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SNOW IN MIDSUMMER

Classic by Guan Hanquing

Contemporary by Frances
Ya-Chu Cowhig

Plot Sumary for the classic text:

The Injustice to Dou E or Snow in Midsummer by Guan Hanqing begins when seven-year-old Dou Duanyun is sold to the Mistress Tsai family as a child bride for her 8-year-old son because her father, Dou Tianzhang, owed her a lot of money and could not repay his debts. She is renamed 'Dou E'.  The father then leaves for the capital to study and take examinations that will make it possible for him to have a career.

Thirteen years later Dou E has been a widow for two years when her mother-in-law goes to collect some money owed to her by an unscrupulous physician, Dr. Lu.  Mistress Tsai is almost murdered by Dr. Lu -- who has lured her to a deserted area on the pretense of repaying his debts -- but while he is strangling her two peasants happen to interrupt them.  Old Chang and his son Donkey scare away Dr. Lu, but then take advantage of the rich widow by saying that they will marry her and her daughter.  When she says she is not interested they also threaten to strangle her, to save her life she agrees to marry Old Chang.  But Dou E refuses to dishonor her dead husband by remarrying.  

Donkey comes to the conclusion that Dou E would have to marry him if Mistress Tsai was dead, so he blackmails Dr. Lu into giving him a poison that he secretly puts in some soup that Dou E has made for her sick mother-in-law. However, Old Zhang drinks the soup instead and dies. Donkey then frames Dou E for murdering his father and she is arrested and brought before an inept local prefect who subjects her to various tortures to force her to confess to the crime. When Dou E refuses to confess, they tell her they are going to subject her mother-in-law to the same beatings and Dou E. confesses to save Mistress Tsai from a torture that would assuredly kill her.  For this confession, she is sentenced to death by beheading.

When Dou E is brought to the execution ground, she swears that her innocence will be proven if the following three events occur after she dies, all of which happen:

  • Her blood not fall onto the ground, instead it will fly up and coat the white flag flying overhead

  • Even though it is a hot day in summer a thick snow will cover her dead body

  • There will be a drought for three years.

Three years Dou Tianzhang comes to the region.  He is now a senior government official who travels the country investigating corrupt officials.  He has been trying to find his daughter but has had no luck because Mistress Tsai moved from the town he had left his daughter in.  One night Dou E's ghost appears before her father and tells him of the injustice she has been a victim of.  Dou Tianzhang orders a reinvestigation of the case and the truth finally comes to light. Dou E is posthumously proclaimed innocent while the guilty parties receive their due punishments.  Dou E also wishes that her father can allow her mother-in-law to live with him, and that he will help to take care of her mother-in-law. Dou E's father agrees. The end.
 

The full text is available to read here:  https://courses.cit.cornell.edu/thetr240/secure/snow.pdf

 

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Plot Sumary for the contemporary text:

Snow in Midsummer by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig begins with a prologue that takes place three years before the main action begins in a factory town called New Harmony where Dou Yi sells fresh palm weavings. She needs money to look after her ill mother-in-law, Mother Cai. Dou Yi is a young widow clinging to the memory of her husband and the new story they dreamed of - one story of two lives that are still being written – symbolized by her double happiness necklace, a blessing of their marriage.  As she is walking through the bar district selling her weavings, Master Zhang, the owner of all the factories in town, grabs her and carries her off stage as she screams in protest.


Act I:

In the present, New Harmony has been suffering a terrible drought for three years. Tianyun, a businesswoman, arrives at Madam Wong’s bar, where factory workers are holding a rain dance. She’s preparing to take over the town factories, run by Handsome Zhang since his father died three years ago.  Handsome plans a new life, travelling with his partner, Rocket Wu, whilst Tianyun becomes concerned that her adopted daughter, Fei-Fei, is too obsessed with Ghost Month.  When Handsome proposes to Rocket, Fei-Fei tries to stop it: warning that proposing marriage during Ghost Month invites the spirits in. Everyone ignores her concerns and celebrates the engagement of the two men in love.  Later that night, though Fei-Fei sleep-talks about injustice, coughing-up a double happiness necklace that Tianyun swears to wear, promising to help this hungry ghost who demands justice.

The next morning, Fei-Fei tells her mother she has dreamed of playing in the snow and Tianyun finds scratches on her daughter’s arm: the characters spell Dou Yi.  Tianyun investigates, visiting the bar. Madam Wong tells her that Dou Yi killed Handsome Zhang’s father and was sentenced to death. When Rocket Wu doubles over in pain on the way to the factory, Doctor Lu, the town surgeon, tells Rocket that his heart problems have nothing to do with the heart transplant Rocket received three years ago.  Though Rocket has long believed that he has the heart of a teenage boy who died in a car accident, Doctor Lu reveals that he gave Rocket the heart of a convicted killer - Dou Yi.

Officers outside the courthouse tell Tianyun that Dou Yi claimed she was innocent of murdering Master Zhang and this would be proven because her blood wouldn’t touch the ground, snow would fall in midsummer and a drought would last for three years.

When Tianyun finally persuades Fei-Fei to cut her nails (which is against Ghost Month superstition), a vision of the past appears and we see what happened when Dou Yi was sentenced to death, when she made her prophesies, and her execution.

The ghost of Dou Yi watches as disaster engulfs New Harmony and it is down to Tianyun, who has her own secrets, make things just - for the town and the future.

Episode Facts

Episode: 1.3

Date Aired: October 5, 2020

TeamJennifer, Ricardo, Sam, & guest host Johanna Pan

Analysis Technique: Given Circumstances

Community Voices: Charlotte Bogart calling about episode 1.1 THE WOLVES