Yingying Listening to the Qin Zither Playing

莺莺听琴

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This is Scene Five of Book Two of the Chinese classic popular drama Romance of the Western Chamber (西厢记 Xixiang ji).

At a family dinner party, Zhang Junrui’s (张君瑞, also called Scholar Zhang 张生) dream of marrying Yingying (莺莺) the love of his life was shattered by Yingying’s mother because he was a nobody with no respectable official’s position.

This drove him to thoughts of suicide. He tried to drown his sorrows in alcohol, and had to be supported by the maid Hongniang (红娘) to return to his own quarters. His desperation moved Hongniang. She suggested that he express his passion through a performance of the qin (琴) zither and she would arrange for Yingying to hear it on their way to their incense-burning ceremony in the evening.

When Yingying was led to pass Scholar Zhang’s quarters, Hongniang coughed to send Zhang a signal, in line with their secret prior arrangement. Zhang started to pour his heart out through the enchanting music that his deft fingers were playing. It did the trick: Yingying’s heart was melting!

image identification and story scene description by Dr Yibin Ni 

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

Consummation of love from Western Chamber 月下佳期

Yingying receiving good news delivered by the pageboy 泥金报捷

Acknowledgement:

Fig 1: porcelain basin with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of the Sir Michael Butler Collection

Fig 2: porcelain bowl with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Holland

Fig 3: porcelain plaque with overglaze enamelled decoration, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of The Guimet Museum, Paris – National Museum of Asian Arts. G5197.

Fig 4: porcelain plate with underglaze blue and red decoration, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of the Chinese Ceramics Museum, Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province

Fig 5: porcelain lidded jar with overglaze enamelled decoration, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of Palace Museum, Beijing

Fig 6-7: two porcelain bowls with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of Princessehof Ceramics Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

Fig 8: porcelain bowl with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Fig 9: porcelain dish with underglaze blue decoration, 1644-1666, courtesy of Princessehof Ceramics Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

Fig 10: porcelain plate with overglaze enamelled decoration, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of the Marc Michot Gallery

Fig 11: porcelain bowl with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of the Sotheby’s Auction House, New York, 22 June 2021, Lot 34

Fig 12: porcelain snuff-bottle, Jiaqing period (1796-1820), courtesy of Princeton University Art Museum, object number y1936-991

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