Repudiation of the Billet-Doux

张生跳墙 (乘夜踰垣)

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This is from Scene Three of Act Three of the Chinese classic drama Romance of the Western Chamber (西厢记 Xixiang Ji), written by playwright Wang Shifu 王实甫 (1250–1336) in Yuan dynasty. The episode is commonly called Repudiation of the Billet-Doux (赖简).

Zhang Junrui (张君瑞, also called Scholar Zhang 张生) and Miss Cui Yingying 崔莺莺 fell in love with each other at the monastery where they first met. Yingying’s maid, Hongniang 红娘, has been helping them delivering love letters. Yingying pretended to reject Scholar Zhang in her letter, but she left a clue for a rendezvous with him at night time. This scene depicts the evening when Scholar Zhang, unable to hold back his excitement, clambers over a garden wall and jumps down to meet his young lover Yingying.

 

story scene description by Rachel Ma

 

Other episodes in the Romance of the Western Chamber:

Scholar Zhang embarking on his journey to sit for civil-service examinations 张生赶考

Scholar Zhang renting a room in the monastery 僧房假寓

Scholar Zhang and Cui Yingying exchanging verses in the garden 唱和东墙 (墙角联吟)

Consummation of love from Western Chamber 月下佳期

Scholar Zhang getting drunk due to Madame Cui’s broken promise 张生醉酒 (崔母悔婚)

Yingying listening to the qin zither playing 莺莺听琴

Yingying receiving good news delivered by the pageboy 泥金报捷

Acknowledgement:

Fig 1: famille verte porcelain brush pot, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of Guangdong Provincial Museum, China

Fig 2-3: famille verte porcelain bowl, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands

Fig 4: close-up, rouleau vase with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, photography by Mr J P Kim

Fig 5: rouleau vase with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Fig 6: porcelain bowl with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of Palace Museum, Beijing

Fig 7-8: famille verte porcelain beaker, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of Dore & Rees Auction House, 6 Nov 2023, Lot 5

Fig 9: porcelain dish with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Fig 10: famille verte porcelain plaque, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, formerly in the Robert McPherson collection

Fig 11: famille rose porcelain dish, Yongzheng period (1723–35), Qing dynasty, courtesy of Musee des Arts decoratifs

Fig 12: famille rose porcelain cup, Yongzheng period (1723–35), Qing dynasty, courtesy of The Dresden Porcelain Collection, State Art Collections of Dresden, Germany

Fig 13: famille rose porcelain dish, Yongzheng period (1723–35), Qing dynasty, courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum

Fig 14: famille rose porcelain dish, 18 century, courtesy of Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University

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