The Drunken Concubine

It is a most enjoyable challenge figuring out the Chinese names for movements, more fun than working the NYT Sunday crossword puzzle. For Huawu Fan I have an English translation, typically loose, and a fuzzy image of the Chinese characters. I am amazed every time I come up with the name, especially when random characters snap together to form a well-known phrase.

For example, the English-only list for Huawu Fan says #29 is “Concubine gets drunk on wine.” I have this image from the video:
move29

I look up wine (红酒) and drunk  (醉) in the dictionary and ID two of the characters in the image.  I look up concubine and get this 妾, which is not what I see. I successfully draw the character I see and get this: 妃 (Imperial Concubine). I am stumped by the remaining character.

After several attempts, I draw what looks right: 贵. It means expensive, so I’m not sure. But when I assemble the four characters in order (贵妃醉酒) and enter them in the dictionary, presto! The dictionary recognizes the name of a Qing Dynasty Beijing opera Guìfēi Zuìjiǔ known as The Drunken Beauty.

drunkenbeauty

See the name? It’s the four characters I’m looking for. Forget the English, the move is called Guìfēi Zuìjiǔ, after the opera. Roughly phonetically gway fay jway joe. And here she is, the Drunken Beauty, reeling away in Huawu fan:

drunkenbeautyvid

That name is in section 3. Here are the names for section 2. I am coming to appreciate this performer’s precise execution of the form: 中級華武四十二式太極扇.

  1. 青龙出水 Qīng lóng chū shuǐ – Bluegreen Dragon Emerges the Water
  2. 彩蝶飞舞 Cǎi dié fēi wǔ – Colorful Butterfly Flutters in the Breeze
  3. 弯弓射雕 Wān gōng shè diāo – Bend Bow Shoot Vulture
  4. 翻江倒海 Fān jiāng dào hǎi – Overturn the Rivers and Oceans
  5. 怀中揽月 Huái zhōng lǎn yuè – Embrace the Moon
  6. 燕子抄水 Yànzi chāo shuǐ – Swallow Skims the Water
  7. 金鸡独立 Jīn jī dúlì – Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg
  8. 风卷荷叶 Fēng juǎn hé yè – The Wind Curls the Lotus Leaf
  9. 顺水推舟 Shùn shuǐ tuī zhōu – Push Boat with Current
  10. 白鹤亮翅 Bái hè lìang chì – White Crane Spreads Wings
  11. 羽扇划江 Yǔ Shàn huá jiāng – Feathered Fan Paddles the River
  12. 仙女观灯 Xiānnǚ guān dēng – Spirit Woman Gazes at a Lantern

As with other fan forms, this one includes a number of names familiar from sword forms, with the fan movements mimicking swordplay. And where the sword forms feature Xianren, the Immortal, the fan form names Xiannu, the Spirit Woman.

Interesting to note that 顺水推舟 (Shun shui tui zhou), push boat with current, is an idiomatic expression for taking advantage of a situation. Turning events to one’s own benefit. Pushing the boat with the current!

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