“Scrounging for a School” (“Naoguan”), A Play by Pu Songling
- CHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 33, Number 1, July 2014
- pp. 60-81
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‘‘SCROUNGING FOR A SCHOOL’’ (‘‘NAOGUAN’’), A PLAY BY PU SONGLING ZHENZHEN LU University of Pennsylvania1 In the eulogy of Pu Songling 蒲松齡 (1640–1715) that Pu’s eldest son Pu Ruo 蒲箬 wrote for his father in the summer of 1715, he said: As for the Strange Tales [of Make-Do Studio] in eight fascicles, my father gathered together things he had seen and heard. Expressing his innermost feelings, he completed them after several years of work. It was always his opinion that they could serve as a curative for the scholars and officials. But still he regretted that the Strange Tales were not like the morning bells and evening drums that can penetrate the bewilderment of the common man in the villages and fully awaken the old women in the markets from their dreams. He went on to elaborate them as miscellaneous popular dramatic cantos so that those on the highways and byways would sing along when they saw them and weep when they heard them . . . .2 如志異八卷, 漁蒐聞見, 抒寫襟懷, 積數年而成, 總以為學士大夫之針砭; 而 猶恨不如晨鐘暮鼓, 可參破村庸之迷, 而大醒士媼之夢也, 又演為通俗雜曲, 使街衢里巷之中, 見者歌, 而聞者亦泣. . . .3 While the urge to interpret both Pu Songling’s classical tales and his experiments in the vernacular within a framework of enlightenment and awakening reflects a certain sensibility of reading,4 Pu Ruo’s emotive images of the vernacular works being seen and heard, and the sonic metaphors of them ‘‘ringing’’ out in villages and markets surely echo Pu Songling’s deep interest in the popular oral 1 I would like to express my deep thanks to the editor and to the two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and criticisms, and for pointing out errors and omissions and referring me to additional materials. My thanks also go to Professor Dan Ben-Amos and members of the folklore seminar held at the University of Pennsylvania in Fall 2012, and to Dr. Brian Vivier of the Van Pelt Library. Finally, I would like to thank Professor Victor Mair for all his support. 2 Translation slightly modified from Li-Ching Chang and Victor H. Mair, ‘‘The Wall, A Folk Opera by Pu Songling,’’ CHINOPERL Papers 14 (1986): 98. 3 Pu Ruo 蒲箬, ‘‘A Biographical Sketch of My Late, Illustrious Father, Gentleman of the Willow Spring, Senior Licentiate of the Second Class, and Candidate for Prefectural Sub-Director of Schools under the Qing Dynasty’’ 清故顯考嵗進士, 候選儒學訓導柳泉公行述, in Lu Dahuang 路大荒, ed., Pu Songling ji 蒲松齡集 (Collected works of Pu Songling), 2 vols. (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1962), 2: 1808. 4 On the discourses surrounding the interpretation of Pu Songling’s works, especially his tales, see Judith T. Zeitlin, Historian of the Strange: Pu Songling and the Chinese Classical Tale (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), pp. 15–42. CHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature 33.1 (July 2014): 60–81 # The Permanent Conference on Chinese Oral and Performing Literature, Inc. 2014 DOI: 10.1179/0193777414Z.00000000017 performance media of his native Shandong. The text of a tomb inscription by Pu Songling’s friend Zhang Yuan 張元 written in 1725, ten years after Pu’s death, listed among Pu’s works the names of ‘‘fourteen varieties of [works using] popular rustic songs’’ (tongsu liqu 通俗俚曲十四種) and ‘‘three plays’’ (xi sanchu 戲三齣).5 In his postface to a 1747 edition of a pedagogical work by Pu Songling that he helped edit and publish, Pu’s grandson Pu Lide 蒲立德 recorded that among Pu’s unpublished works there were also tens of ‘‘playful works of verse in the vernacular for admonishing the world’’ (tongsu quanshi youxi ci 通俗勸世遊戲詞).6 This article presents a translation of one of the three plays listed on the tomb inscription by Zhang Yuan, ‘‘Scrounging for a School’’ (‘‘Naoguan’’ 鬧館). Describing an encounter between a miserly villager and a starving schoolmaster, the play is a witty elaboration of the well-known trope of the high-minded yet impotent schoolmaster, a figure who appears elsewhere in Pu Songling’s vernacular works.7 Both the earthy language of everyday life and the antiquated language of the classics become the material of the play’s lively arias in decasyllabic verse, which seem to have been meant to be sung in the local theater tradition of bangzi 5 Zhang Yuan 張元, ‘‘Memorial for Master Pu of Willow Spring’’ (‘‘Liuquan Pu xiansheng mubiao’’ 柳泉蒲先生墓表), in Lu Dahuang ed., Pu Songling ji, 2: 1805–806...