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Qin in Kong Cheng Ji
(Ruse of the Empty City, an opera) 1  
古琴與空城計
Zhuge Liang plays qin on the city walls2 

The story of Kong Cheng Ji, a well-known Peking opera play, can be found in Chapter 95 of the famous 15th century novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms,3 by tradition attributed to Lo Guanzhong.4 As the Latter Han dynasty (25-220) was breaking up, three kingdoms, Wu, Wei and Shu, struggled to succeed it. The novel tells of the exploits of the king of Shu, Liu Bei, and his heroic assistants Zhang Fei, Guan Yu and Zhuge Liang, the master strategist.5

In the Ruse of the Empty City the forces of Shu, under attack from Wei, take refuge in Xicheng. Badly outnumbered, Zhuge Liang tricks the Wei general by casually sitting on the walls of Xicheng playing the qin. Assuming from Zhuge Liang's nonchalence that he must have superior force, the Wei general retreats.6

There is no indication of what melody Zhuge Liang played, either in the novel or any version I have seen of the play. The modern method of staging in Peking Opera creates the wall by putting chairs on tables and covering this with a cloth; Zhuge Liang sits on one of the chairs.7

 
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 空城計 Kongcheng Ji; 25994.166 and 8/415. (Return)

2. A Qing dynasty illustration, from Colin Mackerras, Chinese Drama, A Historical Survey; Beijing, New World Press, 1990; after p.128. (Return)

3. 三國志演義 Sanguo Zhi Yanyi; modern scholars think it actually dates from the Yuan dynasty. See Indiana Companion, p.668. (Return)

4. 羅貫中 Lo Guanzhong; see Indiana Companion, p.594. (Return)

5. 蜀 Shu corresponds roughly to modern Sichuan province; 劉備 Liu Bei; 張飛 Zhang Fei; 關羽 Guan Yu; 諸葛亮 Zhuge Liang. (Return)

6. 西城 Xicheng is supposedly the modern city 安康 Ankang, on the Han River in southern Shaanxi province. (Return)

7. There is a description in A.C. Scott, An Introduction to the Chinese Theatre; Tokyo, Donald Moore,1958; p.86. (Return)

 
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