Project Description

It was written in the 1960s and has become a classic of the Cantonese opera repertoire in Hong Kong. Though it lacks the refinement of the operas of the renowned Cantonese dramatist, Tong Dig-seng [1917-1959], it is just as popular as “Princess Ceng-ping”. Its uniqueness lies in some innovations that break the mold of most traditional operas. For instance, the theme song of this comedy is sung in the first act in all seriousness instead of close to or at the end of the opera. In addition, the whole plot is developed around two female characters, who are pregnant but not married, and their pregnancy is displayed blatantly on stage. This was considered fairly daring at the time it was written as pregnancy was considered a taboo in Cantonese opera – something to be heard about but not seen. It could be argued that all these features are gimmicks to attract viewers to the opera. However, as opera is presented at the beginning of a new century, it seems to have brought with it a taste of post-modern subversion, which is often found in made-in-Hong Kong comic movies.

At the beginning of the opera, Yelu Jun-hsiung, a general of the barbaric Jin dynasty, is ordered to escort the Princess Hung-luen, a princess of the Southern Song Dynasty, back to the Song capital. They are moored at the bend of a river.

The Princess has spent many years in the Kingdom of Jin and grown up with Jun-hsiung. They are lovers. It is difficult for the two to part for they may never see each other again.

By coincidence, a commoner called Sau-tin tries to drown herself because her father has forced her to marry someone that she does not love. Sau-in is rescued by General Jun-hsiung and Princess Hung-luen.

Late that night, some pirates rob their ship. In confusion, they all fall into the water. Princess Hung-luen is rescued by Sau-tin’s father, Ni Si-an. She somehow loses her memory and later suffers from amnesia. Ni Si-an will be in trouble if he does not send his daughter to the family that has asked for Sau-tin’s hand. To solve his problem, he decides to marry Hung-luen off as if she were his daughter. Meanwhile, Hung-luen’s brother has rescued and mistaken Sau-tin for the princess and takes her back to the palace.

After countless twists and turns, Princess Hung-luen disguises herself as a man and is recruited by the Prince to decode a document written in a foreign language. The Prince rewards her by marrying his sister to her.

On the wedding night, both the bride and the “groom” give birth to a child. They are afraid the Prince will punish them, so they make up a series of lies to cover up their wrongdoings. Their lying ends up involving all the characters in the opera. Eventually, the Prince discovers their crimes and sends the newly-selected official to try this case. The official is none other than General Yelu Jun-hsiung. Eventually the tribunal turns into a farce. As a comedy, all the complications are resolved at the end of the opera – Jun-hsiung helps Hung-luen regain her memory and they are then happily married.