The Peach Blossom Fan 桃花扇

China’s first historical drama reflecting the demise of the Southern Ming Dynasty

Overview

Chinese Name: 桃花扇

English Name: The Peach Blossom Fan

Author: Kong Shangren 孔尚任

Originally Published: In 1708(Qing Dynasty 清朝)

Genre: Legend (drama)

The Peach Blossom Fan 桃花扇
The Peach Blossom Fan 桃花扇

Brief Introduction of The Peach Blossom Fan

The Peach Blossom Fan 桃花扇 is the first Chinese historical drama to reflect the demise of the Southern Ming Dynasty 南明朝. It is a legendary play written by Kong Shangren 孔尚任, a writer in the Qing Dynasty 清朝, and the first draft was published in 1708.

The Peach Blossom Fan is a story set in Nanjing 南京 in the late Ming Dynasty 晚明时期. The drama takes Hou Fangyu 侯方域 and Li Xiangjun’s 李香君 joys and sorrows as the main line, showing the social reality of Nanjing in the late Ming Dynasty. At the same time, it reveals the reasons for the decline and fall of the Hongguang 弘光 regime, praises the national heroes who are loyal to the country and the bottom people, and shows the pain of the Ming Dynasty’s survivors.

The Peach Blossom Fan (侯方域题诗扇赠李香君)
Hou Fangyu inscribed poem fan was given to Li Xiangjun as a token. 侯方域题诗扇为信物赠给李香君。

The Peach Blossom Fan is composed of 44 plays, and the structure of the play can be roughly divided into four parts.

In the first part, Hou Fangyu failed in the imperial examination, and was introduced to Li Xiangjun by Yang Longyou 杨龙友. They fell in love. On the day of engagement, Hou Fangyu inscribed a poem fan as a token to give Xiang Jun. The second part mainly tells that Ruan Da-Cheng 阮大铖 falsely accused Hou Fangyu as a rebel after he failed to win over him. Ruan Da-cheng and others forced Li Xiangjun to marry Tian Yang 田仰.

The third part mainly tells Li Xiangjun unwilling to marry Tian Yang, she fought with death, blood splatter fixed love poem fan. Later, Yang Longyou dyed the blood marks of the fan into a peach blossom picture, which is the origin of the peach blossom fan throughout the play. The fourth part mainly tells Hou Fangyu to be saved, and Li Xiangjun meets, and both of them become monks.

The Peach Blossom Fan(昆剧版)
The Peach Blossom Fan, Kunqu Opera version 《桃花扇》昆剧版

The Peach Blossom Fan is a historical drama close to the historical truth, major events are true, only in some details of artistic processing. It is a major feature of this drama to write about the rise and fall of the country. It has been adapted into Huangmei Opera 黄梅剧, Beijing Opera 京剧 and drama for more than three hundred years.

Author of The Peach Blossom Fan

Kong Shangren (November 1, 1648 — 1718) was born in Qufu 曲阜, Shandong Province 山东省. He was the 64th grandson of Confucius 孔子. He was a poet and playwright in the early Qing Dynasty.

Kong Shangren 孔尚任
Kong Shangren 孔尚任

Kong Shangren inherited the ideological tradition and academic of Confucianism 儒家. Since his childhood, he paid attention to the knowledge of rites, music, soldiers and agriculture, and researched music rules, which laid the foundation of music knowledge for the creation of drama. When he was young, he tried hard to enter the official career from the imperial examination, but failed to achieve his goal. After the emperor Kangxi 康熙 went to the Confucius Temple 孔庙, Kong Shangren was praised by the emperor Kangxi for preaching sutras, and became a doctor of the imperial college from scholar. During this period, the legendary drama “The Peach Blossom Fan” was created.

Kong Shangren and Hong Sheng 洪昇 were called “South Hong and North Kong 南洪北孔”, and were known as the double stars shining on the literary world during the Kangxi period. Their works “The Peach Blossom Fan” and “The Palace of Eternal Life 长生殿” represent the highest achievements of ancient Chinese historical drama, and are also treasures in the world’s cultural treasure house.

Excerpts From The Peach Blossom Fan

洁常自污出,明每从暗生也。

Noble things often come out of filth, light is often born out of darkness.

草烟中寻粉黛,斜阳影里说英雄。

Looking for beautiful young women in vanilla smoke, talking of heroes in the shadows of the setting sun.

溅血点做桃花扇,比着枝头分外鲜。

With the blood spattered on the fan made of peach blossom fan, appears particularly bright red.

Evaluation of The Peach Blossom Fan

However, in terms of the precision and preciseness of the structure, the magnificence of the language and the profound meaning of the sustenance, I think “Peach Blossom Fan” has always been the best.

Liang Qichao 梁启超

“The Peach Blossom Fan” is written by the author with emotion based on the rise and fall of the country, not about trivial things between men and women.

Shen Mo 沈默
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