Sunday, October 04, 2009

Impression West Lake

Although my visit to China is going to be mainly 'work' - interviews and note-taking - I am going to have a few opportunities to do a little sight-seeing. One of the first is 'West Lake Impressions' which is performed on the West Lake in Hangzhou. It was recommended to me by my enthusiastic travel agent who has just made a trip to Hangzhou himself. Here is a trailer.

It is based on an old folk-story about a Xu Xian and Bainiangzi.

Bainiangzi was a white snake who led such an exemplary ascetic life for a thousand years that God allowed her to follow her yearning and become human. Her first walk took her along a bridge in Hangzhou whereupon it started to rain.

A young man called Xu Xian happened to see her and as they sheltered under his umbrella they fell in love. Together they started a hospital and looked after the sick.

However, an evil monk called Fahai hated Bainiangzi. When he discovered her secret he vindictively told Xu Xia and the the news caused Bainiangzi's doting husband to die of shock.

Fortunately, Bainiangzi knew of a way of bringing Xu Xian back to life - a weed that she knew she could find in heaven - and the revived Xu Xian loved his wife more than ever.

The ending is sad. The evil monk Fahai captures Bainiangzi and holds her prisoner in the Leifeng Pagoda (which, like the bridge, can still be seen on the West Lake).

I think the show that is performed on the Lake is about another love story which mirrors the ancient one of Bainiangzi - but it is a little difficult to tell. The story told is fragmented and gives a hazy impression, but I have had a go at re-interpreting it again:

First Act: Meeting.

You hold a parasol; I hold a lantern. They say, if you come here, love can last a thousand years; but for me it lasts a moment - the merest splinter of time, but it is like no other. In that time the universe forms. One form gives rise to another: symmetry and assymetry, one particle becoming two and reaching the opposite sides of the galaxy: ying and yang, male and female, Xu Xian and Bainiangzi, you and me.

Second Act: Love.

You see: what comes together always falls apart. We circled like two stars. We could blaze, but instead we danced.

Third Act: Good-bye.

Our dance was as transient as flames. They say my death was beautiful but all I remember was this: a broken wing, a cutting down, a messy tragedy, a snuffing out of light... and my feathers, falling through the air like ticker-tape.

Fourth Act: Memory.

You call and I hear. You remember rain and I remember what has gone.

Fifth Act: Impression.

A dream; an unreachable moment - all these are glimpses, like reflections in the water - as insubstantial as desire.


Blogger Susan said...

That is so lovely! I suppose I'm remarkably ignorant, but the sound seems very un-Chinese to me. Not that I have a problem with Chinese sound (she said, trying to dig herself out), it's just that this doesn't seem to have the sing-song inflections of the Chinese language. Absolutely beautiful tho'

Sun Oct 04, 05:05:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Exactly what I think, Susan! It has a little bit of a Chinese feel towards the end (I think it is the interval between the notes) but overall this could be an entry for the European song contest. Although I'm not too keen on the music on its own I think the overall effect is pretty wonderful.

Sun Oct 04, 10:19:00 am  

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