The Peony Pavilion

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Because for you, my flowerlike fair,
The swift years like the waters flow—
I have sought you everywhere.
And at last I find you here,
In a dark room full of woe.

The Peony Pavilion (Chinese: 牡丹亭) is a romantic tragicomedy play written by dramatist Tang Xianzu in 1598.

Quotations[edit]

  • 原来姹紫嫣红开遍,似这般都付与断井颓垣。良辰美景奈何天,赏心乐事谁家院。
    • See how deepest purple, brightest scarlet
      open their beauty only to dry well crumbling.
      "Bright the morn, lovely the scene,"
      listless and lost the heart
      —where is the garden "gay with joyous cries"?
      • The Peony Pavilion, trans. Cyril Birch (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2002), p. 44
      • Watch this scene on YouTube
    • Variant translations:
      • The flowers glitter brightly in the air,
        Around the wells and walls deserted here and there.
        Where is the "pleasant day and pretty sight"?
        Who can enjoy "contentment and delight"?
        • trans. Wang Rongpei
      • What a riot of brilliant purple and tender crimson,
        Among the ruined wells and crumbling walls.
        What an enchanting sight on this fine morning,
        But who is there that takes delight in the spring?
      • Already, bright purple and passion pink bloom in profusion, yet next to a crumbling well and faded walls, such splendor is abandoned. But in this glorious season, where are the sounds of joy in this garden?
        • trans. Lindy Mark; quoted by Fu Jin in Chinese Theatre (Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 53
If I were free to pick my bloom or grass,
If I were free to choose to live or die,
I would resign to fate without a sigh.
  • How enticing the scholar is!
    In my previous life I had not been his wife
    And never saw him in this life.
    In my afterlife I shall be his wife
    And dream appears first in this life.
    Overcome by his enticing charms,
    I left myself in his strong arms.
    What a splendid moment!
    • trans. Wang Rongpei
  • 偶然間心似繾,梅樹邊。這般花花草草由人戀,生生死死隨人愿,便酸酸楚楚無人怨。待打拼香魂一片,月陰雨梅天,守的個梅根相見。
    • All of a sudden my heart is drawn
      Toward this plum tree by the lawn.
      If I were free to pick my bloom or grass,
      If I were free to choose to live or die,
      I would resign to fate without a sigh.
      I'll risk my life
      And weather raging storms
      To be your faithful wife.
      • trans. Wang Rongpei

Quotations about The Peony Pavilion[edit]

  • 這里黛玉見寶玉去了,聽見眾姐妹也不在房中,自己悶悶的。正欲回房,剛走到梨香院牆角外,只聽見牆內笛韻悠揚,歌聲婉轉,黛玉便知是那十二個女孩子演習戲文。雖未留心去聽,偶然兩句吹到耳朵內,明明白白一字不落道:“原來是奼紫嫣紅開遍,似這般都付與斷井頹垣。”黛玉聽了,倒也十分感慨纏綿,便止步側耳細聽。又唱道是:“良辰美景奈何天,賞心樂事誰家院。”聽了這兩句,不覺點頭自嘆,心下自思:“原來戲上也有好文章,可惜世人只知看戲,未必能領略其中的趣味。”想畢,又后悔不該胡想,耽誤了聽曲子。再聽時,恰唱到:“只為你如花美眷,似水流年。”黛玉聽了這兩句,不覺心動神搖。又聽道“你在幽閨自憐”等句,越發如醉如痴,站立不住,便一蹲身坐在一塊山子石上,細嚼“如花美眷,似水流年”八個字的滋味。
    • With Bao-yu gone and the girls evidently all out, Dai-yu began to feel lonely and depressed. She was on her way back to her own room and was just passing by the corner of Pear Tree Court when she heard the languorous meanderings of a flute and the sweet modulation of a girlish voice coming from the other side of the wall, and knew that the twelve little actresses were at their rehearsal inside. Although she was paying no particular attention to the singing, a snatch of it chanced suddenly to fall with very great clarity on her ear, so that she was able to make out quite distinctly the words of two whole lines of the aria being sung:

      'Here multiflorate splendour blooms forlorn
      Midst broken fountains, mouldering walls—'

      They moved her strangely, and she stopped to listen. The voice went on:

      'And the bright air, the brilliant morn
      Feed my despair.
      Joy and gladness have withdrawn
      To other gardens, other halls—'

      At this point the listener unconsciously nodded her head and sighed.
      'It's true,' she thought, 'there is good poetry even in plays. What a pity most people think of them only as entertainment. A lot of the real beauty in them must go unappreciated.'
      She suddenly became aware that her mind was wandering and regretted that her inattention had caused her to miss some of the singing. She listened again. This time it was another voice:

      'Because for you, my flowerlike fair,
      The swift years like the waters flow—'

      The words moved her to the depth of her being.

      'I have sought you everywhere,
      And at last I find you here,
      In a dark room full of woe—'

      It was like intoxication, a sort of delirium. Her legs would no longer support her. She collapsed on to a near-by rockery and crouched there, the words turning over and over in her mind:

      Because for you, my flowerlike fair,
      The swift years like the waters flow...

      • Cao Xueqin, Dream of the Red Chamber (c. 1760), Chapter 23, as translated by David Hawkes in The Story of the Stone: The Golden Days (Penguin, 1973); quoted in full by Patricia Buckley Ebrey in The Cambridge Illustrated History of China (Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 232–233.

External links[edit]

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