Kunqu Performance Friday June 13, 2008  7:30 pm
Meyer Auditorium, Freer and Sackler Galleries
1100 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C.

Pre-Peformance Lecture: David Rolston (陸大偉)

Fifteen Strings of Cash: "The Fortune Teller"


The Roar of the Lioness: "Kneeling by the Pond"
【獅吼記: 跪池】

Introduction by David Rolston (陸大偉)

The Lute: "Sweeping under the Pine"
【琵琶記: 掃松】

This program is a co-production of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Wintergreen Kunqu Society. They are made possible, in part, with support from the Wintergreen Kunqu Society and the New York Chinese Opera Society.

Thanks to Ms. Chen Santzu (陳三資)of Pong Yi Qu Ji (蓬瀛曲集), Taiwan, and The Kunqu Society, New York, for assistance in this production.

Cast Musicians Synopsis

Meet the Artists

Production Staff  


Fifteen Strings of Cash: "The Fortune Teller"

Kuang Zhong: Ji Zhenghua   計鎮華

Lou the Rat:

Lui Yilong     劉異龍

The Roar of the Lioness: "Kneeling by the Pond"

Liu Shi: Liang Guyin  梁谷音

Chen Jichang:

Wen Yuhang  溫宇航
Su Dongpo:

Ji Zhenghua     計鎮華


Shan Jing     單 靖

The Lute: "Sweeping under the Pine"

Zhang Gaungcai: Ji Zhenghua     計鎮華
Li Wang: Lui Yilong     劉異龍


Kunqu Flute (Dizi):

Zhou Ming          周 鳴
Drum and Clappers: Huang Shirong   黃士榮
San Xian: Wang Linsong    王林松
Er Hu: Quo Jinqiang      郭景強
Lute: Sun Hongtao        孫洪濤
Small Gong: Song Bairu          宋百如

Production Staff

Producer: Tong-Ching Chang  張冬青
Co-producer: Charles Wilson
Make-up: Yang Guiyin           楊桂英
Dresser: Yang Xiaoling         楊孝玲
Production Manager: Wen Yuhang          溫宇航 
Backstage: Yuan Yucheng       袁玉成
Libretto Translation: David Ralston        陸大偉
Surtitles: Tong-Ching Chang  張冬青
Photography: Cindy Rodney
Video Camera: Charles Wilson


Fifteen Strings of Cash: The Fortune Teller
This scene is taken from a popular adaptation from a 17th century play concerning judicial injustice. The story begins with a butcher returning home one night very drunk and carrying fifteen strings of cash loaned to him by a relative. He playfully teases his stepdaughter that he has sold her for the cash, and then falls asleep. The terrified stepdaughter decides to seek shelter at her aunt’s but leaves the front door ajar when she leaves. Lou the Rat—rogue, gambler, and petty thief—enters through the open door. In an attempt to steal the cash, he inadvertently wakes the butcher and then kills him. When the neighbors find the corpse, Lou the Rat cunningly directs suspicion toward the missing stepdaughter, and they all set off to apprehend her.

On her way to her aunt, the stepdaughter meets a young merchant’s apprentice. The two have no sooner agreed to travel together than the neighbors catch up with them. The neighbors suspect that the two are lovers and when they discover that the apprentice is carrying precisely fifteen strings of cash, they conclude that the two of them are the murderers. The couple is brought before the district magistrate, who is persuaded by the circumstantial evidence of the fifteen strings of cash and extorted confessions that they are guilty, and he condemns them to death. A minor official, Kuang Zhong, is deputized to oversee the executions, but soon discovers that the case has some holes and obtains permission to investigate. At the scene of the murder, he finds some of the original fifteen strings of cash, proving the young couple’s innocence, and also a pair of weighted dice, which casts suspicion on the known gambler, Lou the Rat.

In the scene performed today, Kuang Zhong has learned that Lou the Rat is hiding in a temple and appears there disguised as a fortuneteller. To have his fortune told, Lou must choose a Chinese character for Kuang to analyze. Lou chooses the character for “rat”, which Kuang then “analyzes” to get Lou to implicate himself in the murder. In the final scene of the play the Lou is punished and the wronged couple set free.

Fifteen Strings of Cash is an adaptation from the 1950s of a 17th century play by Zhu Suchen, based on two familiar short stories about court cases. Zhu’s play had total of thirty-six scenes. By the late 19th century, however, only a handful of scenes were still being performed, and almost all of them dealt with only one of the two court cases. The 1950’s adaptation, which has only eight scenes, was developed by the Zhejiang Provincial Kunqu Company. Its 1958 Beijing premiere was very well received, and no less an authority than Prime Minister Zhou Enlai credited it with the revival of Kunqu as a performing art.

The Roar of the Lioness:
Kneeling by the Pond
The play tells of the escapades of the young scholar Chen Jichang, who frequently seeks outside amorous adventures despite his affection for his extremely jealous wife, Lui Shi. The scene to be performed takes place after Chen has taken advantage of an invitation by his friend, Su Dongpo, to join him on a spring excursion accompanied by a courtesan. Unfortunately for Chen, his wife has learned about the concubine and confronts him with her knowledge. As punishment for violating his promise not visit a courtesan, she makes him kneel by a pond in their residence. When Su comes to visit Chen and finds his friend being punished, he tries to reason with his wife to be more understanding, but without much success.
Written during the late Ming dynasty (16th Century), The Roar of the Lioness shines as one of the most popular and enduring Kunqu comic plays. The title has become a familiar metaphor in Chinese culture that refers to a jealous and tempestuous woman and her henpecked husband.

The Lute:
Sweeping under the Pines
This play tells the story of Cai Bojie, a young scholar who leaves his wife and parents at home while he travels to the capital to take the imperial exam. After passing the exam with high honors, Cai is appointed to a high position in capital and coerced into staying and marrying the daughter of the prime minister. After several years, Cai sends his trusted servant Li Wang, with money and a letter to ask his parents and wife to join him in the capital. However, unknown to Cai, his parents have since died in a famine and his first wife, Zhao Wuniang has become a beggar.

As the scene opens, a caring neighbor Zhang Guangcai, is sweeping the grave of Cai’s parents. Li approaches and asks the old man for direction to Cai’s home. When Zhang tells him what has happened, Li Wang is presented with a problem. Unless he can contact the parents, he will not be able to ask them to return to the capital and thus complete his assignment. Zhang suggests that Li kneel at their grave, and playing the role of his master, beseech his parents to join him in the capital. When Zhang takes this opportunity to upbraid Cai for abandoning his family, Li explains that Cai had no choice in the matter. Hearing this, Zhang realizes that since he had urged Cai to go away in the first place, he is partly responsible for what has happened.

Meet the Artists

Ji Zhenhua is a famous Kunqu artist and a National Class One Performer specializing in laosheng (old male) roles. He was trained under Zheng Chuanjian and Ni Chuanyue, two artists of the reknowned “Chuan” generation of Kunqu performers. He was the winner of the Plum Blossom Award for Chinese Theatre, the Performing Award, the Showcase Award and the Commemorative Award at the Shanghai Theatre Festival and the Star Award at the Magnolia Award for Chinese Theatre in Shanghai. His repertoire includes excerpts from the traditional repertory such as Searching the Mountains and Stopping the Cart, Recovering from Blindness, and Sweeping under the Pine, as well as new productions such as The Illusory Dream, Cai Wenji, and Emperor Taizong of the Tang.

Liang Guyin is a famous Kunqu artist and a National Class One Performer. She was trained in the style of Zhang Chuanfang and Shen Chuanzhi, members of the “Chuan” generation of Kunqu performers. With her sweet rich voice, Ms. Liang has a repertoire that includes a broad spectrum of roles and vivid personae in the dan (female) category -- such as the zhengdan (principal female), huadan (flirtatious female) and poladan (the shrew). She is known for her sensitive interpretations of her roles and the appealing charm of the shrew characters that she plays. She was a recipient of the Plum Blossom Award for Chinese Theatre, the Magnolia Award for Chinese Theatre in Shanghai, the Outstanding Achievements Award at the Shanghai Cultural and Arts Festival, and a Performance Award at the Shanghai Theatre Festival. She is acclaimed for her interpretations in The Lute, Yearning for the Secular World, and The Wedding Day.

Liu Yilong is a famous Kunqu artist and a National Class One Performer. He specializes in chou (clown) role types, and studied with three “Chuan” generation performers: Hua Chuanhao, Wang Chuansong and Zhou Chuancang. He is a versatile actor, playing both civil and military roles, who injects an infectious sense of humor and fun into his performances. He was the winner of the Supporting Performer Award at the Magnolia Art Award for Chinese Theatre in Shanghai, an Honorable Performance Award at the China Kunqu Opera Arts Festival and the Outstanding Performance Award and the Laurel Award at the Shanghai Theatre Festival. He is known for his excellent vocal skills and delivery, and his insightful acting has created many memorable characters, some of the most well-known including Lou the Rat in Fifteen Strings of Cash, Ximen Qing in Pan Jinlian and the old servant in The Butterfly Dream.

Wen Yuhang studied at the Beijing Traditional Opera School for six years with some of the most famous actors and teachers at the school, specializing in the xiaosheng (young scholar) role type. He was a principal actor with the Northern Kunju Company. He has performed throughout China, Taiwan and other countries and has received awards in the “best performer” category in Chinese Drama competitions. In 1999, he was the leading actor, portraying Liu Mengmei, in the Lincoln Center production of The Peony Pavilion, He currently lives in New York.    

Shan Jing studied at the Jingchen Chinese Opera School, specializing in the Chou (clown) role type. He also studied at the China Traditional Opera Academy in Beijing, graduating with Honors in 1997, and staying on to teach at the Academy. He has participated extensively in various other art forms, including performances with Japanese artists, particularly a tribute performance for the prince of Japan in 1997. He performed the role tutor Chen in the Lincoln Center production of The Peony Pavilion.

David Rolston is Associate Professor of Chinese Language and Literature in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. His particular interests include traditional Chinese drama and fiction. He has numerous publications in English and Chinese. He is presently working on a book on the role system of Peking opera that examines the range and distribution of character types and analyzes them in terms of both the traditional role-type system and compares them to ways of categorizing people in both the social sciences and other theatrical traditions.

Zhou Ming is a master of the Chinese bamboo flute known as the dizi. A graduate of the Shanghai Academy of Traditional Chinese Theater, he received a BA degree in dizi performance from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1989. Mr. Zhou has performed as the lead musician in over twenty-five major Kunqu plays for the Shanghai Kunqu Troupe and has been a guest conductor of ensembles in Japan and Taiwan. He held the title of Class One Musician in the official ranking system in China. He was the music director and lead musician for the Lincoln Center production of The Peony Pavilion, which toured festivals in Paris (home of the co-sponsor of the production, Festival L’Automne), Milan, Aarhus, Perth, Berlin, Vienna, and Singapore.

Huang Shirong is a graduate of the Shanghai Chinese Drama School. Mr. Huang served as the conductor of the Shanghai Beijing Opera Troupe for over thirty years. Several of the productions he conducted as master drummer won national awards in China. He has performed in the U.S.S.R., Japan, and Hong Kong. Mr. Huang was a member of the orchestra for the Lincoln Center production of The Peony Pavilion.

Wang Linsong is a master of several popular string instruments. He was a resident musician and taught San-hsian in Shanghai Yueju Company.  Mr. Wang  is a member of Ensemble of the Peony Pavilion, which performed at the 1999 Lincoln Center Festival and later in Australia, France, and Italy.

Quo Jingqiang is a graduate of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music where he studied erhu with Wei Zhong-Le, Lu Xiu-Tong and Chen Jun-Ying and has been a member of the Shanghai Orchestra, the Shanghai Philharmonic and the Shanghai Traditional Chinese Music Orchestra. His tours in Japan and Singapore have won him wide acclaim. He is erhu soloist and Conductor for the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York.