The Fragrant Companion

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The Fragrant Companion (Chinese: 憐香伴; pinyin: Lián Xiāng Bàn) is a Chinese play by Li Yu, written in 1651. The story is about two girls, Cui Jianyun (Chinese: 崔笺云; pinyin: Cuī Jiànyún) and Cao Yuhua (Chinese: 曹语花; pinyin: Cáo Yǔhuā), who adored each other after their intercourse by writing poems and wanted to be together all the time.

This story is about female homosexuality in a patrilineal society. It suggests the female homosexuality is appreciated in ancient China (as the male do get the benefit from it).


Cui Jianyun, the scholar Fan Jiefu (Chinese: 范介夫; pinyin: Fàn Jièfū)'s wife, went to a temple to burn joss to the gods after her honeymoon. At the temple she meets Cao Yuhua, the daughter of Lord Cao and 2 years her junior. Madame Cui is attracted to Cao's extraordinary fragrance Miss Cao is attracted to Madame Cai's poetic talent. They fall in love and vow to be husband and wife in the next life. In order to live together, Madame Cui persuades her husband to send a matchmaker to Lord Cao's house, asking him to grant her daughter to him as a second wife. Lord Cao flies into a rage at the thought of his daughter becoming a mere concubine. He throws out the matchmaker, and leaves at once for the capital with Miss Cao, ordering Fan stripped of his title. After numerous twists and turns, Cui Jianyun and Cao Yuhua manage to reunite and in the end the king gives permission to Master Fan to take them both as wives.


This story has been on Peking opera stage in 1954, and it is re-compiled into Kun Opera. The latter premiered in Beijing in 2010, to commemorates the 400 anniversary of Li Yu's birthday.

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