8.Bass Drum

In that big living room, Yu-Wen stood there as straight as a solder in front of her mother, who was sitting upright in a big Padauk Wood armed chair.

“I said, NO! Didn’t you understand what I’ve just said to you?” Mrs. Lyan said with a rather loud and harsh tune.

“Who has ever heard of a young lady like you from an illustrious family,  would ever learn to sing ” Pei-Jing Brass Drum “? Such low-class folk song was only for those people on the street working for their daily bread. If our relatives and friends ever heard the Lyan’s only girl is learning Pei-Jing Brass Drum, what would they think about you? How am I going to be able to look for a matched marriage for you? En?”  Yu-Wen bowed her head low, quiet as a mouse!

“So, I’ll say it again: NO! YOU – ARE – NOT – ALLOWED  – TO –  LEARN –  IT! ” Mrs. Lyan rapped her older. She turned over to Wong Ma and said: “Wong Ma, escort your lady back to her room. Without my permission, your lady should not leave her room.”

Wong Ma whispered to Yu Wen: “My lady, let’s go back to your room now. Don’t make it difficult for me.”

Yu Wen was going to say something, but when she looked at her mother’s angry face and  Wong Ma with tears in her eyes, she withdrew quietly from her mother’s room.

While they were walking to her room, she mumbling to herself: “Ok! Ok! I am not going to learn it, but I really don’t understand how could “learning a folk opera” being  related with ” lower one’s identity.”

That evening Mr. Lyan came home from work, he heard the servants were talking about the unhappy incident that happened between Mrs. Lyan and his only daughter, he went into his daughter’s room instead of going to his wife.

“My girl, I say, you are playing revolution again! And you upset your mother, right?”

“No! I did not.” Yu-Wen was trying to defend herself.

“I was just telling my mom that I wish to learn a song from [The West Chamber], in one of our folk opera. I didn’t know that could upset my mom that bad and she enumerated all my wrongdoings.”The feeling of wronging her, tears running down her cheeks.

“Papa! You have to think of some way to help me. I really want to learn it.”

“The West Chamber? Isn’t it the romantic story about Tswei Ying Ying and Jang Jun Rei? I know it. Nice melody!  But…………..  ”

It wouldn’t be hard for Mr. Lyan to figure out why that Mrs. Lyan was opposing the idea. For it was not just a song sing by the street people. The leads in the story consummated their love without parental approval, its potentially lethal could jeopardize young people in danger of pining away under their influence, which could not be accepted by the feudal society in early 18ths.

He didn’t want the happening gets too complicated, he branched it off.

“My girl, How about the pouch you promised me? It should be done by now. Isn’t it?” Mr. Lyan changed the subject.

“I am almost there! Pa. But I don’t feel if I would like to do anything anymore now!”

Yu-Wen was the pearl of Mr. Lyan’s palm. She was so precious to him. On one hand, Yu Wen’s personality was inherited from him, free and easy. On the other Yu Wen’s exquisite intelligence was from his wife. In addition to this, Mrs. Lyan had painstakingly educated Yu Wen with the Chinese traditional needle works. Yu-Wen was a priceless treasure for Mr. Lyan. Therefore Mr. Lyan always granted whatever Yu Wen requested.

Mr. Lyan was very proud of his daughter’s needle arts. Every piece of the needlework that Yu Wen did was beautiful and unique. He always carried one or two pieces of them with him when he had some social activities with his friends. Such as a handkerchief,  From time to time, he would take the hanky out from his pocket to wipe his nose or so. Then spread it out on his knees and fold it back again to show off the beautiful embroidery at the corners. Mr. Lyan was a pipe-smoker. He carried the pouch which holds the shredded tobacco with him all the time. The pouch, he thought, would be the best chance to show off Yu Wen’s masterpiece each time when he loaded his pipe. And people will not notice that he did it purposely as well as he wiped his nose with a hanky! Therefore he asked Yu Wen to embroider a pouch for him!  Now when he found out his daughter will go on a strike, he gave-in.

“OK! You tell me what’s on your mind?”Mr. Lyan asked.

“I’m ……I’m wondering if it is OK to employ a Bass Drum actress to come to our home to teach me?” Yu-Wen thought that was the best way, which would be complete in both respects.

“You mean to learn it secretly at home. So that none of our relatives and friends will know it and also it wouldn’t embarrass your mother too, right? But should we let your mother know about it?”

Yu Wen laughed happily because she knew her father will help her now.

A beautiful young lady came to Lyan’s residence the next afternoon to teach Yu Wen  The West Chamber secretly! Yu-Wen found out later, the actress, Jang Tswei Feng, was a very famous Pei-Jing Brass Drum actress,  Maybe because Jang Tswei Feng was famous, therefore Mrs. Lyan accepted the whole idea and did not give Yu Wen any more hard time.

Yu-Wen remembered after each class when Miss Jang was about to leave, she always bowed down her head looking on the flour, and walked backward for a few stapes, then turn around walked quickly out of the room. Yu-Wen did not understand why Miss Jang bowed down her head and walked backward to leave the room. Wong Ma told her:

“Of course! She is just an actress. A woman of lower class. That is the way to show their respect.”

But Yu Wen did not think of it that way. She thought every person should be the same. Especially Miss Jang who taught her how to sing the opera, she is her teacher!

—to be continued.

  1. The Young Idiot—

C-5 Marriage-Important event in Yu Wen’s life: –Part six–

–Everlasting Blossoms —

Mrs. Lyan lost a lot of weight even under the good care of the doctor. Her health condition made Mr. Lyan’s heart ache. But a promise is a promise! It can’t be changed! Mrs. Lyan had just let it be.

Upon this Marriage Revolution, the relationship between Yu Wen and her mother dropped down under to 0 degree. Right after Yu Wen heard that her mother regained consciousness, she ran to her mother’s bed side. But as soon as her mother saw Yu Wen, she closed her eyes and turned her head away from her. Ever since that each morning and evening when Yu Wen went to her parent’s bedroom with her best regards as she usually do, Mrs. Lyan would not say a word and even not looking at her unless her father was around. Yu Wen always stood in front of her mother until Wong Ma pulling her sleeve to imply her it’s time to leave. Her mother treated her as a stranger. At Yu Wen’s childhood, only when she was learning the Princesses Etiquette, her mother was very strict on correcting her postures, but their relationship was never being as bed as strangers.

Yu Wen understood that her mother loved her, Her mother wish to see her only daughter marry to a matched marriage to have a good life. But she herself knew that she would never wanted to become a daughter-in-law of Mrs. Dzo, and ended up the same way as her high school classmate. Yu Wen aspired to a blissful marriage. Nevertheless, she couldn’t drop her mother’s love as well.

Her mother could only see that Dz Yun was a impoverished student. But she never learn the Dz Yun was born in a scholarly family for generations. Some of Dz Yun’s ancestry were officers at the imperial court. The Ho’s family was one of the most famous celebrities in HeNan. But to Mrs. Lyan scholarly family for generation would never be compared to a blue blood family.

Struggling between the love of her mother and a blissful marriage, tolerated with her mother’s coldness every day, Yu Wen couldn’t take any more. She was devastated and her heath collapsed. Every day after 12 noon, Yu Wen began to have some fever not too high but coughed a lot. Traditional Chinese Doctor diagnosed Yu Wen of Non-communicable TB.

Dz Yun did as Mr. Lyan told him. He asked uncle Bu to go to Lyan’s residence to proposed the engagement for him. Uncle Bu was a close friend to Mr. Lyan. He visited Mr. Lyan residence frequently. Uncle Bu have met with Dz Yun quite often, was of the opinion that Dz Yun was a honest and gentle boy. He understood Dz Yun and Yu Wen loved each other. He was willing to be the matchmaker. Matchmaker was a very important character in those days. Without a matchmaker there would no marriage.

At that time, the engagement was very different from nowadays. There were two steps:

Step one: For the boy’s side — You should have a matchmaker who should knows both persons who involved with this engagement. The matchmaker should bring a piece of red paper with the boy’s date of birth and eight characters of a horoscope to the girl’s parents. The girl’s parent will check with a fortuneteller to see if this boy matches with their daughter’s date of birth and eight characters of a horoscope. If there is no problem and they think this boy may be an ideal son-in-law to be, they would accept the red paper and give their daughter’s birth date and eight characters of a horoscope to the matchmaker to bring to the boy’s parents. After everything was OKed, the matchmaker would exchange the *”Small Dragon and Phoenix Card* for the two parties. One addressed to the girl’s father, one to the boy’s father. If both side accepted which means the engagement is half way to success. If any of the two parties refused to take the Card, There will be no more engagement.


*”Small Dragon and Phoenix * – Two pieces of red paper(as the picture showed) carried both boy and girl’s date of birth and eight characters of a horoscope. One addressed to the girl’s father, the other addressed to the boy’s father. These cards should be written by the matchmaker with his name and seal on them.

The picture above was from my grandfather to my maternal-grandfather , asking for permission the engagement.

—To  be continued —