In Conjunction with the New York Scholar's Garden Autumn Moon Festival


Chinese Kunqu Theater in a Scholars Garden:
A Scene from The Jade Hairpin

Saturday, September 13, 2003 at 6:00 PM Chinese Scholars Garden, Staten Island Botanical Garden, Staten Island, NY


6:15 pm  The Jade Hairpin - Stealing a Poem

Chen Miaochang: Qian Yi

Pan Bizheng:

Wen Yu Hang

8:00 pm  Water Marsh - Ghost Lover

Yan Xijiao (Ghost): Qian Yi
Zhang Wenyuan: Guo Yi


Kunqu Flute  (Dizi):

Zhou Ming
Drum and Clappers: Huang Shirong
San Xian and Big Gong: Wang Linsong
Cymbols: Huang Chenglin
Er Hu: Guo Jin Qiang
Small Gong: Bao Moli

Production Staff

Producer: Tong-Ching Chang
Co Producer: Charles Wilson
Production Manager: Yuan Yucheng
Makeup/Dresser: Yang Kueiying
 Libretto Translation*: Tak Kin Chu
Camera: Roger Hsu

*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 Jade Hairpin - Stealing a Poem

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 a 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.

After failing the national government service examination, Pan takes temporary lodging at his Aunt's Taoist Nunnery to prepare for the next examination. He quickly becomes aware of the young Taoist novice, unaware of her true identity. While restlessly strolling through the gardens one evening, Pan hears Chen 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.

The scene to be performed this evening takes place in Chen's room a few days late. Miaochang, has become disturbed by her growing attraction to Pan. For relief, she decides to write a poem describing her feelings. Meanwhile Pan decides to take a walk and stumbles upon Chen'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.

Water Marsh (Shui-Hu Zhuan) - Ghost Lover

A young woman Yan Xijiao has died in an attempt to leave her companion, an older man Song Kongming who had supported her living, in order to marry a young-man Zhang Wenyuan.  Her spirit has come back to take Zhang's life so that they can be together in the Netherworld.   

The performance begins with the entrance of Yan Xijiao's ghost, who is paying a midnight visit to her still-living boy friend—Zhang Wenyuan. When Ghost Yan arrives Zhang's house, she calls at the the door.  Zhang, wakening up with sleepy eyes, hesitates to open the door. Has so many girl friends that he cannot identify the voice of the young woman outside.  At her prodding,  Zhang makes several guesses and yet fails to identify her.  Yan assures him that he will recognize her when he let her in and ;looks at her.  Zhang is convinced and opens the door.  When he recognizes it is the ghost of Yen Xijiao, he becomes very frightened, since has not be faithful to her.  He declares that it was Song killed her and she should go to Song for revenge. Then Zhang tries reciting some Taoist spells to drive her away, but to no avail.

Yan shows him her still beautiful face and assures him that he will not be harmed. As Zhang gazes on her still attractive face, his fear lessened.  He recounts the details when they first met.  With amorous dialogue and gestures, they refresh the memory of those romantic moments they had together.  He tells her how miserable he felt when he heard the news of her death.  Finally, she captures Zhang's spirit and takes him down to the Netherworld. 

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.

Ghost lover is taken from the last scene "Taken Alive (Huo Zhuo)" of the Kunqu play Water Marsh (by the Ming author Xu Zichang), which was based on the story from the Chinese literary masterpiece, The Water Margin by Shi Naian (1290-1365).  The version of "Ghost lover" performed here is primarily the version rearranged by Chen Shi Zheng for Lincoln Center Institute and has been performed in public schools throughout New York City.  Qian Yi and Guo Yi have reinterpreted the characteristics of their roles and the robes wore by Qian Yi are also different from those of traditional costumes.  The modified version was designed for indoor performances.  However, to suit the outdoor setting of this festival, the configuration of the percussion team and some stage movements at the beginning of the scene have been restored to their traditional form.

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.

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. 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, where he also served as music director. 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.

Huang Chenlin is proficient not only in all major wen-chen (wind and string) instruments but also several wu-chen (percussion) instruments. Mr. Huang is a popular musician in both Kunqu Theater and Beijing Opera. As a member of  Chinese traditional music orchestra of The Peony Pavilion at the Lincoln Center's 1999 Festival in New York, he has toured  to Australia, France, and Italy.