Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land: Where Sorrow and Happiness in Life Meet (Part 2)
By Quek See Ling
The content and structure of Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land remind me of “On the Equality of Things” in Zhuangzi: The Inner Chapters, in which several seemingly unrelated segments are brought together under a unifying theme. Though many things in life appear distinctively different, we are all made of the same matter.
The world-weary Lao Tao has a culture shock after witnessing the local populace’s extreme gestures like thanking the water, avoid stepping on the ants, concerned about hurting the grass and the water ladle, and even catching lost butterflies to send them in the right direction, to reflect their respect for nature. When Lao Tao feels frustrated about his wife’s extramarital affair, the residents calmly advise him to “let it go”.
The play’s best attribute is its mastery of tempo; in spite of the drastically different plots, both Secret Love and Peach Blossom Land merge together seamlessly. Stan Lai’s planning and conceptualisation, coupled with Lee Kuo-hsiu’s ingenious idea of a play with two troupes shared a stage, and the cast’s teamwork resulted in the play’s success when it premiered in 1986. The current cast continues that proud teamwork in the latest edition of the play.
Loneliness in the Brilliant Fallen Petals
Qing Dynasty philosopher Wang Fuzhi wrote in Jiangzhai Poetry Talks that using a happy scene to describe sorrow multiplies the sorrow, and vice versa. The emotional contrast intensifies the original feelings. Perhaps, this is the reason why Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land is such a tear-jerker – be it tears of laughter from Peach Blossom Land or tears shed for the star-crossed lovers in Secret Love. Yet, the comedy of Peach Blossom Land ends with Lao Tao’s loneliness and helplessness, while the two leads in Secret Love each find people who love them, highlighting that there is no pure comedy or tragedy in life. After all, don’t we all walk through life with tears and laughter?
At the end of the play, the lady searching for Liu scatters the flower petals all over herself in a brilliantly coloured, yet lonely finale. Hopefully, the fallen petals will transform into nourishing spring mud to protect the flowers.
(Translated by Shawn Pang)