Kun Opera: The Butterfly Dream
Presented by The Kunqu Society
Co-Sponsored by Chinese American Arts Council
November 15, 2009
Performed by:
Miller Theatre of Columbia University
Leading performers:Ms. Guyin Liang, Mr. Zhenhua Ji and Mr. Yilong Liu (Plum Blossom Award Winners, National Class One Artists of China)

Location: Miller Theatre of Columbia University
2960 Broadway at 116th Street, New York, NY 10027

Buy tickets online http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?agency=COLU_PLAGENCY&pid=66283284-7799

Kunqu Society: (718) 352-0070, (646) 427-4250

Tickets: Honorary $100, $50 (One 11/15/09 performance ticket and one Admission for 11/08/09 dinner party at Gala Manor, Flushing)
Regular:$30, $20 ($5 off for members, seniors and students)


A Taoist scholar Zhuangzi (around 4th Century B.C.) is determined to pursue the ultimate truth of the universe and often leaves his young wife at home for extended periods of time. On one trip home, he sees piles of skeletons scattered along the roadsides. He sighs and says: “Poor souls, is this the only reward you get after a lifelong toil and sufferings? “ Soon he is tired and dozes off. In his dream, a skeleton appears in front of him and says: "Dear Master, I am one of the poor souls you just met. Thank you for your kindness. However, as a living being, you don’t know the reality of life and death. When I am a human being, I suffer all sorts of hardships and enjoy not one single day of my life. Now, look at me! No flesh, No skin and No burden at all, wandering around freely. You don’t know how happy I am. I have great pity on you because you are a slave of your own desires.” Zhuangzi wakes up and looks around and sees a widow fan her newly dead husband’s grave, and learns that she wants the earth to dry up and harden fast so that she can remarry, as permitted by her husband on his death bed.

In his discussion of this incident with his wife Lady Tian, she swears that she will never want to remarry like the unfaithful widow at the graveside. Not fully convinced, he decides to test her devotion.

He uses his Taoist magic to fake his death and reappears in the guise of a handsome young prince of the State of Chu and transforms two butterflies into an old servant and a young servant. He tells Lady Tian he once studies with Zhuangzi. Upon hearing the death of his teacher, he comes to mourn him. Ordered by his master, the old butterfly acts as a match maker to lure Lady Tian into a trap: to fall in love and to marry the young prince.

On the wedding night, Prince Chu suddenly collapses and suffers an unbearable headache. The old butterfly tells Lady Tian that it is a chronic disease and the only medicine is the brain of a human being. Without the brain, the life of the Prince is in danger. Where can Lady Tian get a human brain in the midnight? Seeing the young Prince cry in pain on their wedding bed, Lady Tian quickly jumps into action. With an ax on hand, she rushes to open her dead husband’s coffin to take out his brain in order to save her new husband.

After three chops and three thunderous noises, Zhuangzi walks out from the coffin, totally unchanged and asks his wife a series of questions: Why are you holding an ax on hand? Why are you dressed up in a wedding gown? Why are you shaking uncontrollably as if you are facing a ghost? Lady Tian gives each question an answer, but becomes petrified when Zhuangzi tells her that he just plays a magic game with her and that he is Prince Chu and Prince Chu is he, and the two servants are but two butterflies.

Unable to accept the reality and too ashamed of being an unfaithful wife, Lady Tian turns around and chops open her own head and ends her young life. Seeing his wife’s suicide, Zhuangzi let out a terrible roar and suddenly finds him waked up from a horrible dream.

This dreadful ordeal happens in his short dream right after he thinks about testing his wife’s loyalty with a magic plot.

This is the end of our play; however, the story continues.

Knowing that there is no difference between life and death, and there is no difference between loyalty and infidelity. Life is but a dream. A butterfly dreams that it is Zhuangzi, or Zhuangzi dreams that he is a butterfly, WHO is the dreamer? No one knows.

Enlightened finally, Zhuangzi leaves everything behind and sets out a lifelong journey and becomes the founder of Taoism and one of the great philosophers of ancient China.