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The Drunken Concubine

This is one of the masterpieces by Mei Lan-Fang. It is almost a one-person show. The story is quite simple. Mei had made this play famous by his vivid reflection the concubine's disappointment, her drunken charming, and her intentional show-off of her beauty. There are many movements difficult to perform, including drinking a cup with the performer's teeth only and placing a cup on a tray by bending over backwards.

The story happened in Tang Dynasty around 745-755 AD. Yang Yu-Huan was Emperor Ming-Huang's favorite concubine. One evening the two had arranged to meet in a pavilion in the imperial gardens after the Emperor was off duty. So yang prepared a banquet and was sitting there waiting him. But the Emperor failed to keep his promise and went to see one of his other beautiful concubines. The two eunuchs, Gao Li-Shi and Pei Li-Shi, who were serving Yang, informed her of her humiliating position.

Furious and depressed by the news, Yang decided to have the banquet alone and ordered the eunuchs to serve the alcoholic drink. Yang showed various stages of intoxication, her jealousy and bitterness, and her intention to forget all the unhappiness. She pretended at first that she was not drunk, but gradually lost her self-control.

She scorned the eunuchs when they tried to help. She tried to stand up but was forced to lean on the table for support. When she tried to walk, her steps faltered and her legs were unsteady, and she eventually had to be supported by her maids.

The two eunuchs feared that she might ask for more alcohol and even though they ought to refuse to serve more, they couldn't. To quiet Yang, the eunuchs told her that the Emperor had arrived. When she discovered that the Emperor was not coming she became angry again. She ordered one of the eunuchs to go and command the Emperor to drink with her. When the eunuch refused to do so she duly slapped him and after taking off the eunuch's hat she placed it on her own head and pretended to walk like a man.

The eunuchs gradually persuaded her to return to her chambers, to which she finally agreed and staggered away slowly, assisted by her maids.