Several nights after this he was lying asleep near the verandah, when someone suddenly woke him. He rose with a startled sigh and found that Hung-niang was there, with bed-clothes under her arm and a pillow in her hand […] Ying-ying this time, was languid and flushed, yielding and wanton in her air, as though her strength could scarcely support her limbs. Her former severity had utterly disappeared (294).
In Hsun Lu’s version we see the following development of the story, “After this Ying-ying let him (Chang) come to her, and for nearly a month he slipped out of her room at dawn and in at dark, the two of them sleeping in that west chamber…” (196). One night while they were resting after intense moments of pleasure, the climax of the story seems to have come out of nowhere. It came in the form of two questions, one coming from Chang and the other coming from Ying-ying; but both queries sprang forth from a single source, a conscience pierced by wrongdoing. Chang asked Ying-ying what her mother thought of him.
After assuring him that everything is fine with her mother, Ying-ying asked the question, “So why should we not get married at once? ” (see Birch & Keene, p. 294) After this, the love story started to unravel. Chang had to leave for the Capital and somewhere in between decided to leave her. His friends was amazed at the decision and doggedly asked him why and so he replied with these words: When nature has created something of remarkable beauty, it must destroy itself or others. If Ying-ying were to marry some rich nobleman and become his darling, she might turn into a dragon or a serpent and cause unthinkable chaos.
In olden times Chou-hsin of Shang and King Yu of Chou ruled countries of then thousand chariots and wielded great power, yet a single woman caused their ruin scattering their hosts and bringing destruction upon them, so that to this day they are held up to derision as a warning to all men. (Hsun Lu, p. 196-197) Recalling what Fatima Wu said regarding this story as an autobiography of a government official one cannot help but conclude that ambition was a greater power than love in this case. It is also interesting to note that right after Yuan Chen was demoted he was promoted at a dizzying speed as seen in the background study.
The Impact There are two aspects of the story that made it a beauty to behold. The first one is the idea that it was autobiographical and the second one is the fact that it was written in early part of 9th century China. With regards to being an autobiography one can just be impressed by the way the author made known his weakness in the time when lapses in moral judgment can cause one’s career. This is also shown in the later part of the story when Ying-ying described herself as no longer a beauty because of the bitterness of failed love and this will indirectly put the blame on Chang which is also Yuan Chen the writer.
And he placed himself in such a self-deprecating position and revealed how he wanted so hard to redeem himself but perhaps be contented with carrying the guilt for the rest of his life. Now, if this is not an autobiography then what will come forth is the genius of the man, Yuan Chen for being able to weave such a great tale. For those who still could not appreciate the impact this one has on the world of literature, then consider for a little bit that this is almost 800 years before Shakespeare, in a time when Europe have no sense of government or university and the Americas are places to wild to ever savor the substance of works like these.
Chen, Yuan. “The Story of Ts’ui Ying-ying. ” Trans. Alex Waley. Anthology of Chinese Literature from Early Times to the Fourteenth Century. Eds. C. Birch & D. Keene. New York: Grove Press, Inc, 1965, 293-299. Lu, Hsun. A Brief History of Chinese Fiction. Hawaii: University Press of the Pacific, 1982. Roy, David T. The Plum in the Golden Vase. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001. Wang, Robin. Images of Women in Chinese Though and Culture: Writings from pre-Quin period Through the Song dynasty. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2003