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Xiju Opera: A Pair of Jade Cicadas
A tragic story between an Ox boy and a Roster girl

14 March 2012
 

Xiju Opera: A Pair of Jade Cicada
Signing a G2 Agreement

锡剧《双玉蝉·赠蝉》

Zhou Dongliang (周东亮) as poor Ox boy (沈梦霞)
Dong Yunhua (董云华) as rich young lady (吕碧芸)

18-year old Cao Fanger (曹芳儿) was a pretty and well-educated girl born in a Roster year during China's highly prosperous era Ming dynasty. One day her father had a drink with a man who saved his life, and the both parties decided to forge a G2 partnership between two families. An oral treaty was verbally signed, and a pair of jade cicadas belonged to Shen family were kept by both signature bearers. The odd thing is the G2 negotiation was carried out without Fanger's knowledge, despite the implimentation of the G2 required her full participation.

As a rule-abiding member of a harmonious Cao family, Fanger had a strong faith in her father's leadership. Regrettably, her faith was soon proven to be misplaced. A chronic loser in provincial-level academic competition which involved the test on a sound understanding of science, I Ching and astronomy, the old Cao was mere a veteran literature lover (老文青) with limited capacity to think logically. During the G2 negotiation meeting, the logic-deprived man only bothered to calculate that Ox and Roster could form a beneficial relationship, but forgot to ask in which Ox year Shen Mengxia (沈梦霞), his son-in-law to be, was born. He failed to realise a simple fact that a boy born in an Ox year could be either eight years older than a Roster girl or sixteen years younger. Unfortunately, the latter was the case.

Months later, the rich household Shen was stricken by a series of disasters. As the result, the family economically collapsed and the both family heads were impeached from their positions in the human domain, with the sole surviving Ox boy being sent to his father-in-law by his distant relatives. Only by then Cao family found out that Fanger's husband was just a two-year old toddler.

To be fair, old Cao was not a snob. After the initial shock, he sensibly decided to honour the oral agreement by adopting the boy as his son, while finding a grown-up husband for his daughter. At the time it seemed to be a fair solution for all parties involved.

But the inter-household organizations waged in. The power-brokers from both Cao and Shen communities considered this amendment bill constituted a breach of G2 treaty which would set a bad precedence for their clans, thus threatened the Cao family with social sanction and physical interference had they attempted to break up the sacred G2 pack.

Being unable to summon up further courage to challenge the external pressure on his internal affairs, old Cao the lousy negotiator died with grievance, leaving the shattered Roster girl to raise the Ox boy alone and to be locked in a cruel G2 agreement that benefited nobody but was destructive to all.

It was hard and heartbreaking 16 long years, but eventually the Ox boy came of age as a highly-intelligent, very-articulated and good-looking guy. That year, a civil riot broke out and the pair had to flee their home. Due to the rough life on the run, the Roster girl, by then she was almost a middle-aged woman, fell seriously ill. So the Ox boy searched around and begged persistently and eventually found a cozy refuge at a grand mansion belonged to a high official who happened to be his father's old friend.

The official's family took a good care of the G2 pair: Not only Fanger's illness was well attended, the official's daughter was sent by her parents to help the Ox boy preparing for his state academic exam. After half a year studying together, the rich young lady fell in love with the poor Ox boy (it would be something very wrong if she didn't). When bidding farewell to the boy who was about to go to the capital to take the state exam, the young lady revealed her love for the boy. And the Ox boy, being utterly unaware that he was already an attached man, gracefully accepted her love and gave her a jade cicada as the tangible evidence of his promise on their union.

The boy won the intellectual competition and was awarded the top prize zhuangyuan (状元). After a meeting with the official, the emperor further awarded Fanger as a model child-care worker, and the official's daughter as the honourable spouse to the prized scholar.

When a frail Fanger attended the wedding party, she returned the jade cicada to the Ox boy. Only by then the 18-year old realised he had already been married for nearly two decades.

Fanger spat a mouthful of blood and died in the arms of the Ox boy, and the Ox boy shed a truck load of tears and his heart was broken, and the young lady was left with a lifetime regret for having unintentionally conducted an extra-marital affair with a married man.

This is a sad tragedy brought to three innocent people by a lousy negotiator and coward family head who daringly sealed a dummy agreement at the first then dared not to defend his family member's interest by renouncing the treaty but allowed the selfish external forces to dictate their lives.

Picture Book: A Pair of Jade Cicadas

 
 
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