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Qin in Yuzan Ji
(Story of the Jade Hairpin, an opera)   1

古琴與玉簪記
Chen Miaochang plays the qin2  

The opera Yuzan Ji was written by Gao Lian3 around 1580. In it the scholar Pan Bizheng, having failed in the imperial exams due to illness, goes to visit his aunt in a convent. Here he falls in love with the well-born but impoverished novice nun Chen Miaochang.4 The aunt separates them, forcing Pan to go take the exams again. This time he succeeds and returns to marry Miaochang.

Qin Tiao (Qin Play)5
This scene, often performed separately, involves the supposed playing (since real qin music never occurs in opera) of three qin melodies that were then in the active qin repertoire. First Pan Bizheng overhears Chen Miaochang at the convent playing Xiao Xiang Shui Yun. He himself then plays Zhi Zhao Fei (image), after which she plays Guanghan You. All three of these could simply be qin melodies, but there may also be here three specific romantic references, as follows:

In Hong Lou Meng Grandmother Jia mentions having heard someone playing qin melodies from this opera.

 
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 玉簪記 Yuzan Ji
See LXS p.267. I have not yet found a complete online version, but see Qin Tiao below.
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2. Image: Pan Bizheng overhears Chen Miaochang playing qin
This print is from 張國標 Zhang Guobiao, ed., 徽派版畫藝術 Art of Woodcut of the Huizhou School, 安徽省美術出版社 Anhui Publishing House, 1995, p.98.

Pan's response is depicted here. And quite likely this image (from a Taiwan raffle ticket; same source as Zhao Bian image) also depicts the same episode.
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3. Gao Lian (高濂 fl. 1573 - 1581; Wiki)
ICTCL, pp. 472-3, discusses Gao Lian's importance both as a playwright (節孝記 Fidelity and Filiality as well as The Jade Hairpin), poet and essayist.

Gao Lian's best known essay was Eight Discourses on Living (遵生八箋 Zun Sheng Ba Jian, also sometimes written 遵生八牋). This essay covers many diverse subjects, including some commentary on the qin. As noted by Van Gulik (Lore, p. 179), the commentary on the qin is specifically in the 6th discourse, Refined Enjoyment of Elegant Leisure (燕閒清賞 Yanxian Qingshang), which in includes a "論琴 Discussion of the Qin". The following suggests the range of his commentary:

There should be more of relevance in the essay, but I have not yet read it carefully.
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4. 潘必正 Pan Bizheng; 陳妙常 Chen Miaochang
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5. Qin Play (琴挑 Qin Tiao)
The Kunqu Society website has commentary on Yuzan Ji and Qin Tiao; some Chinese scripts seem to be available online elsewhere.
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6. Romantic implications of 琴挑 Xiao Xiang Shui Yun?)
On the face of it this allusion seems to involve an anachronism: Hong Lou Meng was published long after Qin Tiao. Perhaps, though, the existence of the melody Xiang Fei Yuan suggests there may have been earlier associations of "Xiaoxiang" with lovelorn women.
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