|The Morrison Collection|
This is the second part of a three-part play belonging to the Cantonese Opera (Yueju 粵劇) tradition. The first and third parts are missing. The extant middle part, comprising four pages, is bound with a number of other miscellaneous works into a volume labelled "Pamphlets" (SOAS callmark RM c.500.y.2). See Catalogue of the Morrison Collection of Chinese Books p.261 for details.
The story of Li Qi is found in the repertoires of a number of regional dramatic traditions, including Kunqu 昆曲, Cantonese Opera 粵劇, and Huaibei bangzi 淮北梆子. It is commonly known as "TheTale of the Horse Peddlar" 販馬記, or sometimes as "The Strange Double Meeting" 奇雙會 or "Baocheng Prison" 褒城獄. Commonly performed scenes include "Cries from a Prison Cell" 哭監, "Writing the Petition" 寫狀, "The Three Pulls" 三拉 and "The Reunion" 團圓. The Morrison text represents the "Three Pulls" scene.
There are a number of variations to the story, but the most authentic recension seems to be as summarised below :
During the Ming dynasty there was a horse peddlar named Li Qi 李奇 who lived in Baocheng 褒城 county of Shanxi 陕西 province. He had two children, the eldest a girl called Li Guizhi 李桂枝 (in one tradition written as 桂芝), the youngest a boy called Li Tai 李泰, known by his childhood name of Baotong 保童. After Li Qi's wife, née Wang 王氏, dies he marries a new wife called Yang Sanchun 楊三春.
His new wife is the archetypal cruel and deceitful step-mother. Whilst Li Qi is off on a horse-trading trip to Xiling 西陵, his new wife openly carries on an affair with her lover Tian Wang 田旺. At the same time she cruelly mistreats her two step-children.
Whilst Yang Sanchun and her lover are away from the house, the maid, Chunhua 春花 (or 春華), plans with Guizhi to secretly send Baotong to the capital to take part in the imperial examinations. After Baotong has been safely sent off, Yang Sanchun and Tian Wang arrive back, with the intention of killing Guizhi and her brother before Li Qi returns. Guizhi flees, and collapses outside the house of Liu Zhishan 劉志善 in the neighbouring village. Liu Zhishan takes in Guizhi, and treats her as his own daughter.
At the same time, a young scholar, Zhao Chong 趙寵, and his younger sister Lianzhu 連珠, have been thrown out onto the street by their step-mother on the death of their father. They throw themselves on the mercy of their uncle, Liu Zhishan. Liu Zhishan arranges the marriage between Li Guizhi and Zhao Chong.
Zhao Chong also goes to the capital to take part in the imperial examinations. He passes the examinations, and is posted to Baocheng 褒域 as the County Magistrate.
Meanwhile, Li Qi returns home, and finds his children missing. Yang Sanchun maintains that the two children have died, but Li Qi interrogates and beats the maid in order to find out the truth of the matter. In order to protect Guizhi and Baotong, Chunhua takes her own life by hanging herself. Yang Sanchun and Tian Wang then falsely accuse Li Qi of raping and murdering the maid, and they bribe the local magistrate, Hu Jing 胡敬, to ensure that Li Qi is found guilty and sentenced to death. Li Qi is put in prison awaiting his fate.
Shortly after arriving at his post, Zhao Chong goes off on a tour of the rural districts under his jurisdiction. One night whilst her husband is away, Guizhi hears the sound of crying from the prison (in one tradition it is her sister-in-law Lianzhu who first hears the crying). Guizhi recognises the voice as being that of her father, and goes down to the prison where she finds that it really is her father. He was crying out in pain because he had been beaten up by the prison guard, Li Hu 李虎, for not bribing him.
When her husband returns, she pleads with him to help her save her father'e life. Zhao Chong cannot overturn the case as it was decided by the previous incumbant, and is thus out of his jurisdiction. Instead he writes a petition on Guizhi's behalf, and tells her to dress up as a man, and present the petition to the Visiting Censor who is currently touring the region, and will be stopping there the next day.
The censor turns out to be Guizhi's long-lost brother, Li Tai. When Li Tai realises that the petioner is none other than his sister, he pulls her into his private quarters to avoid the attention of the public. Zhao Chong does not realise what has happened, and fearing for his wife, charges into the hall and stirs up a great fuss. He too is pulled off by Li Tai into his private quarters. Li Tai overturns the case against their father, and has him released from prison. Li Tai then pulls his unsuspecting father off into his private quarters, and the family are reunited.
The story of Li Qi is also told in the sung story-telling form of Pingtan 評彈 from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. The pingtan performance artist Xu Yunzhi 徐雲志 (1901-1978) from Suzhou included "TheTale of the Horse peddlar" 販馬記 in his repertoire, and his rendition of scenes from the story such as "Cries from a Prison Cell" 哭監 and "Reunion in the Prison Cell" 監會 are available on record.
The following is transcription of Xu Yunzhi's performance of the scene "Cries from a Prison Cell" 哭監 :
Not Yet Available.