The Freer and Sackler Galleries Exhibition “The Last Empresses of China: 1644-1912” (紫鸾金凤：清代宫廷皇后艺术与生活大展 2018-19年美国巡展)
Shanghai Kunqu Troupe 上海崑劇團
Sackler Pavilion, Freer and Sackler Galleries
Independence Ave at 12th St. SW, Washington, Dear Charles: 20560
June 9, 2019
Ocean of Sin: Fleeing Down the Mountain 【孽海記：下山】
The performance history of Ocean of Sin is contested and obscure, but the text is believed to be of Ming origin. “Ocean of sin” is a Buddhist metaphor for a life of sorrow and storytellers’ adaptation of Buddhist source material. Since monasteries are typically constructed on hills, “fleeing down the mountain” implies both literal flight and descent into the ordinary realm of human society.
Sent in childhood to a temple by his parents, Benwu (“Essence-is-Nought”) has grown into a lusty and virile Buddhist acolyte monk. He has lately been brooding over the tedium of his monastic routines. One day, left alone in the temple by the abbot, he flees down the mountain.
As luck would have it, during his flight he encounters a young woman with the Buddhist name Sekong (“Lust-is-Empty”), a novice in much the same state of mind. Sekong was dedicated by her parents to a Buddhist temple in her childhood, and in a previous scene (“Longing for Ordinary Life 思凡”), she has resolved to flee the temple.
The two escapees fall in love at first sight–his lascivious overtures answered by coquettish flirtation. Before long, they join forces to make their escape together and flee the strictures of devotional life.