Pei Shaojun on horseback meeting Li Qianjin over the garden wall


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This story scene originates from one of the four famous romantic plays in Yuan dynasty, Pei Shaojun on horseback meeting Li Qianjin over the garden wall (also known as On Horseback and over the Garden Wall) 裴少俊墙头马上, which was written by playwright Bai Pu (白朴 1226 – after 1306).

Pei Shaojun 裴少俊, the son of the Tang Prime Minister Pei Xingjian 裴行俭, was riding on horseback towards Luoyang with his assistant Zhang Qian to buy some flowers. Over a garden wall, a beautiful girl Li Qianjin 李千金, the daughter of the local Governor, caught his eye. Li Qianjin was also attracted to Pei’s handsome look. The young couple immediately fell in love and exchanged love poems with the help of Li’s maid. They agreed to meet in secret at night and eventually Li eloped with Pei. Li Qianjin had to hide and live in the Pei’s back garden for seven years and had two children with him. Unfortunately, she was found out by Pei’s father and was expelled in humiliation. Later, Pei Shaojun passed civil-service exams with flying colours and wanted to win Li back. But Li firmly declined as she had been deeply hurt. Pei’s parents also went to plead with her, however, without success. In the end, Li’s heart was softened by the cries and pleas of her two children, and the couple finally reunited.


Fig 1: woodcut illustration, printed copy of Pei Shaojun on horseback meeting Li Qianjin over the wall, Wanli period (1573–1620), Ming dynasty, courtesy of the National Central Library, Taiwan

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