansu province, specifically of the Guo guan ritual. Maghiel van Crevel asks how sound and sense contribute to “rejective” qualities of Yi Sha’s poetry, with attention to the interaction of written text and recitation. Questioning nearmonopolization of the avant-garde epithet by 1980s fiction, Michel



Hockx argues that Chen Cun’s recent contributions to web literature represent the continuation of an avant-garde spirit that has characterized Chen’s work ever since the late 1970s. Wilt Idema’s oeuvre is exceptional in its inclusiveness and its ability to let different historical periods, genres and issues speak to one another. He has written on topics ranging from the canonical poetics put forward in the “Great Preface” to the ancient Book of Songs, which graces the cover of this book, to socio-political aspects of women’s writing in early modern times. The bibliography of his publications at the end of this volume—not to mention what lies behind it—is something of an explosion of language. And its fairly shocking physical length is only one indicator of what Wilt’s work means to our field, for this is not just a function of the encyclopedic scope of his knowledge, or his sheer productivity, or even of the quality and the ambition of his work. Crucially, his frequent collaboration with other scholars reaffirms that while scholarship has room for and indeed requires forcefully individual contributions, it is at the same time fundamentally a collective undertaking. It is in this spirit that we present this book. Maghiel van Crevel, Tian Yuan Tan, and Michel Hockx

a poetic narrative of change


A POETIC NARRATIVE OF CHANGE: DU FU’S POETIC SEQUENCE “GOING OUT THE PASSES: FIRST SERIES” Stephen Owen A literary form has no meaning in its own right, but it offers a set of possibilities and constraints that enable new ways of representation. Form is what a writer receives, and it is the writer who may see and use what the form offers. Brilliant innovations in a form are often reused until they become commonplace, and we forget the moment or process by which the commonplace came into being. There are also, however, beautiful dead-ends, in which the writer opened a discursive space so unfamiliar that it was largely or entirely forgotten by immediate posterity. Such moments often become visible only across long distances of history and culture; they can anticipate something that became important only much later. Such leaps are never pure creation; we can see how they grow out of more conventional contemporary representations; nevertheless, the writer has seen a possibility, tried it, and discovered something new in the process. Although there was a considerable corpus of longer poems, both stanzaic “songs” (gexing 歌行 and yuefu 樂府) and non-stanzaic pieces, the norm of poetic representation in the Tang dynasty was the short poem. By far the most interesting solution to the “long poem” can be found in sequences of short poems in which the particular strengths of the short poem are combined in new ways. Du Fu 杜甫 (712–770) saw the possibilities of the poem sequence like no one before him. “Qiuxing ba shou” 秋興八首 (Autumn Meditations) is not only one of Du Fu’s most famous works, but also explores the possibility of “squaring” the formal properties of regulated verse in eight poems of eight lines each. Less famous sequences, such as “Jiemen shi’er shou” 解悶十二首 (Getting Rid of the Blues), have a more fluid structure in which themes of food, empire, and poetry weave together with a complexity that a single poem could never achieve. These sequences, however, like most of the sequences by


stephen owen

other Tang poets, are unified by the poet as speaker, so that the interval represented is the interval of composition. The greatest limitation of Chinese lyric is the limitation of its represented duration to some interval of immediate experience. An entirely new set of possibilities appears when the sequence is comprised of yuefu, with a conventional persona as a speaker. Here we have the possibility of much longer duration, an interval during which the speaker changes. In other words, the conjunction of the poem sequence and yuefu raises the formal possibility of representing personal development and maturation (Bildung) in style indirect libre (with the peculiar variation of Chinese poetry that we usually cannot distinguish the first-person speaker from a third-person narrator). Neither the representation of complex personal development nor style indirect libre were part of the repertoire of medieval Chinese narration, either in verse or prose. When we see this unmistakably in Du Fu, it is a chance gift of form that Du Fu knew how to make use of. Du Fu wrote two such sequences, both under the then popular yuefu title “Chusai” 出塞 (Going Out the Passes). The conventional soldier speaker is taken through a series of phases, mapped onto current history: the periods preceding and following the An Lushan Rebellion. The two sequences are distinguished in several ways: the former represents a conscript; the latter, a volunteer seeking to distinguish himself in arms. The conscript is sent off to the northwest, to the loyal Central Asian command; the volunteer goes to the northeastern army under the command of An Lushan 安祿山 (703–757), the army that will rebel. The first of these sequences is more subtle in its representation of a ten-year transformation of a reluctant peasant-conscript into a “soldier of the empire.” The conscript begins as a “body” acting under the compulsion of others and ends as an autonomous subject whose decisions are not only for himself but for the good of the empire. As we follow the soldier through these phases, we know only what he knows at the moment from which he speaks. Such immersion in the values of the moment was characteristic of yuefu with conventional personae as speakers. Here, however, the presumption of a unified subject over time calls attention to the differences between the successive “values of the moment” and invites us to see them as articulating change. Always in Chinese classical poetry the determination of pronouns in translation is a problem since the Chinese does not distinguish person

a poetic narrative of change


or number. The first poem could easily be singular or plural, first or third person. As we move through the sequence we increasingly see a speaker or a character who is distinguished from others, in the seventh poem explicitly so. It is easiest to take these poems collectively in the first person; a third-person reading becomes harder and harder to sustain.    Going Out the Passes: First Series


I Fearful and troubled, I left my hometown I went far, far away to Cross Rivers.1 Officialdom has its strict schedules; desertion enmeshes a man in ruin.2 Our lord is already rich in lands, yet how greatly he extends the frontiers! Forsaking forever my parents’ love, voice choked back, I went shouldering a pike.

戚戚去故里, 悠悠赴交河。 公家有程期, 亡命嬰禍羅。 君已富土境, 開邊一何多。 棄絕父母恩, 吞聲行負戈。

We begin before the An Lushan Rebellion (although IX.5 brings us into the Rebellion period). The sentiment of protest against Xuanzong’s 玄 宗 (685–762) expansionist policies in Central Asia was common, as we read in Du Fu’s own pre-Rebellion “Bingju xing” 兵車行 (Ballad of the Army Carts): When they leave, the village headman   gives them turbans; coming home, their hair is white,   then back to garrison the frontier. The blood that has flowed on the frontiers   could make up an ocean’s waters, and our Warrior Emperor’s plan to extend   the frontier is not yet done.

去時里正與裹頭, 歸來頭白還戌邊。 邊庭流血成海水, 武皇開邊意未已。

It would be easy to understand the first poem of the sequence as a simple protest against such expansionist policies of the imperial government. The process in the sequence, however, is one of continuously contextualizing previous statements and positions, and the nuance that   “Cross Rivers” was on the northwestern frontiers.   It should be kept in mind that punishment for criminal behavior extended to the family. 1 2


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positions acquire in the process marks the increasing experience and maturity of the subject. The sixth poem returns to the issue of imperial frontier policy, judging it not because it tears young men away from their families, but because of its practical limitations set in the context of a more mature understanding of the purpose of the frontier armies. Yet there are limits to killing men, the kingdoms have their own borders. If only we can control their raids, it does not depend on how many we wound and kill.

殺人亦有限, 列國自有疆。 苟能制侵陵, 豈在多殺傷。

Du Fu wrote this sequence after the An Lushan Rebellion had broken out. As more and more units of the Central Asian armies were drawn into the heartland, the Tibetans had been swallowing Tang prefectures in the northwest. Du Fu understood that the northwestern armies were needed, precisely to control “raids,” qinling 侵陵, “being overrun.” He did not forget his earlier, more naive anti-expansionist position; he represented it in the reluctant conscript in the first poem here: “Why should His Majesty want to extend the frontiers?” The young conscript is a body trapped in the military system. His protest against imperial policy is self-interested; he is not thinking for the empire, as he does at the end. He considers desertion, but is aware of the legal problems that will extend to his family if he makes the attempt. He goes because he must, compelled by the empire with its “strict schedules.”   II Farther each day from the gate I left, I wouldn’t take being bullied by comrades. Of course my love for kin was unbroken, but a man could die here at any time. I galloped my horse, bridles removed, twirling blue silk cords in my hand. Headlong down hills of a thousand yards, I crouched low and tried to snatch up the banner.3

出門日已遠, 不受徒旅欺。 骨肉恩豈斷, 男兒死無時。 走馬脫轡頭, 手中挑青絲。 捷下萬仞岡, 俯身試搴旗。

  Taking an enemy banner brought a high reward; here it seems to suggest some sort of cavalry practice. 3

a poetic narrative of change


The resigned silence of the conclusion of the first poem, in which both protest and lament are swallowed as the recruits make their way toward the front, is undone in the second poem in which life, voice, and the poem sequence must continue. The second poem begins where the first poem left off, with the recruits marching off toward the frontier; but instead of silent resentment and pain, we have the jibes of the young men against one another, and the recruit being drawn out of his shell to respond. It is no longer simply a world of the young man, his family, and imperial policy: it is a world of young men thrown together, “comrades” (tulü 徒旅), and the way in which they prey on one another, perform for one another, and compete for preeminence. Such a transformation is beautifully demonstrated in the line, “Of course my love for kin is unbroken,” literally a rhetorical question, “How can my love for kin not be unbroken?” This was what was supposed to have been forsaken in the first poem, but it has not been left behind. The question is, why does he need to reaffirm his love for family at this point? The answer is clear: he is caught up in the relations among the young conscripts, and that competitive world of young men who have been taken away from their families dominates the poem. His comrades try to bully him; he has to show his abilities. Out of consideration for kin he should do everything he can to protect his physical person, his shen 身; but he declares how a man can die at any moment here. And that very precariousness of life, rather than being a cause of anxiety, is transformed into an excuse for the youthful bravado that was one of the commonplace poses of frontier poetry. We may contrast the interplay of moves here with the most famous High Tang poem on extravagance in face of death, Wang Han’s 王翰 (early eighth century) “Liangzhou ci” 涼州詞 (Liangzhou Lyric): Sweet wine of the grape,   cup of phosphorescent jade, at the point of drinking, mandolins play on   horseback, urging us on. If I lie down drunk in the desert,   do not laugh at me!— men have marched to battle from long ago,   and how many ever returned?

葡萄美酒夜光杯, 欲飲琵琶馬上催。 醉臥沙場君莫笑, 古來征戰幾人回。

In the Wang Han poem the fact of probable death on the frontiers is announced after the gestures of drunkenness: it “explains” the speaker’s behavior—why you should not “laugh.” What had seemed


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simply madcap behavior is exposed as desperation. In the Du Fu poem, however, the threat of death is mentioned first: it is used to justify the youthful bravado of the recruits rather than to explain it; and the delight in the description of galloping on his horse to seize a flag (cavalry training) suggests that this is a pleasure in its own right.   III I sharpened my sword in those sobbing waters, the water turned red, the blade cut my hand. I had tried to ignore those heart-breaking sounds, but the heart’s thoughts have long been in turmoil. When a grown man swears to devote his life to the   realm, what place is left for anguish or resentment? Deeds of fame are pictured in the Royal Gallery—4 and the bones left from battle crumble swiftly.

磨刀嗚咽水, 水赤刃傷手。 欲輕腸斷聲, 心緒亂已久。 丈夫誓許國, 憤惋復何有。 功名圖麒麟, 戰骨當速朽。

Here the recruits have reached Longtou, the watershed on the campaign route into Central Asia. There is a subtext to the poem, the anonymous “Longtou ge” 隴頭歌 (Song of Longtou): In the waters that flow on Longtou the sounds of unseen sobbing. I gaze far away to the rivers of Qin, and my heart is ready to break.

隴頭流水, 嗚聲幽咽。 遙望秦川, 肝腸欲絕。

If the sequence as a whole is based on the meaningful transformation of the speaker’s situation and state of mind at a given moment, without foreknowledge of the conclusion, then the structure of representation in the opening of this poem does the same over a very short interval. It would be a very different poem if the predicates were organized in the following sequence: “I tried to ignore those heart-breaking sounds [of the waters of Longtou], but my heart was thrown into such turmoil that, as I was sharpening my sword, I cut my hand and the water turned red with blood.” In Chinese as in English this is the most common taxis of discourse, narrating cause and effect from a position of knowledge of the final consequence. Instead Du Fu follows the order of experience: the conscript is sharpening his sword; the water turns red, and   The “Royal Gallery” is literally the “Unicorn [Gallery],” where those who had done exceptional service to the dynasty had their portraits hung. 4

a poetic narrative of change


he realizes that he has cut his hand. At this point he realizes that he was distracted, but knowledge of having been distracted can only be retrospective, after one’s attention is refocused. He then understands the cause: the sound of Longtou’s waters that give rise to longing for home, the “rivers of Qin” that are fed by these very waters. The poem turns abruptly at this point; for the first time he refers to himself as a zhangfu 丈夫, a “grown man,” and speaks of his commitment to the empire. The longing for home implied in the first poem has not gone away—far from it—it distracts him so much that he cuts his hand. In that context the statement in the third couplet is not a bland generality, but a determination to resist homesickness. Resolution turns to thoughts of public glory, his portrait hung with the heroes of the empire in the Royal Gallery. But that fleeting dream is countered by the knowledge of how many troops have died on the frontier and left their bones in the desert. The process at work here and in the sequence as a whole is serial contextualization. Each event or statement does not stand alone, but is contextualized by what precedes or what follows. Rather than a single mood or position, which was the norm in Tang poetry, nothing is final here—except perhaps the values of the speaker in the final poem. “When a grown man swears to devote his life to the realm, / what place is left for anguish or resentment?” is not devalued or insincere, but it is contextualized by the involuntary distraction of homesickness that precedes it. It likewise suggests a change from the youthful exuberance of the second poem. The dream of public glory that immediately follows contextualizes devotion to the realm with the possibility of personal advantage—the dream of glory and honor was common in frontier poetry. That is grimly contextualized by the bones. In the last poems of the sequence the soldier will explicitly refuse to seek recognition and personal glory. It is part of the military experience that the body becomes transformed into object. Beneath the shift from longing for home to patriotic resolve, it is this fact that unifies the two halves of the poem: the body is cut and the recruit, lost in thoughts of home, is unaware; the body becomes, in the projective future, either a pure representation or a carcass swiftly stripped of its flesh. The use of “swiftly,” su 速, makes the last line effective: not only does it set the impermanence of the body against the possible permanence of fame in the Royal Gallery, it is a grim acknowledgment that the body is thing, to be used in ventures and expended. A space is opened between the coolness of the observation


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and pain we all know he should be feeling at that fact: those can be his own bones, so swiftly stripped of flesh.   IV To take troops to the front there was someone in   charge, for duty in far garrisons there were also ourselves. We went off forward to the death, the sergeant needed not take the trouble to rage and   glare. On the road once I met someone I knew, with him I sent a letter home to my kin.5 It’s a sad thing that we are kept apart and will never share our hardships again.

送徒既有長, 遠戍亦有身。 生死向前去, 不勞吏怒瞋。 路逢相識人, 附書與六親。 哀哉兩決絕, 不復同苦辛。

The interior transformation of the recruit is worked by the changing formulation and interplay between commonplace positions found in contemporary frontier poetry: longing for home, resolve to serve the realm, fatalism, criticism of the behavior and policy of those in charge. The poetry becomes sharper and bleaker. A maturity appears in the interplay between the poetry of heroism and the poetry of heroism wasted, between longing to return home and acceptance of the fact that return is not possible. The state is a structure of compulsion, represented by the angry officer; but the speaker manages to call into question who is truly in charge. Tang poetry allows soldiers to have many attitudes, enumerated above; but nowhere else does it allow the common soldier such bitter dignity, with an irony that verges on sarcasm. The first couplet, rich in irony, is almost untranslatable. The “person in charge,” the “sergeant,” would be a low-ranking civil servant on the local level, assigned to take the conscripts to one of the armies (no doubt accompanied by some regular military men to keep the conscripts in line and ensure that none deserted). The physical person, shen 身, is the arena of contested power. It is the term that is contextually translated as “ourselves” in the second line. On one side is the power of the state over the body in the person   “Kin” is literally the “six relations”: father, mother, elder and younger brothers, wife, and children. 5

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of the “sergeant,” accompanying them, supervising them, showing his authority through anger. After he delivers them, the “sergeant” will go back; the soldiers—“ourselves,” our bodies—will remain in the far garrisons. The parallelism—“there was someone in charge,” “there were ourselves / bodies”—suggests an autonomy that replaces state power. Of course there will always be officers, but they are erased in this equation. The sergeant glares, commanding them; the soldier speaks back that they will go forward to the death on their own. The power structure believes, for its own comfort, that the army exists and functions by the state’s capacity to compel the human beings that constitute it; the recruit answers that the soldiers act on their own decision, use their own bodies, that the officer’s fury is superfluous. The dignity with which the recruit wrests this power from the state is embodied in the ironically polite bu lao 不勞, “don’t trouble yourself”: the gesture of power is treated as if it is an unnecessary effort. The new relation to home appears in the second half of the poem, on sending a letter home, also treated with a new austerity and dignity. In the first poem of the sequence language and feeling were a relative unity; by this point language and feeling have come apart. The irony of the first two couplets is one manifestation of that division. The last line is a different manifestation: though the bond between the recruit and the family remains strong, a deeper alienation, brought about by divergent experience, is acknowledged. On one level the statement suggests regret that he cannot be there to share their hardships; but in the context of the first half of the poem, we recognize that he has his own hardships that they also cannot share. The body is not the possession of the state, but neither is it any longer the possession of the family; it is his own. In the poem that follows such autonomy turns out to be illusory.   V Into the distance, more than ten thousand miles we were led till we reached the Grand Army. In the army some suffer and others delight— the Commander surely does not hear all. Beyond the River I saw Hu cavalry, in an instant, a band of hundreds. For the first time then I became a slave— when would I do those great deeds of glory?

迢迢萬里餘, 領我赴三軍。 軍中異苦樂, 主將寧盡聞。 隔河見胡騎, 倏忽數百群。 我始為奴僕, 幾時樹功勛。


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Poetic images of heroism are put to the most severe test when the conscript finally reaches the imperial army in the fifth poem of the series. The old poetic line of Wang Can 王粲 (177–217), that there is “pleasure and pain in the army” (jun zhong you kule 軍中有苦樂), takes on an ironic new meaning in the context of the pragmatic corruption of the Tang army: pleasure if you get a kind commander, pain if you get a ruthless commander. The hierarchical structure of state control breaks down: the Commander should know, but apparently does not. The issue remains who is in control of this body; and the victory of self-determination, with its promise of recognition for heroism, now slips away as the soldier becomes a self-declared slave. Yet in this poem a new factor enters the equation—the purpose for which he came. In the middle of the struggle against the arbitrarily ruthless and chaotic authority of the state, a few horsemen (probably Tibetans in the context of the times) suddenly appear on the other side of the river and then a whole war-band. Their presence again gives him the opportunity to take command of his own will, to desire to freely serve the state and its interests despite the state’s intention that his service be unfree, under compulsion. The river is here, as it is so often, a boundary; once it is crossed, the situation changes and the old struggles of power become unimportant. He is no longer a conscript.   VI When you pull a bow, make sure it’s a strong one, make sure that the arrows you use are long ones. To shoot a man, first shoot the horse, to capture the foe, first capture their chief. Yet there are limits to killing men, the kingdoms have their own borders.6 If only we can control their raids, it does not depend on how many we wound and kill.

挽弓當挽強, 用箭當用長。 射人先射馬, 擒賊先擒王。 殺人亦有限, 列國自有疆。 苟能制侵陵, 豈在多殺傷。

The hierarchy of power, the officers, and state compulsion, which had been an issue since the first poem, suddenly disappear in issues of combat. The poet Cen Shen 岑參 (ca 715–770) had celebrated the 6   All early editions read lie 列; Ji qianjia zhu Du gongbu shi 集千家注杜工部詩 and most Qing and modern editions read li 立. Li guo 立國 ‘establishing the kingdom’ yields a very different sense. In either case it is a critique of Tang expansion.

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glorious Tang armies marching out of the gates of the fortress city of Bugur to victory; Cen Shen was there, at least to see them off. Du Fu was never there, but he can imagine the circumstances of combat. The focus of the recruit’s attention is increasingly narrowed to the immediate problems at hand. He no longer thinks of family, no longer thinks of showing off his valor and winning glory, no longer thinks of the corruption of the army, no longer strains against his status of abject servitude. The issues are different now. Now he must attend to the soldier’s craft, and he recites practical advice in verse. The sequence began with issues of state policy, judged at a distance, decided by the private motives of the young conscript and his family: the emperor is already rich in land; why should he want more? But out of the practical advice in the first half of the sixth poem grows a new judgment regarding state policy, not entirely at odds with the earlier judgment but made on new and firmer grounds. It is “sensible,” assimilated to the earlier sensible judgments in this poem on how to kill. The judgment no longer is based on illusions and private motives, but on the “facts”: he has told us how to kill, but “there are limits to killing men”; states seem to have natural boundaries. He knows what can be done, what can’t be done, and what the legitimate purpose of the army is. Most important, he knows what has to be done: imperatives that outweigh both the peasant’s reluctance to fight and poetic images of ambitious glory. Stop the raids; no more killing than is necessary. The most remarkable transformation in the poem is the new authority in the voice, beginning with the practical knowledge of the soldier’s craft, and moving to larger judgments about policy based on such knowledge. A transformation has occurred.   VII We galloped on, the sky seemed like snow, the army marched off into high mountains. The paths were steep, we clung to cold rock, fingers fell off into piles of ice. Already gone far from the moon of Han, when shall we return from building the Wall? Drifting clouds journey on southward at dusk; we can watch them, we cannot go catch them and   go along.

驅馬天欲雪, 軍行入高山。 徑危抱寒石, 指落曾冰間。 已去漢月遠, 何時築城還。 浮雲暮南征, 可望不可攀。


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The seventh poem in the sequence is closest to the norm of frontier poetry of Du Fu’s day, with the themes of the hardship of campaign and the desire to go home. The “we” implied is not the earlier band of conscripts but the army as a whole. The affirmation of natural boundaries in the preceding poem seems here to be replaced by campaigning ever farther. The desire to return is displaced into the clouds that pass over the scene of the campaign, unreachable as they make their way southward.   VIII The Khan plundered one of our forts,7 the dust of war darkened a hundred miles. Manly swords swing just a few times, 8 and their army fled before us. We went back, their best-known chiefs our   prisoners, bound necks were presented to the commander’s   gate. And I hid, just one of the company— one victory alone just doesn’t matter.

單于寇我壘, 百里風塵昏。 雄劍四五動, 彼軍為我奔。 虜其名王歸, 繫頸授轅門。 潛身備行列, 一勝何足論。

It is unclear if the abrupt opening here, with the Khan attacking a Chinese fort, is the reason for the campaign in the preceding poem or a separate incident. It is, however, the kind of situation that the speaker sees as justifying the army in the sixth poem: “controlling their raids.” A swift Chinese counterstrike sends the marauders fleeing, and the victorious army returns. The judgment about the proper purposes of imperial frontier policy is more perfectly realized here in the understanding that war is not the heroism of the individual in battle. In battle one may envisage private accomplishments; when thinking of the war, however, the attention is to the commonweal, gong 公. As he won command of his body by a change in attitude, here he wins a similar control over the entire enterprise: he will not think simply for himself within a structure of warfare 7   “Khan” is literally the anachronistic chanyu 單于, the term for the ruler of the Xiongnu state in the Han. Given the situation, this might refer to the Tibetans, though the Tibetan ruler, the btsan-po, did not take part in military action. 8   “Manly swords” is more precisely rendered as “male swords,” paired swords often distinguished as male and female.

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imposed from above; instead he makes his own decision on how to act on behalf of the state. Again he uses his body to assert his own decision, in this case withholding it from recognition, hiding in the ranks. He understands that the one glorious victory that he once imagined is not the whole war, which continues; and he chooses to concern himself with the war rather than the victory of which he was a part.   IX I have been with the army more than ten years, you may guess that I’ve done some minor deeds. Most men prize any chance for advantage; I might speak, but feel shame to be like them. There is fighting now in the heartland, and much more with the frontier tribes. A true man’s concerns are for all the world— how can I refuse to hold fast in hardship?9

從軍十年餘, 能無分寸功。 眾人貴苟得, 欲語羞雷同。 中原有鬥爭, 況在狄與戎。 丈夫四海志, 安可辭固窮。

The ninth poem brings us the voice of the experienced campaigner, who is able to offer judgment on the necessity of the wars from experience. Instead of an unwilling young conscript, instead of the vain images of heroism of the new soldier, instead of the shock at discovering the corruption and misery of the army, we have a mature voice that can judge what must be done and will do it. In effect, through the course of the sequence, he has transformed himself from being the object of others’ control to speaking as a general (or, given the behavior of the Tang’s actual generals, speaking as the ideal general, whose “concerns for all the world,” sihai zhi 四海志, bear a striking resemblance to the Confucian statesman). In contrast to the eighth poem, where the deed of driving back the Khan is displayed before us, in the ninth poem all his accomplishments are modestly mentioned as things he will not mention. Not only does he hide his own accomplishments, he disdains those who display them. Recall that in the third poem he speculated on having his portrait painted in the Royal Gallery and in the fifth poem he longed to perform great deeds. His deeds have been achieved; and in the structure of events in the frontier poem, if the soldier is still alive at such a point, he has the right to return home   This is the attribute of a “superior man,” junzi 君子, in Lunyu 論語 (Analects) XV.1: “The superior man holds fast in hardship” (junzi gu qiong 君子固窮). 9


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and accept reward. Longing for home had been a motif throughout the sequence; yet here, acknowledging the continued necessity to guard the frontiers and using his body to show the victory of his own will, he decides to continue to act for the commonweal. He ends by declaring himself to be “steadfast in hardship,” showing the qualities of the Confucian “superior man,” junzi 君子. The meritocratic fantasy of the peasant conscript who, through service rather than study, becomes a Confucian “superior man” contrasts sharply with the second series of only five poems. The opening announces a very different young man, who volunteers to win fame and fortune. When a man-child is born into the world, he should be ennobled when reaching his prime. In battle one can accumulate deeds of merit, so how can I keep the hills of home? (I.1-4)

男兒生世間, 及壯當封侯。 戰伐有功業, 焉能守舊丘。

We see the beginning of a Bildung, as the young man rejects the very values that sent him off to the army in the first place: The ancients valued guarding the frontiers, people today value great rewards. (III.1-2)

古人重守邊, 今人重高勳。

This young man, however, has joined the wrong army, the northeastern command under An Lushan. The commanding general’s position is ever more   exalted, his arrogant temper flaunts the Capital. People on the frontier do not dare dispute him— those who dispute die on the highway. (IV.9-12)

主將位益崇, 氣驕凌上都。 邊人不敢議, 議者死路衢。

When the Rebellion finally breaks out, the soldier, now a twenty-year veteran, deserts. At midnight I go home by back roads, and my old village has been left deserted. I am fortunate to escape an evil name, but poor and old, I have no descendants. (V.9-12)

中夜間道歸, 故里但空村。 惡名幸脫免, 窮老無兒孫。

We can argue that this series too is a moral Bildung, as a young man seeking personal glory is transformed into a loyal servant of the dynasty; but the consequences of historical accident lead this soldier not to a new dignity, but to a life wasted and destroyed. The fame (ming

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名) that he sought in youth comes at last to a fortunate namelessness, escaping “an evil name.” In both series we follow the characters through each of their phases of transformation. China’s most innovative poet experimented with the form at a time when lives were indeed being tested and changed. He abandoned his experiment as casually as he discovered it, and this singular combination of lyric utterance and extended duration remained one of those many promising roads not taken.


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autobiographical features in bai juyi


AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL FEATURES IN BAI JUYI’S “BIOGRAPHY OF THE MAESTRO OF MELLOW VERSIFICATION” Victor H. Mair and Rostislav Berezkin “Zui yin xiansheng zhuan” 醉吟先生傳 (Biography of the Maestro of Mellow Versification; or more literally, Biography of the Gentleman Who Recited Poetry While Drunk) is an important prose work by Bai Juyi 白居易 (772–846).* However, this text has not received much scholarly attention in Chinese and Western studies.1 Its importance *  The authors wish to express their deep appreciation for the critical reading of an earlier version of this paper by William H. Nienhauser, Jr. and to Denis Mair for his helpful suggestion about how to render the term zui 醉 in the title of Bai’s autobiography. In order that the translation of Bai’s autobio­graphy which follows our study may stand alone and be read independently by those who wish to do so, including non-Sinologists, we have included in the notes to the translation some information that is mentioned in the main text. We also provide explanations of terms that may be known to specialists but not to those outside our fields. 1   There is no full modern translation of Bai’s autobiography in English. A partial translation (all of the prose but no verse) with the title of “Biography of the Scholar Who Sings and Drinks” was made by George Margouliès and Willard R. Trask in “Great Chinese Prose—III,” Asia (July 1934): 410–411. Another partial translation was made by Arthur Waley, who rendered the title as “Life of the Master of Wine and Song,” in his The Life and Time of Po Chü-i (London: G. Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1951), 191–192. There are also an abridged French translation by George Margouliès in his Anthologie raisonnée de la littérature Chinoise (A Reasoned Anthology of Chinese Literature) (Paris: Payot, 1948), 386–387, and a Dutch translation by Wilt Idema, in his Bai Juyi: gedichten en proza (Bai Juyi: Poems and Prose) (Amsterdam: Atlas, 2001), 467–470. Wolfgang Bauer in his short reference to “Biography” emphasized mainly its traditional features borrowed from earlier Chinese autobiographical writing (Wolfgang Bauer, Das Antlitz Chinas. Die autobiographische Selbstdarstellung in der chinesischen Literatur von ihren Anfängen bis heute (The Face of China: Autobiographical SelfRepresentation in Chinese Literature, from Its Beginnings to the Present) (Münich: Carl Hanser, 1990), 265). Kawai Kōzō 川合康三 made a full Japanese translation of the “Biography,” and provided line-by-line interpretation in his Chūgoku no jiden bungaku 中国の自伝文学 (Chinese Autobiographical Literature) (Tokyo: Sōbunsha, 1996). This article is aimed to revise and supplement his conclusions. The full English translation, made by the authors, appears at the end of the article. For the Chinese original, see Zhu Jincheng 朱金城, ed., Bai Juyi ji jianjiao 白居易集箋校 (Annotated Collection of Works by Bai Juyi) (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1988), vol.6, 3782–3783.


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is attested by the fact that it is mentioned in the official biography of Bai Juyi in the Old History of the Tang Dynasty.2 Though “Biography” is very brief, it offers a large amount of information on the private life of the poet. At the same time it is deeply rooted in the previous literary tradition. In order to reveal its message, we shall try to observe what is traditional and what is personal in this piece by Bai Juyi. Bai Juyi was one of the prominent poets of the middle period of the Tang dynasty (618–907). Bai’s poetry was in vogue already during his lifetime in China and abroad (in Korea and Japan), and is still popular today.3 Besides writing poetry, Bai Juyi was a master of prose in the classical language. “Biography of the Maestro of Mellow Versification” was written in 838, when the poet was sixty-seven years old. The author himself dated this piece at the end. “Biography” is included in the seventieth juan of Bai Juyi’s collected works, called Bai shi Changqing ji 白氏長 慶集 (Changqing [Period (821–824)] Collection of Mr. Bai). The collection was compiled by the poet’s friend, Yuan Zhen 元稹 (779–831), but some texts were added subsequent to the original compilation and others were lost after the poet’s death. In its present form, Bai shi Changqing ji dates to the Southern Song period, ca. 1131–1162.4 At the time he wrote “Biography,” Bai Juyi lived in the vicinity of Luoyang, the second capital of the Tang state. He settled there in 829, presumably in order to avoid the entanglements of court life in the Western capital, Chang’an. Bai Juyi still held office during that period. In 833–836 he was master of ceremonies in the palace of the crown prince (taizi binke 太子賓客). However, as Bai Juyi himself noted in his writings, he no longer had official responsibilities.5 Therefore the image of a retired official, described in “Biography,” partly corresponded to the real circumstances of Bai’s life. “Biography” gives us little data on Bai Juyi’s actual career. The history of his service is summarized in a single sentence: “As an official 2   Liu Xu 劉昫 (887–946) et al., Jiu Tang shu 舊唐書 (Old History of the Tang Dynasty), vol. 11 of Ershisi shi (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1997), juan 166, 4355. English translation by Eugene Feifel: “Biography of Po Chü-i: Annotated Translation from Chüan 166 of the Chiu T’ang-shu,” Monumenta Serica 17 (1958): 255–311. 3   On Bai Juyi’s life and heritage, see Arthur Waley, The Life and Time of Po Chü-i; Howard S. Levy, Translations from Po Chü-i’s Collected Works (New York: Paragon Book Reprint, 1971), vol. 1, 4-9. 4   Gu Xuejie 顧學頡, ed., Bai Juyi ji 白居易集 (Collection of Works by Bai Juyi) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979), vol.1, 3. 5   Liu Xu et al., Jiu Tang shu, 4353–4355.

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the Maestro traveled for thirty years . . .” However, the essay is very important for our understanding of the poet’s personality and literary heritage. It introduces mainly the poet’s pastimes. His major mode of spending time, as described in “Biography,” was drinking wine6 with friends, which was itself connected with the composition and recitation of poems, outings, gardening, and admiring nature. As the text states, “Every clear day when the view was nice, either in the snowy morning or in the moonlit evening, those who liked this kind of thing met together, and the Maestro would always first brush off the dust from a jug of wine and then open a box filled with scrolls of poems.” “Biography” constitutes a part of what modern literary historians call leisure literature (xianshi wenxue 閒適文學), which is also re­presented by other pieces of Bai Juyi’s verse and prose.7 “Biography” and similar texts contributed much to the formation of Bai Juyi’s image in historical writing. One can find many details from “Biography” in the official biography of Bai Juyi in the dynastic history. Bai’s official biography also mentions his parties with friends, love for gardening, and possession of family entertainers, who were skilled in singing and dancing.8 One may suppose that Bai’s literary texts ostensibly dealing only with leisure and not political activities might in fact also have had political goals. Through them, it is possible that the poet intended to show his indifference to current courtly intrigues that threatened the security of his position. The official account of Bai Juyi’s life in the dynastic history states that Bai was associated with one of the court cliques through his wife’s relatives. Thus, “fearing that he might be regarded as a member of the clique and made the target of attack, he asked to be allowed to retire from official life and go to a quiet place, hoping to escape from trouble.”9 This intention to free himself from courtly wrangling may also underlie the creation of “Biography” and similar pieces of that period of Bai’s life.   The word jiu 酒 has conventionally been rendered in English as wine. In terms of its poetic associations, that may be a functionally appropriate translation. In actuality, however, jiu has traditionally not been a kind of wine produced from fermented grapes or other fruit, but a type of beer made by brewing and fermenting cereals. 7   Apparently a similar prose text is “Chi shang pian” 池上篇 (On the Shore of the Pond), quoted in Bai’s biography in the Old History of the Tang Dynasty. This piece was composed roughly at the same time as “Biography of the Maestro of Mellow Versification”: Liu Xu et al., Jiu Tang shu, 4354–4355; Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 6, 3705–3708. 8   Liu Xu et al., Jiu Tang shu, 4354. 9   Ibid. 6


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“Biography” belongs to the special genre of Chinese prose that the modern Japanese scholar of classical Chinese literature Kawai Kōzō called the biography of “imaginary self” (kō aritai ware かくありた い我れ);10 we would prefer the term “idealized biography.” Kawai has demonstrated that this type of autobiographical writing emerged under the influence of three sources: (1) autobiographical self-prefaces (zixu 自序) in literary works, starting with the famous preface to Shi ji 史記 (The Grand Scribe’s Records) by Sima Qian 司馬遷 (ca. 145ca. 85 BCE); (2) biographies of fictional characters and (3) idealized biographies of real persons.11 Although nowadays we may label the genre to which Bai’s “Biography” belonged as autobiography, in reality it differs substantially from the modern type of writing about self. It pretends to the generic name of zhuan (“biography”), and, as mentioned before, partly has its origin in the historical accounts of the lives of other persons. Due to this feature of this particular type of autobiographical writing, the author presents his own image from an external perspective. This convention of the traditional genre explains the fact that “Biography” and similar pieces were naturally absorbed into historical writing. At the same time, the genre of traditional autobiography represented a highly idealized image of the self, which, as was said, might have suited the practical intentions of the poet to portray himself as an indifferent retired official. This convention of the genre helps Bai Juyi to create the playful atmosphere of concealing his real name and withholding further clues to recognition. Bai Juyi starts his piece with the words: “As for the Maestro of Mellow Versification, I forget his surname and courtesy name, his native place and official rank . . .” However, he immediately discloses the identity of the person and emphasizes the autobiographical nature of his writing when he says, “In confusion, I do not know who I really am.” In creating this essay, Bai Juyi had behind him a long tradition of idealized autobiography. Though the poet followed some conventions of this genre, he contributed new and interesting aspects to his piece. Kawai and Wolfgang Bauer agree that one of the close antecedents of idealized autobiography was “Da ren xiansheng zhuan” 大人先生傳 (Biography of the Maestro Great Man) by Ruan Ji 阮籍 (210–263), one 10 11

  かくhere is the old Japanese orthography for こう.   Kawai Kōzō, Chūgoku no jiden bungaku, 67–68.

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of the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove” (zhu lin qi xian 竹林七賢).12 The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove was a group of eccentric literati who abandoned official duties for the pleasures of wine-drinking, music, and poetry. The escapist mood propagated by this group was to a certain extent a response to the troubles of the transitional period between the Wei (220–265) and Jin (265–420) dynasties, when China was in turmoil after the fall of the Han empire (206 BCE-220 CE). The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove presented classical images of poet-recluses; not by chance their individualistic and escapist attitude coincided with the development of autobiographical writing in China. In “Biography of the Maestro Great Man,” Ruan Ji created the ideal image of a recluse who rejected the conventions of society and achieved super-human wisdom and liberty in unity with nature. Arguably, this image was a projection of the author himself. At the same time “Biography of the Maestro Great Man” continued the development of the tradition of written philosophical discussion in the form of a dialogue between fictional (or fictionalized) characters.13 The guise of anonymous self-presentation begins with this piece. It opens with the words “Maestro Great Man must be an old person. I do not know his surname and courtesy name,”14 subverting the pattern of official biographies, which usually started with the facts of the person’s origin and career. These words, as we shall see, are quite similar to the beginning of later autobiographies of this type, including Bai’s “Biography.” One can regard “Wu liu xiansheng zhuan” 五柳先生傳 (Bio­ graphy of the Maestro of the Five Willows) by Tao Qian 陶潛 (or Tao Yuanming 淵明, 365–427) as the first true example of Chinese idealized autobiography. It describes the life of a scholar-recluse who had no official duties, and, though he lived in poverty, found happiness in simple pleasures. It is widely accepted that Bai Juyi wrote his “Biography” in imitation of the piece by Tao Qian. First of all, dynastic history states this fact.15 Secondly, Bai Juyi in his poetry mentioned that he read and admired the “Biography of the Maestro of the Five Willows,” for example in his poem “Fang Tao gong jiu zhai” 訪陶公舊 宅 (Visiting Mr. Tao’s Old Home, dated 816): “Each time I read your 12   Kawai Kōzō, Chūgoku no jiden bungaku, 70–72; Wolfgang Bauer, Das Antlitz Chinas, 156–157. 13   Kawai Kōzō, Chūgoku no jiden bungaku, 68–70. 14   Chen Bojun 陳伯君, ed., Ruan Ji ji jiao zhu 阮籍集校注 (Annotated collection of works by Ruan Ji) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1987), 161. 15   Liu Xu, et al., Jiu Tang shu, 4355.


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‘Five Willows’ account // My eyes envision you, my heart reaches out to you.”16 Indeed the similarity of the nicknames adopted by the two poets, together with the mood and the style of their writing, shows the strong influence of Tao Qian’s “Biography of the Maestro of the Five Willows” on the piece by Bai Juyi. The beginning of Bai’s “Biography” is rather similar to that by Tao Qian, who wrote: “We do not know of what place the Maestro is native, nor do we know his family name or his name.”17 The way of life whereby one “drinks wine and writes poetry to please his own will,” plus the mention of Qian Lou’s position (see below) in both pieces demonstrate that Bai Juyi closely followed the account by Tao Qian. Tao’s name appears in the text of Bai’s “Biography”: among the poems the author recited while inebriated, he mentioned those by Tao Qian and Xie Lingyun 謝靈運 (385–433).18 Tao Qian was a paragon of a poet, who became disillusioned with service to the state and preferred reclusion to participation in court intrigues, so that Tao’s influence on Bai Juyi’s writing was almost inevitable. Another antecedent of Bai’s autobiography is “Wu dou xiansheng zhuan” 五斗先生傳(Biography of the Maestro of Five Dippers) by Wang Ji 王績 (courtesy name [zi 字] Wugong 無功, 590–644),19 whose title obviously alludes to that of the autobiography by Tao Qian. Wang Ji lived during the Sui (581–618) and early Tang. He is known as a precursor of the main Tang poets because he used an unpolished style that contrasted with the ornate, courtly lyrics of his time. He revived the scholar-recluse and rural themes associated with the above-mentioned Seven Sages and Tao Qian; and anticipated the rise of regulated verse forms during the Tang.20 In the “Biography of the Maestro of Five Dippers,” Wang Ji described his ideal of the recluse who spends his   Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 1, 362. English translation by Burton Watson in his Po Chü-i: Selected Poems (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 72. 17   Gong Bin 龔斌, ed., Tao Yuanming ji jiaojian 陶淵明集校箋 (Annotated Collection of Works by Tao Yuanming) (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1996), juan 6, 420–24. For an English translation, see A.R. Davis, T’ao Yüan-ming: His Works and Their Meaning (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), vol. 1, 208. 18   One of the earliest Chinese landscape poets. 19   Wang Wugong wenji 王無功文集 (Collection of Writings by Wang Wugong), in Xuxiu Siku quanshu (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1995), vol. 1304, 626– 627. For an English translation, see Ding Xiang Warner, A Wild Deer Amid Soaring Phoenixes: The Opposition Poetics of Wang Ji (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2003), 105. 20   Ding Xiang Warner, A Wild Deer, 1. 16

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time drinking wine, and in his tranquility and non-interference in worldly affairs surpasses even the Seven Sages. Bai in his “Biography” mentioned another prose piece by Wang Ji, “Zui xiang ji” 醉鄉記 (Story of Drunkenville). Drunkenville is a utopia in which drunkenness is equated with the harmonious state of a person who follows the eternal Way (Dao 道): “Ruan Sizong,21 Tao Yuanming [Tao Qian], and ten or so others all roamed in the land of Drunkenville and never returned . . . People in the Middle Kingdom thought that they had become wine immortals.”22 Bai Juyi placed Wang Ji himself in Drunkenville, as he wrote: “Wang Wugong traveled to Drunkenville and did not return.” In “Biography” Bai Juyi did not mention directly similar early pieces by other authors. However, as the names of Tao Qian and Wang Ji appear in his autobiography, though not in connection with these writings, one strongly senses Bai Juyi’s awareness that he was continuing the tradition that they upheld. Despite evident similarities among the autobiographies by Tao Qian, Wang Ji, and Bai Juyi, there are important differences which distinguish Bai’s writing from that of his predecessors. The two major peculiar features, which were noticed by Kawai, are (1) the more detailed, realistic, and thus closer autobiographical contents of Bai’s “Biography” in comparison to the pieces by Tao Qian and Wang Ji; and (2) the tranquility and self-contentment expressed by Bai in his writing.23 While we shall discuss these two points in greater detail later, we wish first to call attention to the peculiarity of the form of Bai’s “Biography.” Bai Juyi inserted in the text a passage from his own poem “Luoyang you yu sou” 洛陽有愚叟 (There Is a Foolish Old Man in Luoyang), which distinguishes his piece from earlier examples of idealized autobiography. Kawai noticed the importance of this inclusion, as in this way this text in its formal characteristics resembles another genre of traditional prose—muzhi 墓誌 (epitaph, also called jiewen 碣文, if written for officials).24 Indeed, a poem was an integral part of a traditional epitaph.25 However, Kawai did not mention that Bai’s “Biography” really did serve as an epitaph. There is the evidence that, after the death of Bai Juyi, one of his friends, Lu Zhen 盧貞, engraved “Biography”   嗣宗, courtesy name of Ruan Ji.   Translated by Ding Xiang Warner in A Wild Deer, 107–108. 23   Kawai Kōzō, Chūgoku no jiden bungaku, 135–136. 24   Kawai Kōzō, Chūgoku no jiden bungaku, 132. 25   E.D. Edwards, “A Classified Guide to the Thirteen Classes of Chinese Prose,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 12, no. 3/4 (1948): 782. 21 22


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on the stone pillar placed by the side of the poet’s tomb at Xiangshan 香山 Monastery near Luoyang.26 Therefore, one can suppose that Bai Juyi intentionally modified the standard form of the autobiography, and intended this piece to represent himself in the face of eternity. This epitaph of an unofficial nature, which emphasized the theme of winedrinking, contributed much to the formation of the popular image of Bai Juyi. It would have made a strong impression on the many visitors to the tomb of the poet. Historical sources report that passers-by at Bai’s grave were said to have sprinkled so much wine before it in sacrifice that the ground was never dry.27 As was already said, Bai’s “Biography” is noteworthy in its detailed reproduction of Bai’s life and environment. One of the best examples of this is the list of Bai’s friends who are called by their real names. Among his friends, Bai Juyi mentioned a Buddhist monk Ruman 如 滿, a recluse Wei Chu 韋楚 from Pingquan 平泉 near Luoyang, the famous poet Liu Yuxi 劉禹錫 (courtesy name Mengde 夢得, 772–842), originally from Pengcheng 彭城 (modern Xuzhou 徐州 in Jiangsu province), and a retired official, Huangfu Shu 皇甫署 (courtesy name Langzhi 朗之, jinshi 進士 816, fl. 825–827). These names often appear in Bai’s poetry. However, in our view, autobiographical details in “Biography” do not simply demonstrate Bai’s predilection for realism, they also reveal the aspects of his spiritual life and work which Bai himself wanted to emphasize and by which he eventually became known in the history of Chinese literature. First of all, “Biography” reflects Bai Juyi’s interest in Buddhism. The author confessed that “he rested his mind in Śākyamuni’s teaching, and studied all the laws of the Small, Middle, and Great Vehicles.” The monk Ruman mentioned in “Biography” originally lived in one of the monasteries on Wutai Mountain 五臺山, in modern Shanxi province, a sacred pilgrimage site of Buddhism. Later Ruman moved to Xiangshan Monastery. According to historical sources Ruman was a famous master of Chan (Japanese Zen; Sanskrit Dhyāna) Buddhism of 26   Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 6, 3784; Howard S. Levy, Translations from Po Chü-i’s Collected Works, vol. 1, 9. This may have been Bai’s last will, as indicated in his “Epitaph of the Maestro of Mellow Versification with Preface” (Zui Yin xiansheng muzhiming 醉吟先生墓誌銘), see Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 6, 3816. Traditionally it was considered Bai’s self-epitaph; however, many scholars questioned the authenticity of this piece. See Kawai Kōzō, Chūgoku no jiden bungaku, 160–165. One should note the appearance of the same sobriquet in the title of this epitaph as in “Biography.” 27   Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 6, 3784.

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that time, and he even impressed the Emperor Shunzong (r. 805–806) with Chan paradoxes.28 Several poems by Bai Juyi were dedicated to this monk.29 Ruman was a close friend of Bai Juyi, and during the period at which Bai wrote “Biography” they together organized a Buddhist society—the Incense Community (Xiang huo hui 香火會). Bai Juyi styled himself “Lay Buddhist of Fragrant Mountain.” The poet was buried near Ruman’s tomb in Xiangshan Monastery.30 Bai Juyi was known for his adherence to Buddhism in the earlier periods of his life as well. The influence of Buddhism, especially in its Chan form, was evident in many poems by Bai Juyi.31 Another important hobby of the poet, described in “Biography,” was music. The author mentioned that he was fond of zither music, and himself played the melody “Qiu si” 秋思(Autumn Thoughts) on the zither during gatherings of friends.32 “Biography” indicates that the author had a strong interest not only in classical music, but also in the popular music of his time. The poet confessed that “he came to look at paintings, books, singers, and dancers at the houses of all those who had them.” Bai Juyi ordered his servants to play the music of “Ni shang yu yi” 霓裳羽衣 (Rainbow Skirts and Feather Jackets), the popular music-and-dance performance at the Tang court in the eighth and ninth centuries. The precise theme of this performance is unknown today, but scholars have assumed that it dealt with immortals and deities. The unusual garments of the characters in it gave their name to the performance. Legend says that the music for this performance was brought by Emperor Xuanzong (r. 712–756) from the Moon Palace. However, historical records testify that “Rainbow Skirts,” performed in the court of Xuanzong in 730, was based on a piece of Indian music called “Brāhman” that was brought from Liangzhou in

  Puji 普濟 (1179–1253), Wu deng hui yuan 五燈會元 (Collection of Essentials of Five Lamps), ed. Su Yuanlei 蘇淵雷 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1984), vol. 1, 147–148. 29   Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 4, 2434. 30   Liu Xu, et al., Jiu Tang shu, 4358. 31   On the Buddhist activities of Bai Juyi, see Kenneth K.S. Ch’en, The Chinese Transformation of Buddhism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), 184–239. Concerning the Buddhist influence on his poetry, see Burton Watson, “Buddhism in the Poetry of Po Chü-i,” The Eastern Buddhist, New Series XXI, no. 1 (Spring 1988): 1-22. 32   “On the Shore of the Pond” says that Jiang Fa, Bai Juyi’s friend from Sichuan, introduced this melody to the poet (Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 6, 3705). 28


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Gansu by a commander on the western frontier.33 The name of this kind of court music, fabu 法部 (dharma section), used in the text by Bai Juyi, was derived from faqu 法曲 (dharma tune), which points to its connection with Buddhist ritual melodies. Bai Juyi saw the performance of “Rainbow Skirts” in the imperial palace only once in 808 or 809. Later he revived the performance in a private setting during his service in Hangzhou and Suzhou. Bai Juyi’s fascination and familiarity with “Rainbow Skirts” are reflected in the fact that he wrote several poems in which he described the music, song, dance, and costume of the performance. His “Ni shang yu yi wu ge” 霓裳羽衣舞歌 (The Song and Dance of “Rainbow Skirts and Feather Jackets”), together with its extensive self-annotations, offers an especially detailed description of what must have been one of his favorite entertainments.34 “Biography” also shows that Bai Juyi enjoyed the music of the performance played by his private orchestra. Another form of popular music mentioned in “Biography” is that of lyrics (ci 詞), a genre of Chinese poetry that originally had musical accompaniment. The lyrics were written to fit certain tunes, many of which had entered the repertoire from Central Asia and other neighboring regions, or came from popular culture.35 At the time of Bai Juyi, literati started to imitate these popular songs, which were usually performed by courtesans.36 The lyrics constituted the opposite of the traditional poetic genre shi 詩 which Bai Juyi and other Tang poets usually employed. Bai Juyi successfully used this new form of poetry, and there exist lyrics ascribed to him.37 “Biography” indicates that lyrics 33   Tu Zongtao 塗宗濤, “Shi xi ‘Ni shang yu yi qu’” 試析 ‘霓裳羽衣’ 曲 (A Tentative Analysis of “Rainbow Skirts and Feather Jackets”), Tianjin yinyue xueyuan xuebao 25, no. 2 (2003): 24–28. The musical notations of this performance have been lost since the Tang period, but a reconstruction of a part was created by the Song-dynasty poet Jiang Kui 姜夔 (1155–1221). See L.E.R. Picken, “Secular Chinese Songs of the Twelfth Century,” Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 8, fasc. 1/4 (1966): 143. 34   Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 3, 1410–1416. See also Zhongguo yishu yanjiuyuan yinyue yanjiusuo Zhongguo yinyue cidian bianji bu 中國藝術研究院音樂研究所 《中國音 樂詞典》編輯部, ed., Zhongguo yinyue cidian 中國音樂詞典 (Dictionary of Chinese Music) (Beijing: Renmin yinyue chubanshe, 1984), 283b-284a. 35   The tunes used for the lyrics have long been lost. 36   Marsha L. Wagner, The Lotus Boat: the Origins of Chinese Tz’u Poetry in T’ang Popular Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), 107–118. 37   Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 4, 2167–2168. For the English translation of some of these poems, see Victor H. Mair, ed., The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 304.

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were sung in the poet’s house, where he ordered singing girls to perform the lyrics of “Willow Branches.” Several lyrics written by Bai Juyi on this tune have survived.38 In the preface to his poem “Yang liu zhi ershi yun” 楊柳枝二十韻 (Twenty Rhymes on “Willow Branches”) the poet called “Willow Branches” a new tune performed by singing girls in Luoyang.39 Later records on poetry argue that this tune existed already during the Sui period and the beginning of the Tang dynasty. Bai Juyi’s words thus referred to its subsequent modification.40 Thus, “Biography” testifies that Bai Juyi had a strong interest in lyrics, and in this aspect he became a forerunner of the poets of the Five Dynasties (907–960) and Song (960–1279) periods, when the genre of lyrics became extremely popular. The references to music in “Biography” point to the important place it occupied in the life and poetry of Bai Juyi. Music was a prominent theme in many of his pieces. The mention of “Rainbow Skirts” and lyrics indicates Bai’s interest in music and dances of foreign origin, which became tremendously popular in Tang China. This interest is also evident in Bai’s poetry. For example, Bai Juyi is known for his verse entitled “Hu xuan nü” 胡旋女 (Sogdian Whirling Girl) that described a distinctive type of Iranian dance that was performed at the Tang court by performers from Samarkand (in present-day Uzbekistan), and likewise “Xi Liang ji” 西涼伎 (Actors from Western Liang [modern Gansu province]) on the Lion dance performed by dancers from the western regions.41 Thus Bai Juyi provided a contemporary setting for his self-presentation. This indication of the times in “Biography” is quite different from the comparable pieces by Tao Qian and Wang Ji, who portrayed their characters as persons standing outside of their historical epochs. In the case of Tao Qian, his alter ego was even equaled to the sages of antiquity (people of the epoch of legendary rulers, Wuhuai 無懷 and Getian 葛天).42 Furthermore, in his “Biography,” Bai Juyi summa  Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 4, 2167–2169.   Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 4, 2200. 40   Wang Zhuo 王灼 (12th cent.), Bi ji man zhi 碧鶏漫志 (Random Jottings from the Green Rooster Quarter), in Siku quanshu (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1987), vol. 1494, 516–17. 41   Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 1, 161, 210. For the English translation of the first, see Victor H. Mair, ed., The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature, 485–486. 42   Tao Yuanming ji jiaojian, 424. 38 39


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rized the main features of his own literary heritage. The poet grasped a variety of themes (scenery, wine-drinking, religion, and music) that appeared in his poetry alongside poems of social criticism and class consciousness, which latter themes, as has been pointed out, the author seemed intentionally to exclude from “Biography.” In “Biography” Bai Juyi described not only the entertainments which he preferred, but also the passions which he considered to be unworthy of an intelligent person. He listed three of these: the collecting of precious things and decoration of his own dwelling, gambling, and external alchemy (waidan 外丹), the search for the elixir of immortality. Bai labeled these passions destructive, as compared with his modest attachment to the drinking of wine and the reciting of poetry. However, one can imagine that these three addictions were quite widespread among people at the higher levels of society during the Tang period, elsewise he would not have been prompted to decry these activities. The collecting of precious things may refer to the then current interest in antiques and exotic objects. The gambling games that Bai Juyi mentioned are liubo 六博/簙 (“six rods”) and yi 弈. Liubo is the earliest game to be preserved in the archaeological record of China. It was known at least as early as the Warring States period (475–221 BCE) and was especially popular around 350 BCE-220 CE, but later its popularity declined. It is similar to Western draughts, but the exact rules of the game are now unknown. Yi is the celebrated game of weiqi (圍棋 “encirclement chess”; in the West it became popular under its Japanese name, go).43 As for external alchemy, which Bai Juyi described as the “melting of lead and burning of mercury,” the practice was quite widespread among scholars and nobility during the Tang. This was the art of making elixirs of immortality, refined substances which were believed to provide eternal life, through transfer of their own perfection to human beings when ingested. The work of an alchemist on transforming chemical substances was perceived as the speeding up of the natural mineral evolution with the end point of the immutable perfection of cinnabar or gold. 44 Joseph Needham defined the era of

43   On these two games, see Colin Mackenzie and Irving Finkel, ed., Asian Games: the Art of Contest (New York: Asia Society, 2004), 113–125, 187–201. 44   Nathan Sivin, “Chinese Alchemy and the Manipulation of Time,” in Science and Technology in East Asia (New York: Science History Publications, 1977), 109.

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Bai Juyi as the end of “the golden age of alchemy.”45 The poet himself engaged in experimenting with the production of the elixir when he spent some time at Mount Lu 廬山, in modern Jiangxi province, and met Daoist recluses there who also practiced alchemy. Later he noted his interest in alchemy and regretted this addiction.46 By the time Bai Juyi wrote “Biography” he probably realized that this occupation was fruitless and money-consuming. It could also be dangerous: four Tang emperors, Bai’s contemporaries, died after taking poisonous elixirs.47 Such candid confessions about various kinds of entertainments in Bai Juyi’s writing, not only those he preferred, but also those he rejected, lend his “Biography” a personal touch. The preferred ways of spending leisure time described in “Biography” were deeply rooted in the previous tradition of the Chinese literati. As usual in classical literature, “Biography” contains many allusions to historical examples (diangu 典故), which reveal the connection of the text with the cultural tradition. Most of these refer to figures who often appear in Tang-dynasty literature, especially in poetry. In this way Bai Juyi tempered his preferences with reference to renowned figures of the past. The earliest source that the poet invokes in “Biography” is the Zhuangzi 莊子 (ca. second half of the fourth century BCE, but not completed until the end of the second century BCE), ascribed to one of the first Taoist philosophers, Zhuang Zhou 莊周 or Zhuangzi (355?-275 BCE).48 “In antiquity there were those who achieved integrity from drinking, therefore he called himself the Maestro of Mellow Versification”: this sentence in “Biography” alludes to a passage from the Zhuangzi, which offers the image of a drunken man who “confronts things without apprehension.” Zhuangzi regarded this state as close to the ideal naturalness he praised: “If someone who has gotten his wholeness from wine is like this, how much more so would one be who gets his wholeness from heaven!”49 Bai Juyi drew upon the above-quoted passage from Zhuangzi and used the metaphor of drunkenness to refer 45   Joseph Needham, ed., Science and Civilisation in China, vol. 5, pt. 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 141–151. 46   Kenneth K.S. Ch’en, The Chinese Transformation of Buddhism, 236. 47   Joseph Needham, ed. Science and Civilisation in China, vol. 5, pt. 3, 151. 48   Kawai noted, but did not discuss this important fact. 49   Zhuangzi jiaoquan 莊子校詮 (Zhuangzi with commentaries), ed. Wang Shumin 王叔岷 (Taibei: Taiwan shangwu yinshuguan, 1994), vol. 2, 674. The English translation is from Victor H. Mair, transl., Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998), 176.


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to the harmonious state of mind and the proper understanding of the world that he advocated. As noted above, by adopting as his written vehicle the genre of idealized autobiography, Bai Juyi alluded to a number of literati who withdrew from political life and developed the ideal of reclusion. These are Wang Ji, Tao Qian, and indirectly the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, who form a line of succession. All of these men were famous for their poetry on the drinking of wine—the theme which occupies the most conspicuous place in Bai’s “Biography.” Bai Juyi also referred twice to Liu Ling 劉伶 (courtesy name Bolun 伯倫, d. after 265), one of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, known for his addiction to wine. Liu Ling adopted the nickname of jiu gui 酒鬼 (wine demon) and wrote “Jiu de song” 酒德頌 (Ode on the Virtue of Wine). Bai Juyi compared himself with Liu Ling not only in “Biography,” but also in his verses.50 In “Biography” Bai Juyi refers to the episode in which Liu Ling deceived his wife, who had persuaded him to stop drinking: “That is why Liu Bolun heard the words of his wife, but did not listen to her.” This story is included in the collection of anecdotes about intellectuals and eccentrics entitled Shishuo xinyu (New Account of Tales of the World) by Liu Yiqing (403–444).51 Furthermore, the expression used in “Biography”—“he made heaven his tent and earth his seat” (mu tian xi di 幕天席地)—is a famous quotation which comes from “Ode on the Virtue of Wine.” There Liu Ling made this comparison to describe the freedom and inspiration which wine gave him. The poet said that he forgot about the passage of time and made the whole universe his dwelling, where the sun and moon were door and window, the eight directions his paths, etc.52 By comparing himself with Liu Ling, Bai Juyi related his lifestyle and autobiography to the very beginnings of Chinese prose and poetry, inspired by the drinking of wine. As in the poetry by Liu Ling and others among the Seven Sages, wine in Bai’s writing appeared

50   Fan Zhilin 范之麟 and Wu Gengshun 吳庚舜, Quan Tang shi diangu cidian 全唐詩典故辭典 (Dictionary of Allusions in the Complete Collection of Tang Poetry) (Changsha: Hubei cishu chubanshe, 2001), vol. 1, 654. 51   Liu Yiqing 劉義慶, Shishuo xinyu jiao jizhu 世說新語校集注 (New Account of Tales of the World with Collected Commentaries), comment. Liu Xiaobiao 劉孝標, ed. Zhu Zhuyu 朱鑄禹(Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2002), juan 23, 610–611. 52   Xiao Tong 蕭統 (501–531), ed., Wen xuan 文選 (Literary Selections), juan 47, in Siku quanshu (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1987), vol. 1331, 13.

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as the tool of the spiritual power of a poet, which made it possible for him to transcend the boundaries of time and space. As previously noted, Kawai emphasizes the optimistic and playful mood of Bai’s “Biography.” This is conspicuous in the ironic use of certain allusions it invokes. For example, Bai Juyi wrote: “However, I am richer than Qian Lou, have more longevity than Yan Yuan, am better fed than Boyi, happier than Rong Qiqi, and stronger than Wei Shubao.” Historical sources tell us that Qian Lou 黔婁 was an upright scholar of the Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BCE), who lived in extreme poverty because he refused to serve an unfair ruler.53 Yan Yuan 顏淵 (or Hui 回, 521–490 BCE) was a disciple of Confucius, who was very talented, but died early.54 Boyi 伯夷 was a person of noble origin who lived at the end of the Shang dynasty (in the eleventh century BCE); together with his brother Shuqi 叔齊 he died of starvation, because they did not want to live in the new Zhou state (1045–221 BCE), established after the fall of the Shang.55 Shubao 叔寳 is the courtesy name of Wei Jie 衛玠 (286–312), the nephew of a statesman of the Jin dynasty (265–420) who was known for his beauty and talent. Unfortunately, he was prone to poor health. The dynastic history of Jin and A New Account of Tales of the World both contain passages which say that Wei Jie was crushed to death by a great crowd of people who had assembled in the capital eager to see him.56 Thus it is evident that Bai Juyi turned the allusions into a kind of ironic joke. The only allusion that appeared in the text with its original meaning was the reference to Rong Qiqi 榮啓期, an optimistic old man, who was a figure in the Liezi 列子 (ascribed to a philosopher of the third century BCE, but subject to many redactions, possibly until the fourth century CE or later).57 Rong Qiqi was a poor man who managed to find   Liu Xiang 劉向 (79-8 BCE), Gu Lienü zhuan 古列女傳 (Old Biographies of Eminent Women), juan 2, Lu Qian Lou qi 魯黔婁妻, in Siku quanshu (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1987), vol. 448, 12. 54   Lunyu zhushu 論語注疏 (Analects with Commentaries), juan 6, in Shisan jing zhushu: zhengli ben (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 2000), vol. 23, 86; Sima Qian 司 馬遷, Shi ji 史記 (The Grand Scribe’s Records), vol. 1 of Ershisi shi (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1997), juan 67, 2188. 55   Sima Qian, Shi ji, juan 61, 2123. 56   Fang Xuanling 房玄齡 (578–648) et al., Jin shu 晉書 (History of the Jin Dynasty), vol. 4 of Ershisi shi, juan 36, 1067–1068; Liu Yiqing, Shishuo xinyu jiaoji zhu, juan 14, 526–527. 57   Liezi jishi 列子集釋 (Liezi with Explanations), ed. Yang Bojun 楊伯峻 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1996), 22–23. 53


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happiness in a simple life. This figure appears to have been attractive to Bai Juyi, since he mentions the name again in the lines of poetry inserted into “Biography.” Kawai argues that the joyful nature of Bai’s “Biography” is quite different from the similar pieces by Tao Qian and Wang Ji. Tao Qian’s “Biography of the Maestro of the Five Willows” and Wang Ji’s “Biography of the Maestro of Five Dippers” end with the death and disappearance of their characters respectively.58 The ending of Bai’s “Biography,” on the contrary, is left open. Kawai writes that the last sentence of “Biography”—“Till now I have been comfortable, but henceforth I myself do not know what this joy will be like!”—is difficult to interpret. However, Kawai finally concludes that it should be evaluated as optimistic, inasmuch as it expresses satisfaction on the part of the poet and his wish to accept the natural course of events. Kawai makes the point that Bai Juyi excelled in description of the “pleasures of reclusion,” whereas the persona of the recluse in actuality was merely a literary mask for him. As mentioned above, Bai Juyi was not really retired when he created “Biography.” Unlike Tao Qian and Wang Ji, Bai Juyi enjoyed the material prosperity that his honorary appointment brought him.59 One cannot but agree with this assertion. Indeed, viewed in the broader perspective of famous works of “leisure literature” of China created before and after Bai’s lifetime, the rare quality of Bai’s optimism is conspicuous. There are two renowned texts which also deal with the gatherings of literati who spend their spare time drinking wine and composing and reciting poetry: “Lan ting ji xu” 蘭亭集序 (Preface to Collected Poems from the Orchid Pavilion) by the calligrapher Wang Xizhi 王羲之 (ca. 303-ca. 361) and “Zui weng ting ji” 醉翁亭記 (Record of the Pavilion of an Intoxicated Old Man) by the poet Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 (1007–1072). Both are regarded as masterpieces of Chinese classical prose. As in Bai Juyi’s “Biography,” in these two texts literati describe the joyful intoxication that derives from the pleasures of landscape and wine among their circle of friends and that serves as the inspiration for their writing. Nevertheless, both for Wang Xizhi and Ouyang Xiu the moments of happiness reminded them of the shortness of human life. Wang Xizhi reflected on this ephemerality with melancholy. He wrote: “What they had taken pleasure in has 58 59

  Tao Yuanming ji jiao jian, 424; Wang Wugong wen ji, 626.   Kawai Kōzō, Chūgoku no jiden bungaku, 121–122.

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now passed away in an instant, so how could their hearts not give rise to longing?”60 In Ouyang Xiu’s piece, happiness is also finite, though it can be preserved in writing: “When the merriment is over and the evening sun sets among the mountains, the prefect goes home with his guests in tow . . . Yet, though birds may know the joy of mountain forests, they know not the joy of mankind . . .”61 The transitory nature of life and the quick passage of time are widespread ideas in Chinese classical prose. They are deeply rooted in the Daoist and Buddhist outlooks that many literati shared. Such ideas are not entirely absent from Bai’s “Biography” either. Bai Juyi also noted that “a hundred years could pass as an instant” and the Maestro was unaware “that old age would come soon.” However, this does not make the end sad. The poet concludes his autobiography with an ironic description of his current state: “The age of the Maestro was sixty-seven years. His temples were completely white, his head half bald, and he lacked both upper and lower teeth, but his enthusiasm for the goblet and poetry recitation had not yet expired.” With the help of this enthusiasm, and the above-noted calm look toward the future, the poet endeavors to resist age and time. “Biography of the Maestro of Mellow Versification,” though deeply rooted in the tradition of classical Chinese idealized autobiography, possesses significant features that distinguish it from its antecedents. Bai Juyi combined a traditional form with the powerful expression of individuality by modifying some of the genre’s formal characteristics, introducing numerous concrete autobiographical details, personal convictions, and preferences, and creating a playful and optimistic mood. At the same time, frequent allusions introducing literati of the past and their works (Zhuangzi, Liezi, Liu Ling and his “Ode on the Virtue of Wine,” Wang Ji and his “Story of Drunkenville,” as well as links with earlier examples of idealized autobiography by Ruan Ji, Tao Qian, and Wang Ji) with laconic brevity help us to perceive Bai Juyi’s 60   Liu Maochen 劉茂辰 et al., eds., Wang Xizhi, Wang Xianzhi zhi quanji jian zheng 王羲之王獻之全集箋證 (Annotated and Verified Complete Collection of Works by Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi) (Ji’nan: Shandong wenyi chubanshe, 1999), 15. English translation by R. Strassberg in Mair, ed., The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature, 566. 61   Li Yian 李逸安, ed., Ouyang Xiu quanji 歐陽修全集 (Complete Collection of works by Ouyang Xiu) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2001), vol. 2, 576. English translation by R.E. Hegel in Mair, ed., The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature, 591.


victor h. mair and rostislav berezkin

ideal in the long perspective of the cultural tradition. One may say that Bai Juyi skillfully used peculiarities of generic form, which had become standardized by his time, to create his own idealized image. “Biography of the Maestro of Mellow Versification,” which combines the traditional with the personal, contributed much to the later perception of Bai Juyi’s individuality in both official and popular perspective. Biography of the Maestro of Mellow Versification As for the Maestro of Mellow Versification, I forget his surname and courtesy name, his native place and official rank; in confusion, I do not know who I really am. As an official the Maestro traveled for thirty years, and, approaching old age, he retired and settled near the city of Luoyang.62   In the place where he lived, there was a pond of five-six mu,63 several thousand bamboo, several dozen tall trees, a terrace, a pavilion, a boat, and a bridge—this group of things, though small, was complete, and the Maestro found peace in them. Though his family was poor, they did not suffer from cold and hunger. Though his age was old, the Maestro still had not yet reached decrepitude. By his nature the Maestro was addicted to wine, indulged in the zither, and was obsessed with poetry. Many were the wine companions, zither partners, and poet-guests who accompanied him on his excursions. Besides traveling, he rested his mind in Śākyamuni’s64 teaching, and studied all the laws of the Small, Middle and Great Vehicles.65 He became a friend in the gates of emptiness66 with a monk from Songshan,67 Ruman; became a friend in admiring landscapes with a   Eastern capital of the Tang dynasty, in modern Henan province.   One mu is roughly 1/6 acre. 64   Śākyamuni Gautama is the name of the historical Buddha, who lived in India in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. In China the abbreviation of his family name, Shi 釋, was used as the surname of all Buddhist monks. 65   The Small Vehicle (Skt. Hinayana, i.e., Theravada) refers to the form of Buddhism practiced in India in the first centuries BCE. It generally promised salvation to a narrow circle of adherents, principally monks, hence the name. On the eve of the new era, Great Vehicle (Mahayana) Buddhism came into being, which claimed to provide salvation for everybody and was especially concerned with lay devotees. This type of Buddhism came to China and was established there in the form of the Great Vehicle. The term Middle Vehicle, strictly speaking, does not exist in Buddhism. Bai Juyi probably used it simply as a parallel for the other two. 66   “The gates of [the teaching of] emptiness” stands for Buddhism. Emptiness is one of the key ideas of Buddhism. 67   Songshan Mountain in Henan province is the central of Five Sacred Peaks in China. Buddhist monasteries, including the famous Shaolin, are located near it. 62 63

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guest from Pingquan, Wei Chu68; became a friend in reciting poetry with Liu Mengde from Pengcheng;69 became a friend in drinking wine with Huangfu Langzhi from Anding.70 Every time they met each other they were so happy that they forgot about returning home.   The Maestro visited all the Daoist and Buddhist temples, hills, and estates famous for springs, stones, flowers, or bamboo groves inside and outside of Luoyang within a distance of sixty-seventy li.71 He stopped at the homes of all those who had fine wine and those who were good at playing zither. He looked at the paintings, books, singers, and dancers in the houses of all who had them. From the residence of the governor of Luochuan to the homes of commoners,72 he often went to attend banquets when invited. Every clear day when the view was nice, either in the snowy morning or in the moonlit evening, those who liked this kind of thing met together, and the Maestro would always first brush off the dust from a jug of wine, and then open a box filled with scrolls of poems. When he was flushed with wine, the Maestro himself would pluck the zither, tune it to the gong note,73 and play a round of “Autumn Thoughts.” If a good mood came, he would order the household servant boys to play the strings and bamboo flutes of court music, and in concert they performed “Rainbow Skirts and Feather Jackets.”74 If the joy was deep, he ordered young singing girls to sing a dozen new stanzas of “Willow Branches.”75 The Maestro would set free his feelings and rejoice in himself. He stopped only after getting dead drunk.

  A hermit who lived in Pingquan near Luoyang (Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 3, 1513).   Mengde was the courtesy name of Liu Yuxi (772–842), a famous poet and friend of Bai Juyi. He was originally from Pengcheng (modern Xuzhou in Jiangsu province). 70   Huangfu Shu (courtesy name Langzhi, jinshi 816, fl. 825–827), an official, was a friend and neighbor of Bai Juyi (Bai Juyi ji jianjiao, vol. 4, 2028). 71   One li is roughly 1/3 mile or 300 paces, hence a “tricent.” 72   Literally, “linen clothes houses.” “Linen clothes” stands for common people. George Margouliès and Willard R. Trask interpret this expression as the personal name of Luochuan’s governor, which we think is not correct (“Great Chinese Prose—III,” 410). 73   First note in the Chinese traditional musical scale. 74   A popular music-and-dance performance at the Tang court. “Rainbow Skirts” was an adaptation of Indian music brought to China through Central Asia. Bai Juyi saw the performance in the court only once. Later he maintained the performance in a private setting. The term for “court music” used here came from the Buddhist “dharma tunes” of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (317–589). During the reign of Tang Xuanzong (712–756), however, this term came to refer to the music of official court entertainers. 75   Bai Juyi refers here to a new genre of poetry which emerged during the Tang dynasty, the lyric (ci 詞). Lyrics were composed for certain melodies (like “Willow Branches” here) and originally performed by singing girls, though poets gradually 68 69


victor h. mair and rostislav berezkin   Often in high spirits he would visit his neighbors and wander through the village,76 or he would travel to the capital city on horseback, or he would go to the countryside in a sedan chair. He would put the zither and a cushion and several volumes of the poetry of Tao and Xie77 in the sedan chair. On the left and right poles of the chair he would hang a pair of wine jugs, and, seeking for streams and gazing toward the mountains,78 he would go where his feelings led him. He would embrace his zither and grasp his wine cup, and return only when his joy ended. He spent ten years like this. In those days, the number of poems he composed79 annually80 amounted to more than a thousand, and the wine brewed81 every year amounted to several hundred hu,82 but the poems composed and the wine brewed before and after this decade are not included in these numbers.   His wife and children, younger brothers and nephews worried about his mistakes, and some of them reproached him, but he did not respond, even though it happened several times. Then the Maestro would say: “In the nature of every man it is rare to attain moderation; there definitely are partialities and preferences. I am not one of those moderates. However, if unfortunately I had a liking for profit and traded goods to multiply it, and even stored up many luxurious things and decorated my house, so as to buy misfortune and endanger myself, what would you do about me? If unfortunately I liked liubo and yi,83 and staked several ten thousand cash on a single move, ruining our wealth and destroying our property, so that even my wife and children would suffer from cold and hunger, what would you do about me? If unfortunately I liked medicine, and I sacrificed our

became interested in these songs as well. Bai Juyi himself probably wrote the poems sung to this tune. 76   The author here uses the words “boots” and “stick” as a metonymy for the verbs of motion. 77   Poets Tao Yuanming (365–427) and Xie Lingyun (385–433). 78   “Streams [literally ‘water’] and mountains” together form the Chinese word for scenery, but they are used separately here. 79   Fu 賦 (rhapsody) is a literary genre, standing between poetry and prose. It had been popular from the Han dynasty on (2nd cent. BCE). Here fu is used as a verb meaning “compose.” 80   Where we translate “annually” here and “every year” in the next clause, the main text has ri 日 (“daily”), which obviously makes no sense in either case. We agree with the reading of the Ma 馬 text of the Quan Tang wen 全唐文 (Complete Tang Prose) which has sui 歲 instead of ri in the second instance, and we suggest that a better reading for ri in the first clause would be nian 年. 81   Jiu 酒 (Chinese liquor), though usually translated as wine, is made of grain. That is why the word brewed is used in the translation. See also note 6 above. 82   An ancient unit of measure that equaled 5 dou (5 decaliters). 83   Two popular forms of gambling. The first resembled backgammon, but its exact rules are no longer known. The second one is “encirclement chess” (Japanese go).

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clothes and reduced our food to melt lead and burn mercury, and even then did not achieve anything, what would you do about these mistakes? Now I am fortunate not to like those things, but I find my pleasure only in cups and goblets and poetic recitations. I give free rein to my emotions—so be it. What harm is there in that? It certainly is no worse than having a preference for those three others. That is why Liu Bolun84 heard the words of his wife, but did not listen to her, and that is why Wang Wugong85 traveled to Drunkenville and did not return!” Then he would lead his boon companions to enter the wine shop, and they would sit around the wine vat. Then he would stretch out his legs,86 raise his head and say with a long sigh: “I was born in the space between heaven and earth, but my talent and virtues are far from those of ancient people. However, I am richer than Qian Lou,87 have more longevity than Yan Yuan,88 am better fed than Boyi,89 happier than Rong Qiqi,90 and stronger than Wei Shubao.91 Oh, how fortunate I am! Why should I seek for anything else? If I refuse the things I like, how shall I spend my old age?” Then the Maestro recited a poem, which revealed his innermost emotions: When I embrace a zither, I am as happy as Rong Qi; When I am besotted with wine, I am equal to Liu Ling. I let my eyes admire green mountains, I allow my head to have white hair! I do not know, between heaven and earth, How many years more I have to live! Starting from this point and till my end, I shall make all my time be leisure days and months! 84   Bolun was the style name of Liu Ling (d. after 265), one of the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove.” Liu Ling was famous for his addiction to drinking and poetry. Bai Juyi refers to the story from A New Account of Tales of the World which tells how Liu Ling deceived his wife, who had asked him to take an oath to stop drinking. 85   Wugong was the style name of the poet-recluse Wang Ji (590–644). His “Story of Drunkenville” describes the harmonious world of people who enjoy drinking wine. 86   Literally “in the form of a dustpan,” the pose of sitting considered informal in traditional China. 87   An official of the Spring and Autumn period (771–475 BCE) who preferred to live in poverty rather than serve unfair rulers. 88   Yan Yuan (Hui) (521–490 BCE), a talented disciple of Confucius, who died at an early age. 89   Boyi was a man at the end of Shang dynasty (11th cent. BCE) who starved himself to death, rather than serve the ruler of the new Zhou dynasty (1045–221 BCE), whom he considered to be a usurper. 90   Rong Qiqi, a figure in the book of Liezi (3rd cent. BCE-4th cent. CE), a merry old man who found joy in a simple life. 91   Wei Jie (or Shubao, 286–312), a handsome but weak young man.


victor h. mair and rostislav berezkin When he had finished reciting, he would smile, pick up the jug, and pour out several more cups of unstrained wine, until he had become insensibly drunk. Then he would sober up after getting drunk and recite poetry again after he had sobered, then drink again after reciting poetry, and then get drunk again after drinking. Drunkenness and recitations followed each other as though in an endless circle. Because of this he achieved the understanding that the events of life are a dream, and wealth and rank are like a cloud. He made heaven his tent and earth his seat,92 so that a hundred years could pass as an instant, and, in his carefree oblivion, he was unaware that old age would come soon. In antiquity there were those who were said to have achieved integrity from drinking, therefore he called himself the Maestro of Mellow Versification.   Written in the third year of the Kaicheng93 reign period, when the age of the Maestro was sixty-seven years. His temples were completely white, his head half bald, and he lacked both upper and lower teeth, but his enthusiasm for the goblet and poetry recitation had not yet expired. Turning to his wife and children he said, “Till now I have been comfortable, but henceforth I myself do not know what this joy will be like!”

92   This expression comes from the poem by Liu Ling (see above) and has the meaning of unrestrained freedom. 93   838.

luo binwang’s defense of a jilted lady


LUO BINWANG’S DEFENSE OF A JILTED LADY: “AMOROUS FEELINGS: ON BEHALF OF MISS GUO SENT TO LU ZHAOLIN” David R. Knechtges During his long residence in Shu, one of the Tang “Four Elites” (si jie 四傑), Lu Zhaolin 盧照鄰 (ca. 632-ca. 685), carried on a romantic rela�tionship with a local woman named Guo 郭.* When Lu left Shu in the summer of 671, Miss Guo was pregnant. Before he departed, Lu reputedly vowed he would return to marry her. Lu never returned to Shu, leaving Miss Guo alone to give birth to her child, probably a son. The son died in infancy. In 673, another of the Four Elites, Luo Binwang 駱賓王 (ca. 619-ca. 687), arrived in Shu where he met Miss Guo, who told him of her relationship with Lu Zhaolin.1 On her behalf, Luo composed a poem in ancient-style heptasyllabic meter, “Yanqing dai Guoshi zeng Lu Zhaolin” 艶情代郭氏贈盧照鄰 (Amorous Feelings: On Behalf of Miss Guo Sent to Lu Zhaolin). In this piece he tells of Miss Guo’s plight and chides Lu for having abandoned her. I present here an annotated translation, divided into sections based on changes in rhyme.2 *  I wish to thank Paul Kroll for his perceptive comments. 1   The chronology for Lu Zhaolin and Luo Binwang is problematic. However, the dates given here are generally accepted. I have relied primarily on Zhang Zhilie 張志 烈, Chu Tang sijie nianpu 初唐四傑年譜 (Chronology for the Four Elites of the Early Tang) (Chengdu: Ba Shu shushe, 1993), 127, 138–139, 162–165; and Fu Xuancong 傅璇琮, ed.-in-chief, Tangdai wenxue biannian shi 唐代文學編年史 (Chronological History of Tang Literature) (Shenyang: Liaohai chubanshe, 1998), 216, 224–225. 2   My text is primarily based on Chen Xijin 陳熙晉 (1791–1851), ed. and comm., Luo Linhai ji jianzhu 駱臨海集箋注 (Notes on the Collected Works of Luo Linhai [Binwang]) (1853; typeset and punctuated ed. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961; rpt. Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1985), 4.140–151. I also have consulted Yan Wenxuan 顏文選 (jinshi 1586), ed. and comm., Luo cheng ji 駱丞集 (Collected Works of Deputy Director Luo), Siku quanshu, 2.87b-93b. For variant readings I also have used Luo Binwang wenji 駱賓王文集 (Collected Works of Luo Binwang) (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1994; photo reproduction of Song dynasty Shu 蜀 woodblock held in the National Library of China, 2.36����������������������������������������� –���������������������������������������� 38. I wish to thank Chris Dakin for supplying me a copy of this edition from the Harvard-Yenching Library.


david r. knechtges Amorous Feelings: On Behalf of Miss Guo Sent to Lu Zhaolin 艶情代郭氏贈盧照鄰

2 4

Far, far the vast road heads toward the mushroom fields, Dim and distant the Han Pass serves as a barrier to the rivers   of Shu. A returning cloud has already descended beyond the Fu River, A homing goose must have passed the Luo River dorfs.

迢迢芋路望芝田, 眇眇函關限蜀川。 歸雲已落涪江外, 還鴈應過洛水纒。

L. 1: Chen Jixin (4.140) notes that the majority of the editions read qian 芊 for yu / hu 芋. Only the Shu edition reads 芋. Exactly what 芊 would mean here is not clear. 芋 in the pronunciation hu has the sense of da 大 ‘large.’ See Hua Xuecheng 華學誠, ed.-in-chief., Yang Xiong Fangyan jiaoshi huizheng 揚雄方言校釋匯證 (Collation, Commentary, and Collected Evidence for the Regional Words of Yang Xiong) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2006), 1.67–68, 13.965. The mush�room fields (zhi tian 芝田) refer to Luoyang. Cao Zhi 曹植 (192–232) in his “Fu on the Luo River Goddess” mentions mushroom fields in the outskirts of Luoyang. See Xiao Tong 蕭統 (501–531), Wen xuan 文選 (Selections of Refined Literature) (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1986), 19.896. In his commentary to this passage the Tang commentator Li Shan 李善 (d. 689) cites the Songgao shan ji 嵩高山記 (Notes on Mount Songgao) which tells of “divine mushrooms” on Mount Song, located south of Luoyang. Although Luo Binwang portrays Lu Zhaolin as living in Luoyang, he was actually residing in Chang’an at this time. L. 2: The Han Pass 函關, also known as Hangu Pass 函谷關, served as one of the major strategic passes that protected the capital Chang’an in Han times. In the early Han this pass was located in Hongnong 弘 農 (south of modern Lingbao 靈寶, Henan). In 115 bce Emperor Wu established the “new” Hangu Pass at Xin’an 新安 (270 li east of the old pass). LL. 3-4: The Fu 涪 is a major river in central Sichuan. It has its source in Songpan 松潘, flows southeast through Pingwu 平武, Mianyang 綿

luo binwang’s defense of a jilted lady


陽, Santai 三台, Suining 遂寧, and Tongnan 潼南. It joins the Jialing 嘉陵 River at Hechuan 合川. The cloud and goose presumably stand for Lu Zhaolin who has left Shu and taken up residence in the capital. 6 8

The Luo River laterally joins beside the imperial walls, From the rafters in the imperial residence hang phoenix wings. On Bronze Camel Road are willows a thousand in number, In Golden Valley Garden are flowers in several hues.

洛水傍連帝城側, 帝宅層甍垂鳳翼。 銅駝路上柳千條, 金谷園中花㡬色。

LL. 5-6: The imperial residence is the imperial palace in Luoyang. The phoenix wings are those of a bronze weather vane made in the shape of a phoenix. See David R. Knechtges, Wen xuan, or, Selections of Refined Literature, vol. 1 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), 130, LL. 258–289n. L. 7: Bronze Camel Road (Tong tuo jie 銅駝街) was a major avenue of Luoyang. It was named for two bronze camels that had been placed there in the Han period. L. 8: Golden Valley is the famous estate of the Western Jin plutocrat Shi Chong 石崇 (249–300). It was located in the suburbs of Luoyang. 10 12

Willow leaves and garden flowers everywhere are new; Luoyang peaches and plums are in full fragrant spring bloom. This humble lady faces twin streams and peers at Stone Mirror; My lord dwells at Three Rivers watching over a jade lady.

柳葉園花處處新, 洛陽桃李應芳春。 妾向雙流窺石鏡, 君住三川守玉人。

L. 10: Cf. Song Zihou 宋子侯 (Eastern Han), attributed, “Ballad of Dong Jiaorao”: “On the road east of the Luoyang walls, / Peaches and plums grow on the roadside.” See Xu Ling 徐陵 (507–583), Wu Zhaoyi 吳兆宜 (fl. 1672) and Cheng Yan 程琰 (jinshi 進士 1780), ed. and comm., Mu Kehong 穆克宏, coll. and punc., Yutai xinyong jianzhu


david r. knechtges

玉臺新詠箋注 (Annotations to the New Songs of the Jade Terrace) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1985), 26. L. 11: As Chen Xijin notes (4.141), shuangliu 雙流 (twin streams) could designate Shuangliu 雙流 county, which was the new name given in Sui times to the old Han county of Guangdu 廣都 to avoid the taboo on the personal name of the Sui emperor Yang Guang 楊廣 (569–618, r. 604–618). See Li Jifu 李吉甫 (9th cent.), Yuanhe junxian tuzhi 元和 郡縣圖志 (Maps and Gazetteer of the Provinces and Districts in the Yuanhe Period) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983), 31.771. The name was taken from the following line in the “Fu on the Shu Capital” by Zuo Si 左思 (d. ca. 306): “[Chengdu] is engirdled by the two streams of Two Rivers” (see Wen xuan, 4.175). Two Rivers (Erjiang 二江) was the name given to the streams that were formed when Li Bing 李 冰 (5th cent. bce) divided the Min 岷 River into two tributaries that flowed around the outskirts of Chengdu. These canals were used for boat travel, and the surplus water for irrigation. See Shi ji 史記 (Grand Scribe’s Records) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1959), 29.1407 and Han shu 漢書 (History of the Former Han Dynasty) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1962), 29.1679. Stone Mirror refers to the grave of a mountain sprite who was thought to be a man who transformed into a beautiful lady. A king of Shu took her for his concubine, but she soon died. The king had five strongmen build a grave mound for her. They placed a stone mirror on top of the mound. The mound reputedly is the same as the Wudan 武担 Hill in the north corner of Chengdu. See Liu Lin 劉 琳, ed. and comm., Huayang guozhi jiaozhu 華陽國志校注 (Collation and Commentary to the Records of the States South of Mount Hua) (Chengdu: Ba Shu shushe, 1984), 3.188. L. 12: Thee Rivers (Sanchuan 三川) is the area of Luoyang named for its three rivers, the Yellow, Luo, and Yi 伊. The jade lady refers to Lu Zhaolin’s new mistress. 14 16

How can one speak of our separation at that time? On this day an empty bed faces a fragrant pond. In the fragrant pond in vain swims a pair-eyed fish; On the secluded path still grows pluck-heart grass.

此時離别那堪道, 此日空牀對芳沼。 芳沼徒游比目魚, 幽徑還生拔心草。

luo binwang’s defense of a jilted lady


L. 15: The pair-eyed fish refers to the die 鰈, a sole-like flatfish. This fish is described as a pair of fish that share a single eye. Hao Yixing 郝懿行 (1757–1825), Erya yishu 爾雅義疏 (Notes on the Meaning of the Erya), Sibu beiyao, B5.9a. It is a conventional symbol of deep love between a man and woman. L. 16: The “pluck-heart grass” is an epithet for the plant juanshi 卷施, which is a type of xiumang 宿莽 or sloughgrass (Beckmannia syzigachne). According to tradition, if its “heart” were plucked out, it did not die. See Erya yishu, C1.38a.

Whirling like snow in a flowing breeze she was extraordinarily   fair; 18 Your coursers and boar-hide quiver were truly impressive. Tossing fruit in Heyang—you get your share; 20 Selling ale in Chengdu—it is thus with this humble lass.

流風迴雪儻便娟, 驥子魚文實可憐。 擲果河陽君有分, 貨酒成都妾亦然。

L. 17: Chen Jixin (4.141) notes the variant 舞 ‘dance’ for tang 儻 ‘extraordinary.’ Cf. Cao Zhi, “Fu on the Luo River Goddess”: “She drifts airily like whirling snow in streaming wind.” Knechtges, Wen xuan, vol. 3 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 359. This line probably describes Miss Guo. L. 18: Cf. Zuo Si, “Fu on the Shu Capital”: “Men like Wangsun, / The likes of Xigong, / When they chase wild game in the city outskirts, / No one is left in the lanes. / Together they mount their coursers; / And all have boar-hide quivers.” Knechtges, Wen xuan, vol. 1, 363. L. 19: This is an allusion to Pan Yue 潘岳 (247–300) who was so handsome that whenever he traveled the streets of Luoyang, women joined hands in a circle around him and threw fruit at him. He always returned home with his cart fully laden. Pan Yue served as prefect of Heyang 河陽 (west of modern Meng 孟 county, Henan), on the north bank of the Yellow River across from Luoyang. Here Pan Yue stands for Lu Zhaolin. L. 20: Sima Xiangru 司馬相如 (179–117 bce) eloped with the widow Zhuo Wenjun 卓文君, who was the daughter of a wealthy Shu iron manufacturer. To support themselves, he and his wife ran an alehouse


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until Wenjun’s father was shamed into recognizing their marriage. For this story and later adaptations of it see Wilt L. Idema, “The Story of Ssu-ma Hsiang-ju and Cho Wen-chün in Vernacular Literature of the Yüan and Early Ming Dynasties,” T’oung Pao 70 (1984): 60–109. Chen Jixin (4.141) adopts the reading shi 貰 ‘to purchase on credit’ / ‘to pawn’ for huo 貨 ‘to engage in the selling of.’ Luo may have derived this phrase from the account of Sima Xiangru in the Xijing zaji 西經 雜記 (Miscellaneous Notes on the Western Capital) that tells of the return of Sima Xiangru and Zhuo Wenjun to Chengdu in impoverished status. Sima Xiangru pawned his egret plume coat with a merchant in exchange for ale so that he could cheer up Zhuo Wenjun. See Xiang Xinyang 項新陽 and Liu Keren 劉克任, ed. and comm., Xijing zaji jiaozhu 西經雜記校注 (Collation and Commentary to Miscellaneous Notes on the Western Capital) (Shanghai: Shanghai guiji chubanshe, 1991), 2.82. In this reading, these lines are a reference to the good times that Miss Guo shared with Lu Zhaolin in Chengdu. 22 24

Do not say no one cares about poverty and humble status; Do not say wealth and honor depend on birthright. Green Pearl still obtained Shi Chong’s love, And Flying Swallow received the Han sovereign’s favor.

莫言貧賤無人重, 莫言富貴應須種。 綠珠猶得石崇憐, 飛燕曽經漢皇寵。

LL. 23–24: Green Pearl (Lüzhu 綠珠) (d. 300) was a young girl whom Shi Chong purchased when he was serving in the southern Yue region. She eventually became his favorite concubine. Zhao Feiyan 趙 飛燕 (d. 1 bce) was a dancer who eventually became empress under the Former Han emperor Cheng 成 (r. 32-7 bce). These are both examples of women of humble background who rose to high status. Presumably Miss Guo is being compared with them. My good man is getting wildly drunk somewhere; 28 I simply follow along silently guarding an empty name. You suddenly take up a new double-thread silk that gives you   satisfaction;

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30 On the contrary your old sword is treated as commonplace and   ordinary. Before you left I had an auspicious dream of the thoroughwort sign; 32 Before we parted traces of tears formed on the bamboo.

良人何處醉縱横, 直如循黙守空名。 倒提新縑成慊慊, 翻將故劒作平平。 離前吉夢成蘭兆, 别後啼㾗上竹生。

L. 28: The “empty name” is Miss Guo’s lack of formal status as Lu Zhaolin’s wife. Cf. Lu Ji 陸機 (261–303), “Written on Behalf of the Wife of Li Siyuan”: “Although I have been a wife for three years, / I look back at my shadow ashamed of my empty name.” See Jin Taosheng 金濤聲, ed., Lu Ji ji 陸機集 (The Collected Works of Lu Ji) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1982), 5.53. L. 29: According to the Shi ming 釋名 (Terms Explained) by Liu Xi 劉熙 (late Eastern Han) jian 縑 was a fine double-thread yellow silk that was impervious to water. See Wang Xianqian 王先謙 (1842– 1918), ed. and comm., Shi ming shuzheng bu 釋名疏證補 (Supplement to the Evidential Commentary to the Shi ming) (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1984), juan 4, 28b. Here it refers to Lu Zhaolin’s new mistress. See L. 63 below. Qianqian 慊慊 usually means ‘dissatisfied’ as in the “Ballad of Yan” by Cao Pi 曹丕 (187–226), which is about a wife longing for her husband who is away from home on a military campaign: “Dissatisfied [qianqian 慊慊], you wish to return—you yearn for your old home; / Why, sir, do you linger so long in that strange land?” See Wen xuan, 27.1284. However, in the pronunciation qie the graph 慊 means ‘satisfied.’ I have followed this reading, since it fits the context better. L. 30: The new double-thread silk stands for Lu Zhaolin’s current mistress. The “old sword” refers to Miss Guo. The locus classicus for the phrase gu jian 古劍 in the sense of old or former wife is in the biography of Empress Xu 許 (d. 71 bce), who was the wife of the Former Han emperor Xuan 宣 (r. 73–48 bce). Before Emperor Xuan became emperor he had taken the daughter of Xu Guanghan 許廣漢 (d. 61 bce) as his wife. When Emperor Xuan took the throne, court officials recommended that the daughter of Huo Guang 霍光 (d. 68


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bce) be named empress, but Emperor Xuan instead commanded that a search be made for the “old sword” that he had used when he formerly held humble status. The court officials immediately comprehended the emperor’s meaning and recommended Lady Xu as empress. See Han shu 97A.2965. For a similar usage of these two figures, see Jiang Zong 江總 (519–594), “Poem of Compliant”: “Nothing can be done about the new double-thread silk that breaks this humble woman’s heart, / There is no way for the old sword to move my lord’s heart.” See Guo Maoqian 郭茂倩 (fl. 1084–1126), Yuefu shiji 樂府詩集 (Collection of Yuefu Poetry) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979), 41.613. L. 31: The phrase ji meng 吉夢 ‘auspicious dream’ implies that a child is about to be born. Cf. Mao shi 189/5: “Which are the auspicious dreams? / It is a black bear, it is a brown bear, / It is a viper, it is a snake . . . The black bear and brown bear, / They are good omens of male offspring. / The viper and the snake, / They are good omens of female offspring.” L. 32: According to the Zuo zhuan 左傳 (Zuo Commentary), Xuan 3, a lowly concubine of Duke Wen of Zheng dreamed that an emissary gave her a thoroughwort plant. She later gave birth to a son, whom she named Lan 蘭 or Thoroughwort. This son became Duke Mu. The phrase “sign of the thoroughwort” was conventionally used to presage the birth of a child. 34 36 38

The day we parted we made a mutual bond; Already chosen to “befit your house” I was urged and encouraged. At that time I planned to fondle a pearl in the hand, Who could have known the jade would be smashed in the courtyard? No one asks about my mournful plaint heard five leagues away; The three cries of my broken heart—who will continue them? Longing for my lord I am like the wife watching for her returning   husband; 40 Dwelling here I am loathe to hear “The hen leads her chick.”

别日分明相約束, 巳取宜家成誡勗。 當時擬弄掌中珠, 豈謂先摧庭際玉。 悲鳴五里無人問, 膓斷三聲誰爲續。 思君欲坐望夫臺, 端居懶聴將鶵曲。

luo binwang’s defense of a jilted lady


L. 34: See Mao shi 6/2: “This maiden is going to be married, / She well befits her new household.” L. 35: The “pearl in the palm” represents a beloved child. Here it refers to Miss Guo’s infant son. Cf. Yu Xin 庾信 (513–581), “Fu on a Broken Heart”: “A dragon at the knee [i.e., a young son] is smashed, / A pearl in the palm is shattered.” See Ni Fan 倪璠 (juren 舉人 1705), ed. and comm., Xu Yimin 許逸民, coll. and punc., Yu Zishan ji zhu 庾子山集注 (Collected Works of Yu Xin) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1980), 1.59. L. 36: The jade is actually “jade tree” that is a conventional phrase for a young child. The locus classicus occurs in a story about Xie An 謝 安 (320–385) who once was admonishing the youngsters of his family. He took the opportunity to say, “Youngsters, I have nothing to do with you, yet why do I wish you to become good?” No one replied except for Xie Xuan 謝玄 (343–388) who said, “An analogy for this is angelica, thoroughwort, and jade trees. One wishes them simply to grow by the courtyard steps.” See Jin shu 晉書 (History of the Jin Dynasty) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1974), 79.2080. Jade in Luo Binwang’s line probably refers to Miss Guo’s son that died in infancy. LL. 37–38: Luo Binwang borrows phrases from a song reputedly sung by fishermen about the mournful cries of a gibbon at the Wu Gorge in Shu: “Of the three gorges of Badong, Wu Gorge is the longest; / Three cries from the gibbon and tears soak my gown.” See Li Daoyuan 酈道 元 (d. 527), Yang Shoujing 楊守敬 (1839–1915) and Xiong Huizhen 熊會貞, (d. 1936), comm., Duan Xizhong 段熙仲, coll. and punc., Shuijing zhushu 水經注疏 (Commentary and Subcommentary to the Canon of Waters) (Nanjing: Jiangsu guji chubanshe, 1989), 34.2834. L. 39: Luo Binwang alludes to the common story of the faithful wife whose husband had gone off to war. She waited and watched for him until she turned into a stone. The most famous story of the “wife who watches for husband” is that of Meng Jiangnü 孟姜女. See Idema’s recent book on this subject: Meng Jiangnü Brings down the Great Wall: Ten Versions of a Chinese Legend (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008). Luo Binwang may have in mind the Shi xinfu shen 石新 婦神 (Spirit of the New Wife of Stone) located in the Shu county of Pu’an 普安. See Yuanhe juan xian tuzhi, 33.846. L. 40: “Feng jiang chu” 鳳將雛 (The Hen Phoenix Leads Its Chick) is an old yuefu tune for which no lyrics survive. Miss Guo presumably


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does not wish to hear this tune because it reminds her of the death of her infant son. 42 44 46

Sinking steadily, the setting sun goes down over the mountain; Before the eaves returning swallows nest head-to-head. Clasping my knees I face the window and watch the evening hare; Bending my ears in an empty chamber I listen to the dawn roosters; Dancing butterflies near the steps simply flutter by themselves; Crying birds upon meeting me also assist my weeping.

沈沈落日向山低, 簷前歸燕並頭栖。 抱膝當牕瞻夕兎, 側耳空房聽曉雞。 舞蝶臨階秪自舞, 啼鳥逢人亦助啼。

L. 43: Watching the evening hare is watching the moon: according to legend, the evening hare was one of the inhabitants of the moon. 48 50 52 54

I sit alone grieving on my solitary pillow; With the coming of spring my grief is even deeper. The moon over Mount Emei is like an eyebrow; The rose clouds in Brocade Washing Stream are like brocade. A brocade palindrome I would like to send my lord, But the layered peaks of Sword Wall are a terrible tangle. The flat river with its raging waters divides the verdant shore; The long road stretching far is blocked by white clouds.

獨坐傷孤枕, 春來悲更甚。 峨眉山上月如眉, 濯錦江中霞似錦。 錦字回文欲贈君, 劒璧層峯自糺紛。 平江淼淼分青浦, 長路悠悠間白雲。

L. 49: Luo Binwang puns on the name of the famous Emei 峨眉 Mountain of Shu, which often is explained as “e mei” 蛾眉 ‘moth eyebrows.’

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L. 50: The Brocade Washing Stream is the section of the Min River 岷江 that flows through Chengdu. Cloth that was washed here was thought to be brighter and fresher than cloth washed in other streams. L. 51: This line alludes to Su Hui 蘇蕙, the wife of Dou Tao 竇滔 of the Former Qin period (357–394). According to her biography in the Jin shu (96.2523), when Dou Tao was serving as prefect of Qinzhou 秦州 (modern Tianshui 天水, Gansu), he was banished to the desert. To express her longing for him, Su Hui wrote a long 840-character palindrome (huiwen 回文). She reputedly wove the palindrome onto brocade in a circular pattern. For a detailed study of this piece see Ding Shengyuan 丁勝源, Qian Qin nü shiren Su Hui yanjiu 前秦女詩人蘇 惠研究 (Study of the Former Qin Female Poet Su Hui) (Xi’an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe, 2002). L. 52: The Sword Wall is another name for the Jiange 劍閣 (Sword Gallery), also known as Jianmen 劍門, the name of a steep mountain range in northern Sichuan. Its name is derived from two main peaks, Large Sword Gate, and Small Sword Gate, which dropped off so steeply they were compared to swords. For some useful information about this site see Paul Kroll, “The Road to Shu, from Zhang Zai to Li Bo,” Early Medieval China 10–11, pt. 1 (2004): 227–254. 54 56

I know that in Capital Luo there are many beauties; I know that the mountain peaks far away blot out the sky. There is nothing to be done—even short notes from you are rare; It was not with long affection that you kept your promise.

也知京洛多佳麗, 也知山岫遥虧蔽。 無那短封即疏索, 不在長情守期契。

58 60 62 64

I have heard that Weaver Girl faces Herdboy; Gazing at each other across Silver River separated by a shallow stream. Who would have reckoned we would be far, far apart for two years; Who could with intense gaze wait three autumns? In my heart I know it makes no sense to spit into a well; In my heart I know that overturned water cannot be retrieved. I will not again go down the hill, but may I ask, Will again the Lu house take Mochou for a wife?


david r. knechtges 傳聞織女對牽牛, 相望銀河隔淺流。 誰分迢迢經兩歳, 誰能脉脉待三秋。 情知唾井終無理, 情知覆水也難收。 不復下山能借問, 更向盧家字莫愁。

LL. 57–58: Weaver Girl and Herdboy were two constellations (Altair and Vega) that occupied opposite sides of the Silver River (Milky Way). They were allowed to meet only once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh moon when a flock of magpies formed a bridge for them to cross the river. See Edward H. Schafer, “The Sky River,” JAOS 94 (1974): 401–407. Luo Binwang uses this allusion to represent the sepa�ration of Miss Guo from Lu Zhaolin. L. 60: Three autumns presumably are the three years that have passed since Lu Zhaolin left her in Shu. L. 61: The phrase “spitting in a well” alludes to a poem attributed to Wang Song 王宋, wife of Liu Xun 劉勳 (fl. 200). According to the preface in the Yutai xinyong, after Wang Song was married to Liu Xun for twenty years, Liu Xun fell in love with a daughter of the Sima 司馬 clan. He then divorced Liu Xun on the grounds of childlessness. When she was returning to her parents’ home she composed a two-stanza poem. The first four lines of the second stanza read: Who says the discarded wife has no strong feeling? The love of a discarded wife is even stronger. From a thousand leagues away from home one does not spit into a   well; This is even more the case with one who formerly served you.

See Yutai xinyong jianzhu, 58. This poem is also attributed to Cao Pi or Cao Zhi who reputedly composed it on behalf of Wang Song. L. 62: This line may allude to a story told about Taigong Wang 太 公望 (Great Venerable Wang), who assisted Kings Wen and Wu of Zhou in their victory of the Shang. He had married a woman named Ma 馬, but unable to endure their poverty, she left him. She returned to him only when Taigong Wang received high position with the Zhou. However, upon seeing her, Taigong poured a jar of water on the ground and asked his wife to retrieve it. He then said to her, “You

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say the parted can be rejoined again, but overturned water cannot be retrieved.” See Wang Mao 王楙 (1151–1213), Wang Wenjin 王文 錦, coll. and punc., Yeke congshu 野客叢書 (Collectanea of a Rustic) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1987), 28.327. L. 63: This line draws upon an anonymous song about a wife who had been cast aside by her husband who had taken a new bride. Its opening lines read: “Going up the hill she picked lovage; / Going down the hill she met her former husband.” See Yutai xinyong jianzhu, 1.1-2. L. 64: Mochou 莫愁 was a woman of the late Six Dynasties from Luoyang who married into a Lu 盧 family. An anonymous poem of the Liang period has the following lines about her: “At age thirteen Mochou could weave fine silk, / At fourteen she picked mulberries on the southern path, / At fifteen she became a Lu family wife.” Yutai xinyong jianzhu, 9.387. This poem is also attributed to Xiao Yan 蕭衍 (464–549, r. 502–549), Emperor Wu 武 of Liang. Lu clearly refers to Lu Zhaolin, and Mochou must stand for Lu’s new mistress in Luoyang.


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the fall of former shu in 925


THE FALL OF FORMER SHU IN 925: AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT Glen Dudbridge The narrative presented here is a document so rare of its kind and for its time as to be unique. It describes a great event, the fall of a kingdom, as seen by one directly involved in it. In his urgent desire to set the whole affair on record he both logs the sequence of events and transcribes written texts and poetic dialogues in which the main confrontations are played out. At a distance of more than a thousand years it is a luxury to possess first-hand testimony of this quality, not least when our basic knowledge of the whole period is pieced together from the work of official historians who had their own ways with source material. This document has no balanced structure or well-crafted narrative shape. Instead it spontaneously reflects an indignant need to expose who was to blame for the fall of Shu 蜀, and why. Its evidence comes mostly in textual form, but also includes snatches of spoken dialogue between the main players. All this presents the disaster of 925 as the result of both political and strategic errors. The author makes no attempt at detached appraisal: his own voice speaks out in the verse debates at the climax of the drama. Here is a passionately committed statement by a participant who wants the truth to be told. “Most people do not know this,” are his closing words. The memoirist was Wang Renyu 王仁裕 (880–956),1 and the present paper is part of a larger project to translate and interpret the remains of his two collections of narratives from the Five Dynasties period.2 1   My study of his career and translation of his tombstone epitaph are in course of publication by the Institute of Chinese Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong: see “The rhetoric of loyalty and disloyalty in Five Dynasties China,” Journal of Chinese Studies Special Issue: Institute of Chinese Studies Visiting Professor Lecture Series (II) (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2009). 2   They are Yutang xianhua 玉堂閒話 (Anecdotes from the Jade Hall) and Wang shi jianwen lu 王氏見聞錄 (Things Seen and Heard by Wang), both lost to transmission but copiously anthologized in Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Records for the Time of Supreme Peace, 978), abbreviated below to TPGJ. The present piece was


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His youth coincided with the dying years of the Tang dynasty, his sudden maturity with the fracturing of China into kingdoms and aspirant dynasties. Native to what is now Lixian 禮縣, near Tianshui 天 水 in Gansu, he began an administrative career modestly as an aide to the military commissioner of Qinzhou 秦州, one of the prefectures in the small territory Qi 岐, covering parts of southeastern Gansu and southwestern Shaanxi. In 915 Qinzhou was surrendered to the newly arisen kingdom of Shu in the south, and Wang joined the Shu court at that point. He was successful and rose rapidly to high positions. When the Younger Ruler Wang Yan 王衍 succeeded the founder Wang Jian 王建 in 918, Wang Renyu was among his close entourage and in a position to see and hear events at court. That is how we come to read of the Younger Ruler’s sexual abandon and misplaced trust in the eunuch Wang Chengxiu 王承休. The decisions to make this man military commissioner of Qinzhou, to send him there with the best troops in the Shu armed forces, then to follow up with a royal visit in person to that place—all contrived by manipulating the Younger Ruler’s sexual cravings—raised a huge scandal at court, but took effect nonetheless. Wang Yan’s trip to the north went disastrously wrong. As his extended regiments struggled through difficult mountain country in incipient winter conditions, troops from the expanding Later Tang dynasty marched towards them from the northeast. Morale collapsed. The royal train turned tail as its own troops fled south. Wang Chengxiu, heavily armed in a strategically critical stronghold to the north, failed to lift a finger, and instead vanished into the heights of the Tibetan plateau, making his own way south at the head of a force that would be pulverized by Tibetan raiders and the brutal climate. He arrived with a handful of people in Chengdu 成都 at the point when the Later Tang commanders had taken control, and duly suffered execution. Wang Renyu attends rather minimally to this narrative sequence (with the exception of an unforgettable vignette from the hills west of Jianzhou 劍州). Instead, he gives up a large portion of his memoir to compositions by himself and other men, particularly to a memorial of remonstration by Pu Yuqing 蒲禹卿 which occupies more than half of the entire text. Reading through that lengthy piece makes it clear why Wang wanted to transcribe and preserve it. Pu, a man little known sourced from the latter title and appears in TPGJ (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), 241.1858–1864.

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to history apart from this composition,3 is identified here as “former Administrative Assistant to the Military Commissioner of Qinzhou,” a position once occupied by Wang Renyu himself. Like Wang, then, he knew that place from experience. His memorial, by turns censorious and flattering, minatory and cajoling, explores every aspect of the planned expedition to Qinzhou—moral, political, and strategic. From Wang’s point of view the memorial states plainly and exhaustively, in advance of the event, all the risks run by undertaking this journey to the north. When the worst then happens, history duly fulfils those warnings. But from our point of view the memorial offers more: it gives a sensitive reading of the precarious state of internal and external affairs in Shu. Qinzhou itself is a marginal territory with an ethnically mixed population, balanced between the Chinese and Tibetan worlds; nearby are hostile commands, one of them Fengxiang 鳳翔 on the road to the former capital Chang’an; beyond these are the armies of the Later Tang emperor Zhuangzong 莊宗, already poised for an invasion. Shu itself is in a poor way: migrants from the outer prefectures have abandoned their fields and fled from banditry and misrule to cluster in the capital Chengdu, now densely populated. It becomes clear, once the journey has begun, that Wang Renyu remains focused on the continuing policy debate, While warning messages are received and laughingly dismissed, the Younger Ruler engages in exchanges of verse with his courtiers. Wang is among them, and he makes it clear that he has kept written copies of many of the verses for transcription here. (When he has no such copies he carefully tells us so.) Although on one level it is easy to read these verse exchanges as a sign of culpable frivolity at a time of crisis,4 a closer reading shows how they articulate through imagery and allusion two different sets of

3   He makes a couple of appearances in Shu Taowu 蜀檮杌 (Annals of Shu), a history of the two tenth-century Shu kingdoms by Zhang Tangying 張唐英 (1026–1068): see Quan Song biji 全宋筆記, series 1, vol. 8 (Zhengzhou: Daxiang chubanshe, 2003), A.43–44 and 48. Pu is identified there as a native of Chengdu who, while still in commoner status, used the occasion of an examination script to denounce corruption and misrule in the Shu court. Wang Yan took him seriously and appointed him You bu que 右補闕 (Omissioner of the Right), a position whose duties were to remonstrate with the ruler on matters of public and private conduct. (There is no mention in this source of an earlier position at Qinzhou.) Pu is said later to have accompanied the surrendered Wang Yan on his ill-fated transit to Luoyang. 4   Sima Guang 司馬光 seems to take this view: see Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑒 (Full Exemplary Guide for Use in Government) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1956), 273.8938.


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views on the project. And Wang Yan’s own verses express a changing mood as the scene begins to darken. There is a lesson here for students of Chinese poetry. In the eighteenth century all those verses would be lifted from their narrative context and separated out under their authors’ names for inclusion in the massive Quan Tang shi 全唐詩 (Complete Poetry of the Tang). There they parade in isolation, with little contextual guidance, as specimens of Tang poetic art. But in the process so much has been lost from their original environment: not merely the historical circumstances which sparked their composition, but more importantly the carefully wrought dialogues, echoing with shared rhyme-words, in which the authors together confronted their situation. The poems show a new level of significance when read in context. And the surrounding narrative also reveals something about the dynamics of composition. Wang Yan describes his failed attempt to fashion a poem while covering thirty li on horseback. Perhaps the courtiers were all so engaged through the long hours of their journey? It is a reminder that the norms of collection and anthology formation which so dominate the transmission of Chinese literature actually keep us at arm’s length from the creative scene itself. Here, by contrast, we are closer to the heart of it. The textual legacy of this memoir is relatively complex and interesting. Wang Renyu’s original collection Wang shi jianwen lu 王氏見聞錄 (Things Seen and Heard by Wang) is lost to transmission, and we have to glean its separate items from the near-contemporary compendium Taiping guangji 太平廣 記 (Extensive Records for the Time of Supreme Peace).5 That in itself is imperfectly transmitted in China: no complete text survives from before the mid-sixteenth century, though earlier versions are reflected in manuscript transmission.6 But in Korea a “detailed digest” (xiangjie 詳節) of Extensive Records for the Time of Supreme Peace was published in 1462. It offers a selection of full-text items from its source, which was quite possibly earlier and more ­authoritative than   In this case juan 241 of that work.   I have sketched the textual legacy in my book The Tale of Li Wa: Study and Critical Edition of a Chinese Story from the Ninth Century (London: Ithaca, 1983), 2-3. For a detailed study see Zhang Guofeng 張國風, Taiping guangji banben kaoshu 太平廣 記版本考述 (An Investigative Account of the Editions of Extensive Records for the Time of Supreme Peace) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2004). Variants for juan 241 from different sources are listed in Yan Yiping 嚴一萍, Taiping guangji jiaokan ji 太平廣 記校勘記 (A Critical Apparatus for Extensive Records for the Time of Supreme Peace) (Taibei: Yiwen yinshuguan, 1970), 87b-88a. 5 6

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any transmitted in China.7 By good fortune the memoir headed “Wang Chengxiu” appears (in part) in juan 19 of this work, so we have the benefit of a further textual source. I have consulted this in preparing the translation,8 and signal in footnotes where important variants emerge. The first lines of the text already give good value: a crucial reference to Wang Chengxiu’s wife, the mistress of Wang Yan, is missing from the Chinese transmission of Extensive Records but present in the Korean version. (Her existence is confirmed in other sources.) The remains of the Korean print available to me come to an end just after the close of Pu Yuqing’s memorial. But that memorial itself is separately transmitted in another mid-tenth-century work, Jianjie lu 鑒誡錄 (Warning Transcripts) by an author from Shu, He Guangyuan 何光遠 (fl. 938– 960).9 It means that for this part of the text we can work from three sources: the Chinese and Korean transmissions of Extensive Records, and Warning Transcripts. Variants are so profuse that I have opted here not to encumber the translation with a full critical apparatus, but instead to make choices silently, based on certain principles: (1) When all three texts agree it is a sign of the best authority; (2) when one of the Extensive Records versions agrees with Warning Transcripts it is still a sign of good authority, normally to be preferred; (3) when both Extensive Records versions disagree with Warning Transcripts it is necessary to adopt one variant or the other on the basis of context and good sense. In general the Korean transmission of Extensive Records offers better quality than the Chinese transmission. Unfortunately the latter half of this memoir, beginning from the outset of the journey, is available only in the Chinese-transmitted version, and therefore more vulnerable to textual damage.

7   See Zhang Guofeng 張國風, “Hanguo suo cang Taiping guangji xiangjie de wen­ xian jiazhi” 韓國所藏《太平廣記詳解》的文獻價值 (The Documentary Value of the T’ae p’yŏng kwang ki sang chŏl Held in Korea), Wenxue yichan, no. 4 (2002): 75–85. 8   I wish to express my thanks and indebtedness to Dr. Mizobe Yoshie 溝部良恵, who most kindly sent me photocopies of a substantial part of the Korean text, including this item, found at 19.4b-11a. 9   Version in Siku quanshu, 7.5a-11b.


glen dudbridge Wang Renyu’s Memoir Wang Chengxiu 王承休, a eunuch10 under Wang Yan 王衍, Later Ruler of Shu, enjoyed the favor of cordial intimacy with him. His wife,11 possessed of great beauty, was in constant attendance during the Younger Ruler’s hours of rest, and eventually enjoyed exclusive favor in his bed-chamber. Chengxiu would often delight his master with lewd and depraved acts, and his master would then show even greater favor. He was sworn friends with Han Zhao 韓昭,12 and in their plotting they were hand-in-glove. One day Chengxiu requested to select regular soldiers from the armed forces. He picked out several thousand strong and valiant men and called them the Dragon Warrior Army [Longwu jun] 龍 武軍.13 Chengxiu himself was the commander, and lavished special supplements of clothing and provisions on them. Each day brought more privileged treatment. He then begged the post of Military Commissioner in Qinzhou 秦州,14 adding: “I wish to pick out some beautiful women in Qinzhou for Your Majesty.” He pointed out that the Qinzhou environment regularly produced the world’s loveliest women, and then requested him to honor Tianshui with a visit. The

10   This word already signals the value of a first-hand document. While Klaus-Peter Tietze, using standard historical sources, feels free to doubt whether Wang Chengxiu was a eunuch (see Ssuch’uan vom 7. bis 10. Jahrhundert: Untersuchungen zur frühen Geschichte einer chinesischen Provinz (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1980), 198, note 15), Wang Renyu was in a position to know. Tietze also finds the existence of a wife to be an argument against Wang Chengxiu’s eunuch status. But on this, see next note. 11   妻: this character, absent from transmitted TPGJ texts, appears in the Korean version T’ae p’yŏng kwang ki sang chŏl 太平廣記詳節 (abbreviated below to TPKKSC), 19.4a. There are good reasons for accepting it, and certain others noted below. The wife’s presence in the narrative is confirmed in Shu Taowu, A.48, giving her surname as Yan 嚴; also in Zizhi tongjian, 273.8938, and in Ouyang Xiu’s 歐陽修 Xin Wudai shi 新五代史 (New History of the Five Dynasties) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1974), 63.792–793. The latter two both claim that the expedition to Qinzhou was on her account. The widespread practice of marriage by the eunuchs of the Tang court is studied by Du Wenyu 杜文玉, “Tangdai huanguan hunyin ji qi neibu jiegou” 唐代宦官婚 姻及其內部結構 (Marriage of Eunuchs in the Tang Period and Its Inner Structure), Xueshu yuekan 6 (2000): 88–95. 12   Described below as Governor of the capital Chengdu. This alliance is also reported in Jiu Wudai shi 舊五代史 (Old History of the Five Dynasties), by Xue Juzheng 薛居正 (912–981) et al., (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1976), 61.818 (biography of An Zhongba 安重霸); cf. below, note 81. Han Zhao also appears in Shu Taowu, A.43 and 46, where he is characterized as a flattering, scheming courtier. 13   See Zizhi tongjian, 273.8926. It dates this event to Tongguang 2/10 (924) and specifies twelve thousand men organized in forty units of cavalry and foot. 14   The title of this command was Tianxiong jie du shi 天雄節度使 (Tianxiong Military Commissioner): Zizhi tongjian, 273.8928; Xin Wudai shi, 63.792. Both date the appointment to 924.

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Younger Ruler was overjoyed, and despatched him with full military insignia to take up his command, granting him the Dragon Warrior crack troops that he had chosen to travel with him as his palace guard.   On arrival at the regional headquarters he alighted and that same day had the official residence demolished.15 He sent out workmen to select and transport16 timber and stone and to build official headquarters and commissioner’s residence exactly to the specification of a royal palace. Strict deadlines17 and severe penalties were laid down, and even women were not exempt from construction duties. He also gave secret instructions to abduct children of the common people to be trained in song and dance performance. Painters were instructed to make portraits of those that were seized and to note down their names. These were dispatched by express courier to Han Zhao, who then submitted them in secret to the Younger Ruler. When he beheld them he was drawn into a frenzy, and so determined upon a plan to visit Qinzhou. He now issued a proclamation: “We have heard that the Former Kings conducted tours of inspection to view the state of their lands, whether distressed or contented. Through the ages they inspected all parts, to soothe the yearnings of the common people. The territory of Western Qin lies far off on the frontier. Our former Emperor mapped out its mountains and streams and devoted years to its conquest. Although it has now come under the kingly sway it has yet to enjoy the grace [of a royal visit]. Now, with the fields tilled for long years, the troops and the people have expressed strong hopes of a royal visit as a means to settle that border region. We have given some consideration to a tour of inspection and now choose the third day of the tenth month in this current year18 for our visit to Qinzhou.”   This was published far and wide, so that all would hear of it. From that point on urgent remonstrations came in from all sides in disagreement. The Empress his mother wept in her efforts to stop him, to the point of refusing to eat. Pu Yuqing, a former Administrative Assistant to the Military Commissioner of Qinzhou, “reining back

  Zizhi tongjian, 273.8937, dating the event to Tongguang 3 (925).   “Select and transport”: I accept the variant 採運 in TPKKSC. 17   “Strict deadlines”: I accept the phrasing 竪以嚴期 in TPKKSC. 18   22 October 925. 15 16


glen dudbridge his horse” and “weeping tears of blood,”19 remonstrated by submitting this memorial:20   Your servant has heard that Yao 堯 had a drum for [the use of] those who dared to remonstrate, Shun 舜 a piece of wood for [the writing of] criticism; Tang 湯 had a scholar in charge of [rectifying] errors, [King Wu of] Zhou 周 a hand-drum for [sounding] warnings and cautions.21 For in ancient times enlightened rulers capable of perfecting the way of emperors wished to know their own errors and wanted to receive morally upright comments. They meant to direct blame against themselves, in the hope of putting others in order and cultivating virtue. Since the time when Your Majesty received the succession22 and took possession of the heavenly writs, occupying the throne in the sight of heaven, you have loved to hear loyal speech which falls hard on the ear, and we have repeatedly affronted your presence with upright remonstrance.   Now the Former Emperor rose from humble beginnings in Xuchang 許昌,23 established himself in Langyuan 閬苑.24 He went through hardships in dark times of chaos, suffered dangers in an age of savage conflict. With hands calloused by weapon and shield, sleeping out in all weathers, he extended his military

19   “Reining” etc., a phrase anciently linked with expression of remonstrance: cf. Shi ji 史記 (Records of the Grand Historian) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1959), 61.2123; “weeping” etc., (by implication in silence) expressed extreme grief: cf. Li ji zhushu 禮 記注疏 (The Book of Rites, with Exegetical Commentaries), 7. 9b-10a (in Shisan jing zhushu 十三經注疏, 1815, rpt. Kyoto: Chūbun, 1971). 20   A heavily abridged summary of the memorial appears in Zizhi tongjian, 273.8937–8938. On Pu Yuqing see above, note 3. 21   “Yao” etc.: this passage is an almost literal quotation from Lü shi chunqiu 呂氏 春秋 (The Annals of Lü Buwei), ‘Zi zhi’ 自知 (Recognizing Oneself): see Chen Qiyou 陳奇猷, ed., Lü shi chunqiu jiaoshi 呂氏春秋校釋 (Collation and Exegesis of Lü shi chunqiu) (Shanghai: Xuelin chubanshe, 1984), 24.1601. 22   Cheng tiao 承祧: succession to ritual seniority in the ancestral line. 23   Under the Tang a county in Xuzhou 許州: see Yuanhe junxian tuzhi 元和郡縣 圖志 (Illustrated Gazetteer of Prefectures and Counties for the Yuanhe Reign), by Li Jifu 李吉甫 (758–814) (rpt. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983), 8.209. In Jiu Wudai shi, 136.1815, Wang Jian’s place of origin appears as Xiangcheng 項城 county in Chenzhou 陳州; in Xin Wudai shi, 63.783, as Wuyang 舞陽 county in Xuzhou. All these places were in the territory of modern Henan. The reference here is to Wang Jian’s early service under the Zhongwu Army 忠武軍 command, which was based in Xuzhou: see Jiu Tang shu 舊唐書 (Old History of the Tang Dynasty) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975), 38.1389. 24   Once Longyuan 隆苑, renamed Langyuan 閬苑, a park in the official residence of Langzhou 閬州, a place northeast of Chengdu seized by Wang Jian on his progress to power in Shu.

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might to seize the lands of the plain, performed deeds of war which leveled their many fortresses. Reckless of his own safety, putting his very life at risk, he served his lord and labored for the sake of his king. Only then did he set up his family and come to the point of founding a kingdom. Today his mighty throne is splendid in its dominance, his great enterprise is honored for its virility. Our lands extend to Yongzhou 雍 and Liangzhou 凉, our frontiers connect with north and south. Our virtue touches Wu 吴 and Yue 越, our sway subdues the tribes of the southern backwoods. Our prefectures and commands are numerous indeed, our mountain passes and rivers are steadily expanding. Our people are fine and fair, our lands rich and opulent. In an age when the world is disintegrating we have achieved an enterprise in which the dragon has arisen for all time.   Your Majesty has dwelt from birth amid wealth and nobility, holds possession of heaven and earth without raising a finger. You take sole delight in pleasure and give no thought to the flux of affairs. I strongly desire Your Majesty to discipline yourself through moral teachings, to restrain yourself through rites and music. Follow the rules of the Way and its virtue, accept your tutors’ precepts. Know that our Altars of Soil and Grain were not easily come by, be mindful that sowing and reaping are heavy labor. Be careful with Gaozu’s imperial citadel and emulate Taizong’s 太宗 approach to rule.25 “Esteem the worthy and turn away from sensual pleasures,”26 apply your mind with diligence. Pay no heed to unfounded gossip, never adopt unverified plans. By listening to music be receptive to remonstrance, by using the three mirrors27 let them reveal your true feelings. Spend less time lingering in your forests and pavilions, spend more in perusing the books and histories of former kings. Cultivate especially the higher virtue and use it to guide your long-term strategy. Do not let yourself become abandoned to sex or fuddled by drink. Always stay closely involved with the business of government, do not indulge in idle pleasures.   Your servant has heard that Your Majesty desires to leave his fortified capital to inspect the border defenses. Now Tianshui is distant, the road is bad and hard to travel. The perilous 25   These phrases map the relationship of the Shu kingdom’s Former and Later Rulers on to that between the first and second emperors of the Tang dynasty. 26   A quotation from Lunyu 論語 (The Analects of Confucius), 1/7. 27   三鏡: cf. Tang Taizong’s words in Jiu Tang shu, 71.2561: “By using bronze as a mirror one can set one’s clothing straight, by using the ancients as a mirror one can know about rise and fall, by using others as a mirror one can understand success and failure.”


glen dudbridge mountain walkways touch the clouds, the lofty peaks pierce the Milky Way. The lightest rain can blow the walkways to pieces, the slightest mud will block the mountain paths with slides. Surely not fit for a royal journey—only for the most desperate call of public duty!28   In Qinzhou, what is more, enemy territory is close by, and that frontier township is a desolate place. The population is mingled with barbarian peoples,29 the land abounds in pestilential mists. There is no fine scenery there, no exotic landscape. One can neither pick out excellence nor seek out tranquility. The River Long 隴水 has a mournful sound, the Sogdian reed plays sobbing notes. In the army camp the knights take rest wearing armor, on the battlements men sleep with pikes for their pillow. Each morning brings anxiety as they watch for beacon fires on isolated peaks, daily they stay on alert as they look out for flags on remote ridges. It is a land thick with mountains and clouds, a place both volatile and unsettled. There is nothing to admire in the cliffs of Mount Maiji 麥積山,30 and what is worth knowing about the gorges of Mi Valley 米谷? The road there leads past mountains of sighs, the route goes by rivers of lamentation. This was the place where Lord Mu of Qin 秦穆公 raised horses, the land where Wei Xiao 隗囂 usurped a throne.31   The next point is this. When one man [in your position] sets out on a journey, a hundred agencies go in attendance, while thousands and tens of thousands press round like mist and swarm about like stars in the sky. The prefectures and counties along the way are in feeble condition, the official hostels everywhere are cramped and small. When even residential quartering

28   叱馭: allusion to the speech of Wang Zun 王尊 , urging his driver along a dangerous road with the words: “Wang Yang 王陽 was a dutiful son, but I am a loyal servant of the crown!” Han shu 漢書 (History of the Han Dynasty) (Hong Kong: Zhonghua shuju, 1970), 76.3229. 29   Qinzhou had been taken over by the Tibetan empire since 762, and by 787 the whole Longyou 隴右 area had followed suit. It was only with the collapse of the Tibetan empire a century later that Qinzhou gradually reverted to China in the 850s and 860s: Xin Tang shu 新唐書 (New History of the Tang Dynasty) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975), 40.1040. 30   Mount Maiji stands southeast of Tianshui. Wang Renyu composed an enthusiastic memoir on this mountain, which he had climbed, in Yutang xianhua: see TPGJ, 397.3181. 31   Mu of Qin: one of the founding fathers of the ancient Qin kingdom, who raised horses for King Xiao of Zhou 周孝王 at this site and was rewarded with a royal fief based at Qinting 秦亭, near Tianshui: see Han shu 28B.1641, and cf. below, note 65. Wei Xiao, d. 33, who changed allegiance several times in the early years of Eastern Han, was based in southern Gansu.

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is not easy, the supply of necessaries will be truly hard. Even if the palace is in charge, there will still be heavy expenditure by government departments. Inevitably this will lead to disarray, and decline will set in on all sides. Considering it like this, you should not set out lightly. It would be like the black dragon that rises from the sea, coursing with clouds and sending out rain: that will scarcely calm the winds and waves, but is bound to damage the sprouting crops. It is for this that the royal coach should stop, that the divine feet must not step forth. And particularly so because in recent years your royal train has traveled only as far as [the former] Shannan 山南 province, and even there did not descend through the pass to send forth armed men. This time you would reach all the way to Tianshui, and it is not clear how things would be regulated and arranged.   When in the early days we smashed the walls and moats in the plain of Liangzhou 梁, seized and plundered the population of Yizhou 義 and Ningzhou 寧,32 not a few of them had their hands severed and many were beheaded. That served not merely to provoke disaffection on their side, it also perhaps detracted from our own side’s sagely virtue. Those places are not far from the [Tang] capital Luoyang, and now they will hear that the royal train is once again on the way! If on their side they have laid plans in advance, then on ours we shall need to attack them. The more so since Fengxiang 鳳翔 has long been an enemy of ours and most certainly has treacherous plans in store. I feel concern that devilish rumors might be fabricated, leading to enmity between us.   Another matter: Your Majesty has just embarked on friendly relations with the Tang state. Messages and gifts fly to and fro.33 I am simply concerned that when they hear tell that you personally are traveling in state, they will harbor suspicions of other things. They are sure to send a special commissioner to invite Your Majesty to a treaty meeting at the frontier. Would you go there or not? If you were to go, it would be like the trial of strength between the [ancient] states of Qin 秦 and Zhao 趙, with neither able to put the other down. If you were not to go, it would be like the discord between the states of Lu 魯 and Wei 32   Liangzhou, Yizhou and Ningzhou were all prefectures in the region which separated Shu from Chang’an, now in southern Gansu and Shaanxi. In 903 Wang Jian had launched an offensive into this region to consolidate the frontiers of his territory in Shu. See Zizhi tongjian, 264.8607, and Tietze, Ssuch’uan vom 7. bis 10. Jahrhundert, 69. 33   A good-will emissary from the Tang emperor Zhuangzong had come to the Shu court in the ninth lunar month of 924; a later visit of reconnaissance followed in the fourth lunar month of 925: Shu Taowu, A.45–46.


glen dudbridge 衛, with warfare arising in consequence. Weigh things up before the situation develops, anticipate their coming to pass! I desire Your Majesty to reflect upon this.   Your servant has heard that kings and emperors throughout the ages, when making tours of inspection in the regions, would bring solace to the people and punishment to the guilty; they would demonstrate righteousness and observe the state of society. After this they would return to the pinnacle of power and severally bring peace and order to all peoples. By now Your Majesty has made a series of tours, yet we have not heard a single item of instruction. You have confined yourself to forging a way through mountains and streams, driving men and horses to the limit. In the Park of Lang 閬苑 your boats nearly foundered.34 In the Qingcheng 青城 mountains your palace women came close to sinking.35 But for what urgent purpose did you bring upon yourself such alarm and dismay? When returning to the capital you gave no pleasure to troops or people. You have merely overcast their spirits without displaying imperial virtue. I recall that when the Former Emperor was alive he would never embark on a tour without good cause. Yet since Your Majesty inherited the throne you have at will repeatedly left the palace. You have taxed your mind and spent your strength, but to what end?36 At this point you are making ready as before for a royal expedition and once again mean to venture far from the royal seat. In times gone by the emperors Qin [Shihuang] and [Sui] Yangdi both failed to return from imperial expeditions.37 Your Majesty is more sagely than the Qin emperor, more enlightened than the Sui emperor, and you have no such concern as [the Qin’s] construction in the north, nor any such abuse as [the Sui’s] tours in the south.38 You are humane and magnanimous, amply filial and deeply compassionate. You are aware of the toil of farming labor, acquainted with triumph and defeat throughout the ages; you are inwardly prepared for success or failure, you keep

34   See above, note 24. The reference here is apparently to an incident which took place in the fourth lunar month of 923: Wang Yan had attended a dragon-boat display on the river outside Chengdu, watched by a glittering company, but a thunderstorm had struck at the hour of noon and thousands were drowned: see Shu Taowu, A.44. 35   In the ninth lunar month of 925 Wang Yan had taken his mother and palace women to conduct prayers in the Qingcheng mountains outside Chengdu, where there were important Daoist sanctuaries: Shu Taowu, A.47–48. 36   This sentence is absent in Jianjie lu, 7.8b. 37   The reference is to Qin Shihuang’s death on the road in 210 BCE and to Sui Yangdi’s death in the south in 618. 38   References to the Great Wall project of Qin Shihuang and the southern tours of Sui Yangdi.

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your mental attitude under control. How then could you bear to abandon your ancestral temple and fail to speak up for moral principles? What would the multitudes then have to rely upon, and what offense would be imputed to your kind mother? If you do not concern yourself with the impending destruction, I fear that you will be in defiance of humane and filial values.   Furthermore: your jade metropolis, your palace of gold, your jeweled halls and towers, your imperial gardens and royal parks, your precious pools and orchards—their thresholds are filled with fragrant airs, their basins with auspicious dew; divine musicians perform the Nine Shao, dancers whirling like snowflakes present the Eight Ranks.39 Gods and immortals cluster in the imperial compound, while precious stones glitter in the royal palace. Among rulers of kingly status40 this is the land of the Three Pure Ones.41 In the human realm such wonderful charms are found nowhere else in the world. To visit and enjoy these places from time to time provides visual stimulus enough. What need to crave for that distant borderland, or to view those barren hills? What benefits would it bring to sacrifice yourself so unsparingly?   At this very time Qiyang is mutinous and the Park of Liang already lost.42 There is a man in the Central Plain whose great enterprise is still afoot. What is more, in your own country the living souls suffer corrupt government, while bandits run riot. Even if there were no threat of military emergency in the borderland, there are still problems in home territory of a close and intimate kind.   Your Majesty has received a thousand-year destiny, enjoys the veneration of all the land. Your civil virtues and military feats reach out to all corners of the earth. In filial piety you outstrip Shun, in humaneness you surpass even Tang. You are perfect in every branch of conduct, hold all the springs of action   “Nine Shao . . . Eight Ranks”: these phrases refer hyperbolically to music and dance of archaic times associated with China’s mythical early rulers and Sons of Heaven. 40   Literally: “with ten-thousand-chariot strength,” the due mark of a king in archaic times. 41   “Among rulers . . . Three Pure Ones”: this sentence appears only in Jianjie lu, 7.9a. 42   “Qiyang . . . already lost”: this sentence is absent from Jianjie lu, 7.9a. The name Qiyang 岐陽 refers to the Fengxiang command in the northeast, formally within the territories of Shu but known to be hostile, as the memorial earlier points out. The Park of Liang 梁園 is a name for Kaifeng, harking back to a palace of Han times nearby. I take this reference to the capital of the fallen Liang dynasty to be a reminder of the new dynastic power taking its place, as the following sentence makes clear. 39


glen dudbridge in firm balance. Your intelligence is comprehensive, your range of knowledge versatile. You possess a strong moral compass and unique insight into historical precedents. You now occupy an imperial throne while in the prime of life. You have both inherited the seat of our state altars and taken control of our territory’s strategic defenses. Why do you not remain alert to what is happening far and near, or vigilant to dangers in time of peace? Open all your gates to recruit worthy men, manage affairs by combining all springs of action. Everyone will develop the same virtue, while you sit solemnly at the height of power. Let grace and authority go hand in hand, let rewards and punishments be unerringly just. Distribute your bounty evenly, bringing general healing to all who suffer wounds and sores. This will relax and relieve those at home and at large, and assure a prosperous future for your descendants. Spread a ruler’s benevolent civilizing power, establish profound measures to succor material needs.   As you pick out virile troops, stay mindful of grand strategy: brandish their fierce power to strengthen your own fearsome authority. Keep your horses fed and your troops well trained; maintain ample supplies and sharp weapons. If the other side ever slightly drop their guard, you then pounce and swallow them whole. Capture the critical moment precisely, then practice the kingly way on a grand scale. As a matter of course the spirits will extend their protection, and all the world will submit to your humane virtue. Hearts and minds will unite solidly as one, all under heaven will come under control.   At this time the capital of Shu is strong and flourishing. No other state compares with it. Worthy scholars fill the court, a sage occupies the throne. Your servant hopes that the mass of the people will take delight in a [new] Zhenguan 貞觀 reign, the imperial forces will take their leadership from a [new] Taizong.43 Adopt “medicinal advice,”44 pay heed to “the words of grass cutters and firewood gatherers.”45 Cherish the state altars, bring

43   As above the author compares the second ruler of Shu to the second emperor of the previous Tang dynasty: see note 25. 44   A phrase once uttered by Tang Taizong in response to a critical memorial submitted in Zhenguan 17 (643) by Gao Jifu 高季輔: see Jiu Tang shu, 78.2703. On Taizong as a model for imperial reception of remonstrance see David McMullen, “Traditions of Political Dissent in Tang China,” Journal of Chinese Studies Special Issue: Institute of Chinese Studies Visiting Professor Lecture Series (I) (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2005), 18–21. 45   That is, humbly offered opinions. On the use of this ancient phrase by Taizong and other Tang emperors, see McMullen, “Traditions of Political Dissent,” 19, n. 121.

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healing to the common soldiers. Be like King Wu of Zhou 周武, who prospered with the aid of straight speaking, but be aware of King Zhou [of Shang] 辛紂, who perished through sycophancy. Let there be no cases of concealed faults or rejected remonstrance. Let there be men who challenge you openly, who will remonstrate in court; men who fortify our enlightened dynasty and conserve our imperial civilization.   Your Majesty should not conclude from observing how dense the population is here that our capital city is affluent and splendid. For it means that other places are so cruel that they are not fit to be lived in. That is why people strive to reach this place and gather here: they prize the chance to live for the moment in security. At this time there are numerous instances of cruel oppression in the prefectures. The common people have lost their livelihood almost completely. There is a great deal of abandoned land. Gangs of bandits abound. I humbly entreat Your Majesty to send out some trusted men. They will see and hear these things at once.   What is more, throughout history when a state of Shu has been established it has usually lacked a long-term strategy. In one case its moral power did not match up to the two rival courts, in another the throne failed to last till the seventh generation. Liu Shan 劉禪 soon surrendered to Deng Ai 鄧艾, Li Shi 李勢 rapidly submitted to Huan Wen 桓溫.46 And all because they did not accept forthright words, did not concern themselves with matters of government, did not practice the kingly way, did not show concern for the people, with the result that not one heart in the nation could be guaranteed, nor the territory’s strategic points be depended upon. Your Majesty is as wholly sagelike and enlightened as Yao and Shun. Of course you are not such as the Later Ruler [Liu Shan], or the likes of Ziren 子仁 [Li Shi]. You have a reputation for compassion and filial duty, an ability to plan with the long view. Give no credence to flatterers, do not abandon yourself to debauchery. In your 46   These historical references review the ancient progression from the Shu Han 蜀 漢 of the Three Kingdoms period, whose Later Ruler Liu Shan (207–271) surrendered Chengdu in 263 to the Wei general Deng Ai (197–264), on to the Cheng Han 成漢 kingdom, whose Later Ruler Li Shi (d. 361) was conquered for the Jin 晉 dynasty by Huan Wen (312–373) in 347. See San guo zhi 三國志 (History of the Three Kingdoms) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1959), 33.900, and Terry F. Kleeman, Great Perfection: Religion and Ethnicity in a Chinese Millennial Kingdom (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1998), 206. Mention of these two particular cases is a pointed and menacing comment to direct at Wang Yan, himself a second-generation ruler. His fate would indeed echo theirs.


glen dudbridge movements ensure that your whereabouts can be guaranteed; go nowhere except on a lasting basis. Then you will most certainly achieve an enterprise for all time and finally become sovereign of the world.   I entreat Your Majesty to let your royal carriage pause. Do not depart the capital! Wait until all is quiet in the heart of China, when the most distant parts will come in to their King. The hearts of all men in the world will submit to our ruler, like streams moving to the ocean, or ants attracted to the scent of mutton. Your possession of the True Way will proclaim itself, and “none will be reluctant to surrender.”47 You will not merely wish to see Tianshui, you will even take your seat in Chang’an! This is your humble servant’s devout wish and the deep desire of everyone in the land.   I have heard that in times past the Son of Heaven would have seven admonishing ministers, and even though lacking the True Way would not lose his control of the world. For this reason I am pouring out my sincerest feelings as I humbly remonstrate in your sage and enlightened presence—not to exploit official celebrity, nor to seek for fame. My intention is not to slander my superior, my principle is to show acute concern for my sovereign. I may not have the capacity to “break off the railing,”48 but I have committed the offense of clashing against the dragon’s scales. Without flinching from capital punishment, I sound my plea in the celestial court. Your servant’s death would be like the loss of a single cricket or ant amid the plenitude of species. If, without any calculation, Your Majesty must needs make for the border region, you will afflict your sainted mother with sorrow and cause your officials to feel concern. And if, quite heedless of success or failure, you subject yourself to fatigue and exhaustion, what benefit will lie in regrets if the unexpected then follows? I desire Your Majesty to allow some small opening for remonstration, to grant some modest acceptance to your servant’s words. Do not defy the love of the sage Empress! Do consent to the desire of your country’s people! Graciously conserve the grand strategy: do not go to the border region.49

47   “None will be reluctant to surrender”: a line from Shijing 詩經 (Book of Songs) 244, “Wen wang you sheng” 文王有聲. 48   “Break off the railing”: a reference to the remonstrator Zhu Yun 朱雲, whose desperate grip on the railing of Han Chengdi’s 漢成帝 audience chamber caused it to break. His fearless performance was acknowledged by having the railing repaired, not replaced: Han shu, 67.2915. 49   The memorial text as transcribed in Wang shi jianwen lu / TPGJ ends at this point. The transcript in Jianjie lu adds the closing formalities: “Offending against the

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But the Later Ruler disregarded him after all. Han Zhao said to [Pu] Yuqing: “I am keeping50 your memorial to await our return from Qinzhou, when you will be investigated on it, clause by clause, in jail. Do not indulge in regret!”   On the third day of the tenth month the royal party set out from Chengdu, and on the fourth day it reached Hanzhou. Wang Chengjie 王承捷 of Fengzhou 鳳州 had despatched news by rapid posting stages to Hanzhou51 that the Eastern court of Tang had sent His Honor the Xing Sheng 興聖 Palace Commissioner and Grand Councillor of the Secretariat at the head of an army more than a hundred thousand strong, with the aim of reaching Fengzhou within nine days.52 The Younger Ruler was privately convinced that his subordinates had set up this plan to prevent him from traveling east. He said: “We were just wishing to see some fighting at first hand, so where’s the harm in that?” And he advanced, paying no heed to him.   As we climbed Zitong Mountain 梓潼山 the Younger Ruler composed this poem: High cliffs gather cold mist As remote tracks lead up to the wintry sky. Down below we view the ridges of Emei Mountain, While up above we gaze at Hua Peak’s summit. Our urgent chase is not in quest of pleasure: The royal tour of inspection comes from concern for the frontier. As this journey embarks on its onward climb, How many thousand li ahead lies the House of Songs?53 royal authority, I cannot control my anxiety and apprehension. Risking death and awaiting punishment, in fear and trembling I respectfully offer up this memorial with forthright remonstration. Your servant, in true fear and terror, bowing as he risks his life, speaks in reverence.” 50   TPGJ: 取; TPKKSC: 收. I accept the latter, which is supported by Zizhi tongjian, 273.8938. 51   The text reads Qin 秦, a puzzling destination in this context: the news is intended for the ears of the Later Ruler, now just arrived at Hanzhou, where he indeed responds to it at once. I read “Han[zhou].” 52   The Xing Sheng Palace Commissioner was Li Jiji 李繼岌, son of the Later Tang emperor Zhuangzong. He was enfeoffed as Prince of Wei 魏王 shortly before receiving command of the forces sent to conquer Shu in 925. He is recorded as marching out of Luoyang on 8 October and reaching Fengzhou on 7 November (Jiu Wudai shi, 136.1820; 51.690). This was just 14 days after the warning message received in Hanzhou. The text here reads 九月 “ninth month,” which obscures the sequence of events, now already into the tenth month. I read 九日, “nine days,” and understand the warning to anticipate an interval of nine days before the enemy arrived. Fengzhou, the seat of the Fengxiang command, was on the northeast border of Shu, and Wang Chengjie was the military commissioner. 53   We know from Wang Renyu’s responding poem, immediately below, that the reference is to their destination in Qinzhou. In using the nickname House of Songs


glen dudbridge An order was issued requiring officials in attendance to respond with verses upon the same rhyme-words. I, as Drafter in the Secretariat,54 responded with this: Our colored staves brush through the chill mist, Our mounted lictors are poised half-way to the sky. Yellow clouds form around our horses’ hooves, As the westering sun sets on the pine-clad summit. The royal virtue will soothe a worn-out society, His benign breeze will fan the remote frontier. You ask about Chengji55 on our journey ahead: From here it is another three thousand li! Han Zhao, Governor of Chengdu, and the Hanlin Academicians Li Haobi 李浩弼 and Xu Guangpu 徐光浦 all responded with verses, but the texts are lost. Starting from a point twenty li west of Jianzhou 劍州, as we passed by night over a rocky mountain we suddenly heard the marching troops, for miles behind and ahead of us, thunder on their shields and clang with their weapons, roar and bellow through the hills until the din made the streams and valleys tremble. I asked someone why, and they said: “We are about to cross through the Human Tax Zone.56 We are scared that birds of prey or wild beasts will seize some men: that is why we are treating them to noise.” The horses they rode also cried out in terror and refused to go forward even when whipped. One man from the ranks reported: “Just now, ahead of the large convoy, a predator sprang out from the forest beside the road, seized a man from the crowd and made off with him. The man was carried to a cavern by the stream, and they could even hear his cries for help. But

(gelou 歌樓), meaning house of pleasure, the Later Ruler is consistent with his true motives in making this journey as Wang has presented them above. But there is an irony in using it here, straight after stressing the theme of pastoral responsibility (“not for the sake of pleasure . . . concern for the frontier”), a theme which Wang will echo in his reply. 54   An appointment also reported in Wang’s epitaph by Li Fang 李昉 (see Dudbridge, “The Rhetoric of Loyalty and Disloyalty,” Appendix). Wang is identified here and below in the third person, using his name. But Li Jianguo 李劍國 has argued, with Wang Renyu as an example, that the editors of TPGJ systematically modified firstperson narratives into third-person narratives: see Li Jianguo, “Li Wa zhuan yiwen kaobian ji qita” 《李娃傳》疑文考辨及其他 (A Reasoned Examination of Doubtful Points in the Li Wa zhuan Text, and Other Matters), Wenxue yichan 3 (2007): 76. In this translation I use the first-person pronoun as a default. 55   The administrative center of Qinzhou, their destination, was located in Chengji 成紀, the site of which now lies north of Qin’an 秦安 county in Gansu. 56   稅人場, literally “zone where humans are taxed,” in this case by predatory creatures in the wild. The phrase appears as a variant in manuscript versions.

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with the day not yet light no one dares go and catch the predator.” Every last man on that road was drenched in sweat. When daylight came some soldiers went to look for him, and there on the grass were left his last remains. When the Younger Ruler reached his temporary residence he consulted with his ministers and officials, all of whom had frightening things to report. Upon which he commanded those in attendance each to make a poem. My verse was as follows: With fangs like swords, tongues like nails, fur reeking with blood, Their effort of spying and reckoning never takes pause. Far from serving the heavenly court by driving dangers away, There at the roadside they do nothing but devour living souls. They use the general’s registered troops to gorge their greedy mouths, And take their tax of soldiers before even as many as three are sent in. Today the Emperor has come in person on the hunt: Here below the White Cloud precipice they’d best take cover. The Hanlin Academician Li Haobi presented this verse: Below this precipice, year after year, they lie in ambush, But once all living souls are devoured, what then? In the predators’57 wake the common folk are dwindling, And in the depths of the streams and gorges the bones are piling up. If even the Emperor’s majesty suffers such handling, Mere travelers in their isolation cannot cope with that plight. No wonder there is no sign of man on this long trek: All have been taxed to death by the king of the mountains.58 When he read these two pieces the Younger Ruler laughed out loud and said, “Those two ministers each have a point to make in their poems! I too was trying to think one up while on horseback, but even after more than thirty li it didn’t get finished.” Then he commanded the officials in attendance, the Hanlin Academician Xu Guangpu and Wang Xun 王巽, a supernumerary in the Bureau of Waterways, to submit poems too. 57   Zhao ya爪牙: a richly ambiguous phrase here, since it covers not only the fangs and talons of natural predators, but also the powerful lackeys and henchmen who surround the ruler. 58   The poems by Wang Renyu and Li Haobi both use the destructive violence of mountain predators as a metaphor to attack the political predators at work in the kingdom. Wang Chengxiu and Han Zhao had connived in creaming off the best troops in Shu for removal to the newly developed establishment at Qinzhou.


glen dudbridge When we reached Jianmen 劍門 the Younger Ruler produced this theme poem: With reins held loose we traverse the two Sword Mountains,59 On and on we go, ascending the rocky hills. They form a thousand-fathom rampart To serve as a foundation for ten thousand years. In spite of all moral shortcomings, Our territories still give some grounds for pride. As we turn and gaze at the road from the Chengdu palace Those cloudy masses of ramparts stand there in tiers.60 And later the officials in attendance followed with more. Han Zhao, Governor of Chengdu, composed this with the same rhyme-words: With the pass closed to guard against rebels Who dares batter at these awesome hills? This strategic fastness was surely set there by Heaven, These mountains and streams have provided a foundation through the ages. The Three Rivers [of Chang’an] are no mainstay for us: The two Sword Mountains are our supreme pride.61 Where those inaccessible paths lead through, The fogs and mists nest in a hundred tiers.62 I composed this with the same rhyme-words: Mengyang once wrote words Which were carved on the White Cloud mountainside.63 Li and Du steadily relied on these hills,

59   The range that linked Greater and Lesser Sword Mountains 劍山 was the traditional strategic barrier separating the Sichuan region from Chang’an. From ancient times it was traversed by a constructed walkway. 60   The ruler reflects with satisfaction on the security of his kingdom within its ring of mountain ranges. 61   Three Rivers: Jing 涇, Wei 渭 and Rui 汭, flowing through the region of Chang’an. These lines declare an independence from the former metropolitan region and a proud reliance on the well-protected Sichuan. 62   Han Zhao, already strongly aligned with the Younger Ruler’s decision to make this expedition, is affirming the impregnable security of the Shu territories behind their protective mountains. 63   The allusion is to Zhang Zai 張載 (courtesy name [zi 字] Mengyang 孟陽) who traveled this way ca. 280 and composed an inscription which was carved on Sword Mountain by order of Emperor Wu of Jin 晉武帝. It voiced a warning that holders of power in Shu were very prone to use their strategic protection as a cover for rebellion. See Jin shu 晉書 (History of the Jin Dynasty) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1974), 55.1516–1517.

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And even Sun and Liu depended on them.64 But weaker talents cannot defend them: Only supreme virtue can indulge in pride. Secretly we are shown the path through the vast sky, While dense peaks cover us round in so many tiers. He also commanded us to write a “Rhapsody on the Elders of Qin Yearning for the Imperial Visit” for submission, but I have lost the texts. When we crossed Baiwei Ridge 白衛嶺 Governor Han Zhao submitted this poem: Our King is on an expedition to settle the frontier, But Qinting65 is still some thousands more li ahead. To light the branching tracks at night we have the mountain ­taverns’ fires. To send signals by day we have the guard-beacons’ smoke. Though a goddess made clouds at the Wu Gorge 巫峽,66 It was a banished immortal who rode a phoenix at the Qin Tower.67 64   Li Te 李特 and his dynastic successors had ruled the Cheng Han kingdom in Shu between 302 and 349. Du Tao 杜弢 had led a population of refugees from Shu in a rebellion against the Jin between 311 and 315. (For a documented historical narrative of this period see Kleeman, Great Perfection.) Liu Bei 劉備 and his son were famously the rulers of Shu during the Three Kingdoms period, while Sun Quan 孫 權 and his successors had ruled the southern and eastern regions in Wu 吳, at times in alliance with Shu. With these historical reminders Wang Renyu strikes a note of warning which will prove much to the point. 65   On Qinting 秦亭, the site of the Qin state’s ancient place of origin, see Han shu, 28B.1641; Shuijing zhushu 水經注疏 (Scripture of the Rivers, with Commentaries) (Nanjing: Jiangsu guji chubanshe, 1989), 17.1496–1497; also above, n. 31. Its location is discussed by Liu Man 劉滿 in “Qinting kao” 秦亭考 (An Investigation into Qinting), Wenxian 16 (1983): 104–108, and by Xu Weimin 徐衛民 in “Tianshui fujin Qin du­ cheng kaolun” 天水附近秦都城考論 (An Investigative Account of the Qin Capital in the Vicinity of Tianshui), Tianshui shifan xueyuan xuebao, no. 4 (1999): 19–26. They agree in placing it near the county town of Zhangjiachuan 張家川in Hui Autonomous County, near Tianshui. It was the subject of a collection by Wang Renyu, mentioned in his tombstone epitaph. In context here the allusion suggests “ancient Qin.” 66   This is the divine woman of the famous legend first told by the ancient poet Song Yu 宋玉 in the preface to his “Gaotang fu” 高唐賦 (Rhapsody on Gaotang): Wen xuan 文選 (The Literary Anthology) (1809 reprint of Song edition, rpt. Taibei 1971), 19.1b-2a. This and the following lines exploit familiar allusions to encourage the Younger Ruler with a suggestion of romantic or erotic fulfillment. 67   The ancient cult-legend of Xiao Shi 簫史 (‘the flautist’) and his royal lover Longyu 弄玉 is succinctly told in Shuijing zhushu: ‘In the time of Lord Mu of Qin 秦 穆公 there was one Xiao Shi who was so skilled at the recorder-flute that he could summon up white swans and peacocks. Lord Mu’s daughter Longyu loved him, and the Lord built the Phoenix Terrace for them to dwell in. One day, dozens of years later, they departed in company with phoenixes’: see Shuijing zhushu, 18.1534. More


glen dudbridge With “Eight Steeds”68 like dragons and men like tigers We can confidently soar across the spreading sky. The Younger Ruler responded, using the same rhyme-words: The divine warrior who ruled before me strongly laid open the border And fixed our frontier lines at four or five thousand li. Ahead we view Mount Long 隴山, bristling with our weaponry, At our rear the Wu Gorge supports us with its chain of smoke  beacons. The Yellow Emperor himself put down rebels in person,69 Yet Ying Zheng labored vainly in his passionate study of immortality.70 I think that when we do reach “Guo Wei’s Palace” and seek out its splendors,71 It should just be the time when orioles sing in the last month of spring.72 I composed this with the same rhyme-words: Waving in the wind, our dragon banners point towards the farthest frontier. Before we arrive there are still two or three thousand li to go. Climbing high, we tramp by day over the rocks of steep cliffs, Braving the cold, each morning we have full measure of patchy mist.

sources are cited by Sawada Mizuho 澤田瑞穗 in “Ressen den” 列仙傳 (Lives of the Immortals), Chūgoku koten bungaku taikei 中國古典文學大系, vol. 8 (Tokyo: Eibonsha, 1969), 320. 68   In the ancient romance Mu Tianzi zhuan 穆天子傳 (Legend of Emperor Mu), partly recovered from a tomb in the third century, the famous Eight Steeds (ba jun 八 駿) belonged to King Mu of Zhou 周穆王 as he traveled to meet the Queen Mother of the West 西王母. 69   The military exploits of the Yellow Emperor against the Divine Husbandman, the Fiery Emperor and Chi You are recorded in Shi ji, 1.1-9; translated and analyzed by Mark Edward Lewis in Sanctioned Violence in Early China (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990), 174 ff. 70   Ying Zheng 嬴政 was Qin Shihuang. 71   A reference to the Warring States period, in which King Zhao of Yan 燕昭王 sought to attract talented scholars by honouring Guo Wei 郭隗 with a palace built for his benefit: Shi ji, 34.1558. The Younger Ruler has in mind the fine palace built in Qinzhou for his favourite Wang Chengxiu. 72   The line reveals the Younger Ruler’s impatience with the progress of this winter journey. His poem acknowledges the military panache of his expedition but dismisses any hints of divinely assisted quick arrival. There is an implication that he has been thinking of giving up and making the journey at a kinder season, which would explain the tone of both Han Zhao’s and Wang Renyu’s poems in this group.

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You have duly followed the Han emperor in opening new territory, Though not King Mu of Zhou in his liking for gods and immortals.73 Do not let the people of Qin be deprived of your grace and favor: To the east of the Dasan Pass another world awaits them.74 By the time we reached Lizhou 利州 news was already in that the army from the East had taken the Gu garrison 固鎮.75 Within ten more days we then learned that defeated troops from the Jinniu 金 牛 gorge were arriving in numbers that blocked the gorge.76 At this point the armies of Shu totaled more than a hundred thousand men, stretched in an unbroken line over more than a thousand li from Mianzhou 綿州 and Hanzhou 漢州 to Shendu 深渡. But none of them had the stomach to fight the enemy. When an envoy was sent to urge them on they turned their spears against him with the retort, “Please call up the Dragon Warrior Army to do battle! Not only are they valiant, they have also applied for more than their due share of clothing and rations. We were rejected as unfit for selection: how can we fight? There is really nothing for it.” On the twenty-ninth of the tenth month77 we turned back in disarray. Along the constructed walkways poised amid steep mountain torrents and precipitous valleys, day by day and night by night we traveled back to Chengdu. On our heels were Kang Yanxiao 康延孝 and the Prince of Wei.78 Upon which the Younger Ruler declared his surrender. But before the army from the East came in, Wang Zongbi 王宗弼79 killed Han Zhao, the Palace Secretaries Song Guangsi 宋   A second, more explicit reference to Mu Tianzi zhuan.   Wang Renyu is warning of the threat from the Later Tang armies, which were entering the Dasan Pass 大散關 at this time. See Jiu Wudai shi, 33.458, dating the event to Tongguang 3/10/wuyin (7 November 925); what then follows is a narrative of the military campaign, featuring desertions and surrenders by important Shu commanders and a heavy defeat of Shu forces sent by the Younger Ruler to fight back at Sanquan 三泉. 75   Gu 固鎮was a fortified garrison town in Hechi 河池 county, Fengzhou 鳳州 prefecture, on the border between Later Tang territory and Qinzhou (Jiu Wudai shi, 33.458). The Tang armies reached it on 13 November (Jiu Wudai shi, 51.690). 76   The Jinniu gorge was the southern section of the strategic route from Hanzhong into Shu. 77   17 November 925. 78   The prefectures surrendered to Li Jiji 李繼岌, the Prince of Wei 魏王, are listed in Jiu Wudai shi, 33.459. He had reached Xingzhou 興州, in the north of the kingdom, on 18 November. 79   Wang Zongbi, one of the Former Ruler’s adopted sons, held military command under the Later Ruler, but connived in capitulation to the Tang. Returning to Chengdu, he took charge at court and wielded power until the arrival of the Tang commanders, at whose hands he eventually died. See Tietze, Ssuch’uan vom 7. bis 10. Jahrhundert, 98–99. 73 74


glen dudbridge 光嗣 and Jing Runcheng 景潤澄, and the Commissioners of Palace Attendants Li Zhoulu 李周輅 and Ouyang Huang 歐陽晃.80 Wang Chengxiu had control of crack troops in Tianshui, but their weapons were left idle. Once he learned that the army of the East had entered Shu he gathered the units under his command with their women and children, to a total of more than ten thousand souls, then with gold, silver and silks he bought a safe passage through Tibetan country to get back to Shu.81 Along the way they were plundered by the natives, and as they traversed the streams and mountains they perished by turns from cold and hunger. By the time they reached Shu a mere hundred or so survived. He had saved his skin and arrived in company with Tian Zongrui 田宗汭82 and some others. The Prince of Wei had someone interrogate him as follows: Q. You had personal control of crack troops, so why did you not fight? A. Fearing the Great Prince’s divine powers of war I dared not stand against his weaponry. Q. Then why did you not surrender sooner? A. It was because there was no way to submit until the Prince’s army had crossed the border. Q. How many people went with you when you first entered Tibetan country? A. More than ten thousand. Q. How many survivors are there now? A. Only a hundred or so.83 The Prince of Wei pronounced: “You should pay for the lives of those ten thousand.” And he had them all beheaded. Now it was [Wang] Chengxiu and Han Zhao who caused the armies of Shu not to give battle, but instead court destruction in idleness. Most people do not know this.

  These deaths (with the exception of Li Zhoulu) are also reported in Xin Wudai shi, 63.793. 81   Jiu Wudai shi, 61.819: “[An] Zhongba expended the treasure of Qinzhou to bribe the Qiang 羌 tribesmen and buy a passage by way of Wenshan 文山 to return to Shu.” Cf. above, note 12. But it was Wang Chengxiu who took advantage of that passage, while his deputy An Zhongba promptly surrendered to the Tang forces. 82   This man’s name appears as Wang Zongrui 王宗汭 in Zizhi tongjian, 274.8948; compare 273.8941. 83   Sima Guang’s version of this interrogation is similar, but with differences in wording and detail. Evidently relying upon another source, he gives the outgoing number as twelve thousand and the returning number as two thousand. See Zizhi tongjian, 274.8948–8949. He dates Wang Chengxiu’s return to 1 January 926 (Tongguang 3/12/ guiyou). 80

the elder of the eastern hall


THE ELDER OF THE EASTERN HALL REFORMS A PRODIGAL SON: A PLAY BY QIN JIANFU Robert E. Hegel A comic farce, Qin Jianfu’s 秦簡夫 (fl. 1320) Dongtang Lao quan pojia zidi zaju 東堂老勸破家子弟雜劇 (The Elder of the Eastern Hall Reforms a Prodigal Son) brings a happy ending to the perennial tale of the spendthrift son who squanders his inheritance: here he gets it all back! Its characters are wooden, its situations approach absurdity; language play enhances its entertaining qualities, as does the outrageous obtuseness of “Rascal,” for whom we are given no other name. But he is hardly the only overblown element; here every bit is exaggerated for the sake of humor—even the complaints of bad luck from the Elder’s own hardworking son! Playwright Qin Jianfu was a native of Dadu (Beijing) toward the end of the Yuan dynasty (1260–1368); in his later years he moved to Hangzhou. Of the five plays attributed to him, the three still extant all feature exaggerated moral exemplars. In Xiao yishi Zhao Li rang fei 孝義士趙禮讓肥 (Righteous Zhao Xiao Has Zhao Li Yield on Fat), based on Zhao Xiao’s 趙孝 (fl. 50–75) Hou Han shu 後漢書 (History of the Later Han Dynasty) juan 39 biography, a bandit captures Zhao Li during a famine. As he is about to eat him, brother Xiao ties himself up and presents himself to the bandit, claiming to be the fatter of the two. Jin Tao mu jian fa dai bin 晉陶母剪髮待賓 (Mother Tao of the Jin Cuts Her Hair to Entertain a Guest) is based on Tao Kan’s 陶侃 (259–334) biography in Jin shu 晉書 (History of the Jin Dynasty) juan 66. Because when he was poor his mother had sold her hair so that he might entertain a guest, after he achieves high office Tao Kan still drinks and eats only in moderation. As for The Elder of the Eastern Hall Reforms a Prodigal Son, there seems to be no historical precedent for the scholarly merchant who quotes Confucius and exemplifies the Confucian sense of trust, but the play satirizes moral seriousness as well. This translation is limited to the Prologue, Act I, and Act III.1   For information about the plays, see Luo Jintang 羅錦堂, Xiancun Yuanren zaju benshi kao 現存元人雜劇本事考 (Studies on the Sources of Extant Yuan Zaju Plays) 1


robert e. hegel Persons in the Play and Their Role Categories Zhao Guoqi (chongmo 沖末)

dying merchant

Yangzhou Rascal 揚州奴 (jing 淨) spendthrift son of Zhao Guoqi Cuige (dan’er 旦兒)

virtuous wife of Yangzhou Rascal

Elder of the Eastern Hall   (zhengmo正末)

Zhao’s neighbor and guardian for Rascal, named Li Shi or Li Maoqing

Liu Longqing, Hu Zichuan (jing)

Local scoundrels

Mme. Zhao (bu’er 卜兒)

Elder’s wife

Master Li (xiaomo 小末)

Elder’s son

Teashop Keeper (chou 丑) Neighbors prologue (Enter Zhao Guoqi, helped along by Yangzhou Rascal and Cuige.) Zhao:

(speaks) My surname is Zhao and I’m named Guoqi; my ancestors were from Dongping Prefecture.2 I came to live here in Memorial Arch Alley inside the Eastern Gate of Yangzhou to carry on my trade. There are four persons in my family. Unfortunately, my wife Ms. Li passed away early in life. Our one son is called Yangzhou­ Rascal. His wife’s surname is Li, too; she is the daughter of Special Commissioner Li3 and her name is Cuige. Ever since she married into my house she has neither gossiped outside about family affairs nor brought gossip from outside into the home. She is a virtuous woman.

(Taibei: Zhongguo wenhua shiye, 1960), 269–273. I base my translation on Zang Jinshu 臧晉叔, ed., Yuan qu xuan 元曲選 (Selected Yuan Plays) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1958, rpt. 1961). Compare Wang Jisi 王季思, ed., Quan Yuan xiqu 全元戲曲 (Complete Yuan Plays) (Beijing: Renmin wenxue, 1999), vol. 5, 22–59, with notes comparing the Yuan qu xuan version with the only significant variant, texts held in Zhao Qimei’s 趙琦美 (1563–1624) Maiwangguan 脈望舘 collection. 2   Dongping Prefecture is modern Shandong. 3   This title, Jieshi 節使, seems at most to be only semi-official.

the elder of the eastern hall


  I remember when I was young, I got up early to do business and went to bed late, saving to amass this family fortune. I hoped that my child would carry it on forever. But unfortunately after he came of age and I found a wife for him, he fell in with bad company, started drinking and getting into trouble, spending beyond his means on food and clothes. I have heard this with my own ears and seen this with my own eyes more than once. This makes me sick with grief—I can’t sleep morning or night. Clearly my hopes are beyond my grasp while my grave is very near. I have no life left in me. As soon as I die, that child will inevitably ruin the family and our reputation.   Among my neighbors to the east is a retired scholar; his surname is Li, his name is Shi, and his courtesy name is Maoqing. He has always been aloof from others; he behaves like the Superior Man of antiquity. Every­one calls him the Elder of the Eastern Hall.4 We are very close friends. He’s two years younger than I, and so I am the elder brother. We have never had a word of disagreement during our thirty years of friendship. In addition, because Maoqing’s wife bears the same surname as I do, and my wife had the same surname as Maoqing, our relations with each other are closer than those of the same flesh and blood. Today I want to invite him over to entrust my orphan’s affairs to him in order to relieve my worries. I wonder if he will be willing. Where are you, Rascal? Rascal:

(responding) What is it? As sick as you are, father, why do you insist on calling me by my baby name? I’m not a child anymore; don’t you risk shortening your life by calling me that?


You go invite your Uncle Li to come; I have something to say to him.


All right. Servants, go next door to Eastern Hall and invite Uncle over.


It was you I asked to go.


Why me? Why should I go—it’s all the way next door!


Then why did you send someone else?

  Here, Dongtang Laozi 東堂老子 ‘the Laozi from the Eastern Hall,’ but usually referred to as Dongtang Lao 東堂老 ‘Elder of the Eastern Hall.’ 4


robert e. hegel Rascal:

I’ll go, I’ll go. Don’t make a fuss. You servants, saddle up a horse.


It is only next door; why are you going on horseback?


You call yourself my dad and yet you don’t know me very well. I even go to the outhouse on horseback!


Such a fool!


I’m going, I’m going! I can see that I’m making you mad again. After I leave this gate there’ll be no one here. This is my father; he’s never said a word about it and yet he claims I’ve put him on his deathbed. As for that Uncle Eastern Hall next door, he and I are total strangers. If he doesn’t see me, then that’s just fine. But if he does, he’ll call out to me, “You—Rascal!” Ah! He scares me so much that my courage dies and my soul gets lost, yet I don’t know why I’m so afraid of him. While I’ve been talking I’ve already arrived at his gate. (Coughs.) Is Uncle at home?

(Enter Elder.) Elder:

(speaks) Who is that calling at the gate?


It’s your child, Rascal.


Why have you come?


Father sent me to invite you over, Uncle. I don’t know why.


You go first, I will come along shortly.


I was hoping that I could leave first; it’ll be easier. (Exit.)


My surname is Li and my name is Shi; my courtesy name is Maoqing, and I am fifty-eight this year. I come from a line of Dongping Prefecture people. I sojourned here, living on Memorial Arch Alley inside the Eastern Gate of Yangzhou, for the sake of trade. Since in my youth I also read a few lines of the classics and the histories, I call myself the Retired Scholar of the Eastern Hall. Now in old age people call me the Elder of the Eastern Hall. Zhao Guoqi, who lives to the west of my house, is two years my senior. Originally we were from the same locality and we both left home, but now we make our residences here. We have been close friends for a long time now, already more than thirty years. Recently elder brother Zhao fell ill. I

the elder of the eastern hall


wonder why he sent Rascal to summon me—just as I was about to go visit him. And here I am at his gate already. Rascal, report to your father that I am here. Rascal:

(reports) The Uncle Li you invited is at the gate.


Invite him in . . .

[Translator’s note: Elder drops broad hints to his old friend and neighbor that he is dying of frustration.] Zhao:

Bah! I have summoned no doctors. You, sir, and I have been very close friends; please guess what my illness is.


You ask me to guess what this illness of yours is, brother? Could it be that you are suffering from exposure to wind and cold, or heat and dampness?




Could it be because of overeating after malnutrition, or indolence after overwork?


None of those either.


Could it be because of some grief or worry?


Ah ya! You are the proverbial friend who truly knows one’s heart! Grief and worry are precisely what are causing my illness.


But that cannot be so, brother. You have a thousand qing of land outside the city; within the walls you have an oilpressing mill and a pawn shop. You have a son and a daughter-in-law, and you are one of the wealthiest men in Yangzhou. What do you lack that you should be so burdened by anxiety and worry? . . .

[Translator’s note: Zhao explains his son’s wastrel ways, comparing him unfavorably to sons cited by the Elder whom Confucius mentions in the Lunyu 論語 (Analects).5] Zhao:

Even so, the love of father for son cannot be severed, needless to say. I have spent my life in bitter toil to acquire a fortune as solid as a bronze dipper. If I allow him to squander it all, how could I rest in peace at the Nine Springs

5   Lunyu 論語 (Analects) 1.11; Confucius, The Analects, trans. D.C. Lau (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1983), 4-5: “Observe what a man has in mind to do when his father is living, and then observe what he does when his father is dead.”


robert e. hegel after death? My sole reason for inviting you to come here today is that I wish to entrust you with the full care of my orphan. I wish you to look after this unworthy son and not let him get into trouble. I would be as grateful as those who held jade rings in their mouths and those who tied knots in grass.6 I would never dare to forget it! . . . [Translator’s note: Elder at first declines, modestly citing his personal shortcomings and the fact that he is not a relative: why should Rascal obey his urgings? Finally, after more quotations from Confucius that flatter Elder, he agrees to watch out for Rascal after Zhao’s death.7] Elder:

Rascal, bring a table here.


Servants, take a table over there.


It was you I ordered; why do you order someone else?


I’ll carry it, I’ll carry it! This bunch of bastards—whenever I call one to take care of something for me, every one of them is gone. If anything happens to the Old Boy, I’ll sell off the whole lot of them myself. (Picks up the table.) Ah ya! When in my thirty years of life have I ever had to carry a table—especially one so big and heavy! (Puts down the table.)


Bring me paper, ink, brush, and inkslab.


Here they are.

6   Jade rings: an anecdote from Xu Qi Xie ji 續齊諧記 (Qi Xie’s Further Notes) by Wu Jun 吳均 (469–520) incorporated in a note to the Hou Han shu juan 84 biography of Yang Zhen 楊震 (d. 124): having saved a small bird which had been injured by an owl, a youth in yellow robes brought Yang Bao 楊寳 four jade rings from the Queen Mother of the West (Xiwang mu 西王母). See Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang, trans., The Man Who Sold a Ghost (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1958), 114. Tying knots in grass: in Zuo zhuan 左傳 (Zuo Commentary), Xuan 15, Wei Ke 魏顆 was ordered by his ailing father, Viscount Wu of Wei 魏武子, to bury the concubine alive with his corpse. Soon after, the Viscount died. Because Wei Ke felt that his father’s final command had been the result of delirium, he married the girl off. During a later battle with Qin, Wei captured his enemy who had been tripped up by clumps of grass tied ­together. An old man later appeared to Wei Ge in a dream, identified himself as the girl’s father, and said that he had tied the grass to repay Wei for sparing his daughter’s life. 7   Lunyu 11.6; “If a man can be entrusted with an orphan six chi tall, and the fate of a state one hundred li square . . . without his being deflected from his purpose even in moments of crisis, is he not a gentleman? He is, indeed, a gentleman.” (Confucius, Analects, 71); Lunyu 2.24: “Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage.” (Confucius, Analects, 16–17).

the elder of the eastern hall



(Writes.) I have finished drawing up this document; now I will sign it. Rascal, come here. You and I will apply our seals on the front and sign it on the back.8


Why are you making me put my seal on the front and sign it on the back? I haven’t committed any crime. I have no idea of what’s written here, and he’s holding onto it with both hands as if he were afraid that I’d steal it and eat it! (Signs it.) There, I’ve signed it. Would you dare sell me?


And if your father does want to sell you, what of it?


Please accept this document, sir. (Again kneels; Elder accepts it.) Rascal, invite your uncle to be seated, then summon your wife.9


Uncle is already seated. Sister, come out here.

(Enter Cuige.) Zhao:

Rascal, you and your wife bow to your uncle eight times.


Bow to him? But it’s not New Year’s—why should bow to him now?


Why should you and I quarrel over bowing, Rascal?


You don’t need to order me to bow to you eight times, Uncle; I bow to you each time that I see you. But why should I bow so many times?


Just do as your father says and bow to your uncle.


Shut your mouth! Enough of your talk! Just stay out of it—I’ll bow, I’ll bow! (Bows.) I’ll make this one bow stand for eight bows. (Stands up and straightens his clothing.) How is your wife, Uncle?


(angrily) Bah!


This old boy’s getting pretty testy!

8   During the Yuan period certain official documents had to be signed in this manner to be valid; thus one could sign a document without having an opportunity to read its contents. See Tong Fei 童斐, ed., Yuan qu 元曲 (Yuan Plays) (Shanghai, 1932; rpt. Taibei: Commercial Press, 1967) , 129. 9   At this point, the Maiwangguan version reads, in part: “Zhao: Move a table in front of your uncle . . . Prepare incense. Rascal: Bother! Nobody farted; why do we need incense? Servants, prepare the incense. (Inserts incense into the burner and lights it.) This is a great day for setting up an earth god shrine!”


robert e. hegel Elder:

Rascal, what is the nature of your father’s illness?


I don’t know.


Rubbish! Your father has been ill for six months, and yet you really do not know why? Don’t you know that the son should take responsibility for his father’s illness?


Calm down, Uncle. I could have said that I don’t know what my father’s illness is, but how could that be? Or I could have said that I did know, but maybe my guess might be wrong. I only see him sitting and then sleeping, sleeping and then sitting, so maybe he doesn’t get enough exercise.


Rascal, what is written in that document your father drew up and gave to me?


I don’t know.


Then why did you seal it on one side and sign it on the other if you did not know?


Father made me sign it: I wouldn’t dare not sign it.


Since you did not know, come forward both of you and I will explain it to you. Understand that even though your father gave you life, raised you to your majority, and found you a wife, you still fell in with bad company. You started to drink and got into trouble; you did not attend to the family fortune. He became sick with grief as a result.   It says here in this document: “In all the affairs undertaken by Yangzhou Rascal, if he has not asked the permission of his uncle, Li Maoqing, he may not undertake them. If he does not comply with his uncle’s instructions, he may be beaten to death without penalty.” Your father is giving me permission to beat you to death. Rascal:

(laments) Father, how could you do that! How could you let someone beat me to death!


Son, it is because I have no alternative.


Do not worry, brother; Rascal certainly would not dare misbehave.

(sings) Xianlü mode: “Shanghua shi” So worried about his child that his hair is getting thin, He wore himself out amassing wealth, his heart is barely alive;

the elder of the eastern hall


Using the last bit of your spirit worrying over this business, You’ve entrusted your wife and errant son to me;

(speaks) Have no fear,

(sings) In the end all will be as you wish. (Exit.)


(Supports Zhao.) Sister, Father’s looking a bit pale just now; let’s help him into his parlor. You relax, father.


Rascal, now you have come of age. Manage well the family property, care for your wife, and be frugal and thrifty. Clearly my life is finished.


(recites) Just because I raised a son whose nature is too crude, Day and night I worry and grieve—death’s staring me in the face. But if he’d hurry across the courtyard to receive my good advice, 10 Then if only in dreams we’ll be together in one place.

act i (Enter Teashop Keeper.) Teashop Keeper: (recites) Three Isles’ visitors I greet them with   tea. Five Lakes’11 guests I send off with puree; If the soup or the tea’s not as good as can be, Then it’s so hard to get them to pay me!

(speaks) I’m the teashop keeper. Today I’ve heated up the teakettle and I’m waiting to see who comes by.

(Enter Liu Longqing and Hu Zichuan.) Liu:

(recites) I raise neither silkworms nor mulberry, I till no fertile lands,

I solely rely on swindling to pass my idle years. 10 An allusion to Lunyu 16.13 in which Confucius’ son respectfully hurries to receive his father’s instructions. See Confucius, Analects, 166–67. 11   Three Isles: the mountainous islands of Penglai, Fangzhang, and Yingzhou off China’s east coast, the home of the xian 仙, or immortals. Five Lakes: five lakes in east central China.


robert e. hegel Hu:

(recites) Why should from early morning I work until night draws near, When others with greater ambition give me money on demand?


I am Liu Longqing; my sworn brother here is Hu Zichuan. Neither of us knows how to carry on any business or trade; we entirely depend on our clever tongues to get us through. In the City there’s a Little Brother Zhao, the Yangzhou Rascal.12 Ever since he swore brotherhood with us, he depends on us for everything. He can’t even drink tea or eat a meal without us. And if it weren’t for him, the two of us would starve to death!


Even my old woman’s trousers are his, brother, and so is your hairnet, too.


Ouch—and it’s hurting my head!


What is there among the clothes we wear and the food we eat that didn’t come from him, brother? I haven’t seen him for the last couple of days, and it’s made the palms of my hands all scorched and dry. Brother, let’s go look for him in the teashop. If we find him we’ll have both meat and wine. What we can’t finish we’ll wrap up and take home to give our old women.


(Sees Teashop Keeper.) Right you are, brother. Waiter, has Little Brother Zhao been here?

Teashop Keeper: No, not yet. Liu:

You keep watch for us. When he comes in, you tell us. We won’t be having any tea, though.

Teashop Keeper: All right. But here comes Little Brother Zhao now. (Enter Rascal.) Rascal:

(recites) On the surface I’m blessed with great beauty, Yet within I’ve not one speck of worth; Rudeness is throughout the core of me, While my beauty’s been growing since birth.

(speaks) I’m the Yangzhou Rascal, but most people find it easier on the tongue to call me Little Brother Zhao.

  Little Brother (xiaoge 小哥): a term of respect used to refer to the wealthy and powerful. 12

the elder of the eastern hall


Since my father died the days and months have gone by quickly, and it’s been ten years already. I’ve been living off the family fortune: the gold and silver, the pearls and kingfisher jade, the curios and toys, the produce and property, livestock, cattle, and sheep, the oil-pressing shop, the pawnshop, the maids and servants—I’ve mortgaged or sold them off until now they’re all gone. My hands are used to handling money every day and my mouth is used to delicacies—if I don’t use up several tens in silver a day, I just can’t get by.   I’ve made two sworn brothers; one is Liu Longqing and the other is Hu Zichuan. They’re my bosom buddies. They know what I’m going to say before I say it; all I do is mention the beginning and they know the end of it. Why shouldn’t I admire them? But I haven’t followed father’s wishes after all. What they say agrees with what I feel and follows what I think. I listen to them just as if they were classical writ. I haven’t seen them for a couple of days; usually they’re in that teashop waiting for me. I’ll go there to see if I can find them.   (Sees them.) Teashop Keeper: Here you are, Little Brother Zhao. Someone’s sitting in the teashop just waiting for you to come. Hey you two, Little Brother Zhao is here! Hu:

He’s here, he’s here! Let one of us be cordial and the other be nasty to him. You go out to meet him.


You go, brother.


No, brother; you go.


(Sees Rascal.) Where were you, brother? We’ve been waiting for you all morning.


You haven’t come around to see me these last few days either, brother.


Hu Zichuan is here, too.


I’ll go on in. (Sees Hu.) Good morning, brother!

(Hu does not return his greeting.) Liu:

Little Brother’s here.


Which little brother?


robert e. hegel



Little Brother Zhao.


Where does his old man serve as an official that he should be called “Little Brother”? He’s a good-for-nothing who’s pretending to be an official—playing the impostor before our very eyes! Call the bailiff and tie the bastard up!


How can he be so stupid? He must have started drinking early today.


We’ve been waiting all morning, but we haven’t eaten yet.


Why didn’t you tell me sooner that you haven’t eaten? I’m not the tapeworm in your stomach—how would I know? I’ll give you some silver so that you can buy your own food. (Gives them money.)


Bring tea for Little Brother. You’re so delicate: you can’t take this sort of teasing.


It’s not that I’m delicate, brother; it’s that your face is a little too worn.13


I have a “private matter” that I’d like to arrange for you.


I appreciate your good intentions, brothers. But I’m not like I used to be—I’ve used up all my inheritance. It’s been like feeding an ass with a sieve—all the beans have leaked out. All I have left is these two pieces of clothing, but I’m keeping up appearances. I’m still trying to look like a man of stature. You go make the date for someone else.


I’d say you don’t want to go along with me because “a dead dog can’t be lifted up a wall.”


It’s not that I can’t get it up, brother; it’s my money belt that’s not very hard to the squeeze.


Ha! You say you have no money, but your house still “wears royal armor.” Can’t you get some money for that?


Ah ya! How could you be my sworn brother—you know me as well as my old man! Who else could come with such a good suggestion when I’m in a bind? Yes! I don’t have any money to spend, but if I sell the house, then I will! But there’s just one problem, brother. When my father was alive he spent a hundred ingots of silver just replacing the

  Meaning ‘you are too experienced in the ways of the world.’

the elder of the eastern hall


roof tiles. Who would be willing to pay that kind of price now? Hu:

If it’s worth a thousand ingots, only ask for five hundred; if it’s worth five hundred, only ask for two hundred fifty. Then people will fight over it.


That’s right. If it’s worth a thousand ingots, I’ll only ask for five hundred; if it’s worth five hundred, I’ll only ask for two fifty. Then people will fight over it—it will be like getting a millstone off my hands. But there’s just one problem, brothers: My uncle Li next door will undoubtedly have some objections, and we won’t be able to do it. Just won’t be able to do it!


Well, if Uncle Li isn’t willing, just butter him up a bit and then he’ll go along with it.14


Yes, if he’s not willing, we’ll just butter him up a bit, and then he’ll go along with it. But if we sell the house we’ll need somebody to appraise it and to take an inventory.


Then I’m an appraiser!


Then I take inventories!


Oh—so you’re an appraiser and you take inventories. But if I sell the house, where will I live?


There’s a broken-down donkey shed at my place.


There’s a broken-down donkey shed at your place? As long as it doesn’t leak through on me, it’ll be all right. But what will I use to cook with?


There’s a worn-out cooking pot at my place, two cracked bowls, and two pairs of split chopsticks. I’ll give them all to you: that will be all you need . . .

[Translator’s note: Rascal stupidly repeats their solutions to his new prob­ lems, then concludes:] Rascal:

That will be all I need, and I’ll be happy. If I couldn’t depend on you two dirty bastards, I just couldn’t go on living!

(Exeunt.) 14

  Xiezhi li zhashang yi zhitou 脇肢裏扎上一指頭, literally ‘poke him in the ribs.’


robert e. hegel (Enter Elder with his wife Mme. Zhao and son Master Li.) Elder:

I’m Li Maoqing. I can’t forget that my old friend predicted just this outcome. He said, “After I die, my unworthy son will inevitably ruin my house.” Now it has come about, just as he said it would. Rascal has indulged himself with wine and women for only a few years, and yet the family fortune has already been swept away without a trace. It is well said that “No one knows a son better than his father.” I do believe it. (sings) Xianlü mode: “Dian jiang chun” What began as the nest of his forefathers— Who could predict that an unworthy offspring Would scrape it bare? Considering his half-century of toil: In vain he made plans for a thousand years to come.

“Hun jiang long” Beware of living by treachery and craft, Or you’ll never outlive your bad fortune. From the past all is predestined by former lives, Who gave you permit to be so greedy in this one? Worthy but stupid—the one who amassed wealth while fated to be poor; Arrogant—the son who enjoys the fruits.15 (speaks) I think of how hard he worked to amass this wealth: (sings) He did business, he bore the falseness and clamor, He tilled the soil, he hoed and dug everywhere, He ditched marshes, worked as fisherman and woodcutter, He chiseled in mountain caves, mining coal for fuel; But wherever he worked, He strove to earn all possible profit and fame, Without ever realizing that in the end

15   For these five lines the Maiwangguan version reads: “I only fear that to the end your bad fortune you’ll never escape. / Although the father bore grief and anxiety, / For the son every day it’s music and celebration. / He strove for wealth yet was fated to be poor—worthy, but stupid; / Yet for that wastrel the family is rich—the son so arrogant. / I think how my friend from morning to night, / Through the night until dawn, / Exhausted body and mind / Breaking laws and regulations. (Speaks): For those few coins, (Sings): He ignored his father, / Even forgot his friends. / The father devoted all to amassing wealth, / The son knows neither day or night in his greed . . . ”

the elder of the eastern hall


He’d fall on the road to Handan—16 Just like the finch that called from the eaves Or the wren on its nest of reeds.17 . . .

[Translator’s note: But then Cuige arrives to inform Elder that Rascal wants to sell the house.] Elder:

I knew it! Wait until that thieving wretch comes—I have some thoughts of my own about that.

(Enter Rascal with Liu and Hu.) Liu:

Let’s get this taken care of quickly, Little Brother Zhao. If you’re slow, we’ll fail.


Rounding the bend and turning the corner, here we are at the gate of the Li house already. There’s just one problem, brothers: I won’t dare bring up the sale of the house directly. Since the old man will probably be cantankerous, this will be hard to say. So I’ll beat around the bush a little before I bring it up. You two stay out here. (Sees and greets Elder.) Uncle, aunt, I bow and salute you. (Sees Cuige, stares at her.) Why are you here? Could it be that you’ve come to inform on me?


Rascal, why have you come here?


My wife has come to see you, Uncle, and because she’s so young I was afraid she’d be impolite.

(Enter Liu and Hu; they see Elder, and ceremoniously bow to him.) Elder:

And who are these two?

16   “The road to Handan”: the path to enlightenment. This alludes to the Tang period chuanqi 傳奇 tale “Zhenzhong ji” 枕中記 (In the Pillow) in which a young man named Lü 呂 dreams he lives out a lifetime of success in every arena, only to lose everything in the end. He awakens enlightened to the emptiness of earthly accomplishments. 17   The finch: an allusion to a line from Kong Congzi 孔叢子 (Collected Confucian Masters), attributed to a descendant of Confucius, Kong Fu 孔鮒 (d. ca. 210 BCE), who is said to have hidden certain of the Classics in the wall of his ancestor’s home to escape the Qin period literary inquisition. A baby finch has a false sense of security even though the house is on fire—as long as its belly is full. Wren (or tailor-bird): a small, unobtrusive bird mentioned in the “Xiaoyao you” 逍遙遊 (Free and Easy Wandering) chapter of Zhuangzi 莊子: “When the tailor-bird builds her nest in the deep wood, she uses no more than one branch.” Burton Watson, trans., The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), 32. Here Elder sings that Zhao’s lack of experience has led him to the misconception that wealth has permanence.


robert e. hegel Liu & Hu: We’re not like common scoundrels at all—we’re scholars and we’ve read half of The Essentials of the Comprehensive Mirror.18 Elder:

(angrily) Why have you come here?


We greeted him right nicely, and yet he’s getting all huffy. How boring!


They’re good friends of mine. One is Liu Longqing and the other is Hu Zichuan.


What Liu Longqing or Hu Zichuan do I know that you should summon them here to see me? Rascal,

(sings): “You hulu” Those dogs, those foxes are taking advantage of you!

(speaks) Rascal, how old are you?


I’m thirty, Uncle.



(sings) You are no longer a child, But you never learned to do good deeds.

(speaks) Well, I can’t blame you… (sings) At home you lacked guidance from venerable father or honorable brother, Outside you missed the instruction of good friends and stern teachers.

(speaks) You will wind up a beggar, Rascal!


How could I? Just look at my left palm: that’s not in my future!


(sings) You’ve squandered all your family property, Leaving wife and children to freeze and to starve. Still I hope that you’re drunk and will sober up, Confused and will become enlightened, Dreaming and will awaken; And yet you keep company with a pair such as these!

18   Tongjian jieyao 通鋻節要, a condensed version of Sima Guang’s 司馬光 (1019– 1086) history, Zizhi tongjian 資治通鋻 (Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Governing), which was used as a textbook in government schools during the period of Mongol rule in China.

the elder of the eastern hall Rascal:

Liu Longqing and Hu Zichuan are my best friends.




(sings) “Tianxia le” Ah, son, Certainly wisdom will flourish only when your companions are virtuous.

(speaks) You only deceive others, Rascal; you have never fooled me. (sings) When first you emerged from the womb, Your mother swaddled you and wrapped you in mats, Fed you tasty, sweet foods to raise you up to manhood.

(speaks) It is only because you would not attend to the family business that your father fell ill from grief and died. (sings) First your mother died young from anger, And then you caused your father’s death as well. All right! All right! How can you raise a son who will care for you in old age?


Don’t look down on those two, Uncle. They’ve both read half of The Essentials of the Comprehensive Mirror.


Rascal, let me tell you what you do everyday—do not try to deny it!


Uncle, you tell me what sort of people I ordinarily should respect and which sort I should not respect, and I’ll listen.


(sings) “Nezha ling” When you see a new actress arrive in the city…

(speaks) Wretched scoundrel—you say, “Come along…” (sings) At once you send out an urgent invitation. And when you see a pretty woman knocking at your door…

(speaks) Then you say, “Come in, quickly…” (sings) Then you hurry out to meet her. But when you see a proper scholar coming to your gate,

(speaks) Then you say, “There’s no one at home, no one at home!”


robert e. hegel (sings) You withdraw inside and hide. Rude to those who snatch the toad and break the cassia,19 You respect only beauties who make the moon pale and flowers blush. You have none of Yan Pingzhong’s skill in making true friends.20 “Que ta zhi” You love only slender waists— The ones like pliant branches. A frequenter of dance halls and singing terraces— No! Change that life of “evening moon and dawn flowers.” Remember the days when to the tune “Six Little Ones,” the “Rainbow Skirts” dance yet unfinished—21 Reform now! Those candles are burned out, the incense blown away.

(speaks) You’ll be a beggar from now on, Rascal.


How could I? Just look at my right palm: that’s not in my future!


(sings) “Ji sheng cao” Have I not repeatedly admonished you That you’re sowing calamity’s roots and seeds? You’ve cast off your humble wife, the treasure of your house, Preferring instead the beauties who cause contention in the home. Ah, son, You’re making yourself a pauper, destroying the family fortune. You only want to hear “Cassia Fragrance” to the notes of sandalwood lute. But instead you’ll beat a beggar’s clapper to lines from “Lotus Flowers Falling.”22

  Toad and cassia: found on the moon in popular belief, used to indicate success in the official examinations. 20   Yan Pingzhong: Yan Ying 晏嬰 (d. 493 BCE), a Grandee of the state of Qi during the Spring and Autumn period, known for his frugality and long-lasting, close friendships. 21 “Six Little Ones” and “Rainbow Skirts”: song titles mentioned by the poet Bai Juyi 白居易 (772–846) in his “Pipa xing” 琵琶行 (Lute Song), reflecting on the transience of wealth, glory, and happiness. 22   “Cassia Fragrance”: “Guizhi xiang” 桂枝香, a ci poem by Wang Anshi 王安 石 (1021–1086). See his Linchuan xiansheng gequ 臨川先生歌曲 (Songs by Master [Wang] Linchuan). “Lotus Flowers Falling”: Lianhua luo 蓮花落, a song form with 19

the elder of the eastern hall


“Liuyao xu” Pleasures conceal a snare, Thorns hide everywhere in silk, knives in alluring smiles; Who can escape their blows, their wounds? You can’t refrain from mermaid silks within the bed curtains, Nor good wine, some “Little Lamb.”23 Those corrupters, those yielding, fragrant beauties— Half of their sleeping mat is as dangerous as 800 li of Liangshan24 When the moon is black and the wind is high! Those foul “mists and flowers” Wait only for you, dissipated wretch, To give them certificates worth five thousand salt ships Or a hundred thousand loads of tea.25 “Yao pian” You’re captive behind their doors A prisoner in their trap— Where there are neither high ministers, Nor the law of the realm, Nor are there public officers, Nor even prisons. You began with the wealth of Golden Valley,26 But you frittered it away in a trice. Let me tell you, there’s no way to escape; It’s hard to get off this path. You’ll be fleeced to your skin and bones, even your wing feathers, Until your whole body is scraped clean; Then you’ll be broiled, toasted, boiled, and roasted, Those panders are armed with steel teeth and claws: Unless your hand is light and your feet are quick, Your bones will die, your form disappear.

(speaks) Rascal, what is the real reason for your visit?

three-word lines; lyrics for it could easily be made up on the spot. Beggars used this form in appealing for alms. 23   “Mermaid silks”: courtesans. “Little Lamb” (yanggao 羊羔) is a type of wine. 24   Liangshanbo: a great marsh used as bandit lair in the novel Shuihu zhuan 水滸 傳 (Outlaws of the Marsh). 25   Government certificates which stipulated the amount of salt a merchant might sell, this being a very profitable commodity. 26   A reference to the Golden Valley Park 金谷園 built by the Jin dynasty official Shi Chong 石崇 (249–300) where he used his vast wealth to hold great banquets.


robert e. hegel Rascal:

I wouldn’t dare come for no reason, Uncle. Today I’ve come in order to report that in the ten years since my father passed away, I’ve been rotting, sitting at home idle, with many expenses but no income. You could say that I’ve “sat and eaten the mountain empty, stood and eaten a hole in the earth.”27 It’s also said that a thousand strings of cash stored at home aren’t as good as a daily income of a few. I feel that since I’m originally from an old merchant house, I’d like to go into business with someone now. But I lack the capital. Now that I think of it, there’s nothing left at home that’s worth any money. There’s only this one mansion that’s still worth five or six hundred ingots. If I sell it as capital, then I’ll make a big splash in profits.28


Oh! Then you’ve already either mortgaged or sold your oil-pressing shop, your pawnshop, your treasures and your valuables, your produce and your property! You have only this mansion—your home—and you want to sell it, too. If you do sell it, I’ll buy it.


If you want it, Uncle, go and inspect the whole house: the eastern corridor, the western shed, the front hall, and the rear apartments, the gate, the windows, the outer and inner doors, upstairs and downstairs. Then make me an offer.


But I do not need to look at it. (sings) “Yi ban’er” I care not if beams are old in eastern corridor or western shed.


The front hall and the rear apartments were recently tiled.


(sings) I care not if rear apartments and front hall were   recently roofed.


If you want it, Uncle, I’ll set the price at five hundred ingots. That won’t be too much, will it?

27   “Sat and eaten . . .”: proverbial expressions describing one who exhausts his inheritance. 28   The phrase gezhabang 各扎邦 is onomatopoeic, usually meaning ‘kerplunk,’ or something of the sort. See Dale R. Johnson, A Glossary of Words and Phrases in the Oral Performing and Dramatic Literatures of the Jin, Yuan, and Ming (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies, 2000), 78.

the elder of the eastern hall



(sings) It’s not some evil uncle

Who tricks you to ask for some high price.


When can I have the money, Uncle?


I cannot give you that much money all at one time—

(sings) At most in half a month, at least I need ten days.


This is a hot item, Uncle. I’m afraid that someone else will come along and buy it.


You want five hundred ingots; I will pay you two hundred fifty first. (sings) Of these five hundred ingots, I will pay half, And owe him the other half.

(speaks) Little Brother, you bring it in here.

Master Li: (Brings the money.) Here are two hundred fifty ingots, father. (Elder hands it to Cuige, Rascal snatches it away.) Rascal:

Give it to me! Look at you—just what do you know about financial matters! (Hands it to He and Liu.) Brothers, you two take it.


When you use up all of this money you will have no more houses to sell so easily—just keep that in mind.


All right. We’ll talk it over and go into business, then I’ll make a big splash in profits. (Addresses Liu and Hu.) Brothers, these two hundred and fifty ingots are just enough. First go buy ten big sheep, a lot of fruit and vegetables, and buy some “popped sugar lions.”29 As for my wife, give her a table by herself, but you two can share the same table like lovebirds. Spread a separate table for me.

Liu Longqing: That’s just how we’ll arrange it.



(Overhears them.) Rascal, what are you doing?


Nothing, just discussing business. I’ll take this money, purchase a variety of goods, and pile them on tables, sorted by type. When passers-by see them, they’ll praise me, saying,

  A type of candied fruit.


robert e. hegel “What a lot of capital that merchant has to lay out a spread like this!” Your child will make a big splash in profits. Elder:

Be cautious, child.


Whew! The old boy almost heard that! Brothers, by the time we finish the first soup, the temperature should be getting hot. Get rid of those rain hats, loosen your clothing, and open up the shutters on the windows.


What did you say, Rascal?


Nothing, just discussing business. I don’t want to give them the money in a dark room; if money changes hands in a dark room, someone might be deceived. As the saying goes, “Do it in daylight, not in darkness.” Open the shutters for me! I’m discussing business and I’m going to make a big splash in profits.


Fine, my son; then I have not wasted my time.


The old boy’s gone now. Brothers, after the meal and just before we split up, one of you watch the stairway door. The other can pour from the wine jug, and I will hold the cups. We’ll have a couple of quick drinks. Tell your “big sister” Miss Ever-Ready to come to do the dance and song about finding the Huayan Sutra at the bottom of the sea.30


Rascal, what are you talking about?


Oh, nothing.


Such a fool! (sings) “Zhuan sha” You belittle a mansion that reaches to Heaven, Nor do you admire your fields outside the walls; With one sheet of paper you sold them all. Do you know where you’ll be roosting from now on— Bearing wind and frost in a broken-roofed brick kiln.31 Ah, son! Consider it in your heart:

30   “Miss Ever-Ready”: Yishijing 宜時景, evidently the name of a prostitute. Huayanjing chuanji 華嚴經傳記 (Traditions Concerning the Avatamsaka sūtra, Taishō Tripitaka no. 2073) notes that the Huayan Sutra was recovered from the palace of the Naga kings at the bottom of the sea. See Etienne Lamotte, “Manjusri,” T’oung Pao 48 (1960): 71. 31   Brick kiln, or tile kiln: term used for a slum area outside a city, not necessarily an actual kiln.

the elder of the eastern hall



Night after night, day after day, Will you return from peddling with perspiration still dripping— Having cast away your curios and valuables, Having spent all your fine silver and clinking coins? Ah, son! How can you treat Deng Tong’s cash Like beggar Xu You’s gourd?32 (Exit.) Brothers, make all of the arrangements quickly, and then come and get me. (Exit.)

[Translator’s note: Act II begins with Elder’s own son complaining about his bad luck in business. In song, Elder explains that success is all the result of hard work, not fate. When Cuige comes to complain that Rascal is drinking away the proceeds from the house sale with a prostitute, Elder rounds up several retainers and sets off to “thrash the bastard!” In his arias Elder reviles Rascal and his friends through allusions to legendary exemplars until finally Rascal leaves, his party ruined by the old man’s scolding. By Act III the truth of his financial situation has hit home.] act iii (Enter Rascal and Cuige carrying a shabby basket.) Rascal:

All you good-for-nothings, take a lesson from me! I’m the Yangzhou Rascal. I didn’t believe the advice of good people, and as a result I’ve come to this pitiful state. Instead I believed in Liu Longqing and Hu Zichuan; I used up my house and home, my family property. I’ve been tricked out of everything. Now were living in a ruined kiln near the south city wall. If we eat breakfast, we have nothing for supper. Every day we build a fire where we sleep; then we lie down on the warm ground. How are we to pass the days and months? It is fitting that I am suffering, but this old woman of mine has never had a single decent day. Enough, enough! Sister, I can’t go on living! I’m going to untie this rope and fasten it to that tree branch. We’ll both hang ourselves—you on that side and I on this.

32   Deng Tong 鄧通: a favorite minister of the Han emperor Wen (r. 180–157 BCE) whom the emperor allowed to coin money; consequently Deng was very wealthy. Xu You 許由: a recluse who was sent a gourd for dipping water. After using it he hung it in a tree, but when its rattling in the wind annoyed him, he threw it away.


robert e. hegel Cuige:

Rascal, in the days when we had money, you used it all as you pleased; I’ve never had any fun. It would he fitting if you hanged yourself, but why should I?


What you say is right, sister. I’ve had my fun, but you’ve never had any. You wait in the kiln while I go look for those two swindlers. Sweep up a little dry mule dung for fuel and heat up the pot to a good rolling boil. I’ll go find some rice to boil up for gruel. Heaven! Poverty is killing me!

(Exeunt Rascal and Cuige.) (Enter Teashop Keeper.) Teashop Keeper: I’m the teashop keeper. This morning I got up, I combed my hair all slick, washed my face, and I’ve opened my teashop to see who’ll come by. (Enter Liu and Hu.) Liu:

(recites) Firewood is cheap, Rice is still cheaper; We are two fools— Don’t we make a fine pair!33 (speaks) I’m Liu Longqing; my brother here is Hu Zichuan. We’re very close friends, never apart from each other by a step or an inch. Ever since we got rid of that Little Brother Zhao we’ve lost all interest in him. Today let’s go into that tea shop to relax for a while; with a little luck we’ll find another patron. Waiter, bring us some tea.

Teashop Keeper: Of course. Please come in and have a seat. (Enter Rascal.) Rascal:

I’m Rascal. Before when I left my gate everyone kowtowed and banged their heads to be my friend and sworn brother. But now that I am poor, everyone I meet shuns me. I’ll just inquire in this tea shop now. (Sees Teashop Keeper.) Good morning, Teashop Keeper.

Teashop Keeper: What does that beggar want? Ugh! A beggar’s come to pay his respects!

  This jingle can also be found in the zaju play Li Kui fu jing 李逵負荊 (Li Kui Carries Thorns), by Kang Jinzhi 康進之 (fl. 1300). 33

the elder of the eastern hall



All right, all right. I was just looking for those two sworn brothers of mine, and it happens that they’re here right now. They will help me out—wonderful! (Sees Liu and Hu, greets them.) Good morning, brothers.


Get that beggar out of here!


I’m not a beggar; I’m Little Brother Zhao . . .

[Translator’s note: Rascal’s appeals to his erstwhile friends for monetary assistance put them into high gear: one after the other they slink away, ostensibly to buy food—but not before insisting to the teashop keeper that Rascal will repay their debts once again. In despair, Rascal can only drag himself back to his hovel, where his wife awaits him.] (Rascal sees Cuige.) Cuige:

Ah, Rascal, you’ve come.


Did you heat the water to boiling?


I’ve heated it very hot; give me the rice to boil.


Boil my two feet! From the time I went out, I didn’t run into a single good friend. Enough, enough of this—I’ll just die!


No matter what happens, all you can think about is dying. Remember all the ways you had fun and amused yourself with that Liu Longqing and Hu Zichuan. And what did I ever get out of it?! There’s no other way out now; you and I have to go to Uncle Li to beg a bite of food.


What are you saying, sister? That’s nothing but begging for a beating! When Uncle sees me, if he’s in a good mood he’ll curse me, but if he’s being mean he’ll beat me. Go by yourself if you want to—I don’t dare!


Don’t worry, Rascal. When the two of us get to Uncle’s gate, we’ll inquire before we go in. If Uncle is at home, then I’ll go in by myself. If Uncle is not there, you and I will go in together. Aunt will surely give us something to live on.


What you say is right, sister. If Uncle is at home when we get there, you go in by yourself to see Uncle and to beg a bowl of food. When you’re full, wrap up some of the scraps and bring them out for me to eat. If Uncle’s not at home, then I’ll go in with you. But don’t even mention something


robert e. hegel to live on when we see Aunt; just fill yourself with one of her meals. Heaven! Poverty is killing me! (Exeunt Rascal and Cuige.) (Enter Elder’s wife, Mme. Zhao.) Mme. Zhao: I’m Mme. Zhao. My husband went out very early this morning. I see that now it is noon; why is he not back yet? Servants, prepare tea and food. He ought to be here any time now. (Enter Rascal and Cuige.) Rascal:

We’ve reached their gate, sister. You go in first. If Uncle’s at home, don’t tell him that I’m here. But if he’s not, come out and call me.


All right, I’ll go in first. (Sees Mme. Zhao.)

Mme. Zhao: Servants, why have you let this beggar in? Cuige:

I’m no beggar, Aunt; I’m Cuige.

Mme. Zhao: Ah, you are Cuige! Ah, my child, why are you in such a condition? Cuige:

Rascal and I are living in a ruined tile kiln by the south city wall now, Aunt. Aunt, the pain is killing me!

Mme. Zhao: Where is Rascal? Cuige:

He is at the door.

Mme. Zhao: Tell him to come in. Cuige:

I’ll go call him. (Rascal is asleep.) He’s sleeping; I’ll wake him up. (calls) Rascal! Rascal!


(Awakens.) I’ll beat you, you ugly bitch! Heaven! You spoiled my dream. And just at the best part!


What were you dreaming about?


I dreamed that I was in Moonlight Tower with Abandoned Elegance. The two of us were singing “A-hu-ling” from the beginning.34


And you still remember such things! Go in to see Aunt.

  Abandoned Elegance (Piezhixiu 撇之秀): apparently the name of a courtesan. “A-hu-ling” (or: A-gu-ling) is a song title. 34

the elder of the eastern hall Rascal:


(Sees Mme. Zhao, weeps.) Aunt, I’m dying of poverty! Is Uncle at home? When he comes home he’ll want to beat me. Please talk him out of it, Aunt.

Mme. Zhao: I suppose you have not eaten, child? Rascal:

Where would I get anything to eat?

Mme. Zhao: Servants, first fix noodles and bring them for these children. I’ll let you satisfy your hunger, children; your uncle is not at home. Now eat, eat! (Rascal eats noodles. Enter Elder.) Elder:

Some bastard on a fine horse with an engraved saddle— he was half drunk—was riding along as if he were flying, shaking his two sleeves in the spring breeze, stirring up all the dust and dirt on the street. Think of it! Bah, he nearly blinded my old eyes! (sings) Zhonglü mode: “Fen die’er” Who is that youthful scamp: Born into a peaceful age with no sorrows or cares; Living for no purpose, he lives graciously, nothing plain for him. He goes out to strum the lute or gamble, Showing no concern for his family’s fortune. When would he ever seek famous old scholars, To study some sacred and worthy writ? “Zui chunfeng” No concern that days and months fly by like juggled bowls, That the world will pass on like an overnight shower. Now that I reach the age of mulberries and elms, What use am I, rotten old timber?35 Just understand that the Odes and Documents are models to awaken the world, Make something of yourself through loyalty and filial love— You can’t expect wealth and property in their wake.

(speaks) I have arrived home already.

35   Rotten timber refers to Lunyu 5.10: “The Master said, ‘A piece of rotten wood cannot be carved, nor can a wall of dried dung be troweled’.” Confucius, Analects, 38–39. Mulberry and elm: an image probably derived from the biography of Feng Yi 馮異 (d. 34) in Hou Han shu juan 47 in which these two trees indicate the western quarter where the sun sets. Here, by extension, they indicate the evening of life.


robert e. hegel

(sings) “Jiao sheng” Just now I walk along the highway, leaning on my staff, Step by step, Until I pass between my gateposts. (Sees Rascal, becomes angry.)

(speaks) Who is that over there eating noodles?


(startled) I’m dead!


(sings) As I look around, just now I spotted him. Why is he standing there so apprehensively—that lily-liver!


Uncle, your daughter-in-law bows to you.


Stay out of this! (sings) “Ti yindeng” I really cannot get free from this wastrel and his wife, I really need not be concerned with you, now so poor and desolate. For a thousand reasons, this fellow cannot be tolerated; Even the five corporal punishments could not pay for all his crimes!

(speaks) Rascal, would you not say that…

(sings) I taught you how to become an honorable man, To be a man of means. Why then did you brag and slander me behind my back?

(speaks) Didn’t you say, “My surname is Li, yours is Zhao—how is he related to me?” (sings) “Man qingcai” What face have you now to cross my threshold again? Why are you not attending to those two scoundrels?

(Leaves fearfully.)


Where are you going? (sings) From fear his hands, his feet all a-tremble; What could you fear from me? That the soup for our little beggar lacks ginger or vinegar?

(speaks) Have you not put it down yet? Then go have roast mutton at your banquet.

(Rascal shakes with fear, his chopsticks rattling against his bowl. Elder beats him.)

the elder of the eastern hall


Mme. Zhao: Do not beat him, husband! (Rascal goes out the gate.) Rascal:

Aunt, he’s beating me to death! Now I want to go into business, but I have no capital. I could earn big profits in a splash.

Mme. Zhao: I will give you this string of cash as capital, child. Rascal:

Don’t worry, aunt; I’m going to do some business now. (Momentarily exits, then reenters.) Aunt, I took this string of cash and bought a package of charcoal.

Mme. Zhao: What business are you doing? Rascal:

I’m selling charcoal.

Mme. Zhao: How is the selling of charcoal going? Rascal:

With my one string of cash as capital, I sold one string’s worth and made a profit of one string. And I still have two packets of charcoal left to give you as interest, aunt, to warm your feet with.

Mme. Zhao: We have some here; you take this home and use it yourself. Rascal:

Aunt, I’m going into some other business now. (Momen­ tarily exits, then reenters.) (shouts) Vegetables for sale: Greens, cabbage, red-rooted spinach, coriander, carrots, scallions!

Mme. Zhao: What business are you doing this time, child? Rascal:

Aunt, tell Uncle for me that I’m selling vegetables.

Mme. Zhao: You stay here, child; I will tell Uncle. (Sees Elder.) You’ll like this, husband: Rascal is doing business and making a profit! Elder:

I do not believe it. What kind of business is Rascal doing?


First your child was selling charcoal, but now I’m selling vegetables.


When you were selling charcoal, what did people say?


Some people said, “It’s sad to see Rascal sell charcoal. When he was rich he rose up just like a bonfire, but now that he’s broke, he’s crushed.”


robert e. hegel Elder:

What is crushed?


The charcoal is crushed!


Such a fool!


Now when I sell vegetables, some people also say, “When he was rich, he kept company with Liu Longqing. Now that he’s broke, he takes those melons around.36 . . .

[Translator’s note: In order to test his resolve, Elder forces Rascal to demonstrate how he hawks his wares in front of the servants whom he had sold off in his days of extravagance. Utterly humiliated, Rascal finally resolves to live within his means. Even when Elder urges him to buy a bit of salt and soy sauce to season the leaves and roots he cannot sell, Rascal adamantly refuses. Act III ends with Elder sending his son to invite Rascal and his wife to dinner the following day. In Act IV all is resolved: at a birthday celebration for himself attended by the neighbors, Elder announces that he has secretly purchased all of the family property that Rascal sold during his spendthrift years. Now that Rascal has turned a new leaf, Elder returns it all to him. When the villains Liu and Hu show up to sponge once more, he chases them away, for now Rascal has thoroughly reformed, and so the play concludes.]

  “Takes those melons around” (na huzi zhuan 那瓠子轉) is a pun on “that Hu Zichuan” (na Hu Zichuan 那胡子傳). 36

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TIME MANAGEMENT AND SELF-CONTROL: SELF-HELP GUIDES IN YUAN Stephen H. West When we think of “self-fashioning,” we often think of an active process, a formulation and representation of self-image, a creation of a certain fluid space of constituted bodies—both personal and social—to create an imagined identity. This identity may be quite real for the person who is fashioning the self; but for the most part audiences, intended and unintended, concentrate on how literary texts produce this “self,” ascribing to it, consciously or unconsciously, a set of values that run the gamut from an authentic ethical exercise to complete fictionality. It can range from the created community of literati formed around the ideal of “our culture” (siwen 斯文), or the mantra of “poetry speaks of intent” (shi yan zhi 詩言志) to the “playboy” (fengliu 風流) of Guan Hanqing’s 關漢卿 (ca. 1250–1325) sanqu 散曲 suites. Whatever the particular value we assign to the act we all recognize it as a fundamentally performative gesture, an expression of propositional language that comes to rest in a distinctly formed identity. The focus of self-fashioning in the West is clearly on the issue of creating an autonomous subject, but in China I believe it is much more of a case of building a sodality of culture. This paper will attempt to demonstrate that the social and cultural prestige that normally accrued to the ethical meritocracy, the literati, came under duress during the late Song and Yuan eras. The flood of relatively cheap printed editions allowed people on the periphery a means to master the mechanical aspects of preparation for the examinations and to work alone outside of the master-student teaching relationship. Like the modern “cram schools” (buxi ban 補習班), these texts held out hope that diligence and hard work would offer the key to social success, by covering a clearly defined amount of material at a manageable rate of progress, the corollary to this being that one must guard against the excesses of pleasure and control one’s time. This trend, which hinged on the affordability of print, created problems for


stephen h. west

the literati world order by threatening their hold on the examination culture and on the cultural and social capital to be gained by success therein. There is such a long tradition of written literature in China, much of which is produced on the theoretical basis that it reflects interiority, the union of the interior and a cosmic morality, or the cosmos itself, that the act of self-fashioning becomes in a real sense as much a rehearsal of previously performed roles as the creation of new ones. With the rise of a meritocracy in the late Tang era, one might suppose that the desire to create such new roles increased, since one was no longer born as a ruling aristocracy into “our culture,” but had to earn one’s right to enter it. The resultant textual production, so amply represented in Peter Bol’s work, is often strident and contentious in making its claim to moral authority.1 This claim also extended to editing and preserving manuscripts. Prior to the explosion of print culture in the Southern Song, these tasks were largely in the hands of this very small elite, who had a stake in perpetuating the community of “our culture” since it represented significant social and political capital. The new culture of print, however, loosened their control over the world of texts, partially in terms of editing, but most importantly in the kind and amount of materials published. Now, no longer did the collected writings of literati and the canonical works of the tradition account for the bulk of printing. New forms of literature—colloquial tales, dramas, “everyday encyclopedia,” collections of popular songs, lists of mundane regional items, etc.— were published and spread over the whole of the empire. The center of this compass rose was clearly located in the southeastern part of China, the area of modern Zhejiang and Fujian. One everyday encyclopedia (riyong leishu 日用類書), as such books have been named by the Japanese scholar Sakai Tadao 酒井忠夫, became an important staple of the publishing industry of Hangzhou and Jianyang: the Shilin guangji 事林廣記 (A Widely Comprehensive Record of a Forest of Affairs), by an obscure Southern Song-Yuan writer named Chen Yuanjing 陳元靚, whom we can date with some reliability to the middle part of the thirteenth century. Chen is better known for his annuary of customs, the Suishi guangji 歲時廣記 (Expansion of the   Peter K. Bol, “This Culture of Ours”: Intellectual Transitions in T’ang and Sung China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992). 1

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Random Notes to Events of the Annual Seasons).2 This record of the customs and festivals of the year itself was an “expansion” (guang 廣) of the Suishi zaji 歲時雜記 (Random Notes to Events of the Annual Seasons) of Lü Xizhe 呂希哲 (ca. 1080–1125). The Expansion of the Random Notes bears a preface written by Zhu Jian 朱鑑 (1190–1258), Zhu Xi’s 朱熹 (1130–1200) grandson. By knowing the year of his death we can place the publication of Expansion of the Random Notes prior to that terminal event. Based on taboo characters and other printing anomalies preserved in a seventeenth-century Japanese recutting of a Yuan edition, we can also locate the first publication of A Forest of Affairs to a period before the fall of the Song. A Forest of Affairs has a long history of publication, the texts of which have been far better preserved in Japan than in China.3 In my estimation, the oldest layer of the work is preserved in an edition recut in Japan entitled Xinbian zuantu 2   See Sakai Tadao, “Mindai no jitsuyō ruisho to shomin kyōiku” 明代の日用類書 と庶民教育 (Everyday Encyclopedia and the Education of Commoners in the Ming), in Kinsei Chūgoku kyōikushi kenkyū, ed. Hayashi Tomoharu (Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1958), 62–74; Sakai Tadao, “Confucianism and Popular Educational Works,” in Self and Society in Ming Thought, ed. William de Bary (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), 338–341; Wu Huifang 吳蕙芳, “Chūgoku ritsuyō ruisho shusei ji qi shiliao jiazhi” 中國日用類書集成及其史料價值 (The Collection of Chinese Everyday Encyclopedia and Its Historical Value), Jindai Zhongguo shi yanjiu tongxun 30 (2000): 116–117. 3   Information on editions drawn from personal research and the following articles: Hu Daojing 胡道靜, “Preface” to Zhonghua shuju’s 1963 reprint of the 1330 edition, Xinbian zuantu zenglei qunshu leiyao Shilin guangji 新編纂圖增類群書類要事林 廣記, rpt. Chen Yuanjing, Shilin guangji (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1999), 559–565, and Morita Kenji 森田憲司, “Guanyu zai Riben de Shilin guangji zhuben” 關於在 日本的事林廣記諸本 (Concerning the Editions of A Widely Comprehensive Record of a Forest of Affairs Held in Japan), ibid., 566–572. See also Ishida Mikinosuke 石田 干之助, “Shigen yakugo ni tsuite” 至元訳語について (Concerning the Authorized Translations of the Zhiyuan Reign), in idem, Tōa bunkashi sōkō (Tokyo: Tōyō bunko, 1973), 83–112; also translated into Chinese as “Guanyu Zhiyuan yiyu” 關於至元譯 語, in Menggu yiyu, Nüzhen yiyu huibian, ed. and trans. Jia Jingyan 賈敬顏 and Zhu Feng 朱風 (Tianjin: Tianjin guji chubanshe, 1990), 324–338; Nakazawa Kikuya 長澤 規矩也, “Hekeben leishu jicheng jieti” 和刻本類書集成解題 (Notes to the Collection of the Japanese Woodblock Editions of Categorized Documents), Suihua jili, Shuxu zhinan, Shilin guangji, in Hekeben leishu jicheng, vol. 1 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1990), i-iv. See also the following websites: Zenkoku Kanseki dētabēsu 全國漢籍データベース ([Japanese] National Database of [Premodern] Chinese Books) at http://www.kanji.zinbun.kyoto-u.ac.jp/kanseki/ (accessed 28 April 2009); Zhongguo guji shanben shumu lianhe daohang xitong 中國古籍善本書目聯合導航系 統(Catalog Navigating System for China’s Rare Books) at the China National Library, at (accessed 28 April 2009); Zhongwen guji shumu ziliao 中文古籍 書目資料 (Chinese Rare Books) at the National Central Library in Taiwan, at http:// rarebook.ncl.edu.tw/rbook.cgi/frameset4.htm (accessed 28 April 2009).


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zenglei qunshu leiyao Shilin guangji 新編纂圖增類群書類要事林廣記 (Newly Compiled with Selected Illustrations and Increased Categories from a Variety of Sources: A Widely Comprehensive Record of a Forest of Affairs). It was published in the twelfth year of the Genroku 元祿 (1699) by Imai Shichirō 今井七郎 and Nakano Gorō 中野五郎 and is based on an earlier edition published by the Military Commandery of Yamaoka Township in Kyōto.4 The text has a preface (dated 1684) by the renowned Confucian scholar Utsunomiya Teki 宇都宮的 (also known as Utsunomiya Yuteki 由的 and Utsunomiya Ton’an 遯庵, 1634–1710): A Widely Comprehensive Record of a Forest of Affairs, edited by Chen Yuanjing, exists in several volumes from numbers one through ten. There is nothing excluded in his recording of affairs, no redundancies or confusions in his summaries. He cites his sources meticulously and does not engage in conjectural theories. His work for modern scholarship is no small thing.   Some twenty years ago, I happened to see a manuscript of this book. The graphs and graphics were completely unreadable and obscured, and there was a plethora of doubtful points. But there was no other edition against which to investigate or against which to test the manuscript. It was something I truly felt bad about. But recently, someone has added [kanbun] punctuation marks [kunten 訓點] and commanded it to a printer. The printer has requested a preface from me. I directly perused it and found that the charts, the characters, and the corruptions of the earlier text have all been rectified. Whatever points of doubt existed in the older version have now been properly discriminated. Whatever was missing in the older version has now been added. I simply do not know from whence came this fine edition. Wonderful, indeed, that such a book should be carved on the blocks. But, unfortunately, there are so many “meat gazers,”5 and I cannot foresee whether or not this text will actually circulate in the world. Sixth month of the first year of Jōkyō, prefaced by Ton’an, Yuteki.6

Yang Shoujing 楊守敬 (1839–1915) saw this copy in 1880 when he visited Tokyo, and wrote these notes: 4   Nakazawa, “Hekeben leishu jicheng jieti,” iii. He also notes that the book was not very popular in Japan, and that the last reprint was extremely clear, since the plates were not often used for printing. 5   That is, people who have human faces, but animal natures: people who are unlearned. 6   Utsunomiya Teki 宇都宮的, “Xu” 序 (Preface), in Xinbian qunshu leiyao Shilin guangji, in Shilin guangji (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1999), 173–174 (hereafter, Japanese edition).

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Compiled by Yuanjing of Xiying of the Yuan dynasty.7 Altogether ten collections. The first collection is twelve chapters, the second is four, the third is five. From the third through ninth, each collection has ten chapters. The tenth collection has thirteen chapters. Yuanjing also wrote the Expansion of the Random Notes to Events of the Annual Seasons; the Concise Notes of the Comprehensive Bibliography of the Complete Collection of the Four Treasuries confirm him to be a person of the Song, based on a preface to the work by Zhu Jian. Now, the edition under discussion has a section on the provinces and commanderies of the early Yuan in the second chapter and “The Miscellaneous Commands of the Zhiyuan Reign” in the ninth chapter; therefore, Yuanjing was still alive in the Yuan dynasty.   The format of his text is similar to that of the Categorized Essentials for Households but its coverage is comparatively more extensive. Although somewhat far from grand elegance, it is indeed useful for daily use. The institutions of the Yuan may be examined from the sections on the ‘Phags-pa script for the Hundred Surnames, on historical geography, and on rites and ceremonies. The section on the seasons is not redundant with the Expansion of the Random Notes he compiled. This is because that text is an investigation into antiquity; this one is to give easy access to the popular. There are neither prefaces, nor postfaces, nor colophons. Only the table of contents to the first section has the following record: This text has been filled with errors because the printers have omitted some full pages. A certain gentleman has now commanded the workers a second time to correct and supplement the original printing. And, in addition, sixty-some pages have been newly added in order to expand its transmission. You gentlemen who collect books please take note. Supplementary material added in mid-winter of the yichou year of the Taiding reign [1325]. This book is seldom listed in bibliographies. Although reproduced by the Japanese, they did not lose the older features of the Yuan woodblock edition. How delightful.8

In the Japanese edition of A Forest of Affairs we are presented with a highly sedimentary text, with obvious strata ranging in date from its first cutting in the Southern Song to other Song additions, and finally

7   In Zhu Jian’s preface to the Suishi guangji, he gives Chen’s home district as Nanying; Xiying is given in the Shilin guangji; both places are probably in modern Anhui. 8   Yang Shoujing, Riben Fangshu zhi 日本訪書志 (A Record of Seeking Books in Japan) (Guanhai tang ed., preface dated 1901), 14a-b.


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to emendations and expansion in the Yuan.9 The text is highly fluid, in the sense that it could alter to accommodate whatever new knowledge was introduced by shifts in the demands that social and cultural change made. It seems that the original stratum was fairly conservative in its themes and coverage and that, over time, there was a tendency to move toward more practical and somewhat more expansive fields of knowledge. This is hinted at by the practical nature of parts that we can identify with certainty as Yuan, where knowledge is clearly instrumental and ready for application to practical problems. A Forest of Affairs is a work of fascinating texture, a commonplace book that contains dictionaries, medical and geographical references, a cookbook, guides to the basics of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and primer for success as a scholar and Confucian gentleman. I will examine parts of this work to show how we may infer from it the anxieties inherent in identity formation: negative formulations, prescriptive writings, and admonitions that represent an individual’s anxieties over the pressure that social change exerts on boundaries of selfhood. Given the role of writing and ethics in the social and political arenas, we can also deduce that such changes carry heavy weight in the social calculus because they are so intimately tied to social and political capital, the main currency of which was a prestige derived from accumulated ethical merit. The texts that I will specifically use are found in the fourth volume (dingji丁集) of both the Japanese edition10 and a second, readily available edition, the Zheng family edition titled Zuantu xinzeng qunshu leiyao Shilin guangji 纂圖新增群書類要事林廣記 (Widely Comprehensive Record of a Forest of Affairs, Categorized Essentials of Many Texts With Newly Added Visual Plates), which was originally housed in the archives of the Tōyō Bunko 東洋文庫, but is now

9   I have addressed this issue in another paper, “Self-Fashioning in the Yuan: Monitoring the Social Body,” prepared for a conference at Academia Sinica on “Esthetic Pursuits and Self-Fashioning of Yuan and Ming Literati” (元明文人自我 建構與審美風尚), on 16 December 2004. To summarize, the early stratum includes loan characters to replace taboo names of Song emperors and there are alterations to the woodblocks to insert Yuan information into original plates that covered a chronological period up to late Song. Other strata can be identified by introduction of datable institutions and texts. 10   Japanese edition, 261–557.

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held in the Kunaishō Toshoryō 宮内省図書寮.11 In the Zheng edition, the texts under consideration are found under the general category “Elementary Learning” (youxue lei 幼學類),12 and in the Japanese edition under the general category of “Fast Paths for Exhortation to Learning” (quanxue jiejing 勸學捷徑).13 The first text I would like to consider in these sections is “Shi kexi” 十可惜 (Ten Lamentable Things). This work seems to be copied from a six-chapter work by Zhang Xianwu 張憲武, called Quanxue lu 勸 學錄 (A Record of Exhortation to Learning), which is unfortunately no longer extant.14 Zhang Xianwu is practically unknown. A rescript dated 11 September 1133, awarding his success in the suppression of bandits, gives his titles as “Introducer of Affairs and Visitors to Court of the Bureau of Ceremonies and Felicitations, Dignitary of Martial Accomplishment, Vice-Military General Director of the Army of Transcendent Bravery.”15 And, in the preface to the “Category of Accelerated Learning” (suxue men 速學門) in the Japanese edition, his efforts to stir students to learning receives notice: “Zhang Xianwu’s ‘Ten Lamentable Things’ and ‘Five Cautions’ are truly earnest instructions; can students not exert themselves?”16 Ten Lamentable Things I often berate myself that I did not study when I was young and that I lack experience and have a shallow knowledge, and that I am dispirited and aimless. Now that I am old I have been of no use to the world. Be it so, but I know the faults of not studying and can still rescue myself from its neglect. I have seen the younger students in the neighborhood: each decked out finely in clothes and scarves in order to make a sojourn to the bustling marketplace. I seized on this to tell them, “When the elders speak to each other, it is of benevolence and justice; when those 11   Ibid., 1-259; A printer’s record after the table of contents says, “Published by the Zheng Family’s Hall of Accumulated Sincerity in the tenth month of the gengchen year of Zhiyuan [1340].” 12   Ibid., 91d-99c. 13   Ibid., 346c-348d. 14   “Yiwen zhi” 藝文志 (Monograph on Bibliography), in Songshi 宋史 (Song History) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1977) XV, zilei 1, yiwen zhi 4, zhi 158, juan 205.5174. 15   See entry dated Shaoxing sannian jiuyue jiaxu 紹興三年九月甲戌 (22 October 1133) in Jianyan yilai xinian yaolu 建炎以來繫年要錄 (A Record of Important Events Arranged Annually Since the Jianyan Reign), Siku quanshu, vol. 325, 68.888. 16   Japanese edition, 341a.


stephen h. west in the marketplace speak to each other, it is of fortune and profit. Just in the prime of youth, they go crazy to take their pleasure. The ancients disesteemed a foot of jade bi, but valued every single inch of shadow, saying that the gentleman should make the most of his time, for it comes slowly but goes quickly.17 To abandon it and not study is something that is deeply lamentable. I have also heard that Han Yu has a passage called ‘This Day is Worth Cherishing’.”18 Therefore, I have written the explanation of “Ten Lamentable Things” in order to instruct them. Written by Zhang Xianwu of Yanping, Grand Dignitary of the Left in Service to the Court. Among the ancients so poor they could not provide for themselves were those who carried the classics as they went out and hoed,19 and those who carried firewood or gleaned millet20 as they recited texts. But modern people fill their bellies and clothe themselves warmly and idle away their time in self-indulgence. This is the first lamentable thing. Among the ancients were those who did not consider a thousand miles too far to carry their book bags in order to seek out a teacher. Modern people have worthy fathers and elder brothers to teach them, but they are not compliant to that; perhaps there are worthy teachers and friends in the neighborhood, but they do not know to become close to them. This is the second lamentable thing.

The ancients copied out manuscripts in their own hand, going on into the night after a day of copying. They often suffered from having no books. Moderns have ready-made printed texts, and they collect them in thousands of volumes, filling their desks and their tables, but they do not know to recite and study. This is the third lamentable thing. Every three years the ancients completed one classic. At thirty-five the five classics were instilled in them. 21 From youth they took only 17   Paraphrasing Yang Xiong 揚雄, “The morning [the time], the morning [the time]. Why does it come so slowly and leave so quickly. The gentleman must struggle for [pursue] it.” See the annotated text as found in Fayan yishu 法言義疏 (A Commentary on Model Sayings), ann. Wang Rongbao 汪榮寶, coll. and punct. Chen Zhongfu 陳仲夫 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1987), juan 6, 193. 18   A long poem, “Ciri zu kexi zeng Zhang Ji” 此日足可惜贈張籍 (Sent to Zhang Ji: This Day is Worth Cherishing). 19   Refers to one of two people, Chang Lin 常林 or Ni Kuan 倪寬. Both men are cited in standard historical sources, but the Shilin guangji also lists them under “Traces of the Sages and Worthies” (shengxian shiji 聖賢事蹟), Jpn ed., 347b-c. 20   “Zhu Maichen 朱買臣 was from a poor family, but he loved to study. He often sold firewood to provide himself food. When he carried the firewood he simultaneously studied his texts. He reached the position of Grandee.” Jpn ed., 347c 21   See “Yiwen zhi” in Han shu 漢書 (History of the Han Dynasty) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1962) VI, Yiwen zhi 10, zhi 30.1723.

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reading as their life’s work. Contemporary youths have texts but do not read, and the days and months slip past. This is the fourth lamentable thing. The ancients “gathered fireflies”22 and used “reflected snowlight”23 in order to read. Moderns “face their texts” that they can “roll out flat,” and at the right moment “have a lamp to draw near to.”24 Yet they roam around and have idle talk with their friends that have no basis in anything. Gambling and chess are how they amuse themselves. This is the fifth lamentable thing. Some people are born who never see the sun, some never hear the sound of a thunder peal. Modern students’ ears are aurally perceptive, and their eyes can see clearly and each of them is endowed with the stuff of intelligence, but they do not know to study. They do not know the direction to go to succeed nor do they discuss justice and righteousness. Surely they are the same as the deaf and the blind! This is the sixth lamentable thing. If a man has a body he is then subject to corvée, if subject to corvée then he has labor duty. Modern students perhaps have one of their parents replace them in that labor; or perhaps they are heir to an old “proclamation of merit” and have a tax registry that makes them exempt from corvée. They have books but they do not study them and so are the same as the dull masses and field laborers. This is the seventh lamentable thing. Everyone worries about the tradition of their family. Some do not hear the words of the Odes and the Rites, so some become farmers and some craftsmen or merchants. Modern people, born into a Confucian family, seldom carry on the work of their fathers. They have books but do not study and so cause their ancestor’s enterprise to reach them and then decline. This is the eighth lamentable thing. People worry that there is no place to study intently. Now there are adult schools and local schools where one can follow a teacher. This may be, but they put on high hats and broad belts to go out and find pleasure in the bustling chaos. They call themselves “scholars,” but in fact they do not know a single classic well, nor can they pick out

22   The story of Ju Yin 車胤, who was so poor his family could not afford lamp oil. In the summer he gathered fireflies into a mesh bag so that he could read at night. 23   The story of Sun Kang 孫康, who read by reflected snowlight. 24   Gestures to a line from a poem by Han Yu 韓愈, “Fu dushu chengnan shi” 符 讀書城南詩 (My Son Fu Studying at Citysouth Villa): “To lamplight one can draw a little nearer, / The texts can be rolled out flat.”


stephen h. west a single appropriate word in discourse. They are a blot on the sages. This is the ninth lamentable thing. People have the great relationships of lord-minister and father-son and the great measures of loyalty and filiality and benevolence and righteousness. Modern students do not study and practice. Since they do not, the great measures and great relationships are all swept away. Yang Xiong said, “To be human and not study, even if there are no worries, are we different than animals?”25 This is the tenth lamentable thing.

The second text I would like to consider, “Wujie” 五戒 (Five Cautions), is a mixture of prose and poetry. The five sections are each begun with a paragraph, full of classical quotations and pedantic advice. Each section is then followed by eight couplets out of a forty-couplet poem to an unchanging rhyme. Like much other material in the encyclopedia, this seems to be meant as a mnemonic learning device. It is, in a very classical form, a simple prosimetric piece, each section punctuated with the didactic phrase, “Thinking of it from this viewpoint, / It’s better to study.” Five Cautions The First Is Called “Caution about Roaming” Mencius said to Goujian of Song, “Are you fond of traveling [to courts of princes]? I will tell you about traveling.”26 What the ancients called “traveling” was to “venerate virtue and delight in justice.” “Traveling at the gates of the Sage,” this was what was called “traveling.” Nowadays the eyes of young people do not read the books of the sages and worthies, their mouths do not discuss the words of virtue and justice. They become entangled with wild friends to “travel” through the urban centers where, seeing the bustling profusion and overwhelming flashiness, they are delighted. They have absolutely no restraint and let themselves go adrift in depraved indulgence—there is nothing they will not do. Nor are they enlightened about whom they travel with: if not children who have abandoned their proper work, they are good-for-nothings who are out to benefit themselves. These scoundrels take advantage of the deluded confusion of the unsuspecting and become their guides, leading them on. Their eyes are on their fields and houses, and they stop only after wildly leading them into 25 26

  Yang Xiong, Fayan yishu, 1.26.   Mencius, 7.A.9.

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over-consuming until everything is gone. Their words are as sweet as ambrosia, and the hearts of the unsuspecting want to drink it all in. They wait until their pockets are completely empty and then they break off their friendship. Can one not lament this? If I roam with the deluded, What benefit is it to me? If I roam with the crafty, There is always something they want. They plot for my ancestral fields, Have their eyes on my ancestral home. The travail and diligence of my forefathers, Broadly picked fruitful and fecund land— Acting recklessly without thinking, Frittering it away in their company. Assets and property all used up, Roaming companions lost or estranged. “Never peeking in the back garden,” Magnificent was Dong Zhongshu!27 Thinking of it from this viewpoint, It’s better to study! The Second Is Called “Caution about Gambling” Wei Hongsi 韋洪嗣 had a discussion of playing chess28 and remarked that it was nothing but a play upon a chessboard square, but still he lamented that it led to abandoning one’s enterprise. How much more so for something as base and vile as “shouting out ‘all black’?”29 In imperial edicts and orders are the codicils of “public executions” and “being exiled under close supervision,” and in the schools there are the methods of “whipping them” and “sending them home.” How can one engage in this? Arrogant and unrestrained, Playing chess for entertainment, 27   “When Dong Zhongshu was working on the Spring and Autumn Annals for three years he never peaked into the garden; his concentration was like this.” See “Dong Zhongshu zhuan” 董仲舒傳 (Biography of Dong Zhongshu), Han shu, 54.2495. 28   Wei’s essay, “Bo yi lun” 博奕論 (On Gambling and Chess), is still preserved. See Yan Kejun 嚴可均, ed. Quan Shanggu sandai Qin Han Sanguo Liuchao wen 全 上古三代秦漢三國六朝文 (Complete Prose of Antiquity, the Three Epochs, Qin, Han, the Three Kingdoms, and the Six Dynasties) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1985), vol. 2, 71.1438a. 29   That is, tossing the gambling slips: five slips, black on one side, white on the other. Five black sides up was called lu 盧.


stephen h. west Daily a winner, daily more covetous, Forgetting to sleep and to eat. Minor losses—clothes and implements, Major losses—field and house, Calling “all black” without cease, Truly all cast away in a minute! If you want to observe its effect, Please verify it with your neighbors— Those who have lost are innumerable, Has anyone ever won? All of those scoundrels from the markets, Should all be called “thief!” Thinking of it from this viewpoint, It’s better to study! The Third Is Called “Caution about Drinking” The “Admonition on Wine” from the Book of Documents says, “If you are informed that there is group drinking, do not be remiss; apprehend them all and send them here to Zhou, where I will put them to death.”30 The sage kings’ admonitions against drinking in company being as severe as this is because it is from whence disorder springs. Can one so over-indulge? Goblets, beakers, platters and bowls— These are required by canonical ritual, Guests at sacrifical occasion Do not overstep prescribed rules. If it is not canonical ritual, It is called sodden drunk. “The worthy ministers, assiduously warned,”31 Constant drinking of wine is solely to blame “Sip the cup, rinse out the mouth with dreggy wine,”32

  See “Jiu gao” 酒誥 (Admonition on Wine), “Zhou shu” (Zhou Documents), Shang shu (The Book of Documents), ann. Kong Anguo 孔安國 and Kong Yingda 孔穎達, in Shisanjing zhushu, coll. Ruan Yuan, vol. 1 (Taibei: Yiwen shuju, 1955 rpt. Wenxuan lou ed.), 14.211. 31   “The King said, “Feng . . . You strenuously warn the worthy ministers of Yin.” Ibid., 210. 32  Refers to the “Jiude song” 酒德頌 (Paean to the Virtue of Wine) by Liu Ling 劉伶, one of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove (Zhu lin qi xian 竹林七賢), in which it is written that an old drunkard, confronted by two angry pedants who wanted him to toe the mark on ritual propriety, “turned the vessel up and took a draught, put the cups to his lips and rinsed his mouth out with dreggy wine,” paying them no heed. See “Liu Ling zhuan” 劉伶傳 (Biography of Liu Ling), Jin shu (History of the Jin Dynasty), 49.1376. 30

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Deluded and lost, facing the stove Forsaking the nurturing of one’s parents, And forgetting about house and home. The sages had clear instructions, “Group drinking” must be punished Thinking of it from this viewpoint, It’s better to study! The Fourth Is Called “Caution about Fighting” The former Sage Confucius said, “When his blood and qi are at the height of their strength, fighting is what is guarded against.”33 Mencius said, “Truculence and being quarrelsome is what endangers one’s parents.”34 [And in the Classic of Filial Piety] it says, “ Quarrels among equals [leads to fighting].”35 This is an unfilial act. How much worse for being found guilty of the crime of assault, so that one is not welcomed into the company of scholars. There are constant legal injunctions in the state: those who harm others are sentenced with corporal punishments, those who murder are executed. How can one run afoul of these? “People who look up to Yan Yuan, Are also Yan Yuan’s peers,”36 “Those who are truculent and quarrelsome” With dogs and pigs. “Received from father and mother:” “Hair and skin of the human body,”37 A single moment’s anger, Forsakes ones parents, loses one’s life. There are normative rules in learning, Punishments and penalties from the state, Isn’t being bound up before officials   Analects, 16.7.   Mencius, 4.B.30. 35   Xiaojing 孝經, ann. Emperor Xuanzong and coll. Xing Bing 邢昺, in Shisan jing zhushu, vol.1, 10.42: “He who (thus) serves his parents, in a high situation, will be free from pride; in a low situation, will be free from insubordination; and among his equals, will not be quarrelsome. In a high situation pride leads to ruin; in a low situation insubordination leads to punishment; among equals quarrelsomeness leads to the wielding of weapons.” 36   Yang Xiong, Fayan yishu, 1.28: “Those who admire a magnificent steed are precisely its chariot team; those who admire Yan Yuan are the ilk of Yan Yuan.” 37   Xiaojing, 1.11: “Human body, hair and skin, received from one’s parents; one daring not harm or hurt them is the beginning of filiality.” 33 34


stephen h. west Too late for regret? “When blood and ether are at their strongest,” One restrains them in the beginning. Thinking of it from this viewpoint, It’s better to study! The Fifth Is Called “Caution about Idleness” The Duke of Zhou warned King Cheng by writing the “Section Doing Away with Indolent Pleasure.” He desired that King Cheng “not be indulgent in sightseeing, in luxurious ease, in excursions for pleasure, and in hunting,” but simply to “have a reverent apprehension” and not dare “indulge in luxurious ease.”38 How much more so for scholars who idle away their time in self-indulgence—day and night they do nothing, so are they not exactly like the kind of person Duke Zhou warned about? Mencius said, “To fill the belly and clothe oneself warmly, to live in indolent ease without instruction, this is close to being a bird or a beast.”39 Scholar, farmer, craftsman, merchant: The Four Citizens reside apart, Farmers labor at plowing, Merchants labor on the road; Craftsmen labor with line and ink, Scholars labor with sages’ instructions. Going idle in one’s enterprise to play, Turns one into the lowest form of stupid.40 Harmful are three joys, Disciples of unrestrained pleasure, “A full stomach and warm clothes, “No more than a beast.” The days and months disappear, With whom shall you pass them? Thinking of it from this viewpoint, It’s better to study!

38   “Wuyi” 無逸 (Doing Away with Indolent Pleasure), Shang shu, 16.242: “The Duke of Zhou said, ‘Alas! Those who continue from now to succeed the king, take a pattern from his not being indulgent in sightseeing, in ease, in excursions, or in hunting.’” 39   Mencius, 3.A.4. 40   Analects, 17.3: “Only those of highest intelligence and those of lowest stupidity cannot be changed.”

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The language of these passages draws heavily upon the classics, but in a way that highlights adage or moral aphorism (jinyu zhi yan 金玉之 言) rather than the philosophical roots of ethical Confucianism. Yang Xiong’s 揚雄 Fayan yishu 法言義疏 (A Commentary on Model Sayings), the Lunyu 論語 (Analects), the Mengzi 孟子(Mencius), and the Shang shu 尚書 (Book of Documents) are the most commonly cited sources. Contrary to what we might think, these passages also are a part of the self-fashioning of the literati and they betray a deep anxiety about place and status. While the emphasis is on personal development, the negative examples show a boundary between wealth and ethical privilege that is subject to encroachment and predation. Basically, the texts revolve around the central issue of self-indulgence: the sources, the actions, and the results of material and physical pleasure. Under self-indulgence the texts treat drinking, gambling, quarreling and fighting, and indolence. These are, to be sure, ancient attractions for the young, but the texts make clear that two major influences— wealth and the city—combine to lure young men away from their proper duty. The “Ten Lamentable Things” and “Five Cautions” both remark on the vulgarity of the marketplace, its emphasis on “fortune and profit,” and the real possibility that it could lead young men to “depraved indulgence.” Of course, we are quite used to the stories in drama of young scions of either rich or lettered families ruining themselves in the marketplaces. The parallels between these Southern Song complaints about youngsters who dress up to cruise the town are echoed, in a positive affirmation of the fengliu playboy, in numerous sanqu suites and dramas.41 In a number of these plays—the southern dramas Huanmen zidi cuoli shen 宦門子弟錯立身 (A Playboy from a Noble House Opts for the Wrong Career), Xiao Suntu 小孫屠 (Little Butcher Sun) and northern zaju 雜劇 like Dongtang Lao quan pojia zidi 東堂老勸破家子弟 (The Elder of the Eastern Hall Reforms a Prodigal Son), Luoli lang 羅李郎 (Esquire Li Living with His Wife’s Family, the Luos), Jiu fengchen 救風塵 (Rescued from the Wind and Dust), Hutou pai 虎頭牌 (The Tiger-Headed Plaque), and Xiangnang yuan 香囊怨 (Perfume Sachet Grief) for instance—young men are lured away to the entertainment quarters by the likes of Hu Zigun 胡 子棍, a good-for-nothing who leads them astray. The prominent Yuan 41   Guan Hanqing’s lyric suite on Hangzhou, “Hangzhou jing” 杭州景 (Hangzhou Vista) and Zhang Kejiu’s 張可久 (1280-after 1348) poems on West Lake come immediately to mind, but there are a plethora of examples.


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writer Wang Jie 王結 (1275–1336) wrote in an essay entitled “Shan su yaoyi” 善俗要義 (Important Matters in Perfecting Customs): Admonition against Roaming Around and Neglecting One’s Basic Work Scholars, farmers, craftsmen, and merchants each have a constant livelihood, and by being circumspect and diligent at their labor, they can fulfill their own needs for clothing and food. I have said that before many times. I often hear that many among the sons of good families do not honor the livelihood of their forebears, but loaf about fond of their leisure. Sometimes they play kickball or polo, or else it is crossbow-shooting or catching birds with glue, or else it is frequenting houses of song and wine, or else constant attendance at the towers of performers. They indulge themselves more each day until their family fortune is completely expended, and when poverty and need press upon them, there is no evil they will not commit.   Citizens in local rural villages also have those who do not work at plowing and hoeing, are not diligent about raising silkworms and weaving, but just call their cronies together and taking advantage of being together, drink. In extreme cases some go forth with their wives, so that men and women are indiscriminately mixed together. From now on, if there are such people, fathers and elder brothers should be more severe with their instructions and admonitions, village elders should counsel them and urge them to see the light, with the hopes that they will be able to feel remorse about their past and renew themselves. If they simply carry on as they did before without change, then a report should be sent up to local officials, who shall make an example of their failures according to law.42

The delights of the city are clearly implicated, since all of these passages indicate a density of like-aged young people to make such forays possible. The three-legged vessel of venery constructed of wine, women, and song leads through every leg to the loss of family property. While this profligacy was certainly possible in a non-urban environment in earlier times, the materialistic urban culture composed of merchants and officials alike brings objects to the fore. The pursuit of wealth and the uses to which it could be put resulted in a conspicuous display of consumer items that seems at times to be a signature of the failed literati.


  Wang Jie, “Shan su yao yi,” in Wenzhong ji Siku quanshu, vol.1206, 6.23b-24a.

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A second sign is the obsession with making use of time and resources. The constant comparison of young wastrels who fritter away their time to the icons of the past who pursued their studies while collecting firewood, gleaning, or hoeing is telling, perhaps in unmeant ways. All of the icons—Zhu Maichen 朱買臣, Chang Lin 常林, Sun Kang 孫康, etc.—are engaged in agricultural pursuits. One of the signal differences between urban environments and rural settings is that the flow of time in either place is considerably different. Agricultural life is primarily one of long periods of monotonous effort broken by a few moments of excitement; city life is a constant bombardment of new and different experiences. Something new happens all the time. While the comparison of (then) modern youth with icons from the past was meant to highlight the youngsters’ inability to make use of resources, it also unconsciously unearths one of the major differences: ready-made books, handy lamps, access to cheap oil, the release from dreary hours copying text all freed up time. That is, we are witness here to one of the hidden secrets of pre-print scholarship. It is often, like agriculture, a monotonous effort broken, too, by moments of excitement. And while the repetitive habits of manuscript culture were certainly an aid to memory and learning, they consumed an inordinate amount of time. A Forest of Affairs contains among its many items both written and visual text aimed at controlling this free time. For instance, in the Japanese edition, right after the “Five Cautions” and “Ten Lamentable Things” one finds a mechanical counting of the size of each of the classics, and a detailed description of why and how one should keep two daily notebooks to chart the progress of readings: 24,207 characters in the Book of Changes About 25,700 characters in the Book of Documents 39,224 characters in the Book of Odes 99,022 characters in the Book of Rites 45,806 characters in the Zhou Rites About 196,845 characters in the Zuo Commentary 12,903 characters in the Analects About 1,903 characters in the Classic of Filial Piety 34,685 characters in the Mencius The nine classics above have a total character count of 484,[2]95characters.43 If one recites [and memorizes] three hundred characters a   Since, in every other case where an intervening null category of number is noted with either ling 零 or dan 單, it is probably safe to assume here that the two characters 43


stephen h. west day, one can be finished in four and a half years. If one is not so smart, then it should not take more than nine years to get it done. The adage says, “Collect enough threads to form an inch, collect enough inches to form a foot; foot and inch never stopping will turn out bolts of patterned cloth.” This may speak of something small, but it can refer metaphorically to something large.

  Creating diaries and logs. I must caution all my relatives, neighbors, and various young dandies about the use of time. One cannot fail to think of this. I request that everyone Make one daily logbook, and fill it out every day; With an account of every classic, every philosopher, and every history that you read (writing out completely, in each case, the title of the work and where one started and finished) With one poem and one rhymeprose by a former writer (necessarily noting completely the title and where one started and finished) With several passages extracted and compiled on that day (must be more than a thousand characters in length) Make one logbook for what has been studied, and fill it out with every lesson; On the third, eighth, thirteenth and eighteenth days of the month, write out one poem and one rhymeprose; on the twenty-third write out a discourse, and on the twenty-eighth write out one policy essay. Finish each of these lessons on the same day; on the next day gather them together and skim through them once. If you have something you need to do, then on the succeeding day make up lost work. Rise early in the morning and sleep at night. You should rise at cockcrow. As the former teacher [Mencius] said, “Getting up at cockcrow, assiduously doing good, these are the followers of Shun.”44 At night you should sleep at the third drum [11:00 pm-1:00 am). You must be like the Exalted One of a Myriad Chariots [i.e. the emperor] who is still scanning documents in the depth of the night, how much more so like civilians who can spend nearly a whole day’s energy to look at books. If you have points of doubt or difficulty, then don’t begrudge asking someone for help. For instance, there are former elders who teach in our commanderies, and there are friends and teachers everywhere in our community. They can all be asked for help. “Ziyou 子由 [Su Zhe 蘇轍 (1039–1112)] discussed a man who had been resurrected from for “two hundred” were accidentally omitted during the cutting of the blocks. 44   Mencius, 7.A.25.

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the dead. He had asked the official of the dark how he could perfect himself so as to avoid sentencing. The official replied, “You should set close at hand a calendar upon which at night you record everything that you did that day. What you did not record could neither be spoken nor carried out.”45 I also say that students, no matter if in schools, in discussion groups [in Daoxue academies], or in private home schools, should all do as aforementioned. Keep a daily record that details one by one every book that you recite [and memorize] from morning to night. Moreover this truly is a case of doing what is right, record nothing else; I’d rather not be shamed, and because of this I will exert myself. There are daily lessons, and monthly progress. “Pile up dirt without cease, and hills and mountains will be completed.”46 Do not come to the state exemplified by the quote “Act if someone is around, cease when no one is there.”47

The reader will have noticed that these texts rely on numbers to compel the student. The texts are accompanied by an interesting visual representation of the path to the examination system, created for those who had already passed the juren 舉人 provincial test, called “The Chart for Making the Most of Your Days” (see figure 1).48 This graph plots a unilinear course through time, and provides a set of guidelines to move you along. Instead of a bridge, however, there are boxes to fill in each day as one prepares for the examination. The use of the term tijie 梯階 (“ladders and steps”) keeps intact the master metaphor found in both charts of passage along an architectural structure that is marked by consistent and predictable passages and stops. The gate at the start says, “Techniques for Diligent Learning and Ascending to the Clouds.” This is followed by a phrase that indicates the proper time to begin, “Nine months after the [provincial] examinations, start this.” This then introduces a set of “important points” for students, including: Select proper teachers and friends Stick to your curriculum Don’t be perfunctory and careless Practice set literary form Diligently examine what is lacking 45   Su Shi 蘇軾, “Xiushen li” 修身曆 (A Calendar for Perfecting the Self), Dongpo zhilin, ed. Kong Fanli, in Quan Song biji (Beijing: Daxiang chubanshe, 2003), col. I, vol. 9, 66. 46   Li Disheng 李滌生, Xunzi jishi 荀子集釋 (Collected Explanations of the Xunzi) (Taibei: Xuesheng shuju, 1979), 2.8 47   Yang Xiong, Fayan yishu, 13.530. 48   Shilin guangji, 24.


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Figure 1. “Chart for Making the Most of Your Days.” Redrawn by author (upper part).

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Be precise in what is right and wrong Call into question suspicious and difficult points Do not copy Engage frequently in discussions Be clear about mundane matters Strengthen your resolve Harbor correct thoughts Don’t be conceited Do away with divergent thoughts Be pleased with the tasteless and thin Be good at making peace between others

These points are then followed by a short poem, assuring the student of the rewards of learning: Do not assign your future to something in the past, You must remember that hard work perfectly tallies with Heaven above; When human affairs come to their fullest the principle of Heaven is seen, If your talent is superior will you be left stranded amid forests and springs?

The chart revolves around the issue of self-reliance. Heaven will not reveal itself until humans have put forth every effort they have at their disposal. The rewards to be gained, recognition and wealth, are a product of one’s own labors. Heaven will not intervene on behalf of anyone who is lazy. Finally, at the end of this net of months, iconography takes over and we are given a visual rendition of the myths of the examination system. In the waters in the middle panel leaps a fabled red-tailed carp that has made its way up the Yellow River to leap over the Dragon’s Gate, whence it will become a dragon—the common metaphorical trope for passing the examinations. In the chart, however, the fish leaps through a physical replica of a palace building designated as “examination hall” (Nangong 南宮).49 By replacing the “dragon’s gate” with an examination hall the plate heavy-handedly removes the metaphorical gap that literature necessarily maintains between the legend and allegory. The final panel of iconography shows a jade hare standing under a cassia 49   The Nangong 南宮 or “Southern Palace,” refers to the cluster of stars that hold the fixed constellation, the Vermillion Bird, but came in time to refer to the Bureau of Rites, specifically the building in which the examinations were held.


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tree pounding out the elixir of life with his jade pestle and mortar. He stands in front of a building called the “palace where Heaven and man are in perfect resonance.” While not a perfect physical double of the earthly examination hall, as an architectural simile, it reminds the viewer of the chart that there is physical homology between the two sites: the moon palace and the examination hall. These images originally are all part of a complicated mythology of transcendence. But popular literature (both classical and colloquial) appropriates these images and tropes and creates from them an allegory of the goals and progress of the examination system. In doing so it creates a mythology of its own wherein learning is mapped not onto the sages, but onto transcendent beings. For instance, the term “ascend the clouds” (deng yun 登雲) is familiar in the classical lexicon in its use in such works as Guo Pu’s 郭樸 (276– 324) “Youxian shi” 遊仙詩 (Poems on Rambling as a Transcendent) where it occurs in the phrase “climbing the cloud ladder” (deng yunti 登雲梯) a description of how transcendent beings move from one layer of clouds to the next in their ascension to Heaven. The text of the banner, however, is much closer to the usage of the term in colloquial and performance literature, where the phrase dengyun is used to signify high position, or a strong desire for success. It appears, for instance, in such common terms as, buyue dengyun 步月登雲 ‘have a strong drive to succeed through the examinations’ or in the phrase, liandeng yunlu 連登雲路 ‘smooth sailing through one’s career all the way to high position.’ The utilitarian function of learning is also couched in the final word of the banner, shu 術, which means a technique or a trick, rather than a studied plan of moral development. Thus the banner at the beginning of the route may be read as an exhortation, “tricks to study hard to make a success out of yourself in officialdom.” In a similar vein, the moon has long been associated with the timeless realm of immortal beings. The moon palace, thought to be the abode of transcendent ones (yuegong xianzi 月宮仙子) here clearly retains a shape similar to that of the examination hall, converting the physical space of this fairy realm to one of earthly success, where high office replaces endless life itself. The hare pounding out the elixir of immorality is converted, as well, into a visual metaphor for the drudgery of hard work in preparing for the examination system. This appropriated metaphorical system is most familiar in drama and fiction, where it expands from its base meaning of rising to an

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illuminated and transcendent realm of insight, to one that makes explicit and implicit comparison with both official success and with sexual conquest. Thus, the whole schema becomes delightfully open to interpretation for the most gratifying parts of material life—sex, power, and money. Compare, for instance, the use of examination metaphors replicated in this text with those in contemporary performance literature like the chantefable Dong Jieyuan Xixiang ji zhugongdiao 董 解元西廂記諸宮調 (Master Dong’s Story of the Western Wing in All Keys and Modes) or its dramatic offspring, Wang Shifu’s 王實甫 (ca. 1300) Xixiang ji 西廂記 (The Story of the Western Wing), in which Student Zhang’s desire to pass the examinations is replaced by his desire to deflower Yingying. This is encoded in those texts by switching the phrases “to snap the cassia branch” (zhe guizhi 折桂枝), that is, to place first in the examination rankings, to “the gent who gets to pluck the flower” (tan hua lang 探花郎), that is, to place third in the examinations. The point here is not to lead us into a sexual reading of the metaphors, but simply to show that the metaphors and icons used in higher intellectual worlds to indicate states of transcendent being or intellect are reread in popular culture as metaphors of material and physical success. The importance of the chart is that it functions as a bridge between these two worlds; and that it shows how easily ethical development is displaced in learning, as the boundaries between ethics and methods used to gain material success, acquire power, or raise social standing blur in the common mind. In the bottom register of the page, we find a longer text that explains why the author created the graph, and offers muted clues to how it related to a curriculum of study that highlights the utilitarian at the expense of the contemplative: Yang [Xiong] Ziyun said, “The study of the ancients—they both plowed and took care of their parents, and in three years they were able to get through one classic.”50 If we do away with the time used in plowing and taking care of the family, then one more classic could be thoroughly studied. In such a case, the popular saying “Study takes no more than a thousand days’ effort,” is to be trusted. It is for certain that there are people in this world who read anything they can lay their hands on, but to the end of their lives they are not successful. As for these people, if it were not for the depth of their scholarship, then we could call it fate. Still, (although unsuccessful) they must 50

  See note 20.


stephen h. west be considered men of high quality. But what about men of shallow learning, who by chance stumble into the examination hall but once there fail—shall we also blame fate for that? Now, until affairs of the human world are worked out to the end, will Heaven have anything to do with it?   The reason that the state selects its men of worth in the grand examination is with the idea of testing their achievement every three years. But these gentlemen often pay only lip service to the needs of study after they return from the [provincial] examinations, and they become complacent and do not make the most of their time. It is easy for them to misuse the time and only when the examination draws near do they begin to study in earnest. Isn’t it too late to dig the well when you’re already thirsty? Having speculated on this corrupt practice, I have made one chart for one examination, wherein can be recorded thirty-six months. Now there are big months (thirty days) and small months (twenty-nine days), and thus there is a surplus of days every year. So, I have evened it out and standardized each of the months as thirty days, and therefore have drawn out a ladder and step system to give order to the progress of the days. There are a thousand and eighty days in the calculation, and for the time being I have set aside eighty days for pleasure, rest, and taking care of other affairs that need attention. So within a thousand days one can complete texts for the examination, completing three examination texts every ten days, so that one can do three hundred pieces. The [examination form known as] explication of the classics can be double that number. In the seven hundred days that are left, then one can thoroughly remember five or six things a day, so that around four thousand things can be memorized. Each day a possible examination topic can be discoursed on, and so seven hundred examination topics can be completed. In the spare time one can gather together the compiled extracts one has made from texts in order to review them by reciting them.   Once this model is correctly actualized, then what anxiety can there be that both the semantic meaning and the effect on the emotions will not be absolutely clear, and what anxiety can there be that the rules for writing poetry cannot be mastered? At this time can one’s success still be a question of fate? If there is the slightest bit of frustration, then put your shoulder to the grindstone, for Heaven will not turn its back on a man. There is certain to be great success heaped upon one. So what anxiety can there be about success, wealth, and riches?   This chart should be kept at hand. Every day fill in a box, and as the days go by, the filled-in part gets larger and the empty part smaller. Those who have ambition will observe this and get so enthusiastic that they will forget to eat. Morning and night they will work diligently away. There will be absolutely no worry about not making use of the time.

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The two major sections of the text can be broken into five sub-sections. The opening part challenges the notion that fate plays a part in one’s success. It makes clear the import of the poem above (“When human affairs come to their fullest, the principle of Heaven is seen”) by simply saying that Heaven will not intervene until humans have exerted themselves to the full. The second section begins by examining the major human failing, which is time management. The author notes that it is a visible syndrome for examination candidates to begin swatting up only when the tests draw near. This is a recognizable, universal pedagogical problem—students still obviously cram for examinations today. And like many “self-help” study guides of the present, this author some eight hundred years ago lays out a carefully quantified plan for incremental learning. He accomplishes this in the third section by dividing the years into thirty-six months, and through his impressive numerology, subdividing these months into thirty-six décade and a thousand and eighty days. From the one thousand days he assigns to study, he sets the following goals: Complete three hundred examination pieces Complete six hundred interpretations of the classics Memorize four thousand “things”—historical anecdotes, major figures, important political events Finish a discussion of approximately seven hundred possible examination topics

In the fourth section, he returns to the issue of hard work, this time phrasing Heaven’s intervention positively: to paraphrase, “work hard, because Heaven won’t turn its back on you.” He finishes the short essay by emphasizing the importance of actually looking at the chart. We can see here a diminution of the scholar’s enterprise and its reduction to a series of mechanical steps meant to provide rudimentary knowledge to pass the examination. In an earlier paper,51 I noted that Zhu Xi claimed that this graph was bogus. There, I made the argument that his problems with the graph center on the fact that it represented a culture in which the master-student relationship had 51   “Self-Reliance in Study and in Life: Shilin guangji in the Southern Song,” Colloquium on Discourses and Practices of Daily Life In Late Imperial China, Center for Chinese Studies, Columbia University, 27 October 2002. The original quote “The two charts ‘Alerting the World’ and ‘Making the Most of Your Days’ are bogus” (jingshi jingchen er tu wei 驚世競辰二圖偽), is found in Zhuzi yulei 朱子語類 (Categorized Conversations of Master Zhu), ed. Li Jingde 黎靖德, ann. Wang Xingxian 王星賢 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1982), vol. 6, 3279.


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disappeared—access to books with commentaries removed any necessity of a teacher. For Zhu Xi this was anathema because (like the act of copying manuscripts, I would suggest) it collapsed the act of learning into one of “reading” rather than “ingesting” which was the major metaphor of Zhu Xi’s Dushu fa 讀書法 (Rules for Reading). Thus, the act of internalizing text, either by repetition and explanation with a teacher or through the slow process of copying by hand, was lost in a world of easily available text with commentary. The texts cited above primarily reveal an urban world, one in which widespread material wealth and print culture combined to nibble away at the prerogatives of the literati. The boundary between the literati, an ethical and literate meritocracy, and the rich began to melt away as material goods gained more and more currency as markers of status; at the same time print culture opened up the possibility of a mechanical apprehension of the examination curriculum. The possession of a form of knowledge heretofore seen as the mark of an ethical meritocracy by those who had attained control of a practical set of texts blurred the boundary between the instrumental use of knowledge and its ability to mark a defined social class. The social and cultural prestige gained through the examination system that were supposed to mark the wise and ethical person could now be shared by those who passed through simple study and rote memory. Moreover, the “Chart” implies that if you budgeted your time wisely, there would also remain free time to pursue other interests simultaneously. Cover the requisite pages of your newly purchased book, keep track of the number of characters you expend in essays, and you could spend the rest of your time on display in the city, dressed in fine clothes, drinking and carousing with friends—as long as it did not impinge on your progress. While this is all rather negative, it does show how literati prestige, and the social and cultural capital that accumulated to it, were put under duress by urban life and by print culture. We see in this conflict the seeds of the multi-valenced life of Ming literati, in which personal passions could be pursued alongside Confucian ethics through wise time management and by resisting over-indulgence.

rethinking li kaixian’s editorship


RETHINKING LI KAIXIAN’S EDITORSHIP OF REVISED PLAYS BY YUAN MASTERS: A COMPARISON WITH HIS BANTER ABOUT LYRICS Tian Yuan Tan In the late 1550s and 1560s, the mid-Ming literatus Li Kaixian 李開先 (1502–1568) became particularly interested in printing Yuan dynasty qu 曲 (literally “songs,” including both sanqu 散曲 and drama) and was involved in a number of projects.1 Li’s interest in these publishing projects was supported by his own stupendous book collection, which he claimed exceeded ten thousand juan.2 The thirty existing Yuan-dynasty editions of Yuan plays, which have been critical to our understanding of the textual transmission of zaju 雜劇, are also believed to have been part of Li’s collection at one time.3 1   For biographical studies of Li Kaixian, see Bu Jian 卜鍵, Li Kaixian zhuanlüe 李開先傳略 (A Brief Biography of Li Kaixian) (Beijing: Zhongguo xiju chubanshe, 1989); Iwaki Hideo 岩城秀夫, “Ri Kaisen nempu” 李開先年譜 (A Chronological Biography of Li Kaixian), Mimei, no. 8 (1989): 63–106; Niu Ruzhang 牛汝章 et al., eds., Li Kaixian nianpu 李開先年譜 (Zhangqiu: Zhengxie Zhangqiu xian wenshi ziliao yanjiu weiyuanhui, 1990); Zeng Yuanwen 曾遠聞, Li Kaixian nianpu 李開先年 譜 (Ji’nan: Qilu shushe, 1991); and Li Yongxiang 李永祥, Li Kaixian nianpu 李開 先年譜 (Ji’nan: Huanghe chubanshe, 2002). See also the chapter on Li Kaixian in Yagisawa Hajime 八木澤元, Mindai gekisakka kenkyū 明代劇作家研究 (Studies on Ming Dynasty Playwrights) (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1959), esp.172–244, Chinese translation in Mingdai juzuojia yanjiu 明代劇作家研究, trans. Luo Jintang 羅錦堂 (Hong Kong: Longmen shudian, 1966), 145–207. For a brief introduction to Li in English, see L. Carrington Goodrich and Chaoying Fang, eds., Dictionary of Ming Biography (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), 835–837. 2   Li proudly named his library the “Library of Ten Thousand Fascicles,” and made it clear that the actual size of his book collection exceeded ten thousand juan. He also added that this particular library only held books on the classics and statecraft, and that he kept books on other subjects elsewhere. See Li Kaixian, “Cangshu wanjuan lou ji” 藏書萬卷樓記 (On the Library of Ten Thousand Fascicles), in Li Kaixian quanji 李開先全集, ed. Bu Jian (Complete Works of Li Kaixian, hereafter LKXQJ) (Beijing: Wenhua yishu chubanshe, 2004), 826. 3   Iwaki Hideo, “Genkan kokon zatsugeki sanjūshu no ryūden” 元刊古今雜劇三十 種の流傳 (The Transmission of the Thirty Ancient and Recent Zaju Printed in the Yuan Dynasty), in Chūgoku kotengeki no kenkyū (Tokyo: Sōbunsha, 1986), esp. 565–570. For a comprehensive discussion of the various editions of Yuan drama and the


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From his collection of Yuan drama, it was known that Li Kaixian had printed a number of the plays in an anthology titled Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi 改定元賢傳奇 (Revised Plays by Yuan Masters, hereafter GDYXCQ): Now, the poems and prose of the Han and Tang dynasties cover and fill the entire world, and the various books of Song Neo-Confucianism are also widely transmitted, but Yuan songs are rarely seen. What we see are often just ordinary works, or the remains of rouge and powder. For example, Wang Shifu 王實甫 is not the greatest among the writers of the Yuan dynasty; Xixiang ji 西廂記 (The Story of the Western Chamber) is also not the most outstanding among his writings throughout his lifetime. Yet now, even the ladies and young girls can quote his verses. Does this not show that in human life, there is fortune and misfortune? Anthologies such as Erduan jin 二段錦 (Two Pieces of Brocade), Siduan jin 四段錦 (Four Pieces of Brocade), Shiduan jin 十段錦 (Ten Pieces of Brocade), Baiduan jin 百段錦 (A Hundred Pieces of Brocade), Qianduan jin 千段錦 (A Thousand Pieces of Brocade), and Qianjia jin 千家錦 (Brocade of a Thousand Households) include both good and bad, and are all mixed up without proper order. The anthologies of short songs and song suites are also mostly like these. I regarded this as a shortcoming, and I wished that people in this age would get to see the Yuan-dynasty songs and realize how the Yuan songs have achieved their reputation. Thus I disclosed completely the more than one thousand copies that I keep, and gave them to my disciple Zhang Zishen 張自慎 (courtesy name Cheng’an 誠菴) to choose. Only fifty were selected. It was beyond my ability to put all of them into print, so from these, we made a further selection of sixteen. We deleted superfluous sections to make the texts simple and concise, changed the rhymes and corrected the sounds. Wherever a tune did not fit, a line was not proper, or the dialogues were not to the point and too vague, we edited and corrected all of them. We even wrote some passages on behalf of the original authors. Therefore, we named this publication Revised Plays by Yuan Masters.4

importance of the thirty Yuan dynasty printings, see Wilt L. Idema, “Why You Never Have Read a Yuan Drama: The Transformation of Zaju at the Ming Court,” in Studi in onore di Lanciello Lanciotti, ed. S.M. Carletti, M. Sacchetti, and P. Santangelo (Napoli: Istituto Universitario Orientale, Dipar­timento di Studi Asiatici, 1996), 765–791, and Stephen H. West, “Text and Ideology: Ming Editors and Northern Drama,” in The Song-Yuan-Ming Transition in Chinese History, ed. Paul Jakov Smith and Richard von Glahn (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2003), 329–373. 4   Li Kaixian, “Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi xu”《改定元賢傳奇》序 (Preface to GDYXCQ), LKXQJ, 461. Cf. translation in Wilt L. Idema, “Li Kaixian’s Revised Plays

rethinking li kaixian’s editorship


The preface to GDYXCQ makes clear that Li Kaixian produced this collection of Yuan plays out of dissatisfaction with the existing compilations, which he felt were mediocre. In GDYXCQ he aimed to provide readers with a collection that would truly represent the charm of Yuan drama. Furthermore, as reflected in its title, Li claimed that the texts in the resulting collection were revised and improved. Known to be the earliest Ming anthology of Yuan plays and hence significant for the study of the transmission of Yuan zaju texts, it is no surprise that GDYXCQ has long held the attention of scholars. Yet for decades, GDYXCQ remained an enigmatic collection whose whereabouts eluded twentieth-century scholars. It was long believed that GDYXCQ was likely kept in Taiwan, until it was made known recently that the collection is actually kept in the Nanjing Library.5 Earlier studies, written when scholars were still unsure where GDYXCQ was kept and therefore did not get to see the text, made various assumptions about the collection. As we will see below, many expected GDYXCQ to be textually closely related to, or share similar features with, other extant printing projects of Yuan arias produced by Li Kaixian. This expectation of a “common text” among the various projects was clearly based on the assumption that Li was actively involved in all these projects and that he applied the same criteria and editorial rigor to all of them, including GDYXCQ. Even some of the scholars who have recently gained access to GDYXCQ continue to believe that Li Kaixian participated arduously in the project. The editor of the new critical edition of Li’s complete works claims that Li “put his heart and soul” into GDYXCQ and that this project reflects Li’s criteria in selecting and editing Yuan drama.6 These claims and assumptions all suggest that the collection was carefully prepared by Li Kaixian. But do the drama texts in GDYXCQ support these claims and assumptions? Did Li indeed play such a significant role in editing the collection? In this paper, I will first show that GDYXCQ is far from systematic in its revisions and editorial conventions, and discuss what this by Yuan Masters (Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi) and the Textual Transmission of Yuan Zaju as Seen in Two Plays by Ma Zhiyuan,” CHINOPERL Papers, no. 26 (2006): 50. 5   Xie Yufeng 解玉峰, “Du Nantu guancang Li Kaixian Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi” 讀南圖館藏李開先《改定元賢傳奇》 (Reading Li Kaixian’s GDYXCQ in the Collection of the Nanjing Library), Wenxian, no. 2 (2001): 158–169. The existing edition is kept in the Nanjing Library (Number 115015). 6   See Bu Jian’s introductory notes to GDYXCQ, LKXQJ, 1701–1702.


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suggests with regard to the editorial process of this collection. Next, by placing GDYXCQ alongside Li Kaixian’s other printing projects, I aim to reconsider the role he played as an editor. As the arias of a few plays in GDYXCQ are also included in his Cixue 詞謔 (Banter about Lyrics), I will compare the relevant arias as they are preserved in the two works, both supposedly edited by Li, in order to assess his actual involvement in the editing of GDYXCQ. GDYXCQ As a Collection: Observations and Implications According to the preface, Li Kaixian had intended to print sixteen plays in GDYXCQ, but its extant edition preserves only six plays, each in a single juan.7 They are now available in a photographic reprint in the Xuxiu Siku quanshu 續修四庫全書 (Continued Complete Writings from the Four Storehouses [hereafter XXSKQS]) series, and in a modern typeset edition.8 The six plays are Ma Zhiyuan’s 馬致遠 (ca. 1250-before 1324) Qingshan lei 青衫淚 (Tears on a Blue Gown) and Chen Tuan gaowo 陳摶高臥 (Chen Tuan Rests on High [at Xihua Mountain]), Qiao Ji’s 喬吉 (ca.1280–1345) Yangzhou meng 揚州夢 (Yangzhou Dream), Bai Pu’s 白樸 (1227–1306) Wutong yu 梧桐雨 (Rain on the Wutong Tree), Qiao Ji’s Liangshi yinyuan 兩世姻緣 (Marriage in Two Lives), and Wang Ziyi’s 王子一 (late Yuan to early Ming) Wuru Tiantai 誤入天 台9 (Entering Mount Tiantai by Mistake). All six plays are complete 7   We have no clues as to which are the remaining plays originally selected for this collection and which Li believed would be a balanced and more comprehensive representation of what Yuan drama was about. Xie Yufeng points out that only sixty-six plays were constantly selected in the Wanli editions of Yuan drama (excluding YQX), and suggests that this might have been influenced by the original selection of fifty plays for GDYXCQ. See Xie, “Du Nantu guancang Li Kaixian Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi,” 164. If so, GDYXCQ would have played a major part in shaping the anthologizing of Yuan plays, but unfortunately extant sources do not allow us to investigate this possibility. 8   See XXSKQS (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1995–1999), vol. 1760, 109– 188. For a typeset edition of the six plays, see LKXQJ, 1701–1808. A drawback of this typeset edition is that it arranges the plays in a different order and makes changes to the text to make it conform to the later Ming editions, in both content and form. Thus, for all references to GDYXCQ, I use the photographic reprint in the XXSKQS edition. 9   Here, I follow a more common simplified title of the play. The simplified title as marked in the block center (banxin 版心) of this play in GDYXCQ, however, is Liu Ruan Tiantai 劉阮天台.

rethinking li kaixian’s editorship


except for the first, Tears on a Blue Gown, from which the first full page is missing. These six plays are preserved in other Ming editions too, and therefore none of the plays in GDYXCQ are “new” in the sense of previously unknown or undiscovered. The significance of GDYXCQ is that it provides us with an early example of how Yuan dramatic texts were printed and transmitted. In the last few years, scholars such as Xie Yufeng 解玉峰, Akamatsu Norihiko 赤松紀彥 and Wilt Idema have looked more carefully at the textual characteristics and significance of GDYXCQ.10 Xie Yufeng has pointed out that, in general, GDYXCQ is textually close to the majority of Wanli editions of Yuan drama other than Zang Maoxun’s 臧懋 循 (1550–1620) Yuan qu xuan 元曲選 (Selected Yuan Plays, hereafter YQX). He observes that “wherever GDYXCQ differs from YQX, the other Ming editions also differ from YQX.”11 Based on such textual affinities, Xie cautiously concludes that GDYXCQ and the Ming editions may have derived from a common source, or that the later Ming editions were influenced by or derived directly from GDYXCQ.12 GDYXCQ’s textual affinities with the other Ming anthologies can be well illustrated by studying the arrangement of songs in the third act of Marriage in Two Lives. The modern scholar Zheng Qian 鄭騫, in comparing the existing Ming editions of the play (other than GDYXCQ), points out that except for Zang’s YQX and Meng Chengshun’s 孟稱舜 (1598–1684) later Gujin mingju hexuan 古今名劇合選 (A Collective Selection of Famous Plays Old and New), which was influenced by 10   See Xie, “Du Nantu guancang Li Kaixian Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi,” 158– 169; Akamatsu Norihiko, “Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi xiaokao—Chen Tuan gaowo yu Qingshanlei”《改定元賢傳奇》小考——《陳摶高臥》與《青衫淚》(A Brief Study of GDYXCQ: On Chen Tuan Rests on High and Tears on a Blue Gown), in Zhongguo xiju: cong chuantong dao xiandai, ed. Dong Jian and Rong Guangrun (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2006), 149–156; and Idema, “Li Kaixian’s Revised Plays by Yuan Masters,” 47–65. 11   Xie, “Du Nantu guancang Li Kaixian Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi,” 163. 12   Ibid. The difference of opinions on the textual relationship between GDYXCQ and the other Ming editions may also be related to individual appraisals of the extent of changes the editors of GDYXCQ made to its source texts. Akamatsu believes GDYXCQ followed its sources in most cases. See Akamatsu, “Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi xiaokao,” 156. Idema, however, suggests that GDYXCQ made substantial changes to its source texts especially in providing stage directions and dialogues. His detailed comparison of the Yuan edition and the GDYXCQ edition of Chen Tuan gaowo convincingly demonstrates the changes between the Yuan edition and GDYXCQ. See Idema, “Li Kaixian’s Revised Plays by Yuan Masters,” 51–55.


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YQX, all other Wanli editions had two tune titles mixed up in Act Three.13 Since its rediscovery in the Nanjing Library, we know that GDYXCQ contains the same mistake.14 The failure to correct the tune titles (assuming that GDYXCQ followed its source text in this case) calls into question Li Kaixian’s grand statement in his preface that GDYXCQ presents to us an improved version of the Yuan plays in which mistakes were corrected and texts were polished. Furthermore, there is reason to believe that the collection did not follow a strict and standardized format in editing. This can be supported by looking at some of the “irregularities” in its formal characteristics. Among the six plays anthologized in GDYXCQ, five mark act divisions, which reflects a new trend in drama printing of the time.15 This is, however, not the earliest case of such a practice, because we already find such markings of act division in the 1498 edition of The Story of the Western Chamber. Tears on a Blue Gown is the only play in GDYXCQ in which act division is not clearly marked, a feature that is associated with the Yuan editions and earlier Ming printings.16 Now, let us look at another irregular feature in GDYXCQ, the marking of the “wedge” (xiezi 楔子). Of the five plays that contain a wedge, only three mark the wedge: Tears on a Blue Gown, Rain on the Wutong In order to say that the changes were first introduced in GDYXCQ, we have to make the assumption that there were no intermediary texts between the Yuan edition and GDYXCQ. I am more inclined to believe that GDYXCQ might possibly share common source texts with other Ming anthologies. Also, as I will argue in the discussion that follows, GDYXCQ should not be taken as a collection with a well-defined set of editorial rules, and could have been compiled by different individuals not necessarily sharing the same attitude towards editing. This might further complicate the textual relationship between GDYXCQ and other Wanli editions. 13   The two tunes whose titles were confused are Shengyaowang 聖藥王 and Tusi’er 禿厮兒. See Zheng Qian, “Yuan zaju yiben bijiao (Di si zu)” 元雜劇異本比較(第四 組) (A Comparison of the Variant Texts of Yuan Zaju: Group 4), in Guoli bianyiguan guankan 5, no. 1 (1976): 12. 14   Marriage in Two Lives, 20a-21b, in XXSKQS, 171. 15   While five of the six plays mark their Acts Two, Three, and Four, none of the six mark the first act. Xie Yufeng also notes that Marriage in Two Lives differs from the other plays in that it marks the acts without the ordinalizing prefix di 第. See Xie, “Du Nantu guancang Li Kaixian Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi,” 166. 16   The style of drama printing in the early Ming is demonstrated by the plays of Zhu Youdun 朱有燉 (1379–1439) and also the 1435 edition of Jintong yunü jiaohongji 金 童玉女嬌紅記 (Golden Page and Jade Maiden: The Story of Jiaoniang and Feihong). See Wilt L. Idema, The Dramatic Oeuvre of Chu Yu-tun (1379–1439) (Leiden: Brill, 1985), 35–38.

rethinking li kaixian’s editorship


Tree, and Entering Mount Tiantai by Mistake.17 Where the wedges are marked, they are consistently placed under the tune title and do not include any prose dialogue. Sun Kaidi 孫楷第 has pointed out that the wedge should only refer to songs and did not include dialogues, and did not serve as a kind of demi-act as presented in later anthologies most noticeably in YQX.18 Therefore, inasmuch as the wedges are marked in GDYXCQ, this followed the older practice of using it to mark one or two songs that are not part of a main suite for any act. However, the wedge is not marked in all of the plays in GDYXCQ. Two other plays, Yangzhou Dream and Marriage in Two Lives, contain the arias of a wedge but do not mark them as such,19 which would appear to follow an even earlier practice that we find in Yuan editions. Scholars have argued, based on the feature of act division, that Tears on a Blue Gown perhaps preserves an older format than the other five plays.20 Here, however, Tears on a Blue Gown marks the wedge, which is a later feature, while the other two plays appear to follow the old practice. This provides further evidence that these features were not standardized in GDYXCQ. How might such irregularities be related to the manner in which the collection was put together? A Reconsideration of Li Kaixian’s Role: Comparing GDYXCQ with Banter about Lyrics We have learnt from Li Kaixian’s preface to GDYXCQ that he served as the sponsor of this project, and provided the drama texts from his own collection for selection. However, Li mentioned that his disciple 17   Tears on a Blue Gown, 7b, Rain on the Wutong Tree, 6a, and Entering Mount Tiantai by Mistake, 13b, in XXSKQS, 112, 149, and 182 respectively. 18   Sun Kaidi, “Yuan qu xinkao” 元曲新考 (New Studies on Qu of the Yuan Dynasty), in idem, Cangzhouji (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1965), 321–324. 19   See Yangzhou Dream, 3a, in XXSKQS, 136, and Marriage in Two Lives, 2b, in XXSKQS, 162. 20   Xie, “Du Nantu guancang Li Kaixian Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi,”167, and Akamatsu, “Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi xiaokao,” 152. Idema has also suggested that at the very end of Tears on a Blue Gown, the editors of GDYXCQ maintained a peculiar feature that may be used as yet another argument that this edition of the play derived from a Yuan dynasty printing: the coda of the final suite is followed by the text of a lyric to the tune of Zhegutian 鷓鴣天 which is not assigned to any character in the play, a practice found only in the Yuan printing of Shi Junbao’s 石君寶 Ziyun ting 紫雲庭 (Purple Cloud Pavilion). See Idema, “Li Kaixian’s Revised Plays by Yuan Masters,” 61–65.


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Zhang Zishen was also involved. Who else participated in the editorial process? And if there was a group of people working on this project, do we know what role Li actually played in the editing of GDYXCQ? For answers to these questions, we have to turn to the postface to the collection, also by Li Kaixian: Those who took part in the editing and making the changes also included the three lyricists Gao Bifeng [i.e. Gao Yingqi], Mi Shao’an [i.e. Mi Zifang], and Zhang Weidu. But the man who was with the project from its beginning to its completion was Cheng’an [i.e. Zhang Zishen]. To make an analogy: in editorial projects, there is always a Director-General 21 and there are Compilers; at examinations, there is an Examiner and there are Assistant-Examiners. And I have only acted as Director-General and the Examiner.22

Under Li’s sponsorship and “direction”—more symbolic than actual, as I will argue—as Director-General, we find an editorial committee of sorts, formed by his students and acquaintances. Zhang Zishen,23 in particular, appears to have been the most involved in the project, to the extent that one Qing-dynasty catalog lists GDYXCQ under Zhang’s name.24 Zhang was a native of Shanghe in Shandong. He was a stipend student before his writings criticizing the court were discovered, and he had to flee from arrest. He escaped to Zhangqiu, Li Kaixian’s home village, where he stayed for around ten years and later became Li’s student.25 Zhang’s expertise in northern qu was highly praised.26 He 21   Zongcai 總裁, which refers to a “duty assignment for an eminent official to preside over an editorial project” or the like. See Charles O. Hucker, A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985), 534. 22   Li Kaixian, “Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi houxu”《改定元賢傳奇》後序 (Postface to GDYXCQ), LKXQJ, 462. Cf. translation in Idema, “Li Kaixian’s Revised Plays by Yuan Masters,” 49. 23   Zhangqiu xianzhi 章邱縣志 (Gazetteer of Zhangqiu County), 1691 edition, in Qingdai guben fangzhi xuan (Beijing: Xianzhuang shuju, 2001), series 1, vol. 3, juan 6, “Liuyu” 流寓 (Residents in Foreign Lands), 46b-47a. 24   See Qianqingtang shumu 千頃堂書目 (Catalog of Books in the Qianqing Hall), juan 32, cited by Yagisawa Hajime, Mindai gekisakka kenkyū, 247. 25   See Yu Shenxing’s 于慎行 poem titled “Zeng Zhang Jiushan yinju” 贈張就山 隱居, cited in Tan Yuancai 譚源材 et al., eds., Shandong yishu fazhanshi yanjiu 山東 藝術發展史研究 (A Study of the History of Development of the Arts in Shandong) (Beijing: Zhongguo guangbo dianshi chubanshe, 1992), 33. Li Kaixian often referred to Zhang as “my student” (menren 門人). 26   Comments by Wan Boxiu 萬伯修 cited in Wang Shizhen 王士禎, Chibei outan 池北偶談 (Casual Talks by the North Side of the Pond) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1982), 337.

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was also apparently a prolific playwright known to have written more than thirty zaju, but unfortunately all these plays have been lost.27 Also involved in the project of GDYXCQ was Li Kaixian’s other student Gao Yingqi 高應玘 (courtesy name [zi 字] Bifeng 筆峰, fl.1540s)28 whom Li referred to as a young member in his local qu writing club.29 In Gao’s sanqu collection titled Zuixiang xiaogao 醉鄉小稿 (A Small Manuscript in My Drunkenness), we find that a substantial part of his writings were occasional songs written for fellow members, such as a xiaoling 小令 congratulating Li Kaixian on the birth of his son.30 In addition, Gao was also the author of a zaju which is no longer extant.31 Other members of the editorial team include Zhang Weidu 張畏獨32 and Mi Zifang 弭子方33 (courtesy name Shao’an 少菴), about whom we know very little. These individuals all played a part in the process of editing and emending the texts for GDYXCQ. That various people were involved in the editorial process may have contributed to the non-systematic marking of features such as act divisions and the wedge, as discussed earlier. Such irregularities in the text also show that Li was apparently not too particular about these details. Hence, even though Li Kaixian claimed final responsibility for GDYXCQ, calling himself its Director-General, I submit that in fact his involvement in the printing project of GDYXCQ may well have been minimal. Li mentioned in his preface to GDYXCQ that after this   Zhangqiu xianzhi, juan 6, “Liuyu,” 46b-47a.   For brief biographies of Gao, see Zhangqiu xianzhi, juan 6, 41a-b, and Zhongguo xiqu zhi 中國戲曲志 (Gazetteers of Chinese Theater) (Beijing: Zhongguo ISBN zhongxin, 1994), vol. 27 Shandong 山東, 693–694. 29   Li Kaixian, “Zuixiang xiaogao xu”《醉鄉小稿》序 (Preface to A Small Manu­ script in My Drunkenness), LKXQJ, 418. This preface was not found in the extant copy of Zuixiang xiaogao kept in the National Library of China (Number 17575), which only carries a preface written by Gao himself, dated 1553. On Li’s local qu writing club in Zhangqiu, see Tian Yuan Tan, Qu Writing in Literati Communities: Rediscovering Sanqu Songs and Drama in Sixteenth-Century North China (PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 2006), Chapter Three. 30   Gao Yingqi, Zuixiang xiaogao, copy kept in the National Library of China (Number 17575), 1b. 31   Fu Xihua 傅惜華, Mingdai zaju quanmu 明代雜劇全目 (A Complete Catalog of Ming Zaju) (Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1958), 110. 32   We have no information about Zhang Weidu. He is not mentioned elsewhere in Li Kaixian’s writings. 33   Both Mi Zifang and Li Kaixian married daughters of Zhang Qi. Mi also wrote a colophon for Li’s literary collection and was involved in its compilation. See Mi, “Mi Zifang ba” 弭子方跋 (Colophon by Mi Zifang), LKXQJ, 390–391. 27 28


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collection of Yuan drama, he wished to continue printing song suites and xiaoling if at all possible.34 He did indeed pursue these goals with his subsequent printings of the song collections of Yuan masters Zhang Kejiu 張可久 (1280-after 1348), and Qiao Ji in the winter of 1566 and in the spring of 1567 respectively.35 In addition, he also included a selection of Yuan-dynasty song suites in his treatise on qu titled Banter about Lyrics.36 While all these may be considered as Li Kaixian’s qu printing projects in general, a comparison between GDYXCQ and these other projects revealed that Li was not equally involved in all of them. The “Citao” 詞套 (Song Suites) section of Li’s Banter about Lyrics is especially important in this respect.37 It contains a selection of arias from three   Li Kaixian, “Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi xu,” LKXQJ, 461.   See Li Kaixian comp., Zhang Xiaoshan xiaoling 張小山小令 (Short Songs by Zhang Xiaoshan [Zhang Kejiu]), Ming edition kept in the Taiwan National Library (14979), and idem, comp., Qiao Mengfu xiaoling 喬夢符小令 (Short Songs by Qiao Mengfu [Qiao Ji]), Ming edition kept in the Taiwan National Library (Number 14985). For Li’s views on the sanqu of these two Yuan-dynasty writers, see Yang Dong 楊棟, Zhongguo sanquxue shi yanjiu (xubian) 中國散曲學史研究(續編)(A Study of the History of Scholarship on Sanqu in China: Supplementary Volume) (Ji’nan: Shandong daxue chubanshe, 1998), 112–116. 36   Banter about Lyrics is a rare example of dramatic criticism written in northern China in the mid Ming. It contains four different sections: amusing and satirical stories behind some qu works, a selection of sanqu and dramatic arias, anecdotes about famous actors and singers, and a discussion on the proper endings of qu. 37   Wu Shuyin 吳書蔭 has proposed that the second and fourth sections, “Citao” and “Ciwei” 詞尾 (Song Endings), may have been written by Kang Hai 康海 (1475–1541) instead of Li Kaixian. His argument is based on the fact that Xu Fuzuo 徐復祚 (1560-?) quoted the same passages in these two sections in his qu anthology, but attributed them to Kang rather than Li. See Wu Shuyin, “Cixue de zuozhe xianyi”《詞謔》的作者獻疑 (Calling into Question the Authorship of Banter about Lyrics), Yishu baijia, no. 2 (2002): 67–70. However, considering that the section “Citao” cites Tang Shunzhi 唐順之 and Chen Shu 陳束, who were closely associated with Li and not Kang, I believe it is unlikely that these sections were compiled and written by Kang Hai. Wu also believes that Xu Fuzuo is unlikely to have made a wrong attribution, as he was already nine years old when Li Kaixian passed away, but such errors in attribution were perhaps not uncommon even among contemporaries. One example is Wang Shizhen 王世貞 (1526–1590), who was acquainted with Li but still inaccurately noted that Kang Hai thought highly of Li’s one hundred xiaoling. See Wang Shizhen, Quzao 曲藻 (Evaluations of Qu), in Zhongguo gudian xiqu lunzhu jicheng (Beijing: Zhongguo xiju chubanshe, 1959, 1980 reprint), vol. 4, 36. Kang had passed away by the time Li wrote these hundred songs in 1544, and it was Wang Jiusi 王九思 (1468–1551) instead who praised Li’s songs. Recently, Huang Shizhong 黃仕忠 has also refuted Wu Shuyin’s argument and reaffirmed Li Kaixian’s authorship of Banter about Lyrics. See Huang, “Cixue zuozhe quewei Li Kaixian—yu Wu Shuyin xiansheng shangque”《詞謔》作者確為李 34 35

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of the six plays in GDYXCQ, namely Yangzhou Dream, Rain on the Wutong Tree, and Marriage in Two Lives.38 In other words, we have a number of overlapping arias that appear in both GDYXCQ and Banter about Lyrics, which we can use for comparison. It is unclear which of the two projects, GDYXCQ or Banter about Lyrics, was completed earlier. We have little information on the date of GDYXCQ. Assuming that the Ten Pieces of Brocade mentioned by Li in his preface is the extant 1558 edition we now have, we can only estimate that GDYXCQ was printed after 1558.39 Nor do we know exactly when Li wrote the “Citao” section of his Banter about Lyrics, though the full work is believed to have been put together in his late years (and left uncompleted when he passed away in 1568).40 However, the dating of these two projects is not the main point here. Our main concern is to find out whether Li Kaixian was personally involved in both projects and whether GDYXCQ and Banter about Lyrics are textually related. Zheng Qian, writing at a time when the whereabouts of GDYXCQ were still not widely known, suggested that the arias in Banter about Lyrics, which showed some differences from other Ming editions, were probably derived from the texts in GDYXCQ edited also by Li Kaixian.41 Similarly, Lin Fengxiong 林鋒雄 has speculated that GDYXCQ would 開先—與吳書蔭先生商榷 (The Author of Banter about Lyrics is Truly Li Kaixian: Taking Issue with Mr. Wu Shuyin), Yishu baijia, no. 1 (2005): 74–78, and 84. 38   Acts One and Two of Yangzhou Dream, Act Two of Rain on the Wutong Tree, and Act Three of Marriage in Two Lives. See Li Kaixian, Cixue, in Zhongguo gudian xiqu lunzhu jicheng series, vol. 3, 344–346 and 348–350, 337, and 304–306. 39   Iwaki Hideo, “Genkan kokon zatsugeki sanjūshu no ryūden,” 561, and Xie, “Du Nantu guancang Li Kaixian Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi,” 162. A recent study on character usage in GDYXCQ also shows that the extant edition was printed no earlier than the late years of the Jiajing (1522–1567) reign. See Sato Haruhiko 佐藤晴彥, “Gaiding Yuanxian chuanqi de chuban shiqi”《改定元賢傳奇》的出版時期 (The Publishing Date of GDYXCQ), in Zhongguo fei wuzhi wenhua yichan, no. 11 (2006): 1-9. Bu Jian believes that it was later, around 1566, that Li and his assistants started editing these Yuan plays, but did not provide any supporting evidence. See Bu Jian’s introductory notes to GDYXCQ, LKXQJ, 1701. Bu’s dating may be based on the assumption that GDYXCQ was completed not long before Li Kaixian involved himself in the printing of the sanqu by Zhang Kejiu and Qiao Ji as announced in his preface. 40   It was said that Li’s inability to complete the Banter about Lyrics was among his regrets as laid out in his handwritten will before his death. See “Xian Taichang nianpu,” 先太常年譜 (Chronological Biography of Our Ancestor, Vice Minister of the Court of Imperial Sacrifices), in LKXQJ, 1885 41   Zheng Qian, “Yuan zaju yiben bijiao (Di er zu)” 元雜劇異本比較(第二組) (A Comparison of the Variant Texts of Yuan Zaju: Group 2), in Guoli bianyiguan guankan 2, no. 3 (1973): 111.


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likely be textually closely related to Banter about Lyrics, and would demonstrate editorial principles identical to those of the latter.42 Now that we have access to the texts of the six plays in GDYXCQ, we realize that this is not the case. The arias of the same plays as they appear in GDYXCQ and Banter about Lyrics are by no means identical. It is impractical to provide full collation notes here, but some of the major differences should suffice to illuminate the textual relationship or lack thereof between GDYXCQ and Banter about Lyrics. In some cases, the differences are extensive. For example, some songs might be left out in a song suite in one version of a play, but not in the other. The most striking example is Banter about Lyrics’s selection of the song suite in Act Two of Rain on the Wutong Tree, which is shorter than that in GDYXCQ. Arias to the tunes of Mantingfang 滿庭芳 and Putianle 普天樂 are included in GDYXCQ, but do not appear in Banter about Lyrics.43 Zheng Qian has pointed out that qu anthologies such as Shengshi xinsheng 盛世新聲 (New Tunes from a Prosperous Age), Cilin zhaiyan 詞林摘艷 (Beauty Plucked from the Forest of Lyrics) and Yongxi yuefu 雍熙樂府 (Songs of Harmonious Peace) all show such discrepancies, and therefore believes that Li, in editing this song suite in Banter about Lyrics, might have based his text on a common source used by these anthologies.44 Furthermore, we have observed earlier that in Act Three of Marriage in Two Lives, the GDYXCQ version mixes up the exact same two tune titles as a number of other Ming editions. Such errors are not found in Banter about Lyrics.45 How can we explain these differences between the texts of the same plays in two projects supposedly both edited by Li Kaixian? Can we say that one is an improved or corrected version of the other? In the case 42   Lin Fengxiong, “Li Kaixian yu Yuan zaju: Jianlun Mingdai Jiajing Longqing nianjian Yuan zaju zhi yanchang yu liuchuan,” 李開先與元雜劇──兼論明代嘉 靖隆慶年間元雜劇之演唱與流傳 (On Li Kaixian and Yuan Zaju, with a Discussion on the Performance and Transmission of Yuan Zaju during the Jiajing and Longqing Reigns in the Ming Dynasty), in idem, Zhongguo xiju shi lungao (Taibei: Guojia chubanshe, 1995), 53–54. 43   Cf. Rain on the Wutong Tree, 16a-17a, in XXSKQS, 154, and Cixue, 338. 44   See Zheng Qian, “Yuan zaju yiben bijiao” (Group 2), 113. However, in other cases, for example in Rain on the Wutong Tree, the version in Banter about Lyrics differs from that in the anthology Songs of Harmonious Peace. Hence, we cannot assume that Songs of Harmonious Peace was a source consistently used by Li in editing these song suites. 45   Cf. Marriage in Two Lives, 20a-b, in XXSKQS, 171, and Cixue, 305.

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of Marriage in Two Lives, one may be tempted to speculate that Banter about Lyrics corrected the mistakes in GDYXCQ, assuming that it was compiled later than GDYXCQ. However, the earlier example of Rain on the Wutong Tree does not support this hypothesis, since in that play it is actually the version in Banter about Lyrics that shows discrepancies not found in GDYXCQ. It is clear from these two examples that we do not find mistakes in one project consistently corrected in the other.46 Contrary to speculations in earlier studies, we must therefore conclude that textually, these two projects are not systematically related, and that neither can possibly have been derived from the other. Finally, let us turn to Yangzhou Dream, a play for which we find less extensive differences between the GDYXCQ and Banter about Lyrics versions. Prior to the rediscovery of GDYXCQ, when scholars compared the other Ming editions of the play, they concluded that the version in Gumingjia zaju 古名家雜劇 (Ancient Zaju by Famous Authors, hereafter GMJZJ) is very similar to that in Banter about Lyrics.47 This statement now needs to be revised. A comparison of the three versions reveals that GDYXCQ is textually much closer to GMJZJ than to Banter about Lyrics. In instances where the GMJZJ version differs from Banter about Lyrics, we find that the GDYXCQ version demonstrates the same variants in identical fashion. This is evident in the minor variants throughout the first two acts of the play, and more prominently so in the arias of the tune Qingge’er 青歌兒 in Act One.48 In sum, Banter about Lyrics and GDYXCQ present to us two different “texts” belonging to separate systems.49 Notably, moreover, 46   We are also unable to make generalizations about variants between Banter about Lyrics and GDYXCQ. For example, in terms of padding words to the arias, the Banter about Lyrics version of Marriage in Two Lives has fewer padding words than the GDYXCQ version, but for Yangzhou Dream and Rain on the Wutong Tree, it has more padding words than the GDYXCQ version. Therefore, we cannot conclude which edition has, in general, added or deleted the padding words. It may be because they were based on different source texts, or because individual plays in GDYXCQ underwent different degrees of editing. 47   This is in comparison with another group of texts in Yuan Ming zaju 元明雜劇 (Zaju from the Yuan and Ming Dynasties) and in the anthology Songs of Harmonious Peace. See Zheng Qian, “Yuan zaju yiben bijiao” (Group 4), 7, and Komatsu Ken 小松 謙, Chūgoku koten engeki kenkyū 中國古典演劇研究 (A Study of Chinese Classical Drama) (Tokyo: Kyuko shoin, 2001), 214. 48   Cf. the GMJZJ version in Guben xiqu congkan 古本戲曲叢刊 (Collective Edition of Ancient Texts of Plays), Fourth Series (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1958), 6b7a, the GDYXCQ version, 8a-b, in XXSKQS, 138, and Cixue, 346. 49   In general, the later Ming editions differ from Banter about Lyrics in the way that GDYXCQ did. In other words, while GDYXCQ was very similar to the Wanli


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Li Kaixian neither referred to nor showed awareness of differences between respective versions of the same plays in GDYXCQ and in Banter about Lyrics. This makes it extremely unlikely that Li should have been the actual editor of both projects. I therefore submit that they should be seen as two separate editorial efforts, and that Li was not equally active in both. We have Li Kaixian’s own words accounting for his emendations to the arias selected in Banter about Lyrics. For example, Li explicitly points out that he has made changes to the suite of songs he selected from the second act of Rain on the Wutong Tree, because he noticed rhyme errors in the sources on which his edition was based.50 For GDYXCQ, however, one must remember that Li only called himself Director-General in the editing of the collection and credited most of the actual editorial work to Zhang Zishen and others. Indeed, Li might have only served as a sponsor and a supplier of the texts for selection. His disciple, Zhang Zishen—who was, as noted, himself a prolific playwright—might have been the de facto editor. Li Kaixian appears to have left the GDYXCQ project to his disciples, and quite evidently was not as actively involved in the editorial process of these plays as he was in the selection and emendation of song suites for Banter about Lyrics. Therefore, GDYXCQ should be taken as a collective group effort of Li’s local qu community in Zhangqiu, and we should be cautious about Li’s actual editorial role and general involvement in it. To understand Li’s criteria and efforts in editing Yuan zaju, we should instead turn to Banter about Lyrics as the more reliable source—and more generally, as a rich source for the study of both sanqu and drama that awaits further exploration. editions, the arias in Banter about Lyrics appear to present a different “text” that was apparently not taken up by the later Ming editions. 50   Li, Cixue, 337.

singing in place of screaming


SINGING IN PLACE OF SCREAMING: SUBVERSION AS SATIRE IN LATE IMPERIAL CHINA Kimberly Besio The late Ming iconoclast Xu Wei 徐渭 (1521–1593) was well known in his day as a dramatist. His collection of four plays jointly titled Si sheng yuan 四聲猿 (Four Cries of a Gibbon) was printed several times during the late Ming, and the individual plays of this collection were included in such important anthologies as Sheng Ming zaju 盛明雜 劇 (Zaju of the Great Ming) and Leijiang Ji 酹江集 (Libation to the River Collection.)1 In recent years an additional play attributed to Xu Wei, Ge dai xiao 歌代嘯 (Singing in Place of Screaming), has been published in Xu Wei’s collected works and as an appendix to a modern annotated edition of Four Cries of a Gibbon.2 While clearly some scholars have accepted the attribution of Singing in Place of Screaming to Xu Wei, others have not. There is no mention of Singing in Place of Screaming in Ming and Qing bibliographies, and the only extant edition of the play dates from the Daoguang 道光 reign (1821–1850) of the Qing Dynasty.3 Tseng Yong-yih 曾永義 has further pointed out that certain details of the “Fanli”凡例 (Directions to the Reader) to the play do not accord with what we know about Xu Wei and his dramaturgical practice.4 In the introduction to his detailed chronology of Xu Wei’s life, 1   For more details about the printing history of these plays, see Fu Xihua 傅惜華, Mingdai zaju quanmu 明代雜劇全目 (A Complete Catalog of Ming Zaju) (Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1958), 94–100. 2   Xu Wei, Xu Wei ji 徐渭集 (The Collected Works of Xu Wei) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983), 1232–1273; Xu Wei, Si sheng yuan Ge dai xiao (fu) 四聲猿歌代嘯(附) (Four Cries of a Gibbon, with Appended Singing in Place of Screaming), ed. Zhou Zhongming 周中明 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1984; Taibei: Huazheng shuju, 1985), 108–168. 3   Fu Xihua, Mingdai zaju quanmu, 100. 4   For example, the sobriquet (hao 號) used by the writer of the “Directions” implies that he lived in Hangzhou, while Xu was from Shaoxing. The “Directions” also detail the ways in which the play adheres to the form of the northern Yuan zaju, including the fact that its rhymes are based on the Zhongyuan yinyun 中原音韻 (Rhymes of the Central Plains), whereas Xu did not so constrain himself in the plays of Four Cries


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Xu Shuofang 徐朔方 simply states that “there is not enough proof” to consider the play Xu Wei’s work and thus he will not discuss it further.5 Scholars who accept an attribution of Singing in Place of Screaming to Xu Wei base themselves on the literary merit of the play, and while I am not persuaded of Xu Wei’s authorship by their arguments I do agree with their assessment of the play as an excellent satiric comedy. As such it is well worth translating in its own right.6 One of the most interesting aspects of Singing in Place of Screaming is the way in which the theme of carnivalesque topsy-turviness referred to in its title is played out in the “wedge” (xiezi 楔子) and each of its four acts, and is reinforced on all levels. In this play the hypocritical realities behind social ideals are made evident and also laughable by turning these ideals on their heads, thus literally substituting singing (i.e. the play) for the screaming to which one might be tempted when contemplating these realities. The world of this play is one where monks cheerfully admit a general lack of adherence to monastic vows of abstinence, where the romantic ideal of a talented scholar and a gifted beauty is replaced by a love affair between an amorous monk and an adulterous wife, and where a lecherous and corrupt magistrate is not vanquished by one who is honorable and upright but is instead henpecked by his shrewish wife. Further, just as the drama plays with expectations regarding the play’s content, so too does it subvert both language and dramatic convention in the service of its satire. All four acts of the drama constitute an extended play on words as they each literalize a different proverb. The most common of these four proverbs is “Zhang’s hat on Li’s head” (Zhang mao Li dai 張帽李 戴) and is the focus of Act III. In Act III, translated in full below, we see additional types of language play. The singer in this act, Monk Li, the only character that appears on stage in each of the play’s four acts, hides crude sexual allusion in flowery verbiage, cheerfully mangles Buddhist terminology to suit his purpose, and manipulates language of a Gibbon. See Tseng Yong-yih, Ming zaju gailun 明雜劇概論 (An Introduction to Ming Zaju) (Taibei: Xuehai chubanshe, 1979), 249–250. 5   Xu Shuofang 徐朔方, Wan Ming qujia nianpu 晚明曲家年譜 (Chronological Biographies of Late Ming Dramatists) (Hangzhou: Zhejiang guji chubanshe, 1983), vol.2, 54. 6   See for example the discussions of Wang Chang’an 王長安, Xu Wei san bian 徐渭三辨 (Xu Wei: Three Differentiations) (Beijing: Zhongguo xiju chubanshe, 1995), 31–60; and Ye Changhai 葉長海, Quxue yu xijuxue 曲學與戯劇學 (Study of Songs and Drama) (Shanghai: Xuelin chubanshe, 1999), 227–248.

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and the legal system so that he successfully escapes the consequences of his adultery. The playwright plays with zaju convention in a manner similar to Monk Li’s linguistic hijinks, and some of the liberties taken with the zaju form are detailed in the “Directions to the Reader.” The playwright asserts that the demi-act which begins the play is to be called a wedge, even though the act is much more like the opening scene of a southern play in form in that it includes no dramatic scenes but simply a poem in the lyric form and four parallel phrases summing up the play’s plot and theme. Furthermore, he admits that he has moved the title proper (zhengming 正名, the four parallel phrases mentioned above) from its standard position at the end of the play to the conclusion of the introductory demi-act. The “Directions to the Reader” also stipulate that in accord with zaju convention a single role-type should be the sole singer in all four acts; however, the role type that will be the singer is not the male or female lead as would be the case in zaju, but the huamian 花面 (painted face—a serio-comic character). The translation of Act III provides several additional examples of how the play mixes and matches northern and southern dramatic convention. Before moving to the translation, a summary of Acts I and II will allow the reader to better understand the action in Act III. In Act I the singing role is assigned to Monk Zhang. He is a widower who took his vows late in life. When Monk Zhang comes on stage he recounts his plan to enlist the help of Monk Li with the private garden he has established on former property of the church. To ensure Monk Li’s assistance Zhang threatens to expose Li’s illicit sexual adventures. This scene is the occasion for much comic interaction as Li tries to defend his behavior as totally natural. Li first plays upon the Buddhist term for patriarchs foye fozu 佛爺佛祖 (literally grandfathers and ancestors in Buddha) to ask how there could be the corresponding sons and grandsons to these ancestors without sex. When Zhang dismisses this question Li then describes a scene he has witnessed at the local yamen 衙門 after the Magistrate’s wife had caught the Magistrate seducing a maid, to bolster his argument that everyone does it. Although his arguments prove unconvincing to Zhang, Li eventually manages to turn the tables on him and steal some of Zhang’s winter melons, convincing Zhang that the winter melons have come alive and left on their own. At the very end of the act Monk Zhang faints in anger and Monk Li takes


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off with Zhang’s hat—his own had been stolen by his paramour—to visit his lover. Li’s visit to his lover is the focus of Act II. Monk Li’s lover, Woman Wu, the wife of a certain Wang Jidi and the singing role in this act, welcomes Li and playfully steals Zhang’s hat from him. Before the two lovers have done much more than greet each other, they are interrupted by a visit from the mother of Wang Jidi’s wife (referred to as Mother-in-law in this act and in Act III, and called Chen Mama in Act IV). The mother-in-law is suffering from a toothache and she has come to consult her daughter on possible cures. To avert the motherin-law’s suspicion the two lovers inform her that Li is a medical monk who has expertise in toothaches. Li then prescribes moxibustion on her son-in-law’s heel. The cuckolded husband Wang Jidi enters, and proves recalcitrant. Wang resists the efforts of his wife and motherin-law to coerce him into submitting to moxibustion, snatches a garment—and the monk’s hat she has hidden within its sleeve—from his wife and flees. Act III begins with the entry on stage of Monk Li, now taking on the singing role.7 Singing in Place of Screaming, Act III8 (Monk Li enters bareheaded,9 and speaks) A common woman you can’t push away from you, but the one you’ve set your heart on you can’t call to you. Just now things were getting hot and heavy with that little darling,10 and our beautiful loving interlude was about to begin when wouldn’t you know it? We were messed up by that old lady. And just as I was about to raise my voice demanding my hat we were interrupted by a bunch of men and women. Even if that little darling of mine had been able to go out we wouldn’t have been able to see   Xu Wei, Xu Wei ji, 1255–1265.   Chu 齣 ‘act’ is used in southern drama to denote a unit of action and is more commonly translated as “scene”; the term used for acts in Yuan drama is zhe 折. This is one of several places where the drama follows southern convention despite the adherence to northern convention proclaimed in the play’s “Directions to the Reader.” 9   Throughout the play the playwright is always careful to note the status of Li’s headgear. Without his hat, Monk Li’s shaved head, and thus his status as a monk, is all too obvious. Li has previously entered bare-headed in Act I, and wearing Zhang’s hat in Act II. 10   Na ren’er 那人兒, literally ‘that little person.’ The diminutive er 兒 lends a sense of affection as well; thus my translation as “little darling.” 7 8

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each other. So I hopped right out of there and returned home all by my lonesome. Now is not an opportune time to go back, but if I don’t, how am I going to stand it? At this point I don’t know what to think! This is all because Monk Zhang jinxed me yesterday with his “beating,” and “shackling” and “extortion” and such—what a killjoy! How could that wretch possibly understand the wonder of this? (Sings) Yue Mode: “Dou Anchun”11 While it seems that I am breaking my vows in pursuit of delight, yet we also truly love each other. She adores my “well-tempered steel.” I love her “tender blossom of spring.”12 One is like a fine creeper wrapped around a gourd, the other is like a lively carp playing in the water. We occupied the heaven of lust, and had ourselves a few mandarin duck trysts. 13 For the sake of my beloved sweetheart I’ll become a romantic hungry ghost. (Speaks) Oh older brother, older brother. Unrealistic blather like yours, although honorably spoken, isn’t consistent with human feelings. How would it be if we only concerned ourselves with food, clothing and housing? (Sings) “Zihua’er xu” We enjoy fine clothing and ample food, live in Buddhist temple and monastery, and keep to our cold covers and solitary bedchambers. I could refrain from messing with these affairs, but I’m afraid that a fire would leap up in the Zoroastrian temple. As soon as I do, then spring will fill the Bodhi.14 11   In accord with formal requirements the mode is signified before the first song title; all other song titles in the act are in the same mode. 12   Bai lian zhen gang 百錬真鋼 ‘well-tempered steel’ and san chun nen rui 三 春嫩蕋 ‘tender blossom of spring’ are references to the male and female genitalia respectively. 13  In the lines of this song, and in many others throughout this act, Monk Li incongruously juxtaposes Buddhist terms with secular ones to describe his love affair. In this case the term yuanyang hui 鴛鴦會 ‘mandarin duck tryst’ commonly used in vernacular literature to refer to a lover’s meeting is preceded by se jie tian 色界天 ‘heaven of lust.’ Se jie tian, more commonly translated “heaven of form,” is connected to the se jie 色界 ‘realm of form’ (Sanskrit Rhūpadhātu) which is the second of the san jie 三界 ‘three realms.’ Ironically, in Buddhist terminology this is a realm where its inhabitants are actually above the desire for sex or food. See William Edward Soothill, A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms (1937; London: Routledge Curzon, 2004), 220. 14   Huo teng xian miao 火騰祆廟 ‘fire leaps up in the Zoroastrian temple’ is a common allusion in vernacular literature to describe frustrated passion; for the locus


kimberly besio Thinking it over, this is all predestined from a previous incarnation, why worry about our sins in the next life? I have arranged a plan, have secretly sharpened my spear and polished my sword, and have temporarily pulled on a stranger’s face over mine. (Speaks) Older brother, you just say that planting a garden is better, but now your melons and your gourds are gone. Where’s the benefit in that? Even if they had grown well, you would still be nothing more than a monk with a nose assailed by the smell of shit, and a back burned by the scorching sun. (Sings) “Jin Jiaoye” By the time you had babied those vines your hands and feet would be calloused with the work. How could that compare with cuddling up next to that pretty face? (Speaks) Not to mention… (Sings) My brief moment of sublime loving, can’t be mentioned in the same breath as a wife in poverty from your earlier life. (Speaks) Oh, my clever one, how panic-stricken I was just now when that old lady came! Yet she just said loudly—“Oh, mother it’s you.” Then I was able to relax. What’s more, she tipped me a wink and said that she had invited me to cure her mother’s toothache. I immediately matched her scheme with one of my own—and what a trick we pulled! How smooth! How perfect! You and I, we’re really top notch when it comes to catting around and number one in bullshitting—truly exceptional! (Sings) “Tiaoxiao ling” When it comes to joining in the fun, I’m the boss. She saw the conditions and acted accordingly, and everything was perfect. If she hadn’t been quick and smart with her eyes and mouth, we might have revealed our secret. But I managed to get out of that jam with just a bare head to show for it. I certainly took advantage of my advantages.

classicus of this story see Zhou Zhongming’s annotation, Si sheng yuan, 151, n. 4. This phrase is then followed by the parallel phrase chun man puti 春滿菩提 ‘spring fills the Bodhi.’ Bodhi is perfect wisdom or enlightenment in Buddhism, while spring refers to love or sex.

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(Speaks) I expect that by now that crowd will have dispersed. If they were able to perform the moxibustion it should be done, and if not, I bet Wang Jidi will have fled. I’ll go back and see what’s going on. (Exits)   (Wang Jidi hurriedly enters and speaks) What luck! My motherin-law had a toothache and for no reasons whatsoever wanted to perform moxibustion on me! I grabbed a piece of clothing and took off, ran three or four miles without taking a breath. Do you, mother and daughter, still think you can catch me? Let me fold up this garment and pawn it off, I should get enough to live on the outside for ten or fifteen days. At that point it won’t be too late to return home slowly. (Acts out folding the garment)15 What’s this in the sleeve? Why, it’s a monk’s hat. How did that get there? Could it be that the monk wasn’t there to cure my mother-in-law’s toothache but to cure an “inflammation” of his own?16 (Acts out looking at the hat) Why, there are some characters written inside: “Zhang of Three Purities Monastery.” Oh-ho, so he’s Monk Zhang is he? The other night I came home drunk, and saw someone jump out the window and flee leaving behind a shoe. I pillowed it under my head and slept, planning to settle accounts with her the next day. Who would have thought that the next morning when I woke up I was pillowing my own shoe? She insisted that the one fleeing the night before had been me, and since the shoe was certainly mine I had nothing left to say. Now that I have this hat in my hand, would she try to tell me that the one curing my mother-in-law’s toothache was me as well? What’s more, there is a name and a location on this hat. I can go look for someone to write out a complaint, and go to the district yamen and sue the motherfucker. Even if it’s only to revenge myself for him making me the target of moxibustion, I shouldn’t let him off the hook. (Exits)   (The wife and Li enter, Li is bareheaded) (Wife speaks) What are you doing here so early? You’re not usually so early, could it be that you have a new object of affection in the next village and have cast aside your former feelings? (Li sings) “Gui Santai” How could I dare cast aside my former feelings? If that were the case, then I should just smash my forehead in. (Wife speaks) Then why are you here so early? (Li speaks) At this juncture I have to tell you. Yesterday that husband of yours took off 15   Jie 介 ‘acts out’ is a technical term used in the stage directions of southern drama texts to call for acting out or a gesture; the corresponding term used in northern drama is ke 科. 16   Xiaochang feng 小腸風 ‘inflammation’ is more precisely an inflammation of the kidney and testicles; a hernia.


kimberly besio with that piece of your clothing and shook out the hat from its sleeve. He went and looked for someone to write a complaint, and today he is planning to go to the district yamen and make an accusation. Fortunately, the person who wrote the complaint is an acquaintance of mine. Yesterday when I was on my way back I happened to run into him. He said that the complaint listed “Baldy Zhang,” but since Zhang is my older brother, he had come especially to tip me off. (Wife speaks) Why didn’t you say anything last night?   (Li speaks) I was afraid it would interfere with my sweetheart’s loving. (Wife acts out grief ) (Li speaks in an aside) I find her crying even more loveable. (Sings) Her teardrops resemble the rain falling down from an azalea flower. The sound of her crying resounds like an oriole’s warbling outside the willow trees, carried by the wind. (Wife speaks) This is all my fault for keeping your hat. (Li speaks) Don’t say such a thing, sweetheart. At the time you had the best of intentions. (Sings) Can it be that you are taking your good qualities and recognizing them as bad? (Wife speaks) Can it be that you and I will have to break up from now on? (Li sings) Our joyful love won’t necessarily turn into sorrow. The affairs of the world are managed by man. You and I can consider further. (Wife speaks) Hurry up then and consider. (Li speaks) If you and I get lucky, then the district magistrate will confine his investigation to Monk Zhang, and that will be that. But if he says that while the name on the hat and the name of the person are the same, the face of the one who healed his mother-in-law isn’t, it’s inevitable that you and I will be tracked down. Then… (Sings) “Tu Si’er” Just say that I forcibly attacked you, and that you certainly did not comply. In fact you had grabbed the hat and were just about to file a complaint, (Speaks) but you were overset by your mother’s illness. (Sings) And in the midst of all that didn’t have time to recount the details of your intentions.

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(Wife acts out grief and speaks) In that case you will suffer even more. How can I bear to do such a thing? (Li sings) “Shengle Wang” Even if I have to suffer in the extreme, forged into a pile of ashes, I wouldn’t be willing to harm a single particle of your beloved form. (Wife speaks) Isn’t there another plan? (Li sings) If you’re firm in your intentions, and haven’t changed your mind, you and I can certainly become husband and wife forever. This lawsuit can on the contrary turn out to be our matchmaker. (Wife speaks) How will the plan work? (Li speaks) Since you have your heart set on me, you can stick to what you say about that monk Zhang. I will detail the scar on his hand, and his eight natal characters for you to remember. When it comes time to act according to circumstances they will come in handy. If the authorities judge that you should be separated, then I can unfrock and marry you, and won’t we be husband and wife forever? (Acts out grief) The only thing is that when you are before the officials you will inevitably have to suffer a bit, how can I stand that? (Wife speaks) That doesn’t matter. If not for a blast of cold that chills to the bone, how could we have the fragrance of plum trees in snow? Here’s your old hat. I’ll give it to you now. (Li speaks) This is important. (Acts out putting on the cap) (Wife speaks) You go ahead. I’m going to my mother’s place to let her know. (Both exit) (Monk Zhang enters bareheaded and manacled, led by Wang Jidi and a yamen runner) (Zhang speaks) I close my door and stay sick in bed, and disaster comes from on high. (Acts out pointing to Wang) This guy, for what reason I don’t know, has lodged a complaint against me at the district yamen. The runners have brought me here in chains. The other day my winter melons disappeared. Today I’ve been implicated in a lawsuit. It’s certainly true that troubles never come singly. (Li enters, acts out seeing them, tries to avoid them) (Zhang acts out calling out loudly) Monk Li, come save me! (Li speaks) Older brother, what are you doing here? (Zhang speaks) I don’t know why I’m here. (Runner speaks) Why? Because today you’ve been caught just like the sneaky tomcat that you are.17 (Li acts out sighing and speaks) You have always said that Buddha’s laws are stern, and officials are fierce, and yet now you have knowingly violated these rules. (Sings)   Tou chi xinghun de mao’er 偷吃腥葷的貓兒 ‘cat which steals meat and fish’ is used here as a metaphor for a monk who breaks his vows of abstinence. 17


kimberly besio “Malang’er” You hid your head, but left your tail sticking up, kept saying one thing, but meaning another. You thought that your horse was fast, and your sword quick, and started drooling at the thought of tasting the flavor in that old pot. (Speaks) You brought this on yourself. Who would ever come looking for someone like me who observes the monastic rules? I can’t save you. (Turns to exit) (Wang drags him back and speaks) Where are you going? You look familiar, you were there yesterday too! (Li speaks) Why are you constraining me as well? (Wang speaks) The one at my house yesterday was a Buddhist monk. (Li points at Zhang and asks) What is he—a Daoist? (Wang replies) That might be, but your robes resemble his. (Li asks) What about my head? (Wang replies) He wasn’t wearing a hat. (Li asks) Me? (Wang replies) You’re wearing one. (Li speaks) Well, there you go; I have never gone around bare-headed. (Runner speaks) Could it be that you’re only a monk if you’re bare-headed? You had better come and explain yourself to the magistrate. (Li points to Zhang and asks) What did he just call me? (Runner replies) Monk Li. (Li points to Wang and asks) Who did he accuse? Whose name is on your arrest warrant? (Runner replies) Monk Zhang. (Li speaks) There you go again! (Sings) “Yao pian” [repetition of previous tune]18 I am surnamed Li, don’t summon me wrongly. If the warrant doesn’t have the name who would dare to frame? (Runner speaks) The plaintiff has alleged that you were there. (Li speaks) If I was there, then why accuse him? (Sings) You believe his lies, they are obviously completely without proof. (Li pulls the runner over and says in an aside) Brother runner, let me go. I have a couple of winter melons I can present to you. (Runner speaks) I can’t take those things, what use would they be? I am just going to take you to the magistrate. I would rather that we grab you incorrectly than have the magistrate judge that we were wrong to let you go. (Exeunt)   (District magistrate, clerks and runners enter) (Magistrate speaks) Only I as an official don’t demand coins, I merely take “Old White”

  Yao pian 么篇 is the term used in Yuan drama; in southern drama the term is qian qiang 前腔. 18

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and insert it into my money belt.19 After all, there is no way that you can take home the cast-off shoes and a few drops of tears from the common people and have them provide for you in your old age.20 I, this humble official, am the magistrate of this district. I have accepted Wang Jidi’s case, and have already ordered that suspects be seized. How is it that they haven’t arrived by now?   (Runner enters with Li and Zhang in custody, acts out reporting in) The prisoners have arrived. (Magistrate acts out checking the names off) Monk Zhang… (Zhang speaks) Present. (Magistrate speaks) So you’re Monk Zhang. Quite the romantic little Buddha and free-living member of the Sangha aren’t you?21 Woman Wu… (Runner speaks) hasn’t arrived yet. (Magistrate speaks) Mother-in-law… (Runner speaks) also hasn’t arrived yet. (Magistrate speaks) Could it be that they have bribed you into letting them go? (Runner speaks) I wouldn’t dare. It is just that on the way back we ran into this monk, and the plaintiff said that he looked familiar, so I brought him here to see you first thinking that it wouldn’t be too late to go summon the two women after that. (Magistrate speaks) How clever, you brought in only one more, while still missing two. Hurry up now and bring the other two to me. If you can’t get them here we will go into this in more detail. (Runner assents, exits) (Li speaks) Your Honor, you are like the blue sky. (Sings) “Luosiniang” That he arrested a Li as a Zhang, is precisely like a sky without a sun.22 (Speaks) Your Honor, (Sings) Your reputation as being clear as water, white as flour is known far and wide. You should investigate this in detail.

  “Old White” (Lao bai 老白) makes it sound as if the magistrate is referring to an old friend, but it is also a term for silver. The magistrate doesn’t fool around with pocket change; he only takes bribes that amount to real money. 20   According to Zhou Zhongming, Si sheng yuan, 152 n. 21, this is an allusion to a story from the Jiu Tang Shu 舊唐書 (Old History of the Tang Dynasty) about an upright local official who was so beloved that the people didn’t want him to leave. 21  僧加, the monastic order. 22   In other words a grey sky, contradicting what Li has just likened the magistrate to in the previous lines qing tian 青天 ‘blue sky,’ a common analogy to an upright and just magistrate. Judge Bao, a Song dynasty judge famous for his impartiality and the protagonist of many vernacular plays and short stories, was nicknamed “Blue Sky Bao.” 19


kimberly besio (Magistrate speaks) In this world there is nothing as pure as water, as white as flour, you speak truly.23 (Acts out questioning) What does the plaintiff have to say? (Wang speaks) Yesterday when I returned home, I found my mother-in-law and my wife sitting together with a monk. I only caught a glimpse of the monk’s face; then he took off. Later, my wife took off her outer garment in order to chase me. I snatched it, and only then did I find the hat in her sleeve, and only then did I dare make an accusation. (Magistrate speaks) According to what you say, this is clearly a false accusation. You say that the monk left, and only then did she take off her clothing, so how can you accuse her of committing adultery with him? (Wang speaks) She committed adultery first, and afterward took off her clothing in order to perform moxibustion on me. (Magistrate speaks) That is even more nonsensical! If she wanted to perform moxibustion on you, then why didn’t you take off your clothing rather than she taking off hers? Could it be that she was the one to have moxibustion performed on her? (Wang speaks) I wouldn’t submit to the procedure, so she took off her garment in order to coerce me. (Magistrate speaks) Who is this “she”? (Wang speaks) “She” is my old lady. (Magistrate speaks) Oh, so we are talking about your esteemed spouse. Why did she want to perform moxibustion on you? (Wang speaks) She wanted to cure her mother’s toothache. (Magistrate speaks) Why, you dumb bastard you couldn’t have seen correctly. Since we’re talking of dental medicine it must have been a doctor, so what are you doing accusing a monk? (Zhang and Li speak) Your Honor is truly like the blue sky. (Wang speaks) The prescription to perform moxibustion on me was conveyed by a monk. (Magistrate) Oh, so he is a monk who is a medic. Then just tell me which one you originally called. (Wang speaks) I didn’t call anyone. (Magistrate asks) If you didn’t call him do you mean to say that he just came to your door looking for someone to cure? (Wang replies) That’s precisely why I was suspicious of him. (Magistrate speaks) At this point even I have my doubts. (Acts out pointing at Zhang) Plaintiff, come take a good look, was it him? (Wang speaks) He doesn’t look like the one, but the hat is certainly his. (Magistrate acts out pointing at Li and asks) Was it him? (Wang replies) His face does look familiar, but the hat didn’t have the surname Li on it. (Magistrate speaks) True, well then, maybe Monk Li asked to borrow Monk Zhang’s hat.

23   While Monk Li seems to be complimenting the magistrate, and the magistrate certainly takes it as such, qing ru shui, bai ru mian 清如水白如麵 ‘pure as water, white as flour’ actually suggests the opposite. It is a set phrase used in several Yuan courtroom dramas, there followed by shui mian da yi huo, hutu cheng yipian 水麵打一和,糊塗 成一片 ‘when you mix the two together you get a sticky mess.’ See Ching-Hsi Peng, Double Jeopardy: A Critique of Seven Yuan Courtroom Dramas (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies, 1978), 99.

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(Li speaks) I have my own hat, why would I abandon my own and seek another’s? (Magistrate speaks) Since that is not the case perhaps Monk Zhang asked to borrow your face and took off wearing his hat? (Li speaks) Even if he were to do such a stupid thing, would I have been willing to lend it to him? (Magistrate acts out making an aside) True! There’s no way for me to pin both the hat and the face on a single person. Well then, I’ll just find out who knows how to practice medicine; that will be the one. (Acts out questioning) Monk Zhang, do you know how to practice medicine? (Monk Zhang speaks) I haven’t a clue. (Magistrate asks) Well then, what do you know? (Zhang replies) I only know how to grow vegetables. (Magistrate speaks) This monk doesn’t study medicine, he studies horticulture. Monk Li, what about you? (Li speaks) I’m even more clueless. (Magistrate speaks) Don’t be so modest, how can it be that neither of you knows? (Li speaks) I don’t even know how to grow vegetables, to say nothing of practicing medicine. (Magistrate speaks) Seeing that the two of you both don’t know, perhaps his esteemed spouse was going to cure you? (Zhang and Li speak) We two monks don’t have a toothache, why would we need to be cured? (Magistrate speaks) That’s so! Plaintiff, come over here. Is it possible that your esteemed spouse knows how to make monk hats and that he had come to request her services, therefore she had taken this one as a pattern? (Wang speaks) If it were a pattern then why did she put it in her sleeve? (Magistrate speaks) This bastard is getting dumber by the second. If you don’t carefully stow away someone’s things couldn’t they get lost? (Wang speaks) But my old lady doesn’t know how to sew. (Magistrate acts out fury and speaks) You are so suspicious, and they are so close-mouthed. You won’t confess, and neither will he. Could it be that I wore the hat? Rack them all for me! (Li acts out sighing and speaks) No need for the rack. I’ll confess. (Magistrate says in an aside) Torture still works best. If I had had to listen carefully and investigate the principles involved here, I would be here until this time next year. (Acts out turning toward Li) Hurry up and confess. (Li sings) “Xiao Taohong” In the dusk of that day while returning from a sleep, first took the pose of a fox listening to ice. (Magistrate speaks) What is “a fox listening to ice”? (Li speaks) Your Honor, normally when a fox crosses ice, he is afraid that this ice isn’t hard, so he puts his ear down to the ice to listen. (Magistrate acts out a listening pose and speaks) Hold on while I get this right. (Li speaks) Wait for me to present you the situation. (Takes a pose and sings)


kimberly besio A cicada sloughing its skin, washed its feet in the vast waves24 An egret looked over a pond, when a Yaksha exploring the ocean frightened him out of his wits.25 One imitating Boya slowly “strumming the lute,” one “pretending to be a mute” to equivocate about a hostile attitude,26 at that moment, with signs of love being passed back and forth who would dare to utter a sound? (Magistrate acts out alarm and speaks) These were the circumstances the other day when I was seducing that maid. How does he know all the details? It seems there is more going on with him than meets the eye; I had better not mess with him. I had best confine my questions to Monk Zhang. (Acts out turning toward them) Monk Li is, after all, a mere fledgling, as soon as I mentioned the rack he was scared into talking nonsense. Monk Zhang is a man of mature years. See how he resembles the Daoist master Zhang. Put him in thumbscrews.27 ([Underlings] act out applying thumbscrews) (Runner, leading motherin-law and wife, acts out coming before the magistrate and speaks) Your Honor, I have brought the two women. (Magistrate calls the mother-in-law) (Mother-in-law speaks) I wouldn’t presume, Your Honor. (Magistrate speaks) Get lost, was I calling you? (Mother-in-law speaks) Who were you checking off? (Magistrate acts out laughing and speaks) Woman Wu… (Wife speaks) Present. (Magistrate acts out looking and speaks) Come forward, come forward again, do come forward! (Clerk speaks) Watch for our lady to come out from the back rooms. (Magistrate speaks) I can go ahead. If it were yesterday, before I had built a fence in the hallway to the back chambers I would have been scared of her, but today I’m not. (Acts out playing around) (Mother-in-law acts out turning towards Monk Zhang and speaks) Master Zhang, the inquisition is over with, why do you have those things on your hands? (Magistrate speaks) Who is that yelling down

  This line combines two metaphors for a person achieving freedom from constraints. The first is a metaphor used in Buddhist texts: jin chan tuo qiao金蟬脫殼 ‘golden cicada sloughs its skin.’ The second metaphor, zhuo cang lang zu 濯滄浪 足 ‘washing feet in vast waves’ is based on a line from Mencius. Monk Li is actually obliquely referring to the scene he had recounted witnessing in Act One, and these two metaphors refer to the Magistrate who had temporarily “slipped his leash,” as it were. 25   Shrews were referred to as Nü Yecha女夜叉 ‘female yakshas.’ This is a reference to the magistrate’s wife. 26   According to Zhou Zhongming, Si sheng yuan, 152 n. 33, tui sitong 推絲桐 ‘strumming the lute’ and zhuang yasi 裝啞廝 ‘pretending to be a mute’ are both allusions to the groping in the dark that goes on in illicit liaisons between men and women. 27   Zan 拶, here translated as “thumbscrew,” is a torture technique that consisted of squeezing the fingers between thin bamboo strips. 24

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there? (Li speaks) This old woman is greeting Master Zhang. (Magistrate speaks) Have the woman come forward. How do you know that he is Monk Zhang? (Mother-in-law speaks) He gave me a prescription to cure my toothache, and we sat together for quite a while, why wouldn’t I know him? (Magistrate speaks) Your son-inlaw has previously said that his countenance doesn’t resemble that monk. Your eyes are old, you must be mistaken. (Mother-in-law speaks) Although my eyes are old and bleary I still remember that when he gave me my cure he had a cut across his palm. (Magistrate speaks) Clerk, take a look. (Clerk acts out looking at Li speaks) Nope. (Acts out looking at Zhang) There’s one on his right hand. (Magistrate speaks) Monk Zhang, where did you get the cut? (Zhang speaks) I was injured pulling up the roots of the calabash. (Magistrate speaks) The cut is on the palm. When he was being thumbscrewed his palms were closed. How could that old lady have seen that? I always say that giving a greeting you can’t see as truly as when you sit for a while. Continue. (Li acts out happiness, says in an aside) How about that? One part of my scheme has been realized. (Magistrate speaks) Young woman, your husband says he found this hat in your sleeve and has accused you of keeping a monk as a lover. (Wife speaks) Your Honor, there was certainly a hat in the sleeve, but there certainly wasn’t any adultery. (Zhang speaks) Just because there is a monk’s hat you need to distinguish between true and false, Your Honor! (Magistrate speaks) Bring the hat up here and let me look at it. (Acts out looking) Plaintiff, you’re mistaken. This hat is yours. Isn’t the first character inside “Wang”?28 (Wang speaks) Your Honor, you are seeing an extra vertical line. The four characters there read “Three Purities Monastery Zhang.” (Magistrate speaks) True! This Wang Jidi can read! (Acts out flinging down the hat) Monk Zhang, you come identify it yourself. (Zhang acts out looking and speaks) The hat is mine, but I don’t know how it came to be in their hands. (Magistrate speaks) Perhaps the wind blew it there, or a cat carried it there in its mouth, that still doesn’t explain how it ended up exactly in her sleeve. (Zhang acts out thinking and speaks) I’ve got it, it was the day that my winter melons took off, I keeled over in anger and took to my bed, and I haven’t worn it since then. It must be that Monk Li picked it up—that is, stole it—and thus implicated me. (Li speaks) Your Honor, this is total nonsense, if lifeless winter melons can take off, I would think that we living monks would be able to fly. (Magistrate speaks) True! (Acts out pointing to himself) And if someone like me had wings I could ascend to heaven. This monk is talking nothing but rubbish; his adultery is   As Wang Jidi points out below, the magistrate is misreading the character san 三 ‘three’ as the character wang 王, here the surname Wang. 28


kimberly besio finally plain to see. (Zhang speaks) As for the winter melons taking off, Your Honor can send for my hired hand and interrogate him, and then you will know the truth of the matter. (Li speaks) The hired hand is his hired hand, wouldn’t he cover for him? This would be just like if the mother-in-law was my mother-in-law and covering for me. (Zhang speaks) You were the one who had the dream the other day. Why won’t you admit it now? (Li speaks) How could you know the dream I had the other day? Actually, you’re dreaming right now, if you’re not dreaming then why do you sound like you’re talking in your sleep? (Magistrate speaks) I will just question the younger woman. Release the monk from the thumbscrews, and put them on the woman. ([Underlings]act out releasing Zhang) (Wife speaks) You don’t need the thumbscrews; I won’t be able to take it. (Magistrate speaks) I thought your tender fingers wouldn’t be able to take it. Hurry up and confess to save yourself some suffering. (Wife speaks) The other day Monk Zhang brought a bunch of winter melons to my house and left them with me. (Magistrate speaks) You shouldn’t have allowed him to leave them. (Wife speaks) There’s a crack in my door and he just forced his way in. How could I keep him out? (Magistrate speaks) True. You couldn’t keep him out, then what? (Wife speaks) The next day Monk Zhang came and asked for money for the winter melons. I said, “I didn’t buy the winter melons in the first place, how can you ask me for money?” He just laughed and said, “I didn’t sell the melons, and you, my lady Buddha, don’t need to spend money to buy them. All I ask is that you show me some compassion, and I would be more than willing to give you the lot.” Then he knelt before me seeking to take his pleasure with me. (Magistrate acts out mimicking and speaks) Is this how he knelt before you? (Clerk speaks) Your Honor, please, have a little self-respect! (Magistrate acts out getting up and speaks) Nonsense! Do you mean to say you won’t allow me to get all the details straight? (Wife speaks) Then I took advantage of the opportunity to snatch his hat and put it in my sleeve. I thought that I would wait for my husband to come home and have him take it to the magistrate and make an accusation. (Magistrate speaks) Abominable! Who was seeking to take his pleasure that you would accuse the magistrate? (Wife speaks) I meant make an accusation to the magistrate. (Magistrate speaks) The word “to” is crucial here, why didn’t you put it in? (Wife speaks) Monk Zhang became frantic, he restrained me tightly with both arms, I don’t know if he was seeking his pleasure or wresting the hat away from me. I was just between a rock and a hard place when my mother arrived. (Magistrate speaks) What a spoilsport she is, what had she come for? (Wife speaks) She came to escape her toothache. When Monk Zhang saw my mother covering her mouth and moaning, he said that he would be willing to cure her toothache in order to redeem his sin with a good deed.

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I suspected that it was just a scheme to get himself off the hook. But he told me his eight natal characters, kneeled down and swore an oath. Because of all this I only then tentatively had the heart to seek his prescription hoping to ease the suffering of my mother. I didn’t expect that my husband would refuse to submit to moxibustion, so after all that I don’t know whether or not his prescription would have been efficacious. I rely on your divine judgment, Your Honor. (Magistrate speaks in an aside) One’s eight natal characters can’t be arrived at by a guess. (Turns towards the wife) Come up and whisper the characters. (Wife whispers, magistrate acts out listening) (Magistrate speaks) Monk Li, tell me your eight natal characters, I have my own marvelous judgment. (Li acts out telling him) (Magistrate speaks) Incorrect. Monk Zhang you tell me yours. (Zhang acts out telling him) (Magistrate speaks) Not a single character off, lucky for us that woman has a good memory. (Li acts out delight, speaks in an aside) How about that? He has once again fallen into my trap. (Magistrate speaks) Well Monk Zhang, how are you going to deny this? It turns out that those winter melons that took off on you took off to the Wang household. Now I ask you this, did you push them there or did you carry them there on a pole? (Wang speaks) That’s right. No wonder we had so many winter melons at home. It turns out they were to be his bait, now I get it. (Magistrate speaks) But then why did you first think it might have been Monk Li? (Wang speaks) I only have two eyes, how can they be as bright as the four eyes of my wife and mother-in-law? (Li speaks) Your Honor, there is one other thing. In the end it is hard to extinguish. (Points at Zhang and sings) “Xiao Taohong” He is after all, an old guru29 who took his vows after living as a layman, so is fully familiar with amorous feelings. (Magistrate speaks) All the more certain. What about you? (Li sings) I was converted right out of my mother’s arms, reciting “Amitabha.” (Speaks) My only desire is to… (Sings) on the basis of form being emptiness, emptiness being form, seek the three pleasant savors. 30 29   Sheli 闍黎 ‘guru’ (Sanskrit Acharya) is an important religious teacher or moral exemplar; here it is a sarcastic reference to Monk Zhang. See Soothill, Dictionary, 462. 30   “Form being emptiness, emptiness being form” paraphrases lines from the Heart Sutra. The san wei 三味 ‘three pleasant savors’ are monastic life, reading the scriptures, and meditation. See Soothill, Dictionary, 62.


kimberly besio (Magistrate speaks) Noble monk, would you happen to have a prescription for curing jealousy? (Li sings) The hat uncontrovertibly settles the case; (Speaks) if he won’t provide answers himself (Sings) then those winter melons certainly have nothing to confess. It would truly be a case of a thief writing his own letter of pardon. (Magistrate acts out making a judgment and speaks) You all listen (acts out reading aloud) Reason allows for only one decision, the matter is improbable. How could A’s hat be worn by B? How could it be that since the pilgrim from Qinghe lost the thing on his head, the boss from Longxi sought “the pleasures below the belt?”31 Although the woman from the Wu clan did not consent to illicit sexual relations, she did make herself up so as to arouse sexual desires, and under the law it is appropriate for her to be divorced. Since Monk Zhang will be exiled in shackles, his vegetable garden will no longer have an owner and should thus reasonably return to official ownership. The runner arrested an innocent member of the clergy, and will be fined three piculs of grain and exempted from further punishment. As for the plaintiff, he failed to help the mother-in-law in her time of need; the winter melons are stolen goods and will be confiscated to chastise this transgression. Monk Li has kept to himself and acted as an abbot, his clothing and hat have stuck to him like glue. The old woman should be released to return home in peace, if she has another toothache it will have no connection to her son-in-law. (Runner says in an aside) If I had known things would turn out like this, even if I didn’t want the winter melons I still would have released him. (Li speaks) Today I finally see the sun in the sky. (Makes an obeisance, sings) “Dongyuan le” I thank the kind official for his great protection, especially since it is unspeakably difficult to make a ruling in domestic affairs. (Magistrate speaks) As an incorrupt official I specialize in making rulings in domestic affairs. (Li sings) You are a reincarnation of Judge Bao who could make divinations around the clock. Your Honor,

31   According to Zhou Zhongming’s annotations Qinghe and Longxi are the ancestral homes of the Zhangs and the Li’s respectively. Xu Wei, Si sheng yuan, 153 n. 47 and 48.

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If in another life you commit some indiscretion may you be pardoned in the same manner. (Magistrate speaks) Why doesn’t that Monk Zhang say anything? Could it be that he refuses to comply? Strip him and bind him for me. After his sentence is completed he will be returned to the laity. (Li speaks) As for the manacles, let Monk Zhang wear them, but out of respect for the period when we served the same spiritual teacher I am willing to return to the laity in his place. (Magistrate speaks) What monastery has such a good monk! But you haven’t made it through all the official matters yet. Let’s discuss this more after he completes his sentence. (Li turns towards Zhang speaks) Older brother, how prescient were your words. (Sings) “Shawei” [Coda] Life-like watermelons indeed grow all over. (Speaks) You have “left home” for many years already. (Sings) And now once again have to stand in meditation.32 I ask you, where is the extorted one now? You brought this on yourself with your insistence on keeping to the monastic rules. (Speaks) I am going off to pick some eggplants and beans and drink some nuptial wine. (Exits) (Zhang pulls on the magistrate, miming that he doesn’t accept the verdict) (The crowd announces) A fire has started in the rear quarters. (The magistrate acts out surprise and speaks) Quick, call the people in to save us! (All exit in a fluster)

Conclusion As it will turn out, the fire that concludes Act III has been set by the magistrate’s wife in reaction to the fence the magistrate had erected between her inner quarters and the public yamen. The magistrate had described this fence in Act III when he dismissed his clerk’s warning to beware of his wife. This fire sets the scene for the play’s final act which literalizes another common saying: “The magistrate can start a fire, but forbids the common people to light lamps” (zhouguan fang huo jin baixing dian deng 州官放火禁百姓點燈). In this act, which consists of two scenes, the singing role is assigned to the magistrate. In the first scene, his shrewish wife takes the Magistrate to task for 32

  A sarcastic reference to Zhang’s punishment.


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constructing the fence in the first place and then objects to his intention to reward the common people who had come and put out the fire. Her reasoning is that by rewarding them he would at the same time be acknowledging her culpability in setting the fire. As we have seen, in Act III there are several allusions to the wife’s jealousy. First, there is the clerk’s warning after the Magistrate welcomes Wang Jidi’s wife enthusiastically. Second, the Magistrate asks Monk Li if he has a prescription for curing jealousy. We also know from both Act I and Act III (the scene that Monk Li relates in Act I and the Magistrate’s lascivious behavior in Act III) that the Magistrate’s wife does indeed have reason to be jealous. In the scene with his wife the Magistrate displays none of the bluster that characterizes him in Act III; instead, he repeatedly expresses his submission to his wife. Like Monk Li in Act III, he blithely mangles the language to support his position. For example, when his wife demands to know if he is more scared of the officials above him than of her, the Magistrate denies it claiming that since the first character in the word for “Madame” (furen 夫人, i.e. her title) has an extra stroke above the first character for “official” (daren 大 人) she is manifestly superior. He follows this assertion by misquoting Confucius: “Abroad serve your lord, within serve your ferocious wife” (出則事公卿,入則事婦兇) to justify his attitude.33 In the second and final scene of Act IV the Magistrate returns to his previous bluster. But he is clearly under the thumb of his wife as he faithfully follows her directives, and meets with the common people who have saved the yamen from conflagration. Rather than commending them for coming to his aid, the Magistrate turns the tables on them, accuses them of coming to set a fire themselves—citing the lanterns they are holding as evidence—and forbids the lighting of lamps in the future. And, as he did in his conversation with his wife, he uses misquotes and malapropisms to justify his prohibition. This final scene resembles the expected grand reunion as it is a large crowd scene presided over by an official figure, but rather than righting wrongs and dispensing justice the Magistrate perpetrates further injustice in order to appease his shrewish wife. Singing in Place of Screaming concludes with a satirical look at a henpecked husband and the hypocrisy of officials. As seen in the summary of Acts I and II and the translation of Act III, the play also takes   Xu Wei, Xu Wei ji, 1267. The original line from Confucius was “within serve your father and elder brother” (入則事父兄). See Xu Wei, Si sheng yuan, 165, n. 18. 33

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aim at such topics as the hypocrisy of the Sangha, the implausible ideals of romantic love, and the corruption of the court system. Further, although almost certainly not Xu Wei, the playwright has deftly supported his satire by subversion of expectations on all levels. Perhaps the most accurate summation of his cleverness is expressed in the four lines of verse with which the play ends: Passed down from old, a few common sayings Are there not such extraordinary events? You could scream without end, but for now entrust it to lyrics Act it out and perform a variety play.34


  Xu Wei, Xu Wei ji, 1273.


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I am whatever you say I am, If I wasn’t, then why would I say I am, In the paper, the news, every day I am, I don’t know—it’s just the way I am.

Marshall “Eminem” Mathers, “The Way I Am”

Among the seven-character quatrains (jueju 絕句) written by Xu Wei 徐渭 (1521–1593) is a painting inscription that reads: The puppets before the curtain are false to begin with, A painting of the puppets is even more removed. If you think of the sky as a canopy of curtain, Who among us isn’t an actor, too?1

This short text says a great deal about Xu Wei. A master calligrapher and painter, admired for his unique and influential style, he was frequently called upon to inscribe his paintings with poems.2 The quatrain reflects his peculiar style, a mix of casual delivery and playful philosophizing; and it concerns a subject in which he was very well 1   Xu Wei, “Wei Hangren tihua ershou (1)” 為杭人題畫二首(1) (First of Two Poems on a Painting for the Gentleman of Hangzhou), in Xu Wei ji 徐渭集 (The Collected Works of Xu Wei) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983), 384. 2   See L. Carrington Goodrich and Chaoying Fang, Dictionary of Ming Biography, 1368–1644 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), 609–612, for a short synopsis of Xu Wei’s life. Greater detail is found in Jeannette Faurot, Four Cries of a Gibbon: A Tsa-Chü Cycle by the Ming Dramatist Hsu Wei (1521–1593) (PhD dissertation, University of California at Berkeley, 1972) and I-Cheng Liang, Hsu Wei (1521–1593): His Life and Literary Works (PhD dissertation, Ohio State University, 1973). Exhaustive biographical detail is found in Zhang Xiaoyu 張孝裕, Xu Wei yanjiu 徐渭研究 (A Study of Xu Wei) (Taibei: Xuehai chubanshe, 1978). For details on the folkloric transformation of Xu Wei, see J.L. Faurot, “Hsu Wen-Ch’ang: An Archetypal Clever Rascal in Chinese Popular Culture,” Asian Folklore Studies 36, no. 2 (1977): 65–77.


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versed, i.e. drama. His collection of four southern-style zaju 雜劇, Si sheng yuan 四聲猿 (Four Cries of a Gibbon) were a popular hit when they were written, and remain remarkably relevant to drama studies today, in terms of subjectivity, gender and body theory, and theories of performance.3 Four Cries of a Gibbon comprises: a play about a Three Kingdoms figure, Kuang gushi yuyang sannong 狂鼓史漁陽三 弄 (The Mad Drummer Plays the Yuyang Triple Rolls), also called Mi Heng 彌衡, after the protagonist who performs a key scene from his life in a “retrial” staged for an underworld audience; a play about a girl who puts on her father’s clothes to take his place in battle, Ci Mulan tifu congjun 雌木蘭替父從軍 (The Female Mulan Goes to War in Place of Her Father); and a play about a girl who puts on her father’s clothes to take the imperial examinations and wins first place, Nü zhuangyuan cihuang defeng 女狀元辭凰得鳳 (The Girl Top Graduate Rejects the Female Phoenix and Gains the Male Phoenix). Yu chanshi cui xiang yi meng 玉禪師翠鄕一夢 (Zen Master Yu Has a Voluptuous Dream) rounds out the quartet, and is the subject of this essay.4 Of the four plays, Zen Master Yu has received the least critical attention. Mi Heng has been singled out for its literary qualities, and Mulan and Girl Graduate for their potentially feminist undertones;5 interpretations of all three lend themselves to foregrounding the dissatisfied literatus, giving vent to his frustrations that his talents are not recognized. Zen Master Yu, on the other hand, has mainly been used for dating the plays and establishing their chronology, based on Wang Jide’s 王驥德 (d. 1623) claim that it is the earliest of the four.6 Wang Zhiyong’s 汪志勇comparative study of the play with Du Liu Cui 度柳 翠 (Delivering Liu Cui) and Honglian zhai 紅蓮債 (Red Lotus’ Debt), is the only monograph on the play, and is concerned with plot and   For more on the development of southern-style zaju and its differences from Yuan zaju and nanxi 南戲, see William Dolby, A History of Chinese Drama (London: Paul Elek, 1976), 74, 86. In the case of Four Cries of a Gibbon, Mi Heng consists of one act, Mulan and Zen Master Yu are each two-act plays, and Girl Graduate is the longest and most complex, with five acts. 4   Xu Wei, Si sheng yuan Ge dai xiao (fu) 四聲猿歌代嘯(附) (Four Cries of a Gibbon, with Appended Singing in Place of Screaming), ed. Zhou Zhongming 周中明 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1984), 20–42. All quotes from Zen Master Yu are taken from this edition, abbreviated as SSY, unless otherwise noted. 5   Ann-Marie Hsiung, “A Feminist Re-Vision of Xu Wei’s Ci Mulan and Nü zhuangyuan,” in China in a Polycentric World: Essays in Chinese Comparative Literature, ed. Yingjin Zhang (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), 73–89. 6   Translated in Faurot, Four Cries, 32–33. 3

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provenance rather than literary-textual issues.7 In fact, however, Zen Master Yu positively invites an investigation of literary-textual issues, as it crystallizes essential questions that are asked by all of the plays: How is a person known to others? What makes me different from another person? Can identity be stable? The play also suggests some of the answers, and manages to do all of that in the raiment of a lurid, vulgar, ridiculous, and utterly enjoyable text. Zen Master Yu Zen Master Yu concerns the eponymous monk, who is corrupted in the first half of the play and dies ashamed and vengeful, to return in the second half, reincarnated as a beautiful young courtesan. In the first act, we see Zen Master Yu, Yu Tong, refusing to pay his respects to an official, so as not to break his vows. The offended official, Liu Xuanjiao, determines to send a prostitute, Hong Lian or Red Lotus, to seduce the Zen Master. Red Lotus goes outside Yu’s window, pretends to fall ill, and seduces him. Yu, enraged by the loss of years of self-cultivation, vows to be reborn into the official’s family as a prostitute, like Red Lotus. In the second act, we find that he has achieved his goal, and has been reborn as the official’s daughter, Liu Cui. Liu Cui has come of age and, with her family having fallen on hard times, has become a courtesan. Liu Cui has absolutely no recollection of her/his former incarnation. The burden falls on Yueming Heshang or Moonlight Monk to reawaken her/him to his former self. After an elaborate series of pantomimes, Moonlight Monk gives up and reads a letter written by Yu before his death; Liu Cui realizes her former incarnation, puts on monk’s clothing, and leaves with Moonlight Monk. Finally, Zen Master Yu has reached the spiritual level that he spent a lifetime cultivating; but the rewards are experienced in the body of a young prostitute instead. Yes, Xu Wei states, art separates us from the real. Performances are not actual experiences of truth, and recording a performance is an even farther dislocation. But is not everything under heaven a performance? Even in a performance, there are rules and standards that govern the 7   Wang Zhiyong 汪志勇, Du Liu Cui Cui Xiang meng yu Honglian zhai san ju de bijiao yanjiu 度柳翠翠鄉夢與紅蓮債三劇的比較研究 (A Comparative Study of Three Plays: Delivering Liu Cui, Zen Master Yu, and Red Lotus’ Debt (Taibei: Xuesheng shuju, 1980).


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world of pretense, where “true” can be distinguished from “false.” Can a young woman be accepted as the same person as an old monk, even if she is played by a dan 旦(lead female actor) and dressed as such? Can she just as quickly shed those clothes and become her old monk self just by saying so? Zen Master Yu says yes. Of the four plays, each of which each employs costume, deception, and play-acting for comic and plotting purposes, Zen Master Yu manipulates these aspects to the most profound effect. In enacting a series of gender and costume changes, overturning expectations based on the play’s structural parallels, and directly questioning the nature of true and false in play-acting, Zen Master Yu offers up questions of self. The comedy conceals a profound message, namely that quick changes—costume changes, sex changes, even complete body changes—do not interfere with a person’s essential self. The revelations are made through play-acting, speech, and writing. Zen Master Yu is a fervent redemption of theater, of the wonders of transformation and, most importantly, of the stability of communicating one’s self to another. The Deliverance Play Zen Master Yu shares characteristics of the deliverance play (dutuo ju 度脫劇) subgenre, in which a minor Buddhist or Taoist immortal who currently resides, unknowingly, in the mortal world, is approached by another immortal who has been sent to the world of dust on a mission to “deliver” or return the lost immortal to his or her proper place. Not surprisingly, the message is received with incredulity, and the deliverer is compelled to ever more dramatic ploys to secure a conversion.8 The philosophical underpinnings of the Buddhist and Daoist deliverance plays are not satisfied with the deliveree’s choosing a different vocation. Instead, s/he is meant to relinquish the world and earthly desires and ambitions, to give up all roles, not just a specific one. On the

8   Two of the best-known deliverance zaju are available in translation. Ma Zhiyuan’s 馬致遠 Huangliang meng 黃粱夢 (Yellow Millet Dream) relates the Daoist deliverance of a scholar by an immortal; translated in Yuan-shu Yen, trans., “Yellow Millet Dream,” Tamkang Review 6 (1975): 205–239. Lan Caihe 籃采和 is a fascinating illustration of how truth is exposed by the uses of the falsehood of play-acting; translated in Wilt L. Idema and Stephen H. West, Chinese Theater, 1100–1450: A Source Book (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1982), 313–340.

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topic of one of the sources9 for Zen Master Yu, the deliverance play Delivering Liu Cui, Wilt Idema writes: “The plot . . . closely parallels the [D]aoist deliverance plays, but, in contrast to those, it does not only include allegorical episodes, but is allegorical in its basic conception.”10 Delivering Liu Cui is significantly different from Zen Master Yu, in spite of the shared characters.11 It does, however, offer insight into why Xu Wei might have chosen the subgenre of the deliverance play, as it demonstrates the potential for anyone, even a prostitute, to assume the proper path: what could be a more persuasive argument for the malleability of roles? Idema speculates that the deliverance play originated in entertainments performed at funerals, as the kinds of rites that would assist spirits in finding their way to paradise. As the plays developed into Yuan zaju form, they became exclusively reserved for birthday celebrations, celebrating and enacting longevity, and ceased to be performed on other occasions.12 One might even consider that the performance of such a play enacts a public cleansing, not just a purification of the characters on the stage, but of the viewers gathered for this ritual celebration.13 9   For more on sources of the play, see Shiamin Kwa, Songs of Ourselves: Xu Wei’s “Four Cries of a Gibbon” (PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 2008), 84–95. 10   Wilt L. Idema, The Dramatic Oeuvre of Chu Yu-Tun (1379–1439) (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 71. 11   The full name of the play, written in the Yuan dynasty by Li Shouqing 李壽卿, is “Yueming heshang du Liu Cui” 月明和尚度柳翠 (The Moonlight Monk Delivers Liu Cui). The play is simply about Liu Cui’s deliverance, with no mention of Red Lotus at all, and Zen Master Yu barely resembles Delivering Liu Cui. The Yuan play involves dream sequences, religious debates, and a boat trip. Suffice it to say that this “antecedent,” beyond lending familiar names and the fact that Liu Cui is delivered by the Moonlight Monk, is not copied, or even adapted, by Xu Wei. For brief discussions of the play, see Idema, The Dramatic Oeuvre, 71 and Luo Qiuzhao 羅秋昭, Xu Wei Si sheng yuan yanjiu 徐渭四聲猿研究 (A Study of Xu Wei’s Four Cries of a Gibbon) (Taibei: Qiye shuju youxian gongsi, 1979). For a complete study of the antecedents, see Wang Zhiyong, Du Liu Cui. The antecedents of Moonlight Monk are discussed in Chapter 3 of Kwa, Songs of Ourselves. 12   Idema, The Dramatic Oeuvre, 67–69. See this chapter for a discussion of Zhu Youdun’s improvisations on the theme of deliverance and his development of the genre as he stretches the boundaries of the traditional deliverance play beyond the simple model given. 13   Michele Marra has discussed this phenomenon in Buddhist plays about courtesans in medieval Japan. See Michele Marra, “The Buddhist Mythmaking of Defilement: Sacred Courtesans in Medieval Japan,” The Journal of Asian Studies 52, no. 1 (1993): 49–65. Marra argues that these Buddhist plays incorporate existing shamanic iconography into the theatrical argument, substituting Buddhist doctrines for otherwise native rituals of purification, using the figure of the courtesan to embody the more abstract notions of pollution in their female bodies.


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Xu Wei’s Zen Master Yu can hardly be taken seriously as a religious document warning of the dangers of worldliness, nor is it a condemnation of play-acting, although it uses the vocabulary of the deliverance play. The innovation here is the way the same characters in the same plot become opposite versions of themselves from the first act to the second, and the context of their situation changes how they are perceived. The malignant and cunning vixen from the first act is mirrored by the courtesan forced into the profession by her family’s poverty and a predestination caused by her father’s sins, not her own; the daft monk of the first act, who follows all directions literally, is unwittingly reborn as the courtesan, and contrasted with Moonlight Monk, who comes to redeem him with metaphors and sleight of hand. Zen Master Yu, although it has the conventional cast and concluding abjurement typical of the deliverance subgenre, is less about ritual purification or Buddhist doctrine than about entertainment. The entertainment is effected not through the realization of Liu Cui’s renunciation; this is a foregone conclusion. What matters here is how that conclusion is reached; and that conclusion says more about language and how we speak and dress ourselves into existence than about religious epiphany, political hypocrisy, or public purification. The impact of the deliverance is enhanced by the symmetry of the two acts of Zen Master Yu.14 The structural symmetry draws attention to the quick changes between the acts that take advantage of conventional dramatic role types. Luo Qiuzhao notes the way that the structure causes the audience to contemplate the complexity of character: by setting up a situation where one courtesan in the second act is directly affected by the act of the courtesan in the first act, Xu Wei demonstrates the way that a “type” can contain polar opposite subtypes, even though both are courtesans.15 While the character type of the courtesan is the same, role type trumps character type by having the Red Lotus version of the courtesan sung by a tie 貼 (extra female) and the Liu Cui version sung by the dan. More significantly, both the deception of the first act and the salvation of the second act are produced using the same methods: 14   I-Cheng Liang, for example, argues that the first act involves a monk overcome by a courtesan and that the second involves a courtesan converted by a monk, suggesting that Xu Wei uses the repetition to intimate that no good deed goes unpunished, and that the play satirizes hypocrites and affirms Buddhist salvation. 15   Luo, Xu Wei Si sheng yuan yanjiu, 64.

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play-acting. To understand this play as simply a depiction of the battle between good and evil, or heaven and hell, is precisely the kind of mistake that the play warns against: after all, the prostitute Liu Cui turns out in the end to be the old boddhisatva Yutong! Faurot, in her discussion of the structural parallels of the play, sees manifestations of Buddhist doctrines of repetition and recurrence in action within the play. Noting the nearly identical song sets from the first act in to the second, Faurot argues that this structural duplication is a significant Buddhist move.16 She suggests that it would be even more dramatic if the same actor played both the role of the sheng (生 male lead) in the first act and that of the dan in the second.17 In the case of Chinese drama, difference in actors would not be as significant as difference in role type: where once the audience saw a sheng, they now see a dan. Still, the conventions of drama apply, and this duplication of song sets creates a sense of déjà-vu, and certainly creates drama. One can argue that it is even more dramatic for the very fact that the same song tunes are first performed by the sheng in the first act and then the dan in the second, echoing a reverse application of onstage gender change seen in Mulan and Girl Graduate, and serving as a constant reminder throughout the second act of what has occurred in the previous one. A crucial factor is that of the audience’s complicity The first step of their acceptance is basic to drama: the character (in this case the dan) comes out and introduces herself as Liu Cui, and the audience accepts that announcement, and the dan as that character. However, having watched the first act and Yutong’s announcement, they must now accept that in fact Liu Cui, who is played by a dan in this act, is somehow also the sheng from the first act who was Yutong, and consequently also his previous incarnation as a bodhisattva. Whereas in the first act Yutong used the songs predominantly to express his rage, Red Lotus uses the same song tunes to express her confusion about what Moonlight Monk is trying to tell her about herself.

  Faurot, Four Cries, 73. The first act contains this song sequence.   This is impossible to determine from our vantage point, and it would perhaps have varied during Xu Wei’s time as well, depending on which troupe was performing the play, if it was performed to begin with. 16



shiamin kwa Must We Be What We Say? Structure and Repetition

The central problem is precisely the structure that stresses the disparity between merely similar and completely identical, and this is enacted throughout the repetitions of speech and action. The self-identifications in Zen Master Yu thus move beyond the simple conventions of drama. Characters are called upon to announce and present themselves to each other. When Red Lotus first comes to the temple, she is asked three times by Yutong’s servant who she is before she is allowed entrance; when Liu Cui first comes to the temple in the second act, she has to ask Moonlight Monk who he is three times before she receives a response. While the play as a contained performance bears the implication that we can read significance into repetition, assuming that it is placed there with a knowing hand, how different is it from how we read meaning into lived experience? Even if we choose to be less philosophical, we are still faced with the repeated message. The question is repeated because the answer is uncertain, and the uncertainty is in response to the basic question: “Who are you?” Spontaneity and expressions of the “natural” would not qualify as such without the orchestrations that allow them to occur: this play resides in a paradox that challenges our ways of making sense. Zen Master Yu depicts characters unaware of the true identities of others, even of their own true identities, and words, play-acting, and obscure riddles prevent them from reaching clarity. And yet, in Zen Master Yu, we also have characters discovering their true identities, and reaching this clarity through language. The same things that undo the characters return them to stability. Here, I use “language” broadly, to extend beyond words and include the language of signs, such as gesture and dress. Xu Wei’s Zen Master Yu explores not simply the limits of drama, but the limits of human understanding through communication. The subject of Zen Master Yu is particularly revealing, as the themes of conversion and reincarnation are in fact structurally similar to drama itself. Whereas conversion entails the “enlightened self” replacing the “ignorant self” in the same body, and reincarnation entails the same “self” leaving one body for another, drama offers itself up as the most flexible structure by allowing for both. One actor can play multiple roles, letting different selves inhabit the same body, and one role can be played by multiple actors, letting the same “self” enter different bodies. Drama is more real than life, as it allows for the authentic

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experience of another, accepting the possibility that one person can become another. While this seems an entirely impossible feat, Xu Wei’s play suggests that these transformations are actually quite simple. The characters literally identify themselves by using language: they transmit themselves to and into others through their words. In the first act of Zen Master Yu, Yutong dismisses the Bodhidharma’s teaching of Chan Buddhism only through oral transmission rather than with written texts and boring meditation.18 His remarks are made in passing, and marked by the same lightness as the rest of his rambling speech, but they contain an essential tension in this play about the transmission of knowledge through words. Words are particularly compromised in this play, which carries with it the burden of being a text in a tradition apt to read a play of this quality as much as watch it in performance. In this play, both aspects of words are taken into consideration, regardless of whether the play is read or watched; there are moments in which a reader would be forced to consider the sounds of the words, as there are moments in which the audience member would be forced to consider their shapes. This complication is a subtle form of the recurring wordplay that occurs in all the interactions between characters, culminating in the riddling scene but also present in several cases of mistaken identity. The structure of concealment and revelation extends beyond words and their physical shapes in the form of literal disguise, too, with the various props and costumes that “identify” a character as someone s/he may not in truth be. Language is figured as a costume, bearing outside traces that may be read incorrectly, or misread correctly. To explore the power of the written word as bearing witness to an event, one need not look farther than Yutong’s letters, which travel from the first act to the second. Yutong, determined to avenge himself in the next life, sets down a response written in anticipation of a note to come from Liu, and leaves a note for his servant telling him where to find the reply. The use of a letter as proof and evidence is curious in a drama context, as it is a concrete example on stage of the written, rather than spoken, word. Yutong writes a note because he expects that Liu Xuanjiao will expect to hear his response to the affront. The words that Yutong means to send will not be what Liu expects. Yutong describes


  Xu, SSY, 20.


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his intent to be reborn as a scandalous woman who will destroy the reputation of Liu’s household, and anticipates this turn of Liu’s fate: It’s just that this impudent Liu is bound to receive word of this. He will certainly send someone to inquire about me, and I must prepare a few sentences in response. I shall write a few words to Lazybones to instruct him to prepare this and that. Then I shall sit upright and send off my spirit, where it will speed off to bring its harm to the Liu house. (Acts out writing a note, then acts out reading it) Since I entered these Chan gates, I was without a care. For fifty-three years, my mind was centered. Because of this tiny bit of desire, I broke the Buddha’s precept against lasciviousness. You sent Red Lotus to destroy my chastity, I now owe Red Lotus an old debt. My body’s morality was ruined by you, your household’s reputation shall bear my destruction. (Again acts out writing a letter for his monk and acts out reading it) Left for my serving man, Lazybones: “If there should be a messenger to the temple from Liu’s establishment, you can tell him that there is a letter of response at the foot of the incense burner.” (Recites) Red Lotus made a monkey out of me, So I shall hide for a while in springtime in the skin of a green willow. When waves strike the floating duckweed, there’s sure to be a collision; but my only fear is that when I return you will not recognize my self of old.19

This monologue contains the problem of the transition from Act One to Act Two. We know from Yutong’s introductory statements that he believes words interfere with truth. Yutong also knows that in order to find his own self in the future, he will need to send some evidence. As we will see when his disciple finds his body, Yutong has acted within reason; if not for the letter, there would be nothing tying him to the events of the next act. When after writing his letter, Yutong chants aloud: “my only fear is that when I return you will not recognize my self of old,” the word for self (shen 身) he uses is the same word that would be used to refer to his body, conflating identity with the physical. It is not his former body that he will encounter, but his former “self,” whatever that might be. 19

  Xu, SSY, 25.

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Yutong is clearly aware as he writes his will and testament that there is the risk that his jumping into another body, seeking vengeance in the future, as Mi Heng 彌衡 sought retribution in the underworld, might not offer the same satisfaction it would in this world. His “self” will not quite be what it was, certainly not the same physical self, perhaps even a self that won’t have a memory of the past. The only way he can attempt to guarantee this remembrance is by leaving a record behind. He leaves one for Liu Xuanjiao, who may well regretfully recall the letter when future misfortune comes. As an added precaution, he leaves another copy at his home temple. Both letters prove crucial, as they are the only “witness” or concrete objects that travel from the first act to the next, as a record of what has happened. When the servant returns to the temple, Red Lotus is gone, and Yutong is already a corpse. If not for the letters, the servant would continue to believe that Guanyin has come to take his master’s soul back with her. The repeated reading of letters onstage emphasizes the importance of the written document. First, Yutong’s disciple discovers the two letters under the incense burner and acts out reading them. Then, when Liu Xuanjiao’s messenger arrives with his own letter inquiring about what has transpired, the monk reads Liu’s letter aloud. Convinced of the truthfulness of Yutong’s letter from the contents of Liu’s letter, the monk then gives Yutong’s letter to the messenger. All of these exchanges remind the viewer of the surrogates we accept for direct communication; if we cannot be there, we have to accept substitutions as presence. The letter becomes the only evidence that matters in the second act, as evinced by the Moonlight Monk’s frustrated shouting out Yutong’s letter after his complex of pantomimes: All of it useless! A waste of energy! A waste of energy! (Reads in a loud voice) “Red Lotus made me act like an ape, now I plan to be reborn in the spring into a Liu family skin. When waves strike the floating duckweed, there’s sure to be a collision; my only fear is that I will not recognize my self of old.” Bah!20

It is the first time that he has spoken aloud to Liu Cui, and it is only through the information contained in this letter, or perhaps hearing the words spoken aloud, that Liu Cui comprehends the content of his ultimately futile pantomimes. In fact, so effective are these words that 20

  Xu, SSY, 35.


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she is converted almost instantly, and casts off her clothes in exchange for a monk’s habit. Sound and Meaning Why does Moonlight Monk commit himself to a dramatic wordless performance instead of simply reading the letter to Red Lotus first? For one thing, the latter would deprive the audience of an extended scene of physical comedy, in which Moonlight Monk acts ridiculously and Liu Cui guesses incorrectly the answer to a riddle to which the audience already knows the answer. The relationship between sound and meaning is odd; Moonlight Monk says of explaining Liu Cui’s origins to her that this is “not something that language can do.”21 This assertion is questioned when he gives up and simply reads Yutong’s words to Liu Cui, and it highlights the unreliability of language while emphasizing the fact that language cannot be avoided. Sound and meaning are drawn into an even deeper tangle with Moonlight Monk’s earlier pantomimes during the second act. When Liu Cui asks him how he could have come from the Western Heaven, the following exchange occurs: Liu: One hand points west, one hand points to the sky; this must mean that you’re from the Western Heaven? Nonsense! Well, if it’s as you say, what business do you have here from Western Heaven? (Moonlight Monk hits his head once, and with his hands mimes a threecornered si [厶] character, then a four-cornered kou [口] character, then a circle for the disc of the moon) Liu: That three-cornered one is a si, the four-cornered one is a kou and if you put them together they make a tai [台] Now the round one makes the yue [月]character. If you put that together with his fist hitting his head [tou 頭] once, that makes it “reincarnation” [toutai 投胎].22

The scene is comic, and plays upon basic conventions that also apply to Chinese riddles. Verbal puns (homophones with different meanings) can be complemented by visual puns when the character’s shape

21 22

  Xu, SSY, 33.   Ibid.

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plays a part in the depiction of meaning.23 It takes on especially comic value because the shapes of the characters are mediated by one more degree: they are depicted by Moonlight Monk’s physical contortions rather than seen in writing. The construction of the term toutai 投胎 (reincarnation) is quite complex, relying on Liu Cui’s ability to navigate different aspects of language and demanding her literacy in order to decipher this puzzle. To solve riddles of this register, one must not only hear the words, but be able to visualize them. The pun on tou 投, which Moonlight Monk demonstrates by striking his head, tou 頭, is a basic one, relying on the homophone. Another pure pun occurs when Moonlight Monk urges Liu Cui to guess again by pulling on her earring (er) huan (耳)環 and miming a finger-guessing game cai(quan) 猜(拳) to act out the two characters for huan cai 還猜 (guess again).24 In contrast, the construction of the tai 胎 involves much more navigation, and knowledge of the shape of characters. First, Liu Cui has to recognize the component parts of the character by “reading” Moonlight Monk’s gestures. The first two marks, of the three-cornered si厶 and the four-cornered kou口, are not related to the word by sound, only by shape. The circle provides an even more complex challenge, as the clue is in neither shape nor sound. Instead, the gesture is meant to signify a circle that suggests the shape of a full moon, which then is understood as the (non-circular) left yue (月 moon) radical of the character tai 胎. This explanation may seem rather elaborate for such a short moment in the play, but it serves to demonstrate the difficult processes that must be overcome with language, and points to the connection between the shape of things and their meaning. So, what exactly is the relation of visual exteriors to the meaning they contain? The riddle and the scene of interpretation clearly suggest that there are occasions where the visual exterior is the absolute key to understanding, when at other times only sound will suffice. Language, which engages the audience both visually and acoustically, has the quality of a costume in that it is constituted by exterior 23   Judith Zeitlin has discussed the reading of characters in dream interpretations in Historian of the Strange: Pu Songling and the Chinese Classical Tale (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 140–154. Andrew Plaks gives insight into the Chinese tradition of riddles in “Riddles and Enigma in Chinese Civilization,” Untying the Knot. On Riddles and Other Enigmatic Modes, ed. Galit Hasan-Rokem and David Shulman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 227–236. Xu Wei himself used the courtesy name (zi 字) Tianshuiyue 田水月, which are the component parts of his name Wei 渭. 24   Xu, SSY, 35.


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signs requiring interpretation. Even when it is concealing the truth, it can, like costume, provide a key to understanding what resides within, the truth beneath the surface, to the careful observer. This is a troubling thought, and it certainly troubles the plot of this play, in which disguises run rampant and are at times used in wicked ploys to deceive, and at other times in well-meant attempts to bring enlightenment. Red Lotus arrives on the scene in Act One dressed as a virtuous widow, and this disguise gains her entrance into the monastery for the night. Her calculated cries of agony from a mysterious stomach ailment, and the story about how it can be soothed, are lies told to seduce Yutong into ruin. Yet costume, disguise, and assumed identities cannot be discarded wholesale as amoral and villainous. Just as Red Lotus “acted” pained to ensnare Yutong, Moonlight Monk “acted” out the revelation of Yutong’s old self to her/him. The word for “acting” (zhuang 妝) connotes what actors do on stage, i.e. perform and dress up; but it also connotes the deceit that can occur as a consequence of these actions. One is acting, too, when one does or says something that one does not mean. All of these vectors, while making it something threatening, also prevent it from being something completely vile: acting and clothing can also provide a window into enlightenment. The play’s climax follows a series of quick changes by Moonlight Monk, all executed in silence. With a few hats and a mask, he plays Yutong, Liu Xuanjiao, and Red Lotus, acting out all of the crucial moments that the audience had already witnessed firsthand in the previous act. This, then, is a return to these events, understood by the audience as the same already-seen essential information, yet completely different. Now, one person plays all of the roles, and that player, Moonlight Monk, was not party to the original events when they occurred. He is an actor, revealing the truths about something that he did not see himself, with a script penned by the bilious Yutong many years before. Moonlight Monk relies on his onstage audience of one, Liu Cui, as well the external reading or viewing audience, to accept the conventions of drama that would prepare them to accept his various roles. The scene is initially confusing to Liu Cui, but she does get the basic information. She recognizes similarities to her father when Moonlight Monk dons an official’s hat, and comprehends that he has commanded an action that has angered a monk, when Moonlight Monk furrows his brow in anger. This time the play-acting is only partially effective. To be sure, Red Lotus herself suggested that her acting

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was not the only cause of Yutong’s fall: if he had not been already weak, her acting would have been in vain. This is to say, the audience must in some way be a party to what it is watching. In this act, Moonlight Monk’s performance also offers only a partially satisfying message, but it requires the existence of the written documents and his spoken words to clarify the meaning. Liu Cui, confused by the miming, completely misinterprets the action. She has gleaned that both an official and a monk have been enraged, and that a woman is involved in this mess. She bemoans her own life as a courtesan, and recalls that in past years she did indeed swindle a monk as well as a scholar. Making this connection with Moonlight Monk’s continuous mentions of reincarnation, she concludes that she is being punished for the misdeeds that she recalls. She eventually comes to the conclusion that she will bear the child of the aggrieved who seeks reincarnation, and muses aloud about how she had better make arrangements to abort. This is finally too much for Moonlight Monk, who cries out his message, as discussed above. Liu Cui’s conclusion is perfectly plausible, especially given the circumstances of her limited understanding and the complicated way Moonlight Monk has chosen to explain things to her. At this point, Moonlight Monk has to admit defeat; his methods of teaching retribution without words are useless, and he finally gives in. The moment he reads the letter Yutong has written, Liu Cui cries out that she understands, and shortly afterwards takes off her women’s clothes.25 It is a scene of stripping, but it is only to put on a new costume, a new identity that represents the old one that she had nearly lost. In a neat reversal of the next two plays in Four Cries of a Gibbon, both of which feature women played by female role types who are essentially women although they wear men’s clothes, Zen Master Yu is a play in which a female played by a female role type is a man, despite all outward appearances. She has become a man not through changing bodies, nor even through changing clothes, but because she has changed her state of mind: Moonlight Monk has told her that she is Yutong, and she ultimately comes to accept that claim.


  Xu, SSY, 36.


shiamin kwa Conclusion

In Zhaoshi gu’er 趙氏孤兒 (The Orphan of Zhao), Ji Junxiang’s 紀君 祥 (dates unknown) famous zaju from the Yuan dynasty (1260–1368), the orphan was raised and tutored by the man who kept his identity a secret, Cheng Ying. When Cheng Ying decides that it is time for the orphan to realize his past and to seek vengeance for his family’s murder, he silently leaves a scroll on a table in the orphan’s study. The scroll depicts the various events that led up to the murders. The orphan is puzzled by these vivid drawings and describes them aloud, presumably for the benefit of the audience, though they are already familiar with the details from earlier acts. He asks Cheng Ying to explain what he sees in these pictures, and Cheng Ying does so, but without telling him that the story is about him. Gradually, the orphan grasps the truth; only then can he begin his quest for justice. The similarity in strategy to Zen Master Yu is striking: both plays are about a return to self that is not a physically attainable journey. The orphan and Liu Cui / Yutong have been the same all along; each was just not aware of this true self until confronted with a depiction of biography that is first transmitted by other means than words. Both plays ask how selves are constructed and question the limits of our self-knowledge, not to mention our knowledge of others. We have seen many lies and acts of obfuscation in this play, but perhaps the most interesting is one made unwittingly. When the dan makes her stage entrance as Liu Cui, she makes the conventional selfintroduction. In the world of the audience, a dan who is an actress with a different name, but who introduces herself as Liu Cui, is not thought of as a liar; this is merely a convention of drama, we agree, and not a deception. If it is a deception, it is one that we expect and have become accustomed to accepting without the slightest hesitation. But we have seen the first act, where Yutong has already announced that he will be reborn into the Liu family. We have also seen Moonlight Monk’s prologue, in which he tells us that Yutong’s wish has been fulfilled and that he has come here with the express purpose of meeting and converting this girl. When Liu Cui enters the stage, then, we know who she is even though she does not. In all fairness she is, of course, also Liu Cui, daughter of Liu Xuanjiao, but we all know that this is not her true identity. She has been the same Buddha from the

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Western Heaven for much longer. Still, Liu Cui introduces herself: “I am Liu Cui” (安身柳翠的便是).26 This moment of disjunction, in which truth is inseparable from lie, and in which seeing may not be believing, points out the curious ways in which truth is situational. Bearing witness may provide proof, but its intent is not always necessarily transmissible. Communication labors to make the right distinctions, but perhaps in the final moment the truth of a statement, like the truth of identity, comes from guessing again.


  Xu, SSY, 33.


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passion and chastity


PASSION AND CHASTITY: MENG CHENGSHUN AND THE FALL OF THE MING Katherine Carlitz Zhen wen ji 貞文記 (The Chaste Compendium), the third and last extant chuanqi 傳奇 drama by the playwright and publisher Meng Chengshun 孟稱舜 (1598–1684), requires us to square a number of circles. The great drama historian Xu Shuofang 徐朔方posed the question that must be central to any analysis of this play, namely, why did Meng Chengshun choose to celebrate passion and chastity simultaneously?1 The Chaste Compendium retells the story of the Song-Yuan transition poet Zhang Yuniang 張玉娘, courtesy name (zi 字) Ruoqiong 若瓊, sobriquet (hao 號) Yizhen jushi 一貞居士, and her doomed betrothal to her cousin Shen Quan 沈佺.2 Once betrothed, the lovers never again meet face to face, but remain heroically faithful to each other despite Yuniang’s parents’ attempts to marry her to a more powerfully connected suitor. As battles rage between Song and Mongol forces, Shen falls ill and dies, Yuniang follows him in death, and the two return to their original place in paradise, as attendants to the bodhisattva Guanyin 觀音. In its general outline, this follows the contours of Meng’s first chuanqi drama Jiao Hong ji 嬌紅記 (Mistress and Maid), in which cousins meet, consummate their love, see their hopes of marriage dashed by an opportunistic re‑betrothal, commit suicide, and are reunited in paradise. Why should Meng have turned again to this basic plot, now denying his protagonists any union before the grave? Xu Shuofang answers his own question immediately, by dating the play’s composition and publication to 1656 or shortly thereafter, when its anti-Mongol sentiments would have served as very thin cover for a message about loyalty to the fallen Ming—a message of irretrievable 1   Xu Shuofang 徐朔方, Wan Ming qujia nianpu 晚明曲家年譜 (Chronological Biographies of Late Ming Dramatists) (Hangzhou: Zhejiang guji chubanshe, 1993), vol.2, 546. 2  Meng Chengshun, Zhen wen ji, in Guben xiqu congkan, 2nd Series, ed. Guben xiqu congkan bianji weiyuanhui (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshu guan, 1955), no. 65.


katherine carlitz

loss, rather than union.3 Wilt Idema and Wai-yee Li also interpret this play through the lens of Ming loyalism, Idema adding to the loyalty theme a discussion of male fantasies about talented women,4 and Li placing it in the larger context of women as Ming loyalist symbols.5 This loyalist interpretation dovetails well with Zhang Yuniang’s own poetry: she wrote about zhen 貞 (chastity) as women’s parallel to male loyalty, and her poems show her to have been acutely aware of the fall of the Song to Mongol forces.6 These readings all hinge on another question not yet resolved to the full satisfaction of the scholarly community, namely the play’s date of composition. Meng Chengshun, who supplied the only preface to the printed edition, dates his preface 1643. Xu and Idema reason from internal evidence, however, that the play cannot have been composed before Meng’s brief tenure as an Assistant Instructor in Songyang 松 陽 county, Zhejiang, from 1651 to 1656, where he became aware of Zhang’s poetry and worked with county students and notables to erect a shrine to her. On this reading, the 1643 date is simply a pretext to evade early Qing censorship. Nonetheless, a number of scholars in the People’s Republic of China accept the 1643 date, basing their arguments on a preface attributed to Meng’s close friend Qi Biaojia 祁彪佳 (1602–1645), in which Qi describes not three but five chuanqi dramas by Meng Chengshun. Qi Biaojia’s loyalist suicide in 1645 would of course make an early Qing date for The Chaste Compendium impossible, and the scholars who accept Qi Biaojia’s preface as genuine have constructed an alternate timeline, in which Meng Chengshun learns of Zhang Yuniang’s poetry and romantic death while visiting relatives in Songyang county during the Ming Chongzhen era (1628–1644). Why, these scholars ask, would Meng Chengshun, who did not commit suicide to follow the Ming but

  Xu, Nianpu, 547.   Wilt Idema, “Male Fantasies and Female Realities: Chu Shu-chen and Chang Yüniang and their Biographers,” in Chinese Women in the Imperial Past: New Perspectives, ed. Harriet T. Zurndorfer (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 19–52. 5   Wai-yee Li, “Heroic Transformations: Women and National Trauma in Early Qing Literature,” Harvard Journal of Asian Studies LIX, no. 2 (1999): 363–443. 6   Idema, “Male Fantasies,” 26; and Cai Jingwen 蔡靖文, “Lun Lan xue ji zhong Zhang Yuniang zhi zi wo xingxiang” 論《蘭雪集》中張玉娘之自我形象 (The SelfImage of Zhang Yuniang in the Collection Orchids and Snow), Wen yu zhe 8 (2006): 370–373. 3 4

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took a minor post under the Qing, have composed a play with Ming loyalist sentiments?7 These two positions call for radically different interpretations of The Chaste Compendium, and it is well to bear in mind that the dating controversy is not settled, though I find Xu’s, Idema’s, and Li’s reasoning the simplest and most compelling. In this essay, I submit that while a politically loyalist reading is persuasive, we can and should also read The Chaste Compendium as a play expressing the moral inner turmoil of a male loyalist, who vocalizes his sentiments through both his male and his female protagonists. I will suggest that despite Meng’s famous preface, in which he claims that “chaste women in the world are definitely the most passionate women of this world,” since they will “follow just one man to the very end, and accept death without a second thought,” the actual text of The Chaste Compendium ends in a renunciation of passion, on a note perhaps of despair and perhaps of resignation. Moreover, since Meng Chengshun, deeply committed to the world of drama since his early twenties, weaves drama references into more than half of the scenes in the play, there is also a note of nostalgia for the late Ming drama world where he had flourished. Passion and the Persona of Meng Chengshun Where does The Chaste Compendium fit into the arc of Meng Chengshun’s life? Hailing from Guiji 會稽 county, Shaoxing 紹興 prefecture, Zhejiang, and with close friends in Nanjing, Meng was at one of the centers of late Ming drama activity. Unlike many of the major playwrights of the previous generation, he does not seem to have kept a drama troupe, nor do his plays seem to have been widely performed. His plays are not excerpted in the drama-scene (zhezixi 折子戲) anthologies that are a good guide to the performance repertoire. But his oeuvre demonstrates that publishing was another viable way to participate in late Ming drama culture. Availing himself of the abundant resources of Jiangnan print culture, he made his name not only by writing plays, but also by collecting and publishing: his published zaju 雜劇 collection of the 1620s is the second most lavish 7   These arguments are summarized in Deng Changfeng 鄧長風, Ming Qing xiqujia kaolüe san bian 明清戲曲家考略三編 (Studies of Ming and Qing Dramatists: Third Collection of Essays) (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1999), 476–481.


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and valuable of its kind, and Mistress and Maid, illustrated by his close friend Chen Hongshou 陳洪綬 (1598–1652) and graced with prefaces from admiring friends, shows him at the peak of his powers in the 1630s. With regard to his associates, Meng was fortunate to be born into what would be a very sustaining community for the first four decades of his life. At least three of the associates with whom he would collaborate through these decades were also close age-mates from Shaoxing prefecture: the artist Chen Hongshou, the connoisseur (and later, martyr to the fallen Ming) Qi Biaojia, and his friend Ma Quanqi 馬權奇 (jinshi 進士 1643), who was from Meng’s own county of Guiji. Ma wrote prefaces to Meng’s first two chuanqi plays; Chen Hongshou wrote a commentary on Meng’s zaju and both prefaced and illustrated Meng’s first chuanqi, Mistress and Maid; and the wealthy and well-connected Qi Biaojia was Meng’s frequent host and correspondent, and read and commented on his plays.8 Commentary by Chen Hongshou shows us the passionate support Meng received from his friends: The reason that men of today do not reach the level of men of old is due to their lack of sufficiently powerful temperament. The plays of Zisai 子塞 [Meng Chengshun] are graceful and elegant, but in no way inferior in temperament to those who have gone before. Meng deserves to be ranked with the finest talents the empire has produced!9

Between 1621 and 1628, Meng wrote six zaju which were well received by the drama community,10 and in 1633, in collaboration with Chen Hongshou and other friends, he burst onto the publishing scene with his collection Gujin mingju hexuan 古今名劇合選 (A Collective Selection of Famous Plays Old and New), a zaju collection containing both Yuan and Ming zaju. By publishing this anthology, Meng inserted himself firmly into the genealogy of drama authorities. In 1616–1617, Zang Maoxun 臧懋循 (1550–1620) had bested all competitors by publishing what was immediately regarded as a peerless 8   Qi’s own passion for drama is evident in his early attempt to publish a zaju collection of his own—the venture failed for lack of capital—and a detailed set of notes, the Yuanshantang qupin 遠山堂曲品 (Classification of Drama from the Far Mountain Hall), that he compiled on individual plays. See Xu, Nianpu, 523–524. 9   Commentary to Act 1 of Hua qian yi xiao 花前一笑 (A Smile before the Flowers), Gujin mingju hexuan (A Collective Selection of Famous Plays Old and New), vol.8, no.4:1A. 10   Meng was anthologized in the major contemporary collection of Ming zaju, Sheng Ming zaju 盛明雜劇 (Zaju of the Great Ming).

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anthology of Yuan drama, the Yuan qu xuan 元曲選 (Selected Yuan plays). With Famous Plays Old and New, Meng put himself into competition with Zang, following Zang’s format but explicitly challenging many of his editorial decisions, and rejecting Zang’s claim that Yuan zaju, with their northern music and complex prosody, were intrin�sically superior to the southern musical dramas of the Ming. Meng argues that northern and southern music are suited to bring out dif�ferent qualities and express different emotions; and moreover that Yuan playwrights themselves produced work in both genres. In his own anthology, therefore, he rejects the sharp differentiation between north and south, and between Yuan and Ming. He selects Yuan zaju that exemplify a range of qualities from the martial to the romantic, and follows them with thirteen Ming zaju (including four of his own) that display a similar range.11 Meng’s next project was his first venture into the characteristic long Ming dynasty dramatic genre, the chuanqi. In this first long play, Mistress and Maid, Meng paid homage to the power of qing 情 (passion). By the time Meng Chengshun published the play in 1638, literature had granted moral authority to young lovers for several centuries. Meng based Mistress and Maid on a thirteenth-century novella of the same name and much the same material, and the twelfth and thirteenth centuries saw numerous versions of Xixiang ji 西廂記 (The Story of the Western Wing),12 whose clandestine lovers have the authors’ and audience’s complete sympathy, and where the maid who facilitates their intercourse stands up to the adults, speaks truth to power, and convinces the older generation that the lovers should be allowed to marry. By the mid-sixteenth century, a number of intellectuals were hailing these young lovers as beacons for disaffected literati. Furthermore, Meng’s visual presentation of the play is erotically charged. Meng published Mistress and Maid in an edition with four illustrations by Chen Hongshou, images of the heroine Wang Jiaoniang placed together at the front of the text. The images are non-narrative, in that they do not illustrate scenes from the play; they simply present Wang Jiaoniang herself for the reader’s admiration. Each of the 11   By Ming times the rules of the zaju form had relaxed considerably, and they typically combined northern and southern tunes. 12   Wang Shifu 王實甫 (ca. 1260–1336), Xixiang ji 西廂記. See Wang Shifu, The Moon and the Zither: The Story of the Western Wing, trans. Stephen H. West and Wilt L. Idema (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).


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images was paired with a poem, and all four poems are delectations of Jiaoniang’s experience of loss, the magnitude of her sacrifice.13 (The word “delectation” is used advisedly here and below: it is my contention that this formally tragic play was intended to afford intense pleasure to those who read or saw it. The poems paired with Chen Hongshou’s illustrations contain near-quotations from The Story of the Western Wing, heightening their sensuality even as they emphasize her sorrow.) By physically framing the play in this way, Meng and Chen reoriented the reading experience so that Mistress and Maid became a play about the heroine, rather than a play about a couple. By contrast, Meng’s second chuanqi play is set almost completely in a world of men, even if this hardly divorces it from Mistress and Maid, as we will see. For Er Xu ji 二胥記 (The Two Xu Heroes), Meng chose to recast the stories of Shen Baoxu 申包胥 and the much better-known Wu Zixu 伍子胥—hence, the “Two Xu” of the title—from China’s great Han-dynasty synoptic history, the Shi ji 史記 (Records of the Historian). Their struggle for the state of Chu 楚 dates from the sixth century BCE, when Confucius’ beloved Zhou dynasty had broken into a number of rising states, of which Chu was one of the strongest. King Ping of Chu 楚平王 had earned Wu Zixu’s undying enmity by putting to death Wu’s father, brother, and three hundred kinsmen, on the advice of an opportunistic courtier. Wu Zixu vowed revenge and offered his services to Chu’s rival, the state of Wu. In a famous conversation with his old friend Shen Baoxu, Wu vowed to exact filial vengeance by destroying Chu, and Shen loyally vowed to restore it (a loyalty made more plausible by the fact that King Ping had died). Later, when Wu Zixu’s spectacularly successful vengeance was decimating the kingdom of Chu, Shen visited the state of Qin 秦 and implored their aid, weeping outside the Qin gates for seven uninterrupted days and nights. Qin, duly impressed, sent troops; the Wu state armies were beaten back, and Chu was at least temporarily restored. Here, it is the hero Shen Baoxu through whom Meng establishes the problematic of the play: namely, the vulnerability of the state when opportunistic ministers make it impossible to defend against external dangers. Meng Chengshun had already written a zaju in this vein, his 1623 Can Tang zai chuang 殘唐再創 (Restoring the Ruined Tang), 13   The particular ci 詞 meter used for these poems, titled Die lian hua 蝶戀花 (The Butterfly Loves Flowers), seems typically to have been used to write about women suffering the loss of their lovers.

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criticizing the notorious eunuch Wei Zhongxian 魏忠賢 (1568–1627),14 and The Two Xu Heroes continued this anticorruption critique, laying the devastation of the Chu state not primarily at Wu’s feet, but at the feet of the official who destroyed Wu’s family. But prefaces make clear that the composition and reception of this play were not confined to the political sphere. Earlier, Chen Hongshou’s commentary to Restoring the Ruined Tang claimed that Meng had written it to counter criticism of his earlier, supposedly trivial, plays about love.15 The same pattern is repeated here: all three prefaces to The Two Xu Heroes (including Meng’s own) offer this play as proof that Meng is not merely a captive of the boudoir. However, rather than disavowing the plays about love, which Meng’s friend Ma Quanqi compares explicitly to the Guo feng 國風 (Airs of the States) of the classic Shijing 詩經 (Book of Odes), all three prefaces insist that Mistress and Maid and The Two Xu Heroes have the same objective. Their aim is to explore the full extent of qing or passion—passionate devotion in Mistress and Maid, passionate filiality and loyalty in The Two Xu Heroes. Meng Chengshun goes a step further in his preface and says that the two kinds of qing have their basis in sincerity (cheng 誠), another bedrock Neo-Confucian virtue. But what really unifies the two plays, say the other two prefaces, is the way they move the reader to tears. (Tears are everywhere in The Two Xu Heroes—not just Shen’s tears before the gates of Qin, but the tears of blood wept by Shen’s loyal wife during their separation.) Meng’s friend Ma Quanqi makes a further leap, talking about “the two Shen” as he introduces this play about “the two Xu”: the hero in Mistress and Maid is moved by the heroine’s death to sacrifice himself for her, while the hero Shen Baoxu suffers on his long trek to Qin and thus sacrifices himself for the state of Chu. Ma describes both with the 14   In this retelling of the Huang Chao 黃巢 rebellion, which (despite Meng’s optimistic zaju plot) contributed mightily to the fall of the Tang, Huang Chao does not begin as a rebel but rather as a literatus driven to rebellion by corruption in the examination system. The timing of this zaju suggests to Xu Shuofang that the play’s bitter satire is directed at Wei Zhongxian. See Xu, Nianpu, 542. 15   One of these supposedly trivial plays is the zaju A Smile before the Flowers, in which the painter and poet Tang Yin 唐寅 (1470–1524) is sustained by his legendary friendship with Wen Zhengming 文徵明 (1470–1559) and Zhu Yunming 祝允 明 (1461–1527) as he successfully wins the hand of a talented beauty. But even here, Meng is not completely separating love and politics, since Tang Yin is presented as a heroic talent wronged by villainous officials who have denied him his examination triumph. This zaju is included in Famous Plays Old and New.


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conventional expression for a hero’s self-sacrifice for the state and a woman’s self-sacrifice for her husband (yi shen xun 以身殉). In this delectation of tragedy, the heroic woman, the male hero, and the male lover are all described under the same rubric. While that rubric had traditionally been used to assimilate model women to a male standard, the “two Shen” of Ma’s preface now sacrifice themselves in a discursive space of spontaneous intuitive emotionality that was identified, in late Ming male discourse, with women and the common people. Meng and his friends were not staking out new territory by describing the primary virtues in terms of qing; numerous prominent and lesser-known literati had already made this way of thinking familiar. Of interest here, however, is the way Meng’s friends used this “conventionally unconventional” rhetoric instrumentally, to build up Meng’s persona for his audience. When Ma Quanqi reminds readers that Meng’s anti-Wei Zhongxian play was a response to criticism of the boudoir plays, he is making sure that they will remember all of Meng’s zaju; and the copious references to Mistress and Maid in all three prefaces keep them fully aware of Meng’s previous dramatic triumph. But when we turn to The Chaste Compendium, written after the fall of the Ming, we are in a different world, and Meng’s final play— published with neither prefaces nor illustrations, and thus no longer evoking a community of friends—shifts away from the fundamental optimism of his earlier plays. The Problem of Passion in The Chaste Compendium Outwardly, Meng’s life after the fall of the Ming did not involve any radical renunciation. Unlike a number of literati, Meng did not commit suicide when his dynasty fell. Rather, he began serving in 1651 as an Assistant Instructor in Songyang county, Zhejiang. There he learned the local legends surrounding a thirteenth-century young woman poet Zhang Yuniang, said to have written a suggestive poem to her betrothed, and to have followed him in death shortly after the fall of the Song dynasty. Meng left his Songyang county position in 1656, apparently convinced that higher officials were treating his students unjustly.16 While in Songyang county, Meng published a new edition of Zhang’s poetry collection Lan xue ji 蘭雪記 (Orchids and Snow), 16

  See Xu, Nianpu, 570.

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and as he was leaving, he led the county students in repairing her grave, and collected subscriptions to build a shrine and establish regular sacrifices in her honor. He wrote a sacrificial essay and an inscription for the shrine, and after his return to Nanjing, he dramatized her story in The Chaste Compendium. Idema has shown that just as with Mistress and Maid, Meng based The Chaste Compendium on a preexisting narrative, in this case a sixteenth-century biography of Zhang Yuniang by a Songyang county erudite named Wang Zhao 王詔.17 Literati in Songyang county had, over the centuries, transformed the brief primary data about Zhang Yuniang into an affecting tale with a sentimental heroine. In Wang Zhao’s account, Zhang was a brilliant and well-loved daughter of an official from an illustrious family, skilled in poetry, prose, and the domestic arts. Her courtesy name was Ruoqiong, or “Precious as Agate.” Her father betrothed her to her cousin Shen Quan, but reneged on the betrothal. Yuniang remained devoted to Shen, sending him messages pledging fidelity, and swearing to share his grave in death if they were unable to marry. In Wang Zhao’s narrative, Shen dies with a question on his lips: “Ruoqiong, will you be able to follow me?” Zhang Yuniang wastes away, and dies after a dream in which Shen’s spirit appears to her, begging her to remember her vow, but evading her outstretched arms. Her two maids are devastated: one dies of sorrow, and the other hangs herself. Her parrot dies the following day. Zhang, her maids, and the parrot were said by Songyang residents to have been buried with Shen in a grave that became a famous local site, the “Parrot’s Tomb.” Idema notes that Wang Zhao’s narrative was probably influenced by the thirteenth-century classical-language novella Jiao Hong zhuan 嬌 紅傳 (The Tale of Jiao and Hong), which had also served as the source for Meng’s own Mistress and Maid.18 A glance at both plots quickly   Idema, “Male Fantasies,” 30–35. Idema discusses Meng’s career in Songyang county, and translates Wang Zhao’s account. 18   Idema, “Male Fantasies,” 34–35. Attribution and dating of the novella Jiao hong zhuan were in dispute for several centuries after its composition, but a general consensus supports the identification of a Song-Yuan transition figure Song Meidong 宋梅洞 as the author. See Itoh Sohei 伊藤漱平, “The Formation of the Chiao-Hung Chi: Its Changes and Dissemination,” Acta Asiatica 32 (1977): 73–95. Itoh resumes the sketchy evidence available on Song’s life, and notes that the novella is cited in Wang Shifu’s zaju Xixiang ji. Ibid., 75–79, and 86. Song’s and Wang’s dates are a matter of conflicting theories, but if Itoh is right about this citation, Wang must at the earliest have been a slightly later contemporary of Song Meidong, and Song’s novella may be 17


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reveals their similarities: the cousin-betrothal, the opportunistic father, the love-death. As with Mistress and Maid, Meng Chengshun was obviously moved by his heroine’s self-sacrifice for her lover. Though her devotion is never consummated sexually, Meng’s sacrificial text claims her for the all-important realm of qing: Alas! It has been said that the most chaste maiden of the whole world has to be the most passionate maiden of the whole world. Can one follow a single person to the very end and go to one’s death without second thoughts, if one is not the most passionate person in the whole world?19

He repeats this claim in his preface to The Chaste Compendium: When a man and a woman are mutually attracted to each other, this always finds its origin in passion. Now passion may seem something that is not orthodox, but I maintain that the most chaste women in the world are definitely the most passionate women of this world. This is because they will not be moved by poverty or riches, and cannot be swayed by beauty or ugliness. They will follow just one man to the very end, and accept death without a second thought. Is one capable of this if one is not the most passionate person of the whole world?20

But this is not the erotic passion we saw in Mistress and Maid. Here, in The Chaste Compendium, Meng is at pains to justify a passion not based on desire. The Chaste Compendium, as we will see, represents a radical desexualization of qing. Meng achieves this by putting a “deliverance” frame around the story, and following to the letter the antierotic premises of the deliverance genre. As the play opens, two acolytes of the bodhisattva Guanyin, the boy Shancai and the girl Longnü, are discovered to harbor traces of desire, so Guanyin sends them to earth as a chaste man (zhen nan 貞男) and

an homage to Yuan Zhen’s 元稹 Yingying zhuan 鶯鶯傳 (The Story of Yingying), but not to Wang’s zaju. Since, however, Wang’s plotline was already laid down in the late twelfth- or early thirteenth-century zhugongdiao 諸宮調 version, Song may well have been responding to a characterization of Zhang and Yingying much like that found in the Wang Shifu zaju cycle. For the complete text of Jiao Hong zhuan, see Song Meidong, Jiao Hong zhuan, in Gudai wenyan duanpian xiaoshuo xuanzhu 古代文言 短篇小說選注 (Selected and Annotated Traditional Classical-Language Tales), ed. Cheng Boquan 成柏泉 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1984), 280–323. 19   Meng Chengshun, “Ji Zhang Yuniang wen” 祭張玉娘文 (Text for the Sacrifice to Zhang Yuniang), translation cited from Idema, “Male Fantasies,” 36. 20   Translation cited from Idema, “Male Fantasies,” 43.

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chaste woman (zhen nű 貞女), to serve as models for humankind.21 (In a radical departure from convention, Guanyin—the beloved goddess of childbearing and compassion to most Chinese—is here played by a male figure, who explains that he only adopts female form as an “expedient means.”)22 The two acolytes are incarnated as the orphaned and impoverished scholar Shen Quan, and the daughter of a prosperous household, Zhang Yuniang. The play is set immediately after the Mongol Yuan capture of China in 1279. Betrothed as children, Shen Quan and Yuniang now face the opposition of Yuniang’s father, who is pushed by circumstances to break the match and betroth her instead to the son of a high official. Still, when Shen passes the government civil service examinations, he fulfills Yuniang’s father’s requirements, and a wedding is scheduled—until Shen dies of a mysterious illness, which is really just the end of his allotted span on earth. Though Shen dies in the Zhang household, he and Yuniang never see each other before his death. As with any Buddhist enlightenment, Shen experiences his death as a joyful experience: he is welcomed back into paradise with banners and music. But it is in Yuniang’s arduous progress toward enlightenment that Meng Chengshun himself seems to undergo a painful process of renouncing the dream of desire. Shen appears to Yuniang in nightmares where he coldly rejects her protestations of fidelity. Yuniang is taken down into the lair of the dragon king where she learns that her beloved earthly parents actually have no connection to her. Finally, when she herself dies by awakening to her true nature as an immortal, Shen conducts her back to Heaven, assuring her that love between husband and wife is no better than the coupling of vermin. The bodhisattva Guanyin welcomes them back and closes the play with a discourse on the filthy (zhuo 濁) world they have left behind, and a catalogue of noted individuals mired in desire (for drink, wealth, fame, and sex). Guanyin tells Yuniang that even the best of women are mere illusions: Yuniang herself is no more than red dust temporarily congealed into bone and flesh. 21   These two acolytes, and the parrot, are part of the standard iconography for the South Sea Guanyin. See Chun-fang Yu, Kuan-yin: The Chinese Transformation of Avalokitesvara (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 438–444. 22   Educated Chinese knew that their bodhisattva Guanyin was derived from the male bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, but certainly Guanyin was female in the late Ming popular understanding.


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The typical “deliverance” frame in Yuan and Ming drama is short and formulaic, as the audience looks forward to the love story that is the actual heart of the play. By contrast, Meng’s boy and girl acolytes argue the meaning of passion in vocabulary drawn from scholastic Neo-Confucian texts. Their discussion is sparked by the cry of the parrot, which brings in Buddhist scholasticism as well, as they wonder whether passion and salvation are restricted to humans, or available to all sentient beings. Shancai pleads the case for passion by insisting to Guanyin that all creatures love, but Guanyin, prefiguring the final scene, answers that even if they do, love offers no lasting consolation, since it is over in “the blink of an eye.” Guanyin is willing to accord qing a temporary value at best, if it is expressed as fidelity and is thus capable of improving social morality. In a significant departure from the standard deliverance plot, he sends his acolytes down not in order to act on and thus exhaust their desire, but as a chaste man and a chaste woman, whose fidelity can be a model for humankind. But when the two acolytes meet him again at the end of the play, Guanyin drives home the ultimate vanity of desire, by associating it with all other deleterious attachments. He even casts doubt on the power of positive example, by reminding the heroine that over time, the fame of her chastity will disappear. The structure of The Chaste Compendium suggests that Meng turned away from desire in a gesture of mourning for the late Ming world, a world in which he had been happy and productive. The Chaste Compendium is clearly a Ming loyalist work. It is set at the beginning of an earlier “alien” dynasty, the Mongol Yuan. The Mongol officials in the play are made out to be unrefined and corrupt. Unmistakable symbolism is employed: the Mongols drink and ogle the ladies in full view of the Dragon Boat festival, dedicated to the memory of Qu Yuan 屈原 (ca. 339-ca. 278 BCE), who drowned himself to prove his loyalty to the Chu sovereign and became a paragon of Chinese cultural history. A new element that Meng introduces into Yuniang’s tale, namely a rival suitor for her hand, allows Meng to transform a fidelity plot into a political loyalty plot. Shen Quan’s opportunistic rival chooses a Mongol official as his matchmaker, and the matchmaker is assassinated, with Meng’s clear approval, by a general loyal to the previous (and purely Chinese) dynasty.23   The historical Zhang Yuniang’s poem praising the loyal general is discussed in Idema, “Male Fantasies,” 26. 23

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The rival suitor taints the very notion of sexual fulfillment in The Chaste Compendium. Following a tradition that had long been conventional in Chinese local and dynastic histories, Meng represents the rival’s disloyalty by means of sexual transgression, an assault on “Confucian” sexual propriety. Meng’s earlier heroes had been able to pierce the walls enclosing the beloved, and enter the garden of delights.24 In The Chaste Compendium, it is the rival Wang Juan who hears Yuniang playing music in her garden, forces his way in, is inflamed by her beauty, and begins his disruptive suit (Scene 6). In Scene 5, Shen, by contrast, asks to be admitted into Yuniang’s presence, but leaves immediately when she refuses, on the grounds that meeting before marriage would be improper. In The Chaste Compendium, Meng rejects the popular transformation of Neo-Confucian duty into love: his hero and heroine are not rewarded for their fidelity with sensuous union. (Meng explains his hero’s notable lack of libido by having him always aware of his actual origins—Shen tells us that his father dreamed that a sent-down immortal would be born to him as a son.) It is Wang Juan, a willing collaborator with the Mongols, who forces his way into the garden. Disloyalty is effectively represented as rape, and this symbolic rape is the sole approach to actual sexual union in The Chaste Compendium. In effect, the loss of the Ming has entailed the loss of the dream of romance. Concurrently, Meng seems to have given up the female voice as an instrument of triumphant passion. In Mistress and Maid, the heroine had been the emotional leader, but in The Chaste Compendium, it is Shen who leads Yuniang to enlightenment by insisting that she abandon all thoughts of union with him. And though it was Meng who published Zhang Yuniang’s Orchids and Snow, saving it from obscurity, we will see below that the Guanyin he creates casts doubt even on the value of Yuniang’s poetry, the original basis of her local fame. Ellen Widmer and Dorothy Ko have described the seventeenthcentury vogue for doomed young women poets, who were enjoyed aesthetically for their pathos, and used politically as emblems of the lost Ming dynasty.25 Meng’s preface to The Chaste Compendium follows 24   See Famous Plays Old and New for Meng’s zaju Taoyuan san fang 桃源三訪 (Three Visits to Peach-Blossom Spring), A Smile before the Flowers, and Yan’er mei 眼兒媚 (Bewitching Eyes). 25   See Ellen Widmer, “Xiaoqing’s Literary Legacy and the Place of the Woman Writer in Late Imperial China,” Late Imperial China XIII, no. 1 (1992): 111–155; and Dorothy


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current fashion, praising Yuniang as the quintessential fusion of talent and virtue: From ancient times there have been women who excelled in literary composition—but have there ever been women whose poetry was as skilled as that of Yuniang? From ancient times there have been women who remained chastely loyal to their fiancés—but have there been women who combined literary talent and chaste loyalty and whose talent and behavior were as perfect as Yuniang’s?26

But at the end of the play, in Scene 35, Meng’s stern male Guanyin addresses Yuniang directly, and repudiates the claims of the preface: Of women in this world, those with beauty are not necessarily talented, and the talented do not necessarily exhibit virtuous behavior. Talent, virtue, and beauty—remarkably, you have them all! But turn your head away for an instant, and where is your beauty? Where is your talent? Where is your virtue?

In the following aria he weaves her name and the name of her compendium into Guanyin’s speech, rejecting the very poetry that Meng himself had published: Vain to speak of your body, precious as agate Pointless to praise your talent like orchids and snow.

Talent and sex, then, are useless, and in Scene 35, only purity remains as a stable value. In this scene, the Songyang county students offer sacrifice at Yuniang’s tomb. Here Meng writes himself into the play, by having the County Instructor (whose name puns on Meng’s own) quote a sacrificial ode whose language is nearly identical to what Meng had written upon leaving Songyang county. But while brief mention is made of Yuniang’s virtue (“She sacrificed herself for her husband, and her maids did the same for their sovereign”), the scene is almost completely given over to her parents’ bitter tears, and to the Instructor’s realization of the evanescence of life. Nothing endures, sings the Instructor in a climactic song, but the essence that links humans to Heaven (haoqi 浩氣) and purity of heart (zhenxin 貞心). At the end of the scene, in an echo of Mistress and Maid, Shen and Yuniang appear briefly and produce a miracle for the assembled crowd, by having the Ko, Teachers of the Inner Chambers: Women and Culture in Seventeenth-Century China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 91–112. 26   Translation cited from Idema, “Male Fantasies,” 42.

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parrot recite a poem of thanks. In contrast to Mistress and Maid, however, the Heaven to which they return has no place for erotic attraction. The enduring values of purity of heart and the essence that links humans to Heaven force one to look inward, rather than forging connection with others. Finally, the theater-world sociality of Meng’s youth was no longer available as consolation. Meng’s closest friends in that world were gone. Qi Biaojia had committed suicide in 1645, Chen Hongshou, who helped produce Mistress and Maid, had died in 1652, and Ma Quanqi disappears from view after the change of dynasty. While Meng says in his preface to The Chaste Compendium that friends in Nanjing and Songyang county helped pay for printing it, still The Chaste Compendium, with no preface but Meng’s own, does not implicitly invite the reader into a like-minded community, as did Meng’s first two chuanqi, with their groups of admiring prefaces. Nor can refuge be sought in the text or performance of plays themselves. Meng weaves drama titles throughout The Chaste Compendium: Shen and Yuniang are fated to meet in a “mandarin-duck tomb” (yuanyang zhong 鴛鴦塚, in a reference to an alternate title for Meng’s Mistress and Maid); the dead Yuniang is a “Lovely maiden who leaves her soul behind” (Qiannü li hun 倩女離魂, the title of a Yuan zaju beloved by Ming connoisseurs), and while in search of Yuniang, Shen compares himself to the hero of Po yao ji 破窑記 (The Ruined Kiln), another literati favorite, whose protagonist lives to see his marriage and career blessed by the emperor. But Wai-yee Li shows us how both acting and connoisseurship are debased in The Chaste Compendium, by association with the Mongols.27 In Scene 8, Shen’s rival entertains Mongol officials by performing the role of Wang Zhaojun 王昭君, the Han-dynasty concubine who pacified the border by allowing the emperor to send her off to a tribal chieftain. The performance takes place during the Dragon Boat festival, highlighting the irony of having alien conquerors watch a tale of loyalty to the Chinese heartland. Scene 21, in which Shen passes the examinations, is an even more egregious example: Shen and his rival are required to perform the zaju Nü zhuangyuan cihuang defeng 女狀 元辭凰得鳳 (The Girl Top Graduate Rejects the Female Phoenix and Gains the Male Phoenix), whose author Xu Wei 徐渭 (1521–1593) 27

  Li, “Heroic Transformations,” 430–434.


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was Meng’s revered predecessor as a dramatist from Guiji county. As Idema points out, The Female Prize Candidate, in which the heroine wins her honors in disguise, was written as criticism of examination mores in Xu Wei’s own day; but when Shen’s rival takes the starring role, the moral force of the play dissolves. As in Scene 8, the heroine is impersonated by a traitor, for the enjoyment of invaders. When we remember the way Meng burst onto the late Ming scene, with his own plays and his exquisite zaju collection, his bitterness in associating drama with the enemy will be apparent. Scenes 8 and 21, with their bustle and banter, represent perversions of the life that had given him so much pleasure. Moreover, as both Xu Shuofang and Wai-yee Li point out, Meng’s Mistress and Maid and Chaste Compendium are in constant dialogue with Tang Xianzu’s 湯顯祖 (1550–1616) Mudan ting 牡丹亭 (The Peony Pavilion), regularly echoing lines from Tang’s earlier masterpiece.28 But these quotations do more than recall Tang’s tale of passion. They also recall Meng’s youthful confidence and success: in his preface to Famous Plays Old and New, Meng had vigorously defended Tang’s style against the criticism of Zang Maoxun, and in his own chuanqi plays, Meng attempts (with imperfect success, Xu feels) to capture Tang’s style himself. In The Chaste Compendium, however, Meng’s radical alteration of one of Tang’s most famous lines completely changes its sense, transforming it from a sense of the inexpressible fullness of passion into lament or resignation at the loss of passion. Tang opens the first scene of The Peony Pavilion by lamenting that “In all the world, only passion is difficult to express,” while Meng, closing the first scene of The Chaste Compendium, writes instead that “In the world of men, only the roots of passion are difficult to destroy,” a line he will repeat more than once. Who Speaks for Meng Chengshun? The Chaste Compendium has generally been understood as a play about a young woman’s passion and chastity, but I submit that Meng’s vocalization in this play is too complex to be restricted to any one of his characters. As noted above, Songyang county Instructor Zhou speaks directly for Meng Chengshun, by quoting Meng’s own sacrificial ode 28

  Xu, Nianpu, 554–558; and Li, “Heroic Transformations,” 429.

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in the Scene 35 dedication of Zhang Yuniang’s shrine. Since this establishes a direct identification between Instructor Zhou and the playwright himself, Zhou’s role in Scene 8 bears directly on the question of Meng’s own conflicting loyalties. Here, amidst the Dragon Boat festivities, Zhou utters only inauspicious lines, to the consternation of his Mongol colleagues. His entrance lyrics sing of crying out to heaven, mourning heroes of old, and warning darkly of Qu Yuan’s vengeful tears. He banters briefly with his colleagues, but cannot bear even to observe when Wang Juan sings of Wang Zhaojun. Later in the scene, he sings that a day of reckoning is coming when “spring floods of melted snow” will thunder down the mountainside. He leaves, and his Mongol colleagues grumble about the moralizing of “that old gongsheng 貢生 (tribute student),” which was of course Meng’s own status while in Songyang county. Zhou, like Meng, is serving a non-Chinese master, and while he can express his disapproval by withdrawing from Mongol festivities, just as Meng would take his leave from Songyang county, still he merely withdraws; he does not actively rebel. He continues to serve a new master, but in a state of conflicting emotions. Meng also speaks through Zhang Yuniang, though he uses her to vocalize conflicting attachments, rather than resolution. Zhang Yuniang’s fidelity to Shen, and her loyalty to the fallen Song dynasty, are expressed as a conventional parallel. Unlike the exemplary women (lienü 烈女) of local and dynastic histories, however, Yuniang does not commit suicide to follow her lover or repudiate the alien conqueror. Instead, she wavers even in the face of Shen’s alarming apparition in her dreams, unable to bear leaving her parents and her home. Meng uses Yuniang, as he uses his bittersweet evocations of the drama world, to dramatize the sweetness of what must be given up, the difficulty of renunciation. Meng has Yuniang call repeatedly for union with Shen in a yuanyang zhong (mandarin-duck tomb), reminding readers of the full title of his own Yuanyang zhong Jiao Hong ji (Mandarinduck Tomb Tale of Jiao and Hong), and thus of two lovers who never renounced their passion, who were joined rather than parted by death. Yuniang’s conventional fidelity is thus far from providing a satisfactory answer for Meng’s own complicated situation. It is Shen Quan, in fact, who most explicitly dramatizes Meng’s concerns and final resolution. Shen Quan, not Zhang Yuniang, frames the issues of the play when he enters in Scene 3, despairing over the condition of the literati (ru 儒), reduced by the Mongols to a state below


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that of courtesans or beggars. When told in Scene 13 of Yuniang’s new betrothal to Wang Juan, Shen retorts that money and power, not talent, have swayed her father. When candidates for the newly reinstated civil service examinations must be chosen, Instructor Zhou, Meng’s avatar in the play, chooses Shen, while Zhou’s buffoonish Mongol colleague chooses Wang Juan. And it is Shen, more than any other character, who dramatizes the ambivalence of the Ming loyalist who lives on to serve an alien dynasty. From the moment of his first appearance in Scene 3, Shen is in fact a most reluctant lover, who must be persuaded by the nun who keeps the Guanyin temple that he should not take the tonsure and renounce the world. Meng creates an inconsistent character in Shen, eager to renounce the world early on, but then passionately grateful for Yuniang’s devotion at the moment of his death. The dream Meng creates for Shen in Scene 23, in which a female spirit confuses Shen by insisting that she is Shen and Shen is she, undermines any certainties that Shen might feel. Shen is certain of himself again only when he is enlightened and called back to Paradise in Scene 25. Shen’s dream dramatizes the radical uncertainty of life under a new dynasty that is itself not yet firmly established, and the play’s final message is one of renunciation, of turning to the Buddha path, rather than a message of female fidelity, as it has typically been understood. And yet… was Meng himself fully convinced by his own message of renunciation? The Zhang Yuniang in this play is enlightened, but never repudiated: her typical girlish longing while Shen is away at the examinations is lovingly presented in Scene 22, as is Shen’s joyous response to her letter in Scene 25, when she promises him on his deathbed that she will maintain chaste widowhood for him. Guanyin’s highly logical reasoning is cold comfort for readers, who must give up their own hero and heroine by the end of the play. Meng, I suggest, may have found it cold comfort himself.

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THE REPRESENTATION OF SOVEREIGNTY IN CHINESE VERNACULAR FICTION Xiaofei Tian Like all literatures with long traditions, Chinese narrative literature has, in the course of millennia, developed a range of set characterizations. It is particularly easy to recognize such characterizations in the genre of drama, as traditional Chinese theater has a variety of fixed role types that are visually marked by different facial make-up and costumes, each in keeping with the characteristics of the role type being represented. On the Chinese stage each character has a fixed place in relation to all other characters and no one is supposed to act out of character—and as a general rule no one does. In this sense Chinese drama is the most Confucian of all literary genres, insofar as Confucianism, always a social ideal rather than a social reality, requires that each and every member of society act according to their prescribed role: “A ruler acts as a ruler should, and a subject acts as a subject should; a father acts as a father should, and a son acts as a son should” (jun jun, chen chen, fu fu, zi zi 君君,臣臣,父父,子子).1 Notably, these roles exist interde­ pen­dently: a king is a king in relation to his subjects, a son is a son in relation to his father. In this social system the individual disappears into his prescribed role, and each role is only meaningful in relation to the other roles; and women have no place in this web of roles except as subsidiaries of their fathers, husbands and sons. Classical Chinese theater, both the shorter zaju 雜劇 (variety play) and the much longer chuanqi 傳奇 (southern-style play), are enactments of such an idealized social system of strict hierarchies. The “drama” in classical Chinese theater often stems from the conflict between role types (good guy versus bad guy), so that the plot of a play often turns out to be more memorable than the individuals in the 1   Lunyu zhushu 論語注疏 (The Analects with Annotations and Commentaries), in Ruan Yuan 阮元, ed., Shisanjing zhushu 十三經注疏 (The Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries) (Taibei: Yiwen yinshuguan, 1955 reprint), juan 12, 108b.


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play, who tend to vanish into the roles they inhabit, such as a beautiful woman in love, an unfaithful husband, a treacherous friend, a narrowminded parent, or a loyal but slandered minister. The love-struck girls Cui Yingying in Wang Shifu’s 王實甫 (ca. 1260–1336) Xixiang ji 西 廂記 (The Story of the Western Chamber) and Du Liniang in Tang Xianzu’s 湯顯祖 (1550–1616) Mudan ting 牡丹亭 (The Peony Pavilion) do not differ from each other so much in terms of their tender but passionate personalities as in terms of the stories that happen to them. In the same way, Miss Cui’s maid, Hongniang, is hardly distinguishable from Miss Du’s maid, Chunxiang, in their vivacity and outspokenness that are so typical of lower-class female characters. That Hongniang plays a more important role in the love life of her mistress is purely a function of the plot, as Miss Du’s erotic dream and her later status as a free-ranging ghost spare her maid much trouble in arranging for secret trysts with the male protagonist. The power of role types in Chinese theater gives it a particular character: a simplicity, a superficiality even, which can be delightful, but ultimately proves dissatisfying if one looks for complexity not in plot but in characterization. The Cui Yingying in the original Tang story from the ninth century is manipulative, controlling, and sophisticated; she ultimately falls victim to her own impulses for creating the perfect romantic story in real life. She is a much more complicated and nuanced character than the Cui Yingying in the dramatic version of the story, who is portrayed as an innocent, artless, sweet-natured and, all in all, rather uninteresting girl. In the Tang story there is no mention of any external obstacle to the union of the hero and heroine, and the hero remains emotionally attached to the heroine even after she is married to someone else. To attribute his “desertion” of her to mere fickleness is simplifying and misleading. In contrast, the difficulties encountered by the Cui Yingying of the thirteenth-century play are caused by purely external agents, namely a jealous, selfish rival and a snobbish, narrowminded parent, both being established and recognizable role types, not by any character flaws of the male and female protagonists or by any internal complication of their emotional involvement. External obstacles are in many ways much easier to resolve than internal dilemmas and conflicts. In Chinese theater hero and villain each occupy their destined place, which matters more than the individual who occupies it. Even Kong Shangren’s 孔尚任 (1648–1718) Taohua shan 桃花扇 (Peach Blossom

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Fan), one of the truly great classic Chinese plays, is successful not because it goes beyond traditional roles, but merely because it shows how the characters become their roles.2 The world of Chinese drama is one of wish-fulfillment, not in the sense that it almost always ends happily with the proverbial grand reunion (da tuanyuan 大團圓), but because it realizes on stage what Confucianism, the “state religion” for many a dynasty, cannot accomplish in real life: each person staying in one’s proper social role and acting according to it. Vernacular fiction likewise developed fixed role types: the macho stalwart hero, the loyal or treacherous friend, the handsome and talented young man in love with a beautiful maiden, the beautiful maiden remaining constant to her lover and ultimately being reunited with him, the good wife and the shrew. Unlike drama, however, fiction lacks the visual cues of make-up and costume; as a result, there is more room for fuzziness in the boundaries of role types. This is particularly true of novels, as short stories, perhaps too limited in scope to offer complex portrayals of characters, must largely rely on role types to advance the plot and on the plot to highlight role types. In contrast, great novels such as the anonymous sixteenth-century masterpiece Jinping mei 金 瓶梅 (The Plum in the Golden Vase) and Cao Xueqin’s 曹雪芹 (1715– 1764) Honglou meng 紅樓夢(The Dream of the Red Chamber) stand out exactly because they go beyond role types, sometimes subverting them or combining several in the portrayal of a single character, and often simply transcending them: a number of characters in these two novels, such as Li Ping’er, Wang Liu’er, and Hua Xiren, do not belong to any easily distinguishable role type. In this essay I will focus on the sovereign in seventeenth-century vernacular fiction as one of the roles, and on the various role types associated with it. I hope this will throw some light on the representation of character in Chinese literature as well as on the concept of sovereignty in the late imperial period, which, as we shall see, changed dramatically from earlier times.

2   See Stephen Owen’s discussion of this point in “‘I Don’t Want to Act as Em­ peror Any More’: Finding the Genuine in Peach Blossom Fan,” in Trauma and Transcendence in Early Qing Literature, ed. Wilt L. Idema, Wai-yee Li and Ellen B. Widmer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Asia Center Press, 2006), 489–509.


xiaofei tian Preserving the Purity of Role Type

Because of the absolute power concentrated in the person of the emperor, sovereignty tends to be an all-consuming role. The historical personality of the man playing the sovereign can be easily lost in the dominant typology of the role. In other words, being an emperor condemns a man to a stereotype: good emperor or bad emperor. Traditional Chinese fiction favors the first and last rulers of a dynasty because they represent good and bad rulers respectively, much in the same way that “popular fiction does not speak of nondescript fathers and sons, but of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fathers and ‘filial’ and ‘ungrateful’ sons,” in Robert Rhulmann’s words.3 While the cruelty and sexual decadence of what Arthur Wright terms the “bad last ruler” offer endless fascination to fiction writers and readers alike, the portrayal of the first ruler or dynasty-founder almost invariably focuses on the period before the ruler ascends the throne, a time when the emperor-to-be is still a commoner and his rise to power proves to be full of dramatic twists and turns.4 Rhulmann suggests that the “typical prince” in popular fiction is a “helpless” and “weak” person;5 this generalization, however, turns out to be inaccurate if we consider the image of the dynasty-founder in vernacular fiction. In a number of vernacular stories by Feng Menglong 馮夢龍 (1574–1646), the earliest wellknown literati writer of vernacular fiction, rulers-to-be are almost invariably portrayed as stalwart heroes (haohan 好漢) reminiscent of the Robin Hood-type bandits in longer fictional narratives such as Shuihu zhuan 水滸傳 (The Water Margin), attributed to Shi Nai’an 施耐庵 (ca. 1296–1372). In Gujin xiaoshuo 古今小說 (Stories Old and New), Feng Menglong’s first story collection, published in 1620, two stories that belong to the traditional theme of the rise to power and prosperity (faji biantai 發跡變泰) have future rulers as their protagonists. “Shi Hongzhao longhu junchen hui” 史弘肇龍虎君臣會 (The Dragon-and-Tiger Encounter of Shi Hongzhao the Minister and His King), is about Guo Wei 郭威 (904–954), the founder of the Latter Zhou dynasty; “Lin’an li Qian Poliu faji” 臨安里錢婆留發跡 (Qian 3   Robert Rhulmann, “Traditional Heroes in Chinese Popular Fiction,” in The Confucian Persuasion, ed. Arthur Wright (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1960), 148. 4   Arthur Wright, “Sui Yang-Ti: Personality and Stereotype,” in The Confucian Persuasion, 47–76. 5   Rhulmann, “Traditional Heroes,” 160–161.

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Poliu Begins His Career in Lin’an), is about Qian Liu 錢鏐 (852–932), the founder of the Kingdom of Wu-Yue.6 Both are depicted as stouthearted men with martial prowess engaged in gambling, drinking, theft and robbery in their youth. Guo Wei and his friend wreak such havoc on the neighborhood that they are hated and feared by the local people. Qian Liu gambles his parents’ money away and defies their attempts to control him; if they reproach him, he simply leaves the house and does not return for days. This is hardly the behavior of a good son, but the story makes it clear that the future king is not to be bound by petty rules of moral conduct; what deserves note—and this is deliberately stressed in the stories—is the fact that both heroes possess a basic sense of decency, goodness and righteousness. Guo Wei beats up a corrupted military officer who bullies a peddler in the marketplace; Qian Liu risks his own neck to save the fellow members of his gang from being arrested. Unlike the bad last ruler and yet true to the role type of a stalwart hero, none of these dynasty-founders is sexually self-indulgent or even expresses any interest in the opposite sex. This point is important, not because it is a crucial character trait in the role type of dynasty-founder, but because it highlights the purity of role type and the entire ideological discourse it represents. In other words, a stalwart hero cannot be a romantic lover, who is usually a talented scholar (caizi 才子); one is reserved for the martial sphere while the other is reserved for the literary sphere, just as the concepts of the martial (wu 武) and the civil / cultural / literary (wen 文) form a binary in traditional political philosophy, and the concepts of yang and yin, in cosmology. The martial and the civil / cultural / literary complement each other and sometimes are even allowed to coexist in the same person, but they do not mix to produce a third category. It is all about relation and balance of power. When there is a third category, the balance of power is often upset. Take for example the story entitled “Zhao Taizu qianli song Jingniang” 趙太祖千里送京娘 (Emperor Taizu Escorts Jingniang on a One-Thousand-li Journey) in Feng Menglong’s second story collection, Jingshi tongyan 警世通言 (Common Words to Caution the World), 6   For these two stories, see Xu Zhengyang 許政揚, ed., Gujin xiaoshuo 古今小說 (Stories Old and New) (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1984), 225–254, 317–347. For their English translations, see Shuhui Yang and Yunqin Yang, trans., Stories Old and New: A Ming Dynasty Collection (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000), 252–278, 349–382.


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which has a preface dated 1624.7 Zhao Kuangyin 趙匡胤 (927–976), the founding emperor of the Song dynasty, is depicted as a chivalrous knight-errant who takes it upon himself to rescue a damsel in distress. He saves a young woman named Jingniang from bandits and then goes on a long journey on foot to escort her back to her family, yielding the only horse to Jingniang. During the trip she declares romantic feelings for him; he rejects her sternly. You and I met each other by accident. I rescued you out of compassion, not because I coveted your beauty. Besides, we have the same surname; we cannot marry each other. We have become sworn brother and sister; how could we not observe propriety? I am Liuxia Hui, who did not succumb to temptation even when he had a girl sitting in his lap; how then can you emulate Wu Mengzi, who indulged in desire and violated proper rites?8 Don’t talk nonsense, or you’ll make a fool of yourself.9

That Zhao Kuangyin acknowledges Jingniang’s beauty shows that he is not blind to her charm, but he appeals to the ancient decree—those with the same family name do not marry each other—as his main reason for spurning Jingniang. Jingniang makes a second attempt by saying that she does not aspire to become his wife but will be quite content to be a concubine or a maid. Zhao Kuangyin reacts furiously: I am a man who stands upright between heaven and earth and have been honest and direct all my life; there is nothing wicked in me. Why is it that you regard me as a small-minded person who expects to be repaid for doing a favor and an evil-doer who makes use of the public good for private purpose? If you persist in your devious intention, I will immediately leave you alone and drop this whole matter, and in that case you cannot blame me for failing to end something I have begun!

She finally gives up and begs his forgiveness. At this point he softens up a little: 7   For this story, see Yan Dunyi 嚴敦易, ed. Jingshi tongyan 警世通言 (Common Words to Caution the World) (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1984), 297–316. For a full English translation, see Shuhui Yang and Yunqin Yang, trans., Stories to Caution the World: A Ming Dynasty Collection (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007), 319–340. The translations in this paper are my own. 8   Liuxia Hui 柳下惠 was a chaste man. Wu Mengzi 吳孟子 was the wife of Duke Zhao of Lu, who had the same family name as she did. 9   For this and the following two citations from the story, see Yan, ed. Jingshi tongyan, 313.

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My good sister, this is not me being inflexible and stubborn, like trying to play a stringed instrument after fixing the tuning pegs with glue. I have decided to walk all the way to escort you home for the sake of righteousness and chivalry. If today I indulge in private passions, what difference would there be between me and those two bandits? My genuine concern for you would be turned into feigned sentiments, and I would become the laughing stock of all the heroes in the world.

Even Zhao Kuangyin himself knows that he is being “inflexible and stubborn, like trying to play a stringed instrument after fixing the tuning pegs with glue” (jiaozhu guse 膠柱鼓瑟), meaning that he is sticking to old ways even though circumstances have changed. That is, his adherence to the ancient imperative that two people of the same family name cannot marry is outdated behavior. One may argue that Zhao Kuangyin’s real motive for rejecting Jingniang is his fear of public opinion (“I would become the laughing stock of all the heroes in the world”), not any innate sense of moral propriety. This may be so, but it is irrelevant to the issue at hand. The point is the conflict of two sets of values considered incompatible with each other. Zhao Kuangyin cannot conceivably become a romantic lover without compromising his identity as a stalwart hero. In the universe of the story, private passions and public good are shown to occupy two totally different worlds that cannot be reconciled. The hero must play his role with the utmost purity of intention and of deed. This story is almost a mirror opposite of Wang Shifu’s famous play, The Story of the Western Chamber, with which early seventeenthcentury readers must have been familiar. In The Story of the Western Chamber, Cui Yingying is betrothed to her maternal cousin since childhood. When a general-turned-bandit hears of Yingying’s beauty and demands her hand in marriage, Yingying’s mother promises that she will marry Yingying off to anyone who can save her from falling into the hands of the rebel. Scholar Zhang, who is smitten with Yingying after meeting her by chance in a Buddhist temple, devises a plan to crush the rebel army. Yingying’s mother, however, changes her mind. Using Yingying’s betrothal to another man as an excuse, she asks Scholar Zhang and Yingying to become sworn brother and sister instead. After many vicissitudes, Scholar Zhang and Yingying are finally wedded and live happily thereafter. Although The Story of the Western Chamber is a play, a number of its narrative elements are remarkably similar to those of Feng Menglong’s


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story. Zhao Kuangyin also meets Jingniang in a temple, albeit a Daoist establishment rather than a Buddhist monastery. Jingniang is also trapped by bandits who are enticed by her beauty. Zhao Kuangyin and Jingniang also become sworn brother and sister, but this is used by Zhao Kuangyin as a further obstacle to having any romantic involvement with her. In The Story of the Western Chamber, Scholar Zhang does not find it improper to marry his sworn sister Yingying after saving her—in fact, he saves her not out of pure “compassion” for her plight but exactly because he “covets her beauty,” the very thing vehemently denied by Zhao Kuangyin in his encounter with Jingniang. Neither Scholar Zhang nor Yingying finds it improper that Yingying should discard her childhood betrothal sanctioned by her late father, something that would have been certainly condemned by a stalwart hero like Zhao Kuangyin in a different fictional universe. Scholar Zhang and Yingying are squarely portrayed as a pair of star-crossed lovers who demand the full sympathy of the audience. We must not suppose that Scholar Zhang should be regarded as morally imperfect, or that Wang Shifu’s moral standards differed from Feng Menglong’s. Rather we should recognize that Zhao Kuangyin and Scholar Zhang are less full individuals than embodiments of two sets of values and discourses; each man subordinates his private existence to a role type— such as talented scholar or stalwart hero—and to a particular mode of narration and a particular order of things—such as a romance or a story of the rise to power and prosperity. Of the many stalwart heroes in The Water Margin, there is one, Wang Aihu, who is obsessed with women, but he is the exception that proves the rule, and he is no future king or emperor.10 Interest in sexual pleasures—not the legitimate conjugal affection for one’s wife—is a major element in differentiating the bad last ruler from the heroic dynasty-founder; but romantic love is equally banished from the heroic discourse. In the story of Zhao Kuangyin and Jingniang, Zhao feels no attraction at all toward Jingniang despite her beauty and her repeated attempts at physical seduction. The absence of any emotional conflict or turmoil in him ensures the single-dimensional purity of the role type. 10   In Chapter 31, Song Jiang comments on Wang Aihu: “I see that Brother Wang Ying covets women—this is not like a ‘stalwart hero’.” Guben Shuihu zhuan 古本水滸 傳 (The Old Edition of The Water Margin) (Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe, 1985), 338.

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A role, however, exists in relation to other roles. Feng Menglong’s story entitled “Zhao Bosheng chasi yu Renzong” 趙伯昇茶肆遇仁宗 (Zhao Bosheng Meets with Emperor Renzong in a Teahouse) is an ingenious exploration of the complicated interaction of role types.11 In the story, Emperor Renzong 仁宗 (1010–1063) of the Northern Song admires the examination essay of a Sichuan scholar but points out that it contains a miswritten character; the scholar replies that the character he writes is interchangeable with the correct character that the emperor has in mind. Displeased by this act of challenge to imperial authority, the emperor asks the scholar to solve a character riddle; when the scholar fails to come up with an answer, the emperor tells him to go back to his studies. When the list of successful candidates for the exam is posted, the scholar’s name is not there. Then, after a year or so, the emperor has a dream about nine suns; the character for “nine” and that for “sun” together form the character for “dawn” (xu 旭). This prompts the emperor to search for a person with “Xu” as given name. He finds Zhao Xu, none other than the scholar dismissed from court a year ago, and Zhao is made governor in his home region. The emperor’s personal search for Zhao Xu on the streets of the capital is an interesting episode. Since the emperor is in disguise, Zhao Xu has no idea that he is speaking with His Majesty. When the emperor asks Zhao Xu why he failed the examination, and when Zhao tells him the story, the emperor says, “His Majesty lacks discernment.” At this Zhao vigorously defends the emperor, explaining that he himself is the only person to blame: “It was not the fault of our sagely Emperor.” Although failing the examination, Zhao Xu passes the test by not showing any resentment toward the emperor but taking full responsibility for his failure. As Zhao Xu finally defers to imperial authority, imperial power works to his favor as a reward for his submission. One may argue that the emperor acts capriciously, guided by emotion (i.e. his wounded pride and later on, his soothed vanity) and dream rather than reason. But by surrendering to the emperor’s judgment, Zhao Xu transforms the imperial act of caprice into an act of wisdom. Not knowing that he is speaking to the emperor himself, he saves Emperor Renzong from erring by attributing all the mistakes to himself in front of what he believes to be a third party, a bystander whose point of view—“His Majesty lacks discernment”—represents   For this story, see Xu, ed. Gujin xiaoshuo, 175–186. For its English translation, see Yang and Yang, trans., Stories Old and New, 194–205. 11


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public opinion as well as the opinion of the reader. An emperor in disguise: what could be a better figure for the reading public? By saving the emperor from being a muddle-headed ruler (hunjun 昏君) Zhao Xu turns himself from the victim of a bad emperor into the subject of a wise and benign emperor. He is, in fact, a subject in the full sense of the word because he takes responsibility for his action, and so is no longer a passive object of the emperor’s displeasure. Zhao Xu is the true hero of the story because he propels Emperor Renzong into the role of a good emperor by harboring no bitterness and resentment, as a good subject should. The eunuch who accompanies the emperor on his search for Zhao Xu composes a poem to commemorate the occasion, which ends with the line, “Your brocade clothes will bring glory to the clan of Zhao.” Since Zhao Xu shares the same surname with the emperor, “the clan of Zhao,” quite fittingly, refers both to Zhao Xu’s family and the imperial clan. Conflicting Role Types and the Undermining of Sovereignty The Confucian decree—“A ruler acts as a ruler should, and a subject acts as a subject should; a father acts as a father should, and a son acts as a son should”—stresses the relational aspect of role playing. A ruler, however, is also a father and a son at the same time. This poses a special problem for sovereignty: what if there is conflict between the various roles played by the same person? Such a conflict potentially undermines the power of the sovereign and affects not only the emperor himself but also his family, his people, and the state, for he is the head and heart of the entire political body. This is as much a socio-political problematic as a literary one. Again, one of Feng Menglong’s stories is a case in point. “Yu Zhongju tishi yu shanghuang” 俞仲舉題詩遇上皇 (Yu Zhongju Writes Poetry and Wins Recognition from the Retired Emperor) depicts the conflict of roles in the imperial person.12 This story in many ways parallels the story of Zhao Xu and his lucky encounter with Emperor Renzong. Yu Liang, courtesy name (zi 字) Zhongju, is also a scholar from Sichuan. Just like in the Zhao Xu story, the protagonist travels to the capital to   For this story, see Yan, ed. Jingshi tongyan, 65–82. For a full English translation, see Yang and Yang, trans., Stories to Caution the World, 79–97. 12

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participate in the examination and fails; he is stranded in the capital, lacking money to return home, and writes a poem on the wall of a restaurant to vent his sorrow and frustration; and the poem arouses the admiration of the emperor, who is walking on the street in disguise in search of a “worthy man” because of a dream he has had the previous night. There is, however, one significant difference. The emperor in Yu Zhongju’s story is retired: he is the father of the current emperor. Emperor Gaozong 高宗 (1107–1187) of the Southern Song, who had ruled south China for thirty-two years, abdicated in favor of his adopted son, Emperor Xiaozong 孝宗 (1127–1194), in his old age. In Feng Menglong’s story, it is Gaozong, the retired emperor, who picks up Yu Zhongju on the street of the capital and recommends him to his son, Xiaozong. Before narrating Emperor Gaozong’s encounter with Yu Zhongju, the story-teller relates another incident. One day the retired emperor, who often disguises himself as a commoner and walks around the West Lake, runs into an acolyte in a Buddhist temple with impressive physique and manners. The retired emperor becomes curious and inquires into his background. It turns out that the acolyte is a magistrate dismissed from office because, according to himself, he was falsely accused of corruption. The retired emperor feels sorry for him and promises that he will intervene on his behalf. Upon returning to the palace the retired emperor sends a message to the current emperor about the matter. A few days later, the retired emperor visits the temple again, and finds that the acolyte has not been restored to his former office. The retired emperor is greatly upset. It so happens that the next day the current emperor invites his parents to a party, at which the retired emperor wears a sullen look. The retired emperor neither spoke nor smiled but looked resentful and angry. Emperor Xiaozong said, “The weather is so nice and balmy today; I wish this would please Your Grace.” The retired emperor did not utter a word. The empress dowager said, “Our child wants to give this old couple a good time; what’s the matter with you, getting all upset over nothing?” At this the retired emperor gave a sigh: “An old tree attracts wind; an old man attracts contempt. I am an old man now, and my words mean nothing any more.” Emperor Xiaozong was shocked. Not understanding what happened, he kowtowed and begged for an explanation. The retired emperor said, “The other day I intervened on behalf of Li Zhi, the Magistrate of Nanjian, all to no


xiaofei tian avail. Yesterday I saw him again in the temple. It was terribly embarrassing.” Emperor Xiaozong replied, “I told the prime minister about Li Zhi the very next day after I received Your Grace’s instruction. The prime minister said, ‘Li Zhi is corrupt and took bribes. He should not be reinstated.’ But since he is favored by Your Grace, this is a trivial matter and will be dealt with tomorrow. Please do enjoy yourself today.” Only then did the retired emperor cheer up and drink until he was tipsy.13

This is a vividly portrayed family scene: an aging but controlling father, a son who is caught between filial piety and good sense, and a mother who tries to smooth over the wrinkles in the father-son relationship but is completely in the dark about what is going on. Her function in this passage is the colloquial and folksy style of her remark and her emphatic reference to the emperor as “our child” and to herself and the retired emperor as “this old couple.” All this is designed to accentuate the domestic atmosphere and to make it look like the outing of an ordinary family. It only serves, however, to bring out the particularity of this family and the potential conflict between the interest of this family and that of the state. What makes this family special is the fact that the son is the emperor, who is, in theory and practice, the highest authority of the state. When the emperor submits to another authority figure, this creates chaos in the body politic. But chaos further intensifies when one realizes that the other authority figure is not a powerful minister but the emperor’s own father. In the case of the emperor submitting to a powerful minister, the emperor may be in trouble, but the ideological order of the empire is not, for the injustice of the situation, i.e. a ruler being dominated by a minister, is apparent to everyone. In the case of the emperor submitting to the father, the structure of power is itself thrown into question, for two equally valid sets of values—sovereign and subject, father and son, state and family—are pitched against each other. In other words, the role of a filial son directly contradicts the role of a sovereign, and when Emperor Xiaozong is caught between the two roles, shock is the only possible reaction on his part. His posthumous temple name, Xiaozong, which is used to refer to him throughout the story, literally means “Filial Ancestor.” It captures the greatest dilemma of his rule.


  Yan, ed. Jingshi tongyan, 77–78.

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The conflict of filial piety and loyalty to one’s ruler may befall any person, but has extremely serious and troubling implications when it happens to the imperial person of the sovereign. The next day, Emperor Xiaozong again told the Prime Minister to reinstate Li Zhi and the Prime Minister again tried to refuse. Emperor Xiaozong said, “This is the idea of the Grand Sire. Yesterday His Grace was so angry with Us that We wished to vanish through a crack in the floor. Even if this man is guilty of high treason and rebellion, you have to let him go.” Thereupon Li Zhi was restored to his former office.14

Wanting to “vanish through a crack in the floor” describes embarrassment. When the retired emperor discovers the dismissed official is still there as acolyte, he is embarrassed by the current emperor’s failure to heed his wishes, and the embarrassment of the father must pass back to the son. By becoming a filial son, however, Xiaozong compromises his role as emperor. The emperor does vanish through the crack in the floor: into the Filial Son, so much so that the Son is willing to condone treason and rebellion against the body politic in order to please the Father. The Problematic of Role Types Feng Menglong’s six stories with emperors and kings as their main protagonists—not those about Zhao Xu and Yu Zhongju, in which the emperor is not the leading actor—are neatly divided between dynasty-founders and bad last rulers.15 There is one exception: the story about Emperor Wu 武 (464–549) of the Liang dynasty in Stories Old and New, entitled “Liang Wudi leixiu gui Jile” 梁武帝累修歸極 樂 (Emperor Wu of the Liang Returns to the Land of Extreme Bliss

  Ibid., 78.   The two stories about the bad last rulers are from Feng Menglong’s third story collection, Xingshi hengyan 醒世恒言 (Constant Words to Awaken the World), which has a preface dated 1627. They are “Jin Hailing zongyu wangshen” 金海陵縱 欲亡身 (How Prince Hailing of the Jin Indulged in Desire and Destroyed Himself) and “Sui Yangdi yiyou zhaoqian” 隋煬帝逸游召譴 (How Emperor Yang of the Sui Brought Punishment on Himself by Carefree Roaming). See Zhang Minggao 張明 高, ed. Xingshi hengyan xinzhu quanben 醒世恒言新注全本 (A Newly Annotated Complete Edition of Constant Words to Awaken the World) (Beijing: Shiyue wenyi chubanshe, 1994), 498–559. 14



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through Ceaseless Cultivation).16 Like the other sovereigns discussed in this essay, Emperor Wu of the Liang is a real historical figure, but he turns out to be a problematic fictional character because the historical person does not fit easily in any of the stereotypes of the sovereign. Emperor Wu was the founder of the Liang dynasty, but he was also the one who led to its eventual downfall. He was an exemplary Confucian monarch in many respects, but he was also well known for his Buddhist belief, which would become the reason for his condemnation by Confucian moralists in later times and for his immense popularity in mass culture; his influence on Chinese Buddhism is felt even today.17 If character in classical Chinese literature is by and large represented by conventional typologies, what happens in the case of someone like Emperor Wu of the Liang, a complicated, controversial individual who occupies a number of conflicting social roles? This creates an interesting problem for fiction writers, and it sheds light on the workings of narrative and on the development of the concept of sovereignty from early medieval to late imperial times. Emperor Wu (r. 502–549) was born Xiao Yan 蕭衍. His reign was one of the longest in Chinese history, a miracle at a time when court intrigues, uprisings and bloodshed were the norm. During Emperor Wu’s rule, the Liang was prosperous and largely peaceful, and the Liang court was “the most catholic and sophisticated intellectual milieu of pre-Tang China,” in the words of Glen Dudbridge.18 In his last years, Emperor Wu made the strategic mistake of accepting the surrender of the northern general Hou Jing 侯景 (d. 552), who subsequently rebelled in the fall of 548 and besieged the Palace City for nearly five months. Emperor Wu died shortly after the Palace City fell. Although Hou Jing was eventually vanquished, his rebellion brought large-scale destruction to the south, led to the downfall of the Liang, and was a key factor in the conquest of the south forty years later. On the whole, however, the emperor was a conscientious and energetic ruler. He was also a patron of literature and the arts, and a prolific writer who authored commentaries on Confucian and Daoist classics 16   Xu, ed., Gujin xiaoshuo, 585–606. Yang and Yang, trans., Stories Old and New, 643–667. 17   See Chapter One, “Emperor Wu’s Rule,” in Xiaofei Tian, Beacon Fire and Shooting Star: The Literary Culture of the Liang (502–557) (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Asia Center Press, 2007). 18   Glen Dudbridge, Lost Books of Medieval China (London: British Library, 2000), 69.

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as well as on Buddhist scriptures, in addition to numerous literary writings. He did what an ideal Confucian ruler was expected to do: restore the National University, reinstate the examination system, and perfect court rituals and music. Emperor Wu’s vision of kingship was, however, fundamentally Buddhist: like the Northern Dynasties rulers, his counterparts in north China, Emperor Wu aspired to be the highest secular and spiritual authority of the state, a “Wheel-Turning Sage King” (Sanskrit cakravarti-raja) who nurtured, protected and guided his people. He himself was a devout Buddhist believer, practicing strict vegetarianism and sexual abstinence since his fifties, lecturing regularly on Buddhist scriptures, and engaged in the creation of Buddhist rituals as well as other spectacular religious activities. However, while such a concept of sovereignty had been acceptable in early medieval times, it was no longer so in late imperial China. The conflict of role types in the fictional representation of Emperor Wu in vernacular fiction—dynasty-founder, failed last ruler, Confucian sage, enlightened defender of the Buddhist faith, or foolish old man who deviates from the Confucian way and becomes obsessed with Buddhist heresy—is therefore a manifestation of the conflict of two ideologies, namely the Confucian and Buddhist discourses, just as it is a manifestation of friction between the rigidity of role types and the complexity of a multifaceted individual. In the last analysis, what sets the fictionalized Emperor Wu apart from other sovereigns portrayed in Chinese narrative literature is that Emperor Wu is treated as an individual separated from his function as a ruler; the tension between the individual and the sovereignty he assumes provides the very motivation of the fictionalized accounts of his life. Feng Menglong’s story uses reincarnation as a central narrative device, and gives a careful account of karma, retribution, and yinguo 因果 (cause and effect). The story begins by recounting the emperor’s three former lives. He is born as an earthworm in his first life, a sentient being, though rather low on the ladder of existence, who listens to recitations of the Lotus Sutra every day. After being accidentally killed by a novice monk, the earthworm obtains human form in its next life thanks to the power of the sutra. He is reborn as an illiterate kitchen worker in a Buddhist temple, who unsurprisingly knows the Lotus Sutra well. After the kitchen worker dies, he is first reborn as a little snake because of some impure thought in his mind, but is fortunately rescued from this fate by the abbot of his temple, and reincarnated as the only son


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of a rich man surnamed Huang. When he grows up, he is married to the daughter of Grand Marshal Tong, who is a reincarnation of the maid servant of Buddha’s disciple Mahakasyapa. Instead of consummating their marriage, the couple decides to practice religion together. One lustful thought on the part of the young Master Huang, however, causes him to be reborn again, this time as the Liang emperor. During this life as emperor, Xiao Yan accomplishes a series of good deeds. The only act of killing described in the story is his accidental execution of a Master Kowtow, who turns out to be the reincarnation of the novice monk who killed the earthworm in the emperor’s previous lifetime. The emperor’s death at the old age of eighty-five is portrayed as his final delivery from the world of desire and suffering. Toward the end of the story, a Liang general has a vision of the emperor, who makes it clear that he has finished the process of cultivation and is “on the way to the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss.” Reincarnation, though a convenient narrative device, can create problems, for it is cyclical and may go on forever. Feng Menglong solves the problem by delineating a linear process in the emperor’s reincarnations: from earthworm to illiterate kitchen worker (briefly transformed into a snake) to well-educated son of a rich landlord to emperor and finally to Buddha, we see a clear ascension in terms of perceived natural order and social hierarchy. Mahayana Buddhism preaches that all sentient beings are equal, but this is certainly not the case in the moral universe of the late Ming story-teller. The noteworthy thing about this story is the portrayal of sovereignty as a stage in a sentient being’s progress toward Buddhahood, not an end in itself. Unlike Feng Menglong’s other stories about dynasty-founders, Xiao Yan’s story does not stop with his ascension to the throne. His role as a ruler is thus separated from his characterization. The characterization of Emperor Wu is more complicated in the anonymous novel of forty chapters called Liang Wudi xilai yanyi 梁 武帝西來演義 (The Romance of Emperor Wu of the Liang Coming from the West), also known as Liang Wudi yanyi 梁武帝演義 (The Romance of Emperor Wu of the Liang) or Liang Wudi zhuan 梁武帝傳 (The Story of Emperor Wu of the Liang). This novel was first printed in 1673 and reprinted in 1819 and 1851.19 It is attributed to Tianhuazang 19   The 1673 edition was printed by Yongqingtang 永慶堂 and reprinted in Guben xiaoshuo jicheng 古本小說集成 (A Collection of Old Editions of Novels), vols. 12–13. The 1819 edition was printed by Baoqingge 抱青閣 and the 1851 edition by Yuguotang 裕國堂. The modern edition I have used for this essay, Liang Wudi yanyi 梁武帝演義

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zhuren 天花藏主人, a prominent pseudonym associated with more than a dozen of novels in the seventeenth century whose true identity remains unknown. Stylistically, The Romance of Liang Wudi is much cruder than some of the romantic novels attributed to Tianhuazang zhuren. It describes Emperor Wu as the incarnation of Arhat Calamus and his wife, Empress Chi Hui 郗徽 (468–499), as that of the Bright Monarch of Narcissus; both are born into the human world to cultivate their Buddha nature and fulfill their destinies. The empress possesses a jealous disposition and has many palace ladies killed; as a consequence, she is turned into a giant python after death. She is finally redeemed by a confession text and deliverance ritual created by the emperor on her behalf.20 The emperor himself oscillates between worldly cravings and spiritual aspirations. It is only in the last moments of his life that he is truly enlightened, obtains Buddhahood, and ascends to heaven. While the short story uses karma and reincarnation to account for the emperor’s attainment of Buddhahood with relative smoothness, a novel, being a much longer literary form, must engage in a more detailed account of its protagonists’ psychological or physical actions. As a result, change is clearly detectable in the emperor’s character, so much so that the novel can be read as a narrative of one person’s spiritual growth from youth to old age. Before he ascends the throne, Xiao Yan fits well in the role type of dynasty-founder and stalwart hero. After taking the throne, he is depicted as a sagely emperor who governs the state with wisdom and kindliness. In his old age, he becomes increasingly preoccupied with spiritual pursuits, especially after his wife’s premature death. Finally, in the last days before his death, as the rebel Hou Jing forbids anyone to present food and drink to the emperor, he concentrates on prayer and meditation for fourteen days and nights until he achieves complete enlightenment: As his thoughts reached into the most subtle principles of things, a thread of spiritual light suddenly flooded and illuminated his entire being. Only then did he understand why he had encountered the monks Yunguang, Zhigong, and Damo. He also understood everything about his previous life, his after life, all losses and gains, and all effects and retributions.21 (Liaoning: Chunfeng wenyi chubanshe, 1987), collated by Han Xiduo 韓錫鐸, Yang Hua 揚華 and Bu Weiyi 卜維義, is based on the 1819 edition. 20   This confession text, known as Liang huang chan梁皇懺 (The Liang Emperor’s Confession), is still a popular text used in Buddhist rituals today. 21   Chapter 40, Liang Wudi yanyi, 486.


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At this moment the emperor laughs joyfully and passes away while sitting upright in meditation: this, as hagiographies repeatedly tell us, is how eminent monks are supposed to die. It seems that the only way typological conventions of Chinese vernacular fiction can deal with a sovereign as complicated as the historical Emperor Wu of the Liang is to produce a character who changes over time. Such a clearly detectable change in a character does not occur in portrayals of sovereigns in other historical romances from the same period. The character of Emperor Yang of the Sui in Sui Yangdi yanshi 隋煬帝艷史 (The Romantic History of Emperor Yang of the Sui), for instance, remains more or less the same, despite the disasters he brings on the state and on himself. In Feng Menglong’s short story “Sui Yangdi yiyou zhaoqian” 隋煬帝逸游召譴 (How Emperor Yang of the Sui Brought Punishment on Himself by Carefree Roaming), when the rebel army surrounds the palace, he still thinks it is a coup planned by one of his sons and is unaware of the extent of the people’s resentment toward him.22 By contrast, the Buddhist narrative template of conversion, spiritual growth and enlightenment provides a ready-made model for describing the process of personal transformation. This model was familiar in early medieval China. The historical Emperor Wu himself once wrote a poem about the experience of religious conversion, “Hui san jiao shi” 會三教詩 (A Poem Bringing Together the Three Doctrines).23 The poem begins with his youthful study of Confucian teachings, proceeds to his reading of Daoist writings in mid-life, and ends with his conversion in old age: In my old age I open the Buddhist scrolls: They are like the moon shining forth amidst stars.

There are other stories about conversion and enlightenment, but the fictional character of Emperor Wu is unique in his self-conscious, persistent pursuit of the spiritual path.24 Indeed his status as emperor is   See note 15.   In Lu Qinli 逯欽立, Xian Qin Han Wei Jin Nanbeichao shi 先秦漢魏晉南北朝 詩 (Pre-Qin, Han, Wei, Jin, and Southern and Northern Dynasties Poetry) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1995), 1531. For a translation and discussion of the entire poem, see Tian, Beacon Fire, 56–58. 24   For instance, the character of the Tang poet Han Yu 韓愈 (768–824) in the novel Han Xiangzi quanzhuan 韓湘子全傳 (The Full Story of Han Xiangzi), first printed in 1623. At first stubbornly adherent to Confucian values and hostile to Buddhism and Daoism, Han Yu is disillusioned by his failure in public life and eventually, reluctantly, becomes enlightened through religious teachings about the vanity of the mortal realm, 22 23

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seen as the greatest obstacle to achieving enlightenment, and ultimate enlightenment keeps eluding him: After he entered the imperial palace and became the supreme sovereign, music touched his ears, beautiful women met his eye, and delicacies suited his taste . . . Although his heart and mind were constantly focused on the Buddha, he sometimes had perfect comprehension but then would lapse into darkness.25

The task facing the story-teller, however, is more complicated than offering a linear narrative of a character’s spiritual growth. He has to struggle with narrative conventions and role types throughout. “Change” works well in reconciling the role of stalwart hero played by youthful Emperor Wu with that of the middle-aged man whose griefs over the loss of his wife makes him embark on a spiritual journey, and finally with that of the old man increasingly absorbed in the well-being of his soul; the sagely emperor who treats his ministers with generosity and loves his people can also be easily related to the self-styled identity of “emperor bodhisattva.” One key question, however, is how to reconcile the sovereign’s responsibility for the fall of the dynasty with the religious calling and spiritual cultivation of an individual. The former is intensely public, the latter intensely private. In Confucian terms the emperor is guilty because he is a failed sovereign. In Buddhist terms, however, the loss of empire would be the price that an emperor has to pay for his ultimate enlightenment. Even the emperor’s love for his wife is potentially threatening to the image of an ideal Confucian ruler, who is supposed to be impartial in his affections and not too deeply attached to any one person, female or male. In the novel, when the emperor is engaged in battle with the Northern Wei army on the frontier, he receives the news that the empress is seriously ill. He immediately leaves the army behind and heads back to the capital, saying: “That I should have abandoned conjugal love for the sake of one inch of land! This is all my fault!”26 And yet, his compassion for the empress’s sufferings in her afterlife is but an extension of a Buddhist’s mercy for all sinful souls tormented in hell, thanks to his nephew Han Xiangzi’s continual efforts to save him from the world of desire and suffering. The novel has been translated into English by Philip Clart as The Story of Han Xiangzi: The Alchemical Adventures of a Daoist Immortal (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008). 25   Liang Wudi yanyi, 429. 26   Ibid., 332.


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and his lasting grief over her death moves him to feeling empathy for all his people. After the empress’s death he decides to accept the peace treaty proposed by the Northern Wei rather than continuing the war. He tells his ministers: Ever since the Empress deserted this world, husband and wife are separated forever, and We are constantly plagued by sorrow. I have been thinking: soldiers all have parents and wives as well; if a soldier dies for the state, his wife will miss her husband, and his father will miss his son—their sadness will be just the same as Ours.27

Later, the emperor creates the Confession text with the help of the monk Bao Zhi 寶志 (418?-514) to redeem the soul of the empress; shortly afterwards, touched by the empress’s deliverance from suffering, he also issues an edict permitting prisoners to redeem themselves, which pleases the people immensely.28 In a Confucian context, however, such a gesture of compassion can be easily construed as too lax in applying law and punishments. A tone of criticism sets in even as the narrator has just confirmed the divine manifestation of karma and the positive value of the emperor’s mercifulness: Seeing Empress Chi ascend into heaven in broad daylight and realizing the truth of retribution, the emperor applied his entire mind to Buddhism and thought of nothing but doing good deeds. He was single-mindedly lenient in governing, and gave a general amnesty . . . prisons became empty and officials lost their power. Innocent people who were freed from wrongful imprisonment shouted their gratitude to the emperor; wicked people, on the other hand, did not appreciate the kindness of the emperor but felt contempt for the law of the state instead. They fearlessly engaged in all sorts of illegal activities, and robbed gold and silver to redeem themselves if they ever got caught. Thieves and bandits in the mountains and on the lakes became more numerous by the day, but the officials did not try very hard to hunt them down.29

Even without considering the obviously adverse effects of the emperor’s clemency, we are struck by the narrator’s subtle choice of words that imply a value judgment: “single-mindedly lenient” (yiwei renci 一 味仁慈), and “officials lost their power” (guanli wu quan 官吏無權). Such rhetorical maneuvers appear throughout the novel. Just as the   Ibid., 334.   Ibid., 378–379. 29   Ibid., 378–379. 27 28

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narrator vacillates between different sets of equally valid values and discourses, the reader is constantly pulled in the opposite directions of approving or disapproving of the emperor’s actions and choices. In the religious context Emperor Wu is certainly a Buddhist hero: what befits a Buddhist more than regarding the imperial throne—the symbol of ultimate power and glory on earth—as a “worn shoe to be discarded”? In the secular context, however, he is a ruler who has failed to uphold his duty to preserve the dynasty. Emperor Wu’s life and career prove to be full of irreconcilable contradictions in late imperial China, when sovereignty had become more narrowly defined in strict Confucian terms than more catholic conceptions of kingship in early medieval times. Depending on one’s perspective, Emperor Wu’s life is either a divine comedy of a man who gains ultimate enlightenment and salvation, or a tragedy of a fallen king. It is a conflict of role types, ideologies, and genres. This is both why the novel fails as a unified work of art and why it is so fascinating. The crux of the matter is the occupation of conflicting role types by one individual, and the problem of how to deal with this in traditional vernacular fiction. This problem is particularly striking in stories with sovereigns as protagonists, because these usually present historical fiction based on the lives and careers of historical persons whose complexity as individuals is clearly discernible in sources such as dynastic histories and defies any simple role typology. And yet, the boundary between historical romance and dynastic history can be blurry, situated as it is on the intricate, dynamic interface of history and literature; and the problem of role types in characterization is by no means confined to historical romances. In Feng Menglong’s short story, history and Buddhism find com­ mon ground in the quest for causality, but in the anonymous novel this common ground turns out to be more precarious than one might suppose. While The Romance of Emperor Wu may not count as a masterwork of Chinese fiction, it has considerable literary-historical significance in that it throws a single character into conflicting stereotypical roles: dynasty-founder, failed last emperor, and Buddhist who finally achieves enlightenment or, in the variant title of Feng Menglong’s story, becomes a Buddha.


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music and dramatic lyricism


MUSIC AND DRAMATIC LYRICISM IN HONG SHENG’S PALACE OF ETERNAL LIFE Ayling Wang The poetic nature of Chinese drama points to a direction of exploration that is infrequently pursued by critics: that the poetic and dramatic elements of poetic drama can be explicated not only as two separate qualities but more importantly as elements of an integrated aesthetic response. Both in the performance and in the appreciation of opera, we find that the poetic and the dramatic enhance and elevate each other. However, a survey of Chinese dramatic criticism shows that many critical works are studies of either character and theme or poetic qualities. Rarely are these two kinds of study integrated into a poetics which, by articulating the contribution of constituent elements, explains the full effect of drama. Although prose and poetry were the main literary genres in the early Qing, chuanqi 傳奇 drama, a composite art of lyricism, narrativity and dramaticism, became a major entertainment most popular among the literati. While most famous playwrights such as Wu Weiye 吳偉業 (1609–1672), Hong Sheng 洪昇 (1645–1704) and Kong Shangren 孔尚 任 (1648–1718) were leading poets of their times, it is noteworthy that they chose to engage in cross-generic writing and to combine poetry and music in drama. The fictional, lyrical and representational characteristics of Chinese drama provided an appropriate strategy of “playfulness” or “entertainment” for early Qing literati to express conflicting emotions concerning the collapse of the Ming and the subsequent conquest of the Chinese world by the Manchu Qing dynasty. While traditionally regarded as a “lesser way” (xiaodao 小道) or “trivial skill” (moji 末技), Chinese drama turned out to be a self-liberated space for these frustrated literati to linger in. It seems that if only they entered this “artistic space” with music and dance, their stress and suffering could be greatly relieved. This essay takes music, lyricism and cross-generic writing as points of convergence to explore how early Qing literati employed drama as


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a kind of intimate vehicle for retaining public and private memories, thus expressing their sentiments about dynastic changeover. To explicate the interaction of “music,” “dramatic lyricism” and “cross-generic writing,” I will focus on Hong Sheng’s play Changsheng dian 長生殿 (The Palace of Eternal Life).1 I will analyze how the author employs music in the play and how his distinct treatments of music and poetry highlight the composite art of lyricism, narrativity and dramaticism of chuanqi drama. The issues addressed are: How did the poet Hong Sheng realize his ideal lyricism through his dramatic work? How did drama come to be employed as a public medium for early Qing literati to convey private sentiments? How did recurrent thematic melodies create boundary-crossing imagination? How did music performance within the play function as a vehicle to recollect cultural memory and what was its metatheatrical effect? What self-referential significance can we find in Hong Sheng’s portrayal of the music masters? Hong Sheng: The Poet As Dramatist Among the masterpieces of Chinese drama, Hong Sheng’s romance The Palace of Eternal Life (hereafter TPEL) is one of the most famous. It is a chuanqi play which takes as its theme the love story of Emperor Ming Huang of the Tang Dynasty 唐明皇 (685–762, r. 712–756, r. title Xuanzong 玄宗) and his favorite consort Lady Yang Yuhuan 楊玉環 (719–756) (Yang Guifei 楊貴妃; Consort Yang). By the end of the Ming dynasty, there were already twenty-one plays dealing with this popular love story. The popularity of TPEL and its great influence on drama of the period are due to the fact that in his play Hong Sheng surpassed all previous works on the same theme, both in his artistic treatment of the subject and in his poetic technique. In fact, as a culmination of a   The English translation used in this paper is Hong Sheng, The Palace of Eternal Youth, trans. Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1955), hereafter cited as TPEY. While this translation is somewhat prosaic, it is, on the whole, accurate and lucid. I therefore generally follow it, though I occasionally propose revised or alternate renditions of certain passages. The Chinese text used is Hong Sheng, Changsheng dian 長生殿 (Beijing: Wenxue guji kanxingshe, 1955) which includes Wu Shufu’s 吳舒鳧 commentaries, hereafter cited as CSD. I have also consulted the edition annotated by Tseng Yong-yih 曾永義 (Taibei: Guojia chubanshe, 1988), who not only offers detailed footnotes for the play, but also discusses the arrangement of music in terms of the development of the dramatic plot. See also Hong Sheng, Changsheng dian, ed. Xu Shuofang 徐朔方 (Beijing: Remin wenxue chubanshe, 1988). 1

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number of earlier treatments of the tale in poetry and music drama, the dramatic achievement of TPEL has won praise from all connoisseurs of Chinese drama. The famous Qing drama critic Liang Tingnan 梁 廷枏 (1796–1861), for example, praised TPEL as “one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of Chinese drama.” 2 He further noted that “the language and musical composition are beautiful and the theatrical arrangement of its plot is perfect.”3 Another renowned Qing critic, Jiao Xun 焦循 (1763–1820), valued TPEL “above all other plays.”4 Modern kunqu expert Wang Jilie 王季烈 lauded TPEL as an “impeccable play which constitutes a marvelous achievement in language, structure, characterization, rhythm and musical pitch.”5 And Wu Mei 吳梅, a leading authority on the history of Chinese drama in modern times, has called TPEL the best opera in terms of its dramatic achievement.6 Although an accomplished poet, Hong Sheng has long been identified only as the playwright of TPEL. In fact, Hong Sheng’s achievement in the field of poetic drama has much to do with his poetic talent. Though his shi 詩and ci 詞 poetry are far less popular than his drama, he had been celebrated for his gift in poetry before he became a wellknown dramatist. He was praised, for example, as a poet whose “writing and heroic spirit have made a stir in the gentry world.”7 Prime minister Li Tianfu 李天馥 (1635–1699) was “overwhelmed with admiration”8 when he first read Hong Sheng’s poetry, and immediately recommended Hong to the most famous poet at that time—Wang Shizhen 王士禛 (1634–1711), who was also “amazed” at Hong’s unusual talent.9 Hong Sheng’s shi was praised by contemporaries as “lofty and lucid” (shudan 疏澹).10 This evaluation is not surprising, for the elevated 2   See Liang Tingnan, Quhua 曲話 (Notes on Qu), in Zhongguo gudian xiqu lunzhu jicheng (Beijing: Zhongguo xiju chubanshe, 1980), vol. 8, 270. 3   Ibid. 4   See Jiao Xun, Jushuo 劇說 (On Theater) in Zhongguo gudian xiqu lunzhu jicheng, vol. 8, juan 4, 154. 5   See Wang Jilie, Yinlu qutan 螾廬曲談 (On Qu Poetry at Yinlu) (Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1965), 24. 6   See Wu Mei, Guqu zhutan 顧曲麈談 (A Connoisseur’s Appraisal of Qu Poetry) (Taibei: Guangwen shuju, 1980), 185. 7   See Li Tianfu, “Song Hong Fangsi guili” 送洪昉思歸里 (Seeing Hong Fangsi Off to His Hometown), as cited in Zhang Peiheng章培恆, Hong Sheng nianpu 洪昇年譜 (A Chronicle of Hong Sheng’s Life) (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1979), 139. 8   Zhang Peiheng, Hong Sheng nianpu, 137. 9   Ibid., 144. 10   See Liu Hui 劉輝, “Qianyan” 前言 (Preface), Hong Sheng ji 洪昇集 (A Collection of Hong Sheng’s Works) (Hangzhou: Zhejiang guji chubanshe, 1992), 1.


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and untrammeled air of his shi poetry set it apart from the conventional verse being written at the time. As Wang Zhuo 王焯 points out, “although following the poetic style of the Tang, Hong Sheng’s shi has transcended the current fashion.”11 Shen Deqian 沈德潛 (1673–1769), the founder of the “style” (gediao 格調) school, also speaks highly of Hong’s shi as “eminent for its limpid and elevated style which will be handed down to the later generations.”12 Although Hong Sheng is one of the most outstanding disciples in Wang Shizhen’s school, his views on poetry are entirely different from his master’s theory of spiritual tone (shenyun 神韻). According to Wang Shizhen, the ultimate purpose of poetry, like Zen Buddhism, is to experience “spiritual awakening” (shenwu 神悟): To discard the raft and climb ashore is what experts in Zen Buddhism consider to be the “awakened state” [wujing 悟境] and what experts in poetry consider to be the “transformed state” [huajing 化境]. Poetry and Zen are the same and there is no difference between them.13

How Hong Sheng’s conceptions of poetry differed from this may be illustrated by the following conversation among Wang Shizhen, Hong Sheng, and Hong’s friend Zhao Zhishen 趙執信 (1662–1744), as recorded by Zhao: Hong Fangsi [Hong Sheng] of Qiantang , who had long been a disciple of Xiling, made friends with me. One day, we discussed poetry together at the home of the Minister of Justice [Wang Shizhen]. Fangsi, hating the lack of methods of composition in contemporary popular writing, said, “Poetry is like a dragon, with its head and tail, its horns and claws, its scales and bristles; if any of these is lacking, then it is not a dragon.” Wang laughed at him and said, “Poetry is like a diving dragon, of which one can see the head but not the tail; or perhaps it may reveal a claw or some of its scales in the clouds, and that is all. How can one get its whole body? If one can, then it is a carved or painted one.” Zhao said, “To be sure, the divine dragon coils or stretches and changes its appearance without its scales or claws in 11   Wang Zhuo’s “Postcript” to Changsheng dian, as cited in Chen Wannai 陳萬 鼐, Hong Sheng yanjiu 洪昇研究 (A Study of Hong Sheng) (Taibei: Xuesheng shuju, 1970), 169. 12   Shen Deqian, Qingshi biecai 清詩別裁 (A Special Selection of Qing Poetry) (Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1956), juan 16. 13   See Wang Shizhen, Daijingtang shihua 帶經堂詩話 (Notes on Poetry at Daijingtang) (Shanghai: n.d.), juan 3, 6. Translation taken from James J.Y. Liu, Chinese Theories of Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975), 44.

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fixed position, the dragon’s head and tail will have remained intact all the time. If one is limited by what one sees and thinks that the whole dragon is here, that will give the carvers and painters some excuses.” Fangsi was thus convinced.14

Given the fact that Zhao Zhishen put this anecdote at the beginning of his book of collected comments on poetry and that he named the book Tanlong lu 談龍錄 (A Record of the Discussion on Dragons), we know this conversation on dragons and poetry was significant to him. This conversation suggests that Wang sees poetry as imitation of the mysteries of the universe, while Zhao sees it as a concrete object whose anatomy can be studied. Zhao’s technical conception is further evidenced by his compiling the Shengdiao pu 聲調譜 (The Manual of Tonal Patterns). Zhao believes that the secrets of poetry can be contained in a set of prosodic rules. His objection to Wang Shizhen’s metaphysical theory of poetry stems from his own technical conception. In the preface to his own poem, “Thinking of Hong Fangsi,” Zhao mentions that Hong Sheng cried out in admiration at his works and asked for his advice on poetry.15 It is obvious that Hong Sheng’s poetic aesthetics was to some degree influenced by Zhao. For Hong Sheng, detailed and concrete delineation, like the painting of the dragon’s whole body, is the most crucial method in poetry writing. Zhao commented on Hong Sheng’s shi poetry: “Fangsi is different from the others in Wang’s school. His poetry is strictly rule-abiding, but it’s a pity that some of his works have no soul.”16 Rule-abiding was Hong Sheng’s consistent technical view on poetry; and because of it, his shi poetry is sonorous, dynamic and flowing. Hong’s proficiency in tone, rhyme and music, in addition to his belief in the importance of technique and description in poetry, fully manifests itself in his dramatic verse. A major difference between dramatic verse and conventional Chinese poetry is that dramatic verse has narration among its inherent functions. As the main expressive and descriptive form of Chinese drama, narrative poetry is not only featured for its “poetic state” (jingjie 境界) but also for its affective legendary plot. 14   See Zhao Zhishen, Tanlonglu 談龍錄, in Ding Fubao 丁福保, ed., Qing shihua 清詩話 (Notes on Qing Poetry) (Taibei: Xi’nan shuju, 1979), 274. Translation taken from James J.Y. Liu, Chinese Theories of Literature, 135. 15   See Zhao Zhishen, “Hong Sheng xiaozhuan” 洪昇小傳 (Short Biography of Hong Sheng), as cited in Zhang Peiheng, Hong Sheng nianpu, 194. 16   Ibid.


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By employing minute and concrete description, Hong fully elaborates his gift for narration in narrative poetry. If Hong’s literary view led him away from the Wang Shizhen school in shi writing, it opened a new vision for him in qu 曲 (aria) composition. We find in his qu poetry a lively and enriched presentation of his poetic talent, with the combination of his heroic abandon style in northern qu 北曲, and his elegant and ornate style in southern qu 南曲. Minute and concrete delineation is a means to dramatize and represent the plot in narrative works. One of the pleasures of it is the provocation of the imagination. Another is the heightening of emotional intensity as a result of dramatic elaboration. The idea of minute and concrete delineation, developed with great poetic ingenuity in the structure of dramatic and musical elaboration, was one of the major contributions Hong Sheng, the poet, made to Hong Sheng, the dramatist. His dramatic writing came into full flower as he freely explored the aesthetic ideal he had first expressed in his poetry. Hong Sheng’s technical concept of poetry was also significantly inspired by the famous poet Shi Runzhang 施潤章 (1618–1683). Shi Runzhang once explicated the poetic method to Hong metaphorically, by comparing the two ways of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism, instant (dun 頓) and gradual (jian 漸): For your mentor [Wang Shizhen], writing poetry is like envisaging the Buddhist tower appearing suddenly in a flash, or like visualizing the illusory immortal cities floating at the end of the sky; but for me, poetry writing is like house-building which must start from the ground step by step.17

Based on Wang’s metaphor of Zen for poetry, Shi Runzhang’s further differentiation between the two Zen states greatly inspired Hong Sheng in his own poetic thinking. Preferring gradual enlightenment to instant enlightenment, Hong became interested in the writing of dramatic qu poetry, whose most significant feature is its minute delineation of narrative plot advancing gradually in due order. His versatile mastery in poetry and music and enthusiasm in the minute description of narrative poetry is fully attested in his dramatic works. By the twenty-sixth year of the Kangxi reign (1687), the year before TPEL was finished, Hong Sheng had written more than one thousand   See Wang Shizhen, Yuyang shihua 漁洋詩話 (Notes on Poetry by Wang Yuyang), middle juan, 78, in Qing shihua, 175. 17

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shi poems. If, in the world of shi poetry, Hong Sheng expressed his innermost feelings and random thoughts to soothe his heart, in his dramatic writing, Hong Sheng conveyed his ideals and gradually explored his life-vision. If it is true that there comes a moment in the lives of most writers when they gain the internal confidence and authority that allow them to think of themselves as writers, it is also true that such a moment is one both of found identity and sustained determination. By all accounts, this moment came for Hong Sheng when he fully realized his ideal of a poet and a dramatist in writing poetic drama, a synthetic art of literature, music and theater. As Hong Sheng’s poetic learning progressed from shi, to ci and qu, his capacity and potential were manifest in various styles in different poetic genres. “Hong Fangsi is proficient in composing qu,” writes Hong’s mentor Mao Qiling 毛奇齡 (1623–1716) in the preface to TPEL, “he composed ‘Xishu yin’ 西蜀吟 (Singing in the West of Shu) first, then the ‘Dacheng yuefu’ [Songs of the Dacheng Bureau] 大晟樂府, and finally the qu songs of Jin and Yuan; his songs which include all kinds of qu forms—song suite, zaju 雜劇, yuanben 院本—are his vehicles for self-expression or social intercourse.”18 His ci and qu songs were so popular that even children and women knew “Master Hong” quite well.19 At a time when the literati liked to demonstrate their “amateur” skill in many forms, it is in poetic drama that Hong Sheng gives rein to his multifaceted talents. Hong Sheng must have written many sanqu 散曲 lyrics. However, only three suites of them are extant.20 As for Hong’s dramatic works, among the twelve plays he wrote, the only two plays extant are TPEL and Si chanjuan 四嬋娟 (The Four Fair Women). In his “Introduction” to TPEL, Hong Sheng gives a clear account of the process of his writing this play.21 In the the twelfth year of the Kangxi reign (1673), Hong Sheng visited the Gao garden with his friend Yan Dingyu 嚴定隅. They talked about stories of the Kaiyuan (713–741) and Tianbao (742–756) periods, and then, touched by the 18   See Mao Qiling, “Changsheng dian yuanben xu” 長生殿院本序 (Preface to the Play Changsheng dian) in Hong Sheng, Changsheng dian, ed. Xu Shuofang, 265. 19   See Hong Sheng’s biography in Qiantang xianzhi 錢塘縣志 (The Gazetteer of the Qiantang District), cited in Wang Yongjian王永健, Hong Sheng he Changsheng dian 洪昇和長生殿 (Hong Sheng and Changsheng dian) (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe,1982), 32. 20   See Zhang Peiheng, Hong Sheng nianpu, 190–193, and Tseng Yong-yih, Hong Sheng yanjiu, 33–36. 21   See Hong Sheng, “Liyan” 例言 (Introduction), Changsheng dian, ed. Xu Shuofang, 1.


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special favor Li Bai 李白 received from Emperor Ming Huang, Hong Sheng composed the play Chenxiang ting 沈香亭 (The Chenxiang Pavilion).22 Over the years, Hong revised the play three times. The Chenxiang Pavilion was the place where Li Bai was instructed by the emperor to compose the famous poem “Qingping diao” 清平調 (To the Tune of Qingping).23 Since Hong Sheng explained that he wrote The Chenxiang Pavilion because he was “touched” by Li Bai’s winning imperial favor from Emperor Ming Huang, its plot must have been mainly about the ups and downs of Li Bai’s career. However, since Hong’s friend Mao Yusi 毛玉斯 remarked that “compared with previous works, the play’s scenic construction looks slightly familiar,” in 1679 Hong Sheng deleted Li Bai’s part, adding some plot about Li Mi’s 李泌 (722–789) assisting Emperor Suzong’s 肅宗 (711–762) resurgence of the nation after the An Lushan 安祿山 rebellion.24 However, since there were not many appealing historical anecdotes about Li Mi which were suitable for dramatization, the revised play did not take Li Mi’s story as its theme.25 The play’s title was changed to Wu Nishang 舞霓裳 (Dancing the Feather Garment Song) because its focus had been gradually shifted to the royal couple’s romance and the prosperity and decline of the Tang empire around the Tianbao period. Dancing the Feather Garment Song is an allegory for the Tang empire’s decline, and according to Hong Sheng’s good friend Xu Lingzhao 徐 靈昭, it “deeply explores the spirit of satire and allegory in the Book of Songs.”26 Having completed this second revision, however, Hong Sheng realized that all the Tianbao events actually centered around one crucial figure, Emperor Ming Huang, and one critical event, the An Lushan rebellion. The legendary love story between Emperor Ming Huang and Lady Yang which is closely related to these two central elements thus became for him a crucial point to explore. Therefore, in 1688, Hong Sheng revised the play by deleting the plot about Li Mi, focusing instead on the “unswerving love pledge with golden hairpin and   Ibid.   See “Li Bai zhuan” 李白傳 (Li Bai’s Biography), in Xin Tang shu 新唐書, comp. Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 et al., in Ershiwu shi 二十五史 (The Twenty-Five Histories) (Taibei: Dingwen shuju, 1964), juan 202. 24   See Hong Sheng, Changsheng dian, ed. Xu Shuofang , 1. 25   See Zhang Peiheng, Hong Sheng nianpu, 13. 26   See preface by Xu Lin 徐靈 in Hong Sheng, Changsheng dian, ed. Xu Shuofang, 259. 22 23

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jewel box” (chaihe qingyuan 釵盒情緣) between Emperor Ming Huang and Lady Yang. This play, in which Hong voices his ideal of love, was entitled The Palace of Eternal Life. Over more than a decade Hong Sheng had revised the play three times, each time changing its thematic focus. In TPEL, he has concentrated his attention on the love theme, and greatly improved and perfected his theatrical design. It is rumored that Hong Sheng was so devoted to the project that the traces of his fingers’ beating on his desk, left in the process of his musical composition, were still distinctly visible even one hundred years later. In addition, to preserve those unforgettable moments of lyrics and music, he painted for himself a “Tianci tu” 填詞圖 (Portrait of Myself Composing Lyrics), on which his good friends wrote inscriptions to praise his sprightly, unrestrained demeanor when composing lyrics.27 In 1688, Hong Sheng completed his masterpiece. Hong composed twelve plays in all, yet in his mind, TPEL was the fruit of a lifetime’s painstaking labor. It should be noted that behind Hong’s dramatic writing is a literary concept inherited from the Chinese poetic tradition. In his preface to TPEL, Hong Sheng mentions that, “to compose the play, I have borrowed and quoted (duan zhang qu yi 斷章取義) from the historical context of the former splendor of the Tianbao period.”28 Duan zhang qu yi, which literally means “to take a passage from its context and make a deliberated interpretation according to its literal meaning,” reveals that Hong Sheng intended to formulate his own view of the material and express something far beyond the narrative interest of the Lady Yang story itself. Recurrent Thematic Melody and Cross-Generic Writing The premise that qu is the essential artistic medium in Chinese drama, bearing the ultimate responsibility for articulating drama, underlies all reflection on lyricism in this article. Although I try to show how qu works dramatically from one situation to another, what is most important for critics to grasp is the intensity of the integral artistic experience. This intensity can be most easily understood by observing the three principal means by which lyric can contribute to drama. The 27 28

  See Zhang Peiheng, Hong Sheng nianpu, 313, 316–317.   Hong Sheng, “Preface,” Changsheng dian, ed. Xu Shuofang , 1.


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most obvious of these is the presentation of individual feelings through lyricism. A second contribution of qu, and one which is somewhat more ineffable, is the establishment of atmosphere. Besides presenting individual feelings, qu works in a more general, pervasive way. Qu of a particular sort establishes a particular world or a particular field in which certain types of thought, feeling and action are possible (or at least plausible). This is what we mean when we say that poetry imbues atmosphere. A third has to do with defining the quality of local actions. Qu, like action, exists in time and articulates time. It is therefore especially well suited to shape palpable actions such as deeds done, steps taken, events arranged, and “psychological actions” such as the desiring, suffering, struggling, repenting, and longing for love that are illustrated in Hong’s play. In other words, there should be continuous interaction between lyricism and dramatic action. In each of these three areas—defining character, establishing atmosphere, and generating actions—we can see qu in Chinese poetic drama performing essential tasks, much like in Western opera. As in Western opera, a musical leitmotif in Chinese drama often functions like a recurring image, with this difference: whereas the verbal symbol had some specific meaning, however limited, at its first appearance, the musical symbol carries at best a mood, and can only absorb conceptual meaning by association. For example, Hong Sheng uses a real song titled “Nishang yuyi qu” 霓裳羽衣曲 (The Rainbow Garment Dance) as the recurring theme, making it a symbol of the lovers’ wonderful time together before the An Lushan rebellion. This theme forces the audience or listeners to relate one moment in the drama to another, creating a continuous effect. A form of heavenly music composed by Lady Yang, its recurrence links the past, present and the future of Lady Yang’s life, connects the mortal and immortal worlds, and finally accompanies the lovers’ reunion in the moon palace. In the Tang legend, the original Xiliang music “The Rainbow Garment Dance” was turned into heavenly music acquired from the moon palace by the emperor. In order to anticipate Lady Yang’s ties to the immortal world, Hong Sheng uses the music to hint at Lady Yang’s unearthly essence. When the music was first played in the Moon palace, it conveyed a message of the lovers’ obsession with earthly delusion: “But though we sing, and play the flute and symbols, / We shall not waken mortals from their slumbers, / Nor halt the fleeting hours in the moon” (TPEY, Scene X, 42). For the immortals, the mortals are

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simply consumed in their earthly joy which itself is like a nightmare from which the mortals cannot easily wake. This celestial music becomes the focus of the four most melodious scenes: “Dream Music” (Scene X), “Writing the Music” (Scene XI), “Stealing the music” (Scene XII) and “the Disk Dance” (Scene XV), in which the song plays the exact same role as the recurring themes in Western opera. Hong Sheng has a group of maids or fairies sing the same music on several different occasions, with the effect of reminiscence. In the scene “Dream Music,” Lady Yang is invited to the Moon palace in her dream to listen to the “Rainbow Garment Dance,” which she heard before in her last life. But before Lady Yang transcribes the song, the music can be heard only in the heavens, and in the whole human world only a banished fairy like Lady Yang can compose it. The music cannot be transcribed and carried to the mortals without Lady Yang. For although she “knows the melody of this heavenly dance, all the details must be carefully considered; the words must be fitting, and the stanzas follow in proper sequence”(TPEY, Scene XI, 56). Like music itself, Lady Yang is also an existence with unearthly essence in the mortal world. The song could thus be considered symbolic—the symbolic representation of Lady Yang’s ethereal origin. The music is used for imaginative reminiscence, and almost always occurs in some climatic context. The emperor praises it as the “heavenly music” which perfectly matches Lady Yang’s “unearthly beauty that makes him think she must have been a fairy of the moon” (Scene XI, 59). This is also the “divine music, not the world of men,” which has been caught by the young musician Li Mo’s flute in “Stealing the Music”(Scene XIII). In the “Disk Dance” (Scene XV), the music and Lady Yang add radiance and beauty to each other: while she dances with the melody, she wears an embroidered headdress, an embroidered white tunic with green sleeves, a cape with colored cloud designs and a red dancing skirt. As the palace maids sing: With lustrous silk and brilliant flowers A rosy cloud seems to float in the air; Rainbows-bright banners wave and fragrant pearls Are showered from the sky; The parted fans reveal heavenly beauty Descending from the moon. [TPEY, Scene XV, 79]


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With the “divine music” lingering in the air, the internal audience on the stage and the external audience alike are captivated by the heavenly beauty’s unearthly glamour and giftedness. When the old musician performs in Scene XXXVII, “Rhapsody,” Li Mo praises him for “divine music” again. Because of the music, Lady Yang’s genius is even admired by the Goddess of the Moon, who “is also eager to listen to her new tune, which is said to be unsurpassed in the world of men” (Scene XXXIX, 214). However, it is noticeable that the notes on the music score of the “Dance” have been “blurred and stained with tears” during Lady Yang’s lonely life in the immortal land. The music, an embodiment of Lady Yang’s unearthly radiance which seems closely connected to Lady Yang’s emotions, is not played at all until her final reunion with the emperor. Although in this play the melody is never sung by Lady Yang, it still clearly belongs to her. The music of the “Rainbow Garment Dance” is associated with Lady Yang’s memories of her own experience. In the final scene, the wonderful sense of expansion and the soaring release of the music are more moving than ever. Like the lovers, the “Rainbow Garment Dance” is also immortalized. Here, Hong Sheng is on to what might be called a “hinge-theme,” and seems to be more conscious of the full dramatic power latent in the device. The play, as the story of the “Rainbow Dance,” in fact ends with the music, which illuminates the central dramatic idea: “Here is the story of the ‘Rainbow Garment Dance’ / Made new, and lovers of music will understand / Its real meaning; true lovers who are constant / Will enjoy their love throughout eternity” (Scene IVIX, 237). A moment of love’s fulfillment, this is also a climax musically, because the music in this section has a sense of unprecedented grandeur which contains an elevated level of feeling. The musical reminiscence, a heightened reminiscence of the spirit of true love, unifies the play psychologically and thematically through a single tune. The technique of musical repetition in the play is thus utilized to its full potential. Music Performance As a Vehicle to Recollect Cultural Memory and Its Metatheatrical Effect Music performance becomes the main vehicle the playwright uses to raise issues of metatheatrical effect. Scene XXXVII “Rhapsody” is a good example. After the An Lushan rebellion, the wandering old

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musician Li Guinian 李龜年 recounts the story of the Tianbao period in public. This is a retrospective summary of the major events, eliciting his audience’s various comments on the royal couple’s love story. The oral genre of prosimetric story-telling to stringed accompaniment that Li Guinian performs in the scene is called tanci 彈詞 (plucking rhymes). In this scene, which reflects in miniature the plot in the first half of the play, all the verbal echoes aroused and the visual impact in the physical movement and grouping of the characters serve the detailed pattern which ties the various strands of plot together. Hong Sheng employs the famous song suite “Jiuzhuan huolang’er” 九轉貨 郎兒 (Nine Tunes of the Peddler) from the Yuan zaju Huolangdan 貨郎旦 (The Songstress), which includes nine tunes recounting various events in previous scenes of the play. For example, the second tune describes the second scene, “Mishi” 密誓 (The Pledge); the third tune depicts the third scene, “Chunshui” 春睡 (The Spring Siesta); the fifth tune echoes scene twenty-four, “Jingbian” 驚變 (The Alarm), and scene thirty-two, “Kuxiang” 哭像 (Mourning Before the Image). Like the commenting figure in most tragedies, TPEL’s Li Guinian, though limited in his understanding, enables us to come to terms with the full complexity of the fate the tragic hero copes with. Li Guinian’s story, together with the crowd’s opinions, reflects the royal couple’s love story. This makes Li and the crowd ideal observers for us, the audience, to align ourselves with. In the build-up of climactic sequences, and at widely separated points in the play, there are underlying rhythms which make the audience recognize important relationships between events. Li Guinian’s tanci (Scene XXXVII), for example, reminds us of his previous performance of the “Rainbow Garment Dance” when Lady Yang danced before the emperor in the palace (Scene XV). In the sense that both scenes have their internal audience on stage, the scenes are structured as a play-within-a-play. The two scenes are presented as public entertainment, and they require more actors on stage at one time than most of the other scenes. In Scene XV, ten speakers or singers are required to participate in the music-play. In Scene XXXVII, there are six speaking parts, and we may suppose that several mute attendants would have been used as members of a stage audience. Besides these general correspondences, of course, there are obvious differences, The “Rainbow” dance scene, occurring in the first part of the play, presents the lovers’ bliss in the first stage of love and prepares us for the continuation of


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another sequence in which “the ‘Rainbow Garment Dance’ is shattered by the sound of rebel drums” (Scene XXIII). By contrast, the performance of tanci reviews and comments on the development of major events in the play. As an observer and story-teller of the splendor of the Tianbao period, Li elicits the audience’s empathy more successfully than does any other character in this play. Mourning for the old regime, he sings, I sing of kingdoms which rise and fall, To vanish away like dreams, And I play of sorrow and sighs. I have seen such tragedy, I pluck the strings To express my sorrow in the melodies. And today I will tell you slowly Of the former splendor of the Tianbao period. [TPEY, Scene XXXVII, 198]

What is remarkable about this scene is not only that, like the playwithin-a-play, it offers a mirroring miniature of the play’s action and the audience’s response, but also that it presents the medium of representation itself in the form of a wandering musician. In the very act of dramatic composition and performance of the tanci, Li Guinian personifies the declining Tang empire. It is worth noting that here the dramatic performance onstage has two different levels: one is Li’s singing of the tanci as an event in the flow of plot development, and the other is his narration. Li Guinian, while being an internal central character in the performance of the tanci scene in TPEL, is simultaneously recounting and remarking the story of the play itself as both an external story-teller and audience of the previous “Tianbao story.” Exploiting the active participation of our memories, the author here employs this triple role of Li Guinian to provoke our empathy. In the mean time, there exists a group of people acting as an internal audience on stage listening to Li’s story-telling and expressing various views on the royal romance. Their different views offer us, the external audience, alternative ways to respond to the play. Thus the tanci performance not only thematizes the connections between the individual and the community in Tang society, but also dramatizes our response to the romance. When the internal audience is silent, we feel merged with it, and the whole theater turns into a special auditorium for the live performance of tanci. By presenting the dramatic performance as

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narration, Li Guinian’s song, which is one event of the play itself, tells a story within the whole TPEL. This kind of shifting between levels reminds us of Genette’s “narrative metalepsis,” which indicates the transition from one narrative level to another.29 When Li Guinian sings, “Our sovereign neglected affairs of state / In his eagerness for tournaments of love” (TPEY, Scene XXXVII, 200), we do not feel that the author intrudes in order to moralize. Although didacticism also characterizes the content of the tanci, the author assumes the selfconsciousness of Li Guinian and comments through the mouth of this presiding character in this scene. It is noticeable that tanci is presented in this scene not only as a slow music form, a “trivial skill” for musicians who once performed the exalted music of the court, but also as a new form of entertainment, in contrast to the re-imaginings of medieval Tang music that dominate the opera. While Li Guinian’s singing is lively, the listeners’ response is very encouraging, as one says, “Listening to the old man tell how pretty Lady Yang was. He seems to be painting a portrait true to life, as if he had seen her with his own eyes. What a liar!” (TPEY, Scene XXXVIII, 200) This interaction reminds the external audience that the nostalgic tale of splendor and fall that the story-teller sings is really meant to evoke memories of the recent trauma of the Ming dynasty’s collapse only a few decades before. Self-referential Significance in Hong Sheng’s Portrayal of the Music Masters Orchestra leader Li Guinian is a historical figure through whom the author expresses his emotions for the rise and fall of the dynasty by the depiction of the lovers’ bliss and sorrow. As is explicitly reflected in his first song after the rebellion: Since the drums of war began to roll, The palace has been overgrown with weeds; And only the white-haired musician is left To sing of the Empire’s fall and of our sorrow. [TPEY, Scene XXXVII, 196]

  Gerard Genette, Narrative Discourse, trans. Jane E. Lewin (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972), 234–237. 29


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The vicissitudes of Li’s fortune allegorize both the destinies of the old loyalists and the old dynasty. He was favored by the emperor before the An Lushan rebellion; but now, ragged and lean and living in the south, he has cried until his eyes grow dim. As a figure who voices the story of the Tianbao period, Li Guinian personifies history. Based on a real personage Li projects himself as a particular individual, bound up as integrally as the other characters in the tumult of the times and in advancing the movement of the play. Through Li Guinian’s touching retelling of the story of the play, Hong Sheng not only strikes a sympathetic chord in his listeners, but also urges them to contemplate the correlation of the fortunes of the empire and the royal couple. Sympathy and judgment are proficiently dramatized when Hong Sheng combines rhetoric and music in Li Guinian’s performance in order to render a more compelling way to affect the theater audience. Li Guinian’s performance is an embodiment of Hong Sheng’s artistic ideal which synthesizes various forms of dramatic art. We see and feel, in the mask of the dramatic persona Li Guinian, the poet, dramatist and the musician Hong Sheng’s innermost affection concealed under a cloak of objectivity. The allegorical and lyrical significance of Li Guinian as a drifting old loyalist after the dynastic transition is also reflected in the next scene ”Sacrifice at the Nunnery” (Scene XXXVIII). During a chance meeting of Li Guinian and two of Lady Yang’s palace maids, Niannu 念奴 and Yongxin 永新, we hear them sing, “At the sudden meeting we shed tears. A white-haired old man and two maids, we lament the ups and downs of fortune” (Scene XXVIII). Again and again, we see a white diehard recalling his “native place,” which now is “far beyond the clouds.” According to Du Fu’s 杜甫 (712–770) poem “Jiangnan feng Li Guinian” 江南逢李龜年 (Meeting Li Guinian in the South),30 after the An Lushan rebellion, Li Guinian wandered in Changsha, rather than in Nanjing. In TPEL, by making Li Guinian sing in Nanjing, the onetime capital of the Ming and symbol of the old nation for the Ming loyalists, Hong Sheng entrusts his grief for the old dynasty to Li’s song:

30   See Guo Zhida 郭知達, ed., Jiu jia Du shi jizhu九家杜詩集注 (The Nine Schools’ Collective Commentaries on Du Fu’s Poetry), in Du shi yinde (Beijing: Yanjing University, 1940), juan 34, 532.

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Here by the ancient tombs of the previous six generations sunk deep in weeds, I mourn the vicissitudes of human fortune. [TPEY, Scene XXXVII, 197]

While the musician Li Guinian laments both his own fate and that of his country through his story-telling, the dramatist Hong Sheng, by depicting the royal couple’s sorrow, joy, separation and reunion as related to the situation of the Tang state, also mourns his own failure and destitution, as well as the destiny of the old nation. A form of true love, patriotism not only exists in the notables and the officers; it also endures in the heart of the common people. Hong Sheng tends to depict sympathetically the honest and simple-minded “small people,” highlighting their unselfishness and knight-errantry. Hong Sheng thus portrays the patriot Lei Haiqing 雷海青, an illiterate lute-player who curses the rebels and eventually sacrifices his life. By depicting Lei’s gallant deed and his heroic death, the author vents his innermost abhorrence for all disloyal and sinful rebels and traitors. Though a humble musician, Lei Haiqing’s deed exemplifies the nobility of a model loyalist: in face of the crisis and catastrophe of his country, he cannot help “gnashing his teeth in anger and sorrow” (Scene XXVII, 146). In the scene “The Patriot and the Rebel,” (Scene XXVII), Hong Sheng gives one of his most vivid and unforgettable descriptions of Lei Haiqing’s chivalry and courage. When An Lushan is celebrating his victory and feasting with the traitors at the Frozen Azure Pool, Lei Haiqing appears with his lute in place of a weapon, scathingly denouncing An Lushan and the opportunistic officials: I hate the barbarian who has polluted the throne, Like the toad in the proverb who tried to eat the swan, An who has forced our Emperor to flee, His treason is so disgusting That even if I eat his flesh and sleep on his hides, I shall never forget my hatred! Yet those rotten courtiers, those good-for-nothing curs, Who talked so much of loyalty and piety, As soon as disaster came just turned their coats To grab at wealth and position. They fawn and cringe when they accept new titles, Taking their deadly foe as their benefactor. Have they no sense of shame?

[TPEY, Scene XXVII, 146]


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The stronger Lei’s wrath grows, the more deeply we are impressed with his love for his country. After roaring, “Here comes my lute! May it break your head, and avenge my former master!” (TPEY, Scene XXVII, 149) Lei Haiqing hurls his lute at An Lushan, in an act of resolute martyrdom. Lei’s hurling of the lute, as the Qing critic Wu Shufu 吳 舒鳧 suggests, echoes back to Gao Jianli’s 高漸離 striking his zither. Gao Jianli also sacrificed his own life after failing to assassinate the king of Qin.31 In Wu Shufu’s opinion, Hong Sheng expresses his feelings for “the rise and fall of the dynasty” (xingwang 興亡) through Lei Haiqing’s heroic deed, and allegorically conveys his hatred for all the time-serving renegades through Lei’s curse. The dedicated and unwavering Lei Haiqing has already decided to die for his country; his bold cursing demonstrates his integrity and unyielding spirit in face of the despotic rebels. What calls for our deep contemplation, ironically, is the four officials’ unabashed complacency: It served that musician right—he deserved to be killed. Fancy a musician posing as a patriot! He positively tried to put us in the wrong! We are all of us simply acting a part; For how much, after all, is a loyal minister worth? And where did your loyalty land you, Lei Haiqing? You were foolish because you had never been an official! [TPEY, Scene XXVII, 150]

A poignant mocking of these traitors, the above scene functions as the author’s bitter attack on those shameless officials who turn their coats in order to grab at wealth and status. A mirroring process is set up here, with the author’s judgmental eyes overlooking the process, challenging the rebels with their own voices. The critical attitude Lei Haiqing adopts vis-à-vis the rebels is the author’s own. Lei is the author’s mouthpiece for expressing his own criticism of the traitors. In the character of Lei Haiqing, Hong Sheng obviously chooses to emphasize the recurrent theme of popular literature that morality, loyalty and patriotism can often be found in persons who are socially humble—and whose conduct at times of national catastrophe may turn out to be more honorable and impressive than that of the socially privileged.


  See Hong Sheng, Changsheng dian, 73.

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Arias As Monologue and Dramatic Lyricism Chinese dramaturgy gives pride of place to soliloquies, or monologues, in which the central characters’ perspectives are brought to the fore. Thus monologue becomes Hong Sheng’s primary vehicle to elaborate a stimulating, lingering “lyrical quality” during the performance. Monologue signifies an inwardly directed action: a persona talking to him/herself. It excludes all other personae on stage, and it involves the audience implicitly in that it is overheard, though the speaker does not intend to make his/her thought public. Monologue, being the dramatic verbalization of the thought, is by nature the most legitimate, though the least naturalistic form for the revelation of a persona’s inner world. It makes character an autonomous force, motivated by the need for self-expression. In Western classical theater, monologues are usually delivered at culminating points of the action, expositive of either the persona’s motivation for an action or his/her emotional reflection on the dramatic situation. The success of such monologues depends upon a central character with a point of view definite enough to give meaning and unity to the events, and with the strength of intellect, will and passion to create the whole work before our eyes, to give it a profundity and an atmosphere, an inner momentum, a life. As intense lyrical expressions of the dramatic persona, monologues explore the private consciousness of the persona’s psyche. In the mode of lyric monologue, the anguished private world is allowed its pure, full voice. The lyric monologues, as W.R. Johnson points out in The Idea of Lyric, “can be made to mime, even to incarnate the self in its isolation, its manifold disorders and its unrealities.”32 It can, in the most natural way (as when a person speaks to him/herself), “imagine and attempt to order the most intense and the most discordant experiences without the need to communicate them.”33 This, then, is a paradoxical mode: emotions are made public yet remain ostensibly private. What the playwright and his audience want, is a rich welter of affective pity and error. Hong Sheng often produces, in just a few lines of poetry, an effect more vivid and emotionally moving than entire scenes of action elsewhere in the play. A good example of emotive monologue in TPEL 32   W.R. Johnson, The Idea of Lyric: Lyric Modes in Ancient and Modern Poetry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 174. 33   Ibid.


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occurs when Lady Yang cuts her hair in the scene, “A Lock of Hair” (Scene VII). The arias Lady Yang sings here are some of the most moving verse lines in this play, for they not only express her unceasing affection for the emperor, but also serve to dramatize her feelings of self-pity. Due to willfulness in the Duchess of Guo incident which infuriates the emperor, Lady Yang is sent back to her family. Gao Lishi 高力士 goes to visit her, advising her to send some favorite possession to move the emperor. Lady Yang therefore decides to cut her hair which once “lay near the Emperor’s head on the pillow” as a token of her faithfulness. While she cuts her hair, like Zhao Wuniang, the heroine in Gao Ming’s 高明 (ca. 1307-ca. 1371) Pipa ji 琵琶記 (The Lute), her innermost yearning for love is conveyed in her touching conversation with the hair. I am sorry to have to cut you off, That have been with me all my youth; But to show my faithful heart (clips her hair) Cut I must, though it makes me grieve. (holding the lock of hair, she weeps) Ah, hair, I depend on you to show my love. (curtseys) Your Majesty, this lock Conveys my love and grief! Take it, my lord, and tell the Emperor (weeping) that I know I deserve a thousand deaths; and as I shall never look upon his serene countenance again in this life, I present him with this lock of hair as a token of my love. [TPEY, Scene VII, 35–36]

The images of flowing tears and the lock of hair vividly reveal Lady Yang’s broken love. Both the flowing tears dropping like pearls which cannot be strung together and the hair which is cut off symbolize and intensify the sense of “breaking off.” From the moment she cuts her hair, hair which is just like the threads of her affection (qingsi 情絲), her world of love collapses; without love, her life is forfeited—only broken threads of her remain to resemble her heartbroken soul (duanhun 斷魂). With this token, Lady Yang breaks off the sad music of her farewell aria to both her hair and her love, and returns to the dramatic moment: her sending a lock of hair through Gao Lishi to the emperor to express her endless regrets and love. From this example we can see that the action of the above scene exists for the sake of the lyrical moment. Lady Yang’s self-referential monologue revolves around the

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metaphor of the lock of hair cut into pieces like her “broken heart and soul” (cansi duanhun 殘絲斷魂). This passage culminates in the recognition that the hair, though sadly broken, is “a token of her love.” In essence the monologue is a manifestation of her dark consciousness that leads to her earnest confession. The hair testifies to her affections, as a symbol of their shattered love. Although the lyrical quality is one of the basic features of Chinese drama, the modes used to express the lyrical characteristics in chuanqi and zaju are different. While in zaju, the dramatic moment yields to and almost becomes a foil for the lyrical moment, in chuanqi the dramatic mode takes much greater precedence. Though emotions still tend to be the center of lyrical exploration, lyrical expressions serve dramatic actions, rather than the other way around. The style of the music to which the lyrics are written also differs drastically: zaju are written to northern music, whose style emphasizes strength and heroic beauty, and chuanqi are accompanied by southern music, whose style is clear and elegant, soft and lingering.34 The style of music and the conventions of allowing all dramatic personae to sing the arias in southern drama greatly influences the mode of presentation. Since in a southern-style aria a word can linger on over several melodic turns, it often becomes necessary to have either spoken dialogue interspersed with the aria, or to have a second persona carry on the aria so that the first singer has a chance to rest.35 In TPEL, Hong Sheng works within the tradition of lyrical characteristics of Chinese dramatic verse, yet he also makes significant alterations. He understands that lyricism has to be adapted to its full dramatic use. First, Hong Sheng was merciless in restricting lyrics to emotionally appropriate positions. Second, he extended the emotional scope of the lyrics of his precursors. To be sure, these two processes complement one another, for as the emotional range of the lyrics is extended, it becomes easier to find good dramatic places for it. Hong undertakes to dramatize more fully the play’s verse part, which means he makes it the verbal expression of the dramatic personae’s emotions—especially the hero’s and the heroine’s—as their immediate 34   Cf. Wei Liangfu 魏良輔, Qulü 曲律 (The Rules of Qu Poetry), in Zhongguo gudian xiqu lunzhu jicheng, 6-7; See also Zhang Jing 張敬, Ming Qing chuanqi daolun 明清傳奇導論 (An Introduction to Ming-Qing Chuanqi Drama) (Taibei: Taiwan Dongfang shudian, 1961), 5. 35   Cf. Wu Mei, Guqu zhutan, 119–120.


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feelings are evoked in the very situation of the particular moment. As the full expansion of both the dramatic and the poetic, the verse is not merely a device of rhetorical decoration, but also the conveyance of the personae’s instantaneous feelings which are not beyond the context of the dramatic quality. In the process of plot development, the dramatic personae cannot possibly transcend dramatic space and time to perceive their true selves or the situation in which they are involved. In Chinese drama, however, there is usually the omniscient third-person narrator helping the audience to acquire the dramatic personae’s revelation of conscious or unconscious feelings; and it is often the case that in the first-person’s arias and dialogues there are parts in an objective third-person’s voice. While the narrative line of the play is told or narrated efficiently and explicitly in a short time, the lyrical expression is not combined with the development of the narrative line as a whole. In this way, while the author may concentrate on giving full play to poetic talent in those lyrical scenes, the lyrical function of the arias is not totally harmonized but divided with the continuation of the dramatic actions. If, in the words of Earl Miner, lyric is “literature of radical presence and narrative literature of radical continuance,”36 then poetic drama may be regarded as literature of both “presence” and “continuance.” The dramaticism of Hong Sheng’s arias lies in their presentation as lyric moments within the progression of narrative plot. The two elements, plot and poetry, are interdependent: plot colors poetry with situational immediacy and human relevance, while poetry allows full exploration of the emotions latent in each dramatic situation. The essence of drama is “presentation,” in words and actions, by players on a stage. As the audience is led directly through the dramatic presentation, its emotions will gradually be driven to a heightened state. Rather than impressing the audience with individual characters or isolated lyrical passages, or simply affecting them through plot development, the performance moves the audience to perceive spontaneously the integral sense of poetic beauty pervading the entire performance. In TPEL,owing to Hong Sheng’s effort in harmonizing the dramatic and the poetic, through the elaboration of the royal couple’s fluctuating emotions, their true selves are gradually manifested through the dramatized lyrics in the context of dramatic action. While there is   See Earl Miner, Comparative Poetics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 87. 36

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a progression in the couple’s love, the audience needs to follow the development of plot and the change of dramatic situations in order to feel the fluctuation of the couple’s worldly relationship, and gradually realize the whole story and the truth behind it. Thus, the play’s integral lyrical power is beyond the individual lyrical effect of each scene. It is the process of the couple’s discovery of the truth of love in their worldly life that Hong Sheng intends to express, and he employs the progression of the plot to enhance the lyrical effect of the play. In this way, the poetic and the dramatic are simultaneously intensified. Hong Sheng persistently asserts that the dramatist should view the lyricism and dramatic techniques as a whole. Hong Sheng’s substantial contribution was the discovery of an integral dramatic method which would have the status of poetry. One technical element crucial to Hong Sheng’s integrating the poetic and the dramatic is “the poeticizing of drama.” For Hong Sheng, the qu poetry in Chinese drama is the principal vehicle with which to poeticize his play. As J.L. Styan has pointed out, “even as poetic imagery it must carry and particularize what passes on the stage, and its validity can be properly judged only through the theater.”37 Poetry is employed to express and define patterns of thought and feeling otherwise inexpressible. This reminds us of T.S. Eliot’s proposition that “what makes it most dramatic is what makes it most poetic.”38 Eliot feels that at their climaxes, his plays should reach an intensity of emotion which could only be expressed by the richer language and the rhythmic flow of poetry. However, the “poeticizing effect” of drama lies in the depth and strength of the whole meaning of the stage action, and not only in the words spoken. As a poet and a dramatist, Hong Sheng knows clearly that he is using dramatic verse as his strongest contributory instrument in conveying his idea. He wishes to inspire the audience to give the same kind of discriminating attention to detail and structure of the play as he would give to words in a poem. Furthermore, the poeticizing of drama creates a kind of emotional provoking and lingering (jidang 激盪), i.e. an atmosphere which reverberates in our minds and invites common associations of thoughts or feelings. Like the tonality 37   J.L. Styan, The Elements of Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 27–28. 38   T.S. Eliot, “A Dialogue of Dramatic Poetry,” in Selected Essays (New York: Harcourt Brace & World, Inc., 1964), 38.


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pervading the play, which fosters in the audience expectations with regard to the course of the events, this kind of atmosphere continues even after the dramatic performance ends, making us repeatedly review the play in our minds. As a result, the play provokes an experience far more intense than the audience’s everyday life. The poetic effect extends the range and power of the play’s theme; it also ensures that the audience’s response to the drama is of the same order as a reader’s response to a poem. It is generally agreed that any heightened rhythm of speech intensifies its meaning, and that good dramatic poetry must be able to carry an extra charge of emotion. But what is meant by “intensity” and by “carrying emotion?” Not simply that the words are emotional, but rather that the words charge our minds emotionally, altering our image of the characters. In most of Hong Sheng’s works, lyrics that evoke the past and intimate the future have one special function: to frame, intensely and vividly, the limits of the present dramatic moment, to provide an emotional resonance that allows the intellectual conflicts represented by ta dramata—humankind in its moral and spiritual dilemmas and choices. For example, the following passage from the scene “Death at the Post Station” (Scene XXIV) is the emperor and Lady Yang’s last conversation before she is forced to hang herself: Lady (kneeling): Your Majesty has shown me so much favor that even if I kill myself I cannot repay your kindness. Now that the situation is desperate, I beg you to allow me to commit suicide to pacify the troops. For then you will arrive at the destination safely, and I shall feel comforted though I die. I can see no other way to quell them; Therefore let me be sacrificed. (Cries, her head in the emperor’s lap) Emperor: How can you say that, my love? If you die, what are my throne and empire to me? I would rather lose my empire than abandon you. Let them clamor and shout; I shall simply turn a deaf ear. The fault was mine, and I cannot allow this flower To be crushed and destroyed by the cruel wine and rain. If the troops still insist, I will die for you.

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Lady: Though your Majesty is so kind, the way things have come to pass now, there is no other way out. If I hesitate any longer, we may all be destroyed; and then my guilt will be greater. Please give me up, to preserve your empire. Gao Lishi (wiping his tears away, kneeling): Since Lady Yang shows such spirit and wishes to sacrifice herself, I beg Your Majesty to think of the empire and force yourself to agree to her request. (Soldiers’ shouts) Emperor (stamping his foot and weeping): So be it then! If she insists, I cannot forbid her, Let Her Ladyship do as she thinks right, Gao Lishi. (Sobbing, he covers his face and withdraws) [TPEY, Scene XXIV, 128–130]

While the couple is on stage, apparently attention is chiefly given to Lady Yang, for it is through her that the line of narrative has been drawn. At this point we expect to see to what lengths her passion will take her; Hong Sheng supplies a temporary crisis in Lady Yang’s progress towards the deed of sacrificing herself. She expresses great dignity in the firm and rational flow of the words she sings and speaks: “Now the situation is desperate, I beg you to allow me to commit suicide to pacify the troops. For then you will arrive at your destination safely, and I shall feel comforted though I die”(Scene XXIV, 130). This is in strong contrast to the restlessness of the emperor. Her steady logical voice here suggests the effort she is making to keep from breaking down, and though her voice wavers, she stands her ground before the army. Her composure and resoluteness speak both of her dedication to the emperor and of her efforts to quell her fear and grief. Her bare and simple request—“Please give me up to preserve your empire”—a whisper of determined resignation, is utterly poignant. On the other hand, the emperor’s withdrawal is not a slackening. Though his body turns and his voice drops, the edge in the voice indicates that he at last realizes that Lady Yang’s death cannot be avoided. His attitude of withdrawal at this point is all the more powerful because it conveys the desperation which intensifies our anxiety for his beloved. Lady Yang then hangs herself with her silk belt under a pear tree, and for a moment, the emperor is left on the stage alone. Gao Lishi enters, brings the white belt to him and reports, “Your Majesty, Lady Yang is dead.”


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The anguished emperor is too sad to say anything. The momentary silence and stillness, the shock and terror of this anti-climax, is heard in Gao Lishi’s second report, “Lady Yang is dead, sire. Here is the silk belt with which she hanged herself” (Scene XXIV, 133). Looking at the belt, the sorrowful emperor bursts into bitter tears. The sense of death on the stage and its horror make the emperor’s pause after the killing both fitting and effective. The interaction of the characters and the imagery by which the interaction is expressed are not separable, since both have common roots in the author’s poetic perception. The poetic language through which the couple speaks is written to raise the scene from the level of melodrama to a higher dramatic mode. Lady Yang offers herself to the mutinous soldiers by quietly and submissively hanging herself. The final words she speaks seem a challenge in themselves in their simplicity and in the evenness of their emphasis: “Your Majesty! Here I die. / But although my body lies in the earth, / My spirit will always follow the imperial pennants” (Scene XXIV, 132). These lines are evidently intended by the author to convey his emphasis on love’s power. In addition, they suggest a gathering of strength for the significance of Lady Yang’s sacrifice—an embodiment of her total devotion. Lady Yang’s words are the vehicle for a statement of some substance. In fact, they are used to create a pause in the play’s progress and to guide the spectator’s sensibility into a spiritual channel, making him realize that Lady Yang’s dedication is the turning point of the couple’s love. The action must be elevated by some dramatic reminder and summary of the theme, lest this crisis should pass without its intended effect. In the abovequoted scene, Lady Yang’s suicide elevates the couple’s emotions from their basis in worldly desire to a state of self-repentance and mutual devotion. The scene is presented to the audience in such a light as to charge the drama with value. In TPEL, it is obvious that dialogue that is carried on in lyrics, shared by conversing personae and occasionally interspersed with spoken words, becomes the dominant mode of presentation. Dialogue therefore tends to incorporate both lyrical expression and description into its constant exchange among personae. This results in an emphasis on the interactions among the personae, which in turns means that human relationships are more fully described. Take the above scene “Death at the Post Station” (Scene XXIV) as an example: the verbal action not only exalts lyrically the inner feelings

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of the speaking persona, but aims at the give-and-take of daily conversation. The author takes a dramatic, imitative mode of presentation composed of vivid language to portray Lady Yang’s inner struggle between reason and emotionality, and her final volitional actions at the moment of parting forever from the emperor. In such an urgent situation, the plot’s pace is increased by using the tune “Fenhai’er” 粉孩兒 (The Powdered Child), a melody famous for its swift rhythm. The interaction between the emperor and Lady Yang is highly focused; actions become as important as reflection and thought. The couple alternates between being emotionally overwhelmed and recovering control over their emotions through moral decisions and intellectual understanding. The text, by allowing Lady Yang a dimension of intellectuality, strengthens the emotional commitment she makes as she decides to sacrifice herself for the emperor. Yet, the lyrical exploration, which heightens the intensity of the lovers’ sufferings for the audience, actually advances it toward dramaticism as well. The tension created by this rapid interchange of the lovers’ dialogue and singing fills the text and is expressive of a disquietude that is called for in the dramatic situation. From the dialogue, we see the change of Lady Yang’s mentality driven by her internal will and emotions to take volitional actions to resolve the situation. It is through these moments that the lovers achieve heroic grandeur. Serving not merely as a unit in the plot development, these dialogues call attention to their own lyricism. Because of the lyric and dialogical conventions in which he works, Hong Sheng can demonstrate precisely the state of the lovers’ mind. At the same time, through the lines he assigns to them, Hong Sheng is able to strengthen our understanding of the dialectic of action in the play. Hong Sheng’s achievement in combining dramaticism and lyricism also derives from his tendency to use arias to express his characters’ motivation. This kind of delineation of psychology usually takes place at high moments of dramatic tension, or at turning points in the plot. Scene XLIV, “A Rainy Night,” presents the emperor’s dream of revenge on General Chen Xuanli 陳玄禮 (fl. 750s) for causing Lady Yang’s death: Emperor: The song of the bells in the rain tears at my heart, Old and new sorrow bind me in agony; And heaven and earth will come to an end, Before anyone can describe my misery,


ayling wang Listen! The rain outside is falling faster, heavier and louder than ever. As soon as I close my eyes, it pours down again to waken me . . . Emperor: So it is midnight now. I will sleep here on the couch. I wonder what dreams will come to me tonight? (Weeps as he lies down) Though death has parted us for over a year, Her spirit has never been near me even in dreams. (Sleeps) . . . Chen: Your Majesty should be inside the palace. Why are you wandering out incognito at night? Emperor (startled): Who is this rough officer who stops me so rudely? Chen: I am commander Chen Xuanli. Will it please Your Majesty to return to the palace. Emperor (angrily): Curse you, Chen Xuanli! That day in Mawei Station you incited the guards and forced Lady Yang to commit suicide. Execution is too good for you. How dare you to oppose me again. Not recognizing my authority, but behaving with such arro­gance? Chen: If Your Majesty will not go back, the troops may mutiny again. Emperor: Curse you again! You think because I have given up the throne That I have no more authority! You rely on your troops to take such liberties. This cannot be forgiven. Here! Cut off this rebel’s head ! Attendants: It shall be done, sire. (Seize Chen and drag him off to kill him, then return) . . . [TPEY, Scene XLIV, 234–236]

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The emperor’s fantasies are depicted through dialogue in his dream. Though the activities are generated from the mind, they are driven by internal desire. Through wishful thinking, the emperor’s dream is as much a resolution of his uncontrollable yearning as it is a solution for the tension the reader feels in the text. Turning away from external realities, the emperor descends toward the imaginary space of the dream. The conscious is seeking its solution in the unconscious. The dream, through the force of the emperor’s incessant longing for his beloved, objectifies the crisis of the Mawei event, puts it at a certain distance, and then takes control of it. The scene is fascinating because the tension between the emperor’s emotions and his moral will is expressed in its full power. The execution of General Chen Xuanli is the emperor’s subconscious attempt to transcend his own emotionality and regrets. The attempt, however, leads only to a solution that is still a submission to the ruthless fact of Lady Yang’s death. The whole dream therefore is only a castle built on sand. For the drama, it gives form to the emperor’s psychology by putting it in the middle of the vortex of the action it creates for itself, and thereby not only renders vivid his persona, but also makes love a more overwhelming motivation force within the play. In Closing Lyricism is Hong Sheng’s chief power as a dramatist; it is also what sets him off decisively from all his peers. Hong Sheng’s verses and melodic phrases seldom reveal immoderate sentimentality. The quality of sheer beauty in Hong Sheng’s lyricism is as well developed as his awareness of its proper dramatic use. He refines his art to make each verse line interesting and vital, to break away from schematic forms that formerly checked his highly romantic genius, and to control the sumptuous flexibility of long lyric passages such as the several monologues or the lover-duet in the antiphonal singing scenes. Within the dramatic context, Hong Sheng has sustained lyric presence with a new emotional intensity. A dramatic poet like Hong Sheng writes his finest poetry in his most dramatic scenes. The perfect propriety of Hong Sheng’s lyrics in all the right places gives an indication of the author’s special quality as a dramatist. It also shows why criticism of Hong Sheng that has concentrated on his poetry and tended to forget the practical theatrical aspect


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of his art has nevertheless sometimes contributed much to the understanding of his work. His psychological knowledge and understanding, and his experience of effective theatrical methods are valuable because they contribute to the integral artistry of his oeuvre.

between performance, manuscript, and print


BETWEEN PERFORMANCE, MANUSCRIPT, AND PRINT: IMAGINING THE MUSICAL TEXT IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY PLAYS AND SONGBOOKS Judith T. Zeitlin Some time in the early Qing, between 1647 and 1652, Shen Zijin 沈 自晉 (1583–1665), a literatus playwright, songwriter, and expert on kunqu 昆曲 (arias in the kunshan musical style) like his famous uncle Shen Jing 沈璟 (1553–1610) before him, came across a copy of Nanci xinpu 南詞新譜 (A New Formulary of Southern Songs) on a friend’s desk, which the friend had marked up with red ink “as though giving comments on examination essays.”* Shen Zijin couldn’t “refrain from laughing” at his friend’s “overkill.”1 So he wrote up a response, playfully couching it in the form of a sanqu 散曲 (lyrics to arias not from plays, also translatable as “art song”), which, along with lyrics to arias excerpted from southern chuanqi 傳奇 drama, are the focus of this musical and prosodic handbook on qu 曲 (a general term covering the music and lyrics of both sorts of aria).2 It is likely that what Shen Zijin saw on the desk was a printed edition of his uncle’s formulary from decades before, though it is also possible that it was a hand-copied *  An early version of this paper was presented at the Annual Workshop on MingQing Literature entitled “Vernacular Fiction, Book History, and History of Reading: New Perspectives on the Study of Ming-Qing Chinese Literature,” New School University, 3 November 2007. My thanks to the participants, especially the organizers Shang Wei and I-Hsien Wu, and David Rolston, the commentator on my panel. My gratitude also to Grace Fong and Joseph Lam for their valuable suggestions on translation matters, to Catherine Swatek and Wu Qingyan 吳慶晏 for information on published collections with musical notation, and to Suyoung Son for her insightful written comments. 1   Shen Zijin, “Ouzuo: qiexiao cike sha fengjing shi” 偶作:竊笑詞客煞風景事 (An Occasional Piece: Laughing at a Poet’s Overkill), Shen Zijin ji 沈自晉集 (Shen Zijin’s Collected Works), ed. Zhang Shuying 張樹英 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2004), 203. 2   Following Shen Jing’s example, perhaps, whose preface to Feng Menglong’s 馮夢龍 (1574–1646) sanqu anthology Taixia xinzou 太霞新奏 (The Celestial Air Played Anew), published circa 1627, was playfully couched in the form of a sanqu. See Feng Menglong quanji 馮夢龍全集 (Feng Menglong’s Complete Collected Works) (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1993), vol. 15, prefatorial materials, 1-5.


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version, or perhaps even a manuscript copy of Shen Zijin’s own much expanded and revised edition of the formulary, which he would publish several years later.3 Whatever the case, the publication, format, and function of qu imprints were very much on his mind, and his sanqu is harshly critical of what was out there. I. When looking at chuanqi, cleverly carved illustrations are a delight, but a preposterous commentary is the worst. From the start, just tap out the beats without being careless, the melody will form at a single glance. Why affront our eyes by scrawling random circles and dots? Faking a commentary by Tang Xianzu is a hack publisher’s ruse. He can’t even differentiate the extrametrical words and puts song and dialogue on the same line. II. It’s said that sanqu are the lingering tones of chuanqi, but absurd printer’s typos like 豕 (shi) instead of 亥 (hai) we deplore. Then once the songs are printed, we fear they’re no longer in vogue, so we shut the book and stuff it in our desk. Just hire flutes and strings for the suites, and leave the short airs to a singer. Earlier examples are worth imitating. Why not take A New Formulary of Southern Songs4 and scrutinize the patterns as your guide?

3   Shen Jing’s Nanci xinpu, which also circulated under the titles Nanci quanpu 南 詞全譜 (A Complete Formulary of Southern Songs), Nan jiu gong shisan diao qupu 南九宮十三調曲譜 (A Southern Formulary of the Nine Keys and Thirteen Modes) and Nanci yunxuan 南詞韻選 (A Selection of Southern Songs), was first completed around 1594 and published during the late Ming. Shen Zijin published his revised and expanded edition of his uncle’s formulary around 1655 under the title Guangji Ciyin xiansheng zengding Nan jiu gong shisan diao cipu 廣輯詞隱先生增定南九宮十 三調詞譜 (An Expanded Edition of Shen Jing’s Augmented and Corrected Southern Formulary of the Nine Keys and Thirteen Modes), but he had begun work on this project decades before. On Shen Zijin’s contribution, see Zhang Shuying’s preface to Shen Zijin ji, 14–16. On Shen Jing’s original formulary, see Zhou Weipei 周維培, Qupu yanjiu 曲譜研究 (Research on Aria Manuals) (Nanjing: Jiangsu guji chubanshe, 1997), 109–127. 4   Here Shen Zijin refers to his uncle’s formulary by one of its alternative titles, Nanci yunxuan. In his note following the sanqu, Zijin uses another alternative title, Jiu gong cipu.

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III. In composing arias, we must take a formulary as our model. We can’t rearrange the parts at whim. Just seek to put every word and every line in its place, And distinguish the notes of the scale according to the rules. Yin and yang,5 high and low, follow the sounds of nature. How can some ordinary educated man even begin to fathom these? The connoisseur of music will naturally admire them. Why must he further compete for fame and fortune with circles of yellow and dots of green?

In the first stanza on chuanqi plays, Shen Zijin acknowledges that “cleverly carved illustrations” are a delight but that a “preposterous commentary” with its many circles and dots is deplorable, aesthetically ugly, and symptomatic of hack publishers who “fake a commentary by Tang Xianzu” and who are ignorant or careless of basic formatting conventions for drama—why, they “can’t even differentiate extrame­ tri­cal words / and put song and dialogue on the same line.”6 In the second stanza on sanqu, he is even more scornful of the low level of the imprints, which abound in “absurd printer’s typos” (a criticism repeated by the editor of virtually any late Ming sanqu collection with pretension to quality),7 and which have the added sin of already being out of date by the time the blocks are carved.8 At the end of this stanza and in the whole of the third, he exhorts his friend to take the “formulary as a model” to serve the purpose for which it is meant—coming 5   Yin and yang are technical terms in the composition of kunqu, referring to tonal sequence based on level and deflected tones. 6   On the evolution of formatting conventions for printed drama during the late Ming, see Katherine Carlitz, “Printing as Performance: Literati Playwright-Publishers of the Late Ming,” in Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China, ed. Cynthia Brokaw and Kai-wing Chow (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 267–303. Whether to differentiate the extrametrical words in the verse by carving them in a smaller size was still a matter of choice; late Ming and early Qing imprints are not consistent in this regard. 7   For examples, see the editorial guidelines to Zhou Zhibiao’s 周之標 ­anthology, Wuyu cuiya 吳歈萃雅 (An Elegant Medley of Southeastern Airs), Shanben xiqu cong­ kan, comp. Wang Chiu-kui 王秋桂 (Taibei: Xuesheng shuju, 1984–1987), vol. 12, 19 and Shi Shaoshen 施紹莘, Qiushui an huaying ji 秋水庵花影集 (Autumn Flood Hermitage’s Flower Shadow Collection), in Quan Ming sanqu 全明散曲, ed. Xie Boyang 謝伯陽 (Ji’nan: Qilu shushe, 1994), vol. 3, 3895. 8   I disagree with Liang Yizhen’s 梁乙真 interpretation of this line as meaning that sanqu in general had gone out of fashion. See his pioneering Yuan Ming sanqu xiaoshi 元明散曲小史 (A Brief History of Yuan- and Ming-Dynasty Sanqu) (Beijing: Shangwu chubanshe, 1994 reprint of 1934 ed.), 432–434.


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up with singable new lyrics to fixed tune patterns in conformance with strict prosodic and musical rules—and to refrain from “competing for fame and fortune / with circles of yellow and dots of green.” Contradictions abound in this piece, especially in its attitude toward manuscript, print, and performance. On the one hand, Shen Zijin critiques his friend by linking commentary with the vulgar commercial and self-aggrandizing practices of the printing trade. In the case of sanqu, he seems dubious about the point of publishing them at all because they go out of fashion so soon and are primarily a performance genre—better just “hire flutes and strings for the suites, / and leave the short airs to a singer,” he advises. On the other hand, he implies that there’s no need for a commentary to elucidate the musical regulations in the formulary because they at once “follow the sounds of nature” and are beyond the ken of “ordinary educated men.” It is possible that Shen Zijin’s reaction was so sharp because he regarded the formulary as his own patrimony, doubly precious because of all that had been lost during the fall of the Ming.9 He had been working for decades on a new edition for publication and may not have relished any competition on what he viewed as his turf. Regardless, the real wit of this satirical sanqu is that as a qu about writing qu, it performs its own advice. In other words, form is content. Shen Zijin’s self-reflexive sanqu on A New Formulary of Southern Songs is a fitting beginning to my essay, which aims to consider how to bring musical texts and questions of their notation, circulation, and usage more fully into our discussion of book history and vernacular literature in the late Ming and early Qing period. This is especially needed given the relative neglect of music in recent scholarship on Chinese print culture, and the importance of vocal music in seventeenth-century entertainment culture as a force fueling composition, performance, and publication.10 Conversely, I hope to use the insights   Shen Zijin’s 1655 preface to his Chongding nan jiu gong cipu 重定南九宫詞譜 (facsimile reprint, China, n.p., 1934) says that Feng Menglong had broached the idea to him of updating his uncle’s work in 1625, thirty years before he actually published it. The preface discusses how hard it was to protect the manuscript of his work in progress during the upheaval of the dynastic fall and conquest. 10   Major exceptions are Kathryn Lowry, The Tapestry of Popular Songs in 16thand 17th-Century China: Reading, Imitation and Desire (Leiden: Brill, 2005); Ling Hon Lam, “The Matriarch’s Private Ear: Performance, Reading, Censorship, and the Fabrication of Interiority in The Story of the Stone,” HJAS 65, no. 1 (Dec 2005): 357–415; Yuming He, “Difficulties of Performance: The Musical Career of Xu Wei’s The Mad Drummer,” HJAS 68, no. 2 (Dec 2008): 77–114; and papers presented at the 9

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and approaches of new scholarship on Chinese print and manuscript culture, particularly sensitivity to the material aspects of texts, to go more deeply into the ontologies of the musical text and its relationship to music-making in Ming-Qing literature. What constitutes a musical text when it comes to words sung to music, especially in the Ming-Qing environment, is rather complex and by no means self-evident. Kate van Orden, the editor of an excellent volume, which despite its broad title—Music and the Cultures of Print—deals exclusively with Europe and the Americas, asserts cate­ gorically: “Notation alone sets music apart from literature.”11 This assertion begs the question: What constitutes notation? What precisely is notated? What are the musical implications and history of that notation and how was the musical knowledge conveyed by that notation construed by communities of singers and songwriters? In Europe, as in China, for instance, some texts meant to be sung to pre-existing current tunes were transcribed or printed with the tune title as the only piece of written musical information. Such a practice of course presumes oral knowledge of the tune. Can the presence of a tune title alone then constitute notation? In kunqu, where “the contours of word tones” are supposed to fit together with “the melodic contours of a tune,” can the words themselves even be construed as a form of notation?12 In an essay entitled “The Musical Text,” Stanley Boorman, a specialist in early European music, defines his subject as “that form of musical information which is written or printed, whether or not it is intended for use in performance.”13 But that characterization again seems too broad for my purposes, especially when applied to song texts. For a text to be a musical one, not simply a poetic one, some expectation that the words could be sung in performance as well as simply read or recited seems important. And, in fact, Boorman’s subsequent modification in his essay—“the notated version is no more than a source of advice “Musiking the Late Ming China” conference, University of Michigan, 4-7 May 2006. Even so, none of these address the status of the musical text as their main subject. 11   Kate van Orden, ed., Music and the Cultures of Print (New York: Garland Publishing, 2000), xi. 12   The wording comes from Isabel Wong, “Kunqu,” in The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: East Asia, ed. Robert C. Provine et al. (New York: Routledge, 2002), 293. Wong uses the term “tune accommodation” to describe the practice of “fitting melodic contours appropriately to the contours of word tones.” 13   Stanley Boorman, “The Musical Text,” in Rethinking Music, ed. Nicholas Cook and Mark Everist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 403.


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or instructions for recreating the music”14—acknowledges at least the expectation of performability for a musical text. As a working definition in this paper, then, I will tentatively propose a modified combination of van Orden’s and Boorman’s definitions: A musical song text is that form of musical information which is written or printed and which proclaims itself to be intended for realization in performance or as an aid to performance in some fashion, often including some form of notation or traces of notation, in addition to tune title and song lyrics. I am particularly interested in the material dimensions of the musical text—hence the idea of a “score,” however rudimentary—something that in addition to serving as an aid to performance or read can be exchanged, borrowed, copied, and altered in manuscript and print, as well as lost, defaced, annotated, or destroyed. I say “imagining” in my title because although I am considering some “real” books published in the seventeenth century, such as qu formularies and qu anthologies aimed at songwriters and “singer-readers” (gelanzhe 歌 覽者),15 I mainly focus on three seventeenth-century chuanqi plays featuring scenes that revolve around transcribing, notating, or performing musical texts: Yuan Yuling’s 袁于令 (1592–1674) Xilou ji 西 樓記 (The Western Bower), completed by 1611; Hong Sheng’s 洪昇 (1645–1704) Changsheng dian 長生殿 (Palace of Lasting Life), completed circa 1688; and Kong Shangren’s 孔尚任 (1648–1718) Taohua shan 桃花扇 (Peach Blossom Fan), completed circa 1699. As I have observed elsewhere, Ming and early Qing chuanqi plays abound in “song within song,” what musicologist Carolyn Abbate calls “phenomenal” performance—“a musical or vocal performance that declares itself openly, singing that is heard by its singer, the auditors on stage, and understood as ‘music that they (too) hear’ by us, the theater audience.”16 What distinguishes these three plays is that the literary device of phenomenal song is portrayed not only as performance but in written form, as a musical text that is actively utilized   Boorman, “The Musical Text,” 405.   Zhang Xu 張詡, “Fanli” 凡例 (List of Editorial Principles), in Caibi qingci 彩筆 情辭 (Love Lyrics of Stylistic Brilliance), Shanben xiqu congkan, vol. 75, 14. 16   Carolyn Abbate, Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 5. For a fuller discussion of this issue in relation to Chinese opera, see Judith T. Zeitlin, “Music and Performance in Hong Sheng’s Palace of Lasting Life,” in Trauma and Transcendence in Early Qing Literature, ed. Wilt L. Idema, Wai-yee Li and Ellen B. Widmer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Asia Center Press, 2006), 454–487. 14 15

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by one or more characters as part of the dramatic action.17 Each of my three cases represents the musical text in different physical forms and each sheds a different light on the problematic relationship between text and performance in seventeenth-century thinking about music. Yuan Yuling’s The Western Bower18 This play set in Suzhou, Yuan Yuling’s hometown and the matrix of kunqu, is a typical romance between a young scholar and a courtesan. What is unusual is the prominence that the first quarter of the play gives to the fashion for contemporary sanqu songs and the concomitant emphasis placed on the technical musical knowledge of the characters as the arbiter of talent (cai 才), that classic marker of social, romantic, and moral worth within the chuanqi universe. The catalyzing objects that bring the two lovers together and also drive them apart are both sanqu texts taken from the same songbook (gepu 歌譜), which undergo important physical changes and take on cumulative significance during the course of the action in the manner of the “material symbol” device in chuanqi plays. 17   As such, they differ also from a chuanqi play like Jiang Shiquan’s 蔣士銓 Linchuan meng 臨川夢 (Tang Xianzu’s Dreams) of 1774. Scene 3 (“Scoring the Dream”) portrays Tang Xianzu composing Mudan ting 牡丹亭 (The Peony Pavilion); Scene 5 (“Revising the Dream”) shows him rewriting his earlier play Zixiao ji 紫簫 記 (The Purple Flute). Both scenes set Tang up to explicate the content of the plays; virtually not a moment is devoted to musical matters, let alone notation. 18   All references to the text of Xilou ji in this essay are keyed to Xilou ji, ed. Li Fubo 李復波 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1988), henceforth referred to as Xilou ji. This edition is based on Yuan Yuling’s self-published edition, Jianxiaoge ziding Xilou meng chuanqi 劍嘯閣自訂西樓夢傳奇 (The Western Bower Dream: A Romantic Comedy, Corrected by Jianxiaoge [Yuan Yuling] Himself), facsimile reprint in Guben xiqu congkan erji (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1955). For the argument that Yuan only began using the name Jianxiaoge for his publishing house from 1654 on so that this edition (along with the other five chuanqi and two novels that Yuan published under this name) could not have been published in the late Ming, see Wen Gehong 文革紅, “Yuan Yuling ‘Jianxiaoge’ ji qi suo kan xiqu, xiaoshuo kao” 袁于令“劍嘯閣” 及其所刊戲曲、小說考 (A Study of Yuan Yuling’s “Jianxiao ge” and the Plays and Novels Published under This Name), Ming Qing xiaoshuo yanjiu 79 (2006): 236–242. The same article shows that Yuan’s family had been engaged in publishing in Suzhou since the early sixteenth century. The other major branch of Xilou ji editions stems from Mao Jin’s 毛晉Liushi zhong qu 六十種曲 (Sixty Plays) published during the late Ming and early Qing, henceforth referred to as the Mao Jin edition. See Chen Duo 陳多’s appendix to Xilou ji pingzhu 西樓記評注 in Liushi zhong qu pingzhu 六十種 曲評注, ed. Huang Zhusan黃竹三 and Feng Junjie 馮俊杰 (Changchun: Jilin renmin chubanshe, 2001), vol. 15, 716–724.


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The Western Bower was written before Yuan Yuling was twenty years old. It is probably safe to assume that before embarking on such an ambitious work he must have had experience writing individual sanqu. A sample of one of his undated sanqu song suites can be found in Feng Menglong’s 馮夢龍 (1574–1646) anthology Taixia xinzou 太霞新奏 (The Celestial Air Played Anew), published around 1627.19 Despite his youth, Yuan’s play seems to have become a big hit right away. Within a year of The Western Bower’s completion, his contemporary, the sanqu poet Shi Shaoshen 施邵莘 (1581–1640), was already asserting that the plot was autobiographical, that the character of the male lead was a self-depiction, and that the female lead was based on Yuan’s former mistress. (He nominated the courtesan and poet Zhou Jisheng 周寄 生, but in subsequent decades alternative names were proposed by other writers.)20 The claim that the female lead was based on a single real courtesan seems debatable, but the first claim has some clear truth to it—the male lead’s name is Yu Juan 于鵑, which not only shares a character with the author’s given name of Yuling 于令, but is also the standard fanqie 反切 gloss for the pronunciation of the character Yuan 袁, the playwright’s surname.21 Rather than the love affair itself, what seems most interestingly related to the playwright’s personal experience is his portrayal of the late Ming craze for new kunqu songs and plays, especially in Suzhou, and the attention that The Western Bower pays to the freewheeling circulation of contemporary songs against a vivid background of sing-

19   The song suite is entitled “Dai Zhousheng qibie Achan” 代周生泣別阿蟬 (Written on Behalf of Mr. Zhou’s Tearful Parting with Achan) and is listed under his sobriquet (hao 號) Yuan Fugong 袁鳧公 in Feng Menglong, ed., Taixia xinzou, 1.22–25. 20   Shi Shaoshen’s colophon to his “Zhouzhong duanwu” 舟中端午 (On a Boat During the Duanwu Festival), Quan Ming sanqu, vol. 3, 3803. Zhou Jisheng’s biography and poems are included in Qian Qianyi 錢謙益, Liechao shiji 列朝詩集 (Poems from an Individual Dynasty). Chen Duo believes Shi’s claim because it was so close in time to the composition of the play. See Xilou ji pingzhu, 711–712. I agree that it must be more credible than other accounts from the early Qing, but see no real evidence supporting Shi, who was not a friend of Yuan’s and had never met Zhou Jisheng. 21   For examples of early Qing autobiographical chuanqi in which the male lead’s name encodes some easily recognizable link to the playwright’s name, see Judith T. Zeitlin, “Spirit Writing and Performance in the Work of You Tong (1618–1704),” T’oung Pao 84 (1998): 102–135 and Ellen Widmer, “Between Worlds: Huang Zhouxing’s Imaginary Garden” in Idema, Li and Widmer, eds., Trauma and Transcendence in Early Qing Literature, 259; 265.

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ing clubs and literary societies.22 In fact, the enthusiasm for the hero’s sanqu collection in The Western Bower anticipates the subsequent fate of the play itself. As a preface to the play attributed to Chen Jiru 陳繼 儒 (1558–1639) describes the situation: Ever since The Western Bower came out, everyone in the land from officials and literati to playboys and ladies of pleasure, has been copying it by hand and passing it on by mouth. From the princely residences of the capital to the inns at courier stations, it has been performed all over. Everyone wants to see the face of that handsome, dashing young fellow in The Western Bower but they don’t even know that Yuan Yuling is the author of the play. 23

This account offers us some insight into how a play could become a hit in the late Ming without the institution of public theaters. Within the play itself, the hydra-like proliferation and spread of songs apart from the mechanism of print is a source of celebration and excitement in some quarters (the songwriter, courtesans, actors) and a source of anxiety and distress in others (mainly the Confucian father). The play’s emphasis on the dissemination of contemporary song lends freshness and topicality to what is otherwise the most banal convention of the scholar-beauty romance whereby hero and heroine fall in love through the exchange of poems. In Scene 3 (“Whetting Her Resolve”), our first glimpse of the courtesan Mu Suhui, the female lead, reveals that she has fallen in love sight unseen with the author of a sanqu collection entitled Jinfan yuefu 錦帆 樂府 (Popular Airs from Brocade Sail Moat). The title takes its name from a scenic waterway within the walls of Suzhou and is therefore a reference to the pleasures of that city. Naturally the author is the male lead, Yu Juan, who in keeping with chuanqi convention, has been introduced in the previous scene. Suhui is particularly enamored of one xiaoling 小令 (short air), set to the tune “Chujiang qing” 楚江

22   On kunqu singing clubs, see Ren Xiaowen 任孝温, Ming Qing Jiangnan quhui yanjiu 明清江南曲會研究 (Research on Singing Clubs in the Jiangnan Area) (PhD dissertation, Nanjing University, 2002). 23   Chen Jiru, “Yuan xu” 原敘 (Original preface) in Feng Menglong’s revised version of The Western Bower, Mohanzhai chongding Xilou Chujiang qing chuanqi 墨憨齋重 定西樓楚江情傳奇 (henceforth, Chujiang qing) (Beijing: Zhongguo xiju chubanshe, facsimile of late Ming edition, 1960), 1-3. These first few lines of this preface are ­omitted in the Jianxiaoge edition.


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情 (Feelings on a Southern River).24 Alone in her room, she opens a songbook and copies out the air on a sheet of patterned stationery, reciting it aloud as she does to savor it. She places this piece of paper in the songbook, which she subsequently lends to a friend of hers, an older courtesan named Liu Chuchu, who takes it home with her. In the next scene (“Lesson Inspection”), Yu Juan’s strict Confucian father enters his son’s study. To his distress, not a classic or examination book is to be seen. Instead he finds the desk piled high with his son’s latest literary commissions and frivolous compositions, among them amorous sanqu, including a complete set of Popular Airs from Brocade Sail Moat.25 Enraged, he orders his son to burn the ciqu 詞曲 (song texts) he has composed, “whether in complete sets (zhi 秩) or not, whether printed or not.”26  Scene 6 (“A Private Gathering”) is the most musically oriented in the play. It begins with the meeting of a singing club at Liu Chuchu’s place. The club is played for broad comedy with a chou 丑 (a clown) and a jing 凈 (a buffoon) as the main members—the former as a singing master who can’t even carry a tune, the latter as a village prostitute who follows every no-no enumerated in singing treatises, such as wagging her head, scratching her throat, and so on.27 This first part of the scene, which is purely oral—there are no textual aids—creates a contrast between the vulgar, potentially illiterate, practitioners of music at the club and 24   “Chujiang ti” 楚江體 is one of the fifteen types of sanqu listed in Zhu Quan 朱權, Taihe zhengyin pu太和正音譜 (A Formulary for Correct Sounds of Great Harmony). The tune title “Chujiang qing” was coined by Zhu Youdun 朱有燉 who succeeded in transcribing this unfamiliar southern tune pattern only after hearing a southerner sing it for him “a dozen times.” Zhu Youdun then made some changes to the pattern, wrote a new set of stanzas for it on the theme of the four seasons and changed the name of the tune from “Luojiang yuan” 羅江怨 (Lament on the Luo River) to “Chujiang qing.” See the account in his Chengzhai yuefu 誠齋樂府 (Songs from Sincerity Study), Quan Ming sanqu, vol. 1, 285. 25   Xilou ji, 10. The list of offending texts also includes “Meihua fu”梅花賦 (Rhapsodies on Plum Blossoms) in one volume, a zhuzhi ci 竹枝詞 (bamboo branch lyric) in six stanzas, “Luanjian chouhe qu” 鸞箋酬和曲 (Songs Written Back and Forth on Phoenix-Patterned Stationary), and “Lanbu wanglai shu” 蘭簿往来書 (An Exchange of Letters in an Orchid-Patterned Notebook). Interestingly, Mao Jin’s edition of the play provides a somewhat different list of compositions that also includes some other less risqué genres of social writing, such as tomb inscriptions, prefaces, biographies, and gatha. See Xilou ji pingzhu, 503. 26   Xilou ji, 12. 27   For example, as listed in Yannan Zhian 燕南芝庵, Changlun 唱論 (Discourse on Singing) in Zhongguo gudian xiqu lunzhu jicheng (Beijing: Zhongguo xiju chubanshe, 1982), vol. 1, 162.

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the refined hero and heroine in the second part, who truly understand music in its textualized forms. Attracted by the sound of singing, Yu Juan enters and picks up the songbook that Chuchu had borrowed from Suhui. In it he notices a sanqu text badly in need of adjusting to make the words fit the tune. At Chuchu’s invitation, he makes the corrections in red ink, expounding on fundamental principles of composing and singing qu in language that comes right out of a formulary: The essential thing when it comes to song is to know the formulary. If you don’t, you won’t be clear on the tune pattern and you won’t come down on the beat. You’ll constantly muddle the extrametrical syllables with the main words of the pattern, and mistake an “opening with variation” for a “patchwork melody.” Once you’ve confused the name of the song, everything will be irregular and uneven. As for subtleties like sequencing based on word tone or varying the rhyme and the meter, this composer hasn’t even a clue!28

He then discovers Suhui’s piece of stationery with his sanqu “Feelings on a Southern River” transcribed on it, and exclaims over the elegance of the calligraphy and the accuracy of its dianban 點板 (beat marking) notation. (speaks) See the beats she’s marked—they’re not off in the slightest. (sings) How they shimmer, these exquisite characters with red strokes for the initial beat.29

Chuchu reveals that Suhui has transcribed the song and is in love with the author—him. Delighted, he pockets it. Dianban notation is the main sort of musical notation in late Ming printed collections of qu. This metrical punctuation was meant to help people figure out how to match the words with the tune pattern, something especially difficult in kunqu, which featured heavy use of melisma. Printed collections also often featured dianban notation with supplemental symbols to mark mouth position and nasalization   Xilou ji, 19.   Xilou ji, 20. In dianban notation, the initial beat (zheng ban 正板 or tou ban 頭板) was written “as a kind of comma in an apostrophe direction.” See Marjory Liu, Tradition and Change in Kunqu opera, (PhD dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1976), 113. Since this initial beat was often written in red ink, it came to be called hong ban 紅板. See “Hong hei ban” 紅黑板, in Qi Senhua 齊森華 et al., comp. Zhongguo quxue dacidian 中國曲學大辭典 (Hangzhou: Zhejiang jiaoyu chubanshe, 1997), 687. 28 29


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along with written glosses on pronunciation, all of which are important determinants of sound quality in kunqu (see figure 1). Gongche 工尺 notation, which marks pitch relationships as well as incorporating dianban notation for the meter, is given for popular tunes without song texts in some late Ming imprints of encyclopedias for daily use (riyong leishu 日用類書), but in the case of printed editions of qu, gongche notation was not matched with lyrics until the eighteenth century (see figure 2).30 This does not rule out the possibility that gongche notation was a hand-copying practice used for qu prior to that date. Indeed, Catherine Swatek’s recent study of a manuscript copy of Li Yu’s 李玉 (ca. 1591ca.1671) chuanqi play Wanli yuan 萬里圓 (A Ten-Thousand Mile Reunion), which includes gongche notation, shows that that this is plausible, although it is impossible to date such handwritten notations.31 May we assume, then, as Suhui’s transcription of “Feelings on a Southern River” in The Western Bower suggests, that adding dianban notation was also a private hand-copying practice that might have been one of the first steps used by literate singers in readying newly written aria lyrics for performance? For late Ming printed collections of sanqu, and sometimes even for individual chuanqi play imprints, the addition of dianban notation was, along with illustrations and glossaries, a major selling point, sometimes even advertised in the title.32 Editors like Feng Menglong, Zhou Zhibiao 周之標 (fl. 1610–1647) and Ling Mengchu 凌濛初 (1580–1644), who included dianban notation in their sanqu anthologies, criticized the errors found in commercial editions and offered reassurances that their metrical patterns had been checked against an authoritative “formulary.”33   For gongche notation of popular songs in Ming encyclopedias, see Lowry, Tape­ stry of Popular Songs, 79n3. The earliest extant printed collection of qu with gongche notation is Xinbian nanci dinglü 新编南詞定律 (A New Edition of Fixed Rules for Southern Songs), published in 1725. Facsimile reprint in Xuxiu Siku quanshu (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1995–2002), vol. 1715. 31   Catherine Swatek, “Hand-copying and the Dissemination of Kun Opera in the Early Qing Dynasty.” Unpublished paper presented at the The Annual Workshop on Ming-Qing Literature, New School University, 3 November 2007. 32   Carlitz, “Printing as Performance,” 280–281. 33   Jiang Xiao’s 蔣孝 formulary in the case of Zhou Zhibiao’s Wuyun cuiyu, “Li” 例, 19, and Ling Mengchu’s Nanyin sanlai 南音三籟 (Three Graded Pipes of Southern Songs) (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1963 facsimile reprint of late Ming edition), “Fanli” 凡例, 2b; Shen Jing’s and Feng’s own formularies in the case of Taixia 30

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Figure 1. A song suite by Liang Chenyu 梁辰魚 (1519–1591) with dianban notation. Source: Ling Mengchu 凌濛初, Nanyin san lai 南音三籟 (Three Graded Pipes of Southern Songs) (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1963 facsimile reprint of late Ming edition), Sanqu juan 2, 9a.


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Figure 2. An aria by Hong Sheng from Palace of Lasting Life in which Lady Yang sings of composing her score of “Rainbow Skirts,” with gongche notation. Source: Lü Shixiong 呂士雄 et al., eds., Xinbian nanci dinglü 新编南詞定律 (A New Edition of Fixed Rules for Southern Songs). Facsimile reprint of Qing edition in Xuxiu Siku quanshu (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1995–2002), vol. 1715, 359 (juan 2, 2a).

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How effective was dianban notation and what claims did it make about musical knowledge? Was it just for beginners or for connoisseurs? In The Western Bower, the scene is set up for ultimate contrast in musical learning: between the village prostitute at the singing club and a top courtesan like Suhui; between the blatant incompetence of the qu in the songbook and Yu Juan’s correction of it. Here the literacy and artistry, both textual and musical, of the play’s heroine are brought out through the hero’s appraisal of her fine calligraphy and the accuracy of her beat markings. But in terms of musical knowledge itself, what did dianban notation signify? Was it simply a textual exercise, akin to punctuation, a first step in readying new words for performance? Or did it really imply superior knowledge? In the notes to his sanqu collection, Shi Shaoshen is vehement that the inclusion of dianban notation is not only unhelpful but actually interferes with truly great musical performance, because it fetters the singer unnecessarily: Beats are the metrical units of an aria. Although such things are fixed, when it comes to keeping strictly to the melody or being flexible with the beat, great masters in the singing world have their own subtle artistry of stretching the rules and transcending convention. How could I, based on my own limited viewpoint, put down fixed rules? For this reason, I have not added beat marks.34

Shi Shaoshen gets at something important here about notation: it is prescriptive rather than descriptive; for professionals it’s not necessary; and as Boorman cautions, it is no more than a source of advice or instructions for recreating the music—in short, we can’t take the practical utility of notation at face value. Shi Shaoshen is consistent in positioning his single-authored, self-printed collection of sanqu in opposition to ordinary publishing practices, musical, textual, and social.35 What publishers and editors ordinarily do, he will not do—his musical authority is based on the claim that he has already tried out the xinzou, “Fafan” 發凡 (Editorial Principles ), 5-6. Eighteenth-century formularies like Xinbian nanci dinglü with gongche notation, in turn, criticize errors in Jiang Xiao’s and Ling Menchu’s formularies, promising to investigate and rectify (kaozheng 考證) them one by one; “Fanli,” 39. 34   Shi Shaoshen, “Zaji” 雜記 (Miscellaneous Notes), Qiushui an Huaying ji, 3894. 35   For instance, he announces that he didn’t enlist well-known people as “collators” and he doesn’t differentiate the size of the main words and the extrametrical words of the tune pattern because the distinction between the two should be obvious to real singers or anyone who knows the formulary. See “Zaji,” 3894–3895.


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music so the public can rest assured that the words will work perfectly when sung. Although Shi’s contrarian statements serve in large part as literatus status markers to distinguish him from run-of-the-mill qu writers and publishers, they are nonetheless important in reminding us of the inherent gap between notation and music. To return to the play, the appearance of a musical text within a drama always necessitates its performance. In Scene 8 (“A Sickbed Tête-à-Tête”), Yu Juan and Suhui finally meet and pledge their love. Since, as she tells him, his aria “Feelings on a Southern River” is their matchmaker (meiren 媒人), she insists on singing the lyrics for him, even though she is quite ill. Her performance of the song is actually the second iteration of the lyrics in the play, since she had already recited them in Scene 3. This second performance is clearly marked as “phenomenal song” in the play text: to make it singable for the performer and distinguishable as song for the reader, the musical cues of tune titles, which were omitted in her chanting of the lyrics in the earlier scene, are added here.36 Although, as noted, instances of phenomenal song are relatively frequent in chuanqi drama, it is far more common for the lyrics of phenomenal song to describe the act of singing them than to constitute the actual words that are being sung.37 The song’s status as qu, which makes it seamlessly performable as music in the play, also distinguishes it from the much more common exchange of shi 詩 or ci 詞 verse as love tokens in drama, which can only be recited, not sung. To emphasize the status of “Feelings on a Southern River” as phe­ nomenal song in this scene, the courtesan’s performance is interrupted by the physical sound of her illness. Prior to the last line of Suhui’s song, the stage directions read: “She acts out being short of breath and being unable to continue singing.”38 Despite the hero’s solicitude—he begs her to desist—she forces herself to finish singing the last line to demonstrate her resolve to remain true to him. Because performing a song for a lover was the most banal gesture in a courtesan’s repertoire, something had to be done to this basic 36   “Chujiang qing” as phenomenal song in the play is an example of daiguo qu 帶過曲, an intermediate stage between short airs (xiaoling) and suites (taoshu 套數), in which two tunes are linked together, in this case “Xiangluo dai” 香羅帶 and “Yijiang feng” 一江風. 37   Zeitlin, “Music and Performance in Hong Sheng’s Palace of Lasting Life,” 482–483. 38   Xilou ji, 25.

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scenario to reinvest the gesture with real meaning.39 In the case of The Western Bower, the courtesan’s performance of the song despite her illness and the obvious physical pain or discomfort it causes to sing it inject real meaning into the gesture, some uniqueness that makes her singing of “their” song weighty enough to confirm the oath of eternal love that they swear together. The songbook (as both the source of “Feelings on a Southern River” and the repository of the loose-leaf copy) is the lovers’ go-between, but it is also, as the play’s opening scene describes it, the “root of their calamity.”40 It turns out the author of the sanqu that Yu Juan had corrected is Zhao Bujiang, a xiaojing 小凈 (secondary villain), who is a member of the same literary society. Zhao is furious to have had his composition corrected and defaced in such a humiliating fashion. He flies into a rage and tears up the songbook, vowing revenge in Scene 7 (“Nursing a Grudge”). He gets his chance to inflict a fatal blow in Scene 9 (“Defamation”) by tattling to Yu Juan’s father about his son’s dissipation and embellishing his as yet unconsummated relationship with the courtesan Suhui. Furious, the father determines to keep his son under lock and key and to have his mistress driven out of Suzhou. Let’s step back a moment and consider what sort of thing this songbook is. It belongs to Suhui and it contains the lyrics to sanqu composed by both the hero and the villain, who are members of the same literary society. The songbook’s status as imprint or manuscript is never specified, although given the ease with which it is corrected and torn up, and given the volatile fashionability of the songs, a manuscript seems more likely. But if so, is it a master copy (diben 底本), a transcript of an existing collection, or is it something like a notebook kept by Suhui to record songs she has read or heard? Did the book include any musical notation? The playwright naturally was not obliged to specify any of this, whether because it would have been obvious to his audience, or because considering such practical questions was simply unnecessary. The songbook is after all chiefly a plot expedient, allowing the hero’s and villain’s lyrics to share a space of rivalry while conveying the popularity of his songs and the learning of the courtesan; the loose second copy of the hero’s song is likewise an expedient enabling 39   Judith T. Zeitlin, “The Gift of Song: Courtesans and Patrons in Late Ming and Early Qing Cultural Production,” Hsiang Lectures on Chinese Poetry, ed. Grace S. Fong (Montreal: McGill University Centre for East Asian Research, 2008), vol. 4, 32. 40   Xilou ji, 1.


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him to pocket the song while leaving the songbook behind to be seen and destroyed by the villain. The effect however is to suggest a casual proliferation of fashionable song texts, not under the control of any author, editor, or publisher. The unruliness of song—its promiscuity and speed of transmission through both oral and hand-copied means—comes out strongly in Scene 9 when Zhao Bujiang defames Yu Juan to his father. Zhao emphasizes that Yu Juan’s songwriting habit is the real culprit fueling his playboy behavior. The father, aghast that his son would continue to write songs even after he had forbidden him to do so, protests that he has already burned all the song texts that were on his son’s desk. Zhao scoffs at the ineffectualness of this measure: Your son’s songs are all that actors are practicing these days. You’d have to round up every master copy of the songs circulating abroad and punish every person practicing them before you could destroy the fashion for them. The songs by your son that actors aren’t familiar with, Suhui teaches them. The songs Suhui hasn’t learned yet, your son teaches her. Through song they’ve made a match. Really, they stick together like paint and lacquer.41

From the father’s point of view, song is dangerous because of the personal links its circulation forges between his son and the demi-monde of actors, musicians, and singing girls; most frightening of all is the way that the unstoppable transmission of song, the very process of transmitting the song—as the proverbial language of love—binds young man and courtesan together like “paint and lacquer.” In the first quarter of the play, song texts play the crucial role of bringing the male and female leads together and then driving them apart, but this device drops out from the rest of the play. I found this disappointing. So apparently did Feng Menglong, because in Scene 21 of his revision of The Western Bower, he brings back the hero’s sanqu collection, Airs from Brocade Sail Moat, to provide a link between earlier and later episodes in the play.42 Although Feng tellingly retitled the play Feelings on a Southern River, in this scene, one of the most heavily altered, he introduces a different song from Yu Juan’s sanqu   Xilou ji, 28.   In a marginal note on his revision of the play, Feng Menglong comments that he found this scene too colorless or insipid (dan 淡) and so used the device of song as a way to introduce the names of the male lead and his friend to Xu Biao. Chujiang qing, juan 2, 1a. 41 42

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collection. The point of the scene in both the original and the revision is to introduce an important new character, Xu Biao (the xiaosheng 小生, or secondary male lead). As befits his characterization as a chivalrous man (xia 俠) who magnanimously reunites the two lovers in the end, Xu requests two singing girls to entertain him with something “bold and heroic” and not something “lovey-dovey.” The girls propose a song on a chivalric theme (xiake ci 俠客詞) that they remember from Airs from Brocade Sail Moat. In his revision, Feng Menglong cleverly takes the aria that the chivalrous man sings about himself as a selfintroduction in the original play and reassigns it to the girls to perform as phenomenal song in this scene. Naturally Xu Biao is pleased. When he asks who the author of the song is, the girls take out a published edition of Airs from Brocade Sail Moat, complete with a preface by a friend of Yu Juan’s, to show him. Why does Feng have the girls bring out the text of the song collection when they have already performed one of the songs from memory? From the point of view of the plot, as Feng notes in a marginal comment, this episode introduces the names of Yu Juan and his friend to Xu Biao, which lays the groundwork for all three men to meet later.43 But why then does the scene specify that the collection has been published? In the context of the play as a whole, this is the first time the male lead’s songs have gone outside circles with which he has some personal connection, however tangential. Recall the model of transmission proposed by the villain Zhao Bujiang to the father—the songs the actors don’t know, Suhui teaches them, those Suhui doesn’t know, Yu Juan teaches her. Although the villain is fabricating much of what he says in that scene, his statement has the status of a lie that also contains truth. Feng, a publisher himself, thus may be reinforcing our standard view of print as the most effective mechanism for moving a text from a select private community to a larger unrelated public while also acknowledging the crucial role played by late Ming courtesans in the oral and even written transmission of popular song.




judith t. zeitlin Hong Sheng’s Palace of Lasting Life44

If the proliferation and uncontrollable spread of contemporary sanqu are the subject of The Western Bower, loss of music and fantasies of its revival and preservation are the subjects of my second case, Palace of Lasting Life. In his essay “Ontologies of Music,” the ethnomusicologist Philip Bohlman writes: Musical notation serves as a recognition that music cannot adequately be notated. Something disappears or changes during the course of oral tradition and performance, and the sounds that notes represent recuperate as much of that sound as possible. The fear of loss drives the technologies of notations. The notes, then, are not music, rather, they are the traces of many performances.45

Taking this opening paradox as my starting point, that notation is at once a recognition of loss and a sign of plurality, I want to revisit the portrayal of “Nishang yuyi” 霓裳羽衣 (Rainbow Skirts, Feather Robes) as a musical text in Palace of Lasting Life, a topic I have discussed in an earlier essay.46 Depictions of various sorts of music abound in the play, but the creation, transcription, transmission, and performances of “Rainbow Skirts,” one of the most famous pieces of music in Chinese literature, occupy center stage in Hong Sheng’s story of the tragic love affair between the Tang emperor Xuanzong 玄宗 (r. 712–756) and his most favored concubine, Lady Yang Yuhuan 楊玉環 (719–756). Historically, “Rainbow Skirts” is revered as the best-known example of Tang daqu 大曲, a grand genre of court entertainment that Rulan Pian has characterized as a kind of “dance suite with vocal accompaniment.”47 However, no notation or lyrics for it were passed down, and by Hong Sheng’s time the loss of the music had already been lamented for at least eight hundred years. The only musical information Hong Sheng had to go on were a few literary descriptions in Tang- and Song-dynasty 44   All references to the text of Palace of Lasting Life in this essay are keyed to Changsheng dian jianzhu 長生殿箋注, ed. Takemura Noriyuki 竹村則 and Kang Baocheng 康保成 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe, 1999) and henceforth referred to as Changsheng dian. 45   Philip Bohlman, “Ontologies of Music,” in Rethinking Music, 28. 46   Zeitlin, “Music and Performance in Hong Sheng’s Palace of Lasting Life.” 47   Rulan Chao Pian, Sonq Dynasty Musical Sources and Their Interpretation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967), 73.

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sources. The absence of any recuperable notes or lyrics to help reconstruct “Rainbow Skirts” gave Hong Sheng the fullest freedom to imagine the music and to elaborate the notion of a text impossible in reality that would weave together many cultural myths about music—a score that is both of otherworldly origin and a product of individual subjectivity, whose content incorporates the sounds of nature yet adheres perfectly to the connoisseur’s rules of composition, and whose divine provenance is legible to the knowing human reader yet whose re-transcription graphically registers on the page the earthly sufferings of its now immortal writer. The music is first performed for Lady Yang by celestial maidens in Scene 11 (“Hearing the Music”) when she is summoned to the Moon Palace in a dream; she then transcribes it from memory in Scene 12 (“Fashioning the Score”) after she awakes in her boudoir back on earth. Although Hong Sheng describes in lyrical detail the writing process and implements she employs, he never spells out what exactly her transcription consists of. Notation? Words? Or both? If notation, what sort? Hong Sheng was of course not obliged to specify, but as I have argued previously, he wrote the scene as though Lady Yang were accommodating new words to a pre-existing tune pattern, as she adjusts “the placement of every character according to the rules” and “harmonizes” each stanza with the music.48 Several factors support this argument. First and foremost is the symbiotic relationship between words and music in kunqu and the fact that no extended instrumental interludes are possible on the page, so that all music in the text must be sung to words. Second, in Hong Sheng’s time there was no culturally privileged idea of a composer, at least in the sense that we understand this job in European opera or art song, as the author of the music alone. Third, the terms that Lady Yang employs to describe what she does in this scene, “to score” (pu 譜) and “to set to music” (fan 翻), are also utilized by Hong Sheng in the Prologue (“Outlining the Play”) to describe his own efforts as a playwright. Most tellingly, Scene 12 dramatizes one moment in the process of Lady Yang ironing out discrepancies in the score—her correction of a place in the music that “is out of sync with the rhythm” by incorporating the trill of birdsong outside her window. The technical jargon she employs (pai qi 拍 ) refers to the beat falling too soon or too late, which is listed   For the full argument, see Zeitlin, “Music and Performance in Hong Sheng’s Palace of Lasting Life,” 466–473. 48


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by a seventeenth-century treatise like Wang Jide’s 王驥德 (d. 1623) Qu lü 曲律 (Rules for Qu) as a fault to be avoided when fitting lyrics to music.49 Nonetheless, Hong Sheng is quite explicit that what Lady Yang is transcribing from memory is “music,” not simply lyrics. Whether it is possible for us to detect any signs of musical notation in her score is much less clear, but the example of her correction of a metrical fault may be a faint hint that dianban notation is involved. This suggestion is reinforced by the last part of the scene, when Lady Yang has momentarily exited the stage and the emperor enters only to discover her newly finished score. He is enraptured as he reads: (speaks) How marvelous! (sings) Though the shimmering characters of her exquisite calligraphy are small, the alternation of notes or modes isn’t off in the slightest . . . (speaks) With precision, I tap out the rhythm. Such music could not exist on earth—it must be of celestial provenance! Indeed the tune is so lofty, few could harmonize with it.50

The emperor’s reaction recalls a similar moment in The Western Bower, with even some repetition of phrases. Remember Yu Juan’s lines when he comes upon Suhui’s transcription of his “Feelings of a Southern River” with dianban notation: (speaks) See the beats she’s marked—they’re not off in the slightest. (sings) How they shimmer, these exquisite characters with red strokes for the meter. Although the repeated phrases are stock ones, the similarity of the situation suggests that Hong Sheng may be echoing the earlier play, especially because The Western Bower was already regarded as something of a classic in the kunqu theater of his time. Palace of Lasting Life goes much further, however, in elaborating the musical text as both object and process. Here again Bohlman’s insights into this fundamental duality are helpful:

49   For example, see the definition provided by Wang Jide in his essay on meter (“Lun banyan” 論板眼), in Wang Jide Qulü 王驥德曲律 (Wang Jide’s Regulations for Qu), ed. Chen Duo 陳多 and Ye Changhai 葉長海 (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1983), 109. 50   Changsheng dian, 90.

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As an object, music is bounded, and names can be applied to it that affirm its objective status. As an object, moreover, music can assume specific forms, which may be inscribed on paper . . . By contrast, music exists in the conditions of a process. Because a process is always in flux, it never achieves a fully objective status; it is always becoming something else.51

When Lady Yang returns to her boudoir the emperor congratulates her and asks for the name of her composition. The audience is then afforded the pleasure of witnessing the primal moment in which this legendary piece is dubbed “Rainbow Skirts, Feather Robes.” But the act of naming is also important to clinch Lady Yang’s status as the author of a work. With authorship comes ownership as represented by the written score. When the emperor decides to commission his Pear Garden Ensemble to perform “Rainbow Skirts,” he requests Lady Yang to teach it orally to her maids Niannu 念奴 and Yongxin 永新 (both recorded in historical sources as famous singers at the Tang court) so that they in turn can instruct the Pear Garden musicians, who as “vulgar performers” (sushou linggong 俗手伶工), might miss the fine points of the music. He orders her maids to make a copy of the score, which the stage directions for Scene 14 specify they have brought with them to the Pear Garden rehearsal. Music as both written object and oral process is thus neatly accounted for here. Still, even accepting that musical texts and oral transmission might have been commonly used in tandem to teach a new piece in Hong Sheng’s day, why is it necessary to keep introducing the score? The Pear Garden rehearsal, for example, is carefully constructed so that the musicians play a movement of “Rainbow Skirts” that they have already memorized. What then is the real function of the musical text in this episode? The answer lies in the title of the scene, “Stealing the Music” (tou qu 偷曲), which refers to the action of the flutist Li Mo 李謩, who eavesdrops on the rehearsal and secretly learns that part of the piece by ear. According to the symbolic logic of the play, for music to be something that can be “owned” and thus “stolen,” there must be a physical object to represent it. The material presence of the musical text, with its direct line of transmission from its author Lady Yang, is therefore primarily an authorization device, a license for the court musicians. Although Hong Sheng conceives the “theft” as a purely aural act, his 51

  Bohlman, “Ontologies of Music,” 18. Italics in the original.


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friend and commentator Wu Yiyi 吳儀一 (1640-after 1704) praises a contemporary staging in which Li Mo “sits there playing his flute and taking notes with a brush at the same time,” thus embellishing the scene with a pirated score.52 A similar authorization function partly underlies the last appearance of the score much later in the play, after Lady Yang’s suicide during the An Lushan 安祿山 rebellion, her subsequent return as a ghost, and her final transcendence into the ranks of the immortals. In Scene 40 (“Immortal Remembrance”), a celestial envoy is sent to find Lady Yang on the immortal island of Penglai to borrow her score for a reprise performance in the Moon Palace. One of the most striking things about the play’s conception of “Rainbow Skirts” is that Lady Yang’s recreation on earth is deemed superior to its first iteration on the moon, and, as a written text, something that now belongs to her, not to its celestial progenitor. In this sense, borrowing the score is necessary as much to provide divine validation of her authorship as to supply a set of instructions for the new music. Even as Hong Sheng insists on Lady Yang as the composer of “Rainbow Skirts,” and hence the score as an object, he negates the possibility of a single origin or immutable form for the music or the text, which is always in a state of flux, like time itself. From its inception, the score of “Rainbow Skirts” is cast as the traces of a past performance, but one filtered through the subjective consciousness of dream and memory and altered to incorporate the spontaneous sounds of nature experienced in the present. The score is further revised in Scene 12 after Lady Yang modestly asks the emperor to help her correct what is only a hasty draft with many mistakes. In a lovely, romantic moment, the two of them sit side by side on the emptied stage and collate her text together. It is this “settled” version of the “secret score” that in the rehearsal scene Niannu and Yongxin sing of having “transcribed” 52   See the Nuanhongshi huike chuanqi 暖紅室彙刻傳奇 edition of the play (Shanghai: Guichi Liushi, 1919), juan 1, 54a-b. Although in Hong Sheng’s version of scene 14 Li Mo memorizes what he hears by ear alone, in scene 38 Li Mo mentions having written the music down to obtain a partial score. See Changsheng dian, 277. In Chu Renhuo’s 褚人穫 novel Sui Tang yanyi 隋唐演義 (Romance of the Sui and Tang), this “stealing the music” episode involves simultaneous transcription: as he eavesdrops, Li Mo uses his fingernail to scratch his notation on the wall that he is standing behind. See Hegel, “Dreaming the Past: Memory and Continuity beyond the Ming Fall,” in Idema, Li and Widmer, eds., Trauma and Transcendence in Early Qing Literature, 363.

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deep within the palace,53 and which serves as a basis for the triumphant performance of “Rainbow Skirts” at court in Scene 16 (“Dancing on a Dais”) before the An Lushan rebellion erupts and the palace is sacked. With Lady Yang’s death and the end of the emperor’s rule, these copies of the score vanish. It’s true that cultural memory of “Rainbow Skirts” persists briefly on earth as musical knowledge possessed by Li Guinian 李龜年, chief musician of the Pear Garden Ensemble, and Li Mo, the eavesdropping flutist, when the two impoverished survivors meet in exile at a temple fair in Scene 38 (“Popular Ballad”). But even though Li Guinian bitterly sings of “having to peddle the imperial score of ‘Rainbow Skirts’ door to door” to an indifferent populace and Li Mo expresses his hope to be finally taught “the complete score,” no text is present as a prop in the scene and “Rainbow Skirts” is not played.54 Without any further detail, these references seem abstract, denoting oral knowledge of the work rather than any tangible copy of the score. Such is not the case in the afterlife, where Lady Yang has painstakingly retranscribed the score from memory and where loss is represented through the material text. In Scene 40, the score no longer just bears the traces of the many changes the music has undergone in the course of multiple performances and transcriptions, but is now synonymous with the past. Thus when the celestial envoy asks for her “score of yesteryear,” Lady Yang weeps as she recalls “her former earthly score” because the tragic fate of the music parallels her own death and her separation from the emperor. As she explains, exploiting the rich figurative associations between music and love in Classical Chinese, where conjugal happiness is described as a duet between “lute and zither” and a widower as someone with a “broken lute string”: (sings) “Jiang huanglong” I’m pained that with my experience of the apocalypse, the notes of the scale have grown cold and disfigured. “Erlang shen” Since the red lute string snapped, I’m ashamed for this melody to be played again.

When the envoy, undeterred, presses Lady Yang again for her new copy, she demurs that it is not fit to submit because she has sullied the score in the painful process of recopying it: 53 54

  Changsheng dian, 100.   Changsheng dian, 273; 277.


judith t. zeitlin (sings) “Huangying’er” The notes fade and blur, breaking off and resuming, all stained with the traces of my tears.55

Defaced by blots and tearstains, the characters of the manuscript have become nearly illegible but it is this defacement that is the true meaning. To convey the grief that memories of the music arouse in her, this second passage goes even further to conflate the visual and acoustic properties of the textual signs on the page. The phrase “breaking off and resuming” (duanxu 斷續), which is most often applied to sound, especially song, here also literally describes the disrupted appearance of the characters. In both passages, the musical text takes on something of an uncanny transference. As an immortal, Lady Yang’s body has been restored intact, her beauty undiminished. It is instead her score, like a parallel self-portrait, that registers the ruinous marks of disfigurement and death miraculously absent from her person. In the end, Lady Yang does surrender her damaged copy of the score, which the reprise performance of “Rainbow Skirts” in Scene 50 (“Reunion on the Moon”) symbolically makes whole again. This fantastical Moon Palace performance, which celebrates Lady Yang’s eternal reunion with the emperor in the immortal world, is thus both a sign of the score’s historical loss from the human world and a compensation for that loss. In this way, the coveted lost music of “Rainbow Skirts” is successfully revived to be heard over and over again by a contemporary audience as part of the new music of Palace of Lasting Life. Kong Shangren’s Peach Blossom Fan56 In contrast to The Western Bower and Palace of Lasting Life, in which the inadequacies of written notation to capture sound serve as a stimulus to the imagination and are at least partially overcome through fantasy, Peach Blossom Fan offers a simple formulation in which the musical text is nothing more than an aid, a prop, an inert textbook leached of any mythic, metamorphic, or romantic properties.   Changsheng dian, 290.   All references to the text of Taohua shan are keyed to Kong Shangren quanji 孔尚任全集 (Kong Shangren’s Complete Collected Works), ed. Xu Zhengui 徐振貴 (Ji’nan: Qilu shushe, 2004), vol. 1. 55 56

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In conceiving his historical drama of the corrupt and short-lived Southern Ming (1645–1646) as a metatheatrical exploration of roleplaying, love, and politics, Kong Shangren took full advantage of the delectable fact that a principal statesman of the regime, Ruan Dacheng 阮大鋮 (ca.1587- ca.1646), was also a famous playwright. Peach Blossom Fan skillfully incorporates Ruan’s romantic comedy Yanzi jian 燕子 箋 (The Swallow Letter) as a recurrent play-within-a-play. Although some unspecified arias from The Swallow Letter are sung in Scene 25 (“Selecting the Cast”) as part of the auditions for a court production to celebrate the Lantern Festival, technically The Swallow Letter is never staged in view of the audience. Instead, perhaps to convey Kong’s disdain for Ruan, it is deliberately “absented”—performed offstage, as in Scene 4 (“Spying on the Play”) when Ruan’s household troupe is “borrowed” to put on the play elsewhere, or deferred, as in the court Lantern Festival performance, which simply drops out of the picture. The Swallow Letter is fully present on stage only in textual form, as the author’s manuscript (chaoben 抄本) that Ruan is readying for publication in Scene 4 (“Spying on the Play”). Another full script (jiaoben 腳本), a palace edition in court minister Wang Duo’s 王鐸 (1592–1652) calligraphy, to be given to the female lead to memorize her part, is mentioned in Scene 25. Since this script is never shown, it functions primarily as one of those authenticating historical details on which Kong prided himself.57 Neither of these manuscripts are elaborated as musical texts, either descriptively or diegetically. Instead, the dramatization of a musical text in this play is limited to a single moment: the famous Scene 2 (“Teaching the Song”) in which the female lead, the budding courtesan Li Xiangjun 李香君, is coached on two arias from Tang Xianzu’s Mudan ting 牡丹亭 (The Peony Pavilion) by her music instructor in front of her courtesan-mother and their patron Yang Wencong 楊文驄 (1597–1646). Scenes in which courtesans or palace entertainers are being tutored in the performing arts were stock components in Ming and Qing drama, in part because they helped vary the spectacle and incorporated the operatic injunction to sing into the plot.58 The singing lesson in 57   Kong Shangren’s marginal note asserts: “A copy of The Swallow Letter script in Wang Duo’s kai-style calligraphy on black lined paper is still preserved in someone’s collection today; I didn’t make it up.” See Nuanhongshi huike chuanqi edition of Taohua shan (Yangzhou: Guangling guji keyinshe, 1979 reprint of 1919 edition), juan 2, 33b. 58   Zeitlin, “The Gift of Song,” 26–30.


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Peach Blossom Fan is unusual among them, however, in using a book as a teaching aid. The stage directions identify the book as a quben 曲本, a term which could mean a play script or a songbook.59 Since all the interspersed dialogue from Tang Xianzu’s original play is omitted and the emphasis is on the pedagogy of pure singing (qingchang 清唱) rather than acting on stage, we are probably meant to assume that this quben is a songbook rather than a play script. There is no mention to whom the book in the song lesson scene belongs, because it is not a valuable possession; it is a device to show the literacy of Li Xiangjun, musical and otherwise, to support Yang Wencong’s assessment that she will become a renowned courtesan. Whether the relationship between the new play (Peach Blossom Fan) and the old play (The Peony Pavilion) or the new heroine (Li Xiangjun) and the old heroine (Du Liniang) is configured ironically through this singing lesson, as some have argued,60 musically we are leagues away from the technical expertise and self-confidence of the courtesan Suhui in The Western Bower or Lady Yang in Palace of Lasting Life. As Xu Peng has observed, the singing errors that Li Xiangjun make in this scene are those of a rank beginner.61 There is no indication whether the songbook is hand-copied or printed, or whether it has any notation. The playwright was not required to specify any of this, though we are likely to imagine that the songbook is printed, if only because it retains nothing of the charisma, private access, or personal meaning of a manuscript, and because the arias she is studying are so standard a part of the repertory. During the palace auditions in Scene 25, two music masters conscripted from the entertainment quarter are asked which recent chuanqi plays (xinchu chuanqi 新出傳奇) they know how to perform. They reply: “The Peony Pavilion, The Swallow Letter, and The Western Bower.”62 In the Prologue to Peach Blossom Fan, which is explicitly set   Taohua shan, 56.   For example, Wai-yee Li, “The Representation of History in The Peach Blossom Fan,” JAOS 115, no. 3 (1995): 421–433; Tina Lu, Persons, Roles, and Minds: Identity in Peony Pavilion and Peach Blossom Fan (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 161; and Stephen Owen, “‘I Don’t Want to Act as Emperor Anymore’: Finding the Genuine in Peach Blossom Fan” in Idema, Li and Widmer, eds., Trauma and Transcendence in Early Qing Literature, 488–509. 61   Xu Peng, “Courtesans versus Elites: Singing Contests of Kunshan qiang in Late Ming China” (unpublished paper presented at the “Musiking the Late Ming” conference, University of Michigan, 4-7 May 2006). 62   Taohua shan, 202. 59 60

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in 1684, during the Kangxi reign of Kong Shangren’s own dynasty, the thinly-veiled autobiographical figure of the Master of Ceremonies uses the same phrase—“a recent chuanqi play”—to describe a work “by the name of Peach Blossom Fan” that he had seen the night before at the theater.63 The repetition of this phrase metatheatrically points up the temporal gap inherent to historical drama, between the past of the events being portrayed and the present of the playwright and his public. From Kong Shangren and his audience’s Kangxi-era vantage point, The Peony Pavilion is decidedly “old” music, a staple of the kunqu repertory, not “new” music, like The Peach Blossom Fan. In retrospect, we find that the relationship between music and time is an essential feature of the portrayal of each of the three musical texts reviewed above. The Western Bower is resolutely about new music of the most fashionable sort, about the contemporary circulation of musical texts; Palace of Lasting Life, on the other hand, is about breaking down the boundaries between old and new music, in making the new old and the old new. Both Palace of Lasting Life and Peach Blossom Fan are conventionally acclaimed as the last masterpieces of playwriting before the eclipse of the playwright in the eighteenth century and the full shift to a repertory tradition dominated by actors. The presence of The Peony Pavilion in a musical textbook of repertory pieces as portrayed in Peach Blossom Fan neatly presages this Qing shift from a theater feeding off new chuanqi plays to a theater centered on past classics. Conclusion At the present stage of scholarship, our historical understanding of exactly how Chinese musical texts were used by different groups of seventeenth-century “singer-readers” is still rudimentary. A major problem with extant printed musical treatises, formularies, and plays and songbooks with dianban notation is that they are all prescriptive and it is difficult to assess their value as real guides to practice. Portrayals of musical texts within chuanqi plays offer a possible alternative way to get at the elusive relationship between textuality and musicality, at least as conceptualized by literati playwrights of the period. In their quest to harmonize words with the tune in composing for the kunqu stage, such 63

  Taohua shan, 44.


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playwrights not only worked closely with professional musician teachers but would also have consulted available textual aids; they might even have helped generate their own aids. As such, it is perhaps not surprising that for Yuan Yuling, Hong Sheng, and Kong Shangren, the musical text became a source of theatrical inspiration in its own right. In this spirit, I have tried to approach the treatment of musical texts in their plays not as a passive reflection of formularies and notated anthologies of the period but as a supplement, a place where ideas about the status and transmission of music and musical texts could be worked out in a non-prescriptive and imaginative manner through dramatic narrative.

guangdong’s talented women


GUANGDONG’S TALENTED WOMEN OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY Ellen Widmer Recent studies have hypothesized that the eighteenth century is marked by a decline in literary activity by Jiangnan women, compared with the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.1 Without insisting that this generalization is correct, I propose to take up talented women of Guangdong Province in order to test whether the same decline can be found in an important locale outside Jiangnan. The paper goes about its task in three sections. The first introduces eight important eighteenth-century women writers from Guangdong. In the second section I focus on two other aspects of women’s literary culture that stand out in contrast to the Jiangnan situation. These are Guangdong literary women’s special interest in history and the more family-based creative context in which they worked and lived. The final section explores how Guangdong women are represented in local and national poetry anthologies, especially Yun Zhu’s 惲珠 (1771–1833) Guochao guixiu zhengshi ji 國朝閨秀正始集 (Correct Beginnings: Women’s Poetry of Our August Dynasty) of 1831 and its 1836 sequel.2 The point is to assess the level of coverage these “outlying” women received on the “national”—i.e. Beijing / Jiangnan—scene and hence to begin to decide how well dynasty-wide anthologies were able to speak for Guangdong. My chief resource is Xian Yuqing’s 洗玉清Guangdong nüzi yiwen kao 廣東女子藝文考 (Research on Literary Writings by Women of

1   See Wilt L. Idema and Beata Grant, The Red Brush: Writing Women of Imperial China (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2004), 567 ff; and Ellen Widmer, The Beauty and the Book: Women and Fiction in Nineteenth-Century China (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006), 162–170. 2   I have used the set containing both Guochao guixiu zhengshi ji 國朝閨秀正始集 (Correct Beginnings: Women’s Poetry of Our August Dynasty) (1831) and Guochao guixiu zhengshi xuji 國朝閨秀正始續集(Correct Beginnings: Women’s Poetry of Our August Dynasty, Continued) (n.p.: Hongxiangguan, 1836), a copy of which is held in the Harvard-Yenching Library.


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Guangdong) of 1941.3 Compiled over some years by its woman editor, this is by far the most complete anthology of Guangdong’s writing women. Xian, in turn, relied on gazetteers (provincial, prefectural, and county), collections of poetry (local and national), and other kinds of collections, including shihua 詩話 (poetry talk). Correct Beginnings was a resource for Xian, but it was not her most important. As one gleans from her attributions, the works on which she relied most heavily were Ruan Yuan’s 阮元 (1764–1849) Guangdong tongzhi 廣東通志 (Gazetteer of Guangdong Province), published in 1822 and republished in 1864; and Dai Zhaochen’s 戴肇辰 (fl. 1859–1868) Guangzhou fuzhi 廣州府志 (Gazetteer of Guangzhou Prefecture) of 1879.4 These two are, of course, gazetteers, not anthologies. Wen Runeng’s 溫汝能 (1748–1811) Yuedong shihai 粵東詩海 (A Sea of Poems from Guangdong) of 1810 appears to be the first important anthology with significant coverage of Guangdong women.5 Of its one hundred sections, sections 96 and 97 consist solely of women’s writings. Wen’s attention to women may have been inspired by the wealth of female talents that had published in the province by 1810. His Sea of Poems became a prime resource for later gazetteers, including Ruan’s and Dai’s, and it was foundational for Xian’s work, as well. Judging from what Xian has to say, women’s literary activity in Guangdong underwent no decline in the eighteenth century. Of Xian’s Qing-dynasty entries, two are from the Shunzhi (1644–1661) period, four from Kangxi (1662–1722), one from Yongzheng (1723–1735), seventeen from Qianlong (1736–1795), five from Jiaqing (1796–1820), twenty-one from Daoguang (1821–1850), seven from Xianfeng (1851– 1861), five from Tongzhi (1862–1874), and seven from Guangxu (1875–1908) (numbers are rough; and many women belonged to more than one reign period). Xian is not able to date every one of her women with confidence, but her ordering is essentially chronological. 3   Xian Yuqing 洗玉清, Guangdong nüzi yiwen kao 廣東女子藝文考 (Research on Literary Writings by Women of Guangdong) (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshu guan, 1948 [1941]). 4   For Ruan I have used a reprint edition (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1995–1999); for Dai, I have used the 1879 edition (Guangzhou: Yuexiu shu yuan), a copy of which is held in the Harvard-Yenching Library. The catalogue lists Shi Cheng 石澄 as the main compiler. I follow Xian Yuqing in referring to this as the Dai edition. 5   Guangdong: Zhongshan daxue chubanshe, 1999. I have never seen the companion volume, Yuedong wenhai 粵東文海 (Sea of Prose) of 1813. It is held in the Morrison Collection at SOAS.

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What follows are short descriptions of eight of her most outstanding eighteenth-century women writers, as measured in part by the lengths of the entries about them. The first and the last of these come just before and after the eighteenth century. Both are especially interesting because they became involved in Jiangnan literary circles. The six in between appear to have confined their literary outreach to Guangdong.6 Eight Accomplished Women of Eighteenth-Century Guangdong Fang Jie方潔 (original name Fang Jing 方京) was the author of Fang Cailin shi 方采林詩 (Poems of Fang Cailin). Fang lived during the Kangxi era, very likely in both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.7 She was from Panyu county, near Guangzhou. Her father was a jinshi 進士, or successful candidate in the highest imperial examinations, and taught her writing. She married a man from Suzhou, and her sons became famous writers in the Suzhou area. Because Fang taught them they were well versed in their grandfather’s style of writing. She also had a sustaining literary relationship with a niece from Suzhou. Fang was celebrated for her mastery of the classics and poetry, as well as for her correct behavior. Her Cailin ji 綵林集 (Cailin’s Collection), with preface by Shen Deqian 沈德潛 (1673–1769), is listed in local histories, but publishing data is unavailable.8 Li Wanfang 李晚芳 was from Shunde county, near Guangzhou. She lived during the Kangxi and Yongzheng eras. She, too, studied writing with her father, but her brothers-in-law also taught her. Her intelligence was such that she was said to have committed the Kangxi dictionary to memory; and her son was her pupil. She died in 1767. Her accomplishments are said to have won her the respect of prominent local figures Su Er 蘇珥 (1699–1767, juren 舉人 or successful candidate in the provincial examinations in 1738) and He Mengyao 6   Apart from Xian, my chief sources for this section are Ke Yuchun 柯愈春, Qingren shiwenji zongmu tiyao 清人詩文集總目題要 (Annotated Catalogue of Poetry and Prose Collections by Qing Writers) (Beijing: Beijing guji chubanshe, 2002), and Hu Wenkai 胡文楷, Lidai funü zhuzuo kao 曆代婦女著作考 (Research on Writings by Women through the Ages) (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1985). 7   Her brother’s dates are 1675–1759. See Ke Yuchun, Qingren shiwenji, 455. 8   I do not know how to account for the different characters for “Cai,” nor do I know whether this second listing is the same work as Fang Cailin shi.


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何夢瑤 (jinshi 1730). Li left no collected poetry, but her writings included works on history and morality. Several of these were published, among them her history Dushi guanjian 讀史管見 (My Humble Opinion on Studying History), published in 1765, and a book on women’s morality, Nüxue yanxing zuan 女學言行纂 (Notes on Women’s Words and Deeds), that came out posthumously, first in a family edition of 1786 and then with a new edition of the history in 1787, under the imprint of Miyuan 謐園 (Quiet Garden). Her son wrote a preface to Notes on Women’s Words and Deeds. Perhaps he was instrumental in its publication. For more on My Humble Opinion’s publishing history, see below. Lin Lanxue 林蘭雪 lived in the Qianlong era. She was from Dongguan county, near today’s Shenzhen. She was the daughter of a Hanlin 翰林 or Imperial Academician, married a jinshi, and produced a successful son. It was through her son’s efforts that her book of poems, Xiaoshanlou shicao 小山樓詩草 (Draft Poems of Small Mountain Tower), was published posthumously, probably in Guangdong and certainly in 1836, for later generations of family members. Lin did a fine job of educating her son, but she died at age 25 and never knew of his success in life. The prefacer to her collection, Chen Zaiqian 陳 在謙 (1783–1838, juren 1804), elevates her importance by comparing her to Xie Fangduan and Chen Guangxun (see below). According to Chen Zaiqian, Xie Fangduan and Chen Guangxun were the bestknown women of Guangdong. As Chen Guangxun died in 1838 this judgment could not have been issued later than that time. Xie Fangduan 謝方端 was from Yangchun county (close to Yanghai, on the coast well to the west of Hong Kong). She was the daughter of the top provincial examination candidate of 1723. Her father was her teacher. She had a prodigious memory and was able to master historical texts as well as write poetry. She traveled around various sites in Guangdong with her father and wrote poems about each place she visited. She married well and had a successful son. She and her husband enjoyed composing poetry together. She was also an accomplished musician. She was her son’s and grandson’s teacher, carrying on long into the night with their lessons. Both son and grandson succeeded in the world of letters. At an unspecified time, her son saw to the publication of her collected poems, Xiaolou yincao 小樓吟草 (Chanted Poems of Small Tower), which became widely known. The collection

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was prefaced by local notables Li Diaoyuan 李調元 (1734–1803) and Feng Minchang 馮敏昌 (1747–1806), both jinshi. It was reprinted on the initiative of Xie’s descendants in 1899.9 Chen Guangxun 陳廣遜 was from Shunde county and lived during the Qianlong era. Her father was an official in nearby Xiangshan county and invited Chen and her husband, a poet, to reside with him in Xiangshan. The couple was poor. The husband taught for money and Guangxun herself went out of the home to teach, in her case the children of prominent families in the same area. A poem survives that reportedly describes her teaching activities. In addition to her poetry, Chen was a talented painter, musician, and geomancer. In 1776 Li Wenzao 李文藻 (1730–1778), in the colophon to Chen’s collection Jingzhai xiaocao 靜齋小草 (Humble Poems of Quiet Studio), observed that she was one of only a handful of truly prominent women writers of her era, despite the fact that Guangdong had produced women writers from the Tang dynasty on. Mai Yinggui 麥英桂 was from Xiangshan county (near Guangzhou). She was born at the beginning of Qianlong and married a Hanlin. She was talented at music, calligraphy, and divination. She was known as an excellent teacher, but she only taught within the family. Mai’s sister Mai Yougui 麥又桂 was likewise born at the beginning of Qianlong. Their father took part in their education. Both married men from the same He 何 family but Yougui’s husband died early. Yougui was said to be exceptionally intelligent, and no one who matched wits with her could prevail. On the memorable occasion of her wedding night, she wrote poems to her guests on a difficult rhyme scheme. This excited much discussion in her home town, discussion that was still alive a century after her death. After her husband died she sustained herself as a teacher for over twenty years. A nephew on the Mai side rounded up the two sisters’ poems and appealed to a distinguished relative on the He side for the funds to publish their works posthumously. The combined publication, Xieting shicao 謝庭詩草 ([Yougui], Draft Poems of Thankful Courtyard) and Yunxiangge shicao 芸香閣詩草 ([Yinggui], Draft Poems of Herb-Fragrance Studio), came out in 1822 under the imprint of Liuxiang tang 留香堂. A deluxe edition of the set came out four years later, in 1826.10   Hu Wenkai says 1900. See Hu, Lidai funü zhuzuo kao, 771.   On the deluxe edition, see Sun Dianqi 孫殿起, Fanshu ouji xubian 販書偶記續 編 (Occasional Notes of a Bookseller, Continued) (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 9



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Finally, Huang Zhishu 黃之淑 was from Wuchuan (western coastal Guangdong), but she married a man from Yangzhou. She was born in 1792, over a century after Fang Jie. Huang eventually became one of Chen Wenshu’s 陳文述 (1771–1842) disciples, almost an honorary daughter,11 as well as a friend of his celebrated niece Wang Duan 汪 端 (1793–1839). She was widely recognized for her skill at painting as well as for her poetry. After the death of her husband, she built up a reputation as a painter in the Yangzhou area. In 1852 she returned to Guangdong with her younger brother, only to perish there with her son in 1853 under the Taipings. Her collection Lanju laoren yizuo 蘭娵老人遺作 (Legacy of the Writings of the Old Woman of Orchid Star) was published posthumously, attached to her brother’s poems. Combined with other vignettes available through Xian Yuqing, this list provides some basis for claiming momentum during the eighteenth century for women writers of Guangdong. Their literary culture showed many of the same signs of active engagement that one associates with Jiangnan women of the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, such as teaching, endorsement, outreach between regions, regional fame, skill at painting and other arts, access to publication and representation in local anthologies. In a few cases women from Guangdong achieved something closer to national fame, whether by marrying out of Guangdong and into a literary circle of Jiangnan, as was the case with Fang Jie and Huang Zhishu, or through an apparently widely circulating book, as was the case with the Mai sisters (see below). People like Li Wanfang, Lin Lanxue, Xie Fangduan, and Chen Guangxun, on the other hand, showed little sign of achieving recognition outside Guangdong. As we will see below, the assiduous Yun Zhu did have entries on six out of our eight names, (Li Wanfang and Chen Guangxun are the exceptions), but they are unevenly informative. To claim that Guangdong women carried out their creative endeavors with little if any decline in momentum in the eighteenth century and to contrast this with developments in Jiangnan may be premature when our evidentiary base is so small. It is also conceivable that the eighteenth century represented an increase in activity for Guangdong 1981), 315. This appears to be different from the 1822 edition. Its appearance in Fanshu ouji means that it was on sale in Beijing in the mid-twentieth century. 11   Huang’s status as an honorary daughter to Chen is noted in Goyama Kiwamu 合山就, Min Shin jidai no josei to bungaku 明清時代の女性と文學 (Tokyo: Kyuko Shoin, 2006), 704–705.

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women, in contrast to the seventeenth century. The safest conclusion we can draw for now is that Guangdong women produced a series of strong writers in the eighteenth century, a trend that appears to contrast with the evidence from Jiangnan. It remains to be seen whether this is because Guangdong’s literary activity by women began to gain momentum later than Jiangnan’s, perhaps only getting underway in the eighteenth century, or because Guangdong escaped the perceived downturn of the eighteenth century that we have hypothesized for Jiangnan. Here, of course, the key is the seventeenth century. Was this century the beginning of a new trend in Guangdong, or was it only in the eighteenth century that the new trend emerged? We will not attempt to answer this important question now but will concentrate instead on the eighteenth century. What we have learned so far can be better understood through the lens supplied by Xian Yuqing, especially in her conclusion. Xian marks several factors as advantageous for creative women of her region. If they were from the Guangzhou area they would have had greater access to publishing and writing culture than other Guangdong women. By Guangzhou is meant the counties of Shunde, Panyu, Nanhai, and Xiangshan, home to the majority of the women identified by Xian. That a few of our eight women were not from these counties, however, shows that this kind of influence of locale on writerly success was a weak predictor—perhaps nearness to the coast would work better. Still more crucial was the support of fathers, husbands, brother, sons and nephews. Without this kind of support Guangdong women had little chance of learning to read and write or sustaining their talent after marriage. Such support was also necessary for finding a publisher, all the more when publication was posthumous. Most of our eight women received significant help of this kind, whether posthumously or while still alive. Finally, Xian observes that women who were widowed had fewer children to consume their energies and could thus write more easily. The contrast in reputation between Mai Yinggui and Mai Yougui makes an obvious case in point. Had it not been for Mai Yinggui’s widowhood she would not have been so widely known, nor—it would seem—would her nephew have sought to publish her and her sister’s writings. None of these conditions are especially surprising, judging from what we know of Jiangnan.


ellen widmer Two Other Special Features of Guangdong Women’s Culture

In this second section, I begin by considering a literary interest observable in Guangdong but not elsewhere, and proceed by detailing ways in which Guangdong women’s literary culture of the eighteenth century may have failed to achieve the self-sufficiency that we find in Jiangnan during the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. These points are in addition to the matter of eighteenth-century momentum that has been our topic up to now. At this preliminary juncture, what seems unique among Guangdong women is their strong interest in history. The conventional wisdom about traditional Chinese women is that their writing was largely contained to poetry, although they might read in other genres. An interest in history thus seems exceptional. By far the most important case in point is Li Wanfang. Li’s My Humble Opinion is an edition with commentary on the Shi ji 史記 (Historical Records, 109–91 BCE). Along with her own comments, Li reprinted those of eleven other celebrated commentators on this work, among them Yang Shen 楊慎 (1488–1559) and Chen Renxi 陳仁錫 (1581–1636). As noted above, My Humble Opinion was apparently published twice, once in 1765 and once in 1787, the second under the imprint of Quiet Garden. Li’s prefaces, however, are dated 1707 and 1710, far earlier than the date of publication. We do not know whether Li was alive when this book came out, and we cannot be sure that the 1765 edition was the first printing. Somewhere along the way, her text acquired paratexts. A preface by a Longmen county magistrate, Wu Dingchen 伍鼎臣, is dated 1757. Another currently undatable preface was by Liang Jingzhang 梁璟 璋 (perhaps a relative of Liang Yongdeng 梁永登, Li’s husband?). The 1765 edition also carried annotations (zan 贊) by a prominent official and writer, Zong Shengyuan 宗聖垣 (1735–1815) from Guiji (Shaoxing), who was based in Guangdong. The woman Xie Fangduan also wrote a preface, at an unspecified time (see below); it does not seem that Xie and Li were acquainted, but the evidence is inconclusive. Finally, a modern, photolithographic (yingyin 影印) edition of this work came out in 1937 under the imprint of the Beijing-based firm

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Zhou shi shigutang 周世師古堂. Scanty though it is, this evidence suggests that the book received sustained attention over time. Li’s own preface begins by expressing admiration for Ban Zhao 班昭 (49–120). I once carefully read her continuation [of the Book of Han]. Compared with what her father and brother wrote, it is as though they came from a single hand. I knew that her ears were immersed and her eyes were steeped in the deep knowledge of her household. The field of history was created by Sima Qian 司馬遷 [ca. 145-ca. 85 BCE], and Ban Gu’s 班固 [32–92] Book of Han honored [his traditions] . . . I am just a village girl, quite bad at female arts, how dare I aspire to such knowledge? I was fortunate that the wives of my older brothers and I read our father’s books. In the time after weaving I followed their lead. I focused on investigating the past and came extravagantly to admire Ban Zhao as a person. I was struck by her ambition, celebrated her good fortune, and enjoyed reading her book. After this I went back to her source and read Sima Qian’s book as well.12

Contrary to what we might expect, Li’s views on Sima Qian are not entirely positive. In a note appended after the preface Li expresses admiration for his talent, but takes issue with his decision to infuse his masterpiece with his own personal bitterness. This note further explains that she faults the historian not only for writing with insufficient peace of mind but also for taking Li Ling’s 李陵 side, the gesture that resulted in Sima’s castration and his “Bao Ren An shu” 報任安書 (Letter to Ren An). In her words: It is a very great pity that Sima Qian had so much talent, enough to perceive the great way of the sages, but at the same time was too spontaneous and made the mistake of coming to the rescue of Li Ling. Otherwise how would he have reached this level of frustration? I once saw his letter to Ren An. His resentment can be divided as follows: 60–70% toward the emperor and 20–30% toward officials and friends, with nary a word of blame for himself. Is this not putting oneself in the right and failing to see the error of one’s ways? To write an official history in such a mood threatens to jeopardize the entire project.

This note is dated 1710.13 Li Wanfang’s interest in the Historical Records helped to nurture at least one Guangdong woman’s interest in the subject. Xie Fangduan’s 12 13

  Xian, Guangdong nüzi yiwen kao, 3-4.   Xian, Guangdong nüzi yiwen kao, 4.


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preface to Li’s work begins by observing: “From olden times many women have made their reputations writing poetry but few have been known as writers of narrative.” She goes on to discuss Ban Zhao as a pioneer of the past in this respect and Li Wanfang as a pioneer of the present. Of her own father, Xie says that he was interested in history as well as poetry and nurtured her interest. Later, she went to stay with her son at his official residence in Guangdong. She took up reading the Historical Records in his yamen and in the process came across this work by Madam Li. When I discussed history with my children I lacked the means fully to understand it. Now as I study Madam Li’s volume the things that we discussed together, as well as those we did not, have all become clear.

Xie’s implication is that were it not for Li, she would never have read and discussed the Historical Records with such understanding. We know from biographical information about Xie that history was one of her own areas of competence when she was still a girl, but her interest appears to have intensified through contact with My Humble Opinion.14 In addition to Li and Xie, three other Guangdong women may have been devotees of history, though here the evidence is less clear. Chen Zaiqian’s colophon to Lin Lanxue’s collection, previously mentioned, happens to remark that Chen Guangxun also wrote comments on the Historical Records, but no evidence is given. Then there are links connecting the Mai sisters to history. In Mai Yougui’s case, a poem is recorded in Shen Shanbao’s 沈善寶 (1808–1862) Mingyuan shihua 名媛詩話 (Poetry Talk on Famous Women) of 1845.15 It takes up the deficiencies in filial piety and kindness on the part of the first Han emperor, Gaozu 高祖. This is not a common theme in women’s poetry. The poem may have been inspired by the Historical Records itself, by Li Wanfang’s text, or by discussions about history in Mai’s time. Again we have no clear proof of what inspired it. But given the visibility and importance of My Humble Opinion, it would not be surprising if many highly educated eighteenth-century women of Guangdong had heard of and been influenced by this work of Li Wanfang. Finally, Mai Yinggui’s instruction of family members is said to have been in history among other subjects. If all of these clues truly indicate what I have inferred, it would mean that of our six wholly Guangdong-based 14 15

  Xian, Guangdong nüzi yiwen kao, 29.   A copy is held in the Peking University Library.

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women five found history a valuable interest to pursue. Yet if we take all of China’s writing women as our focus, Xie Fangduan is right that Li’s deep interest in history and in writing history was highly unusual in its time. It is also worth noting that after Xie Fangduan the trail of interest among other Guangdong women becomes difficult to follow.16 Guangdong’s localized literary community may have allowed for unusual interests, but so far, it would seem, the possible erasure of these interests in succeeding generations took place in a way that evokes Jiangnan, which was much more hospitable to women’s poetry than prose.17 In other words it was not only that women seldom became interested in literary forms other than poetry but also that the system was not supportive of those interests when they did emerge. A resourceful and highly original woman like Li Wanfang, or Wang Duanshu 王端淑 (1621–1680?), for that matter, might occasionally come out with an innovative prose work or anthology, but few subsequent anthologists or publishers would sustain the new tradition. Indeed, because Li left no poetry behind, she could not be entered into Yun Zhu’s anthology, nor did Sea of Poems record her name. The first mention we have of Li’s historical endeavor—not to mention her book of admonitions for women and other writings—is by Ruan Yuan. My second point of comparison between Guangdong and Jiangnan women points more toward an absence than a presence. If we look merely at teaching opportunities, travel, and published works we might find sufficient basis on which to claim that, proportionally speaking, Guangdong women were at least as active as their Jiangnan counterparts, if not more so, during the century under review. However, there are several ways in which eighteenth-century Guangdong women may have failed to achieve the degree of feminine control over their own literary culture that held in the Jiangnan model. As far as I can ascertain, there were no female editors in Guangdong at this time. Perhaps more significant, the publication of women’s works seems often to have taken place after their deaths or when they were very old. This was the case with most of the women mentioned above. Under such circumstances it would have been difficult for women writers living outside of one another’s social range to correspond while they were still   I have not made a serious study of this matter for the nineteenth century.   Wen Runeng’s companion anthology to his anthology Yuedong shihai is Yuedong wenhai. It, too, has been virtually lost. But see note 5 above. 16 17


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actively writing, nor could publication lead to poetry societies operating beyond family boundaries. This is not to say that Guangdong’s talented women never met talented women from other families and locales, and perhaps a few local poetry societies did emerge; but the important Jiangnan dynamic of poetry societies and print culture which brought women from different regions into contact—I think of exchange between widely dispersed women in the late Ming, and between Hangzhou and Beijing women in the nineteenth century— does not seem to have taken hold. As in Jiangnan, Guangdong women could happen upon one another’s writings. We have seen one case of this when Xie Fangduan encountered My Humble Opinion. And the striking wit of a local woman poet like Mai Yougui could become the stuff of legend in her home town. But as yet I have found no evidence of either the broader type of poetical exchange based on non-familial groupings that we know of from the Jiangnan area or of anthologizing / editing of any kind, let alone the ambitious, dynasty-wide projects of a Yun Zhu or Wang Duanshu. Analogously, highly visible and controversial mentoring such as that by Yuan Mei 袁枚 (1716–1798) or Chen Wenshu, so far as I can ascertain, was nowhere to be found. As a result the developments we find in Guangdong during the eighteenth century were more dependent on supportive males within the family circle. Plenty of female talent was nurtured under such tutelage, but the talents nurtured in this way never went as far as their Jiangnan equivalents in creating a discrete force field, a world somewhat set apart from family, whether under male tutelage or with greater female self-sufficiency. Perhaps further research will reverse this judgment. We have scattered clues that, like their Jiangnan counterparts, Guangdong women indulged in drinking, which may be a sign of widespread socializing.18 And those male relatives, rare though they may have been, who nurtured female talent in Guangdong may ultimately yield new insight into the relationship between feminine creativity and family expectations. Scholarship on Jiangnan women has tended to assume an antithetical relationship between the two. Conceivably, the case may prove different in Guangdong. Li Wanfang’s family of female history buffs may turn out to be an important case in point along these lines. But barring unforeseen surprises, it seems reasonable to describe Guangdong   For example, Mai Yinggui’s sobriquet (hao 號) during her senior years was Zuixing daoren 醉醒道人 (Daoist Awakening from Drunkenness). 18

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women’s culture as one that never quite reached the heights of independence that one finds in Jiangnan during the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, at least not during this eighteenth-century surge. Guangdong Women in Anthologies I turn now to the way Guangdong’s female talents are treated in antho­ logies. I divide this section into two parts: anthologies with a Guangdong focus—whether or not their authors came from the pro­vince—and dynasty-wide anthologies. My point is to ascertain how well national anthologies of the premodern era represented Guangdong women of the Qing. One anthology that pioneered in celebrating Guangdong’s femi­ nine poetical talent—as well as its masculine poetical talent—is the aforementioned Sea of Poems by Wen Runeng, of 1810. This anthology may well have helped to create a sense of tradition among the women writers of Guangdong and those who supported them. However, Wen used a low threshold for establishing the historicity of the women he wrote about, leading to entries of weak verifiability, like “the seven-year old girl” (qi sui nüzi 七歲女子) of the Tang. Moreover, only two of our eight women are covered in Wen’s work, these being Fang Jing and Xie Fangduan. Even so, this anthology was an indispensable resource for both Ruan Yuan’s Gazetteer of Guangdong Province and Dai Zhaochen’s Gazetteer of Guangzhou Prefecture, as can be shown through their citations. Both men treated Wen’s work as foundational, using it to document writings they could not see in person, even when they cast out some of Wen’s less verifiable entries. A third Guangdong-based anthology, Lingnan shiji 嶺南詩集 (Collected Poems of Lingnan), came out earlier than any of the others. Its author was Li Wenzao, a jinshi originally from Shandong who served in Guangdong. Li is quoted in Xian’s work, but only for his colophon on the work of Chen Guangxun, among the women singled out above. As the point of Li’s colophon was to emphasize Chen’s uniqueness as a woman writer, it may be that he knew little or nothing of other women writers from Guangdong.19 19   Strangely, and I believe coincidentally, it is rare for Xie Fangdun and Chen Guangxun to appear in the same collection or to be mentioned together. Of the many names that have come up so far only Chen Zaiqian, the prefacer to Lin Liangxiang’s work, appears to have known of both Xie and Chen.


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Xian Yuqing’s work clearly builds on a long and ever-improving series of chronicles of Guangdong’s female talent. She also draws on anthologies and “poetry talk” with a more national focus. One of the most important of these is Yun Zhu’s Correct Beginnings of 1831 and 1836. Xian’s reliance on this source shows her respect for it. However, Yun’s work is often less illuminating than local sources when it comes to the accomplishments of Guangdong women. Of the eight women mentioned above, Yun has entries on only six. Li Wanfang’s omission is understandable, because Li wrote no poems. Chen Guangxun’s omission is harder to explain. Yun does not reveal her sources, but if either Sea of Poems or Gazetteer of Guangdong Province were among them, the omission may stem from the fact that Wen and Ruan also omitted Chen. Among the sources I have consulted to date, Dai Zhaochen was the first to pay attention to Chen Guangxun; perhaps her poetry was lost in most locales until Dai rediscovered it. However we choose to explain Yun’s omission of Li and Chen, her treatment of some of the other six also raises questions. For example, the Mai sisters are situated early in her work, in close proximity to such seventeenth-century figures as Wang Duanshu of Shaoxing. Yun had clearly heard of the Mai sisters, perhaps through their post­ humously published collection of 1822, but she seems to have had no clear idea of when they lived. (Like Chen Guangxun, the Mai sisters were overlooked by both Wen Runeng and Ruan Yuan but were added to the record by Dai Zhaochen.) Another omission occurs in Yun’s treat­ment of Lin Lanxue, whom she calls only Lin shi 林氏 or “Ms. Lin,” with no acknowledgment of Lin’s given name. And like the Mai sisters, Lin is put in an early section, as though she had lived in the early Qing. Wen Runeng’s and Ruan Yuan’s texts came out twenty and ten years before Yun’s, respectively, and both have entries on Lin that include her given name. It is thus conceivable that neither was a source for Yun’s collection. It is tempting to ask why Yun did not use these sources, if indeed she did not do so. Perhaps this was a matter of choice. Wen’s ready inclusion of courtesans was a point of incompatibility between his work and Yun’s. Or perhaps Yun’s vaunted effort to scour the landscape for sources was not as thorough as we have imagined. In any event, Yun’s placement of our eight highlighted women is as follows: the Mai sisters and Lin Lanxiang ( juan 2), Fang Jie ( juan 7), Xie Fangduan ( juan 11), Huang Zhishu, supplement to the sequel

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volume of Correct Beginnings; Li Wanfang and Chen Guangxun are omitted. The number of poems for each person are as follows: one by Mai Yougui, none by Mai Yinggui—whose name does appear, under the entry for her sister—one by Lin Liangxiang, two by Fang Jie, one by Xie Fangduan, and five by Huang Zhishu. As noted, Li Wanfang and Chen Guangxun do not appear at all. It is likely that the greater representation of Fang and Huang reflects their greater visibility in Jiangnan. With the exception of these last two, Yun’s work on Guangdong poets appears to be on the skimpy side.20 Looking at this evidence a skeptical person might wonder how serious Yun was about mapping the literary landscape of Guangdong. Obviously her main aim was to cover the country broadly, whether or not what she said about the women of a given region was full and accurate, and she was not interested in supplying local color. Also, she may not have anticipated much of a readership in Guangdong.21 Yet it is equally possible that she did her best under difficult circumstances. When we observe that even Wen Runeng mentioned only two of our eight highlighted poets, we can view Yun’s accomplishment more sympathetically.22 Unlike ourselves, neither Wen nor Yun could simply consult a shelf of reference books, let alone search the Internet, to get the job done. Whatever the reasons for Correct Beginnings’ somewhat sketchy coverage, I would be surprised if it surpassed Sea of Poems, Gazetteer of Guangdong Province and Gazetteer of Guangzhou Prefecture in the attention paid it by premodern Guangdong poets. Though conscientious in its listing of individuals, it says rather little about most of them, and it does nothing to bring out the flavor of Guangdong. Works by Wen Runeng, Ruan Yuan, Dai Zhaochen, and Xian Yuqing are far superior in this regard.23   Yun does have an entry on another Guangdong women poet, a Li Shi 李氏 or “Ms. Li,” in her first juan. It includes five poems. There is no evidence that Li left Guangdong. Yun’s interest in Li was probably because of her exceptional success in educating her son. According to Xian Yuqing, Li lived during the Qianlong era (p. 42). For this reason she probably should have appeared in a later juan. 21   None of Yun’s endorsers, listed at the end of the sequel edition, are from Guangdong. It appears that her most desired readership lay closer to home. 22   Huang Zhishu’s omission is understandable as she flourished too late for Wen to have known about her, and Li Wanfang was not a poet. The poets Wen might have included but did not are Lin Lanxue, Chen Guangxun, and the Mai sisters. 23   Wen Runeng’s work would not have been fully compatible with Yun’s interests even if she had known about it. Among women poets Wen devotes considerable attention to Zhang Qiao 張喬, a late-Ming courtesan. As is well known, Yun did not 20


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An earlier dynasty-wide collection, Xiefang ji 擷芳集 (A Nosegay of Poems) of 1785–1795 by Wang Qishu 汪啟淑 (1728–1799), provides further insight into Yun Zhu’s methodology. Among our eight women Wang’s collection has entries on Fang Jie and Chen Guangxun. Puzzlingly, Yun Zhu lists A Nosegay of Poems among her sources, yet Chen does not appear as an entry in her anthology. This must either mean that Yun was selective in the way she used this source, and that Chen escaped her notice, or that Chen was of too little interest or value to her to be included. 24 Poetry Talk on Famous Women of 1845 by Shen Shanbao is another work of dynasty-wide outreach that is cited in Xian’s account, albeit rarely. Among the women highlighted above it is only in her entry on Mai Yougui that Xian invokes this source. Shen’s knowledge of Mai’s work may be the result of its unusually broad circulation, which meant that it somehow reached her in Beijing.25 However unlike Yun Zhu, Shen makes no claim to broad coverage of all regions of the country; and in any case a “poetry talk” is a more casual type of work than an anthology. Although a few other women from Guangdong do turn up in her discussion,26 we do not have to wonder (as we do with Yun) why certain Guangdong writers do not appear. To what extent does our current understanding of China’s women’s literary culture depend on Yun Zhu? Certainly many works have appeared since her time that improve on her “correct beginnings.” But the notion that women’s culture can be approached dynastywide, let alone the assumption that Jiangnan epitomizes (and hence represents) women’s literary culture as a whole, may owe something to Yun’s scholarship. This notion and this assumption are what the Guangdong material may conceivably cause us to revise.

banish all courtesans from her pages but included them only if they subsequently “reformed” and married. 24   Also, Xian Yuqing does not cite Xiefang ji, perhaps because it has become difficult to find. I base my comments on this source on Hu, Lidai funü zhuzuo kao. 25   Perhaps it was only an excerpt that reached her. See Mingyuan shihua, juan 10, 8b. 26   Zhang Xiuduan 張秀端 is another example. For more on Zhang see Shen, Mingyuan shihua, juan 7, 25 ab and Widmer, The Beauty and the Book, 140.

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Conclusion The observations offered in this paper tentatively suggest that through the end of the eighteenth century Guangdong’s women maintained an active literary culture as Jiangnan’s flagged, and that this culture had two special characteristics: a greater interest in history and a lesser degree of activity outside the family than in Jiangnan. However, whether this culture represented an advance over the seventeenth century, or whether it was the beginning of something new for Guangdong is a matter yet unresolved. To an extent there were connections between Guangdong and the outside world. Not only did certain women cross from this cultural zone to the Jiangnan area and back;27 the whole idea of literate women could have been brought to the region by jinshi and other national figures residing in Guangdong. Besides enlightened fathers, husbands, and sons, the publishing culture of the region added to the hope that women might leave their works behind. And circulation of books between Guangzhou and other publishing centers was such that the odd text by a Guangdong writer could now and then show up in Jiangnan’s, even in Beijing’s, more centralized book markets. But, I hypothesize, as long as they remained in Guangdong, which is to say, unless they married a Jiangnan man, Guangdong women had little chance at the kind of national attention or of book-inspired literary contact that could be found in the Jiangnan region, at least at its most active moments. To put this another way, Guangdong may have hatched a women’s literary culture that differed in some way from Jiangnan’s. Guangdong women could publish locally, beyond a doubt, and they could teach and travel; but their reputations tended not to attract national attention, and they most likely lacked non-family based theaters of activity. These signs of lesser literary self-sufficiency are counterbalanced by their strong interest in history, especially Li Wanfang’s, which appears to be outstanding. Like the signs of ongoing momentum throughout the eighteenth century, this interest is worth pursuing in more detail as we refine our understanding of Guangdong.

  The only woman I know of who made a permanent move in the other direction was the late-Ming courtesan Zhang Qiao. See note 23. 27


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unorthodox female figures


UNORTHODOX FEMALE FIGURES IN ZHU SUXIAN’S LINKED RINGS OF JADE Siao-chen Hu The Chinese literary genre of tanci 彈詞 or tanci xiaoshuo 彈詞小說 (narrative in plucking rhymes) was once popular on the book market and had great appeal to women, especially in the nineteenth century. Its popularity notwithstanding, it was severely criticized in the late-Qing discourse of reformation for its “backward” nature. It has been undervalued since the early twentieth century, when the idea of Chinese literary history in the modern sense took form. Although twentiethcentury Chinese scholars such as Zheng Zhenduo 鄭振鐸, A Ying 阿英, Zhao Jingshen 趙景深 and Tan Zhengbi 譚正璧 made important contributions to the collection and cataloguing of tanci texts with the aim of promoting popular literature and women’s literature, their efforts failed to secure the genre a position in Chinese literary history. In research on Ming-Qing women’s literature of the past twenty years, woman-authored tanci have begun to receive the attention that they merit, a case in point being their inclusion by Wilt Idema and Beata Grant in a comprehensive history of Chinese women’s literature, with due attention to the female narrative voice.1 As the genre definitely deserves further exploration, in this essay I will discuss Yulianhuan 玉連環 (Linked Rings of Jade), a tanci text by Zhu Suxian 朱素仙, the only woman author of tanci who did not maintain that she was a well-educated lady of the genteel class. To my knowledge, the section on Linked Rings in Idema and Grant’s The Red Brush, though short in length, is the first serious introduction to and analysis of this plucking rhymes text. As Idema and Grant provide a synopsis of the plot, I will go straight into an investigation of one particular aspect of this text, namely its portrayal of extreme female figures.

1   Idema and Grant devote a full chapter to “plucking rhymes” in The Red Brush: Writing Women of Imperial China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2004).


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One of the characteristics of women’s tanci is exaltation of the female sex: we often encounter morally perfect and intellectually superior heroines. The subject of the present discussion, however, is not flawless heroines but extraordinary yet marginal female characters. These female figures do not conform to socio-morally orthodox values, but can often be seen to reflect women’s emotional and psychological condition. I will first focus on a mother figure with a drinking problem in Linked Rings. To my knowledge, she is the only female alcoholic character in all women’s tanci. Zhu Suxian’s Linked Rings, also known as Zhongqing zhuan 鍾情傳 (A Tale of Concentrated Love), has a preface by Yuting zhuren 雨亭主 人, dated 1805: Lady Zhu from Yunjian was born to a poor family and was widowed when still young. She had a virtuous character and was addicted to study; extremely erudite, she annotated the Changes and excelled in the writing of poems and rhapsodies.   In her later years, she became fond of the plucking rhymes of blind performers, and would regularly invite sister Xiang Jin from Taicang to strum and sing all kinds of tales. She would say to people: “When you listen to their notes, their lovely sounds are enough to stop the floating of the clouds, but when you consider their words, they are not sufficient to correct and rectify lascivious evil. These tales can only amuse the ears of worldly folks, they are incapable of pleasing those with more perceptive vision.”   She then composed Linked Rings, which is also titled A Tale of Concentrated Love, and taught Xiang to sing it . . .   Some years later, Lady Zhu and Xiang Jin died one after the other, and the sounds and rhymes of Linked Rings disappeared together with them. Alas! Why did Linked Rings have to suffer such a fate? Fortunately, one of her relatives, Mr. Wu, took the manuscript and gave it to me. I was fond of it when I saw it, and therefore copied it and often chanted the text while I lay on a pillow in the depth of green shade. Before finishing three stanzas, I felt that the emotions of sorrow and happiness, as well as the appearance of attractiveness and beauty, were completely presented to me between my eyebrows and eyelashes . . . It so happened that my friend Jin Buyun visited me from Puweng village to the north of Hengshan, and I showed him my transcribed copy of A Tale of Concentrated Love. We sat down, read together, appreciating and complimenting it till we nearly missed bedtime and forgot to take meals. Others all laughed at us and called us eccentric . . . Therefore I put it to print, desiring to share it with those in the world who can understand. I desire to share it with those

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in the world who can understand! I did this so that Linked Rings will not be wronged, and it will enjoy the luck of having fans from later generations of the world.2

A number of observations are in order here. First, Yuting Zhuren must have known Zhu Suxian personally, or known someone who was close to her. Second, Zhu wrote Linked Rings in her later years and the preface, dated 1805, was written after her death; therefore Linked Rings must be a work of the last years of the eighteenth century. Third, as the author presents herself, she is of humble background, “a daughter from a farmer’s household.”3 This identity accords with what is said in Yuting Zhuren’s preface, and is very different from most other women authors of tanci, who as a rule saw themselves as gentry women (guixiu 閨秀). Fourth, as Idema and Grant rightly point out, Zhu Suxian’s first encounter with tanci was in oral form, while reading and writing came only later. Under regular circumstances, elite women were not encouraged to befriend women of low social rank, but it seems that Zhu’s relatively humble background permitted her to have direct contact with female tanci performers, especially a woman named Xiang Jin 項金. Also, according to the preface, Zhu wrote with the intention to have her text sung out loud. Indeed, Xiang Jin performed it for her. But we do not know how Zhu and Xiang collaborated—could Xiang read? Or did Zhu instruct her orally? The preface does not provide information on this. Lastly, the preface implies that when Zhu was writing Linked Rings, she knew little about tanci by other women authors. Most women’s tanci that have survived, including Chen Duansheng’s 陳端生 (1751–1796?) Zaisheng yuan 再生緣 (Karmic Bonds of Reincarnation), were published after 1820, when the genre grew more popular in the book market.4 Linked Rings was written around the same time when Chen Duansheng was writing her master  Yuting Zhuren, “Xu” 序 (Preface), in Zhu Suxian, Xiuxiang yulianhuan 繡像玉 連環 (Linked Rings of Jade, with Illustrations) (Yiyun shuwu 亦芸書屋 edition, 1823), 1a-2b. I mostly use Idema and Grant’s translation. See The Red Brush, 730. 3   The ending poem in Chapter 76 says, “I am originally a daughter from a farmer’s household, therefore my words are unrefined, full of small drawbacks. Later, if I think of extraordinary things, in my spare time after farming, I will write some more.” Zhu Suxian, Xiuxiang yulianhuan, 47b. 4   For example, the woman writer and editor Hou Zhi 侯芝 worked for commercial publishing houses to publish Yuchuan yuan 玉釧緣 (Bracelet of Jade), Zaisheng yuan, Jingui jie 金閨傑 (Heroines from Golden Chambers), Zaizao tian 再造天 (Heaven Repaired), and Jin shang hua 錦上花 (Flowers on the Brocade). 2


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piece. Linked Rings, therefore, belongs to the earlier stage of women’s tanci, and is an independent text in the tradition. The preface also provides clues for understanding the work’s style. Most women’s tanci are “literary tanci,” written by authors who paid attention to moral decorum and wrote in refined language. Linked Rings does not belong to this tradition. For example, while most literary tanci use seven-character chapter titles, Linked Rings uses twocharacter chapter titles, as do many performance scripts. Whereas most literary tanci are third-person narrative, in Linked Rings narration alternates with dramatic mode. It specifies role types such as zhengsheng 正生 (male lead), xiaosheng 小生 (young male), zhengdan 正旦 (female lead), zuodan 作旦 (young and boyish female), huadan 花旦 (young female) and xiaodan 小旦 (secondary young female), as well as tune titles (qupai 曲牌) such as “Jianqiang” 箭腔, “Jiang’ershui” 江兒水, “Yuanlinhao” 園林好 and “Dianjiangchun” 點絳唇. There are more dialogues than narration, the use of dialect is frequent, and characters often make comic remarks. In short, its techniques are derived from performance. I think these formal characteristics are to do with the author’s background and her conscious choice of narrative mode. Both the form and the language indicate that the work belongs to a narrative mode different from elite women’s tanci. As such, it is very much an exception in the development of women’s tanci; it did not develop to become the mainstream of the genre. Reading Linked Rings is a fresh experience in that it compels one to reconsider preconceived ideas of tanci by women authors. Compared with other women’s texts, Linked Rings is short of ornate diction and sometimes appears vulgar in its language. Its plot is structured loosely. It does not profess to convey any important message, and it does not attempt to portray high-profile heroes and heroines. However, its language flows smoothly between the refined and the colloquial, thus delivering an easy and lively quality. The dialogues and singing passages are engaging and witty, achieving an effect like that in a real oral performance. The characters, especially the heroines, do not have aspirations to glory and fame, but they are full of vitality, more so than those in any other women’s tanci. Linked Rings also differs from other women’s tanci in that it deals with the life of common people rather than the royal house and high officials. Most strikingly, it seems to uphold an unorthodox set of moral principles. From here, my discussion will focus on the only drunken lady in all women’s tanci.

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This drunken lady is called Madam Liang. She is over sixty years old, a mother of five children, and obsessed with drinking, joking and teasing. She hardly has any conventional feminine charm. She willingly presents herself as an alcoholic from the moment she makes her appearance, and then lays out a theory of the necessity for women to get drunk often. Her opening remark is: I seldom feel sorrowful in my life. Because I am happy, my body grows large and my heart broad. Most of the time, I stay in the realm of drunkenness, dazed. They say that glory and wealth are rightly reserved for the fool.5

She proceeds to tell the audience that she will go celebrate her cousin Madam Zhang’s birthday and help her make up with her husband. She will advise her cousin to indulge herself in reading and drinking to achieve domestic harmony. She says, Her hobby is reading fiction. I have borrowed from my niece Hongzhi a work called Linked Rings and will give it to her to read. However troubled she is at heart, she will laugh when she reads it. Madam Zhang, Madam Zhang, you are unhappy simply because you do not drink. (sings) A cup in hand is most gratifying, Making me put aside all troubles. When I am drunk I doze off, No time for quarrels. (speaks) Before I learned the art of drinking, I often clashed with my husband. When we argued, (sings) I toppled the stool and shattered the pot (speaks) and in no time, (sings) We yelled at each other from this end of the room to the other. (speaks) But after I learned the lovely secret of drinking, (sings) No business is my business, As I get drunk every morning.6

Madam Liang is an official’s wife, but she talks and behaves more like a woman from a commoner’s house. 5 6

  Zhu Suxian, Xiuxiang yulianhuan, Chapter 43, 39a.   Xiuxiang yulianhuan, Chapter 43, 39b.


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Several themes emerge from this passage that will reappear later. First, it establishes close linkage between women and fiction. More than one of Zhu’s female characters, including Madam Liang, her cousin Madam Zhang and her niece Hongzhi, are said to be enthusiastic readers of fiction. As Madam Liang metafictionally takes Linked Rings as an example, she probably refers to both tanci and vernacular novels. Without hesitation, she regards fiction reading as positive and psychologically healthy. Her statement is very unlike the ambiguous attitude toward fiction found in most tanci works by elite women authors. Secondly, Madam Liang postures as a shrew: when she is annoyed, she knocks over the stool and smashes the pot. Later in the chapter, she mentions that if her husband dares to disagree with her on their daughter’s marriage arrangement, she will surely “tear his red robe to pieces and hit him on the head until his official’s cap falls off.”7 The promise is realized later, in Chapter 48. She is also a jester who cannot help telling jokes and teasing people. For example, Chapter 43 is entirely devoted to the jokes she tells her nephew. Finally, Madam Liang finds solace only in drunkenness. Later, when she greets her husband at the door, she says, “I’m tipsily drunk, as trapped in darkness. I laugh and chuckle, giving drunken speeches throughout. Ha! Ha! Ha! You are back!” Though she is a character in a narrative, Madam Liang has a powerful stage presence, with a voice and a bearing that display her as an incorrigible alcoholic.8 She believes that alcohol is the remedy for all of women’s worries and troubles. But doesn’t her choice resemble that of many scholars in the literary tradition who find comfort in alcohol when they are ensnared in personal hardships or political turmoil? Similar to the scholars’ situation, getting drunk does not solve her problems, as proved by the fact that she still fights with her husband in later chapters. Though drunkenness does not free Madam Liang of worries, it does provide a good excuse for her shrewish behavior and playful attitude. In fact, she indulges in drinking because she is a deeply dissatisfied wife and mother. While she appears to be a comic character, this conceals deep sorrow and brutal violence. Considering this, we may call Madam Liang a dramatic fool, or a clown.

7 8

  Xiuxiang yulianhuan, Chapter 43, 41b.   Xiuxiang yulianhuan, Chapter 43, 17b.

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There are clues in the text to link the role of Madam Liang to the author herself. Chapter 43 works like a game about the act of writing, led by a drunken woman clown, and tied together by a series of jokes and plays, centering around the text of Linked Rings itself. As noted earlier, when Madam Liang makes her first appearance, she brings up the idea of giving her cousin a book called Linked Rings to read that she has borrowed from her niece. Later, when her niece arrives, she demands, “My niece, how come Chapter 44 is missing from the fivevolume Linked Rings? . . . I wish somebody who has nothing better to do could complete it.” Her niece then proposes that Madam Zhang do it. It is not the only example of women’s tanci in which the author deliberately refers to the title of her work, but what we see at the end of this chapter complicates the situation. There is a passage appended to Chapter 43 which says, Madam Zhang of the Ye household was a relative of Suxian. Suxian wanted Mrs. Ye to complete her work, therefore she used Mrs. Xiahou [Madam Liang] as a mouthpiece. But Mrs. Ye did not do this in the end. Dozens of years later, Mr. Jin wrote the two chapters “Jianbie” 餞別 (Farewell) and “Rongxing” 榮行 (Taking Off). But “Bainian” 拜年 (New Year’s Greeting) was written by Suxian.9

“Jianbie,” “Rongxing” and “Bainian” are the chapter titles of Chapters 44, 45 and 46. Chapter 44 is marked as “written by Mr. Jin of Hengshan.” Mr. Jin probably was Jin Buyun 金步雲, mentioned in the preface by Yuting Zhuren. This passage is intriguing. As it reveals inside information, it probably was written by Yuting Zhuren, the person behind the work’s publication. If that was the case, who asked Mrs. Ye to supplement the two missing chapters? Was it Zhu Suxian, who playfully invited her relative Mrs. Ye to join the literary game, as Ye might be one of her first readers? Or was it Yuting Zhuren, who came up with the idea of asking the author’s relative to make some contribution, once he saw the manuscript? If the latter is true, it means that either Yuting Zhuren or Mr. Jin must have modified Chapter 43, and provided the information that Mrs. Ye failed to supplement the missing chapters. But this does not explain why he did not remove Madam Liang’s invitation for Mrs. Ye to contribute, now that Ye didn’t actually write the two chapters. My 9

  Xiuxiang yulianhuan, Chapter 43, 45b.


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guess, then, is that it was Zhu Suxian who played the game. In the work, Madam Liang is Mrs. Ye’s cousin; she lends Ye books to read, eases her emotional pains, teases her for her substandard literacy,10 and jokingly asks her to supplement two chapters. In reality, according to the passage at the end of Chapter 43, Zhu Suxian also had a relative named Mrs. Ye whom she asked to write Chapters 44 and 45. From these, we may gather that Madam Liang could be seen as personifying Zhu Suxian. It is not uncommon for authors to use a character as their mouthpiece. Zhu Suxian uses a drunken old lady as hers, but the image of Madam Liang does not have to reflect the author’s life. What matters is that when the character overlaps with the author, Madam Liang’s image reinforces the narrative drive of the text through the power of drinking. Under the umbrella of drunkenness and old age, Madam Liang releases the unconscious energy of impulsiveness, play, farce and violence, spouting from the pores of her large body and her drunken breath. Madam Liang does not contain herself, neither will she be contained. However, this extreme female figure is not demonized. She is never portrayed as negative, let alone villainous; on the contrary, she is the center of laughter and often offers astute judgement. In the tradition of elite women’s tanci, we often encounter women’s desire, frustration, anger and repression. In Linked Rings, however, we witness a female power symbolized by Madam Liang that is not bitter, but joyous and indulgent. It is not only tolerated but encouraged by the female narrative voice. The characterization of Madam Liang brings to mind Dionysus, who, as Nietzsche points out in The Birth of Tragedy, initiates both tragedy and comedy because he combines and conflates contradictory elements such as sadness and happiness, pain and ecstasy, and destruction and rebirth.11 Considering that the author endowed a female figure with such strong will power, I feel there is all the more need to reevaluate Linked Rings for its exceptionally “untamed” nature, so seldom seen in writings by traditional women. The drunken state of Madam Liang not only brings farcical elements to the text, but also blurs moral boundaries: the work shows 10   Madam Liang jokingly says that Mrs. Ye can recognize no more than the three characters making up the title of the work. Then she corrects herself by saying that Mrs. Ye is able to read the Qianzi wen 千字文 (A One-Thousand-Character Essay), and therefore qualified to write the two chapters. 11   See Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1967).

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tremendous tolerance in issues to do with romantic love, marital relationships and chastity. Madam Liang arranges for her daughter to marry a poor young scholar. She knows her snobbish husband will not agree, and therefore sends the maiden in a sedan chair to the scholar’s home before her husband comes home. In other words, she arranges her own daughter’s elopement. When the father gets home and learns about this, he brings their daughter home by force, and plans to marry her off to a man of his choosing, disregarding the fact that she has consummated her marriage with the scholar. Unable to accept a second marriage, the daughter refuses the father’s arrangement and escapes. It is not at all uncommon to see snobbish parents and daughters faithful to love in popular literature, but Linked Rings is different in its total neglect of proper rituals and chastity. The mother and the daughter do not mind skipping the marriage ceremony; the father does not care that his daughter has already married, nor does he think her next husband will object to it. Cross-dressing presents another example. Linked Rings was written around the time when Karmic Bonds of Reincarnation was written, and both have episodes related to cross-dressing. However, while Karmic Bonds is focused on women’s awareness of career and success after they dress up as men, the episodes of cross-dressing in Linked Rings have little to do with women’s self-consciousness. They only serve to catalyze illicit romance. Wang Wencai, the primary heroine of the work, falls in love with her cousin Liang Ziyu while she is dressed up as a man. When they meet again as a man and a woman, they “look at each other lovingly.” Bystanders “think they are secretly in love,” but the narrator says, “who would know that they are such dear friends that even if Ms. Wang were a man, they would show affection all the same when they meet again today.” Later, when Liang Ziyu learns that Wang Wencai is a woman, he wonders, Now is she a friend of mine, or is she not? (sings) I want to take her as a friend But how can I befriend a woman in the inner chambers? If I do not take her as a friend I cannot bear cutting off our old friendship.

He also says,


siao-chen hu Wang Wencai, my dear brother, I fathom you (sings) You must be unable to break off with such a good friend as me. A talented person is destined to love another talented person. I love you for your wonderful talents You must have affection for me because I have talents, too. 12

On the other hand, Xie Huixin, a woman who previously has been wrongly betrothed to Wang Wencai in disguise, is still in love with Wang after her true identity is revealed. She abides by her resolution not because she foolishly sticks to the doctrine of “a woman will not marry twice,” but because she sincerely admires Wang for her tenderness and astounding beauty. No matter if Wang is a man or a woman, Ms. Xie claims, she is determined to marry Wang as promised. 13 After Wang’s disguise is revealed, the three people involved are still a love triangle. When it comes to romance between man and woman, Linked Rings also shows notable tolerance. Liang Ziyu once pays a visit to Wang Wencai in her bedroom at night, and even tries to step inside her bed curtains.14 In elite women’s tanci, it is inconceivable for unmarried heroes and heroines to spend the night in the same room without being condemned. In this respect, Linked Rings is more akin to popular love stories. Tolerance with regard to issues of chastity is demonstrated most clearly in the latter half of the work, by the story of Sun Lingyun, Liang Hongzhi and Zhao Yuege. Sun, the husband, is an unrestrained dandy, addicted to gambling and visiting brothels. Liang, the wife, is a well-educated and stern woman. She tries to admonish Sun, but to no avail; therefore, she designs a setup. She secretly purchases Zhao Yuege, a virtuous woman who voluntarily sells herself in order to bury her father properly, to be her husband’s concubine. Having made sure that Zhao is trustworthy, Liang entrusts all her property to her. When Sun has lost everything in gambling, he proposes to sell his house and wife. Zhao Yuege, disguised as a man and under the direction of Liang Hongzhi, comes forward to make the deal. Zhao and Liang then pretend to be a couple. When Sun loses all his money again, he has nothing to sell except himself. To pay his debts, he begins to work as a servant for his new master Zhao Yuege. His mistakes are eventually   Zhu Suxian, Xiuxiang yulianhuan, Chapter 14, 45b-47a.   Xiuxiang yulianhuan, Chapter 53, 51a-52b. 14   Xiuxiang yulianhuan, Chapter 23, 48a-50b. 12 13

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rectified, and he is reformed after plenty of suffering and reunited with Liang and Zhao. When he works for “Master Zhao,” he cannot resist the temptation and tries to seduce his current “lady of the house,” that is, his former wife. This is a common story of moral rectification, starring a misled young man, a wise wife and a smart concubine; but remarkably, the wife-selling that is part of the setup is not supposed to happen except in the lower classes. In the story Liang Hongzhi is sold, remarried, and even involved in adultery, but she is never criticized or ridiculed by family, friends or society in general. I have never seen anything like this in elite women’s tanci. In language and style, Linked Rings is similar to tanci performance. Its characters speak and act like commoners, and its moral principles are flexible. The author lists sixteen plot elements of popular fiction that she tried to avoid. They are: 1) men dressing up as women; 2) secret vows of marriage; 3) premarital sex; 4) elopement of adulterous women; 5) widows losing their chastity; 6) robbery and murder; 7) imprisonment; 8) murder for political motives; 9) secret conspiracy with foreign countries; 10) obsequious flattery of the powerful; 11) instruction in the methods of the immortals; 12) evil depravity of ghosts and monsters; 13) plots hatched by monks and priests; 14) prognostic dreams; 15) burglary and theft; 16) abduction and forced marriage.15

This is a fairly comprehensive list of the formulas of popular fiction. Linked Rings would be a rare case if it were free from all of them, and indeed, it is not. For example, although it features no men disguised as women, the heroine Wang Wencai does dress up as a man once. Also, Madam Liang’s daughter Shuxiu and her niece Liang Hongzhi can be said to have eloped or lost their chastity. In other words, the work’s self-proclaimed status as a moral story is open to debate. The image of the shrew in Linked Rings deserves special attention. When a shrew’s behavior is pushed to extremes, she is often portrayed as mad and crazy. In literary representation, the madwoman has the potential to be a powerful character, as she can produce strong narrative and dramatic effects, and is easily endowed with moral and symbolic significance. As Foucault convincingly demonstrates, madness is never a question of medicine, and the line between madness and reason is constantly shifting.16 In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English   Xiuxiang yulianhuan, 1a-b. See Idema and Grant, The Red Brush, 730.   Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Richard Howard (London: Routledge, 2001). 15



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culture, madness was associated with the female sex and metaphorically became a feminine disease. Furthermore, the phantoms of the mad women that haunt many woman-authored English novels of the nineteenth century embody their authors’ repressed resentment and anger towards patriarchal society. In China, on the other hand, scholars of the history of medicine note that there are medical cases in which doctors and healers treated madness as something rooted in women’s natural essence, but the relationship between madness and gender has never been a focus of their discussion. Therefore, in the Chinese context, it is not appropriate to relate madness to the nature of the female sex. However, women writers were interested in portraying shrews and madwomen, as proved by the many examples in women’s tanci. The image of the shrew can be either comic or dreadful, depending on how the author portrays her in the text. Male authors, as if testing the limits of the imagination, often made their shrews compete in inventing new devices of abuse and torture. Also, just like the logic of retribution, the above-mentioned label of madness can easily explain the extreme, irrational behavior of shrewish women. Once she is labeled as mad, a woman’s transgression and her violation of norms are contained, as they no longer pose a real threat to social norms. Interestingly, scholars often believe jealous and shrewish wives are the creation of male authors only. Women’s tanci show this is far from true. In women’s tanci, images of the spoiled daughter, the licentious woman, the shrewish wife, and the madwoman are often intertwined. In general, they are women who refuse to conform to orthodox norms. How women authors interpret transgressive women characters requires further exploration. Here I focus on the women who choose to be seen as madwomen in Linked Rings. Madam Liang is certainly one of them. Her intoxication gives her an excuse to have things her own way. Her madness is more like a show, and her foolish image and raving language hint at an alternative truth centering on the authenticity of feelings, in contrast to the mundane values represented by her corrupted husband. Other strong-willed wives in Linked Rings are equally fascinating. For example, the hero Liang Ziyu marries Wang Wencai and Xie Huixin. Before she is married, Xie Huixin takes Liang as an elder brother and is accustomed to behaving like a spoiled brat to him. After they get married, Xie does not change her attitude and continues to take advantage of Liang. When she is annoyed, she hits him on the head with an ivory ruler

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till his official’s cap falls off.17 Cute as she may be, she is not a model wife. Then there is another type of shrew: Liang Hongzhi, who is Liang Ziyu’s sister and Madam Liang’s niece, is stern, serious and demanding by nature. When she marries Sun Lingyun, she tries her best to redirect the dandy onto the correct route to success. Sun Lingyun is under great pressure, and he complains, How exhausting her nagging is besides my ears!—When will it end? It’s bad luck that I married a woman nerd . . . (speaks) I, Sun Lingyun, used to be a dandy. Who could have known that I would marry a wife of such eccentric nature! She is a Confucian scholar from head to toe. (sings) Immersed in ink, negligent in makeup She decorates her chamber with writing instruments And talks about poetry and rites all the time. (speaks) She really tires me out, (sings) By discussing with me the art of writing examination essays Even on the pillow. (speaks) Now that I have this destined mate, I can no longer think of (sings) Getting together with friends for wine and pleasure. I can no longer think of getting drunk carelessly. I can no longer think of squandering money in gambling. I can no longer think of stealthy love affairs.18

The image of Liang Hongzhi as a woman Confucian scholar reminds one of Ms. Lu in Wu Jingzi’s 吳敬梓 (1701–1754) novel Rulin waishi 儒林外史 (The Scholars), who is skilled in writing examination essays. By certain standards, Liang and Lu are both dutiful wives, supervising their husbands in studying. They are supposed to be role models for women. In Sun Lingyun’s view, however, Hongzhi is shrewish, even if this is not in the sense of having a bad temper. Speaking of shrews, we must not forget Madam Liang, Hongzhi’s aunt. Madam Liang is particularly shrewish when she gets drunk. When she argues with her husband over their daughter’s marriage, she is physically violent: (woman speaks) You, you come here. (man speaks) Madam, here I am. 17 18

  Xiuxiang yulianhuan, Chapter 32, 29b-30a.   Xiuxiang yulianhuan, Chapter 24, 55b.


siao-chen hu (woman speaks) You just contradicted me. (man speaks) Aiyo! Madam, please let go! Please (sings) Be merciful and let go of me! You have pulled out all my whiskers except for a few! . . . Yo, yo! My madam roars like a lioness (speaks) she frightens me so much that (sings) I almost wet my pants in terror.19

Violent as she is, Madam Liang is still comic. Her shrewish behavior is meant to bring out laughter rather than fear. In short, the way Linked Rings portrays the shrew is generally light and easy, in accordance with the overall style of this work. To be a heroine requires extraordinary qualities besides beauty and talent. The heroine’s characteristics take her to the edge of a cliff: one more step, and she will run the risk of truly subverting social order. While the unorthodox female figures in women’s tanci may not be the heroines of the story, they often act as doubles of the heroine and become an important part of the narrative. They are significant in that they enrich the text and complicate the image of the heroine. A reevaluation of Linked Rings in the tradition of women’s tanci and Chinese narrative in general shows that we should carefully consider the literary, cultural and social issues these figures represent.


  Xiuxiang yulianhuan, Chapter 48, 18a-b.

the poetess and the precept master


THE POETESS AND THE PRECEPT MASTER: A SELECTION OF DAOIST POEMS BY GU TAIQING Beata Grant Gu Taiqing 顧太清 (1799–1877) is widely regarded as one of the finest poets, male or female, of the late Qing period.* Born to the Manchu Xilin Jueluo 西林覺羅 of the Blue Banner clan 鑲藍旗, she later adopted the family name of Gu. Although her given name was Chun 春, she is more often referred to by Taiqing, one of her several style names, and the one that reflects her abiding—although by no means exclusive—interest in Daoist philosophy and practice: Taiqing or Great Clarity is the name of one of the heavens of the Shangqing 上清 school of Daoism and also the name of an early external alchemy (waidan 外丹) tradition. It would appear that she took the style name of Taiqing to complement, in sound if not in meaning, that of her husband, the Manchu prince Yihui 奕繪 (1799–1838), whose concubine she became in 1824, and with whom she enjoyed a companionate marriage until his untimely death at the age of forty: one of Yihui’s style names was Taisu 太素. In the Daoist lexicon, Taisu, or Great Simplicity, refers to one of the aspects of the “chaos” that precedes all divisions and distinctions.1 By all accounts, including a considerable number of poems by Gu Taiqing and Yihui addressed to or about one another, their marriage was a happy one on many levels. Not only did Gu Taiqing bear Yihui seven children, she also came to share many of his literary, artistic, intellectual and religious pursuits. Indeed, as has often been noted, *  I wish to express my appreciation to Livia Kohn for her assistance in clarifying some of Gu Taiqing’s uses of Daoist terminology. 1   In the first chapter of the Liezi 列子 we find: “Thus I say: There was a Primal Simplicity, there was a Primal Commencement, there were Primal Beginnings, there was Primal Material. The Primal Simplicity preceded the appearance of the breath. The Primal Commencement was the beginning of the breath. The Primal Beginnings was the breath when it began to assume substance.” A.C. Graham, trans., The Book of Lieh-tzuˇ: A Classic of the Tao (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 18–19.


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Gu Taiqing did not herself begin to write poetry in earnest until after her marriage. Yihui was known for his skill at composing poetry, both shi 詩 and ci 詞, as well as for his calligraphy and painting. He was also fond of collecting antiques, apparently attempted to master both Sanskrit and Latin, and pursued a broad range of interests, including architecture and engineering. He was also read widely in Buddhist and Daoist texts, as well as the Yijing 易經 (Classic of Changes). Gu Taiqing’s published collection of ci poetry was called Tianyouge ji 天遊 閣集 (Collected Writings from the Pavilion of Heavenly Wandering), after the studio in which she and Yihui spent much time reading, discussing and writing—and where she perhaps sat deep into the night intently listening to him discourse on Daoist texts. The name of the studio was inspired by the following famous passage from the Zhuangzi 莊子 chapter entitled “Waiwu” 外物 (External Things): The cavity of the body is a many-storied vault; the mind has its Heavenly wanderings. But if the chambers are not large and roomy, then wife and mother-in-law will fall to quarreling. If the mind does not have its Heavenly wanderings, then the six apertures of sensation will defeat each other.2

The ability to engage in Heavenly wandering—in the form of the creative imagination—was a source of both intellectual and aesthetic pleasure for Gu Taiqing, but also of practical utility, especially after the death of Yihui and her forced eviction from the family home by his family. The poems translated below, however, belong to an earlier, doubtless happier time, when the couple pursued their shared interest in Daoism not only by reading and commenting on Daoist texts together and occasionally dressing up in Daoist garb, but also by attending Daoist festivities and rituals and conversing with eminent Daoist figures such as Precept Master Zhang Kunhe 張坤鶴 (1770– 1840) from the White Cloud Monastery (Baiyun guan 白雲觀). The White Cloud Monastery was, and continues to be to this day, the largest and most important center of the Longmen 龍門 lineage of the Quanzhen 全真 or Complete Perfection school of Daoism. Located today in the southwest corner of Beijing, the monastery was built in 1224 on the site of an eighth-century Daoist monastery, thanks to the   Burton Watson, trans., The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), 301. 2

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patronage of Genghis Khan and the efforts of Qiu Chuji 丘處機 (style name Changchun 長春, 1148–1227), the famous and immensely influential Quanzhen Patriarch who spent the last years of his life there. Qiu was one of the seven disciples of Wang Zhe 王喆 (1112–1170), a failed examination candidate who became a mystic and the founder of the Quanzhen school. While the ultimate goal of Quanzhen was very much one of personal transcendence, in practice it shows a marked affinity for Chan Buddhism, with its emphasis on quiet seated meditation and non-reliance on scriptures. Wang also sought a balance between personal morality or social responsibility on the one hand, and the practice of inner alchemy (neidan 內丹), on the other. This helps explain its attraction for Confucian-steeped intellectuals such as Gu Taiqing and Yihui. It is also worth noting that Wang Zhe was himself a poet of no small talent, as were a number of other Quanzhen masters. By Gu Taiqing’s time, the White Cloud Monastery had also become the center of the Longmen branch of Quanzhen Daoism, which while it is traditionally associated with the twelfth-century Qiu Chuji, in fact represents a “late school of inner alchemy that cannot be traced back to northern Quanzhen alone,” in the words of Monica Esposito.3 The official founder of this lineage was Wang Changyue 王常月, who served as the abbot of the White Cloud Monastery in and around 1656, and it was around this time that the White Cloud Monastery became the headquarters of the Longmen school. It boasted a large formal ordination platform, and many monks and nuns were ordained here during the Qing. This contributed much to the revitalization of Daoism during this period. In fact, Zhang Kunhe, the Daoist master whose name appears in many if not most of the poems translated below, was none other than the eminent precept master Zhang Hezhi 張合智, whose courtesy names (zi 字) included Jiaozhi 教智 and Kunhe. A native of Beijing’s Tongxian 通縣 county, Zhang had left home at the age of twenty-three, and taken up residence at the White Cloud Monastery in 1807, after a period of practice and travel to Mount Tai and other sacred Daoist sites. Early in that same year, Zhang Hegao 張合皓 (d. 1808), who had been the abbot of the White Cloud Monastery since 1791, invited Precept   Monica Esposito, “Daoism in the Qing,” in Daoism Handbook, ed. Livia Kohn (Leiden: Brill, 2004), vol. II, 628. 3


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Master Zhang Benrui 張本瑞 (dates unknown) from Mount Hua to assist him in a major ordination ritual to be held at the monastery. The ordination ritual took place a year later, early in 1808, with over one hundred and twenty ordinands participating, including Zhang Kunhe. Just five months later, however, Zhang Hegao passed away, although not before turning over the responsibilities for conducting the White Cloud Monastery ordinations to Zhang Kunhe, who had by this time acquired a reputation for his mastery of Daoist rituals, teachings and texts. It is not clear when exactly Zhang Kunhe actually assumed the abbacy of the White Cloud Monastery; we do know, however, that by the time he died in 1840, he had presided over ten major ordination rituals, and passed on the precepts to more than 1100 people. After his death, he was buried in the grounds of the monastery.4 As we shall see, Gu Taiqing’s poems refer to her having attended at least one such ordination ritual; she also attended lectures delivered by Zhang Kunhe on the Precepts of Celestial Transcendents (tianxian jie 天仙戒). These reflect Wang Changyue’s reorganization of Daoist religious precepts to accord more explicitly with Neo-Confucian ethics. Wang divided the precepts into three groups or stages, beginning with the Initial Precepts of Perfection (chuzhen jie 初真戒) and gradually moving on to the Precepts of the Intermediate Ultimate (zhongji jie 中極戒), to which Gu refers in another of her poems, and culminating in the Precepts of Celestial Transcendents that were the subject of Zhang Kunhe’s discourse.5 In Gu Taiqing’s day, the White Cloud Monastery was an extremely active center of religious activity. One of the most popular and wellattended Daoist festivals was the Yanjiu 燕九, which appears to have had its origins as a birthday celebration for Qiu Chuji. In fact, some scholars argue that “Yanjiu,” now and in Gu Taiqing’s day written 燕九, was originally written 燕丘 , and referred simply to the birthday

4   I am most grateful to Xun Liu who provided me with invaluable assistance in identifying Precept Master Zhang Kunhe, including facsimile copies of his (unpublished) lineage record from the White Cloud Monastery in Beijing. Basic biographical information on both Zhang Kunhe and Zhang Hegao can also be found in Daojiao da cidian 道教大詞典 (Encyclopedia of Daoism) (Beijing: Huaxia chubanshe, 1994), 585. 5   For more on these precepts, see Livia Kohn, “Monastic Rules in Quanzhen Daoism: As Collected by Heinrich Hackman,” Monumenta Serica 51 (2003): 367–397.

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feasting (宴 yan) and festivities held in honor of Qiu Chuji.6 These festivities coincided with the lunar New Year celebrations, beginning on the first day of the first month of the lunar New Year and culminating in a grand feast that attracted crowds of people, city-dwellers and farmers alike to the monastery grounds. In a section devoted to the White Cloud Monastery in the Mingdynasty text Dijing jingwu lüe 帝京景物略 (A Brief Guide to Sights in the Imperial Capital), we find a description of the Yanjiu festival. According to this text, the nineteenth day of the festival was particularly important since this was the day on which it was believed that gods and immortals would make an appearance on the monastery grounds and take some of the more prepared mortals, be they officials or commoners, men or women, back with them to the immortal realms, before the day was over.7 An even more detailed picture of these festivities, by an observer who lived closer to Gu Taiqing’s own time, is provided by the mid-eighteenth century Pan Rongbi 潘榮陛. Xun Liu summarizes Pan’s account as follows: At the height of the festive seasons, the monastery’s compounds were filled with Manchu noblemen and Chinese officials, with their families rubbing shoulders with merchants, peasants, and other city residents. During the day, revelers brought their own picnics to enjoy under the trees in the monastery’s compound. At night, they came out to watch the massive fireworks display. Offerings were made at the altar to Patriarch Qiu in his Hall. The widely held belief was that participation in the celebratory event would ensure safety, prosperity, and longevity of the family for the new year.8

Although these festivals attracted people from all classes of society, it was the Qing royal family, members of the court (including eunuchs) and members of the Manchu Bannermen elite, who were the primary 6   Yet another interpretation holds that yan 燕 is a homophone for yan 閹 ‘castrated’ and refers to the story of Patriarch Qiu’s self-castration, which, as Xun Liu notes, “is said to have persuaded Genghis Khan to halt the destructive campaigns in the North China Plain, sparing millions of lives there.” See Xun Liu, “Visualizing Perfection: Daoist Paintings of Our Lady, Court Patronage, and Elite Female Piety in the Late Qing,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 64, no. 1 (2004): 89. 7   Liu Tong 劉侗, ed., Dijing jingwu lüe 帝京景物略 (A Brief Guide to Sights in the Imperial Capital), in Song Ming Qing xiaopin wenji jizhu 宋明清小品文集輯注, ed. Gu Yisheng 顧易生 (1635; rpt. Shanghai: Yuandong chubanshe, 1995), 209–211. 8   Xun Liu, “Visualizing Perfection,” 88.


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patrons of the monastery. One of the most generous of these patrons was Wanyan Linqing 完顏鱗慶 (1791–1846), the son of the famous woman poet Wanyan Yun Zhu 完顏慍珠 (1771–1833). The Wanyan clan’s connection with Quanzhen Daoist priests and religious sites dates back to the Yuan dynasty, and in the nineteenth century they continued to be active practitioners and patrons. In 1828, for example, Wanyan Linqing and some of his friends provided funds to Zhang Kunhe to renovate the side shrines at the White Cloud Monastery.9 Lingqing’s mother, Wanyan Yun Zhu, who unlike Gu Taiqing was a Han Chinese who married into a Manchu family, but who like Gu had an abiding interest in all things Daoist, includes a generous selection of Gu’s early poems in her famous 1831 anthology of women’s poetry, Guochao guixiu zhengshi ji 國朝閨秀正始集 (Correct Beginnings: Women’s Poetry of Our August Dynasty)—although apparently they never met. It is not surprising, then, that the Manchu aristocrat Yihui and his concubine, Gu Taiqing, would often frequent the White Cloud Monastery, nor that they would include Zhang Kunhe, a man known for his deep learning, among their friends. In the poems by Gu Taiqing translated below, we find her not only welcoming Zhang to their home, but also writing a poem to be inscribed on his portrait, a commemorative poem on the occasion of his birthday and finally, a poem of mourning after his death. She describes her visits to the White Cloud Monastery, sometimes to observe or participate in monastery festivities and rituals of one kind or another, sometimes just to enjoy the spring scenery together with her husband and children. With her instinctive flair for the dramatic, she describes in vivid detail the sights and smells of the Yanjiu festival, and does not fail to note the tension between the longing for immortality and the desire for a bowl of delicious steaming hot food.10 9   Xun Liu, “Immortals and Patriarchs: The Daoist World of a Manchu Official and His Family in Nineteenth-Century China,” Asia Major 17, no. 2 (2004): 190. 10   Gu’s poems, and in particular her ci, have been characterized as reflecting “a refined sensibility and aristocratic reserve” with a preference for “hazy, blurry scenes.” See Kang-i Sun Chang and Haun Saussy, eds., Women Writers of Traditional China: An Anthology of Poetry and Criticism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 590. However, in her novel, Honglou meng ying 紅樓夢影 (Shadow Dream of the Red Chamber) she provides ample evidence of her dramatic flair, as in Chapter Five where she describes in vivid detail a theatrical performance held in the Jia mansion on

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Gu Taiqing is also keenly observant of the particulars of the farming life as she travels to the monastery, which in her day meant leaving the city proper and passing through small villages and towns. She is entranced by the colorful drama of a Daoist ritual, with its priests dressed in bright embroidered ceremonial robes, and the visual and aural richness of chimes and drums, incense and smoke, making particular mention of the “music of the immortals.” The Quanzhen tradition of ritual music in praise of the gods and immortals was—and continues to be—a very important one, and the White Cloud Monastery was particularly well known for its sonorous recitations. Used for both daily religious services and major festivals and celebrations, it was largely vocal in nature, although accompanied as well by bells of various sizes, wooden fish, gongs and cymbals.11 Characteristically, Gu’s dramatic sensibility and literary creativity are stirred by not only by what she saw, smelled, and heard, but also by what she could imagine: whether assemblies of immortals soaring freely in the rose-colored mists, or simply, the thought, albeit often acknowledged as fantasy, of living a life unbound and untrammeled by worldly desires and demands. With the exception of a poem that Gu Taiqing wrote as an inscription to a painting of herself dressed in Daoist garb, all the poems translated below have something to do with either the White Cloud Monastery or the Precept Master Zhang Kunhe. The poem of mourning for Zhang was written in 1840, the year of his death; all others were composed between the years 1833 and 1838, the year of Yihui’s passing. Thus, they appear to represent a brief, but spiritually and emotionally intense, period of the life that Gu Taiqing shared with her husband.

the fifteenth day of the First Month. See Wilt Idema and Beata Grant, The Red Brush: Writing Women of Imperial China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2004), 715–716. 11   For more on Daoist music, see Takimoto Yūzō and Liu Hong, “Daoist Ritual Music,” in Daoism Handbook, 747–764.


beata grant Daoist Poems by Gu Taiqing Written to the Original Rhyme of My Husband’s Poem “Going to White Cloud Monastery During the Yanjiu Festival to Observe the End of the Retreat” (1833) 次夫子燕九白雲觀觀放齋原韻12

“Jadebud and golden lotus”13—Dharma throne raised high; Fragrance of rice, smell of herbs, the vaporous, steamy air. “A thousand autumns of peace and joy!” we honor Patriarch Qiu: With a crowd of insatiably hungry and thirsty robed monks! Masters Yellow Stone and Red Pine: where have they gone?14 How many now can forego grains and soar into the clouds? Every year on this night people hang lighted lanterns on high— For the crane-riding sky-soaring gods and immortals it is said!15

12   Zhai 齋 originally referred to the purificatory preparations, including bathing, fasting, sexual abstention, etc., carried out prior to a ritual. Under the influence of Buddhism, zhai became part of the ritual itself, and referred to the vegetarian feast given by donors, offered to the deities, and shared by all. See Livia Kohn, Monastic Life in Medieval Daoism (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003), 15–16. 13   Gu Taiqing explains in an editorial note that “jadebud and golden lotus” refer to the characters inscribed on the tablets in the ritual hall. They refer literally to actual plants and herbs, and metaphorically to inner manifestations of successful internal alchemical practice. 14   Huangshi 黃石 or Yellow Stone is the name of an immortal who is said to have given Zhang Liang 張良 a text of military strategy that made it possible for the first Han emperor to take the

玉蕊金蓮法座層 飯香蘂味氣如蒸 千秋安樂尊邱祖 無限饑寒眾衲僧 黃石赤松何處去 凌霞辟穀几人曾 年年此夜懸燈火 傳有神仙跨鶴騰

throne. Chisong zi 赤松子 or Master Red Pine is also an immortal, known for his rainmaking skills, said to have lived in the time of Shennong 神農, the legendary sage emperor traditionally at­tributed with the invention of agriculture. Accounts of both of these can be found in the third-­century Liexian zhuan 列仙傳 (Biographies of the Im­­mortals). 15   This poem can be found in Gu Tai­qing’s collection, Tianyouge shiji 天遊閣詩集 (Collected Writings from the Pavilion of Heavenly Wandering), 2.3b-4a. This text was published in 1896 by Xu Naichang 徐乃昌 in Nanling 南陵. A digitized version of this text, which is the one I have used here, is included in Ming Qing Women’s Writings, McGill University Digital Collections Program and Harvard-Yenching Library, http:// digital.library.mcgill.ca/mingqing/ (accessed 20 December 2008).

the poetess and the precept master


On an Excursion to the Three Palaces Temple South of the City, We Arrived at White Cloud Monastery Late in the Day (1833) 遊城南三宮廟晚至白雲觀 We set out on an excursion to the southern suburbs; Ten li of greens in flower give off their fragrance. The corner of the city wall embraced by the river curves; The banks of earth stretched out between fields of grain. The well-sweeps lift the willow-wood buckets up high;16 The monastery is not far away from this small village— Late in the day, as we pass by White Cloud Monastery, Music of the immortals floats out from the ritual space.17

駕言遊南郭 十里菜花香 水抱城隅曲 塍分麥隴長 桔槔提柳罐 精舍就村壯 晚過白雲觀 仙音出道場

For Zhang Kunhe on his Birthday: Five Poems (1833) 壽張坤鶴五首 In hidden-away White Cloud we honor Everlasting Spring;18 Therein dwells an immortal, old in years but strong in body. The hair on his temples has never been touched with white; Drifting about as he wills, he delights in Heaven’s perfection.

白雲深處慶長春 中有仙人老健身 兩鬢何曾點霜雪 一飄隨意樂天真

The two pupils of his eyes brightly cast a wintery gleam; On the vast ocean who transmits the recipes of unending life? This seventy-year old man’s modesty has brought him long life; Unperturbed by dragons and tigers, he matches yin and yang.

雙眸炯炯射寒光 海上誰傳續命方 七十老人恭則壽 不煩龍虎配陰陽

In the vast emptiness, he stirs the elixir of the Niwan Palace: A single swathe of pure light, ten thousand ancient winters. He has attained to Non-Action, the Realm of Perfect Mystery; Carefree as a cloud, wild as a stream, he is by nature unbound.

虛空浩浩轉泥丸 一片清光萬古寒 證到無為真妙境 閒雲野水本來寬

This supreme joy does not require grabbing on to cinnabar, Or to stories of the matching of Jadebud and Yellowshoot.19 The Numinous Pool naturally draws on the source of head water20 So as to irrigate the peach trees that are now in their first bloom.

大樂何須勾澹砂 浪傳玉蕊配黃芽 靈池自引源頭水 澆過蟠桃第幾花

16   Wooden well sweeps were used to transfer water from rivers or ditches for irrigation purposes. 17   Tianyouge shiji, 2.6a. 18   Everlasting Spring was the style name of Qiu Chuji.

19   These refer to results of the practice of inner alchemy. 20   In inner alchemy, the Numinous Pool refers to the mouth with saliva, the “lake” in the head.


beata grant

Cloud-dwelling, rainbow-clad: he ranks among the high immortals; And in this season of purity and peace, he dances in a rainbow sky. With a single long whistle, the crane-drawn chariot descends; And he disappears into the roseate clouds edging the setting sun.21

雲館霓裳列上仙 清和時節舞雩天 一聲長唳鶴輅降 遙指殘霞落照遍

To the Tune of “Water Dragon Chant”: Inscription for a Portrait of Old Man Zhang Kunhe: Written Using the Rhymes of Bai Yuchan’s “Herb-Gathering Path.” (1834) 水龍吟: 題張坤鶴老人小照, 用白玉蟾《採藥徑》韻22 Grotto-gate locked deep away by a misty haze, And the green of weathered pines trees without end. Tending his fields of long-life mushrooms, His jade visage remains ever youthful, And he never seems to grow decrepit! Yesteryear, there [on the immortal city] on the sea, With his feather garb and his jeweled chignon, And the crystalline blowing of the wind pipes, He thinks back on all the old sights of Penglai: Nibbling on flowers, sipping on the moon. How much he has experienced Of the ways of the immortals! Stretching far into the distance, the road has no end. He laughs at the world, Where people brush away the tears of parting: With a clear breeze supporting his two sleeves, He can float anywhere he pleases: This life to him but a sojourn— A flowering of seventy years. The lustrous gleam of his eyes, Beautifully captured in this portrait, Trusting that the spirit of the valley does not die:23 He roams freely beyond external things: A floating cloud, a flowing stream!24

  Tianyouge shiji, 2.5b-2.6a.   Bai Yuchan (1194–1227?), born on Hainan island and active primarily in the Fujian area, promoted an important and influential line of inner alchemy teachings, which incorporated elements from Chan Buddhism and Neo-Confucian practice, and which he considered to be especially ­effective not only for Daoist priests, but also for lite­rati who wished to engage in self-­cultivation. 21 22

洞門深鎖煙霞 蒼蒼不斷松杉翠 芝田採遍 玉顏常駐 何曾落歯 海上當年 羽衣寶髻 風簫清吹 記蓬萊舊景 餐花飲月 經多少 仙家事 渺渺長途無際 笑世間 臨歧揮淚 凊風兩袖 飄然到處 此生如寄 七十年華 雙眸炯炯 照人姿媚 信谷神不死 逍遙物外 一飄雲水

Bai Yuchan was known for his literary as well as his liturgical talents, and left at least one collection of song lyrics, including the one that served as an inspiration for this one by Gu Taiqing. 23   This is from Chapter 6 of the Daodejing 道 德經 (Classic of the Way and the Power). 24   Yunshui 雲水 (Japanese unsui) is a term normally used to refer to Chan monks who wander, unattached, from place to place like clouds and

the poetess and the precept master


Inscribed on a Portrait of Myself in Daoist Garb (1834) 自題道裝像25 Double-coiled locks like those of a young girl, and Daoist garb; Looking back at the cloud-covered mountains: what a long road! Don’t tell me that gods and immortals know the secret of youth; Even the Hemp Maiden’s temple hair has turned a frosty white!26

雙峰丫髻道家裝 回首雲山去路長 莫道神仙顏可駐 麻姑兩鬢已成霜

I don’t recognize who, when all is said and done, this person is; Heavenly breezes stirring the silk hair at the edge of her temples. We humans still don’t understand the last remaining chess moves; And so we still live in the world watching the game as it is played.27

吾不知其果是誰 天風吹動鬢邊絲 人間未了殘棋局 且住人間看奕棋

Donors’ Feast at White Cloud Monastery (1834) 白雲觀乞齋28 At White Cloud Monastery, it is time for the ritual feast; Ten loads of yellow shoots and one big pot of food. Everyone now gets a container of the truly very best; But the ancients knew about living on roots and wind.29

water. This song lyric can be found in Gu Taiqing’s collection, Donghai yuge 東海漁歌 (Songs of the Fisherman of the Eastern Sea), 1.9b -1.10a. This collection, originally published in 1913 by the Xiling yinshe 西泠印社 of Hangzhou 杭州, can be found in Ming Qing Women’s Writing. 25   The painting of Gu Taiqing in Daoist garb was executed by a Daoist priest by the name of Huang Yungu 黃雲谷, who also completed a portrait of Yihui dressed as a Daoist in the same year. The couple then wrote matching poems to commemorate the portraits, and by extension the tenth-year anniversary of their marriage. For a detailed discussion of Gu Taiqing’s poems on paintings, including this one, see Mao Wenfang 毛文 芳, “Yige Qingdai guige de shijiao: Gu Taiqing (1799–1877) huaxiang tiyon gxilun” 一個清代 閨閣的視角:顧太清(1799–1877)畫像題詠 析論 (A View from a Qing Dynasty Boudoir: An Analysis of Gu Taiqing’s (1799–1877) Portrait Inscriptions), Wen yu zhe 8 (2006): 417–474. 26   Gu Taiqing was very taken with the figure of the Hemp Maiden (Magu 麻姑), and wrote a poem

白雲觀裹放齋期 十擔黃芽一釜炊 乞得一盆真上品 菜根風味古人知

to be inscribed on a painting of this female Daoist immortal by the well-known painter, Tang Yin 唐 寅 (1470–1524), entitled “Ti Tang Yin hua Magu xiang” 題唐寅畫麻姑像 (Inscribed on a Portrait of Magu Painted by Tang Yin). Yihui in turn wrote a poem harmonizing with Gu’s poem, entitled “Tang Yin Magu ci Taiqing yun” 唐寅麻姑 次太清韻 (Tang Yin’s Magu: Written to Taiqing’s Rhymes). 27   This poem can be found in yet another of Gu Taiqing’s collections, Tianyouge ji 天遊 閣集 (Collected Writings from the Pavilion of Heavenly Wandering), 1909 edition, 2.14b. A digitized version can be accessed on Ming Qing Women’s Writings. 28   Livia Kohn notes that begging was discouraged for both Buddhist and Daoist monastics, and the word qi should be translated as “encouraging.” See Livia Kohn, The Daoist Monastic Manual: A Translation of the Fengdao Kejie (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 110n9. 29   Tianyouge shiji, 2.14a-b.


beata grant To the Tune “Floating Clouds”: On a Rainy Day, Zhang Kunhe Stops By to Visit (1835) 冉冉雲: 雨中張坤鶴過訪

Autumn rain soughs and sighs, its intention hard to fathom: Suddenly—a knock on the door— The Man of Dao has come to visit! A guest from the Mystery Metropolis, An abbot who can discourse from sea to sky. And doesn’t care a bit About worldly winning and loss. Only this loftiest of monks with his true knowledge Can do as he pleases: While you and I tussle back and forth, He drops body and mind,30 And naturally forgets anxiety and nourishes his soul: He has experienced all the forms of past and present.31

秋雨瀟瀟意難暢 忽敲門 道人來訪 玄都客 談論海天方丈 全不管 世間得桑 唯有真知最高尚 一任他 你爭我讓 把身心 且自忘忧頤養 閱尽古今花樣

To the Tune of “Immortal by the River”: At White Cloud Monastery, We Observe the Elder Kunhe Conferring the Precepts of Ordination (1835) 臨江仙:白雲觀看坤鶴老人受戒 He gathers with his transcendent companions in a heavenly realm: Bronze bells give out a deep sound, And jade chimes begin to be played. And in the shadow of the pines, A tune of the immortals dances on the breeze. Pipes and flutes; Everyone has long ceased their chatter. Pennants and banners flutter; The long-life seal incense smolders.32 Zhang Kunhe, Wearing a cloud cape and a crane’s down cloak, A feathered pin jutting from his hair. Free and easy, Together with us he enters the Daoist registers; With a vision of the phoenix chariots in the heavens, He holds in his breast the boundless ocean,

30   This is an expression associated primarily with Chan Buddhism, where it refers to the letting go of ideas of duality, such as that of body and mind

閬苑會仙侶 金鐘低度 玉碧初敲 松陰下 仙音一派風飄 笙簫 早人語靜 幢幡繞 壽字香燒 張坤鶴 被霞裾鶴氅 寶髻雲翹 消搖 同登道箓 看取天外鸞輅 擁無邊滄海

  Donghai yuge, 1.23b-24a.   This refers to incense molded into the shape of the seal-character shou 壽 ‘long life.’ 31 32

the poetess and the precept master Where a pale moon and silver waves Beckon to one another.33

337 皓月銀濤 相邀

On the Day before Shangyuan34 My Husband and I Took Our Two Sons, Daijian and Daichu, and Our Two Daughters, Shuwen and Yiwen, on an Excursion to White Cloud Monastery, Passing by Tianning Monastery to View the Flowers. (1836) 上元前一日同夫子攜戴劍戴初兩兒叔文以文兩女遊白雲觀過天寕寺看花 Wanting to get out of the city in search of spring, but where to look? 出郭尋春何處尋 We start by going up the eastern slope to the ancient pine grove. 朝陽初上古松林 Prodded by the breeze, the lazy grasses have just begun to turn green; 風前嬾草剛吹綠 And clouds left over from snow cast everything partially in shade. 雪後殘雲半作陰 On the path of Pure and Still,35 we cultivate Wondrous and Subtle;36 清靜道中參妙微 And in the sounds of Pacing the Void, we cleanse the dusty mind. 步虛聲裏靜塵心 Gazing at flowers and purple flycatchers, we slowly head home; 看花紫綬歸途緩 The sound of bells and chimes even now lingering in our ears.37 耳畔猶聞鐘碧音 On the Thirteenth Day of the Fourth Month, We Listened to Elder Kun Explicate the Precepts of Celestial Immortality: On That Day There Was Much Lightning and Rain, and the Pennants and Banners Were Soaked Through, So I Repeated a Poem Written Earlier in Order to Record It (1836) 四月十三日聽坤老人說天仙戒,是日電雨大作, 旌旆霑溼,口占一絕句紀之 The True Man of the Great One sits on the Jade Terrace; As the clouds urge the assembly of transcendents to make ready, A sudden flash of lightning brings with it flying raindrops: It must be the Dragon God come to listen to the Law.38

33   I have as yet been unable to track down the original source of this poem, which does not seem to be included in any of digitized collections of Gu Taiqing’s poetry found on Ming Qing Women’s Writings, but is included in Ye Jiabao 葉駕葆, ed., Gu Taiqing ci: xinshi jiping 顧太清詞:新 釋輯評 (Gu Taiqing’s Lyrics: A New Annotation and Commentary) (Beijing: Zhongguo shudian, 2005), 130–133.

太乙真人坐玉臺 雲璈聲動眾仙排 電光一掣挾飛雨 應是神龍聽法來

  The fifteenth day of the first lunar month.   Purity and stillness: the aims of meditation in the Way of Complete Perfection. 36   Daodejing, 1. 37   Tianyouge ji, 3.1b-2a. 38   Tianyouge ji, 3.8b. 34 35


beata grant Composed on the Third Day of the Fourth Month after Viewing the Ritual Space of the White Cloud Monastery (1836) 四月三日白雲觀看道場作

Flapping in the gusty rain, colored banners cast long shadows; The hoary pines in the deep guard over the ancient ritual space. The master of Complete Perfection transmits the Intermediate; The light mist of Great Simplicity emerges from higher realms. The universe could not care less about sixty-year cycles; Water and clouds occasionally mingle in movement and seclusion. Resting in deep trance the elixir field first opens to the inner fire; The purple qi seeks to meet the Prime, guarding the One Yang.39

招颭霓 旌幡影長 蒼松深 護古壇場 全真大道傳中極 太素輕煙發上方 宇宙不關閒甲子 水雲聊可混行藏 冥冥丹寵初開火 紫氣朝元守一陽

On the Eleventh Day of the Fourth Month, Listening to the Elder Zhang Kunhe Explicate the Codes of the Land of the Immortals (1838) 四月十一日白雲觀聽張坤鶴老人說元都律 From deep in the white clouds, the cinnabar fan opens; Feathered parasol, rainbow pennants, and a dazzling sun. On the path of the clean and pure, the dark crane descends; At the sound of Pacing the Void, lovely petals flutter down. The heavens protect the Law, the profit that comes from loss; Of this the lines formed by the eight trigrams are wondrous proof. May I ask the wanderer what it is that he has obtained from this? “Fragrant and dusty but a single road—I’ve forgotten to return.”40

白雲深處啟丹扇 羽葆霓旌耀日輝 清淨道中元鶴降 步虛聲裳落花飛 諸天護法損之益 八卦成爻妙以徵 借問遊人何所得 香塵一路澹忘歸

Mourning the Abbot of White Cloud Monastery, The Venerable Zhang Kunhe (1840) 挽白雲觀主張坤鶴老人 Expansive skies, the lineage grotto; The cloud-light crane chariot claimed from the immortals. Thanks to the work of the five thousand characters,41 The mysterious pearl rolls on.42 Spirit concentrated from heel to toe:43   Tianyouge ji, 3.5a.   Tianyouge ji, 4.2b. 41   A reference to Daodejing, said to have been composed in five thousand characters. 42   The mysterious pearl first appears in the Zhuangzi, and was later incorporated into the 39 40

寥天宗洞 鶴鴐雲輕從仙拱 五千文字功夫 玄珠流動 凝神接踵

lexicon of inner alchemy, where it refers to the perfect fusion of the yin and yang qi, that is one of the most advanced levels of attainment. 43   From Zhuangzi, Chapter 6: “The perfected breathes all the way to the heels.”

the poetess and the precept master


No need to go in search of mercury and lead!44 Seventy years: Like a dream passed frolicking in the human world: This is how he bids farewell to the ordinary dust. The Great Medicine is present all along in the seed of perfection, Refinement complete, his flesh and skin are like ice and snow. His way is lofty, his virtue manifold. Offering up his precious registers and his alchemical tomes, One fine morning he is ready to leave for home: Riding a ten-thousand li current of wind, we see him off.45

不比尋常鉛永 七十年 算是遊戲人間一夢 如此謝凡塵 大葯存真種 煉成冰雪肌膚 道高德重 寶箓丹書親奉 一朝歸去 御萬里長風相送

44   Lead and mercury are of course the ingredients of external alchemical practice—and not necessary for those who practice meditation and breathing exercises.

45   This is another poem for which I have as yet been unable to locate the original source. It is included in Ye Jiabao, ed., Gu Taiqing’s Lyrics, 435.


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in search of a genuine chinese sound


IN SEARCH OF A GENUINE CHINESE SOUND: JIANG WENYE AND MODERN CHINESE MUSIC David Der-wei Wang Jiang Wenye 江文也 (1910–1983) was one of the most talented composers of modern China and Japan.1 Born in Taiwan and educated in China and Japan, Jiang belonged to the generation of Taiwanese artists who struggled to negotiate their identities and respond to multiple challenges from colonialism to imperialism, and from nationalism to cosmopolitanism. While inspired by such modernists as Debussy, Bartók, and Stravinsky, it was in the Russian composer Alexander Tcherepnin that Jiang found a true kindred spirit, and when Tcherepnin called for sonic representations of national style, Jiang began a life-long endeavor to modernize Chinese music. This essay discusses the acoustic choices Jiang Wenye made at defining moments of his career in the 1930s and 1940s, and the aesthetic and political consequences he had to deal with. I ask how Jiang’s sonic sensibility reflected colonial, national and cosmopolitan bearings; how his wartime engagement with Confucian musicology brought about an unlikely dialogue between Chinese cultural ontology and Japanese panAsianism; and most important, how his lyrical vision was occasioned by, and confined to, historical contingency. Because of the contested forces his works and life brought into play, Jiang Wenye embodies the composition of Chinese modernity at its most treacherous.

Jiang’s original name was Jiang Wenbin 江文彬. He adopted a Japanese-sounding name sometime after 1932, and spelled it as Bunya Koh. This spelling was used as late as 1936–1937, as seen in his works included in the Cherepunin senshū チェレプ ニン選集 (Tcherepnin Collection). At Tcherepnin’s suggestion, Jiang changed this spelling to the more Chinese-sounding Chiang Wen-yeah around 1938. For the sake of consistency with other names and titles, this essay will use Jiang Wenye. For more information about Jiang’s various names, see Wu Lingyi 吳玲宜, “Jiang Wenye shengping yu zuopin” 江文也生平與作品 (The Life and Works of Jiang Wenye), in Jiang Wenye jinian yantaohui lunwenji 江文也紀念研討會論文集 (A Conference Volume in Memory of Jiang Wenye), ed. Zhang Jiren [Chang Chi-jen] (Taibei: Taibei xianli wenhua zhongxin, 1992), 155. 1 


david der-wei wang I

Jiang Wenye was born in Taibei county in 1910 to a Hakka merchant’s family, and sent to study at a Japanese school in Amoy, China in 1917. He moved to Japan in 1923 and was later enrolled in a vocational school, majoring in electrical engineering. But this young Taiwanese harbored more enthusiasm about music. Between 1932 and 1936 he won four prizes in the vocal programs of the Japanese National Music Competitions. In 1933 he was offered a job as baritone in the opera company Fujiwara Yoshie Kageki Dan 藤原義江歌劇團, and took supporting roles in productions such as Puccini’s La Bohème and Tosca. Meanwhile he was admitted to study composition with Yamada Kosaku 山田耕筰 (1886–1965), a leading figure in early modern Japanese music, conductor of the Japanese New Symphony Orchestra, and an advocate of German Romanticism from Wagner to Strauss.2 Like many of his colleagues, Jiang was immersed in the European inclinations of Taishō culture. But as his foreign learning became increasingly sophisticated, he realized that not everything imported could be labeled modern. Instead of the masters of classicism and romanticism, he was fascinated with the music of Stravinsky, Debussy, Prokofiev, and especially Bartók. The Hungarian composer’s creative interpretation of folk music and his bold departures from nineteenthcentury romantic and realist formulas inspired Jiang to search for a music of his own. Although he avoided Bartók’s bold dissonant sonority, the way in which Jiang employed the rhythmic concepts found in Bartók’s percussive music suggests that both were influenced by folk dance and folk music.3   For an overview of the musical circles of Japan from the late Meiji era to the time of Jiang Wenye, see Lin Yingqi 林瑛琦, Jiafeng zhong de wenhuaren: Rizhi shiqi Jiang Wenye jiqi shidai yanjiu 夾縫中的文化人:日治時期江文也及其時代研究 (A Literatus Trapped by Political Dilemma: Jiang Wenye during the Time of Japanese Colonial Rule) (PhD dissertation, National Cheng-kung University, Taiwan, 2005), chapter 4. 3   Jiang Wenye’s reception of Western modernist trends has been discussed by critics from various angles. See, for example, Zhang Jiren 張己任, Jiang Wenye: jingji zhong de gutinghua 江文也:荊棘中的孤挺花 (Jiang Wenye: A Lonely Flower amid the Thorns) (Taibei: Shibao wenhua, 2002), 62–66; and Kuo Tzong-kai, Jiang Wenye: The Style of His Selected Piano Works and A Study of Music Modernization in Japan and China (DMA thesis, The Ohio State University, 1987). For Bartók’s influence on Chiang, see Takaj­­ō Shigemi 高城重躬, “Wo suo liaojie de Jiang Wenye” 我所了解的 2

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One of Jiang’s features during this period was to keep changing the direction of the melody, as if he were impatient to follow a diatonic theme. As has been observed, the leaps in his melodic line may result from his extensive use of pentachords; thus even a stepwise moving line encounters a skip in a diatonic scale. But these leaps may also have something to do with Jiang’s employment of modernist technique, with the aim of interrupting the stepwise melodic movement.4 To compromise his experiment, Jiang constantly uses the reverse curve, which changes the unpredictable range to the predictable destinations of dominant and tonic. Jiang’s career had so far appeared emblematic of East Asian modernists’ response to their Western antecedents. While acknowledging the powerful importation of European music, Jiang and other like-minded composers were eager to bring a vernacular sound to bear on the universal acclaim of this new melody. They tried to transform a belated modernity into an alternative, and alter/native, modernity. But Jiang’s case is complicated by his identity: he was a native of Taiwan, a colony of Japan since 1895. By the time Jiang was born, the island was well on its way to assimilation to Japan’s political, cultural and economic structure. Despite its discriminatory ethnic policies, the colonial power was actually to be credited for modernizing Taiwan, which under Chinese rule had been a little- developed area. “Becoming Japanese” was therefore an ambivalent fact for most Taiwanese, pointing to their dilemma between colonial modernity and ethnic identification.5 Jiang Wenye was not spared this dilemma, though he immigrated to Japan in his teenage years. The colonial specter must always have haunted him: years later, he would still cite race as the reason why he never won a first prize in Japan, however outstanding his works.6 江文也 (The Jiang Wenye I Knew), trans. Jiang Xiaoyun 江小韻, in Zhongyang yinyue xueyuan xuebao 3 (2000): 62. 4   Kuo Tzong-kai, Jiang Wenye, 88 5   See Leo Ching’s succinct analysis in Becoming Japanese: Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); and Ping-hui Liao and David Der-wei Wang, eds., Taiwan under Japanese Colonial Rule: History, Memory, Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006). 6   Jiang Wenye was obviously conscious of the impact of his colonial status on his career in both Japan and wartime China. In commenting on the departmental politics in favor of a Japanese colleague in 1945, he said that “I suffered from discrimination when studying in Japan. Even after I became an established musician, having participated in four national music contests, I always received second prizes, while the grand prizes unfailingly went to Japanese composers.” Wu Yunzhen 吳韻真, “Xianfu Jiang


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Whereas nationalism may have served as a remedy for Japanese composers to re-define their modern identity, did a colonial Taiwanese like Jiang Wenye qualify to interpret “authentic” Japanese nationality? On the other hand, if nationalism is no more the spontaneous overflow of an innate consciousness than it is an imported ideology in the European vein, something cultivatable via pedagogical means, wasn’t Jiang Wenye equally entitled to compose on behalf of Japan? By corollary, in spite of his Taiwanese ethnic roots, can Jiang Wenye be regarded as a “natural” candidate to represent the island, which he left at the age of seven and to which he did not return until the early 1930s? Did Japanese colonial power square Jiang’s desire into a discourse of Japanese local color rather than that of Taiwanese regionalism? Questions such as the above are highlighted by Jiang Wenye’s orchestral piece from 1934, Minami no shima ni yoru kōkyōteki sketchi 南の嶋に據る交響的スケッチ (A Symphonic Sketch of South Island), which includes four movements: “Bokkafū zensōkyoku” 牧 歌風前奏曲 (Prelude in Madrigal Style), “Shirasagi e no gensō” 白 鷺への幻想 (Fantasy for a White Egret), “Aru seihan no kataru no wo kikeba” 或る生蕃の語るのを聞けば (Listening to the Story of a High Mountain Man), and “Jōnai no yoru” 城内の夜 (A Night in the City). “Fantasy for a White Egret” and “A Night in the City” won Jiang a prize in the Third Japanese Music Competition. Based on “A Night in the City,” Jiang completed Formosan Dance Op. 1, which won him the Berlin Olympic Music Prize in 1936.7 A Symphonic Sketch of South Island is written in a late-romantic style, decorated with melodies drawn from Japanese folk music, a testimony to the influence of Jiang’s first teacher Yamada Kosaku. But there is something else: whereas its mysterious, hypnotic color reminds one of Debussy’s impressionist sensibility, the way by which it changes meters and rhythms, adding and embellishing notes to create variations, is suggestive of Bartók’s style. In particular, Listening to the Wenye” 先夫江文也 (My Late Husband Jiang Wenye), in Zhang Jiren, Jiang Wenye jinian yantaohui lunwenji, 142–143. 7   Kuo Tzong-kai, Jiang Wenye, 18. The music contest was part of the Art Competition of the Olympic Games, with other categories including painting, architecture, sculpture, etc. Initiated during the 1912 Stockholm Games, it took on strong propagandist hues in the 1936 Berlin edition. Jiang was not among the top three prize winners but obtained an honorary mention. For more information, see, for example, the Olympic games Museum, http://olympic-museum.de/art/1936.htm (accessed 19 January 2009; also available in the DACHS Leiden online citation repository to the present volume, http://leiden.dachs-archive.org/citrep/vancrevel_tan_hockx_2009/.)

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Story of a High Mountain Man, a piece that recapitulates the primitive vitality of Taiwan aborigines by means of irregular and rhythmic arrangement, bears imprints of Bartók’s percussive movement and Prokofiev’s machine-like toccatas. Notably, these five pieces were conceived in 1934, during Jiang’s first tour to Taiwan, seventeen years after he left the island. On tour, Jiang performed together with other Japan-based Taiwanese musicians and received warm welcomes.8 What impressed him most, however, was the rural serenity of the island, and its gorgeous landscapes. While the homecoming trip brought out an emotive exuberance in Jiang, one wonders whether this may have served as a pretext for magnifying his imaginary subjectivity. Nor should one overlook the exotic motif in Jiang’s music, and in his writing. However strong his feelings for Taiwan, Jiang had remained distant from the island since his childhood, and as such he could not express his nostalgia without betraying a sense of estrangement. In Jiang Wenye’s 1934 musical and literary composition, exoticism gave a new intensity to his nostalgia. While he had obvious ethnic ties to Taiwan, Jiang was a product of Japanese and (indirectly) European culture more than anything else; he could articulate his nostalgia only through musical notes and linguistic signs that were anything but homegrown. Meanwhile, in view of the discourse of exoticism in Taishō Japan, one wonders if Jiang’s nostalgia was not equally driven by self-exoticization, that is, by a dramatization of his Taiwanese origin so as to assert his difference from his Japanese fellow composers on one hand, and cater to a Japanese audience eager to embrace an island just recently integrated into the national territory on the other. Vacillating between the roles of alienated insider and informed outsider, in the music and poetry he wrote in Taiwan Jiang called forth the effect of imaginary nostalgia.

8   For Jiang’s visit to Taiwan, see Zhou Wanyao 周婉窈, “Xiangxiang de minzu feng: shilun Jiang Wenye wenzi zuopin zhong de Taiwan yu Zhongguo” 想像的 民族風:試論江文也文字作品中的臺灣與中國 (Imaginary Nationalist Style: A Preliminary Study of Taiwan and China in Jiang Wenye’s Textual Works), Taiwan daxue lishi xuebao 35 (2005): 137–142.


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We can now add the final episode in Jiang Wenye’s odyssey before landing in China. Enter Alexander Tcherepnin (1899–1977), the Russian composer who toured East Asia during the 1930s in quest of pure, Oriental musical sounds. Tcherepnin lived in China from 1934 to 1937. During this period he taught at the National Conservatory and several other institutions, promoting and composing his Eurasian style music, and fell in love with a talented Chinese pianist whom he eventually married. One thing Tcherepnin found disturbing during his teaching in China was that almost all composers had succumbed to the impact of Western classicism and romanticism. Instead of mimicking Handel or Beethoven, Tcherepnin believed that Chinese should start right where modernism is at its climax: For China, Debussy, Stravinsky, De Falla, could be regarded as classics—post-war modern production will give the stuff to accomplish the full musical education of a Chinese musical student.9

Tcherepnin bases his argument on the fact that China has nothing in common with the “culture that produced a Schumann, a Chopin, a Schubert” and therefore is not obliged to repeat the Western classical tradition so as to reach the modern age. The modernist task, nevertheless, could not be carried out until a national style was established. Tcherepnin considered the pentatonic scale the basic tonal element in the organization of Chinese native music, and believed that composition based on the pentatonic scale would highlight Chinese national character. At a time when the discourse of music was dominated by names such as Huang Zi 黃自and Xiao Youmei 蕭友梅, Tcherepnin’s theory unsurprisingly drew skepticism from his Chinese peers. For them, the Russian composer’s campaign for modernism and nationalism appeared to be an odd mixture of causes. The dialogue—or the lack thereof—between Tcherepnin and his Chinese fellow musicians, however, leads one to rethink the conditions of Chinese modernism in a broader sense. Given the May Fourth cry for catching up with modern culture on all fronts, Tcherepnin wryly observed that his Chinese 9   Alexander Tcherepnin, letter to Walter Koons, quoted from Chang Chi-jen, Alexander Tcherepnin: His Influence on Modern Chinese Music (EdD dissertation, Columbia University Teachers College, 1983), 71.

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colleagues were transplanting Western models in a wholesale manner without realizing the many problems this created, ranging from mimicry to anachronism. For him the most efficient way to modernization was to engage in the latest Western trend while remolding it in light of a national style. But Tcherepnin’s critics had a point when asking whether he was not taking a privileged position even when debunking the European tradition, because after all he “was European himself,”10 and as such had access to knowledge he now found unsuitable for Chinese composers. To his critics, even his promotion of a distinctive Chinese pentatonic scale reeked of what would now be called Orientalism. As Chao Mei-po pointed out, “Mr. Tcherepnin forgets that in working the Pentatonic Scale Study he has Bach and others behind him, and possesses their techniques.”11 This context may explain why Jiang Wenye became so crucial to Tcherepnin’s project. The two met in Tokyo in early 1935 and became friends immediately. Their shared penchant for modernism aside, Tcherepnin appeared to be an artist deprived by politics of his national affiliation who had managed to make the world his home, a cosmopolitan who was willing to embrace things new and foreign. More important, such a worldly attitude enabled him to appreciate his own cultural heritage all the more rather than do away with it, as evinced by his promotion of Slavic and Eurasian styles of music. On Jiang Wenye’s part, having won himself fame as an interpreter of his homeland Taiwan in Japan and Europe, he was now ready to explore China, the “home” of Taiwan. However, if Taiwan was already a dreamland in service of both Jiang’s nostalgia and his exotic mood, wouldn’t China appear even more like a site of desire, generating his exotic fantasy in the name of nostalgia, or vice versa? The result was a fascinating conflation of desires and musical sounds, a case in point being Jiang’s piano concerto Jūroku no bagateru 十六の バガテル Op. 8 (Sixteen Bagatelles, Op. 8), composed between 1935 and 1936, enveloping the period of his first China trip. Of the sixteen pieces, No. 1 is a toccata in march style à la Prokofiev, while No. 3, written on the eve of his departure for China, was inspired by a Japanese lullaby. No.’s 12 and 16 and No.’s 11, 14 and 15 were written in Beijing and Shanghai respectively. These five pieces clearly reflect Jiang’s effort 10   Chao Mei-po, “The Trend of Modern Chinese Music,” Tien-hsia Monthly IV (1937): 283; quoted from Chang Chi-jen, Alexander Tcherepnin, 80. 11   Ibid.


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to inscribe the new sound effects he heard on Chinese streets; references to Chinese instruments such as the erhu 二胡 or two-string fiddle and pipa 琵琶 or lute create a cadence of festivity and excitement. By contrast, No. 2 conveys a meditative mood by adopting the type of atonality associated with Schönberg and his followers, something deemed extremely avant-garde in 1930s Japan. The last piece (No. 16), as noticed by critics, illustrates the influence of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.12 But for Jiang Sixteen Bagatelles was only his first encounter with China, beyond which there must be something more “Chinese” worthy of his pursuit. Resounding in this are Tcherepnin’s suggestions that Chinese composers should not occupy their time merely imitating European music; they should try to interpret Chinese national music “using modern notation and writing for instruments of an international character.”13 For Jiang, to recognize Tcherepnin’s advice meant to recognize a Chinese identity more than anything else. An exiled Russian composer and his Taiwanese disciple from Japan were ready to create a new music they believed to be representative of China. III In early 1936 Jiang Wenye won a prize in the Berlin Olympics’ Musical Competition for his symphony Taiwan no Bukyoku 臺灣の舞曲 (Formosan dance), an honor that solidified his status as a rising star in the musical circles of Japan. Instead of traveling to Europe to receive the prize in person, however, Jiang chose to visit China. For Jiang, the 1936 trip to China was a dream come true. The young musician was overwhelmed by everything he saw and heard in Beijing, so much so that he felt he was “flattened” by the awesomeness of the ancient city. In 1938 Jiang accepted an offer from Beijing Normal College and moved to China, where he would spend the rest of his life. Between 1938 and the mid-1940s Jiang proved how a new vision of “Chinese” music could take his career to a climax in both creativity and productivity. He produced at least six orchestral pieces, four piano sonatas, more than one hundred and fifty art songs for solo voice and piano, 12   Motohide Katayama, introduction to the CD Album Jiang Wen-ye Piano Works in Japan, performed by J.Y. Song (New York: Pro-Piano, 2001), 4. 13   Chang Chi-jen, Alexander Tcherepnin, 73.

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five musicals (two unfinished), theme music for two movies, and three poetry volumes. Almost all these works were centered on the theme of lyricizing China. Citation of a few titles will suffice: Koto sobyō 故都 素描 (Sketches of the Old Capital), Kōbyō taisei gakushō 孔廟大成樂 章 (The Music of the Confucian Temple), Kōhi den 香妃傳 (Princess Xiangfei), Shunkō kagetsu no yoru 春江花月夜 (Night by the River with Flower and Moon). Notably, Jiang also composed music for classical Chinese poems by Li Bai 李白 (701–762) and Du Fu 杜甫 (712–770). He held at least three concerts to perform his works. All this time, of course, there was war between China and Japan, and Beijing was under a Japanese-controlled puppet regime. While millions of Chinese were being killed, incarcerated, forced into exile, or ruled under surveillance, Jiang Wenye’s career thrived, leading one to ask what kind of dreams he dreamed while in occupied Beijing: Chinese or Japanese, or none at all? That Jiang could carry on a relatively comfortable life during the war the war was because as a Taiwanese from Japan, he was treated as an overseas Japanese citizen. He was commissioned to compose the theme song for the New Citizen Society (Xinmin hui 新民會), an organization for Chinese collaborators, but he did not join the society. Meanwhile, Jiang’s determination to compose music with a distinct Chinese character became stronger than ever. Thus in 1939 there appeared The Music of the Confucian Temple, the centerpiece of Jiang Wenye’s wartime works. On all counts, this orchestral piece represented a breakthrough not only for Jiang’s career but also for the history of modern Chinese music. Its relinquishment of Western orchestral conventions, its inquiry into the conceptual nuances of classical Chinese music, and its play with the cultural connotations of Confucian musicology were a far cry from the mainstream of Chinese music up to 1937. It also was Jiang’s final answer to Tcherepnin’s call for modern music in a national style. Jiang allegedly found his inspiration when attending the annual ceremony in memory of Confucius at the Confucius Temple in Beijing. He was, he claimed, so moved by the solemnity of the ritual as well as by the rich conceptual elements behind the songs and dances of the ritual that he wanted to compose a piece of music to present Confucian philosophy at its most exquisite. After all, what could be more authentic than Confucianism for symbolizing the essence of Chinese civilization? The Music of the Confucian Temple comprises six movements, each referring to one of the six stages of the memorial rite in its traditional


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form. The first movement, “Yingshen” 迎神 (The Welcome of the Spirits) andante quasi adagio, conveys the solemn and stately mood of the ritual. Amid the string and percussion instruments, a Buddhist chant-like melody starts in the 7th measure; this recurs in variations throughout the rest of the composition. In correspondence to the chanting melody, a second motif arises in the 31st measure, a hymnlike chord in praise of Confucius the Great Master. Amid brass and woodwind instruments, the 57th measure introduces the third motif, which articulates the procession of the ritual members. The three motifs interplay to create a rhythmic harmony in welcoming the spirits. The following three movements, entitled “Chuxian” 初獻 (The First Sacrifice), “Yaxian” 亞獻 (The Second Sacrifice) and “Zhongxian” 終獻 (The Final Sacrifice), constitute the central part of the piece. “The First Sacrifice” lento tranquillo moves in a tranquil rhythm, underscoring the elegant “literary dance” (wenwu 文舞) at the ritual; “The Second Sacrifice” largo misterioso appears to be more active in approximation of the tempo of the “military dance” (wuwu 武舞); “The Final Sacrifice” andante tranquillo con tristezza, which culminates with the “human dance” (renwu 人舞), is grand but pensive in tonality, as it brings the full sacrifice to a close. The fifth movement, “Chezhuan” 徹饌 (The Removal of the Sacrificial Feast) con modo composto, represents a relaxed appreciation of the sacrifice just accomplished. The music concludes with “Songshen” 送神 (Bidding the Spirits Farewell) andante quasi adagio sostenuto, which features a combination of piano and brass instruments in unison, followed by a return to the mood of solemnity from the beginning of the music. 14 If Jiang’s works before 1938 were characterized by vital rhythmic organization, chromatic and skipping melodic lines, clear texture and bold harmony, and strong tonal clarity, The Music of the Confucian Temple points to the opposite: it appears to be reductionist in its arrangement of sounds and highly restrained in mood, almost to the point of being monotonous. This effect, however, had been purposefully conceived. “The greatest music is that which sounds the easiest and simplest” (dayue biyi bijian 大樂必易必簡), as the ancient teaching 14   See Su Xia’s 蘇夏 analysis in “Jiang Wenye bufen yuedui yinyue jianjie” 江文 也部份樂隊音樂簡介 (An Introduction to Select Orchestra Music Pieces by Jiang Wenye), conference paper presented at “Jiang Wenye xiansheng shishi ershi zhounian jinian xueshu yantaohui” 江文也先生逝世二十周年紀念學術研討會 (Academic Conference in Memory of the Twentieth Anniversary of Jiang Wenye’s Passing), Institute of Taiwanese History, Academia Sinica, 24 October 2003, 4-6.

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goes.15 To restore Confucian ritual music to what he believed was its original form, Jiang had taken on an archaeological task, ploughing through ancient documents. As a result, in 1942 he even published a book, Jōdai Shina ongaku kō: Kōshi no ongaku ron 上代支那音樂 考:孔子の音樂論 (A Study of Music in Ancient China: Confucius’ Treatise on Music) to substantiate his discoveries.16 Behind Jiang’s analysis lies Tcherepnin’s theory that the native tune of Chinese music is characterized by the pentatonic chord . . . its tune consists in perpetual variation of the same melody and the melody always progresses . . . when towards the end of the piece . . . the melody adapts itself to the new rhythm.17

As Jiang proudly claims, “only pentatonic scales were used in this piece, but it will not make the audience feel that it’s simple or boring.”18 But what truly makes Jiang Wenye’s new project interesting is that The Music of the Confucian Temple is a piece created in a modernist spirit. It may not be a coincidence that where he arranges Confucian pentatonic chords in the simplest modes, they echo modernist compositions, especially those in line with Arnold Schönberg’s (1874–1951) system of atonality;19 Jiang’s resemblance to the Austrian composer has been pointed out by critics.20 Both deplored the “regression of listening” of their times and both invested a visionary claim in their compositional strategy. Whereas Schönberg employed atonal arrangement and chromatic chords as a way to deconstruct the sonorous ­philistinism

15   From Xu Fuguan 徐復觀, Zhongguo yishu jingshen 中國藝術精神 (The Spirit of Chinese Art) (Taibei: Xuesheng shuju, 1965), 24. 16   Jiang Wenye, Shangdai zhina zhengyue kao: Kongzi yinyue lun 上代支那正樂 考:孔子音樂論 (A Study of Music in Ancient China: Confucius’ Treatise on Music), trans. Chen Guanghui 陳光輝, in Jiang Wenye wenzi zuopinji 江文也文字作品集 (Textual Works by Jiang Wenye) (Taibei: Cultural Center of Taibei County, 1992). 17   Quoted from Chang Chi-jen, Alexander Tcherepnin, 56. 18   Jiang Wenye’s reply to Guo Zhiyuan’s 郭芝苑 question; see Guo, “Jiang Wenye de huixiang,” 江文也的回想 (Reminiscences about Jiang Wenye), in Zhang Jiren, Jiang Wenye jinian yantaohui lunwenji, 90. 19   Jiang Wenye’s reception of Schönberg and other avant-garde musicians was noticed by Kuo Tzong-kai (Guo Zongkai 郭宗恺) , in “Jiang Wenye zaoqi gangqin zuopin yinyue fengge zhi yuanqi yu tuibian” 江文也早期鋼琴作品音樂風格之源起 與蛻變 (The Rise and Metamorphosis of Piano Works by the Early Jiang Wenye), in Lun Jiang Wenye: Jiang Wenye jinian yantaohui lunwenji, eds. Liang Maochun and Jiang Xiaoyun (Beijing: Zhongyang yinyue xueyan xuebaoshe, 2000), 192. 20   Kuo Tzong-kai, Jiang Wenye, 45.


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of European modernity,21 Jiang experimented with Confucian chords in the hope of retrieving the sacrosanct simplicity that was missing in the Chinese (and Japanese) status quo. Nevertheless, compared with Schönberg’s and his followers’ agenda, Jiang Wenye made one more twist: not only did he have to understand the European avant-garde spirit and the compositional skills it required, he also had to put these things in the service of a goal—the restoration of Confucian music— that people would have repudiated at first listening as anything but avant-garde. In other words, if Schönberg’s tonality struck his audience as something unprecedented, Jiang paradoxically had to derive iconoclastic power from reclaiming a lost tonality, out of a past whose rules were no longer or had never been available. When critics complained about Jiang Wenye being too far away from the needs of the time . . . lingering amid the ruins of traditional forms of Chinese music, therefore losing his critical capacity,22

they may have overlooked the fact that he might just have arrived at the “ruins of Chinese music,” by way of his study of Western modernism. That Jiang Wenye was able to make The Music of the Confucian Temple both an antiquarian tour de force and an avant-garde experiment merits attention, as it concerns an obscure part of Chinese modernist discourse. Insofar as it intends to reconstruct the quintessential melody of (traditional) Chinese music, The Music of the Confucian Temple is a project showing Jiang’s desire for contact with the ancients. On the other hand, Jiang was keenly aware of the fact that the music of Confucian times was long lost, and that despite his painstaking research, he had to reinvent that tradition by putting together bits and pieces from various sources and periods, and re-creating them with recourse to his command of the modern. In so doing Jiang may well be aligned with the reformist tradition of classical Chinese literature and scholarship that Stephen Owen has called “reactionary reform” in that 21   See Theodor Adorno, Philosophy of Modern Music, trans. Anne G. Mitchell and Wesley V. Blomster (New York: The Seabury Press, 1973), 15–60; Adorno, “On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening,” in The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, ed. Andrew Arato and Eike Gebhardt (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1982), 298. 22   Liang Maochun 梁茂春, “Jiang Wenye de gangqin zuopin” 江文也的鋼琴作品 (Piano Works by Jiang Wenye), Zhang Jiren, Jiang Wenye jinian yantaohui ­lunwenji, 115.

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the past is valued more than the present or future, and that the antiquity proposed to be restored could not be a revival of the past as it was at least partially an imaginary construct projected from the present.23 I would argue nevertheless that Jiang’s effort brought about more than reactionary reform. Besides his limited primary school experience in Amoy, Jiang Wenye had hardly been exposed to Chinese antiquity; his knowledge of Chinese music and history was acquired mostly through Japanese connections. Hence, when he strove to regenerate Confucian music, it is hard to see how he would have engaged in reactionary reform in the way that this notion applies to Chinese scholars working from what we might call their native legacy. For Jiang, the Confucian tradition was more likely something he had never previously inhabited, protected as he was by his doubly colonial status from the intuitive certainties of all those that mature inside the object of reconstruction. To call on Confucius through ritual and music, therefore, was an adventure of constructing a lost identity and rehabilitating a truncated lineage—a task which someone in diaspora may be uniquely capable of taking on. Instead of reactionary reform, The Music of the Confucius Temple meant for Jiang Wenye an imaginary re-formation, a bold invention of the past for the sake of the present. IV We now turn to Jiang’s theoretical treatise on the ideal form of Confucian music. Jiang writes in the preface to his album of The Music of the Confucian Temple (1940) that he hopes to compose a music reflective of the “state of divine bliss” ( fayue jing 法悅境): There is neither happiness nor sadness in this music, which is suggestive only of the Oriental state of celestial elation. In other words, this music seems to exist nowhere, or perhaps somewhere in the cosmos, containing a volume of air. This air congeals into music all

23   Zhao Jianzhang 趙建章, Tongcheng pai wenxue sixiang yanjiu 桐城派文學思想 研究 (A Study of the Literary Thought of the Tongcheng School) (Beijing: Beijing tushuguan chubanshe, 2003), 172–173. For an example of reactionary reform in an earlier period, see Stephen Owen, The Poetry of Meng Chiao and Han Yü (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975), 9. See also Theodore Huters’s discussion in “From Writing to Literature: The Development of Late Qing Theories of Prose,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 47, no. 1(1987): 93.


david der-wei wang of a sudden, only to turn into a flash of light in no time, and disappear in the ether.24

The term fayue 法悅, like the more commonly used faxi 法喜, is derived from the Buddhist Huayan jing 華嚴經 (Avatamsaka Sutra), meaning the pleasure of epiphany one experiences at hearing the teachings of Buddha.25 Jiang Wenye saw Confucian music as an art form that relies no longer on stimulated sensory excitements. With its simple orchestration, it touches instead the deepest niches of one’s mind and evokes immense quietude and fullness. Based on this theme of “divine bliss” Jiang Wenye wrote the aforesaid Study of Music in Ancient China: Confucius’ Treatise on Music, an analysis of ancient Chinese music and its conceptual framework in light of Confucianism. Jiang begins by calling attention to the close ties between music and the state in ancient China; he holds that politics was always already inherent in the conceptualization and production of music. But here politics is to be understood in terms of Confucian sage-kingship rather than power-maneuvering.26 Jiang observes that music (yue 樂) and ritual (li 禮) constitute the two pillars of the ideal state in ancient times. Whereas ritual serves to prescribe the rules of propriety, music helps orchestrate human and cosmic movements into a systematic whole. He cites the Li ji 禮記 (The Records of Ritual): music is that which unites heaven and earth in harmony; ritual is that which places heaven and earth in order. Because of harmony, things can be cultured; because of order, things can be differentiated.”27

Music, accordingly, takes precedence over ritual in forming the universal order. But let us return to to Jiang Wenye’s famous declaration that his music renders neither happiness nor sadness, existing nowhere and everywhere like air, and that as such it transmits a state of celestial   Jiang Wenye, “Kongmiao de yinyue, dacheng yuezhang” 孔廟的音樂大晟樂章 (The Music of the Confucian Temple), trans. Jiang Xiaoyun 江小韻, in Minzu yinyue yanjiu 民族音樂研究, ed. Liu Jingzhi, vol. 3, 301. 25   For a more detailed study of fayue, see Foguang dacidian bianxiu weiyuanhui 佛光大辭典編修委員會, Foguang dacidian 佛光大辭典 (Foguang Edition of Dictionary of Buddhist Terminology) (Gaoxiong: Foguang chubanshe, 1995), vol. 4, 3379. 26   “Confucius regards politics as something like music, which is an extremely clear and pristine entity.” Jiang Wenye, Kongzi yinyue lun 孔子音樂論 (Confucius’ Treatise on Music), 148. 27   Ibid., 21. 24

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elation. While the “divine bliss” thus generated is regarded by Jiang as the key to Chinese music at its most subtle, recent scholarship has found that this notion may not come from Confucian musicological discourse so much as from foreign sources. As Lin Yingqi林瑛 琪 points out, Jiang owes the concept “divine bliss” to his teacher Yamada, who as early as 1922 was using it to describe the sensation he obtained in listening to music by the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (1872–1919). Scriabin’s music is concerned with compelling and other-worldly visions; symphonies such as The Divine Poem, and The Poem of Ecstasy were composed to evoke a mystical feeling that transcends life and death, and “to foster a collective joy.”28 At the time that The Poem of Ecstasy was introduced to Japan as Hōetsu no shi 法悅 の詩 (Poem of Divine Bliss), Yamada was commissioned to compose music for modern poetry by poets such as Kitahara Hakushū 北原白 秋 (1885–1942), and found that the way Wagner integrates text into music could no longer satisfy him. Instead, he was “enlightened by Scriabin’s works” and “regained the courage to strive toward the goal of ecstasy and divine bliss.”29 Something of an artistic genealogy suggests itself here: through Yamada, Jiang Wenye managed to transform a Russian composer’s mystical belief into something quintessential to Confucian music. As he claims, this music is like a light air, flying gently into heaven, conveying the wishes and prayers of those on earth. Through this music, the worshippers acquire a certain inspiration, thereby creating an atmosphere that unites heaven and earth harmoniously.”30

One thus again comes to the intriguing trafficking of sounds and thoughts between Jiang Wenye and his contemporaries. The aura of Jiang’s ideal music could not have arisen exclusively from his imaginary communication with Confucius, any more than from his dialogue with the Japanese and European masters from Yamada Kosaku to Scriabin and Tcherenpin. The “divine bliss” he is professing, accordingly, may not merely give rise to the sonorous revelation of Confucian benevolence, but may also be a reverberation of the modernist call for undoing the world as it was. 28   Yamada, “Yinyue zhi fayuejing” 音樂之法樂境 (The State of Bliss in Music); quoted from Lin Yingqi, Jiafeng zhong de wenhuaren, 52. 29   Ibid. 30   Jiang Wenye, Kongzi yinyue lun, 52.


david der-wei wang V

Finally, what are the the political implications of Jiang Wenye’s Confucian project? The early 1940s was a time when Chinese composers were creating music in support of the anti-Japanese aggression campaign. One senses a high-strung patriotic tone from the titles of musical pieces such as Zheng Zhisheng’s 鄭志聲 (1903–1941) Manjiang hong 滿江紅 (So Red is the River), Xian Xinghai’s 冼星海 (1905–1945) Manzhou qiutu jinxingqu 滿洲囚徒進行曲 (March of the Manchurian Prisoners) and He Lüting’s 賀綠汀 (1903–1997) Keng chunni 墾春泥 (Plowing the Spring Soil). Jiang, however, directed his career in a different direction. Besides The Music of the Confucian Temple, he produced several other symphonic pieces, such as Seiki no shinwa ni yoru shōka 世紀の神話による頌歌 (Song for the Myth of the Century [1942]), Ichiu dōkō 一宇同光 (Symphonia Universalis [1943]), and scores for musicals such as the aforementioned Princess Xiangfei (1942). Whereas Symphonia Universalis celebrates universal peace and harmony, Princess Xiangfei deals with the legendary life and death of the Qianlong emperor’s Muslim consort Xiangfei. These works could all be interpreted as promoting racial harmony and solidarity of East Asian countries and to that effect they resonated with the emerging discourse of the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” (Dai-tō-a Kyōeiken 大東亞共榮圈).31 However aloof Jiang Wenye managed to remain from the war, it was hard for him to steer clear of the political implications of his Confucian projects. When he talked about a music that harmonizes all differences, the tenor of the “Royal Way” rang audibly; when he celebrated Confucian benevolence, this inevitably included echoes of Japanese   As an ideology, Greater East Asia was traceable as far back as to Satō Nobuhiro 佐藤信淵 (1769–1850), who suggested that the Japanese government embark on colonial and agricultural undertakings on uninhabited islands in the South China Sea, ultimately spreading its military might to Southeast Asia. By the 1930s, the notion that Japan should be the leader promoting “Asia for the Asians” had become prevalent among military forces and imperialists. In 1940, Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yōsuke 松岡洋右 (1880–1946) announced Japan’s role as liberator of Asian countries from imperialist powers so as to form a new solidarity. What ensued was the brutality of war and occupation that led to the Japanese being regarded as no better, and in some cases much worse, than Western colonists. For a comprehensive study of the “Greater East Asia” as an intellectual discourse, a political campaign, and a military movement, see Wang Ping 王屏, Jindai Riben de Yaxiya zhuyi 近代日本的亞細亞主義 (Asianism in Early Modern Japan) (Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan, 2004), particularly chapters 5-12. 31

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imperialist co-prosperity. In 1940 Jiang Wenye turned thirty, and The Music of the Confucian Temple was premiered in Tokyo, conducted by Jiang himself and broadcast nationwide. Record production followed that summer, performed by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. The same year saw the announcement of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere as well as the celebration of the 2600th anniversary of the Japanese nation. Jiang took part in the celebration by composing Tōa no uta 東亞の歌 (The Song of East Asia) for the dance production Nippon 日本 (Japan). The aforementioned Symphonia Universalis was composed as late as 1943, a piece inspired by the slogan “All Regions United as One Universe,” the slogan of the Co-Prosperity Sphere. One recalls yet again Jiang’s opening remarks in The Music of the Confucian Temple that Chinese music invariably emerged in tandem with politics. In an uncanny way this statement became a bitter footnote to Jiang’s own musical activities during the war. Although he was tangentially involved in the Co-Prosperity Sphere campaign, Jiang Wenye showed neither interest in nor commitment to Japanese military imperialism. He yearned for a music that would transcend all human strife and worldly attachments, and for a short while he seemed to have accomplished this goal thanks to an unlikely environment. Still, his desired Confucian harmony had to succumb to the sound and fury of the times, and the state of “divine bliss” was no sooner attained than it was contaminated by ideological gospels. Thus Jiang Wenye’s dilemma exemplifies the entangled relations between imperialist politics and artistic creativity. Vacillating between the opposite attractions of the mandate of “Greater East Asia” and an individualistic vision, his re-creation of Confucian melody of “drum and bell,” simple as it was, opened multiple possibilities of listening. His music suggests a radical play with anachronism so as to deconstruct the sanctioned temporality of progress, while also representing a modernist critique of the vulgar trend based on mechanical reproduction and commercial interest. For some it may be a cosmopolitan interpretation of the Chinese musical legacy via foreign mediation, for others a colonial gesture trying to reconcile imaginary nostalgia and an escapade into the exotic. Most ambiguously, it may demonstrate both imperialist propaganda and personal, eccentric interpretation of propaganda; both complicity and a desire to transcend this complicity.


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Jiang decided to stay in Beijing after the defeat of Japan. He believed his Chinese identity had been finally authenticated as the result of the war. And perhaps with a Confucian desire to find a ruler who would truly appreciate the significance of his music, he presented The Music of the Confucius Temple to Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Chinese government. Instead of being honored for his contribution, however, Jiang found himself charged as a collaborator, and he was sentenced to jail.32 In 1949, the Chinese Communists took over mainland China and founded a new republic. Despite the options of going to Hong Kong, Rome, and Taiwan, Jiang decided to stay, out of a deep love for Beijing. In 1950 he was assigned to teach composition at the newly founded Central Music Conservatory in Tianjin and in the next seven years he was able to produce quite a number of piano and symphony pieces. This was an epic phase of modern Chinese history when all artists were organized to sing and dance to the same tunes celebrating the new nation. Jiang’s wish to create a “great music that harmonizes heaven and earth” had to be redefined: the people’s music was supposed to change heaven and earth so obviously and completely that as to generate one great hymn. Even then Jiang was able to compose symphonic pieces that bore his individual mark, such as Miluo chenliu 汨羅沉流 (Drowned in the Miluo River). This piece was created in commemoration of the 2230th anniversary of the death of Qu Yuan 屈原 (fourth and third centuries BCE), the great poet of Chu who drowned himself after having been slandered and exiled by his Prince. It shows Jiang’s retreat to his early romantic traits, with an impressionist interpretation of the poet’s melancholy and fantasy. In addition to the standard orchestral arrangement, Jiang highlights woodwind and percussive instruments to bring out the traces of his reception of Bartók and Prokofiev, as well as Chinese religious music.

32   The piece was forwarded to Chiang Kai-shek by Li Zongren 李宗仁 (1891–1969), one of the most important wartime military leaders. Li was made Commander-inChief of the Beijing area after the end of the war, and it was in this capacity that he accepted Jiang Wenye’s music piece on behalf of the government. Wang Zhenya 王振 亞, “Zuoqujia Jiang Wenye” 作曲家江文也 (Jiang Wenye the Composer), Zhongyang yinyue xuebao, no. 5 (1985); quoted from Wu Lingyao, “Jiang Wenye shengping yu zuopin,” 164.

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Then came disastrous years. In 1957, Jiang was labeled a rightist for his criticism of the party and his wartime collaboratorship. His Taiwanese identity again became suspect as he liked to “talk about the Taiwan issue.”33 He lost his job, and horribly, more than one thousand original compositions were confiscated and forever lost. Jiang, however, continued to compose against all odds. After the Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966, like many other intellectuals and artists Jiang went through a series of ordeals, from public humiliation to incarceration, forced confessions, self-critique, and “reeducation” at a cadre school. When he returned to Beijing in 1973 after four years of labor reform, Jiang was a frail old man tormented by disease. In early 1978, twenty-one years after he was labeled a rightist, Jiang was rehabilitated. He started to compose anew, working on a new project called Ali shan zhisheng 阿里山之聲 (The Voice of Mount Ali), about Taiwan’s foremost scenic landmark. But he collapsed into paralysis one night in May, and for the next five years he was bedridden with apoplexy. Jiang died on 24 October 1983; the Voice of Mount Ali was left unfinished. VII Throughout his life Jiang Wenye sought for a sound, one that might resonate with both the aboriginal melodies of Mount Ali and the ritual music of the Confucius Temple, both the fantastic cadences of natural Taiwan and the avant-garde rhythms playing in the metropolises of Japan and China. Jiang’s music project also points to a sonic negotiation between the islands and the mainland. In 1934, he first won recognition with a musical inscription of pastoral Taiwan. Forty-five years later, he ended his career with an imaginary encounter with Mount Ali. When the dream of eternal China as embodied by Confucian drums and bells faded, it was the sound of the erstwhile colony, with its aboriginal melodies and romantic legends, that returned to the composer’s ear. But isn’t his nostalgia about Taiwan as imaginary and exotic as his nostalgia about China? In his final years, Jiang jotted down a series of poems in Japanese. The last one reads: 33   Xie Lifa 謝里法, “The Old Vines under a Fault,” quoted from Kuo Tzong-kai, Jiang Wenye, 26. For a detailed description of Jiang Wenye’s life from the 1950s to his death, see Wu Yunzhen, “Xianfu Jiang Wenye,” 147–153; Kuo Tzong-kai, Jiang Wenye, 25–31; Chang Chi-jen, Jiang Wenye, 47–58.


david der-wei wang The memory of the island Day and night caressing Good or bad Island: thank you.

Thus, Jiang recapitulates the leimotifs of his life-long quest: a colonial son’s desire to “sound” his way home, and a modernist’s attempt to create a space, an isle of lyrical tonality, amid the epic torrents of history.

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THE GUO GUAN RITUAL SHADOW PLAY OF HUANXIAN Frank Kouwenhoven and Antoinet Schimmelpenninck Shadow puppeteers often ascribe the captivating allure of their art to its qualities of mystery and suspense. As veteran shadow puppeteer Shi Chenglin 史呈林 puts it, “the play of light and dark impresses people in ways that no performance with marionettes or rod puppets could ever achieve.”1 This makes the shadow figures eminently suited for one of the supposed primary functions of puppet plays since ancient times: communication with the world of gods and spirits. The brief shadow play known as Guo guan 過關 (Crossing the Passes), which is frequently performed at temple festivals in the Huanxian 環縣 area in east Gansu, is only one of a great many Chinese shadow plays with ritual functions. Scholars generally associate the beginnings of (various forms of) puppetry in China with ritual. Shamans in early China may have used puppets to suggest that they could bring back to life, or communicate with, the spirits of the dead. Whether or not shadow figures were used for such purposes, and how and when shadow puppetry actually began in China remains unclear, and a matter of much speculation. Shadow plays with dialogues, songs and music are documented from the Northern Song dynasty (969–1126) onwards. But by that time they were already a fully developed genre, which was performed for entertainment and for ritual purposes during calendrical feasts, on the streets, at temple fairs, and in the homes of the rich.2   Interview, Huanxian, 3 July 2007.   On the early history of puppetry and connections with ritual, see: Sun Kaidi 孫楷弟, Kuileixi kaoyuan 傀儡戲考源 (Research into the Origins of the Puppet Theater) (Shanghai: Shangza chubanshe, 1952), 209–227; and: Jiang Yuxiang 江玉 祥, “Zhongguo yingxi tanyuan” 中國影戲探源 (About the Origin of Chinese Shadow Theater), Minjian wenxue luntan, no. 2 (1988): 85–92. For a German translation of Jiang’s essay (and comments by an eminent German scholar), see Rainald Simon, Chinesische Schatten. Deng’ying’xi: Lampenschattentheater aus Sichuan: Die Sammlung Eger (München: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1997), 8-9, 12, 113–119. See also: William Dolby, “The Origins of Chinese Puppetry,” in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies XLI, no. 1 (1978): 97–120. References to ritual shadow puppetry in 1 2

362     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck Unfortunately, many rural genres of ritual shadow theater have disappeared in the course of the twentieth century or still earlier, and surviving traditions in urban centers such as those of Tangshan 唐 山 in Hebei and Changsha in Hunan have entirely lost their ritual and religious connotations. Most urban genres have become polished, state-guided forms of secular entertainment. Social disturbances such as war and banditry and major political and economic transformations in China have all played their part in this development. There is no room here to discuss this decline, or the survival chances of remaining traditions. Suffice it to say that pockets of rural puppetry survive in Hebei, Hubei, Hunan, Henan, Qinghai and elsewhere, and that performances in those areas may still be very lively, and are often framed in ritual contexts.3 recent times abound in all the sources listed in note 2. Continuing traditions of ritual marionette theater (in Fujian) are discussed at length in Robin Ruizendaal, Marionette Theatre in Quanzhou (Leiden: Brill, 2006). Strangely, the eminent Dutch sinologist Robert van Gulik claimed that all Chinese shadow performances were profane, and solely meant for entertainment. See: Robert van Gulik, “Oosterse Schimmen. Derde gedeelte (1),” in Elsevier’s geillustreerd maandschrift XLII, no. LXXXIII (1932): 309. This view was not shared by most experts at the time. 3   For the decline of shadow theater in China, see Li Yuezhong 李躍忠, Dengyingli wudong de jingling 燈影裏舞動的精靈 (Dancing Spirits of Light and Shade) (Ha’erbin: Heilongjiang renmin chubanshe, 2006), 45, 50–54, 92–100. For regional distribution and reliable data on local survival—on which we have drawn extensively—see Gerd Kaminski, “Das Verschwinden des Schattens,” in In der Hand des Höllenfürsten sind wir alle Puppen, ed. Michael Gissenwehrer and Gerd Kaminski (München: Herbert Utz Verlag, 2008), 9-54. For regional distribution (and regional differences) see also: Li Yuezhong, Dengyingli wudong de jingling, 11–20, 54–98, 132–141; Patricia van de Velde, Het Chinese schimmenspel: Het onstaan, de betekenis en de diversiteit (MD dissertation, Ghent University, 2003), 99–114; Gerd Kaminski and Else Unterrieder, Der Zauber des bunten Schattens: Chinesische Schattenspiele einst und jetzt (Klagenfurt: Universitätsverlag Carinthia, 1988), 50–105; Liu Jilin, Chinese Shadow Puppet Plays (Beijing: Morning Glory Publishers [formerly Zhaohua chubanshe], 1988), 15–19; Roberta Helmer Stalberg, China’s Puppets (San Francisco: China Books, 1984), 89–90, 95–99; Lili Chang, The Lost Roots of Chinese Shadow Theater: A Comparison with the Actors’ Theater of China (PhD dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1983), 114–116; and Jacques Pimpaneau, Des poupées à l’ombre: Le théâtre d’ombres et de poupées en Chine (Paris: Université Paris, Centre de Publication Asia Orientale, 1977), 55–77. Wu Zhijian 吳志堅, a cultural worker and folklore scholar in Wuhan (Hubei), told us that rural shadow puppetry in Hubei is alive and kicking, with two major and distinct traditions, one located in Central Hubei, one located close to the border with Shaanxi. He showed us fieldwork videos of these traditions (interview, Wuhan, 11 December 2008). Li Hongbiao 李鴻飆, a librettist of the Hunan Marionette and Shadow Puppet Art Theater (Hunan mu’ou piying yishu juyuan 湖南木偶皮影 藝術劇院) in Changsha reported to us about continuing rural shadow puppetry in Hunan (interview, Changsha, 13 December 2008), but he was unable to comment on

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Shadow puppeteers in rural Qinghai address some of their plays directly to gods or spirits to secure the gods’ favor or avoid their anger. The players do this at the beginning of temple fairs and calendrical feasts, but also in people’s homes, on the occasion of births, birthdays or weddings, or to support the ill. Shadow plays of the Sanmenxia 三門 峽 region in Henan are performed in similar contexts, or on such occasions as funerals or house-building. Rural shadow puppetry is remarkably vibrant in parts of Shaanxi and Gansu in northwest China, and perhaps nowhere more so than in the barren sand hills of Huanxian County, east of Ningxia, where at present some forty puppet groups operate in a region of close to six thousand square miles which is home to some nine hundred thousand people. The shadow plays of Huanxian are embedded in ritual contexts, and just like the shadow theater of Sanmenxia in Henan, this is a tradition with Daoist overtones. It was in Huanxian that we witnessed a play in which the deified warrior Guan Yu 關羽, known as Guan Gong 關公 in local lore, played the main role. It was a rousing piece of fiction, with a partial basis in fact. The historical Guan Yu helped to bring about the downfall of the Eastern Han dynasty (23–221) and the establishment of the Kingdom of Shu (221–265). In popular lore, his military feats and virtues gradually acquired mythical proportions. From the Sui dynasty onwards (581–618) Guan Yu became a subject of temple worship in China. He began to make his appearance also in novels and theater plays, including shadow plays. Apocryphal stories about Guan Yu feature in Luo Guanzhong’s 羅貫中 (ca. 1330–1400) Sanguo zhi yanyi 三國志演義 (Romance of the Three Kingdoms), a novel written more than a thousand years after the era in which he lived. One such story relates how he heroically fights his way through a series of dangerous passes to reunite with his lord and trusted brother-in-arms Liu Bei 劉備. On his way he had to cross five difficult passes and defeat several hostile armies. This heroic journey is reenacted in the ritual Guo guan plays of Huanxian, but the crossing of the passes here acquires a new, primarily ritual and palliative meaning. It becomes a process of defeating evil spirits and bad influences; the aim of the play is to cure

its ritual dimensions. Ritual shadow puppetry certainly persists in the countryside around Tangshan (Hebei), as we heard from Wang Junjie 王俊傑, the head of the Tangshan Municipal Shadow Puppet Company (Tangshanshi piying jutuan 唐山市 皮影劇團) (interview, Tangshan, 23 December 2008).

364     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck young children who are ill or possessed by some evil spirit.4 Parents will take their ailing child to a temple festival to let it participate in the ritual actions of a Guo guan play. Before taking a closer look at a Guo guan ceremony, we will briefly explain the nature of our fieldwork, and offer a general introduction to shadow puppetry in Huanxian. A Note on Fieldwork We first became acquainted with Chinese shadow plays in northeast Shaanxi during musical research in Jiyuan 姬原 in July 2006. A lively puppet show by Feng Jinwen 馮進文 and his group triggered our interest. In March and June-July 2007 we paid two visits to adjacent Huanxian, known for its outstanding shadow puppetry. Huanxian forms a part of the wider Yellow River basin, which is widely viewed as the cradle of Han China’s culture, but the Yellow River keeps its distance from this particular district, where it is possible to travel for days without seeing water; the landscape of Huanxian is sand-colored, an endless alternation of miniature landslides, driedup riverbeds and half-collapsed hills pockmarked with caves. Two thirds of the local population live in caves today. Huanxian’s relative isolation has doubtless helped the region’s ritual shadow theater to survive—as has its poverty, as manifest in the scarcity of other forms of entertainment. We went to Huanxian to make a film about shadow plays5 and to examine their ritual aspects, but our aim was also to find materials for a puppet exhibition at the Leiden University Sinological Institute, and to invite one or more puppet groups for tours in the Netherlands. Altogether, we spent one month in Huanxian, collecting libretti, videoing some ninety hours of activities, and interviewing thirty performers. The Cultural Bureau of the county government helped to arrange interpreters and transport for our visits to outlying villages, and provided ample documentation. We examined local temples, watched a temple festival at Mount Xinglong 興隆山 and in Baihuzhang 白虎掌, Hedaoxiang 合道鄉, attended ten shadow puppet and some rod puppet 4   For an overall discussion of the meanings and symbolism of crossing boundaries and passages in Chinese ritual, see: Barend ter Haar, Ritual and Mythology of the Chinese Triads: Creating an Identity (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 89–150. 5   Chinese Shadows (2007, 58 minutes, in color, with Dutch and English subtitles), issued as a commercial DVD by PAN records, Leiden.

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performances by as many different groups, and examined local videos and monographs. One government official, Zhang Yuqing 張玉卿, joined us on all our trips. Zhang has studied local puppetry for many years and is extremely knowledgeable on the subject; he is vice-director of the Center for the Protection of Huanxian Daoqing Shadow Puppet Theater (Huanxian daoqing piying baohu zhongxin 環縣道情皮影保 護中心), located in Huanxian. Various local scholars in Huanxian have actively studied the local puppetry traditions. The two most important collections of scholarship, both published in 2006, have Kang Xiulin and Deng Yanbin as their respective editors-in-chief.6 Shadow Puppetry As a Vocation The Dutch tours of two Huanxian puppet groups, late in 2007 and early in 2008, were a new and exhilarating experience for the players: most had not performed on concert stages before. They gave some twenty concerts and got standing ovations in prestigious venues like the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. The tours also added to their prestige at home. Normally, local shadow puppetry in Huanxian does not lead to stardom. As elsewhere in China, rural entertainers in Huanxian have low status, and most puppeteers are farmers, not full-time professional artists. They learn the trade as a sideline occupation, and train and practice their puppetry especially in wintertime, after the harvest periods. It is possible but not easy to make a living by playing shadow theater in Huanxian. While groups of this kind may still be frequently hired by temple organizations or private families, the number of performances is rapidly decreasing. Local wages are low, and there is insufficient demand for most of the players to perform full-time. Yet there are moments when shadow puppetry in Huanxian almost looks like big business. At Chinese New Year, when fireworks are lit in the county’s capital (called Huanxian, like the region), shadow theater performances are held all over town. Puppet stories are performed in the streets, no matter how cold the weather: the players squat behind 6   Kang Xiulin 康秀林 et al., eds., Huanxian daoqing piying zhi 環縣道情皮影誌 (Huanxian Daoqing Shadow Theater Gazetteer) (Lanzhou: Gansu wenhua chubanshe, 2006). Deng Yanbin 鄧延斌 et al., eds. Huanxian daoqing pinying 環縣道情皮影 (Daoqing Shadow Puppets of Huanxian) (Beijing: Zhongguo shehui chubanshe, 2006).

366     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck a screen in an improvised tent, while the audience, wrapped firmly in woolen shawls and padded coats, watches the shows under a bare sky. Some of the groups are hired by the local authorities to come and play during Chinese New Year, others travel from their villages to town on their own account. A single performance may not yield an individual player more than twenty yuan—and this is no different when the artists perform in temple fairs – but some people are so endeared by the “cowskin babies” (niupi wawa 牛皮娃娃), as they call the puppets, that they decide to become players themselves. “More than thirty years ago—at the age of ten—I bought a chest with puppets from someone for the sum of thirteen hundred yuan,” remembers puppeteer Feng Jinwen, who is now fairly well known in parts of Shaanxi and Gansu. He continues: I fell in love with the shadow theater. It was only afterwards that I began to learn the trade from a local master. At the age of fifteen I lost my parents, and I suddenly had to take care of five younger brothers and sisters. Playing shadow theater then earned me a nice bit of pocket money, especially in winter. This was at the time of the Cultural Revolution, when shadow theater was actually forbidden, like so many traditional things. But we all came together and played it, secretly. People still had their religion, you see!7

Today, Feng participates in more than one hundred puppet shows every year. In recent years, the Huanxian government has begun to promote shadow puppetry, though it recognizes the genre mainly as a form of secular entertainment. Needy players are given some money, and some get opportunities to teach puppetry in the region’s elementary schools. The town of Huanxian recently opened a regional puppetry museum, and a factory that churns out all sorts of plastic objects and brightly colored puppets as souvenirs or business gifts: the regional tradition has become a potential source of state income. One local puppet group visited Italy in 1987, and the Xi’an Film Studio shot a feature film on the life of shadow puppeteers in Huanxian. In spite of this, most people in the countryside have not altered their views about either the ritual relevance of the genre or the low status of its performers. As Han Zhanqi 韓占崎, headmaster of the Sanshilipu Elementary School 三十裏鋪小學 relates: 7

  Interview, Dingbian, 18 June 2006.

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Nearly seventy percent of our pupils opt for the elective classes on shadow theater which we now offer at our school, but parents do not always allow their children to participate, because they think of shadow puppetry as something backward. They prefer them to follow lessons on “real” culture, on subjects like Chinese literature and history, which they think have more educational value.8

Nevertheless, several puppeteers and puppet makers have earned regional fame in Huanxian, and puppet shows continue to attract considerable crowds. There is professional pride on the part of the performers, though always mixed with concern. Every player—while complaining about the present lack of earnings and declining standards of performance—will honor his own pedigree, a chain of teachers stretching back into the past, often leading back to one and the same man: Xie Changchun 解長春 (1841–1915). He was a Qing-dynasty shadow puppeteer, and is widely regarded as the “father” of Huanxian shadow puppetry. Before Xie Changchun, the history of Huanxian puppetry is lost in the fog of time. Possibly the genre was imported from Yulin 榆林 in adjacent Shaanxi, where most of Huanxian’s puppeteers still go to buy their puppets. The shadow plays of these two counties are so closely related in content, performance style, and form and manufacture of the puppets that they must have the same origin. Only a well-trained expert may detect minor differences between the puppets of the two areas, especially their facial features. More remote shadow play traditions, such as those of central Shaanxi, or of Gansu’s capital Lanzhou,9 three hundred kilometers to the west, are stylistically more different, with not only different-looking puppets but also different dialects and different kinds of music. While Yulin and Huanxian largely feature the same type of shadow theater, they still differ in one important respect: we found only two surviving shadow puppet groups in Yulin, as opposed to the fortyplus active in Huanxian.10 The more prosperous economy of Yulin has apparently created attractive job alternatives, and more competitive forms of entertainment. In Huanxian, where almost nothing grows or flourishes on the dry, unfertile soil—the landscape is adorned only by   Interview, Sanshilipu Village, Huanxian, 7 July 2007.   For shadow puppetry in central Shaanxi and in Lanzhou, see: Kaminski and Unterrieder, Der Zauber des bunten Schattens, 84–91, 101–105. 10   Forty-seven in 2004 (Deng Yanbin et al., Huanxian daoqing piying, 44). 8 9

368     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck some scattered oil pumps, and most people earn a meager living by keeping sheep or cattle, or tilling small plots of land—shadow puppetry remains a major attraction, though even here TV and cinema threaten its survival. Public attention is decreasing, but Huanxian’s rural players have so far resisted ideas to enliven and glamorize their art with innovations and tricks such as sophisticated lighting. The one urban shadow puppet group that operates professionally—as a stateowned enterprise—in the district’s capital has certainly gone some way towards modernizing the genre, by introducing new types of animation, or employing a synthesizer and other novelties. The group’s aim is “to educate and to offer high-quality entertainment,” but they are neither a model nor representative for Huanxian puppetry at large. The Tools of Rural Shadow Puppetry The groups we met in the countryside are all-male, and they play on simple, self-made instruments in plain conditions, with a screen lit from behind with just one lightbulb; before electricity, this would have been a bunch of candles or an oil lamp. The screen is a piece of cloth or sometimes paper, roughly two meters wide and some ninety centimeters high, often torn in places and patched up. It is placed on top of an oblong table, and attached to an improvised wooden or metal frame, or fixed with ropes directly to the walls of a house or cave if the performance is indoors. Visually, what is set in motion on this screen is a kind of poor man’s television show; one man will operate all the puppets, while the others—usually four to seven players—provide instrumental and vocal accompaniment. Many of the basics of Huanxian shadow puppetry are fairly similar to shadow plays performed elsewhere in China, or during earlier periods. Song-dynasty descriptions of shadow puppetry in central and southern China already mention seasonal or temporary groups of three to nine players who travel from village to village and perform in temples, on threshing grounds and in village squares.11 This is what the seasonal groups of Huanxian do today. Shadow puppetry in east Gansu differs from other regional traditions primarily on four points: 1) the local dialect; 2) the form and style of the music; 3) the style and manufacture of the puppets; 4) the contents and functions of some of the plays. The scope of this article 11

  Liu, Chinese Shadow Puppet Plays, 4, 8-9.

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offers no room for a detailed comparison, but we will incidentally note differences with other regional shadow play traditions. The one player who operates the puppets and chants all the roles in Huanxian plays is known as the “frontstager” (qiantai 前臺).12 The other, supporting artists are called “backstagers” (houtai 後臺), and serve as orchestra and chorus. Instrumental players may switch from fiddle or shawm to percussion or vice versa during a performance, but the manipulation of the puppets is strictly the domain of those who specialize as frontstagers, usually from an early age. It is mostly the frontstager who owns the wooden chest with the puppets, and who acts as the artistic and business leader of a group. He is also the lead singer and lead actor, who speaks most of the unaccompanied dialogues, and sings in an often unmetered style closely resembling speech. By contrast, the choruses are more melodious and strongly rhythmical, with gongs and drums as their basis, the sonorous rumbling of a tube-drum covered at one end with pigskin (yugu 漁鼓)13 as a freefloating counter-rhythm, a bamboo flute (dizi 笛子) and one or more fiddles as gracious melodious elements, all of this spiced with soaring shawms (suona 嗩呐 and dina 笛呐) and male group or solo chant. A handful of melodies, refrain tunes and rhythmical motifs form the basic musical material. These are delicately employed in ever-changing variations, to reinforce the action on the screen.14 In Huanxian puppetry there are no plucked or struck string instruments, unlike in many other regional shadow play traditions. The style of singing is energetic and often high-pitched, but rarely employs falsetto, which features more prominently in some regional shadow theater styles that are closer to opera, such as those of Hebei.15 12   Chinese shadow plays usually have one or two manipulators who control the puppets, plus one or more musicians for the music. Liu and Pimpaneau report on duo shows in some parts of China (one puppeteer plus one accompanist), and Whanslaw signals “one-man orchestras” (a single performer playing the puppets plus all the music), but these set-ups are not found in Huanxian. Cf. Liu Jilin, Chinese Shadow Puppet Plays, 17. Jacques Pimpaneau, Des poupées à l’ombre, 69. H.W. Whanslaw, Shadow Play (London: Wells Gardner, Darton, 1950), 25. 13   The tube drum was formerly made of bamboo. Today it is often made of PVC, covered with a simple plastic bag to serve as a drum-skin. 14   For a detailed analysis of the music, see Zhang Yuqing 張玉卿, “Daoqing yinyue” 道情音樂 (Daoqing Music), in Kang Xiulin et al., eds., Huanxian daoqing piying zhi, 59–172. 15   For the use of falsetto in Chinese shadow theater, see: Clara B. Wilpert, Wegweiser zur Volkerkunde: Schattentheater (Hamburg: Museum für Völkerkunde, 1973), 66; Chen Lin-Jui, “Chinese Shadow Plays,” China Reconstructs 3, no. 4 (1954):

370     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck A real eye-catcher among the musical instruments is the local version of the sixian 四弦, a sturdy Chinese stick fiddle with four strings thick as hemp, a bow the size of a broomstick, and a resonator as big as a wastepaper basket. Two of the percussion instruments especially merit our attention: one is a set of long wooden clappers (jianban 簡板), the other the above-mentioned tube-drum. Both instruments have been associated with Daoist practices from the Southern Song onwards, in many parts of China.16 Shadow puppetry in Huanxian is mostly referred to as daoqing pi­yingxi 道情皮影戲. Piyingxi is a common Chinese word for “shadow theater,” daoqing a generic term for a broad variety of Chinese musical genres with more or less tangible Daoist connotations. These genres, found in different parts of the country, range from simple beggar songs to sophisticated narrative singing, opera and puppet theater. Scholars in Huanxian postulate close links between Huanxian puppetry and the itinerant Daoist preachers of the past who traveled from village to village with tube-drum and clappers, to spread their belief. Jianban and yugu were viewed as sacred Daoist tools. Ancient temple murals often depict Zhang Guolao 張果老, one of the eight immortals revered by the Daoists, with these instruments in his hands.17 In Gansu, Shaanxi and Shanxi, the tradition has given rise to or influenced various other local traditions. For example, jianban and yugu also feature in the ongoing shadow puppetry tradition of Lingbao 靈寶, in a narrative song genre known as zuotan daoqing 坐攤道情 in Xi’an, and in narrative singing in Datong 大同.18 The plays of Huanxian puppetry come from anonymous libretti which have often been handed down through many generations of puppeteers. Most of Huanxian’s local manuscripts and some rare printed libretti were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. 24; Geneviève Wimsatt, Chinese Shadow Shows (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1936), 11. 16   See Wu Yimin 武藝民, Zhongguo daoqing yishu gailun 中國道情藝術概論 (An Introduction to the Chinese Art of Daoqing) (Taiyuan: Shanxi guji chubanshe, 1997), 351–356. 17   For the Daoist connotations of Huanxian puppetry, see Zhang Yuqing, “Daoqing yinyue,” 59–61. For a nation-wide study of daoqing, see Wu Yimin, Zhongguo dao­ qing yishu gailun. 18   Personal communication by Dao Jinping 道金平 (12 September 2008). Dao, a long-term expert and ardent fieldworker, is one of our main informants on historical issues. He works at the Center for the Protection of Huanxian Daoqing Shadow Puppet Theater.

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A tiny handful of pre-1949 sources survive, including some from the Qing period, but the vast majority of libretti used in the area today are reconstructions, texts once again committed to paper from memory by senior artists in the early 1980s.19 The libretti have no musical notation, but include special signs to mark entries and exits of puppets, transitions from speech to song, transitions from one role to another (often implying a change of meter or melody), and section endings. Textual lines are not neatly grouped in units, but written in one uninterrupted flow. Red commas mark individual lines and phrases, and clarify the structure. Choruses (mahuang 嘛簧 in local terminology) are not indicated: the backstage players know from the musical structure when to start singing.20 Only some decades ago, frontstagers used to learn entire series of libretti by heart. Puppeteers we interviewed claimed that their predecessors never consulted libretti during shows, but always played from memory. They said that, on average, players of the past were able to memorize some thirty pieces. Can such claims be trusted? Oral performance and improvisation certainly were—and often still are—the standard in many Chinese theatrical and folk musical traditions.21 But it seems a rather incredible feat for any single person to internalize thirty full-length plays, and to be able to produce hundreds of thousands of lines on command. Naturally, improvisation played an important role, and players of the past presumably also relied on formulaic and repetitive patterns to help them reproduce texts, much in the way as epic singers do when singing folk songs.22 For example, the libretti of Huanxian contain guanhua 官話, fixed formulas to introduce such typical figures as emperors or high officials.23 Even so, these libretti and the performances which we examined are not nearly as formulaic as folk   Kang Xiulin et al., eds., Huanxian daoqing piying zhi, 30.   For more on signs used in libretti, see Kang Xiulin et al., eds., Huanxian dao­ qing piying zhi, 41–42. 21   On traditional folk musicians in China performing without scores, see: Stephen Jones, Folk Music of China: Living Instrumental Traditions (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 69–70, 87–88, 111–112. On oral performance in shadow puppetry, see Lili Chang, The Lost Roots of Chinese Shadow Theater, 130–133; Patricia van de Velde, Het Chinese schimmenspel, 77; and Geneviève Wimsatt, Chinese Shadow Shows, 41–42. 22   On oral performance in Chinese epic songs, see: Antoinet Schimmelpenninck, Chinese Folk Songs and Folk Singers: Shan’ge traditions in Southern Jiangsu (Leiden: Chime, 1997), 206–223. 23   Kang Xiulin et al., eds., Huanxian daoqing piying zhi, 40. Guanhua refers to formalized expressions based on the spoken language of the ruling class. 19 20

372     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck songs, and it seems reasonable to suppose that many frontstagers of the past were literate in some degree, or would have made use of libretti, whether during performance or in the process of memorization. The venerable Xi Tianchang 席天昌, one of the surviving masters of the old generation, is illiterate, but told us that he still used libretti during performance “to keep an eye on the special signs and markings.”24 The sharp decline in the number of performances and hence people’s reduced exposure to the repertoire from the 1950s onwards has made it harder for puppeteers to retain all the lyrics and dialogues. Improvisation remains an important tool, but practically all the frontstagers now prefer to keep a textbook lying open next to them during performances. Choruses and instrumental melodies are familiar and repetitive, so the rest of the group do not use libretti. The puppets of Huanxian are transparent, hand-colored figures of scraped and dried cowskin, mostly around thirty centimeters in size, cut out and carved delicately, with great detail, and operated with the help of (usually) three bamboo sticks. There are emperors and empresses, male and female warriors, foot soldiers, horse riders, servant maidens, princes, court ladies, a broad variety of “barbarian” invaders (usually ugly soldiers with snub noses), animals, dragons and gods in fantastic attire, cloud-riding spirits, ferocious horned devils, and blood-covered sinners, the victims of torture in hell. All these puppets have their own symbolic colors, their own emblematic weaponry or typical styles of dress, hats and facial expressions. There is scenery, too: gardens and palaces, mountains and gateways, furniture and other props. The making of these figures from cowskin is a sophisticated craft.25 Self-taught, fifty-nine-year-old Hao Hongxian 郝宏賢 from Haoji 郝集 village is respected as one the finest traditionalist puppet makers of Huanxian today. He prepares his own cowhides meticulously and carves the skin slowly and carefully, unlike the personnel of the puppet factory in town, who work fast, with cruder results. Like other puppet makers in the area, Hao loves to watch shadow theater shows, but he is more intrigued by the quality of the leather figures than by the stories 24   Reports on other, early twentieth-century traditional puppetry in China sometimes refer to the reading of libretti during performance. E.g. Chen Lin-Jui, “Chinese Shadow Plays,” 24. For especially appointed “readers” in the shows of late imperial Beijing, see: Benjamin March, Chinese Shadow-Figure Plays and their Making (Detroit: Puppetry Imprints, 1938), 27. 25   The manufacture of puppets in Huanxian is discussed in detail in Deng Yanbin et al., eds. Huanxian daoqing pinying, 100–109.

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or the music: “There’s no lack of good puppeteers, but a badly made puppet will never come alive. It will always look hideous.”26 His views are not necessarily shared by the players, who will ascribe puppets’ lively looks mainly to the acting skills of the frontstagers. This is what sixty-year-old Shi Chenglin, a respected frontstager from Mubo木缽 town, has to say on the matter: These dolls of ours are just dead material. Whether you can bring them to life depends on your movements, your acting. The puppets may laugh or cry, but they will always look the same. It’s your manual skills, and the intonation of your voice which count! If you ask me if shadow puppetry is high art… Yes, I think it is very high art. In Chinese opera you have loads of people to do the acting, with everyone specializing in a particular role type. But in our shadow theater, a single man plays all the roles.27

The Plays: Drama of Biblical Allure Shadow plays in Huanxian may last anything from a few minutes to several days. Shows given at weddings or funerals typically last a couple of hours. Shows at temple festivals take rather longer, and may go on for several evenings. The first piece played at a temple festival is a five to ten-minute “play for the gods” (shenxi 神戲), normally a short text in praise of the specific god honored at the festival in question. This is frequently followed by a “play to redeem a vow to a god” (huanyuanxi 還願戲) which is more variable in duration, and/or a series of Guo guan performances. Guo guan normally lasts fifteen to twenty minutes. These ritual plays are followed by a much longer play, usually a full-blown narrative of three to five hours—or still longer, and spread over two or more evenings.28 Strings of short episodes—the “highlights” (zhezixi   Interview, Haoji Village, Huanxian, 4 July 2007.   Interview, Huanxian, 3 July 2007. 28   Alan Kagan, writing about Cantonese puppetry, points at the distinction between long narrative puppet plays (which can be chosen freely by the players, and which may be substituted for one another) and short ritual plays or sacred actions which must preclude (or sometimes follow) the longer narrative plays, and which are fixed in form and content. This distinction has wider currency in China’s theatrical traditions; it can be found in a great many genres, from Fujian marionette plays to Kun opera 昆曲. Kagan introduces the term “fixed forms” as opposed to “substitution forms.” He writes: “While it is commonly asserted by the Chinese that operas are given during 26 27

374     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck 折子戲) that are so popular in present-day urban Chinese opera—are rare in Huanxian puppetry, except in the urban professional shows. In 2004–2005, local researchers traced well over two thousand handwritten libretti among sixty puppet players in rural Huanxian. These included many variants of the same plays. A total of one hundred eighty distinctly different plays were identified,29 including twenty short “plays for the gods” which exist only in oral form, because they are normally not committed to paper.30 The texts typically combine classical Chinese and vernacular language. Prologues and epilogues, introductory speeches by the main characters, and some lyrical scenes are in classical Chinese, and structured as poetry, with specific meters and rhyme patterns; the dialogues are in vernacular language, with lots of dialect expressions, and lines and phrases of free length, except in some parts where the musical form leads to a more rigid pattern (usually lines of seven to ten characters, grouped as two-two-three or three-three-four). The topical matter of Huanxian shadow plays ranges from short anecdotes and comic tales to morality plays, and from (quasi-)historical tales to adventure stories and romances about unhappy lovers. Much of the idiom and topics are shared with Chinese opera and popular tales. The shadow plays feature stories like “Bai she” 白蛇 (The White Snake) and celebrities like Guan Yu and the Monkey King, familiar from opera repertoires all over China.31 Huanxian has no local opera tradition of its own, but the northern Qinqiang 秦腔 genre is regularly heard in the area, and so is, occasionally, the Gansu opera known as Longju 隴劇, a genre which at one time was more popular in Huanxian than it is today. festivals for the entertainment of the gods, it is these ‘fixed’ forms which maintain the overt relationship between theatrical performances and Chinese ritual.” He traces the presence of the short ritual evocational plays using a vast number of historical sources. (Alan Kagan, Cantonese Puppet Theater: An Operatic Tradition and its Role in the Chinese Religious Belief System (PhD dissertation, Indiana University, 1978), 194 ff.) 29   Kang Xiulin et al., eds., Huanxian daoqing piying zhi, 29–58. 30   Zhang Jun 張軍, Huanxian huanchengzhen miaohui yingxi diaocha sanji 環縣 環城鎮廟會影戲調查散記 (Field Notes on Shadow Puppetry at a Temple Festival in Huanchengzhen, Huanxian), http://drama.sysu.edu.cn/wenhua/Article/ShowArticle. asp?ArticleID=576 (accessed 9 September 2008; also available in the DACHS Leiden online citation repository to the present volume, http://leiden.dachs-archive.org/ citrep/vancrevel_tan_hockx_2009/). 31   For a detailed survey of titles and topics of plays, see Kang Xiulin et al., eds., Huanxian daoqing piying zhi, 30–31.

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The plays are steeped in magic and religion; many texts are full of Daoist or Buddhist gods,32 saints, devils and monsters, and these are the plays which the audience loves best. Most plots are overtly moralistic, and there is a strong fascination with cruelty and how it ought to be punished. One popular type of play (echoed in the shadow puppetry of some other regions)33 is the “journey through hell” (you diyu 遊地獄), of which countless variant versions exist. The key element is someone paying a visit to hell and finding out what punishments are meted out to earthly sinners; these punishments closely resemble those depicted on temple murals. Women who address their neighbors in abusive terms are fried in an oil pan, women who commit adultery are sawn in two halves. Men who do not return borrowed money are flayed alive. Usurers get their hearts and tongues ripped out, market vendors who deceive their customers are hung on a hook of their own balance. But hell is also a place where repenting sinners are sometimes offered a second chance. Occasionally new life is breathed into repenting souls, and they are allowed to return to earth, in their own body or someone else’s. This is where Huanxian shadow puppetry turns into drama of biblical allure, in its graphic depiction of cruel punishment, and the archaic feel of the music: raucous trumpet blasts, drum rolls, clashing cymbals and eerie beats of jianban and yugu. Notably, Pimpaneau believes that Chinese shadow puppetry preserves musical styles which have been lost in traditional opera.34 The players do not necessarily think of themselves as active Daoist practitioners, although many—when asked—will state that they “are Daoists.” (Like elsewhere in the north, most temples in Huanxian are places of Daoist worship.) Naturally, modern ways of life have somewhat changed religious outlooks, though usually not in dramatic ways: “You ask me whether I believe in gods? Well, I’ve been greeting the gods at rural festivals all my life, haven’t I?” Fiddle player Jing Dengqi 敬登岐 of Chenqiyuan 陳旗原 village slowly turns red in the face as he continues: “I suppose there really must be gods out there. 32   Some local deities also feature in the plays, for example Duan Wangye 端王爺, a deified Qing official from Ningxia, in the piece Ji Ta 祭塔 (Worship at the Pagoda). 33   Cf. Georg Jacob and Hans Jensen, Das Chinesische Schattentheater (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1933), 7, 19. 34   Jacques Pimpaneau, “Pourquoi conserver des théâtres d’ombres asiatiques?,” CoRé, Conservation et restauration du patrimoine culturel, no. 4 (1998): 11.

376     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck But if you ask me what I believe, I don’t dare to say it clearly. I’m afraid to anger the gods.”35 Hu Zhenming 胡振明, a friendly senior fiddler who teaches puppetry at the Sanshilipu elementary school, states that he is “probably” a Daoist, since he “visits the local temples and burns incense for the Daoist gods.” Hu is adamant in his praise for the morality plays: The journey through hell is meant to instruct evil-doers, to teach villains a lesson if they want to grab your precious belongings. What can you do with such criminals? Cut off their skin, of course. Flay them in hell. They deserve it. If a woman is impolite to her parents-in-law, or if she flirts with strangers, well… her eyes should be scratched out in hell.

When asked if this kind of punishment is not perhaps a bit too drastic, Hu retorts: “Not at all.” But he hints that he is friendly at heart: “Personally, I will never bother people with statements like ‘May the gods punish you.’ I will never say such things. After all, the gods are human beings, too.”36 If some people in Huanxian welcome the moralistic and ritual plays as pure entertainment, the majority seem to think of ritual and entertainment as a single, indivisible realm. They will not verbalize this, but their excitement after the shows cannot be labeled in divisive ways. The deep attachment to religion—or is it cultural tradition?—may go some way towards explaining why shadow puppetry remains popular, even in the TV era: it may be “low culture” and “backward,” but puppetry still occupies an accepted niche in the order of things, and helps to guard and preserve the natural balance between man and cosmos, even for the skeptic. Zhang Yuqing explains: If a child or a grown-up is ill, or if a woman cannot get pregnant, the parents or relatives will establish contact with a god to make a wish. In exchange for this, they promise the god to arrange a full-day shadow puppet show for him. This is called a “play to redeem a vow to a god.” In our region, we can’t think of any better way to make the gods happy.37

During “sacred plays” and “plays to redeem a vow to a god,” people in the audience will step forward and burn incense, offer food or kowtow   Interview, Chenqiyuan village, Huanxian, 2 July 2007.   Interview, Huanxian, 8 July 2007. 37   Interview, Huanxian, 10 July 2007. 35 36

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in front of the screen. All shadow plays are believed to attract the presence of gods and spirits, and numerous rules and prohibitions attest to the ritual properties of puppetry. Puppeteers sometimes burn incense in front of the puppet chest before a performance. It is considered unwise at any time for anyone to sit on top of the chest, especially for women; this will bring bad luck. Male and female puppets must be kept strictly separate.38 The Buddhist goddess Guanyin 觀音 is a protective deity of several genres of Chinese shadow theater.39 No such protective god features in Huanxian puppetry today, but older players remember that there used to be one or more guardian gods in the past. Some players refer to a god called Zhuang Wang(ye) 莊王(爺), and to a shadow puppet representing him, never played but always kept in the chest. This habit is still honored by the Qin Baizhi puppet group 秦百治戏班 from Yanjiayuan 严家塬 village in Fanjiachuan 樊家川, Huanxian. They worship Zhuang Wang annually during the New Year Festival, by placing the puppet case in which the god is kept on a table. The puppeteers burn incense and sacrificial paper in front of the case—whose lid remains closed—bow to it, and then perform a three-hour long puppet play called Da bao Zhuang Wang 大報莊王 (Gratifying King Zhuang).40 And then there is the Guo guan ritual, a ceremony of modest proportions, but vitally important in a region which faced high child mortality rates right up to the 1980s. Parents who come to a Guo guan ritual are prepared to invest hard money and real effort in getting their child cured. Witness the list of things which they are expected to bring: five silk threads, a piece of red cloth, seven embroidery needles, twenty-eight copper coins (in present-day fare: some bank notes), a live rooster, and various other items. And their child, of course.

  For more on rules and prohibitions see Kang Xiulin et al., eds., Huanxian dao­ qing piying zhi, 293–297. We also have one unconfirmed observation—from the eminent folklorist Ke Yang 柯楊 of Lanzhou University—that old and worn-out shadow screens are sometimes torn into long strips by villagers, who will try to lay hands on a piece of this luck-bringing cloth. People will roll it up, tie a piece of red ribbon around it, and make their children wear it around their necks for protection. 39   Cf. Kang Baocheng 康保成, “Fojiao yu Zhongguo piyingxi de fazhan” 佛教與 中國皮影戲的發展 (Buddhism and the Development of Chinese Shadow Theater), Wenyi yanjiu, no. 5 (2003): 87–92. 40   Information provided by Qin Baizhi, leader of this group, during the group’s visit to a temple festival at Mount Xinglong, Huanxian, 27 March 2009. 38

378     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck Children that participate in a Guo guan play are usually between one and ten years old. Beyond that age, many are put to work in the fields or mobilized for household chores, and are viewed as (semi-)grown-ups. Guo Guan Performance On 28 June 2007 we witnessed and filmed a Guo guan ritual at a small temple festival in Baihuzhang, Hedaoxiang. On 26 and 27 March 2009 we witnessed more Guo guan rituals at a temple festival at Mount Xinglong. Below, we present a full libretto of yet another Guo guan ceremony, performed by Gao Qingwang 高清旺 and his group in Xiaoguan 肖關 village, Hongdexiang 洪德鄉, in April 2004. The event was filmed and the text transcribed by Zhang Yuqing. The present section outlines what happens during this play and more generally during Guo guan plays. Zhang Yuqing explains the basic premises as follows: If children get very weak and frequently fall ill, people believe that this must be due to the interference of evil monsters or spirits. We say that the child’s lifepath or passway is blocked, and that we need to perform a Guo guan play: the god Guan Gong is begged to defeat the spirits, so that the child can develop in normal and healthy ways again. As for the rooster, in folk religion it symbolizes the soul and energy of human beings. In the ritual, a rooster will be made to run in front of the child, and the puppeteers will squeeze some blood from the bird’s comb, which is then rubbed on the sick child’s forehead for protection.41

The ordinary setting for a Guo guan play is a temple festival. Fiddler Hu Zhenming describes the general atmosphere of the biggest of these festivals, held annually at Mount Xinglong: Every year, on the third of the third, there’s a huge temple fair at Mount Xinglong. They’ve got so many temples there, and so many gods, you can’t keep track of them all! As many as fifty thousand visitors may turn up when the event is on. Just try and imagine the huge crowds of people traveling up the mountain. There’s almost no space left to pass through! There will be opera singing every night, and in one corner you can hear story singers at work, and there’s shadow theater, of course… lots of things going on!42 41 42

  Interview, Huanxian, 10 July 2007.   Interview during a joint visit to Xinglong mountain, 7 July 2007.

the guo guan ritual shadow play


The festivals of Huanxian differ in size and scope, but temple keepers and leaders of village associations who organize them frequently hire shadow puppet groups. The audience for a puppet show usually squats on the ground. Parents contact the puppet group—in advance, or on the spot—to arrange a Guo guan ritual and fix a price, usually around forty yuan. Before the play starts, they tie a piece of red cloth around their child’s head, and fix some money to it, as well as the prescribed needles and colored threads, symbolizing the five elements. They sit down directly in front of the screen, kowtow and make offerings, e.g. by burning sacrificial paper. The child is positioned between them. This takes place in the evening, once it is dark. The mood may be festive, but there’s no abundant lighting on the temple grounds, only the one bright spot which illuminates the audience, and on which all eyes are now fixed: the shadow screen. At a sign of the frontstager a burst of percussion is heard. The play begins. A ferocious-looking puppet on horseback appears: he is Guan Gong. Traditional operas and folk tales commonly portray the general as a red-faced warrior with a long beard. He appears like this also in Huanxian puppet plays. His entry is sometimes preceded by the shadow of a huge cloud which moves quickly and furtively across the screen. One puppeteer explained it as an “accelerator” of the gods, “a kind of divine tornado.” Guan Gong: (speaks) I come from Jieliang in Puzhou. Note my three whiskers, my face colored like date pulp. If you wish to know my real name: I’m the Fiery Emperor, the Genuine Lord who lives in the south. (sings) I am an official from Han times. In the peach orchard, I and my brothers-in-arms Liu Bei and Zhang Fei have sworn everlasting fidelity to one another. We gloriously defeated the rebels of Huangjin, But later, in Xuzhou, fate separated us. And I, the lousiest of generals, I got trapped between mountains And was compelled by my captor, Cao Cao, to fight in his service. His general, Zhang Liao, sent me to battle on the plains. But yesterday a letter arrived from my elder brother-inarms, Liu Bei,

380     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck asking me to come back to him in the old city. I wrote a letter of farewell to Cao Cao, and returned to him the gold and the official seal which he had offered me. I took two court ladies into my protection,43 and now I’m about to depart with my army, to cross the five passes and rejoin my brother. Come, let us leave!

Children are often scared out of their wits by the first barrage of percussion. But the puppets provide distraction. During Guan Gong’s monologue, in Huanxian dialect with some Shaanxi influences,44 the burning of sacrificial paper continues. Some over-curious spectators may come forward to peep behind the screen. They are usually tolerated, although puppeteers tend to be less permissive during “sacred plays” and “plays to redeem a vow to a god.” No attempts are made to keep anyone out in order to guard professional secrets concerning playing techniques.45 Guan Gong’s introductory lines reflect what is known about him from ancient records: he temporarily became a captive of the warlord Cao Cao 曹操, and was forced to fight for him, until he finally managed to rejoin Liu Bei. Next, one or two soldiers enter the story. Soldiers in shadow plays often move in pairs of two or four to illustrate their discipline, and soldiers’ lines are often spoken by the chorus, e.g. simple shouts to confirm their obedience, but here it is the frontstager who speaks their part. Shadow puppetry traditions elsewhere in China sometimes divide dialogues as well as sung parts more evenly over the group’s members;

43   Two former courtesans of Liu Bei, who have been forced to work for Cao Cao. Guan Gong plans to return them to their former master. 44   The border with Shaanxi is only some 30 kilometers to the northeast of Huanxian. Huanxian shadow plays frequently contain words and idioms used in Shaanxi, although these are pronounced in Huanxian dialect. The same is true for the language of local Qinqiang opera: certain words or formulas are taken over from Shaanxi, but not their Shaanxi pronunciations (interview with Zhang Yong 张勇, a local researcher of Huanxian shadow puppetry, Huanxian, 31 March 2009). 45   Professional secrecy plays a role in many local ritual traditions in China. Cf. Jo Humphrey, “The Challenge of Preserving a Performing Art in Today’s World,” in Théâtres d’ombres: tradition et modernité, ed. Stathis Damianakos (Paris: Éditions L’Harmattan, 1986), 86.

the guo guan ritual shadow play


there may be specialized role types (male / female / clown, etc.) like in opera.46 Soldiers: Permission to speak, master: a peasant has just ­arrived. He would like to cry out his grief. Guan Gong: Bannermen, please step aside. Bring the visitor in front of me. Peasant:

Master!47 I’m innocent. They’ve wronged me!

Guan Gong: Well, you are a peasant. Prefectures and county governments all have their officials to take care of this. I’m a warrior on my way to battle. I don’t handle civil affairs. Peasant:

But this concerns a gross injustice, and those offi­cials won’t deal with it. Master, I heard that you were about to cross the five passes, so I have come to block your way and to cry out my grief!

Guan Gong: All right. Let me ask you: do you have a written statement, or is this going to be an oral account? Peasant:

In fact, I have brought it in written form as well.

Guan Gong: Servants, this man wants to present a petition. Bring it over to me, let me examine it right away. It reads: “Petitioner Wang Fuyou, from the Qianyaoxian pro­ duction brigade of Shaoguan village, Hongde region, Huan county, east Gansu, has brought forth a son called Bingbing, who suffers from thirty-six obstructions, twenty-four evil spirits and twelve magical spells.”48 Peasant:

I hope that you, Master, can pull him through this crisis and relieve him of those evil spirits. I would be forever grateful to you!

Guan Gong: If those are the facts, bring the child before me.   For role type divisions in Beijing shadow plays, see: Sven Broman, Chinese Shadow Theatre (Stockholm: Etnografiska Museet, 1981), 15–16. For (intricate melodical differentiation in) role types in Leting shadow puppetry (East Hebei), see: Liu Rongde 劉榮德 and Shi Baozhuo 石寶琢, Leting yingxi yinyue gailun 樂亭影戲音 樂概論 (An Introduction to the Music of Leting Shadow Theater) (Beijing: Renmin yinyue chubanshe, 1991). 47   The Chinese text has Er ye 二爺 ‘second father.’ The brothers-in-arms Liu Bei, Guan Gong, and Zhang Fei 張飛 are all three honored as gods, but there is a hierarchy of age and rank, and Guan Gong takes second position. 48   The term “production brigade” stems from a bygone Maoist era of communal labor. Villagers use it today to refer simply to a (section of a) village. 46

382     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck Peasant:

Please examine him, master.

Guan Gong: I can see that this child is pale and emaciated. He is clearly suffering from a crisis! Follow me as I ride on horseback, I will slay the generals and break through the passes. Soldiers:

Permission to speak, Master: we have now come to the Pass of the Five Devils.

Guan Gong: Follow me, as I break through the Pass of the Five Devils!

A fighting scene ensues. As soon as the fighting starts, the petitioner and the child disappear from the screen. Battles in Guo guan plays are fairly spectacular events, full of hilarious and arresting moments. People in the audience crane to see the spectacle and exchange excited whispers and glances. Guan Gong meets his first “devils,” which may be warriors or animal-like spirits. Attack and counter-attack are punctuated by loud percussion. After a while, the general emerges victoriously, and is cheered by his men. He sings a song in which he refers once again to his close bonds with his brothers-in-arms. This is largely a repetition of lines already quoted above. The song ends with an important cue, naming the sick child: Guan Gong: Hey, Bingbing, now follow me, your master, through the pass!

A regular percussion beat now sets in, and the mother gently pushes her child under the table on which the shadow screen rests, toward the frontstager. After the child comes out from under the table on the other side, the frontstager returns the child to its parents. This miniature reenactment of Guo guan, in which the shadow screen presents a passway, and the child briefly crawls or walks backstage and returns to the front, is repeated three times in the course of the play. It echoes the actions of Guan Gong, who is fighting the child’s demons. Soldiers:

Permission to speak, Master: we have come to the Demon Bird’s Pass!

Guan Gong: Follow me, as I break through the Demon Bird’s pass! After a fighting scene with the Demon Bird, Guan Gong chants another song of victory. He relates again how he was once captured at one time by Cao Cao, and forced to win battles for him, and rewarded with gold. Banquets were given in his honor, beautiful women brought in

the guo guan ritual shadow play


to serve him delicious food. Cao Cao even visited him in person to pay his respects. But Guan Gong was not mollified: Guan Gong: Cao Cao never really won the heart of this lousy   general! When warm spring arrived, and flowers bloomed, I found myself thinking of the peach orchard again. Hey, Bingbing, now follow me, your master, through the pass!

The child goes under the table and returns to its parents once more. Soldiers:

Permission to speak, Master: we have come to the White Tiger pass!

Guan Gong: Follow me, as I break through the White Tiger pass!

In the next fighting scene, Guan Gong defeats the tiger and sings a rhythmically persuasive text to list his military achievements, with due attention to musical wordplay and climactic effect: Guan Gong: We conquered the Five Devils’ Pass, oh yes! The Demon Bird’s Pass we conquered next. We conquered the Green Dragon Pass, oh yes. The White Tiger Pass we conquered next. We bravely crossed the Rosefinch Pass, oh yes. The Xuanwu Pass we conquered next. We conquered the Iron Serpent Pass, oh yes. The Evil Spirit Pass we conquered next, We conquered the Pass of Fearful Hearts, The Night-Cry Pass we conquered next. The Thirty-Six Passes, we crossed them in a single bout! The Twenty-Four Devils, we wiped them out! The Twelve Magic Spells, we broke them, brave and   bold! I bless this child, and let it be told that he will live to grow more than one hundred years old! Hey, Bingbing, follow me, your master, through the   pass!

Another regular percussion beat sets in. The rooster has been pushed underneath the table. One of the musicians grabs it and squeezes some drops of blood from the animal’s comb. This way there is no need to kill the animal, and it can be taken home alive by the puppeteers after the show, as a reward. The child is summoned once more to cross over to the other side, where the frontstager rubs a bit of rooster’s blood on

384     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck the child’s forehead. The final reunion with the parents then follows, and the play comes to an end: Soldiers:

Permission to speak, Master. We have now crossed the Five Passes.

Guan Gong: Since this is so, bring the peasant to me. Let me ask him: have the Thirty-Six Passes been crossed?

The peasant affirms this, and we go through the list of conquered pathways in a somewhat unpredictable order once more, with the peasant affirming all victories, one by one. The play ends as follows: Guan Gong: Good! Now that we have broken through all the passes, defeated all evil spirits, listen to what your Master will tell you. Heaven will bless this child for thirty years, Earth will bless him for another thirty, and I, Guan Gong, will grant him yet forty more. The child will live in this world for one hundred years. Take him home. Devote your time to fruitful study, and be a good farmer. Peasant:

Thank you so much, Master!

Guan Gong: Soldiers! The sky has darkened, it’s getting late. Let us camp here. Tomorrow we will move on to the old city to rejoin my elder brother-in-arms.

If more children have been signed up for the ritual, the play may be repeated, or several children may participate jointly in a single play. Otherwise, this part of the show will be over. There may not be much dramatic development in the Guo guan play, but there is room for jokes and for unexpected dialogue, the fights are spectacular, the ritual is exciting for those who join it, and the delicate puppets are a feast for the eye. If plays like the “journey through hell” present a graphic and sometimes gory spectacle, they do give people a chance to experience theater in one of its oldest and most significant functions: as magic. Future Research The world of Guo guan and the Daoist background to this tradition obviously require further investigation. Many questions remain. We have not examined improvisation and interaction between the players in any detail. Our knowledge about the performance structure of the plays remains fragmentary. We don’t know what healing ceremonies

the guo guan ritual shadow play


of a comparable nature feature in other regional shadow play traditions, and lack perspective even on the wider context of Guo guan rituals within Huanxian. We did find out that Guo guan ceremonies in Huanxian also take place in a much simpler, alternative forms: at temple fairs, children are made to crawl underneath an outdoor Daoist altar to get their foreheads daubed with a rooster’s blood by a Daoist priest. No puppets, no play, no music…49 The ceremony looks like a cheap derivative of the Guo guan shadow plays. Or could it still be a “prototype” for the shadow plays? We have heard reports of Qinqiang operas incorporating Guo guan ceremonies, raising the question to what extent longer narrative plays may in the past have incorporated all sorts of ritual ceremonies. Or have ritual evocations always occupied a separate position? Follow-up research, then, should definitely include a closer examination of the Huanxian shadow play repertoire from a ritual-functional perspective. Appendix: Chinese Text

過關戲 (洪德肖關村高清旺戲班演唱) 關公: (上詩)

家住蒲州在解良, 三咎鬍鬚面棗瓤。 要知吾黨真名姓, 火帝真君居南方。

(唱) 吾漢世官。我弟兄桃園結義,大破黃巾有功, 徐州失散,將末將圍困土山,曹操差來張遼順說末 將一歸中原。昨日吾大哥有的書信到來,命我一在 古城相會,是我修書別曹,掛印封金,保了二家皇 嫂,兵臨五關。來!保了二位皇嫂與爺兵臨五關。 兵卒:  稟二爺,有一鄉民前來喊冤。 49   The term Guo guan is also used in the area when groups of Daoist priests move in procession from one temple building to another, carrying ritual objects such as sacred scriptures, or statues of gods in sedan chairs which are lifted over the heads of kneeling worshippers.

386     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck 關公: 列開旗門,喚進馬前。 鄉民: 二爺冤枉。 關公: 這一鄉民,州有州官,縣有縣衙,吾是過路的武 官,不理民事! 鄉民: 我的冤枉事大,州府縣衙管他不下,聞得二爺兵臨 五關,特來攔馬喊冤。 關公: 好!我且問你有狀還是口訴。 鄉民: 倒也有狀。 關公: 人來,呈狀上來,待爺一觀。上寫:告狀人王富 有,家住甘肅省隴東環縣洪德鄉肖關村前崾峴生產 隊,所生一子名叫兵兵,所犯三十六關,二十四 煞,一十二道迷昏套鎖。 鄉民: 望爺爺帶過關煞,感恩不盡。 關公: 既是這樣,將孩子帶進馬前。 鄉民: 二爺過目。 關公: 觀見孩子面黃肌瘦,果犯關煞,隨在爺的馬後,待 爺斬將過關。 兵卒: 稟爺,來在五鬼關。 關公: 隨爺斬過了五鬼關。(殺介) (唱) 桃園結義兄弟三, 殺牛宰馬謝蒼天。 我弟兄徐州曾失散, 將末將圍困在土山。 叫兵兵,隨爺把關煞過! 兵卒: 稟二爺,來在雞角關。

the guo guan ritual shadow play 關公: 隨爺斬過了雞角關。(殺介) (唱) 曹操差來張文遠, 順說末將歸中原。 上馬贈金下馬宴, 十美女進膳曹問安。 買不下末將心一片, 春暖花開想桃園。 叫兵兵,隨爺把關煞過! 兵卒: 稟爺,來到了白虎關。 關公: 隨爺斬過了白虎關。(殺介) (唱) 斬過五鬼關一座, 又斬雞角一座關。 斬過青龍關一座, 又斬白虎一座關。 斬過朱雀關一座, 又斬玄武一座關。 斬過鐵蛇關一座, 又斬惡魂一座關。 斬過心驚關一座, 又斬夜哭一座關。 三十六關齊斬過, 二十四煞一掃沒。 十二道迷昏齊斬過, 我保佑孩子百歲多。 叫兵兵,隨爺把關煞過! 兵卒: 稟爺,出了五關。 關公: 出了五關,這一鄉民過來。 鄉民: 伺候二爺。 關公: 這一鄉民,我且問你,三十六關斬過了沒有? 鄉民: 斬過了!


388     frank kouwenhoven and antoinet schimmelpenninck 關公: 二十四煞斬過了沒有? 鄉民: 斬過了! 關公: 一十二道迷昏鎖斬過了沒有? 鄉民: 斬過了! 關公: 心驚夜哭斬過了沒有? 鄉民: 斬過了! 關公: 好!斬過關煞,聽爺吩咐,天保三十,地保三十, 吾黨保兒四十,孩子乃是百年陽壽,領回家去,好 好讀書務農。 鄉民: 謝過二爺! 關公: 來! 兵卒: 有! 關公: 觀見天色已晚,就在此地安營下寨,明天古城去會 吾大哥!

rejective poetry?


REJECTIVE POETRY? SOUND AND SENSE IN YI SHA Maghiel van Crevel Contemporary avant-garde poetry from mainland China—meaning poetry itself as well as poetics, including visions of poethood—covers a spectrum between the outer limits of two divergent aesthetics that can be summed up as the Elevated and the Earthly.* In itself, there is nothing Chinese about these categories, but the contemporary Chinese poetry scene brings them to mind with particular force. In Chinesedomestic discourse on poetry, this is reflected by the frequent use of dichotomies such as heroic v. quotidian, literary v. colloquial, sacred v. mundane, elitist v. ordinary and Westernized v. indigenous. In these examples, heroic, literary, sacred, elitist and Westernized count as features of the Elevated; and quotidian, colloquial, mundane, ordinary and indigenous, as features of the Earthly. Another such dichotomy, which has not systematically appeared in discourse on the avant-garde in the way that others have (e.g. heroic v. quotidian), could be that of receptive v. rejective. Both terms apply to form and content alike. Neither implies value judgment. Receptiveness would come under Elevated, and rejectiveness under Earthly. An example of receptive poetry is found in the work of Haizi 海子 (1964–1989). His oeuvre contains many long, unconstrained poems made of long, unconstrained lines that try to accommodate a range of things of great magnitude, from the heritage of ancient civilizations and mythologies to the pinnacles of world literature and art, and to profound, individual emotion. In the process of making space for all this, they display constant, lyrical exaltation.1 The present essay explores the notion of rejective poetry, through a case study of Yi Sha 伊沙 (1966), focusing on the dimensions of sound and sense and on their interaction. If applied to poetry’s formal *  I thank John Crespi for his insightful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. 1   See Maghiel van Crevel, Chinese Poetry in Times of Mind, Mayhem and Money (Leiden: Brill, 2008), for the Elevated and the Earthly (23–27), receptiveness and rejectiveness (125, 325), and Haizi’s poetry (chapter Three).


maghiel van crevel

features, rejectiveness can be in evidence in things like the prosody of recitation, for example through an aggressive pace and tone of voice, and deconstructive rhyme schemes; and in lineation on the page and in recitation, through short lines and interrupted enjambment. If applied to poetry’s more or less paraphraseable semantics, rejectiveness may emerge in attitudes and strategies of the poetic voice such as cynicism, disbelief, negation, demystification, desecration, deconstruction, aggression and destruction. Does Yi Sha’s poetry sound rejective? If so, is this but an educated intuition inspired by his notoriety as a literary provocateur, who appears to have made it his business to offend as many people as possible? Or can it be substantiated by reference to the materiality of the text—and does it matter who does the reciting? Or is a perceived quality of rejectiveness really engendered by shock value on the level of sense, meaning the “standard” referential value of the text on the page, aside from the realization of this script in its recitation by one individual or another? If a characterization of Yi Sha’s poetry as rejective can be argued convincingly, is the mechanism of rejection—on the levels of sound and sense, and between them—a one-way operation that leads to closure in the experience of the poem as a whole? Or is it one of several forces at work that synergize unresolved tension, and invite the multiple readings often seen as something that poetry is uniquely capable of triggering in its readers? To answer these questions, after some remarks on Yi Sha’s significance in the literary field I will go back and forth between sense and sound in his oeuvre—or, to be more precise and in recognition of the inextricability of the two, between sense-oriented and sound-oriented explorations of his poetry. I will start with two of his most famous poems, one for its sense and the other for its sound, and then present some generalizing ideas on the interaction of sound and sense in his work, with reference to other texts. The analysis draws on audio recordings as well as written texts, and I enthusiastically second Charles Bernstein’s professed aim of overthrow[ing] the common presumption that the text of a poem— that is, the written document—is primary and that the recitation or performance of a poem by the poet is secondary and fundamentally inconsequential to the “poem itself.”2   Charles Bernstein, ed., Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word (New York etc: Oxford University Press, 1998), 8. 2

rejective poetry?


The Significance of a “Phenomenon” Yi Sha is an extremely prolific author who frequently makes his writing a vehicle for social commentary and what might be called public correspondence, to poets and other individuals who are more or less visible in the public realm. He appears to find cause for writing in just about everything in a world he experiences as comical and absurd, rather than tragic or sorrowful. Large parts of his oeuvre fail to rise above the provocative and the witty, and he has produced much doggerel. Yet, his oeuvre somehow matters, and it contains a number of highly original texts that offer food for thought.3 In these texts resounds a unique poetic voice, by which I mean a distinct, individual presence in both form and content that is discernible throughout a poet’s oeuvre and enables one to recognize previously unfamiliar texts by the author in question. Yi Sha’s voice stands out by its “feel for language” (yugan 語感), and specifically by its creative, idiosyncratic development of the Colloquial (kouyu 口語) tradition established in the 1980s by authors such as Han Dong 韓東 (1961) and Yu Jian 于堅 (1954). He excels at mixing linguistic registers for negotiating a wide range of subject matter, taken as humorous by some and offensive by others. The significance of his work has been signaled by scholars and critics such as Shen Qi 沈奇, Wang Yichuan 王一川, Li Zhen 李震, Chen Zhongyi 陳仲義, Wu Sijing 吳思敬, Liaoyuan 燎原, Liu Shijie 刘士杰, Ronald Janssen, Zhu Dake 朱大可, Simon Patton and Tao Naikan, and—if we limit ourselves to English—in translations by Denis Mair, Ouyang Yu, Patton, Wang Ping, Richard Sieburth, Alex Lemon, Michael Day and most recently in an expertly produced, substantial collection by Patton and Tao.4 3   For Yi Sha’s poetry collections, see Maghiel van Crevel, “Avant-Garde Poetry from the People’s Republic of China: A Bibliography of Individual and MultipleAuthor Books,” MCLC Resource Center, http://mclc.osu.edu/rc/pubs/vancrevel3.html (accessed 25 September 2008; also available in the DACHS Leiden online citation repository to the present volume, http://leiden.dachs-archive.org/citrep/vancrevel_tan_ hockx_2009/). Yi Sha’s work also appears in many of the mulitple-author anthologies listed in this bibliography. 4   Shen Qi, “Yi Sha shi’er shou pingdian” 伊沙詩二首評點 (A Commentary on Two Poems by Yi Sha), Shi tansuo, no. 3 (1995): 100–107; Shen Qi, Jujue yu zaizao 拒絕與再造 (Reject and Recreate) (Xining: Xibei daxue, 1999), 245–251; Wang Yichuan, Zhongguo xingxiang shixue: 1985 zhi 1995 nian wenxue xinchao chanshi 中國形象詩學:1985 至 1995 年文學新潮闡釋 (Chinese Image Poetics: Inter­pre­ tations of the New Tide in Literature from 1985 to 1995) (Shanghai: Shanghai sanlian,


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Starting in the 1990s, Yi Sha has counted as a cult figure or “phenomenon” (Yi Sha xianxiang 伊沙現象) on the mainland-Chinese literary scene. Fiction writer Wang Shuo 王朔 (1958) is the best-known example of such “phenomena,” meaning authors who generate permanent, high-profile and often controversial visibility in the public domain. Yi Sha has never had any qualms about self-promotion,5 and characteristically drums up his kinship with Wang in a poem entitled 1998), 122–126 and 231–236; Li Zhen, “Yi Sha: bianyuan huo kaiduan” 伊沙:邊緣或 開端 (Yi Sha: To the Margins or to New Beginnings), Shi tansuo, no. 3 (1995): 90–99; Chen Zhongyi, “Yi Sha shige de yaogun jingshen” 伊沙詩歌的搖滾精神 (The Rock-nRoll Spirit of Yi Sha’s Poetry), in Yi Sha zhe ge gui: Yi Sha de shi ji xiangguan pinglunji, ed. Zhongdao (Beijing: Shi cankao bianjibu, unofficial publication, 1998; a collection of Chinese-language scholarship and criticism on Yi Sha, very partisan but useful nonetheless), 79–83; Wu Sijing, “Jiushi niandai Zhongguo xinshi zouxiang zhitan” 九十年 代中國新詩走向摭談 (Scattered Remarks on the Alignment of China’s New Poetry in the Nineties), Wenxue pinglun, no. 4 (1997): 81; Liaoyuan, “Muse zhong ‘Jiejiebaba’ de xiemu” 暮色中 “結結巴巴” 的謝幕 (St‑stuttering Response to a Curtain Call at Dusk, in Yi Sha, Wo zhongyu lijie le ni de jujue (Xining: Qinghai renmin, 1999), 179–184; Liu Shijie, Zou xiang bianyuan de shishen 走向边缘的诗神 (The God of Poetry, Moving toward the Margins) (Taiyuan: Shanxi jiaoyu, 1999), 37–48; Ronald Janssen, “What History Cannot Write: Bei Dao and Recent Chinese Poetry,” Critical Asian Studies 34, no. 2 (2002): 259–261; Zhu Dake, Liumang de shengyan: dangdai Zhongguo de liumang xushi 流氓的盛宴:當代中國的流氓敍事 (The Hooligan Banquet: Contemporary China’s Hooligan Narrative) (Beijing: Xin xing, 2006), 278–282; Simon Patton, “Yi Sha,” China—Poetry International Web, http://china.poetryinternationalweb.org/piw_cms/ cms/cms_module/index.php?obj_id=976&x=1 (accessed 27 July 2008; also available in the DACHS Leiden online citation repository to the present volume, http://leiden. dachs-archive.org/citrep/vancrevel_tan_hockx_2009/). Yi Sha duanshixuan 伊沙短詩 選 (Selected Short Poems by Yi Sha), trans. Denis Mair and Ouyang Yu (Hong Kong: Yinhe, 2003); Starve the Poets! Selected Poems, trans. Simon Patton and Tao Naikan (Tarset: Bloodaxe, 2008); Wang Ping, ed., New Generation: Poems from China Today, trans. Wang et al. (New York: Hanging Loose Press, 1999), 167–173; poems translated by Denis Mair, Shi shenghuo luntan 詩生活論壇(Poem Life Forum), http://bbs. poemlife.com:1863/forum/add.jsp?forumID=73&msgID=2147482407&page=1 (accessed 27 July 2008; also available in the DACHS Leiden online citation repository to the present volume, http://leiden.dachs-archive.org/citrep/vancrevel_tan_ hockx_2009/); Yi Sha, trans. Simon Patton, Tao Naikan, and Michael Day (Rotterdam: Poetry International, 2007); poems translated by Wang Ping and Alex Lemon, Poets’ Café, http://poetscafeunitedstates.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!3B9A47BB545E275D!314. entry (accessed 27 July 2008; also available in the DACHS Leiden online citation repository to the present volume, http://leiden.dachs-archive.org/citrep/ vancrevel_tan_hockx_2009/). 5   For a mild example of Yi Sha’s self-promotion, see his “Wo zheng mingbai le ma? Bida Kui de shiqi ge wenti” 我整明白了嗎?筆答《葵》的十七個問題 (Have I Really Got It? A Written Response to Seventeen Questions by Sunflower), Shi tansuo, no. 3 (1998): 141–149 and 154; originally part of Yi Sha, Sang Ke 桑克, Xu Jiang 徐江, Hou Ma 侯馬, Song Xiaoxian 宋曉賢, “Dui Kui shiqi ge wenti suo zuo de huida” 對 《葵》十七個問題所作的回答 (Answers to Seventeen Questions by Sunflower), Kui

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“Wǒ shì liángmín wǒ pà shéi” 我是良民我怕誰 (I’m a Good Citizen I’ll Take On Anyone, 2006), a clever echo of Wang’s signature phrase “Wǒ shì liúmáng wǒ pà shéi” 我是流氓我怕誰 (I’m a Hooligan I’ll Take On Anyone), with consonant rhyme and tone rhyme in liúmáng 流氓 ‘hooligan’ and liángmín 良民 ‘good citizen.’6 To be sure, his impact is partly a result of the controversy that has surrounded his polemical and taboo-ridden writings from day one, not just his poetry but also his many contributions to discourse on poetry in the broadest sense. Sense: “Starve the Poets” “Èsǐ shīrén” 餓死詩人 (Starve the Poets, 1990) was the launch pad for Yi Sha’s rise to “phenomenon” status, and is one of his best-known poems. As such it merits a quick look, if only because it is a typical example of his habit of using his poetry to publicize a particular type of explicit poetics, meaning his frequent attacks on other poets. “Starve the Poets” is a manifesto-like denunciation of authors associated with the Elevated aesthetic in the 1980s whose work centrally features the image of wheat (màizi 麥子), including Haizi and Luo Yihe 駱一禾 (1961–1989). That Haizi killed himself and that his best friend and posthumous editor Luo Yihe died of a brain hemorrhage soon thereafter gave them something close to sacred status, which Yi Sha assaults with characteristic irreverence.7   Starve the Poets you’re all so free and easy the way you retell the tale of the peasant of rules for plowing and how spring will come and fall will go of sweat like rain for harvesting wheat do you really think wheat kernels are the tears you spatter all over those women and wheat awns are soft like the hog’s bristles stuck to your cheeks 1998 (unofficial publication), 85–99. For “I’m a Good Citizen I’ll Take On Anyone,” see Yi Sha, trans. Patton, Tao and Day: 3. 6   Since the sound of poetry lies at the heart of this essay, I have added tone marks and transcribed tone sandhi in poetry citations, to render these as precisely as possible. 7   Yi Sha shixuan 伊沙詩選 (Selected Poems by Yi Sha) (Xining: Qinghai renmin, 2003), 20–21. All translations in this essay are mine. Out of respect for the integrity of the poetic text, note numbers for poetry citations precede the citation.


maghiel van crevel in the year you crowded the road to go wandering the northern wheat grew up all of itself tirelessly waving scythes made of sunlight severing wheat stalks their very own necks severing their last ties to the land to become you the poets have eaten their fill their bellies are filled with the fragrance of wheat fields as far as the eye can see grand idlers from the city become glorious peasants in poetry wheat in the name of sun and rain I call on you: starve them those fucking poets and first of all starve me accessory to ink stains on the land bastard at the art world’s command

In “Starve the Poets,” the quality of rejectiveness is easily spotted on the level of sense. What is specifically rejected here is an exalted, selfaggrandizing type of poethood through which elitist urban intellectuals appropriate the countryside in clichéd, ethno-culturally romantic imagery. Yi Sha is one of several poets, most of them proponents of the Earthly aesthetic, in whose work the speaker may justifiably be equated with the historical figure of the author: witness his confession to being implicated in questionable literary practice, in the poem’s last three lines. We will dwell more on rejectiveness on the sense level later on, but first examine in some detail another of Yi Sha’s “representative works” (daibiaozuo 代表作), which is remarkable for its sound. Sound: “St-stutter” “Starve the Poets” is joined at the hip, as it were, to “Jiējiebābā” 結結 巴巴 (St-stutter, 1991). Together, the two poems famously open the first officially published collection of Yi Sha’s poetry.8 The text under scrutiny is an audio recording of his recitation of “St-stutter,” as part of the Poets’ Parade during the opening night of the Rotterdam Poetry 8

  Yi Sha, Esi shiren 餓死詩人 (Starve the Poets) (Beijing: Huaqiao, 1994).

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International festival in June 2007, radio-broadcast live at the time. The poem’s script—meaning its published, written version, translated below—functions in an auxiliary role. Consequently, at this point the reader is advised to listen to the text, which can be accessed online; the poem’s script and notes on its recitation are found in figure 1.9 Before we turn to the sound of the Chinese text I will offer an English rendition, to make the discussion intelligible to those who don’t speak or read Chinese. Possibilities and actualities of translating poetry are, of course, fiercely contested. Should one—can one—translate poetry at all? If so, can all poetry be translated? Should one go by sound, or sense, or both? If both, then how much of the one and how much of the other? Perhaps most poignantly, are there any rules to this game? If not, is that because the translation of poetry is a uniquely individual art that may well be called “original” in its own right, or conversely, because it is helplessly derivative and unauthentic? If the latter, can one meaningfully speak of poetry in X (say, Chinese) to those who don’t speak X, and meaningfully speak in Y (say, English) of the sound of poetry in X? While these issues per se are beyond the scope of this essay, we should never lose sight of them in research such as this. For now, suffice it to observe that the reality of our surroundings through the ages shows that Robert Frost’s adage that poetry is what gets lost in translation is one-sided at best and unimaginative at worst. There are other perspectives, as in this counter-maxim by S.C. Garrett:10   Correction Lost poetry is what translation gets in.

9   DACHS Leiden online citation repository to the present volume, http://leiden. dachs-archive.org/citrep/vancrevel_tan_hockx_2009/. I thank the Netherlands World Radio Broadcasting Service (Radio Nederland Wereldomroep) for generously providing the original recording. 10   S.C. Garrett, “Featured Response to ‘Who Said Poetry Is What Gets Lost in Translation?’,” Packington Review, http://www.packingtownreview.com/blog/ view/6 (accessed 27 July 2008; also available in the DACHS Leiden online citation repository to the present volume, http://leiden.dachs-archive.org/citrep/ vancrevel_tan_hockx_2009/).


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SCRIPT RRecitation ECITATION Script                 SCRIPT RECITATION stutter, rhyme stutter, rhyme

_______________________|_____________________ _______________________|_____________________ diff w/ script pace, tone; stutter, etc lineation diff w/ script pace, tone; stutter, etc lineation neutral [pause] neutral slow; emphatic[pause] stutter slow;stutter emphatic stutter slow; emphatic slow; emphatic quicker; emphatic stutter stutter

《結結巴巴》 《結結巴巴》 結結巴巴我的嘴 結結巴巴我的嘴 二二二等殘廢 二二二等殘廢 咬不住我的狂狂狂奔的思維

....我∅狂狂狂.... 咬不住我的狂狂狂奔的思維 ....我∅狂狂狂.... 還有我的腿 swing 還有我的腿 [pause] 你們四處流流流淌的口水 swing 你們四處流流流淌的口水 散著霉味 steady 散著霉味 我我我的肺 swing 我我我的肺 多麼勞累多麼勞累

我要突突突圍 我要突突突圍 你們莫莫莫名其妙 你們莫莫莫名其妙 的節奏 的節奏 急待突圍急待突圍 我我我的我我我的 我的機槍點點點射般 我的機槍點點點射般 的語言 的語言 充滿快慰 充滿快慰

結結巴巴我的命 結結巴巴我的命 我的命裏沒沒沒有鬼 我的命裏你們瞧瞧瞧我 沒沒沒有鬼 你們瞧瞧瞧我 一臉無所謂

quicker; emphatic stutter swing [pause] →| swing →| steady →| swing →| steady steady [pause] [pause] 我要突突突突圍 quick ↵ 我要突突突突圍 quick ↵ 你們莫名名(其)其妙 quick; inadvertent stutter ↵ stutter ↵ 你們莫名名(其)其妙 quick; inadvertent quick quick rushed rushed [pause] [pause] 我我我我我的 rushed ↵ 我我我我我的 rushed ↵ ∅∅機槍.... rushed; sandhi ↵ ∅∅機槍.... rushed; sandhi ↵ rushed; hesitation →| rushed; hesitation →| steady steady [pause] [pause] steady; emphatic stutter steady; emphatic stutter driven driven 你們瞧瞧瞧瞧瞧我 build-up to.... 你們瞧瞧瞧瞧瞧我 build-up to.... .... a defiant shout .... a defiant shout


↵ = read on: enjambment realized ↵ = read on: realized →| enjambment = end-stopped where reading on might have been expected: enjambment interrupted →| = end-stopped where reading on might have been expected: enjambment interrupted Figure 1. Script and notes on Yi Sha’s recitation of “St-stutter.”

Figure 1.Figure Script1. and on Yi recitation “St-stutter.” Scriptnotes and notes onSha’s Yi Sha’s recitation of of “St-stutter.”



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Taking the preceding paragraphs as both disclaimer and encouragement, below is a sound-oriented translation of Yi Sha’s pièce de résistance.11   St-stutter st-stutter this mouth of mine s-s-second-class decline can’t get teeth into my m-m-madly racing mind or make my legs keep time you’re all d-d-drooling slime that smells like moldy wine and th-th-these lungs of mine ain’t worth a dime I want to go f-f-flying cut loose from your inc-c-comprehensible rhythm can’t wait to go flying and m-m-my my f-f-fixed-fire machine-gun language well it feels just fine st-stutter this life of mine for this life it ain’t worth dying you just ch-ch-check me out I got two eyes but I won’t go crying

Those with access to the Chinese text will note that a handicap is not the same thing as “decline,” thought is not “mind,” saliva not “slime,” there is no “wine” or legs “keeping time,” devils don’t necessarily lead to “dying,” and an indifferent face is more than eyes not “crying.” Then again, a case could be made for most if not all of these adjustments as negotiated transactions between the Chinese and the English, with the source text and the translation having a shared interest in effective representation on various, interrelated levels: lexical, idiomatic, poetic, and so on. Further to the above questions on the translatability of poetry, these transactions are motivated by the position that efforts to make poetry in language X somehow accessible in language


  Yi Sha shixuan, 31.


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Y, or to use Y to rewrite and more generally represent this poetry, are fundamentally meaningful in both the artistic and the academic realm. “St-stutter” is akin to “Starve the Poets” in that it is rejective poetry on the sense level, attacking a plural “you” whose identity is easily made to fit that of the many authors that Yi Sha calls bad poets. But our main concern is with sound, and it is here that we find a fascinating dialectic of destruction and creativity contributing to an overall quality of rejectiveness. I will consider the text from three angles, two of them generic and one specific to this text: (1) pace, tone of voice and lineation, (2) rhyme and (3) stutter. Pace, Tone of Voice and Lineation Pace and tone of voice are difficult to separate from individual perception, but this will hopefully not preclude some intersubjective comments on Yi Sha’s recitation. By pace, I mean both speed and rhythm. With regard to speed, the poem displays a steady shift from slow in the first stanza to fast in the fourth, before the fifth stanza in which Yi Sha steadies himself for a final outburst that is measured in decibels rather than syllables per second. For present purposes, building on Amittai Aviram’s basic definition of rhythm as the repetition of discontinuous elements,12 what I call rhythm is most of all a semi-musical beat that is to do with the length and the loudness of individual syllables as relative to one another, and especially audible in lines 2 and 4 of the poem’s second stanza, designated in Figure 1 as “swing.” With regard to Yi Sha’s tone of voice, the overlap with pace shows in designations like “steady” and “rushed.” On the whole, Yi Sha’s pace and his tone of voice move from neutral to aggressively defiant. If we take this aggressive defiance as a rejective element of the text, we should be careful to note that its perception as such is not based on sound alone but also informed by the poem’s sense, in the second, third and fifth stanzas (a rigidly sense-oriented translation of the final two lines could be “you just take-take-take a look at my / full-face indifference,” or literally: “you just take-take-take a look at me / my face [shows I’ve got] nothing to say”). As for the notions of line, lineation and stanza division, these are most stably tied to the poem’s script but also clearly audible in Yi Sha’s recitation. Still, while the second stanza contains   Amittai Aviram, Telling Rhythm: Body and Meaning in Poetry (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994), passim. 12

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two end-of-line-stops where one might have expected him to read on, lineation as an instrument of rejectiveness is less in evidence in this text than elsewhere in his oeuvre. Rhyme Rhyme in “St-stutter” is emphatic, and very literally monotonous. In twenty lines, there are thirteen instances of single-syllable ‑ei end rhyme. Initially, in the first two stanzas, this reaffirms traditional, popular conceptualizations of poetry as well formed and specifically euphonic, albeit in less than spectacular fashion (A‑A‑A‑A, A‑A‑A‑A). However, in stanzas three to five, the text starts shooting holes in its own, previously insistent end rhyme pattern, without allowing it to disappear altogether (A‑B‑C‑A, D‑E‑F‑A, G‑A‑H‑A). This evokes modern conceptualizations of poetry as being essentially disruptive in nature, as put forward by scholars like Derek Attridge and Jonathan Culler.13 Thus, one of the ways the text calls attention to its status as a “made thing” is by putting itself on display as an unmade thing. Its rhyme is pointedly imperfect, questioning its own force as an organizing principle. If we bring the script into the analysis, two lines in the rhymeerratic stanzas three (de jiézòu 的節奏) and four (de yǔyán 的語言) acquire special significance because they are the shortest in the entire text, thus halting its visual progress on the page. The parallel between them becomes striking, and the rejectiveness in the rhyme pattern conspicuous, once we realize how the poem’s sense complements its sound. Both lines consist of a subordinating particle followed by the head of a noun phrase, and the nouns in question mean ‘rhythm’ and ‘language,’ respectively: “your incomprehensible rhythm,” and “my fixed-fire machine-gun language.” As noted, the plural you can easily be seen to refer to fellow poets of the author with whom he has been at loggerheads since the early 1990s. Stutter Now to Yi Sha’s stutter. Starting with its title and throughout its five stanzas, the poem performs—and identifies, and reflects on—what is 13   Derek Attridge, “The Language of Poetry: Materiality and Meaning,” Essays in Criticism 31, no. 3 (1981): 243; Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), ch 5.


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conventionally seen as inability or failure to speak normally. Thus, it explicitly and physically attempts to damage features traditionally associated with poetry such as well-formedness and euphony, general organic wholeness and beauty. However, the text is a record not of “natural” but of artificial aphasia, and its employment of stuttering as literary strategy forces one to consider whether, aside from any destructive intent or effect, stuttering can be a creative act. According to Gilles Deleuze, this is definitely the case, but most of all, when the stuttering no longer affects preexisting words, but itself introduces the words it affects; these words no longer exist independently of the stutter, which selects and links them together through itself. It is no longer the character who stutters in speech; it is the writer who becomes a stutterer in language.14

In “He Stuttered,” the essay cited here, Deleuze’s use of “language” and “speech” doesn’t refer to Saussurian notions of langue and parole. While his distinction of language and speech remains fairly abstract throughout—and the ability to make language “scream, stutter, stammer, or murmur”15 is persuasively argued, but often in metaphorical terms—it does become more concrete when he cites textual examples by authors including Samuel Beckett. The distinction of language and speech then appears to coincide with, or at the very least be analogous to, that of the sentence or line on the one hand, and the word on the other. Taking as his point of departure Roman Jakobson’s views on poetic language as characterized by a particular relationship between the axis of selection and that of combination, and then proceeding to a vision of poetic language as being “in disequilibrium,” Deleuze argues: Language is subject to a double process, that of choices to be made and that of sequences to be established: disjunction or the selection of similars, connection or the consecution of combinables. As long as language is considered as a system in equilibrium, the disjunctions are necessarily exclusive (we do not say “passion,” “ration,” “nation” at the same time, but must choose between them), and the connections, progressive (we do not combine a word with its own elements, in a kind of stop-start or forward-backward jerk). But far from equilibrium, the disjunctions become included or inclusive, and   Gilles Deleuze, Essays Clinical and Critical, trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 107. Emphasis in the original. 15   Deleuze, Essays Clinical and Critical, 110. 14

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the connections, reflexive, following a rolling gait that concerns the process of language and no longer the flow of speech. Every word is divided, but into itself (pas-rats, passions-rations); and every word is combined, but with itself (pas-passe-passion). It is as if the entire language started to roll from right to left, and to pitch backward and forward: the two stutterings . . . Beckett took this art of inclusive disjunctions to its highest point, an art that no longer selects but affirms the disjointed terms through their distance, without limiting one by the other or excluding one from the other . . . It is true that, in Beckett, these affirmative disjunctions usually concern the bearing or gait of the characters: an ineffable manner of walking, while rolling and pitching.16

Deleuze goes on to propose that Beckett’s characters may well be supposed to speak like they walk or stumble, for speaking is no less a movement than walking . . . A confirmation of this can be found in one of Beckett’s poems that deals specifically with the connections of language and makes stuttering the poetic or linguistic power par excellence. Beckett’s procedure . . . is as follows: he places himself in the middle of the sentence and makes the sentence grow out from the middle . . . so as to pilot the block of a single expiring breath . . . Creative stuttering is what makes language grow from the middle, like grass; it is what makes language a rhizome instead of a tree, what puts language in perpetual disequilibrium.17

If it would have to be either speech or language, Yi Sha’s stutter would seem to occur in speech, “affecting preexisting words,” and to work differently from Beckett’s. But there is a catch. While Mandarin has innumerable polysyllabic words, it has few if any syllables that are truly semantically empty by themselves (such as pa- and ‑per in the English paper). Yi Sha notably stutters in full syllables, in both the script and the recitation. In this way, his words are in fact “combined, but with themselves,” in Deleuze’s words, as in liú-liú-liútǎng 流流流淌, literally ‘flow-flow-flowdrip,’ not ‘f‑f‑flowdrip.’ Incidentally, while Yi Sha could theoretically have rendered a single-phoneme stutter in the poem’s script by using phonetic symbols (Bopomofo, or alphabet letters as used in Hanyu pinyin), one can see how the repetition of full characters is a self-evident way to 16 17

  Deleuze, Essays Clinical and Critical, 110–111. Emphasis in the original.   Deleuze, Essays Clinical and Critical, 111.


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write up a stutter in a Chinese text—quite aside from the question how script and recitation related to one another in the author’s mind at the time of writing. This consideration and my position on literary translation as outlined earlier motivate my single-phoneme renditions of Yi Sha’s stutter in the poem’s full translation, above: e.g. “m‑m‑madly racing” rather than “mad-mad-madly racing,” simply because I think it sounds better. I have only used the full-syllable variety—e.g. “fix-fixfixed fire”—where that seems useful for the analysis. The full-syllable issue takes us to the heart of the matter, signaled earlier in the distinction between “natural” and artificial aphasia. As in other languages, a “natural” stutter in Mandarin can take various forms, including the repetition of full syllables as well as the temporary inability to produce any sound at all and the repetition of single phonemes. Kuángbēn (line 3), for instance, can be realized as something like k‑k‑kuángbēn but also as kuáng-kuáng-kuángbēn, as in Yi Sha’s full-syllable recitation throughout the poem. Still, the artificiality of the stutter is signaled by its carefully controlled and occasionally emphatic realization at several moments in the text. Also, in the script, with the exception of the semi-onomatopoeic jiē-jie-bā-bā ‘st-stutter,’ the stutter is choreographed to be invariably three syllables long. In addition, we find evidence of the script directly ruling the recitation when in the fourth stanza’s second line, Yi Sha applies tone sandhi to the second of three consecutive third tones in diǎn-diǎn-diǎn-shè 點點點射 ‘fix-fix-fixed fire,’ which he realizes as diǎn-dián-diǎn-shè. It seems unlikely that a “natural” stutter would feature the anticipatory mechanism that dictates second-tone realization of a third citation tone when followed by another third. Remarkably, in Yi Sha’s recitation of “St-stutter,” every single difference with his script occurs inside or in immediate linkage to an instance of scripted stuttering. It is almost as if here, aside from a reading that is informed by poetical battles between I and a plural you on the mainland-Chinese poetry scene, on the sense level the poem also turns on itself and simultaneously liberates itself, with the recitation “cutting loose”—in the poem’s words—from what it experiences as the scripted stutter’s “incomprehensible rhythm,” whose strict threesyllable discipline becomes unbearable. If the four- and five-syllable stutterings in the third, fourth and fifth stanzas are no longer scripted, they are still willed, and in that sense artificial, but they are close to being out of control. This is palpably so when in the fourth stanza,

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Yi Sha hesitates before what should have been an obvious read-on enjambment, between lines 3 and 4. But the best moment occurs in the third stanza, when a scripted mò-mò-mò-míng-qí-miào 莫莫莫名其 妙 ‘in-in-incomprehensible’ is realized as mò-míng-míng-(q)-qí-miào ‘incom-com-(p)-prehensible’—with a “natural,” truly inadvertent, single-consonant stutter in the false start of qí. Even if Yi Sha’s stutter appears to sit somewhere between Deleuze’s realms of speech and language, it is easy to see how stuttering in poetry at large and in this particular poem can be a creative act, if only because it enacts the central poetic principle of repetition. Yet, it is fundamentally ambiguous, for at the same time as being creative it is potentially destructive in that it damages conventionally poetic euphony, even if the damage is presented as mere theatrical pretense. It is through this latter feature that Yi Sha’s stutter contributes to an overall quality of rejectiveness in the poem, without detracting from its creativity. Scholarship to Date Several critics have commented on Yi Sha’s stutter (jieba 結巴) or stammer (kouchi 口吃). Wang Yichuan, who was among the first to recognize the significance of Yi Sha’s poetry, holds that stuttering is an abnormal or fragmented form of colloquial language. Colloquial language can emerge from fluent, daily popular usage, such as the language employed by Yu Jian: this is its normal form. It can also emerge from halting or unclear spoken language, such as stutter language: this is its abnormal form. On account of its crudeness and vulgarity, such abnormal or fragmented colloquial language will conventionally be taken to possess intrinsically weaker force of expression than formal, written language [shumianyu 書面語] . . . This poem, however, skillfully captures the biological and linguistic “defect” that is the stammerer’s repetition on the word level . . . Using a small number of words over and over again, with due attention to the ‑ei rhyme, the poem miraculously builds a quick rhythm and a harmonious rhyme scheme, and asserts an unfamiliar image of the stutterer as filled with the desire to fight.18   Wang Yichuan, Zhongguo xingxiang shixue, 123; first published in Wenxue ziyou tan, no. 2 (1997), according to Zhongdao, ed., Yi Sha zhe ge gui, 107. Wang’s work on Yi Sha is cited as early as 1993 in Yang Ran 杨然, “Shiyu zai fengren shang shanshe: tantan Yi Sha de shi” 詩語在鋒刃上閃射:談談伊沙的詩 (Poetic Language Flashing on the Edge of a Knife: On Yi Sha’s Poetry), Zhongdao, ed., Yi Sha zhe ge gui, 41–42, but without bibliographical detail. 18


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In light of the particular distribution of the ‑ei rhyme, and its interaction with the sense level (“rhythm,” “language”) in stanzas three and four, Wang’s characterization of the poem’s rhyme scheme as harmonious (hexie 和諧) is unconvincing. Also, stuttering as literary strategy can do more than generate abnormality or fragmentation. Whether convention holds that crudeness and vulgarity automatically weaken force of expression is open to debate, but this doesn’t affect Wang’s assessment of “St-stutter” as a powerful text—with which I fully concur, albeit for different reasons, laid out above. Shen Qi is another scholar who began lavishing praise on Yi Sha’s poetry early on. Writing in 1992, Shen describes Yi Sha’s style as “flying stones,” an image that recurs in later commentaries by others: To the traditional connoisseur of poetry, his language simply sounds like a bunch of rocking, primitive stones . . . These “stones” of language have almost completely discarded canonized notions of poetic sentiment [shiyi 詩意] and rhyme, and they have no intention of getting stuck in the construction of imagery and the contamination of lyricism, instead moving straight into the narrative.19

A few years on, in a review of “St-stutter,” Shen writes: A sickness of culture is first of all a sickness of language, and poet Yi Sha is innately sensitive to this point. His instinctive resistance to reproduction [ fùzhì 複製, meaning mechanical, mindless copying— MvC], and his keen alertness to and renunciation of inert writing have ensured that from the start, his writing has provoked and intervened in current poetry’s textual forms and cultural implications. At this point, using “pathological” language to assault or deconstruct “normal” poetic language turns into an unavoidable challenge . . . using rudeness to dispel fabrication and a stutter to give aphasia a name, Yi Sha’s achievement is truly profound.20

In the early 2000s, framing Yi Sha’s poetry and his stutter as part of what he calls contemporary China’s hooligan narrative, Zhu Dake picks up on Shen’s mention of aphasia and goes on to claim that “having gone through the political electric shock of 1989, for a while this sort of ‘stammering’ speech was part of the common cultural landscape.”21   Shen Qi, Jujue yu zai zao, 246; first published in Wenyou, no 3/4 (1992), according to Shen (251). 20   Shen Qi, “Yi Sha shi’er shou pingdian,” 101–102. Emphasis in the original. 21   Zhu Dake, Liumang de shengyan, 280. 19

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He does not provide other examples of stuttering or stammering in China’s cultural landscape at the time, nor any textual evidence for a reading of “St-stutter” as addressing the bloody suppression of the 1989 Protest Movement rather than poetical infighting within the avant-garde. In all, while “St-stutter” has been identified as a landmark text, critical discourse to date has rarely gone beyond acclaim for the poem as a gimmick, all too easily subsuming its particularity under abstract praise for Yi Sha’s colloquial usage. As the above analysis has shown, there is much more to it. Rejective Sense, Well-Behaved Sound: Other Poems The ambiguity of stuttering as literary strategy notwithstanding, “Ststutter” displays the quality of rejectiveness on the levels of both sound and sense. For the sound level, I have argued this point from the generic angles of pace-and-tone-of-voice and rhyme, and from the specific angle of the stutter, noting that Yi Sha’s realization of written lineation plays a relatively minor role. In the present section I will review other, “regular” poems, in writing and recitation alike; I call these regular only to distinguish them from the maverick text that is “St-stutter,” and Yi Sha’s recitation of it during the Poetry International opening night. The Poetry International Web contains recordings of such “regular” poems, which he read during his individual slot in the festival program, a few days later.22 This material provides powerful clues that justify tentative generalizations for many more texts in Yi Sha’s poetic oeuvre. As noted, rejectiveness on the sense level can appear in attitudes and strategies of the poetic voice such as cynicism, disbelief, negation, demystification, desecration, deconstruction, aggression and destruction. These things can to a large extent be identified on the basis of written texts alone, even though they may be enhanced—or subverted!—by recitation. Reading through Yi Sha’s oeuvre, it is safe to say that the main cause of his controversiality lies in his penchant for desecration, exercised through the consistent, purposeful privileging of what we may call rejective thematics, generating all-out renunciation in some 22   China page on Poetry International Web. Also available in the DACHS Leiden online citation repository to the present volume, http://leiden.dachs-archive.org/ citrep/vancrevel_tan_hockx_2009/.


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readers and uncritical admiration in others. As such, his work is central to what I have elsewhere called a poetics of bad behavior that has been part of the mainland-Chinese poetry scene since the mid-1980s.23 Concretely, this manifests itself in the systematic breaching of (socio‑) sexual and other bodily taboos such as prostitution, substance abuse, masturbation, defecation, urination, disease and violence; in the desecration of education and learning, often through association with these taboos; and in the shameless display of macho sexism, specifically misogyny and homophobia. Below, we will examine how Yi Sha’s rejective thematics interact with lineation and with pace and tone of voice in the “regular” poems. While these things operate very differently than in “St-stutter,” their relevance is undiminished, and can indeed be seen to increase. Rhyme and stuttering will not feature here, since their emphatic use in “St-stutter” is exceptional. Sense and Lineation Yi Sha’s oeuvre contains many poems with short to very short lines, which often feature syntactic enjambment. First of all, if we start from written texts and lineation as visible on the page and internally audible in silent reading, short lines can exude rejectiveness because they stop the text from developing a flow that will “carry” the reader—in contradistinction to long lines, and of course to prose poetry. Again, we should note that by itself the feature of short lines is not enough, and that the experience of a stop-and-start, halting text typically occurs in interplay with rejectiveness on the sense level. An example is found in Yi Sha’s “Tàishān” 泰山 (Mount Tai, 1996), with twenty-seven short lines of between three and six characters = syllables in length, and eight instances of syntactic enjambment. On the sense level, the poem’s setting is that of a tourist cable car traveling up Mount Tai. Contrary to the romantic ideas of a fellow passenger, the first-person speaker asserts that in order to experience the overwhelming majesty of the natural world, one doesn’t need to make the physical effort of climbing the famous mountain on foot, thus deconstructing conventional representations of this icon of Chinese cultural heritage. Yi Sha’s poem ends on an interesting ambiguity vis23

  Van Crevel, Chinese Poetry, 339–340.

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à-vis this heritage in the final two lines, when he cites Du Fu’s 杜甫 (712–770) early poem “Wàng yuè” 望嶽 (Mountain View, ca. 736):24 so this is mount tai no need to climb it in order to feel that From Atop Its Highest Peak All Mountains Will Seem Small

As for Yi Sha’s negotiation of short lines and enjambment in recitation, the Poetry International Web recordings show that he usually interrupts syntactic enjambment, closely following lineation on the page. Thus, he extends visual, written resistance to the emergence of a “naturally” flowing text into its acoustic, spoken realization. He is, however, not rigidly consistent in this respect and occasionally does read on across line breaks, rendering scripted line breaks inaudible in recitation. We will return to this point below, after reviewing some concrete examples of the interaction of rejective thematics with pace and tone of voice. Sense and Pace-and-Tone-of-Voice “Xuětiān lǐ de jí zhǒng shìwù” 雪天裏的幾種事物 (A Few Things under a Snowy Sky, 2006)25 relates how an aggressively driven police car splatters a poet with mud and snow, suggesting in fairly explicit terms that the authorities have nothing but contempt for poetry. If this doesn’t come under the poetics of bad behavior and is fleeting political comment rather than the full-on socially scandalous subject matter for which Yi Sha is famous and notorious, the poem’s audio recording is still useful as an example of his recitation style. His delivery of “A Few Things” sounds uncannily calm, reasonable and avuncular, almost like the words of a teacher reading to his pupils. This creates a feeling of mockery of the police and the poet alike, as strong as if not stronger than the hint of somber seriousness that is also present in the text. “Zhōngguó de zhìgǎn lái zì xūgòu-bu-chū de qiángdà xiànshí” 中國的質感來自虛構不出的強大現實 (The Chinese Experience Comes from an Unimaginably Powerful Reality, 2005)26 is one of many   Yi Sha shixuan, 106–107.   Yi Sha, trans. Patton, Tao and Day, 1. Yi Sha provided the years of composition of this poem and the next two in personal communication (April 2008). 26   Yi Sha, trans. Patton, Tao and Day, 15. 24



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of Yi Sha’s poems in which the first-person speaker is a poet who may well be equated with the author. Here we have a typical example of the poetics of bad behavior, as the following excerpt shows: the palms to grease were duly greased the cash to send was duly sent but my friend’s loan was still not duly loaned the reason was quickly found out the bird that was sent to the bank manager was two hours late while the manager burning with impatience had taken viagra ahead of time

The manager is outraged because of the uncontrollable, bad timing of his erection, and takes revenge on the speaker’s friend who had planned to bribe him by “organizing” the prostitute. The speaker is shocked, and ashamed of his own ignorance of something called “the Chinese experience.” He self-mockingly ascribes this to his status as a poet, which recalls the speaker’s self-description as an accessory to ink stains on the land in “Starve the Poets” and as a helpless, mudsplattered victim in “A Few Things.” Whether one takes “The Chinese Experience” as an implicit indictment of prostitution in present-day China and the repression of women—unlikely, with an eye to Yi Sha’s oeuvre, but theoretically possible—or as a pseudo-incredulous account of corruption, its thematics are ostentatiously rejective. Crucially, they are enhanced by the contrast of the obscenity of the poem’s paraphraseable semantics on the one hand, and what comes across as a consciously well-behaved pace and tone of voice—neat, controlled, business-like—on the other. “Dǎodàn yǔ shī” 導彈與詩 (Missiles and Poetry, 2005)27 is a third example of the effective interaction of Yi Sha’s rejective thematics with his recitation style. The poem recounts how the son of the speaker— who is, again, a poet—reacts to the fact that his father goes out to lecture on poetry to trainees in an artillery engineering institute. Its rejectiveness on the sense level resides in the cynical ridiculing and belittling of poetry as an ornamental pastime that is basically irrelevant and powerless, certa