The Beauty's Frolics

(Mei ren shua le)

Volumes 1 and 2 of 2

This is another version of the playsThe Song of Eternal Sorrow: The Story of the Emperor of the Tang Dynasty and The Innermost Feelings of the Emperor's Favourite Beauty Yang Guifei, both found in this collection. The plot of this play concentrates primarily on a scene in which Yang Guifei is taking a bath and frolicking with palace maids, offering a vivid depiction of scenes featuring the Emperor's favourite beauty.

Tang Minghuang (A.D. 712-756) was an Emperor of the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907). He was an outstanding patron of the arts and music, and established the first Chinese acting school in his Pear Garden. He is known as the "Patron Saint of Chinese Opera" in Chinese history.

Yang Guifei is one of the Four Great Beauties in Chinese history. Emperor Tang Minghuang is so obsessed with her that he neglects his official duties. He builds a spa called Huaqing Palace for her, and grants her family wealth and social position. He even appoints her brother Yang Guozhong Prime Minister. The Emperor spends every moment with Yang Guifei and cares little about what happens outside the palace. He writes many poems about Yang Guifei and enjoys theatre almost every night in the palace with her.

Yang Guozhong becomes the de facto ruler of the country, but is so corrupt that he sells government positions for bribes. An Lushan, a general encamped along the frontier, is even promoted through bribery, rather than being punished for his military failures. Chinese history records that, when a rebellion breaks out, the Emperor's troops blame Yang Guifei and her brother for distracting the Emperor and for the empire's subsequent decline. They demand her death and, although the Emperor is reluctant to have his favourite executed, Yang Guifei is strangled with a white silk cord in the end.