Sunday June 19, 2011  1:00 and 3:00 pm
Sackler Galleries, Level 1
1100 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C.

The Shangai Kunju Troupe
performs scenes from Kunqu Classics

1:00 Performance

 “Longing for Worldly Pleasures” from Records of an Evil Sea  【孽海記: 思凡】

Se Kong:

 Qian Yi *  錢熠


“Borrowing the Magic Fan” from Journey to the West  【西遊記: 借扇】

Princess Iron Fan:  Gu Haohao  谷好好
Monkey King (Sun Wukong):  Zhao Lei  趙磊
Maid Cuie:  Leng Bingbing 冷冰冰
Female Guard:  Yu Bin 余彬  

3:00  Performance

“The Messenger” from Romance of the West Chamber 【西廂記:下書】

Monk Huiming:  Wu Shuang  吴雙
Monk Farben:  Miao Bin  缪斌

Zhang Junrei:

 Lin Yan  林岩

* Guest U.S. Artist

This production is co-sponsored with the Freer and Sackler Galleries with generous support from Ms. Qian Yi, Ms. Anna Wu, Ms. Chung-ho Frankel and the Kunqu Society, Inc., New York. WKS also gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David Rolston, University of Michigan, for help with libretto translations and plot synopses.

  Musicians Synopsis

Meet the Artists

Production Staff  


Kunqu Flute (Dizi):

Qian Yin  钱寅
  Yang Ziyin  楊子銀
Drum Master: Lin Feng  林峰
Drum/Cymbal: Gao Jun 高均
Sheng: Weng Weiwei  翁巍巍
Er Hu: Guo Jingqiang * 郭景強
Big Gong:: Meng Qiaogen 孟巧根
Small Gong: Zhang Guoqiang  张国强

Troupe Production Team

Director: Shi Jian  史建
Secretary: Jiao Limin 焦俐敏
Deputy Director: Gu Haohao 谷好好
Production Manager: Lin Yan  林 岩
Backstage Manager: Xu Hongqing 徐洪青
Make-up: Fan Yili  范毅俐

WKS Production Staff

Producer: Tong-Ching Chang  張冬青
Co-producer: Anna Wu   陳安娜
Make-up: Yang Guiyin    楊桂英
Dresser:: Yang Xiaoling   楊孝玲
Program Brochure: Charles Wilson
Surtitles: Dong-Shin Chang  張東炘
Photography: Cindy Rodney
Video Camera: Charles Wilson


Longing for Worldly Pleasures (Si Fan)
The performing origin of the play is unknown. It is believed to have been first staged in the Ming dynasty (1368–1643 AD). It is based on a theme from Records of an Evil Sea (Nieh Hai Ji), whose title is a Buddhist metaphor for a life of sorrow. The plot also reflects the storytellers' adaptation of early Buddhist source material. As traditional kunqu theater on a Buddhist theme, "Si Fan" marks a social protest to Chinese tradition, but in a lighthearted way.

The story is about a young woman, Sekong, whose parents sent her to a Buddhist temple in her childhood to be raised as a nun. Now in her adolescence, Sekong laments on the drudgery of her existence and dreams of the young men she has seen sporting by the temple gate. With hope for marriage and children, she decides to flee the temple for a new life.

"Si Fan" is regarded as a connoisseur's piece whose refined, expressive fusion of song, dance, and gesture embodies the less robust but more romantic qualities of traditional classical art. It is regularly performed on the stages of both Beijing opera and kunqu theater.

Borrowing the Magic Fan from Journey to the West
Journey to the West is one of the great novels in Chinese literature. Although published anonymously, it is believed to have been written by Wu Cheng’en (1500–1582). It consists largely of a series of episodes based on Chinese folk tales that describe the pilgrimage of the legendary Tang Dynasty monk Xuanzang in search of Buddhist sutras. He is accompanied by three immortal disciples, Monkey King (Sun Wukong), Monk Pig, and Friar Sand, each of whom has fantastic powers that they use to protect and guide the monk on his journey. The episode performed is based on Chapter 59 of the novel. The pilgrims are well on their journey, when they find their way blocked by the Fiery Mountains, through which no one can pass. They are told that the fire can be extinguished only by waving a magic plantain fan, which is now in the possession of Princess Iron Fan who lives in the Plantain Cave on Greencloud Mountain. The Monkey King immediately departs to borrow the fan, but he is aware that he may have a problem. Earlier in their journey, he had subdued her son Red Boy, who was then pressed into the service of the Buddha Gaunyin as her special disciple. Princess Iron Fan is furious that her son has been taken from her and has vowed to seek revenge on Sun Wukong. To persuade her to relent, Sun Wukong plans to appeal to his special relation to her husband, Bull Demon King, who had once been the sworn brother of Sun Wukong before the subjugation of his son Red Boy.

The scene opens in Plantain Cave where the demon Princess Iron Fan is lamenting the breakup of her family and vowing revenge on Sun Wukong. A female demon guard enters and announces that the Monkey King himself is outside requesting an audience. Sun explains that their passage to the West is blocked by the Fiery Mountains and he has come to request that Princess Iron Fan lend him her giant plantain fan to blow out the flames. She angrily refuses and instead turns her fan on the Monkey King, blowing him away. When he returns, she agrees to lend him her fan if he can withstand three of her attacks. Using a wind-fixing pearl to neutralize the wind, Sun resists her successive attacks, whereupon she runs back into her cave. Determined to make her keep her word, Sun turns himself into an insect and flies into the cave. When the princess stops for rest and refreshment, he flies into her stomach and torments her until she agrees to give up the fan.

Although the scene ends here, it turns out that Princess Iron Fan has given him a counterfeit fan that does not work. It takes two more chapters and several more attempts before the Monkey King succeeds in obtaining the real magic fan.

The Messenger from Romance of the West Chamber
Romance of the West Chamber is one of the most famous Chinese dramatic works. It was written by the Yuan Dynasty playwright Wang Shifu (王實甫) (1260–1336), and set during the Tang Dynasty. It tells the story of a love affair between Zhang Junrei, a young scholar, and Cui Yingying, the daughter of a chief minister of the Tang court. The two first meet in a Buddhist monastery. Yingying and her mother have stopped there to rest while escorting the coffin of Yingying's father to their native town. Zhang falls in love with her immediately, but is unable to express his feelings while Yingying is under her mother's watchful eye. The most he can do is read a love poem aloud behind the wall of the courtyard where Yingying is staying. Word of Yingying's beauty soon reaches the Flying Tiger Sun, a local bandit. He dispatches ruffians to surround the monastery, in the hopes of taking her as his concubine.

As the scene begins, Yingying is pining away over her lover when her mother bursts in with the news that Flying Tiger Sun has lain siege to the monastery and is demanding that Yingying be sent to him as his concubine. In her desperation, Yingying’s mother asks the Abbot to announce that she will give her daughter in marriage to anyone who can save them from Flying Tiger Sun. After a frantic search for a savior, Zhang Junrui steps forth and announces that he has a plan to drive the bandit away. After some haggling to make sure that the mother will fulfill her promise, Zhang composes a letter to his friend General Du Que, commander of a nearby garrison, asking him to come to their relief.

The next problem is to find someone to deliver the letter. The Abbot suggests that the best man for the job is a rather stubborn monk named Huiming, who is more inclined to fighting than praying. After confidently describing how he will engage the enemy and fight his way through their siege, Huiming departs with the letter.

In later scenes, the general subdues the bandits, and it seems that Zhang Junrei and Cui Yingying are set to be married. However, Yingying's mother begins to regret her rash promise to Zhang, and takes back her word, with the excuse that Yingying is already betrothed to the son of another high official of the court. The two young lovers are greatly disappointed, and begin to pine away with their unfulfilled love. Fortunately, Yingying's maid, Hong Niang, takes pity on them, and ingeniously arranges to bring them together in a secret union. When Yingying's mother discovers what her daughter has done, she reluctantly consents to a formal marriage on one condition: Zhang must travel to the capital and pass the civil service examination. To the joy of the young lovers, Zhang proves to be a brilliant scholar, and is appointed to high office. The story thus ends on a happy note, as the two are finally married.

Meet the Artists

The Shanghai Kunqu Troupe is a state-sponsored performing troupe, dedicated to maintaining the highest standards of traditional Chinese kunqu theater. Since its founding in 1978 by Yu JZhenfei, many of its leading performers have received wide public acclaim and official national recognition. The touring troupe includes six of their First Class Performers: Gu Hao Hao, Shen Yili, Yu Bin, Wu Shuang, Miao Bin, Li An. Two First Class Musicians are also among the touring group: Qian Yin and Lin Feng. Ms. Gu Haohao was recently awarded the prestigious Plum Blossom Award.

The troupe maintains a repertoire of over three hundred selected scenes and sixty full length plays, including The Palace of Eternal Youth, The Jade Hairpin, The Peony Pavilion, Fifteen Strings of Cash, Pan Jinlian, The Legend of the White Snake, and The Song of a Lute. In addition to their regular performances within China, the troupe has toured in the United Stated., Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Singapore, and Taiwan.

Qian Yi began her study of classical kunqu at the Shanghai Drama School at the age of ten. Later, as a member of the Shanghai Kunju Company, she became known for her leading roles in The Legend of the White Snake, The Water Margin, and other classical kunqu repertoire. In 1998, Qian Yi was cast in the lead role of Lincoln Center Festival’s epic nineteen-hour production of The Peony Pavilion, which played at major international festivals in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Since coming to the U.S., Ms. Qian has continued to work in classical Chinese theater, while also starring in numerous adaptations of Chinese opera in the context of western theater, including Ghost Lovers (Spoleto USA), The Orphan of Zhao (Lincoln Center), and Snow in June (American Repertory Theater). In 2008, Qian Yi made her debut in western opera, singing a leading role in the San Francisco Opera’s new production of Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter's Daughter., the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Singapore, and Taiwan.

Guo Jingqiang is a graduate of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music where he studied erhu with Wei Zhongle, Lu Xiutong, and Chen Junying. He has been a member of the Shanghai Orchestra, the Shanghai Philharmonic, and the Shanghai Traditional Chinese Music Orchestra. His tours of Japan and Singapore have won him wide acclaim. Mr. Guo is an erhu soloist and conductor for the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York.