SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

11: Ye Shenchen / Darkness of the Night

Beijing Opera Ensemble (jinghu with yueqin, pipa, ruan, erhu, dizi, sheng, pengzhong, ban, gu)

This is a famous qupai labelled melody in the fast rhythmic pattern of xipi. It is often used for martial dance scenes (wuchang) in Beijing Opera.

The tune originated in the southern classical singing genre of Kunqu, where it was a song with the opening words, "wind blowing the lotus flowers". In Beijing Opera, the piece traditionally accompanies the sword dance of the concubine, Yu, in the classic "Farewell My Concubine". Knowing that her lover, King Xiang Yu, is in a desperate situation, facing certain defeat in the final battle, the concubine performs a sword dance, showing her eternal loyalty by committing suicide with his sword.