Free Essay

On Hearing Her Play the Harp

In: English and Literature

Submitted By joselle
Words 1686
Pages 7
REYES, Joselle Marie R. June 4, 2013
HUMALIT C37

On Hearing Her Play the Harp
Discussion Questions 1. Upon reading Li Tuan’s poem, I had to reread it over and over in order to create a more vivid picture in my mind. I then started to visualize that the woman, as white as the snow on her window pane, was holding a harp. She is in a room with high ceilings, like the ones we see in a palace in Chinese movies, filled with beautiful art such as sculptures, jars, and paintings. The room is laid out with wooden floors which are more or less being polished daily by the helpers since it could almost reflect the light which passes through the windows. The room also has a tall window which leads to its balcony, overlooking a meadow and a lake. On one side of the room is a couch which is rather uncomfortable to sit on since it is not that soft but it is covered with a beautiful golden canvas intricately embroidered with flowers and leaves. In front of the couch is a red wooden coffee table which beautifully accents the lightness of the colors of the room and the couch. The lights coming through the window were reflected by the precious vases made of china placed on the edges of the room. A small trace of steam is escaping through the spout of a white teapot sitting on the coffee table. Beside the teapot is a small cup filled with hot tea. The room she is in is so grand, maybe because she is of royal blood, or maybe because she is playing the harp for Chou Yu. I really don’t know as of the moment. However, it was mentioned that the poem was written during the T’ang dynasty. Those years were described as one of the greatest and most successful periods of China, second to Han dynasty. This fact influenced my mind when visualizing the setting of the poem. While reading the poem, the main picture that popped in my head was a woman in a bright room since the light is being bounced back and forth by the floor and porcelains around in the room. It was also during the T’ang dynasty when literature and art flourished which was why I visualized the room filled with different forms of art.

2. Chou Yu was a famous general during the Han dynasty. It was said that Chou Yu has got “beauty and brains”. I have read that he has a masculine physique and he was handsome and good-looking, though his pictures were not appealing at all for me. He could have been good-looking during their time. Setting physical appearances aside, Chou Yu was also said to have a good personality which was why people liked him. A few of his good traits are his generosity and his straightforward attitude. His character was so good that he even got Cheng Pu, an older man who belittled and insulted him, to respect him and befriend him. He also greatly contributed to the history of China as a soldier. He was the right hand of Sun Ce especially in battles. When Sun Ce died, his younger brother, Sun Quan succeeded and just like how Chou Yu was to Sun Ce, he assisted him in every step of the way. They were very successful in winning military battles so they were recognized as “winning the many with the few” in their time. Lastly, Chou Yu was very well known due to the legend that he was so good in music that he could even point out wrong notes even when he was drunk. Sadly, he died young at 32 due to an illness on his way back from a campaign. Upon knowing how Chou Yu was like as a man and as a leader, I myself was attracted to him. It was like he was drawn from a dream since he possessed all of the good traits that could only be read in books and novels nowadays. It is not a surprise if women find him desirable if all that is written about him was true. He was not only physically attractive, but his attitude towards people is also beautiful. He was kind, generous and straightforward. Not only that, women may feel safe and secure with him since in nature, he is a brave soldier who had won many battles. He was also a man of music, which shows that he also has a soft side in contrast to his militarist image. No wonder the woman playing the harp was trying to catch his attention.

3. I imagine the musician trying to get Chou Yu to look at her even just for a moment. As stated in stories, Chou Yu was very good in music that he could distinguish a wrong note even when he was drunk. There was even a saying that goes “If there is a mistake in the tune, Zhou Yu will look up.” This was why the musician was touching a wrong note every now and then. She was trying to catch his attention. Obviously, the woman was attracted to him. I visualize them sitting in the room, with Chou Yu sitting on the golden couch, papers and maps all over the coffee table. The musician sits on a wooden chair on the other side of the room, playing the golden-fretted harp. Chou Yu was busy doing all the work and thinking about a good strategy for an upcoming battle and the musician gets a glimpse of his beautiful face and strong physique from time to time but Chou Yu was too busy to look at her. So she thought that if she commits a mistake in playing the harp, Chou Yu would look up. However, China’s society is male-centered, which means that men were superior over women. This changed during the T’ang dynasty when the people were more open-minded and liberal. The musician was quite lucky to have lived during the T’ang dynasty since they were given more freedom compared to the previous dynasties. Fixed marriage was the custom in China so the musician pretty much has no choice when it comes to deciding who she wants to marry if she had lived during a different period. Under the circumstances, it could be seen that the musician was determined to get Chou Yu’s attention, believing that she has got the chance to win him. She could represent the women during the T’ang dynasty who were already strong-minded. One example would be Empress Zhangshun who was the most virtuous empress in China and it could be seen that women in China could already make a name for theirselves.

4. When I read the poem for the first time, honestly, I did not understand what it meant. First of all, I did not know who Chou Yu was or why someone was playing a harp. For me, the poem was plainly a set of lines that were put together and had no special meaning. However, when I started to search and read about the culture during the time the poem was written, I gradually understood what the poem was about. My mind was like a plain blank canvass which was being painted little by little as I gain more knowledge about the poem. From nothing, I started to visualize the setting. My research gave me an idea of how the place would look like, what things would be in the room, how the characters look like and why they were there. I learned the reason why the musician was touching a wrong note in purpose and why Chou Yu would look up. Moreover, I learned that the harp was not as how I imagined. When I hear the word “harp”, the first picture that would pop to my mind would be the typical golden harp which is being played by the musician vertically. However, I learned that the traditional Chinese harp during the Tang dynasty, the Guzheng, is a musical instrument that is played horizontally, like a piano. The harp is quite bigger and longer than I thought. With this, my first visualization of the musician’s position changed. Instead of being in a wooden chair, I now imagine her sitting on the wooden floor, with one end of the harp resting on her lap. I read the poem again and again; making my picture even more vivid everytime I read it. This is the pleasure the poem has given me and my creative mind. It gave me an opportunity to create something from a literary piece, something I’ve never thought of before. As I was creating my own picture, I began to feel it; the feeling of being in the setting itself by imagining the dramatic moment between the musician and Chou Yu. And for me, this is one of the most pleasurable things I have made with my mind.

Word Count: 1,476 words

References

Ch’ên, J. (1979). China and the West: society and culture, 1815-1937. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Jianying, H. (n.d.). Chinese history - the Tang dynasty ( 618 - 907 BC ) - a women of the Tang dynasty. Chinavoc.com . Retrieved May 30, 2013, from http://chinavoc.com/history/tang/women.htm
Lu, Y. (n.d.). Han dynasty. UCLA department of information studies. Retrieved May 30, 2013, from http://polaris.gseis.ucla.edu/yanglu/ECC_HISTORY_HAN%20DYNASTY.htm
Lu, Y. (n.d.). Tang dynasty. UCLA department of information studies. Retrieved May 30, 2013, from http://polaris.gseis.ucla.edu/yanglu/ECC_HISTORY_TANG%20DYNASTY.htm
Morton, W. S. (1980). China, its history and culture. New York: Lippincott & Crowell.
Tang dynasty (618–906) | thematic essay | Heilbrunn timeline of art history | The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (n.d.). The Metropolitan Museum of Art - home. Retrieved May 30, 2013, from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/tang/hd_tang.htm
Zhou Yu - general of Wu of the Three Kingdoms of China - China culture. (n.d.). History - China culture. Retrieved May 30, 2013, from http://history.cultural-china.com/en/47History355.html…...

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