Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Hung Shêng

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HUNG Shêng 洪昇 (T. 昉思, H. 稗畦), 1646?–1704, dramatist and poet, was a native of Jên-ho (Hangchow), Chekiang. He married a granddaughter of the Grand Secretary, Huang Chi [q. v.], and was a disciple of Wang Shih-chên [q. v.] who dedicated a number of poems to him. Transferring his residence to the capital, he registered as a student in the Imperial Academy and while in Peking established friendly relations with Chu I-tsun and Chao Chih-hsin [qq. v.]. His fame as a poet and playwright reached its culmination with the final release of his well-known drama, 長生殿 Ch'ang-shêng tien, about the year 1684—the preface of the first draft having been written in Hangchow in 1679. Several years later (1687–88) this play came to the attention of Emperor Shêng-tsu who praised it highly and made a gift of twenty taels to the performers. Thereafter its popularity grew and it was frequently acted in the houses of nobles and high officials. The Ch'ang-shêng tien is a sympathetic treatment of the well-known romance of Yang Kuei-fei and Emperor Ming-huang of the T'ang dynasty, and is based in part on earlier treatments of the same theme, such as the 長恨歌傳 Chang-hên ko chuan by Chên Hung 陳鴻 (eighth century); the famous poem, 長恨歌 Ch'ang-hên ko ("The Everlasting Wrong"), by Po Chü-i (see under Chang Wên-t'ao); the thirteenth century play, 梧桐雨 Wu-t'ung yü, by Po P'u 白樸 (T. 仁甫, b. 1226); and two plays of the Ming dynasty. One of the greatest lyric dramas of China, the Ch'ang-shêng tien is still widely read and chanted, and after the lapse of two and a half centuries has lost none of its charm. Old melodies for many of the scenes were printed in 1924 in the third series of the 集成曲譜 Chi-ch'êng ch'ü-p'u.

In the autumn of 1689 a group of actors staged an extraordinary performance of the Ch'ang-shêng tien in the author's honor. Unfortunately the performance took place within the period of mourning set for a deceased female member of the imperial family—possibly Empress Hsiao-i (see under T'ung Kuo-wei) who died on August 24. In consequence of this breach of decorum Hung Shêng and a fellow-student, Cha Shên-hsing [q. v.], were dismissed from the Academy; and Chao Chih-hsin, who composed some of the melodies and was a guest at the performance, was removed from office. Hung Shêng spent his remaining days in retirement and poverty, but it is known that he was with Mao Ch'i-ling [q. v.] in Hangchow in 1695 when the latter wrote a preface to the Ch'ang-shêng tien. He drowned in a stream near Hangchow in 1704, having fallen overboard, it is said, when drunk. Hung Shêng is credited with 10 plays, the most famous (after the Ch'ang-shêng tien) being the 四嬋娟 Ssŭ ch'an-chüan. His collected poems were entitled 稗畦集 Pai-ch'i chi and Pai-ch'i hsü (續) chi. A daughter, Hung Chih-tsê 洪之則 (b. 1670), herself a poet of some note, wrote annotations to the Ch'ang-shêng tien.


[2/71/15a; 3/430/46a; 17/10/60b; Hung Chih-tsê, 讀三婦評牡丹亭書後 in Chao-lai ts'ung-shu 166/18b; Wang Shih-chên [q. v.], Yü-yang hsü-chi 10/15a, 丁巳稿 Ting-ssǔ kao (1677) for approximate date of birth; ibid., Hsiang-tsu pi-chi 9/12b; Chu I-tsun [q. v.], P'u-shu-t'ing chi 20/9a; Wang Ying-k'uei 王應奎, 柳南隨筆 Liu-nan sui-pi 6/24b; Tung-hua lu: K'ang-hsi 28:7; Chiao Hsün [q. v.], Chü-shuo 4/4a for date of completion of Ch'ang-shêng tien; 北京梨園掌故長編 Pei-ching li-yuan chang-ku ch'ang-pien /17a (in 清代燕都梨園史料 Ch'ing-tai Yen-tu li-yüan shih-liao, 1934).]

Jen Tai