The "Western Chamber" by Wang Shifu 王實甫 (Wang Dexin王德信; 1300) or Han Guanqing 關漢卿 (1230-1300), is an opera basing on a collection of "Tunes of the Western Chamber" Xixiang ji zhu gongdiao 西廂記諸宮調 . It is the love story of Cui Yingying 崔鶯鶯 and Zhang Sheng 張生.
Part II, Act IV: Love and the Lute [corr.: Zither]
Mr. ZHANG enters, and says: Miss Hong Niang told me to wait in the garden to-night, while her Young Mistress is burning incense, and to play on the zither a tune expressing the sentiments of my heart in order to test her feelings and see what she will say. Careful relection on this suggestion show it to be most reasonable. This night is dark. Oh, Moon, can you not, for my sake, come out a little earlier! Oh, I have juest heard the beat of the drum! Oh, I have just heard the ringing of the bell!
He tunes the zither, and says: Oh, my zither, my companion by lake and sea! On you I entirely depend for the great success of this matter. Oh, Heaven, will you not, for my sake, lend a gentle breeze to waft the sound of my zither to the ears of my Young Lady, ears as if carved from jade and as if moulded of white powder, which can apppreciate the music and are beautiful to behold!
(Yingying, accompanied by Hong Niang, enters.)
HONG NIANG says: My Young Mistress let us go to burn incense. How very bright the moon is!
YINGYING says: Hong Niang, how can I have the heart to go to burn incense? Oh, Moon, why have you come forth?
'The moon has suddenly come forth in a couldless sky;
The wind-swept blossoms of the red flowers are scattered on the steps, making them fragrant;
My separation has filled me with endless regrets, and my indescribable sorrows are without number!
Oh, my mother, it seldom happens that a good beginning makes a good end.
He has been to me a lover as unreal as a mirage,
While I have been to him as a mere picture of one beloved!
I am only allowed to cherish him in vain in my heart,
To speak of him with my lips,
And to meet him in my dreams!
Yesterday the Eastern Pavilion was opened,
And my thoughts were all upon how the grand marriage would be arranged,
While, in a state of confused excitement, my moterh told me to raise my green sleeves and to offer him cordially a jade cup of wine,
Which might have been regarded as a sign of her great affection for him,
But simply meant the ranking of me as his sister,
And making impossible our marriage.'
HONG NIANG says: Look, my Young Mistress, there is a halo round the moon. To-morrow, probably, it will be windy.
YINGYING says: Yes, there is a halo round the moon.
'When a mortal beauty is securely esconced within the embroidered curtains,
It is feared that she may be profaned by the touch of man.
When I reflect that the Goddess of the Moon, rising in the east and disappearing in the west, is unattended and alone,
I feel displeased with the Lord of Heaven,
Who also allows not the lover to accompany his loved one to fairyland,
And has taken the precaution to surround with a dense curtain the Palace of the Moon,
For the heart of the Goddess might be moved to love.'
(Hong Niang coughs slightly.)
Mr. ZHANG says: That is Miss Hong Niang coughing. The Young Lady has arrived.
(He plays on his zither.)
YINGYING says: Hong Niang, what is that sound?
HONG NIANG says: Guess, my Young Mistress.
'Is it the tinkling sound of the head-ornaments as their wearer walks?
Or is it the ringing sound of the ornaments of the skirt as it sweeps along?
Is it the creaking of the iron hinges as gusts of wind blow under the eaves?
Or is it the ding-dong sound of the gilt hooks knocking against the curtain frame?
Is it the evening bell that is being sounded in the Buddhist monastery?
Or is it the rustling sound of the few bamboos in the winding balustrade?
Is it the sound of the ivory foot-measure and the scossors that is wafted here?
Or is it the incessant dripping sound of the water-clock as the water falls into the copper receptacle?
Concealing myself, I listen again
At the eastern corner of the wall,
And find that it is indeed the sound of the strings of the zither coming from the Western Chamber.
The sound is powerful, like the sabres and spears of the mailed horsemen;
The sound is gentle, like flowers falling into running water;
The sound is high, like the cry of the crane at moonlight in the pure breeze;
The sound is low, like the wisper of lovers at the casement.
He is at his wits' end, but his sorrow is endless
Because he is separated from the young person he loves.
Before the tune is ended, already I realize its meaning,
Which distinctly expresses the separation of two lovebirds.
It is entirely music without words!'
HONGNIANG says: My Young Mistress, stay here to listen. I am going to see my Mistress and will return directly. (She pretends to leave.)
'It is not because I have a good ear like any other person
That I know the feelings of your heart;
But because of the love we have for each other,
Which is affecting us with such pain and sorrow!'
Mr. ZHANG says:There is a slight sound outside the window. It must be the Young Lady. I will now try a tune.
YINGYING says: I must go nearer the window.
Mr. ZHANG sighs and says: Oh, my Zither! Formerly Sima Xiangru [a famous Han period poet], in wooing Zhuo Wenjun, played a tune which was called the 'Phoenix Seeking his Mate'. How could I presume to call myself a second Xiangru? But you, my Young Lady, how could Wenjun compare in any way with you? I will now play this tune, following the original score. The tune says:
'There was once a fair lady, whom to see was never to forget.
Not to see her for a single day was to drive one to distraction.
The phoenix flies up and down, seeking everywhere his mate.
Alas! The fair lady is not by the eastern wall!
I play my zither to express my love;
When will you consent to my suit and relieve me from my anxiety?
My whish is to be united to one so perfect and, joined hand in hand, to be together for ever.
I cannot fly with you as my companion, may I perish!'
YINGYING says: How beautifully he plays! The song is so sad and the tune so sorrowful that my eyes are filled with tears without knowing it!
'From beginning to end, there is a great variety of notes;
His song is neither like the sound of a bell in the silent night,
Nor like that of the weeping of Confucius at the sight of the unicorn,
Nor of the song about the unfortunate phoenix.
Word after word ripples as gently as the water from the water-clock that marks the night watches.
And sound after sound as sad as though uttered by one who is wasting away and finds his robe wide and his girdle loose.
The sorrow of estrangement and the grief of separation
Reveal themselves in this song,
And make me admire him more and more!'
Mr. ZHANG, putting down the zither, says: Though your mother may me ungrateful and unjust, you, my Young Lady, should not prove to be a deveiver! (Hong Niang enters secretly.)
YINGYING says: Your plaint is unjustified!
'That was a stratagem of my mother.
How can you say that I have deceived you?
She would not allow me to seek for a lover as a female phoenix seeks a male phoenix;
Night and day I have been forced to do nothing but needlework
And had no leisure whatever.
What cares she now others may implicate me?
Outside the window [where I am] is a curtain in the gentle breeze.
Inside, there is a lonely chamber [where he is] with a lamp alight.
Between us is only that window, on which is pasted a single sheet of red paper,
Which covers the openings of the lattice-work.
Theough there are no cloudy mountains rising peak after peak [to divide us],
Still it is impossible to find an intermediary to convey my sentiments.
Formerly, even the Wu Mountain, with its twelve peaks,
Was celebrated as the land where the lover met the Goddess in his dream.'
HONG NIANG suddenly appears, and says: My Young Mistress, in what dream? If my Mistress gets to know this, what will happen?
'She appears so hurriedly,
Regardless of my sorrow,
And has startled me and made me afraid.
I have never moved an inch.
Why does a mere chit like you speak in such a loud voice?
I must pat her and keep her here
In case she goes to my mother and thus makes an and of me.'
HONG NIANG says: I have just heard that Mr. Zhang is going away. My Young Mistress, what is to be done?
YINGYING says: Hong Niang, you go and tell him to remain two or three days longer.
'You just say that my mother has now womething to tell him,
And, good or bad, he will not go empty away.
Very cruel is my mother, who does not adhere to her words,
And is determined to separate me from my true and faithful lover.'
HONG NIANG says: My Young Mistress, it is unnecessary to give me orders; I know how to act. I will go to-morrow to see him.
Exeunt Yingying and Hong Niang.
Mr. ZHANG says: The Young Lady has gone. Miss Hong Niang, why did you not remain for a little longer, so that you might tell me to-night the response [of your Young Mistress to my music]? But things being as they are, all I can do is to go to sleep.
Translated by S.I. Hsiung.