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1991 The Crown Prince Shen-Sheng

 Play Title 

The Crown Prince Shen-Sheng



27th November 1991


 Play Synopsis 

(申生)is a historical drama published in 1971.  The setting for the play is set 2,500 years ago in the Jin Dynasty of China’s Spring and Autumn Period.  According to historical records, Duke Xian of Jin(晉獻公) was obsessed with women and wine in his old age and doted on Concubine Li Ji(驪姬) of the Li Rong驪戎tribe.  Li ji gave birth to their son Xiqi(奚齊).  Duke Xian, however, already had several other heirs, Prince Shensheng, Prince Chonger(重耳) and Prince Yiwu(夷吾).  Li Ji carried a secret ambition to become Duke Xian’s first wife and in 655BC framed Shensheng so that he killed himself.  She also forced Chonger and Yiwu to flee the state.  When Duke Xian died in 651BC, Xiqi ascended the throne.  But one of the state chancellors, Li Ke(里克), gathered up supporters of the other princes and started making havoc in the state, eventually killing Xiqi.  The script follows the general storyline of the actual events but with particular emphasis on parts involving Concubine Li ji.  At the start of the first act, Prince Shensheng has just returned from successfully leading an army to wipe out Dongshan.  But this victory does not bring good fortune to the brave, strong and well-loved warrior.  Instead, it just increases Concubine Li ji’s vicious desires, forcing her to take action to eliminate Prince Shen-Sheng so as to allow her own son Xiqi to become heir to the throne.  She conspires with her trusted confidant, the duke’s jester Youshi(優施), creating a plan to frame Prince Shen-Sheng by making the duke believe Prince Shen-Sheng is attempting to kill the duke with poison.  When the plan succeeds, the duke is furious.  Prince Shensheng has no ability to redeem himself from the lies and so quietly hangs himself.  Xiqi then smoothly steps into the role of the duke’s heir.  The events following this actually have the opposite outcome of what Concubine Li ji desires: she is not at all happy.  Instead, all day and all night she is haunted by the figure of Prince Shensheng, and she begins to feel very ill at ease.  Several years later, the duke dies and then Xiqi ascends the throne only to be killed by rebel forces soon after.  With all that has happened, after seeing all she has worked for disappear in the blink of an eye, Concubine Li ji goes mad and kills herself in the palace.