From "Chang Shen-chih's Annotated Edition of 'Romance of the
By Wang Shih-fu with Kuan Han-ch'ing (Yuan) and illustrated by
Ch'en Hung-shou (Ming)
Imprint of the late Ming dynasty by Hsiang Nan-chou
Romances--"Romance of the Western Chamber"
"Romance of the Western Chamber" tells the love story of Ts'ui Ying-ying and Chang Hung. Authored by Wang Shih-fu, it is one of the best-known plays (tsa chu) from the Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368). Passing by P'u-chiu Temple on his way to the imperial capital for the government examinations, Chang Hung had a chance encounter with Ying-ying, the only daughter of the former prime minister. The two fell in love at first sight, and Chang found a pretext to stay at the temple. At night and separated by the wall between them, Ying-ying burnt incense and they recited poems to each other in expression of their love. This idyllic time was ended by the rebel army of Sun Fei-hu, who besieged P'u-chiu Temple and demanded to take Ying-ying as his wife. In order to save the temple, Madam Ts'ui (Ying-ying's mother) promised Ying-ying's hand in marriage to anyone who could force the rebels to lift their siege. Chang wrote urgently to his friend General White Horse for help and was able to save the temple. However, Madam Ts'ui refused to allow Ying-ying to marry Chang, giving the excuse that her daughter had been promised since childhood to another. Sorrow-stricken, Chang fell ill. Ying-ying's handmaiden Hung-niang, however, helped the lovers to meet secretly in the Western Chamber. Madam Ts'ui thereupon discovered the lovers' meeting and interrogated Hung-niang. Fortunately, with her eloquence and ingenuity, Hung-niang was able to persuade Madam Ts'ui to consent to the marriage of the two, on the condition that Chang successfully obtain a high official post. Ying-ying separated tearfully from Chang at the Ten Mile Pavilion and Chang proceeded to the imperial capital to take the examinations. Chang finally returned, having topped the imperial examinations, and the lovers were united in marriage at last.