From "Tale of the Pipa"
By Kao Ming (Yuan)
Imprint of the Ming dynasty
Other Stories--"Tale of the Pipa"
"Tale of the Pipa" was authored by Kao Ming in the Yuan dynasty. The lead character Ts'ai I was a scholar who, after only two months of marriage to his bride Chao Wu-niang, was compelled by his father to go to the imperial capital to take the government examinations. Ts'ai I managed to top the examinations, but was also chosen by Prime Minister Niu to be his son-in-law as a result. Ts'ai I's protests that he was already married and that his parents needed him in their old age were all ignored, and he was forced to marry into the Niu family. During this time a severe drought took place in Ts'ai I's hometown of Ch'en-liu, and although the government had sent supplies, they were seized by the scoundrel Li Chen. Wu-niang had no choice but to beg for rice to feed her parents-in-law while surviving on only the chaff herself. One by one the aged Ts'ai's passed away, unable to bear the suffering. Before their deaths they wished to write a letter to renounce Wu-niang as Ts'ai I's wife, as they did not want Wu-niang to be doomed to an empty marriage due to Ts'ai I's lack of filial piety. However, Wu-niang refused, wishing to remain loyal to her husband. Following their deaths, Wu-niang had to sell her lovely hair to pay for their funeral and dig the ground with her own hands to make a grave. Her filial piety so moved the gods that they built the grave for her. Afterwards, Wu-niang set off to the imperial capital in search of her husband, carrying a pipa on her back and taking with her the portraits of her husband's parents.
Following his remarriage, Ts'ai I still yearned desperately for home and was always melancholy. He had sought to have someone carry a message home, but unfortunately he was deceived. When his wife Lady Niu discovered this, she took initiative in asking her father to bring his parents and Chao Wu-niang to the capital. When Wu-niang arrived at the Niu's residence, Lady Niu even skillfully arranged for Wu-niang and Ts'ai I to meet. Finally Prime Minister Niu was persuaded by his daughter's kindness and reason to commend the Ts'ai family to the emperor, and the family of Ts'ai I and his two wives was reunited.