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Qin in The Peach Blossom Fan
Qin references here and in the 1960s film version 1
Tao Hua Shan
Watch clip   Complete video on YouTube2                  
桃花扇傳奇 Taohua Shan Chuanqi, completed in 1699 by 孔尚任 Kong Shangren (1648-1718),3 as indicated by the "chuanqi" in its title, was originally a "southern style play", a style that originated during the Ming dynasty but that was later influential in the development of Peking opera. The plot includes a lot of the sort of political intrigue that took place during the fall of the Ming dynasty in the 1640s, but the story centers on the love story between the virtuous courtesan Li Xiangjun ("Fragrant Princess" Li) and the upright young scholar Hou Fangyu. At one point Fangyu gives Xiangjun a fan. When later one of the villains tries to take Xiangjun as a concubine she resists by banging her head on a wall, causiing blood that drips on the fan. Her friend Yang Wencong then draws the image of a peach blossoms branch on the fan. In Chinese tradition peaches and peach blossoms are associated with marriage, as well as longevity.

The Peach Blossom Fan has been called "China's greatest historical drama" (ref.), but it is perhaps better known from its publication as a book than through actual performances. In the book the qin does not play a primary role. It is discussed here on this website mainly because of the scene in the film version, linked at right, that shows Fragrant Princess actually playing a qin.4

More fully, although the film clip is the only segment in the film to have a qin, in the original play by Kong Shangren it is mentioned in a number of scenes, as follows:

These references were found by searching the online Chinese text (zh.wikisource.org) scene by scene (beginning Chapter 2) for "琴". It thus did not find references such as that in Scene 23 where, if qin is actually mentioned, it is by the literary term "冰絃 bing xian": ice strings, a term often used in poetry to refer to qin.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 桃花扇 Tao Hua Shan (Wiki; text)
The film version was made in 1963 (中國經典越劇電影). The original play had 40 + 4 scenes so clearly a lot of editing had to be done to condense the play into 1 hr 54.36 min.

To give a better idea about how the film must condense the story in the book, after the song in the clip shown above comes in Section 23 of the film, from 1.10.22 to 1.14.05. The next song in the film has lyrics from Section 28. They begin at: 1.20.30, as follows:

"蕭然,美人去遠,重門鎖,雲山萬千,知情只有閒鶯燕。" as at Zh.Wiki   (?)
The translation p.207 begins: "The room is forlorn; my beauty's far away....

The film was originally in B/W, with color added later together with the English translation was added later from the publsshed English translation:

The Peach Blossom Fan
K'ung Shang-jren
Translation by Chen Shih-Hsiang and Harold Acton, with Cyril Birch
University of California 1976
Introduction by Judith T. Zeitlin for New York Review Books edition, 2015

The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature, p.520, described it as "China's greatest historical drama", but it was apparently better known through people reading the script than through seeing actual performances.

2. Image: From the 1963 film version
The film was downloaded from YouTube then the segment where Li Xiangjun plays qin was extracted. On the sound track the qin can on occasion faintly be heard, but Li does not actually play at all.

This clip is the only segment in the film to have a qin. In the video of the original it starts at: 1.10.22. There the lyrics sung by female heroine (李香君 Li Xiangjun), "欺負俺賤俺花", are as at:
Zh.Wiki, with translation in Scene 23, p.169 of the book, as follows:

They persecute me, feeble blossom alone on the mist,
Helpless before the arrogance of the ministers.
But to preserve my purity, jade without flaw,
Gladly I wound the flower-like bloom of my cheeks.

The book apparently says nothing about the music instruments here. Places where the book actually does mention the qin are mentioned in the main text.

3. 孔尚任 Kong Shangren

4. Film version
Credits at the beginning of the film say it was adapted from the original by 歐陽予倩 Ouyang Yuqian (
Wiki). For further details about the film see above.

The qin is too quiet an instrument ever to have actually been used in a theater for Chinese opera. Whenever qin did appear in a play it was pronably a smaller (and not so valuable) model that would be easier to carry around; perhaps an actor would pretend to play it, but the music would always come from the accompanying ensemble.

For further related information see The Qin in Chinese Opera.

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