Research Notes: An Account of Kung Fu in Hong Kong’s Theaters during the 1860s.

"Chinese Stage Shows." Cigarette Card. Source: Digital Collections of the NY Public Library.
“Chinese Stage Shows.” Cigarette Card. Source: Digital Collections of the NY Public Library.

 

 

Introduction

 

I would like to preface the following research note by dedicating it to any of my readers who enjoy a good Kung Fu comedy.  If you are a fan of Jackie Chan’s work, or maybe Kung Fu Hustle, what follows will be especially appreciated.  But for any historically minded reader, the primary source introduced below offers a wealth of data on the world and social status of the southern Chinese martial arts during the second half of the 19th century.

Modern students often entertain highly romanticized notions in which all 19th century Chinese individuals practiced Kung Fu, or held its masters in high esteem.  Yet as this research note reminds us, among the better elements of Chinese society, the martial arts struggled for social recognition.  Additionally this document offers a fascinating window into how these practices were understood and discussed by Western observers during this transformational period.

 

A Kung Fu Farce

 

In 1869 the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Alfred Ernest Albert) visited Hong Kong as part of his larger naval tour of the Pacific.  The event generated considerable public interest and everything that goes along with it.  Press accounts, diaries, photographs and memorial books all ensure that the memory of his visit lives on.

Given the pomp and formality that accompanied a 19th century royal visit, one of the more surreal moments of the Duke’s stay must have been his November 12th visit to the Tung Hing Theater.  Before moving on to the night’s entertainment, a word about the venue may be in order.  Indeed, the Tung Hing Theater itself is an important part of this story.

Wing Chun students have always been interested in the history (real or imagined) of Southern China’s traveling “Red Boat Opera” companies.  As I have explained elsewhere, these traveling troops (which really only appeared on the scene in the 1870s), used specialized, purpose built, river barges to travel from village to village and stage Cantonese operas during the festival season.  A great many of the plays that were popular in the Pearl River Delta region featured the martial arts.  As such, certain types of opera performers needed to be competent (or at least convincing) martial artists themselves.

Why do Red Boats no longer ply the waters of Southern China?  The answer to that question has less to do with the supposedly revolutionary nature of these traveling companies than the basic economics of the opera business.  Simply put, the Red Boats were a transitional phase.  They came into being at a time when the local opera guild was making enough money to invest in specialized equipment to increase their efficiency (and hence the number of shows that could be staged in a season), but had yet to acquire enough capital to build permanent theaters in the area’s cities and leading towns.  Once that level of wealth was achieved between the 1910s and 1930s permanent theaters were built and the Red Boats began to vanish.  Ironically it was the changing nature, and growing profit margins, of the opera industry itself that defeated one of the most romantic images to arise from the Southern martial arts.

 

 

The Tung Hing Theater is building R on the far right. Source:
The Tung Hing Theater (circa 1870) is building “R” on the far right. Source: http://gwulo.com

 

In many ways the Tung Hing Theater was ahead of its time.  Finished in 1867 it was the first enclosed, dedicated, modern opera theater built in Hong Kong.  By modern standards the three story building was not large.  The building was also one of the first in the city to show films, which were initially screened as a second act following the conclusion of more traditional operas.  Given the fierce competition of various opera companies to produce ever more exciting spectacles (I once saw photos of an Opera costume from the period totally covered in illuminated electric lightbulbs), one wonders whether the initial introduction of film should be viewed as a continuation of an ongoing trend.  The once venerable theater closed its doors in 1910, and the building itself was latter demolished to make way for tenement housing.

During his 1869 visit the Duke viewed two operas.  The first was a historical drama, a genre of performance that was always popular with crowds.  The second opera, however, was an irreverent farce titled “A-lan’s Pig.”  Its main themes were (in no particular order) compulsive gambling, stupidity, domestic abuse and marketplace martial arts instruction (which occurs in the context of the previously mentioned unhappy marriage).

Despite this unlikely mix of subjects, the performance itself was by all accounts incredibly funny.  A historically known colonial officer who had acquired a high degree of fluency in Cantonese by the name of Alfred Lister (who would later serve as Hong Kong’s Treasurer) was so taken by the performance that he wrote two pieces on it.  The first of these was included in a book that was published to memorialize the royal visit.  It is worth checking out for both a quick summary of the play and feel of how it was staged on that particular night.

That was not the end of Lister’s interest in the matter.  Being something of a bibliophile and collector of “street literature,” he immediately purchased a cheaply printed copy of what he had assumed would be the opera’s script.  Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that what he was translating was not like any script he had seen before.

Lister was surprised, and more than a little disappointed, to realize that many of the funniest moments of the opera were improvised on a nightly basis.  The script itself was basically a skeletal telling of the story with a few notations as to who would speak what lines.  There was no punctuation in the document and little in the way of stage direction.  There were, however, occasional prompts instructing the actors to “insert local jokes here.”  What Lister had probably found was a libretto intended for local amateur performers who enjoyed staging shows for their immediate family and friends.  Indeed, it would seem unlikely that seasoned and professional performers (who had been in training since childhood) would be turning to local book vendors for their scripts.

Lister decided that this document would be of interest to Western audiences, especially given its connection to the Duke’s high profile visit.  Yet it was clear to him that anyone unfamiliar with Cantonese popular culture would be baffled by the nature of this sort of production and humor.  And so, firmly grasping the rather modern notion that “the only reliable reading of text is a misreading” (Eco, 60), the author set about turning his short libretto into a “proper” western script with all of the accompanying apparatus and stage direction that he could muster.

Nor was this choice uninformed.  Lister knew that he would be criticized for the transformative nature of his translation as it resulted in a play that no longer “sounded Chinese.” In fact, he spent the first page of his resulting article in the China Review anticipating such criticisms and explaining his own thoughts on the proper way to culturally translate highly idiomatic popular culture.  Current readers should be aware that Lister’s “literally translations” are usually nothing of the sort.

Before any sort of translation was possible a basic stock of cultural facts needed to be conveyed to Western readers.  Chief among these was the nature of “Chinese boxing” (Lister’s preferred term for the martial arts in this article).  Interestingly, his rather condescending description of marketplace boxers closely matches the critiques of such individuals offered by more elite elements of Chinese society.

“Professors of the noble art of self-defence are not uncommon in China, they generally unite to their calling that of quack-doctor.  Selecting some bumpkin in the crowd, the professor will give him leave to aim a blow at him in any manner he likes, and proceed to demonstrate with what ease it may be parried.  This is always done by catching the wrist of the attacking party in some unexpected way, and not improbably the return attack consists of a kick in the stomach, or a blow on the forehead from the sole of the professor’s foot.  Then the pugilist will thump himself on the ribs with an iron rod till the place grows black and blue, and the blows resound like strokes on a drum.  He applies a plaster (his own speciality of course) for a few moments, and when he removes it, in some inscrutable way, bruises and discoloration have vanished, and given place to yellow and dirty skin!”

More information on the public perception of martial artists can be gained from the reconstructed dialogue of the play itself.  Consider the ways in which boxing is portrayed in a scene where A-lan (the show’s erstwhile protagonist) manages to get some lessons from a local gambler so that he can better fend off his wife’s attacks.

 

A-lan.  Oh no, no, no!  I don’t want any money, I don’t indeed.  But just put me up to a little boxing, do now.

First G. Very well.  Stand like this.

(They spar, A-lan is knocked down.)

A-lan.  What do you call that posture?

First G.  Its name is “Speedy promotion.”

Now try this.

(Teaches him a new attitude, and again knocks him down.)

A-lan. What is that called?

First G. It is called “Kwan Ping presenting the seal.”

A-lan. Are there any more?

First G. Oh yes, “The three hands,” or this, “the bright arrow.”

(Teaches him various postures, then makes an attack upon him as he supposes his wife will, and allows A-lan to knock him down several times.)

Good, good! Well, those are quite enough for you to beat your wife. (Exit.)

A-lan. Very many thanks. Good-bye, good-bye.  I’ll be off home, and give my wife a drubbing.

 

(sings) I’ll go back home to find my wife,

And thrash her soundly on my life!”

 

 

Readers should rest assured that when A-lan returns home he discovers that his wife is a far more competent boxer than he. The discussion of the social status of both tofu shops and Buddhist monks is also enlightening, especially given the reverence that these images elicit in the Wing Chun creation myth.  Even the idea of spending enough money “to start a business” on your Kung Fu instruction turns out to have been something of pun in local staged comedies.

Still, from a more theoretical perspective there are a few things to note.  The discussion of the martial arts advanced in this text proceeds on three distinct levels.  The nature of this text itself (an opera libretto) reminds us that the phenomenon of being surrounded by media driven images of the martial arts is not new.  It seems likely that most individuals in a city like Hong Kong probably encountered discussions of the martial arts on the theatrical stage more commonly than anywhere else.

Yet to make sense of the social position of the martial arts for his readers, Lister was forced to bring in a second set of images.  He portrayed the martial arts as a type of activity that could be physically found in busy marketplaces.  To drive this point home he further explained the nature of itinerant boxing teachers by associating them with the patent medicine trade, a relationship that a number of Chinese language sources confirm.

And what about the anonymous author of “A-lan’s Pig?”  He drew on another well attested set of relationships to note the traditional relationship between Chinese boxers and gambling circles.  Indeed, both ethnographic accounts, and English language press reports, reinforced this connection in the public imagination.

Lister does not appear to have had any knowledge of what was going on in the more elite levels of the Chinese martial arts community.  For instance, his discussion does not touch on the sort of training used by individuals preparing for the military examination, or the quickly growing stature of Choy Li Fut around the Pearl River Delta.  Still, it is fascinating that as an outsider with no particular interest in the martial arts he managed to reproduce an image of Chinese boxing that most of Hong Kong’s residents, who did practice (and were not particularly sympathetic to) the martial arts, would likely have found quite familiar.

The marketplace has always been an important nexus for the exchange of information.  It seems that its theaters, performers, book stalls and itinerant teachers spread word of the Chinese martial arts earlier and further than most historical discussions have previously guessed.

 

I am pretty sure this is what A-lan's wife looked like. YMMV.
I am pretty sure that this is what A-lan’s wife looked like. YMMV.

 

 

 

The China Review, or notes & queries on the Far East

Vol. 1 Number 1 (1872), pp. 26-29, 80-81.

By A. LISTER,H.M.C.S. (Alfred Lister)

 

A CHINESE FARCE.

 

Introduction

The translation given below is that of the groundwork of the Chinese Farce performed at the Tung Hing Theatre on Nov. 12, 1869, before H. R. E. the Duke of Edinburgh.  I call it groundwork, because I found, to my very great disappointment, that much of the best fun of the piece was not contained at all in the small “acting edition” (almost as badly printed and got up as if it had cost sixpence at Lacy’s in the Strand) which I purchased for a few cash in Queen’s Road.  In fact, it would seem that the book of a Chinese play bears much the same relation to the play itself that very meagre libretto does to an Opera, and the actors “write up” their parts, and introduce “local jokes” as occasion may demand.  In the printed play before me, also, there is no list of dramatis personae, no stage directions whatever, no orders as to costumes or properties, no entrances or exits, and no punctuation.  The whole reads on in one long sentence from beginning to end, even the names of the persons who speak not being distinguished in any way from the rest.  Figure to yourself, dear reader, a passage of Shakespeare printed like this:–“Falstaff dost thou hear me hal prince ay and mark thee too jack Falstaff do so for it is worth the listening to these nine in buckram that I told thee of prince so two more already Falstaff their points being broken points down fell their hose Falstaff began to give me ground but I followed me close came in foot and hand with a thought seven of the eleven I paid prince o monstrous, etc.”

I have therefore literally translated the dialogue, the only departures from literality being caused once or twice by the manufacture of rhymes in the parts that are sung.  The stage-directions however are necessarily an interpolation, and in them I have endeavoured to restore the spirit of the play as I saw it.

Persons who cannot believe anything to be a translation unless it reads like the speeches of Indians in Cooper’s Novels, or the tall talk of imaginary Romans in Mr. Whyte Melville’s ‘Gladiators,’ or the very astounding English which scholars who translate Chinese think it incumbent upon themselves to write, will be sure to fall foul of at least two points in this attempt at a vernacular rendering of a vernacular play.  One is that the respectable Mr. A-lan calls his wife “my dear,” and the other, that they go off singing “fol-lol.” Now in stern truth, A-lan says “my wife” and says it again and again, but as in English ‘my wife’ is not a common style of address when speaking to the partner of one’s joys, and as “my dear” is, and as “my dear” represents the idea perfectly, that is, the common title by which a husband addresses his wife, I have used it, and people who think it “doesn’t sound Chinese” must perforce be content with this explanation.  Also, as to the “fol-lol” with which the last duet concludes, in serious sober fact the husband and wife leave the stage with a prolonged and triumphant Ah—ah—ah—ah—ah: a sort of cadenza effect, and marked in the book as an ad lib passage, to be sustained in “linked sweetness long drawn out” to any number of musical flourishes that may seem good to the performers.  So, as “Ah” or “Oh” is not a common termination to English melodies of the less instructed classes, and as those classes certainly do incline to fol-lol (or words to that effect) as a refrain, I take my stand on fol-lol, I stake my reputation on fol-lol!

The pig is represented by a small piece of wood, about the size of a brick, trailed at the end of a string, the scenery is nil, and the furniture of the stage a table and a chair or two, which represents either the inside or outside of a house, a street or a doorpost, as occasion may require.  The jokes turn in the first place on the inveterate gambling of a Chinese “ne’er do well,” and the following explanation had better be given here, rather than be added in the shape of notes.  When A-lan speaks of having “bought a figure” he is alluding to the game of Fan-tan, in which money is staked on either side of a square board, numbered from 1 to 4, and the player wins or loses according as one, two, three or four counters are left of a handful taken at random and counted away by fours.  “The Black Tortoise drew his head” is a cant phrase signifying an adverse run of luck.  When A-lan is taking his oath, he says, “lost lights,” instead of “three lights,” because his head is full of his gambling loses, and he cannot think of anything else.

“Bean curd” is the white Blanc-mange-like mass which may be often seen hawked about the streets, a preparation of bean flour which looks nicer than it tastes.  As this is almost invariably sold by hawkers, a shop to supply it would be the very humblest kind of establishment, as may be judged from the small amount of capital required to start the business.  “Cash” (English readers may be informed) are bronze coins the size of farthings, with a hole in the centre to string them together; ten are nominally worth a halfpenny.  “Tortoise-egg” is a common abusive epithet.  A faithful translator ought to replace it by some equivalent in English Billingsgate, but it is left untranslated (for such rendering cannot be called “translation”) for the lovers of versions that “sound like Chinese.”

The finale of the play is pointed with as elaborate satire on Buddhist priests.  Weak and simple as A-lan is, he is deep enough to impose on the Monk, who cuts even a more ridiculous figure than the henpecked husband.  Nor is this peculiar to this one play; in Chinese novels and dramas the holy brotherhoods are, as a general rule, the butts for unceasing scorn and ridicule.  In a few cases indeed they figure as hospitable hosts (as they are), judicious friends, and wise counselors; but more often either as defeated villains, detestable panders, or else the dupes of dupes and the fooled of fools.  It is remarkable that there is hardly an expression of contempt for Friars and Monks to be found in English books of the middle ages that may not be found almost verbatim in Chinese.  A-lan’s “Shaven Monk!” is an example.  The priest’s soliloquy too is a cutting satire against himself.  Buddhists are under vows to abstain from flesh, and from the flesh; their reputed leaning towards both is a stranding and inexhaustible joke as well as reproach.  It is a popular belief that a Buddhist will eat dog rather than nothing, witness the common epithet “Dog eating Monk.”  Our hunchbacked friend states that “on the first and the fifteenth” (the great fast-days of the month) he “stewed a young dog.” At the sight of A-lan’s wife his vows are quickly forgotten, and the only wonder is that the soi-disant injured husband does not pursue him with a common cry—“Hungry demon after beauty,” often hooted at Priests in the streets of Canton.

Professors of the noble art of self-defence are not uncommon in China, they generally unite to their calling that of quack-doctor.  Selecting some bumpkin in the crowd, the professor will give him leave to aim a blow at him in any manner he likes, and proceed to demonstrate with what ease it may be parried.  This is always done by catching the wrist of the attacking party in some unexpected way, and not improbably the return attack consists of a kick in the stomach, or a blow on the forehead from the sole of the professor’s foot.  Then the pugilist will thump himself on the ribs with an iron rod till the place grows black and blue, and the blows resound like strokes on a drum.  He applies a plaster (his own speciality of course) for a few moments, and when he removes it, in some inscrutable way, bruises and discoloration have vanished, and given place to yellow and dirty skin!

The play is so badly printed that one of the jokes has had to be omitted as illegible and unintelligible, and the invocation with which the Buddhist comes on is (from the same cause) a mere shot at the intention of three undecipherable characters which not improbably mean something else.

 

 

A-LAN’S PIG.

Dramatis Personae.

 

Ho A-lan, an idle shiftless fellow, out of work, given to gambling, and a great fool.

His Wife.

First Gambler.

Second Gambler.

A Hunchbacked Buddhist Priest.

 

The Stage is empty except for a table and a chair.

__

Music. Enter the Wife, carrying a rattan.  She sits down. 

 

Wife. (sings)

Alas! Alas! We’re very poor,
We scarce can get along!

My name is Wong and I married Ho A-lan.  To-day I gave him a few yards of cloth which I had woven, to take and sell in the market.  What a time he is coming back!  What a fidget he keeps me in!

 

(Sings)

I’ll go home now and wait,
‘Tis not far off this spot,
To see if that A-lan
Is coming back or not.

(Exit.)

 

Enter A-lan, looking very disreputable.

A-lan (sings)

I’m a most unhappy beggar,
I’m out of luck at play,
Ten times I’ve bought a figure,
Nine times I’ve lost to-day!
I staked on one and two,
There turned up three and four;
I thought it must be “right,”
But “left” came up before;
The luck twice changed about,
And so I’m quite cleaned out,
And not a copper have I left (unless
The buttons on my coat) myself to bless!

 

I say! I’m Mr. Ho A-lan.  Now I come to think of it, my wife gave me some yards of cloth to sell in the market.  I sold ‘em for a thousand ccash, and I’ve lost every rap!  How on earth am I to go home to her?  Ai! Don’t mention it! Beat me if I go home?  I should think she would!  Can’t help it though.  Must go!

(Going.)

 

(Sings) Home I run to find my dame.
            I shall catch it all the same!

 

Here we are, this is my house.  Here wife, open the door I say!

Enter the Wife.

 

Wife. Oh! You’ve come back, have you?

A-lan.  Yes, I’ve come back.

Wife. Have you sold that cloth yet?

A-lan. Yes, I’ve sold it.

Wife. Well-the cash?

A-lan. Lost ‘em all!

Wife.  What have you been playing at to lose them?

(Hitting him on the knuckles, as, during the rest of the conversation, she continues to do with each question.)

A-lan.  Played at Fan-tan.

Wife.  What did you stake on?

A-lan. I’ll tell you, my dear.  I began with 1, and then I went on to 2 and 3.  What do you think I should have staked on my dear?

Wife.  On 4 of course!

A-lan.  My dear!  Let me explain to you.  I had just hedged on 3 and 4, but the confounded tortoise-egg, the croupier, had triplicate counters that could reckon either as one, two or three, and so he could up four whenever he liked.  And that was how I staked and staked, but still the black tortoise pulled his head, and I lost every rap!

Wife. Get along with you! You’ve lost your poor old woman’s money; you wait till I whop you, won’t I just!

(Sings)

Confound your, Sir, you’re cool indeed
To come and tell me what you’ve lost!
A thrashing sound is what you need,
I’ll kill you, that please me most.

(Beating him)

A-lan. Oh! Wife! Oh! I Say!

(Sings)

My Dear, don’t thump me so;
For if you break my head,
No other man, you know,
Will bury you when you are dead.

 

Oh! Wife! I say! Stop! I won’t do it again.  This time I really will give it up.  I’m thinking of opening a shop.

Wife. You open a shop!  What shop?

A-lan. A pawn-shop.

Wife. Idiot! You haven’t money enough to buy paper for the pawn-tickets!

A-lan. You don’t say so?  Then I’ll set up a big trading Junk, will that do?

Wife. No it won’t. You haven’t a cent to even buy a rope!

A-lan. Deary me, no!  Well, then, I’ll open a bean-curd shop.

Wife.  No capital for that either!

A-lan. No? Well, lets think it over, you and me.  I have it!  We have got a pig. We can sell him for eighteen hundred cash.  That’ll be enough to open a bean-curd shop me dear?

Wife. Oh! You’re after your poor wife’s pig, are you!  Well, you’ll have to swear a solemn oath not to gamble away the money, d’ye hear?

A-lan.  Well I never! Man and wife want some money, and one’s got to swear!  All right, here goes; I have’nt got any sacred paper or candles though.—

“Great Heaven grant me fortune! Heaven and Earth and Illustrious Spirits! Sun and Moon, your lost lights.”

Wife. Stupid! What are you talking about? “Lost” lights! Say, “Sun, Moon and Stars, you three lights.”

A-lan. All right! “Sun, moon and Stars, you three Lights, if A-lan goes gambling, I pray you to do death the third daughter of my mother-in-law!”

Wife. (Beating him.) What? What? You have said you wish me dead! That won’t do.  Begin over again, say it again!

A-lan. Very good.  Say it again it is—

“Heaven and Earth, etc., if A-lan goes gambling may there be no toes growing on his heels, and no navel in the middle of his back; may corns grow on the top of his skull, and a boil as big as your head on the end of his hair!”  There, how do you like that, my dear?

Wife. Won’t do.  Say it properly.

A-lan. Oh! You want it again do you? Well then, “If A-lan goes gambling, may he have never a coffin when he’s dead.” Is that right?

Wife. That’s right, that’ll do.

A-lan.  Produce the animal!  Ugh! Ugh! (Grunts to encourage the Pig.)

Wife.  Here’s the Pig, catch hold and go sell him.  Now, look here; you may take a thousand cash, but don’t go so low as eight hundred.

A-lan.  I see.  If I can get eight hundred I’m to sell him, but not if I can get a thousand.

Wife. No! A thousand you may, eight hundred you’d better not.

A-lan, Ah, well.  More less, I’ll take what I can get, and then come back here, that’s the way.  Go in and wait for me till I come back.

(Exit wife.)

 

(Sings) Through the Market I will roam,
To sell my pig, and then go home.

Buy a Pig! Pig for sale! Buy a pig!

(Exit with the pig, bawling like a hawker.)

 

Enter 1st Gambler and 2nd Gambler.

 

First G. (Sings)

            About the street my pal and I
Prowl still to fleece the passers-by.

 

I say, old chap.

Second G. What?

First G. Look here.  We two have been quite cleaned out.  We must hit some plan to get three or four taels and try our luck again, what do you say?

Second G.  Good. Let’s lay our heads together, that’s the way.  I think we ought to go into the public places, and if we see anybody about, we can, perhaps, do him out of a tael or two.  Will that so, think you?

First G.  Excellently.  Off we go.

 

(Duet) Let’s roam about the streets to see
What pigeon we can pluck;
And having got his cash, once more
We’ll try our little luck.

 

Enter A-lan, Bawling.

 

A-lan. Pig for sale! Pig for sale!

First G. I say, what luck! There’s that tortoise-egg, A-lan, hawking a pig.  I must go and ask him what he wants for it.

Second G. Go on, you’d  better go first.

First G. Wait for me then. (To A-lan)

Hullo A-lan, is that you hawking the pig?

What do you want for him?

A-lan.  My pig is to be sold for a thousand cash.

First G. All right.  I’ll give you a thousand  for him.

A-lan.  No. I’ve made a mistake, I can’t take it, I mustn’t take it.  Wait till I think a minute, and then I’ll tell you. (Aside.)

Lets see, my wife said I was to take a thousand cash if I could get it.  Well, but isn’t eight hundred more than a thousand?  Lets see, this finger stands for a thousand.  Well then, these fingers stand for eight hundred.  What an ass I am, I must have eight hundred, of course.  (To the Gamblers.) I say, you fellows, I must have eight hundred cash for the pig.

First G. Eight hundred it is then.  My dear brother, catch hold of the pig.

Second G. I’ll go and find a piece of grass to string the cash on.

(Exit, with the pig.)

 

chinese-opera-california-1920-1929-sf-performing-arts-library-and-museum
Chinese Opera performer in California during the 1920s, carrying a Qiankun Dao. Source: San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum. Thanks to Scott Phillips for sharing this photo with me.

 

 

 

A-lan.  Here! Hullo! Stop! Come back you! You haven’t paid the money, what are bolting like that for?

First G. I’ll soon tell you what he’s bolting like that for.  In April of last year, in the Shing-wong Temple, you borrowed eight hundred cash of me.  Principal and interest together come to over a thousand by this time, and have you the impudence to as for money?  Why, you tortoise-egg, I could stab you!

(Menacing him with a knife.)

A-lan.  Oh no, no, no!  I don’t want any money, I don’t indeed.  But just pit me up to a little boxing, do now.

First G. Very well.  Stand like this.

(They spar, A-lan is knocked down.)

A-lan.  What do you call that posture?

First G.  Its name is “Speedy promotion.”

Now try this.

(Teaches him a new attitude, and again knocks him down.)

A-lan. What is that called?

First G. It is called “Kwan Ping presenting the seal.”

A-lan. Are there any more?

First G. Oh yes, “The three hands,” or this, “the bright arrow.”

(Teaches him various postures, then makes an attack upon him as he supposes his wife will, and allows A-lan to knock him down several times.)

Good, good! Well, those are quite enough for you to beat your wife. (Exit.)

A-lan. Very many thanks. Good-bye, good-bye.  I’ll be off home, and give my wife a drubbing.

 

(sings) I’ll go back home to find my wife,
            And thrash her soundly on my life!

 

Wife! Wife! Open the door!

Enter the Wife.

Wife. Oh, you’ve come back, have you?

A-lan. I’ve come back.

Wife. Have you sold the pig?

A-lan. Sold him.

Wife. Where’s the money?

A-lan. Spent it learning to box.

Wife. What on earth do you want to learn to box for?

A-lan. To larrup you, female dog that you are!

Wife. Oh! You’ve been learning to box, and come back to beat me, have you? Well, just try it on, that’s all.

A-lan. Come on! (they fight.) Wait till I give it to you, this is the way. (He tries the methods he has been taught.) That’s it! No, it isn’t, neither.  Why, I’ve tried them all! (Wife knocks him down.)

 

Wife. There, Now I’ll just tie you up to the door-post here, and give you your deserts by-and-bye.  There, that’ll do.  Now I’m going to have some supper, and when I’ve finished I’ll come and unloose you.

(Exit, having first thrown a petticoat over A-lan’s head and tied him up to the door post.)

Enter the Hunchback Priest.

Priest. Saint Lo-pak! Saint Lo-pak! On the first day of this month, and on the fifteenth, I stewed a young dog.  Ah, ha! I’m a great hand at beef and pork, I am.  And I can carve fish too—(starts at seeing A-lan.) What sort of thing is this? O say you, are you a man or a demon?

A-lan. I’m a man.  Just let me loose and I’ll tell you all about it.

Priest. Oh, very well. Wait till I untie you. (Looses him).  Why, I declare it’s A-lan!

A-lan. Ugh! (Aside.) Ah, ha! Shaven priest! Shaven priest!

Priest. What were you groveling like a crab there for?

A-lan. Can’t say, mustn’t tell you.  Look here, I can cure hunchbacks, I can.

Priest. You can? What’ll you charge for curing mine?

A-lan. Eight hundred cash and eight packs of rice.

Priest. Well now, I haven’t got any money, but I’ll tell you what—here is a subscription list for buying oil for our Monastery lamps, I’ll give you that, if you like, and you can go and collect the subscriptions.  There are several names down. (Reads)

Mr. Ragamuffin, Mr. Lightfingers, Mr. Never-give-a-faggot-

A-lan. Come along! Let me tie you up. You wait patiently here, and a fairy will come presently.

(Ties him up as he himself had been, and exit, muttering.)

Enter the Wife

Wife. Ah, ha! I’ve had a good supper.  Oh, I’ll let you loose fast enough.

(Beats the priest and then unlooses him.  He stares wildly about.)

Priest. Ha! This is indeed a fair damsel descended from the skies.  I must really break my vows!

(He rushes at her to embrace her, she runs away.  Enter A-lan from behind with a long bamboo.)

A-lan. Ah! Vile tortoise-egg! Would you violate my wife’s rouge and powder? Would you though? (Beating him.) Oh, I’ll give it [to] you, take that—and that (drives him out.) What! Vile child of a female dog, would you marry a Buddhist? (To his wife.)

Wife. What did you tie him up here for, A-lan?

A-lan. I’ll explain to you, my dear. By tying up the monk I’ve done him out of no end of money, quite enough to open a shop.

(shews the subscription book.)

Wife. Good good, indeed!

 

A-lan, Wife } Duet-

Now man and wife together we
At home intend to stop,
For we’ve got cash and we’ve got rice
Enough to open shop.
Fol, lol, etc.

(Exeunt.)

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