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Chinese Literature
Hangongqiu 漢宮秋 "Autumn in Han Palace"


"Autumn in the Han Palace" by Ma Zhiyuan 馬致遠 (1250-1321), also called Po youmeng guyan Hangong qiu 破幽夢孤雁漢宮秋 "Apparition of a lonely goose in a dark dream in the autumnal Han Palace". Emperor Yuandi 漢元帝 of the Han Dynasty sends out the painter Mao Yanshou 毛延壽 to collect China's most beautiful girls for the emperor's palace. In a small town, Mao finds Wang Zhaojun 王昭君 , beautiful and perfect, but her family is too poor to fulfill Ma's covetous wishes. He does not allow her and her picture to be seen by the emperor. Sitting in an adjoining palace, the emperor hears her one night playing the lute, and falls in love with her. Angry about Ma Yanshou, the emperor wants him being beheaded, but Ma flees to the Xiongnu nomads (a usual gateway for political refugees in China), taking Wang Zhaojun with him and marrying her to the Xiongnu chief. Not being allowed to go back home, Wang Zhaojun drowns herself. Regretting her death, the Xiongnu chief arrests Mao Yanshou and sends him as a host to the Han emperor. Emperor Yuandi himself, seeing the picture of beautiful Wang Zhaojun, repents the loss of her, but in a dream, she appears to him as a lonely autumn goose.
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July 18, 2010 © · Ulrich Theobald · Mail