What happens when you mesh up American style rap with an opera written roughly 500 years ago? This song, “在梅边” (“Beside the Plum Blossom”) by 王力宏 (Wang LiHong) draws inspiration from 牡丹亭 (The Peony Pavilion), a play written by Tang Xianzu during the Ming Dynasty(1368 to 1644) using the 昆曲 (Kunqu) style opera and music.
The Peony Pavilion is a very dramatic story of a girl falling in love with a young scholar in her dreams. She dies tragically while too consumed with the love, but the underworld deems her marriage with the scholar in her dreams to be predestined and resuscitates her. The scholar had a dream about her and finds out who she is in real life. He was mistaken to be a grave robber after exhuming and rescuing the girl’s body. Before being punished to death, an imperial pardon arrived just in time from the Emperor as the results from the imperial examination showed him the top scholar.
(Some times we wonder where the reminders are for ordinary Chinese citizens that they need to study hard. The Peony Pavilion is a powerful story, and the lesson is that passing the imperial exam brings wealth and privileges.)
王力宏 (Wang LiHong) has become a popular artist in China in the last few years, especially among teenagers. He is known for incorporating elements of Chinese culture in his songs. His background is interesting too. He was born in New York to immigrant parents from Taiwan.
In case you have wondered, in the last 50 seconds of the rap, 王力宏 (Wang LiHong) blazed through 259 Chinese characters! The lyrics to “在梅边” (“Besides the Plum Blossom”) are largely about love, in 牡丹亭 (The Peony Pavilion) style.