暗思偷望有誰在 Secret thoughts, furtive looks… Wondering who's in sight…
黑光四射眼神威 Flashing black eyes radiating with prestige,
若能宵宵伴吾心 Longing that each and every night his heart is near.
侯爺宫闈深似海 Palaces of nobility are deep as the ocean,
祥雲渺遠難此到 Auspicious clouds far and misty can never step into here,
戰戈掃北能一臉 War halberds swept the North, yet only a glance I get of you.
鳳凰臺上鳳凰泣 A phoenix weeps on the Phoenix Terrace3,
牡丹亭中牡丹寵 Peonies are only beloved in the Peony Pavilion4.
梨花帶雨慕蝶夢 Pear blossoms dripped wet with rain5, envying the dream of butterflies6,
誤認淚灑江山穩 As others mistook my tears for the welfare of the empire.
Inspired by the main theme of the “Last Emperor”. 18 Aug 2010
A myriad of questions is left unanswered. On the surface we know she is in a temple burning incense and praying. Why at a hesitating pace? Why the furtive looks? Was she hiding something or looking for someone? The mystery deepens.
In the 2nd stanza we find out that there is a handsome man in her life. By chance did she just saw him on her the way to the temple? An accompanying guardsman perhaps? Or someone she had known before? Was going to the temple a pretext to get out of her surroundings for another glimpse of him? Was there any mutual attraction? Did he even know of her yearning for him? Finally who is this lady? All we know that she is from a rich family background.
In the 3rd stanza we finally find out that this mysterious lady was from the palace. But of what rank and marital status? The palace is a place where only the Emperor and the castrati may freely enter. All other males are forbidden though there may be exceptions made in the day but not at night. It is a viper's nest filled with intrigue, steeped in danger and where life is cheaper by the dozen. It is a giant cage where youth and beauty are pined away and they may not even get a glimpse of the emperor in their entire lives. However the successful ones will ride to the clouds and mount the pinnacle of undreamt power and luxury.
Now we have a better understanding of her feelings but we still do not know of her true intention. Praying for the welfare of the country or just for his safety? At least now we know her affection was returned. He had to elevate his social standing by distinguishing himself in battlefields so as to become ennobled. To be granted an imperial banquet in his honour is the only way he could enter the palace. Still non-physical barriers are insurmountable. We are still not sure of her status. Was she an imperial concubine? Or just someone born into such loftiness that even with all his merits he could not fly to her side? Or is it because of the futility that she would not give him a second look?
In the last stanza her identity was finally revealed - a woman belonging to the most august station of the empire. Whether she belonged to the emperor before the temple offerings were made we do not know. Could it be during the warring years that she was selected into the imperial harem? Only the lovers know of their plight whereas everyone else thinks her tears are the joy for the stability and prosperity of the empire... Each of them now burdened by their own responsibility to the country, their family and everyone else except being true to themselves. The allusion to the three different stories also meant to reinforce that true love is intended for the destined one. For example love will not blossom if the couples were mixed.
A plausible scenario but actually it is a gay inspired theme; hidden in the style of a straight classical Chinese allegorical story. Just like in the story there are insurmountable non-physical barriers. Yes, a glimpse from his black flashing eyes caused a heartbeat to stop. The names or rather the name of the guilty are encoded in the original text and is for the interested astute reader to discover. But then in real life things are much more complex and not straight forward. So many questions still remain in one's mind...
但願夜夜侍君郎. If only that each and every night that I may serve by your side.
牡丹亭下牡丹榮. Peonies are glorious only under the Peony Pavilion