Higher Level Wife – 012 – An Amazing Song
cantonese opera dummy

Higher Level Wife – 012 – An Amazing Song

Chapter 12: An Amazing Song

 

Translated by Pill Bug

Edited by Gumihou

 

Fu Qiuning received the rolls of cloth from Yu Jie and examined them closely. As expected of the cloth from a prince’s daughter’s dowry, the colours were good and the designs excellent. She smiled, “These are not bad, since we don’t have much fabric, let’s make some light padded [1] cotton jackets first. The clothes they have on now aren’t suitable and it will most likely be cold once dusk has fallen. Make some undergarments too, some dudou [1] and trousers for children.”

The three ladies chatted together as they got their sewing kits out. All three were quite accomplished in the womanly arts. The one with the worst skill was Yu Jie but that was only in comparison with Fu Qiuning the Original, and married woman Aunt Yu. As for Fu Qiuning the Second, her sewing skills were limited to costume maintenance and basic repair work. Luckily, however, Fu Qiuning the Original had generously passed on her skills to Fu Qiuning the Second, something which she found out when she picked up a pair of scissors and her hands automatically began cutting up patterns for the clothes.

After half a morning’s work, the patterns for the clothes had all been measured and cut out. Yu Jie found some leftover cotton from last winter at the bottom of a box and the ladies laid them out to see if it was enough to stuff the jackets. Luckily, although there was not a lot of it, it was still good cotton.

Changfeng and Changjiao, knowing that clothes were being made for them, pattered around wildly as they observed the process. When shooed to play outside, they would patter out, only to run back in to inspect the progress made. Fu Qiuning was both vexed and amused by their behaviour. “You two have clearly never seen the sky before. It’s just some clothes, why are you so happy? Did I not tell you to behave more prudently at dinner last night? You’ve already thrown all that to the clouds after romping about outside?”

While laying out the cotton on the cut fabric, Aunt Yu laughed, “Madam can’t blame them for being so excited. They have never owned a single set of new clothes since birth and have only seen it on others. How much do you think they yearn for new clothes? How could they not be excited now? It’s been only a day and they’re already this naughty. When they arrived with this maid yesterday, could Madam imagine them being this lively?”

“It’s good for children to be naughty, the naughtier they are, the smarter they will become.” Fu Qiuning said with a smile. Then, she stood up and stretched out her arms from the cramped position of sewing all morning. She thought: Ever since I came to this ancient time, my normal modern routine has been disrupted. I don’t even dare to do my daily Chinese operatic voice training [2] since it might scare the children.

The mere thought of singing made her throat itch. As a passionate opera singer, she had been trained to sing from an early age. After graduating from training school, she joined an opera troupe to be a professional singer. However, not even traditional singing troupes like the opera could avoid bad social influences such as nepotism and favouritism. In the end, fed up with the bad environment, she dropped out of the troupe and opened up her own school for Chinese opera singing.

The school focussed on teaching [3] Yue Opera and Huangmei Opera with the occasional Peking Opera or Kunqu Opera styles. When her old teachers heard about how she had dropped out of the opera troupe, they lamented over how the world had lost an opera genius due to those bad social influences.

While she was busy contemplating her past life, her hand picked up her scissors and she unconsciously began to hum the melodies to the song called <<Love of Your Childhood Sweetheart>> [4] taken from a Huangmei Opera called <<Home>>.

As she continued to hum to herself, she suddenly noticed something wrong. It was too quiet! A little alarmed, she looked up and saw Yu Jie and Aunt Yu staring at her in a daze. Seeing their mistress stare back at them, the two quickly returned to their senses and said, “Madam, the tune you hummed just now was very nice. But… what is that song? We never heard such a nice tune before.”

Fu Qiuning suddenly realised that in this era, Huangmei, Yue or other similar types of opera probably did not exist yet. They probably only have Kunqu Opera now. For a short while, she berated herself for her carelessness, but only for a short while. 

She thought: Opera singing is like my own lifeblood. If I cannot sing as much as I want, what is the point of living?

Moreover, it’s not like there’s anyone else in the courtyard. Yu Jie and Aunt Yu were in the same boat as her and neither were the scheming type. All she had to do was give a plausible explanation for this unexpected skill.

She smiled and said, “Oh, this? While I was with my mother in the countryside, there was this old grandmother who was really good at singing. I learned a lot from her. However, since it is unseemly for a woman of the house to sing and my tutor is particularly strict, I never dared to even hum these songs. However, now that I have a whole house and courtyard to myself, I can sing to my heart’s content.”

Yu Jie and Aunt Yu quickly chimed together, “It’s good for Madam to sing to her heart’s content. Our ears would be blessed too. This is a great pleasure that no other could enjoy. Madam, please sing that song out loud. Let us hear the verses too.”

Seeing them so enthusiastic, she was also pleased. Who did not like it when their talents were recognised? Thus, she opened her mouth and sang the whole excerpt to <<Love of Your Childhood Sweetheart>>. By the end of it, Aunt Yu and Yu Jie were fully entranced. Even the two children had firmly sat down to listen and refused to go out. They pestered her to sing the song once again.

Fu Qiuning hastily extracted a promise from them to never say anything about it to outsiders.

Suddenly, Yu Jie said with some exasperation, “Really Madam, what other secrets are you keeping? I have been with you for more than 10 months but have never heard you sing.”

Fu Qiuning smiled mysteriously, “When I first entered the marquisate, nothing but worry filled my heart. Where would I find the heart to sing? Now, after dying once, I’ve decided not to let fear or worry stop me from doing anything anymore. Let’s all live freely and sing happily,” she laughed as she slapped Yu Jie lightly on the arm.

Aunt Yu, who had been watching from the side, said, “Madam, do sing it again? It’s so lovely.”

The two children also begged, “Mother, sing it again, we’ve never heard such a beautiful song, it’s much better than what Er Gouzi’s mother sang.”

Er Gouzi’s mother was a songstress that the marquisate had bought from Jiang Nan at a great price. Her looks were nothing much and she was considered rather old. However, her singing voice was unusually good and rare. Thus she held some status within the marquisate. When distinguished guests happened to arrive, she would be called in to sing for them at banquets.

“Did I not say that you have not seen the world? Do I only have this one song? If you like my singing so much, let me treat you to this.” Fu Qiuning teased before opening her mouth and singing, 

“ [5]

To save Li Liang who left home

The unexpected Number One Scholar of the Imperial Exam…

This was one of the most famous songs in <<The Emperor’s Female Son-in-Law>> [5]

Fu Qiuning sang as the ladies continued to sew the thin cotton-padded jackets. The songs made work feel light and it did not take them a whole day to finish both jackets. Feng’er and Jiao’er put on the jackets and washed their faces. Aunt Yu helped them comb and style their hair and what’s this? Where have the two little beggar children from yesterday gone? In their place was a pair of golden boy and jade girl, a pair of cute and delightful children like carved jades and just as lovely.

As the evening sun sets, Fu Qiuning, Changfeng, Changjiao, Yu Jie and Aunt Yu were having their dinner when they heard the sound of footsteps in the courtyard. The door to the house opened to reveal the chief steward who was with Fengju yesterday. Behind Jin Ming were a couple of low-level servants with rolls of fabric in their arms.

Fu Qiuning quickly let them in.

To make a long story short, the rolls of cloth they brought were for the children. Clearly, that Jin Fengju must have noticed the children’s patched clothes yesterday and this was the result. Fu Qiuning gave a smooth smile and said, “Thank you for your trouble, there’s no need for such courtesy in the future. In truth, this courtyard lacks clothing for children and we did not have time to prepare them. For the Young Master to be so thoughtful, we must thank him, of course.

Still, our courtyard does not lack these few rolls of fabric. The clothes have already been made and I invite the Head Steward to have a look at the children. New clothes certainly make a difference in a person’s demeanour, don’t they?” 

Jin Ming looked at the two children as directed and found the pair of twins staring back at him with large, apprehensive eyes. They were dressed in new cotton-padded jackets and looked much more respectable than before.

He quickly smiled and said, “The children will still require many things in the future and will trouble Madam to provide them. This fabric is a small token from the Young Marquis. In the future, if Madam happens to face any shortages, please inform this servant. This servant would definitely inform the Young Marquis. It is getting late, this servant has other matters to attend to and shall not linger any longer.”

Fu Qiuning sent him out of the house. Once Jin Ming and the low-level servants had exited the courtyard gate, she turned to Yu Jie, “Since we do not plan to socialise with anyone within the marquisate, close it up. For the time being, there’s no need for Changfeng or Changjiao to interact with other people. We will discuss this matter once more when they are older.”

Yu Jie accepted the order, and the matter was settled just like that. That evening, they ate their dinner without further interruption.

 

[Gumihou: Enjoy your peace while it last, ladies]

 

Pill Bug TL Notes:

 

[1] 夹单棉 夹 = quilted, 单 = single/sole/only, 棉=cotton, did I get this right?

Gumihou: The clothes being made should be thin cotton-padded jackets.

Clothes planned to be made:

dudou – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dudou

 

[2] 吊嗓子 Do Re Mi like voice practice?

Gumihou: It’s most likely Chinese operatic voice training

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO83cKhN8D8 

(demonstration starts at 1:22)

 

[3] 越剧 黄梅戏 京剧 昆曲 are all different types of Chinese opera.

 

越剧 – Yue Opera – 2nd most popular type of opera – popular with women audience and focused more on love stories with very little acrobatic fighting

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yue_opera

 

黄梅戏 – Huangmei Opera – mostly sung in Mandarin, it originated as a form of rural folk song and dance that has been in existence for the last 200 years or longer. One of the most famous and mainstream opera

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huangmei_opera

 

京剧 – Peking Opera incorporates singing, reciting, acting martial arts etc. They tell stories of history, politics, society and daily life. The stage setting is traditionally minimal with a focus on flamboyant costumes and exaggerated facial makeup where concise symbols, colours and patterns portray characters’ personalities and social standings.

https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/peking-opera-00418

 

昆曲 – Kunqu Opera is one the oldest forms of Chinese opera evolved from the local melody of Kunshan. It dominated the Chinese theatre from 16th to 18th century and Kunqu singing techniques are said to have been developed during the Ming Dynasty

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunqu

 

[4] 《你们青梅竹马情脉脉》 or <<Love of Your Childhood Sweetheart>>

The link has some ads in front, but you get to watch it after about 30 seconds

https://www.iqiyi.com/w_19rv7hrr1t.html

 

[5] 为救李郎出家园,谁料皇榜中状元 I know too little about the lyrics to translate them properly…

The song is pretty famous, so there’s a formal translation floating somewhere out there…

https://en.sjtu.edu.cn/news/huangmei-opera-the-emperors-female-son-in-law-performed-at-sjtu/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHt7VjKJ4cI

 

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