The Injustice to Dou E
|Dou E Yuan|
|Literal meaning||The injustice to Dou E|
|Gan Tian Dong Di Dou E Yuan|
|Literal meaning||The injustice to Dou E that touched Heaven and Earth|
Dou E Yuan, commonly translated as The Injustice to Dou E, and also known as The Injustice Done to Tou Ngo and Snow in Midsummer, is a Chinese play written by Guan Hanqing (c. 1241–1320) during the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). The full Chinese title of the play is Gan Tian Dong Di Dou E Yuan, which roughly translates to The Injustice to Dou E that Touched Heaven and Earth. It remains one of Guan's most popular works. The story was repeatedly used and modified by later dramatists.
Dou Duanyun, a young maiden from Chuzhou (楚州; present-day Huai'an District, Huai'an, Jiangsu), is sold to the Cai family as a child bride because her father, Dou Tianzhang, owed people a lot of money and could not repay his debts. She is renamed 'Dou E'.
Dou E's husband died two years after their marriage, leaving behind Dou E and his mother to depend on each other. Dou E and her mother-in-law are bullied by Sai Lu Yi, an unscrupulous physician. He almost kills Dou's mother-in-law by strangling her. Dou E and her mother-in-law are saved by Zhang Lü'er and his father. However, unfortunately for them, Zhang turns out to be a hooligan and he moves into Dou E's house under the pretext of offering them "protection". He tries to force Dou E to marry him but she refuses.
Dou E's mother-in-law has a sudden craving for soup. Zhang Lü'er plots to murder Dou E's mother-in-law so that he can seize Dou E for himself after the older woman dies. He blackmails Sai Lu Yi for poison by threatening to report the physician to the authorities for attempting to murder Dou E's mother-in-law earlier. He then puts the poison in the soup and hopes that Dou E's mother-in-law will drink it and die. Unexpectedly, Zhang's father drinks the soup instead and dies from poisoning. Zhang Lü'er then frames Dou E for murdering his father.
Dou E is arrested and brought before the prefecture governor, Tao Wu, who subjects her to various tortures to force her to confess to the crime. Dou E does not want her mother-in-law to be implicated so she admits to the murder. Tao Wu sentences her to death by beheading.
Dou E is brought to the execution ground. Before her execution, she swears that her innocence will be proven if the following three events occur after she dies:
- Her blood will spill on her clothes but will not drip onto the ground.
- There will be heavy snowfall in the sixth lunar month (in the midst of summer) and the thick snow will cover her dead body.
- Chuzhou will experience a drought for three years.
The three events really did happen after Dou E's death.
Three years later, Dou E's ghost appears before her father, Dou Tianzhang, who has become a lianfangshi (廉訪使; a senior government official) in the Anhui and Jiangsu region, and she tells him all her grievances. Dou Tianzhang orders a reinvestigation of the case and the truth finally comes to light. Dou E is posthumously proclaimed innocent while the guilty parties receive their due punishments: Sai Lu Yi is exiled to a distant land; Tao Wu is dismissed and barred from entering office again; Zhang Lü'er is given the death penalty.
Dou E also wishes that her father can allow her mother-in-law to live with him, and that he will help to take care of her mother-in-law. Dou E's father agrees. The play ends here.
- Dou E (竇娥), the main character, originally named Dou Duanyun (竇端雲).
- Dou Tianzhang (竇天章), Dou E's father.
- Dou E's mother-in-law, referred to as Granny Cai (蔡婆) in the play.
- Zhang Lü'er (張驢兒; lit. "Zhang the mule" or "Zhang the donkey"), the man responsible for Dou E's plight.
- Zhang Lü'er's father, referred to as Zhang's father (張父) in the play.
- Sai Lu Yi (賽盧醫; lit. "equivalent to the Physician from Lu"), the physician who provided the poison that killed Zhang Lü'er's father. "Physician from Lu" (盧醫) is the nickname of Bian Que, a famous physician in ancient China. Guan Hanqing was probably adding a touch of satire or irony when he named this character as such.
- Tao Wu (桃杌), the muddle-headed prefecture governor who sentenced Dou E to death.
Film and television
The play has been adapted into films and television series:
- Liu Yu Xue (六月雪; Snow in the Sixth Month), a 1959 film starring the Cantonese opera actress Fong Yim Fun (芳豔芬) as Dou E.
- Chinese Folklore (民間傳奇), a 1976 Hong Kong television series produced by TVB, about various Chinese folk tales. One part is about Dou E, starring Louise Lee.
- Tianshi Zhong Kui (天師鍾馗; Heavenly Master Zhong Kui), a 1994 Taiwanese-Singaporean co-produced television series about Zhong Kui. One part of the series, titled Liu Yu Xue (六月雪; Snow in the Sixth Month), is about Dou E, starring Fu Juan (傅娟).
- Qian Nü Qiyuan (倩女奇冤), a 1998 Chinese television series adapted from the story of Dou E and other tales.
- Zhongguo Chuanshi Jingdian Mingju (中國傳世經典名劇), a 2005 Chinese television film series based on several well-known Chinese operas and plays. One section, spanning three episodes, is about Dou E, starring Su Jin (蘇瑾).
- Chan, Sin-Wai and David E. Pollard (2001). An Encyclopaedia of Translation: Chinese-English, English-Chinese. Chinese University Press. p. 178. ISBN 9789622019973.
- Chinese Kunqu Opera - Page 18 Xiao Li - 2005 'Dou E Yuan (the lnjustice to Dou E)', performed by the Jiangsu kunqu Opera Theater.
- A Critical History of New Music in China - Page 554 C. C. Liu - 2010 His 1990 composition Dou E yuan [Snow in summer] (see Example 2) employed recitation in the singing style of Peking opera, accompanied by voices, suona and percussion, and was described by critics as “both modern and Chinese.