The Story of the Secluded Chamber, with Li Zhuowu’s Critical Comments


You gui ji (Story of the secluded chamber), also entitled Bai yue ting ji (Story of the Moon-Worshipping Pavilion), is one of the five greatest Ming-dynasty long poetic dramas, called chuan qi. Attributed by some to Guan Hanqing (1220–1300), the Yuan playwright, and by others to Shi Hui (born 1295 or 1296), a native of Hangzhou and a Southern-style playwright at the end of the Yuan and the beginning of the Ming dynasty, the play has 40 scenes in two juan. The story takes place at the end of Jin dynasty, also known as Jurchen dynasty (1115–1234), when the Mongol army attacked the capital. While fleeing from the fighting, the heroine, Wang Ruilan, daughter of the minister of the Bureau of War, becomes separated from her parents, and meets scholar Jiang Shilong. The two are married, but Wang Ruilan is forced to separate from Jiang when she reunites with her father. Meanwhile, Wang Ruilan’s mother has rescued and adopted another young girl, Jiang Ruilian, who was caught up in the war. One day, as Wang Ruilan is burning incense and praying to the moon (a reference to the title of the work), she sees her adopted sister and finds out her true identity: Jiang Ruilian is the sister of her husband. Two top candidates, one military and the other civilian, meanwhile, have emerged from the civil examinations. The minister of war wants his daughter to marry the military candidate. He wants the civilian candidate, who turns out to be Jiang Shilong, to marry his adopted daughter, not realizing that the two are brother and sister. The story has a happy ending after all the misunderstandings are clarified. The play reflects a preference for military men during the Jurchen rule. This book was printed at Rongyutang, a well-known workshop in Hangzhou. The commentaries and punctuation are by Li Zhi (1527–1602), courtesy name Zhuowu, a prominent late-Ming philosopher, historian, and writer. The illustrations are the work of the famous Anhui engravers of the Huang family, and poems were added to provide further sophistication and refinement. Inclusion of illustrations and poems were among the means employed by the workshops to increase circulation and sales.

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Rongyutang, Hulin, Hangzhou, China


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Physical Description

2 juan, 2 volumes : illustrations ; 22.6 x 13.7 centimeters

Last updated: January 3, 2018