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  • Baihua Ting 百花亭(The Pavilion of One Hundred Flowers), An Anonymous Zaju Play, Part Ii
  • Shu-Chu Wei (bio) and Catherine Swatek (bio)

Translators’ Introduction

In the introduction to Part I1 of our translation of Baihua ting, we mention two of the play’s special scenes. One, a comic skit inserted into Act II, depicts two students at the Imperial Academy competing to monopolize a courtesan; they are joined by our male lead, Wang Huan, whose intrusion as a peacemaker adds a further twist to the humor. The other is the even more humorous hawking of fruit by Wang Huan in Act III, the comic high point of Part II. The hawking can be further divided into two parts: hawking in prose and in song. The prose part begins even before Wang appears, as his cry is heard offstage. When he appears on stage costumed as a vendor, the audience is confronted with the surprising and comical new persona of the romantic lead. We leave it to the reader to discover the skill with which the playwright unfolds this act, noting only that the riffing on the connotations of the fruits that Wang is selling, the use of puns and wordplay in Wang’s arias, and the wild incongruity of his disguise all propel the comedy. In an article devoted to links between performance and food, Stephen West observes that food and staged performance had a deep affinity in Chinese popular culture and points to “clear parallels” between comic interludes such as this one in Baihua ting and short skits (yuanben 院本) that were popular in the Song and Yuan dynasties.2 One type of yuanben, based on fruit-vending songs, became a form of entertainment as well as commerce and is variously described as “Names of Fruits” (“Shuiguo ming” 水果名) or “Hawking Fruits” (“Jiao guozi” 叫果子); this skit in Baihua ting is adapted from such songs.3

As noted in our introduction to Part I, we have based our translation on the edition of Baihua ting included in Yuanqu xuan, noting differences between this edition [End Page 192] and that preserved in the Maiwangguan collection compiled by Zhao Qimei 趙琦美(1563–1624). Both versions are from collections compiled roughly at the same time (1614–1617 for the Maiwanguan collection, 1615–1616 for Yuanqu xuan), and differences between them are relatively few, nothing like those documented by Stephen West for a Yuan version of “Injustice to Dou E” included in Yuankan zaju sanshizhong 元刊雜劇三十種 (Thirty Yuan dynasty zaju imprints) and Zang’s version in Yuanqu xuan.4 We have noted these differences and, in some cases, indicated our reasons for preferring one version (usually Zang’s) over the other.


[A jing comic-villain role enacting Gao Changbin enters and recites in verse:]

The two armies’ flags and drums in fact are well matched;But my three-inch thing5 is hard to appease.I’m of no mind to practice the stratagems of Sun and Wu,6And only do battle on the fields of flowers and willows.

[Speaks:] My family name is Gao, given name Miao, courtesy name Changbin. Initially, I served as an officer in charge of the city gates. Now I have been promoted to serve under the honorable military commissioner’s direction at Yan’an Superior Prefecture in Shaanxi. Following the commissioner’s command, I have brought with me one hundred thousand strings of cash to Luoyang to purchase military supplies for the frontier officers and soldiers. I have been here for more than a month and have diverted twenty thousand strings on the sly to take as wife the leading courtesan, Ho Lianlian. We are currently staying at the Chengtian Temple. I have dispatched several reliable subordinates to guard the temple gate. No idlers are allowed to come in, and the maid is the only person kept to serve here. Today, the city official of Luoyang has invited me to a banquet. Attendants, saddle a horse;

I’m off to the banquet. [Exits.]

[Lianlian, leading Pan’er, enters and speaks:] Yesterday, I asked Wang Xiao’er to send a letter to Master Wang. I wonder what’s happened. Today that fellow has gone to a...