A legendary masterpiece that shocked the early Qing Dynasty drama circle
Chinese Name: 长生殿
English Name: The Palace of Eternal Life
Other Name: The Palace of Eternal Youth
Author: Hong Sheng 洪昇
Originally Published: In1688 (Qing Dynasty 清朝）
Genre: Legend (drama)
Brief Introduction of The Palace of Eternal Life
The Palace of Eternal Life 长生殿 is a legendary masterpiece that shocked the early Qing Dynasty 清朝 drama circle created by Hong Sheng 洪昇, a playwright in the early Qing Dynasty 清初. The Palace of Eternal Life focuses on the disaster brought to the country by the ill-fated emperor and political corruption during the Tianbao period 天宝年间 of the Tang Dynasty 唐朝, which almost led to the collapse of the dynasty. Although the script condemns Tang Ming Huang’s extravagance, it also expresses sympathy for the love between Tang Ming Huang 唐明皇 and Yang Guifei 杨贵妃. It indirectly expressed the Ming Emperor’s sympathy, but also placed the ideal of beautiful love.
It consists of two volumes. There are 50 plays in this play, which can be divided into two parts according to the content. The first 25 plays are the first part, and the rest is the second part.
The first part describes the Tang Ming Huang since he became the emperor of hard governance, national strength is becoming stronger and stronger, so he is complacent, indulge in music, beauty.Yang Guifei, who was both talented and beautiful, was chosen and conferred the title of Imperial Concubine, enjoying all the glory. Her elder brother Yang Guozhong 杨国忠 was conferred the title of prime minister, and her sisters were conferred the title of “Fu Ren 夫人”.
The Emperor was very regretful. Gao Lishi 高力士 informed Yang Guifei of the matter. Yang Guifei cut off a lock of her hair and sent it to Tang Ming Huang by Gao Lishi. When Tang Ming Huang saw the hair, he was so moved that he took Yang Guifei back to his palace overnight. The two made up. On the night of Tanabata, they made a vow in the Hall of Eternal Life that they would never separate.
Tang Ming Huang pampered Yang Guifei and did not care about state affairs. By bribing Yang Guozhong, An Lushan 安禄山 was appointed as the special envoy of Fan Yang 范阳节度使. He gathered troops and eventually rebelled.
The rebels swept all the way into Chang ‘an 长安, Tang Ming Huang took Yang Guifei and some ministers to escape, to Ma Weiyi 马嵬驿, Tang Ming Huang in the soldiers forced to execute Yang Guozhong, and Yang Guifei was sentenced to death.
In the second part, An Lushan was defeated by Guo Ziyi 郭子仪, and Tang Ming Huang returned to Chang ‘an. He missed Yang Guifei day and night,so he asked people to summon her spirit. Finally, he moved heaven, and he met Yang Guifei in heaven, and they would stay together forever.
After the play was written, it was performed in the Qing Palace 清宫 and many societies were famous for it. Segments have been adapted for various plays, such as Mei Lanfang‘s 梅兰芳 Peking Opera 京剧 The Drunken Concubine 贵妃醉酒.
Author of The Palace of Eternal Life
Hong Sheng (1645 ~ 1704) was a drama writer and poet of the Qing Dynasty. He was born in Hangzhou杭州, Zhejiang Province 浙江省. Hong Sheng and Kong Shangren 孔尚任 were known as “South Hong and North Kong 南洪北孔”.
Hong Sheng was born into a family of the official. In 1668, he studied in the Guozi Jian 国子监 and took part in the imperial examinations, but he failed all his life to become an official.
After ten years and three revisions, his masterpiece “The Palace of Eternal Life” was published in 1688, causing a stir in the society. In the following year, he was impeached and sent to prison for performing the “The Palace of Eternal Life”on the death day of Empress Xiaoyi 孝懿皇后. He was stripped of his student status and left Beijing 北京 to return home..
He returned to his hometown in his old age and lived in poverty. In 1704, Cao Yin 曹寅 rehearsed the whole “The Palace of Eternal Life” in Nanjing 南京, Hong Sheng was invited to watch, later on the way back to Hangzhou 杭州, drunk in Wuzhen 乌镇 fell into the water and died.
Excerpts From The Palace of Eternal Life
Evaluation of The Palace of Eternal Life
The Palace of Eternal Life is a hot version of The Peony Pavilion 牡丹亭.
Liang Qingbiao 梁清标
The Palace of Eternal Life, written by Hong Sheng, is a masterpiece in operas for thousands of years.
Liang Tingnan 梁廷柟
The words in the “The Palace of Eternal Life” are very beautiful, and the music in the play is very harmonious.
Ye Tang 叶堂