The Smithsonian Associates (TSA) presents a production
The Legend of the Jade Hairpin

with Introduction by Tong-Ching Chang

Saturday, October 5, 2002 at 7:30 PM
Baird Auditorium, Natural History Building, 10th & Constitution Ave., N.W. Washington, DC.

Photo Gallery of the Performance 

Thanks to The Kunqu Society, New York, and Han Sheng Chen Chinese Institute for helping to make this production possible.


Chen Miaochang: Qian Yi

Pan Bizheng:

Wen Yu Hang
Jingan (Study Boy): Guo Yi
Abbess: Zhang Qiu Wei


Kunqu Flute (Dizi):

Zhou Ming
Drum and Clappers: Huang Shirong
Pipa: Wang Linsong
Zhong Ruan: Huang Chenglin
Er Hu: Guo Jinqiang
Small Gong: Bao Mou Li

Production Staff

Producer: Tong-Ching Chang
Co Producer: Charles Wilson
Production Manager: Yuan Yucheng
General Manager: Tak Kin Chu
Dresser: Yang Xiaoling
Make-up: Yang Kueiying
Costumes: Irene Chu
 Libretto Translation*: Tak Kin Chu
  Surtitles: Tong-Ching Chang
Katy Griffen
Photographer Cindy Rodney
Camera: Charles Wilson

*Special thanks to Jing-Cheng Chang of Peng Yin Qu Ji, Taiwan for providing Chinese commentary on the libretto for preparation of the English translation.


The story occurs in the Southern Sung Dynasty.  Pan Bizheng, a young scholar, was engaged to Chen Jiao-lian by their parents while still in their childhood. Later, the families lost contact while fleeing from foreign invasion.  After the death of her father, Chen sought asylum in a Taoist monastery where she became a novice and adopted the Taoist name Miaochang. Unbeknownst to her, the Monastery was managed by Pan's aunt.

Pan Bizheng, studying to become a Government official, had traveled to the capital city to take the national civil service examination. Having failed the examination, he is too embarrassed to return home. Instead, he takes temporary lodging his Aunt's Taoist Nunnery to study for the next examination. He quickly becomes aware of the young Taoist novice, unaware of her true identity.

The performance this evening consists of three scenes.

Scene 1: Heartstrings of a Zither.
While restlessly strolling through the gardens one evening, Pan hears Chen Miaochang singing a melancholy song on a zither. Pan approaches her and expresses his appreciation of her music making. They each perform a short melody for the other -- reflecting on their loneliness. When Pan's presses her on her feelings, she becomes nonplussed. She timidly threatens to report him to his Aunt and refuses to show him the way back to his quarters. Pan pretends to leave in order to see what she will say. Believing she is alone, Miaochang admits to herself that she is attracted to Pan. Suddenly she notices that Pan is trying to eavesdrop and runs away in horror. The rebuffed Pan is convinced that Miaochang is attracted to him and begins to contemplate an illicit romance and future marriage.

Scene 2: Visiting at the Sickbed
Pan's lovesickness has made him ill. When his Aunt announces that she plans to visit him in his study, Miaochang asks to accompany her. When they arrive, Miaochang expresses her concern and Pan jumps up with joy. His Aunt inquires about the source of his illness but cannot decipher Pan's oblique description of his affliction -- which is really intended for Miaochang. Meanwhile, Jingan, Pan's study boy, is having a ball making fun of everyone. After his aunt and Miaochang leave, Jingan tells Pan that Miaochang has a prescription for him in her apartment. When the gullible, and suddenly cured, Pan prepares to leave, Jingan reveals the joke and they return to their quarters.

Scene 3: Stealing a Poem.
A few days later, Miaochang is in her room, disturbed by her growing attraction to Pan. For relief, she decides to write a poem describing her feelings. Meanwhile a revived Pan decides to take a walk and stumbles upon Miaochang's apartment. He finds the door unlocked and slips in to find Miaochang asleep at her desk. When he discovers the poem he wakes her to confront her with the evidence of her love for him. With no way to deny her feelings, Miaochang confesses her love and she and Bizheng pledge a future life together.

In following scenes, which will not be performed this evening, Pan's Aunt learns about their mutual feelings and becomes determined to break them up.  She forces Pan to leave for the capital city immediately to take the examination again without an opportunity to meet with Chen. When she learns of his departure, Chen pursues him a small boat for a final farewell. Eventually, Pan succeeds in the examination and becomes a Mandarin. Now that his father considers Pan to be eligible for marriage, he reveals to him his childhood engagement and Pan realizes that his beloved is actually his official fiancé. Pan and Chen are finally reunited in happy matrimony.

Program Notes  

The Legend of the Jade Hairpin (Yu Zhan Ji) was written by Gao Lian around 1570, toward the end of the Ming dynasty. Like most Kunqu plays, it consists of over 30 acts and was intended to be performed over a period of several days. The play is an example of a genre called chuan qi, meaning "fantastic", that was popular during the sixteenth century. The Jade Hairpin does not have the same literary status as some other plays of this genre, such as The Peony Pavilion (Mudan Ting). Nevertheless, it was widely adapted by many other types Chinese theater, including Beijing Opera, and the major scenes have been performed continuously for over 400 years. Every Chinese child recognizes the names of Chen Mioachang and Pan Bizheng, even if they do not know the complete story.

Meet the Artists

Qian Yi studied for eight years with the Kunju masters of the Shanghai Opera School. She has appeared in theaters throughout China, receiving wide acclaim for her performances in scenes from The Legend of the White Snake and The Peony Pavilion (Mudan Ting). Celebrated for her compelling stage presence and beautiful voice, she was awarded the title of National Best Young Kunqu Actress by the Chinese Minister of Culture. Miss Qian has made numerous appearances in the starring role of Du Liniang in The Peony Pavilion, in nineteen hours, directed by Chen Shi-Zheng. In 2001, she made her English language debut in Chen Shi-Zheng's workshop of Ji Junxiang's The Orphan of Zhao, produced by Lincoln Center Theatre. Visit Qian Yi's Web Page

Wen Yu Hang 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 Xiao Sheng (young scholar) role. Since graduating, he has been the principal actor in the Northern Kunju Opera Company, performing in The Tale of Two People, The Dream of Red Chamber, Qin Wen, and The Legend of the White Snake. He was the featured principal in more than twenty productions, performing throughout China, Japan, Russia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Mr. Wen was named Best Performer at the Beijing Youth Competition in 1994 and received three second-place awards as best performer at the Beijing Youth Actors Competition in 1988, 1993 and 1998. In 1999, he was honored has won the best artist for the twenty first century in Beijing.

Guo Yi is a graduate of the Shanghai Academy of Performing Arts. As a member of the Shanghai Kunqu Troupe, he has toured widely throughout China and several other countries and is recognized as one of the most talented performers of the “clown” role type in his generation. He appeared in The Kunqu Society's production of Pan Chin-lien in New York and Washington, D.C. and its recent production of The Joy of Fisherman at the Taipei Theater, New York, in April 2002.  

Zhang Qiu Wei is a graduate  of the Beijing Chinese Opera Academy. She was formerly a member of the Shanghai Beijing Opera Troupe specializing in the old woman's role type.


Zhou Ming is a master of the dizi, the Chinese bamboo flute. A graduate of the Shanghai Chinese Opera Academy, he received a BA degree in Dizi from Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1989 and is currently completing his MA degree in Career Management in Art and Culture in the Shanghai Jiaotong University.  Mr. Zhou has performed as the lead musician for over twenty-five major Kunqu plays, including the Lincoln Center production of The Peony Pavilion in July, 1999. He holds the title First-rate Musician from the official ranking system in China. 

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 30 years. Several of the productions he conducted as lead drummer won national awards in China. 

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.