"Jiaqi" (A Lovely Evening): An Aroused Match-Maker's Aria
Co-sponsored by the Music Department.
University of Michigan
“Jiaqi” (A Lovely Evening): An Aroused Match-Maker's Aria
Telling a complex story of love and desire in authoritarian China, the Story of the West Chamber (Xixiangji) has intrigued Chinese readers and theater-goes since it was scripted by Wang Shifu of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). One of the favorite characters in the drama is Hongniang, the maid and match-maker who helped Scholar Zhang Junrui and Lady Cui Yingying conduct a secret affair within the walls of a monastery. One of the most popular scenes in the drama is “Jiaqi” or "A Lovely Evening" in which Hongniang sings her own desire for love. Having sent her lady and Scholar Zhang into his studio, she has to stand by its door to keep guard for the rendezvousing couple, and confront her own womanhood. “Jiaqi” is literary-musical-theatrical gem! Cultural, historical, and literary symbols as well as erotic allusions are richly crafted into her lyrics; linguistic-musical tones of desire are structured into her singing as a young woman who gets no satisfaction; realistic but choreographed acting and dancing (shenduan) have to project lust without being pornographic. As such, “Jiaqi” makes an unforgettable show. Its performance challenges authoritarian censorship and taste by staging what is aesthetically argued as pleasurable but not licentious (le er bu yin) in entertainment and/or intimate China. This presentation analyzes "Jiaqi" in detail, demonstrating its artistic discourse of literature, music, theater, and morality in traditional and contemporary China.