Wang Jie





Setting: Nanjing, 1948-1949, in one of the wealthiest households in the capital city, at the end of the long and bloody Chinese Civil War.

Act I, Scene 1: Mansion Hall

Minshen returns home from London, and is surprised to find his older brother marrying a concubine as a second wife, the beautiful opera singer, Lumei. His childhood friend, Nannan, is his brother’s first wife, but in four years she has not produced a child.

Act I, Scene 2: Garden outside Nannan’s Chambers

Nannan fears that she is barren. Minshen comforts her, displaying what appear to be romantic feelings for her. They are interrupted by the announcement of Lumei’s pregnancy. Nannan is forced to give up her chambers and garden to the concubine.

Act I, Scene 3: City Street

Nannan is in desperate straits when she comes across Christian missionaries  promising salvation. Misunderstanding, she is about ready to be baptized when Minshen arrives. As Communist troops chase the missionaries offstage, Minshen seduces Nannan with a poetic aria. As Nannan and Minshen embrace, the Maid is spying on them.

Act II, Scene 1: Garden outside Lumei’s Chambers

Having learned it from the Maid, Lumei takes pleasure in relating Nannan’s infidelity to her husband. Master angrily confronts Nannan and threatens her with divorce.

Act II, Scene 2: Mansion Hall

The family is forced to flee the approaching Communists. Master is going to the provinces, but new laws allow him only one wife. Minshen confronts his brother, accusing him of abandoning his first wife. They quarrel, then Minshen announces his love for Nannan, and offers to take her to England with him.

Act II, Scene 3: Ocean Liner

Minshen and Nannan quarrel, and he tells her that he would never marry a barren woman. When he has left, the distraught Nannan quietly throws herself overboard and drowns.