The Injustice to Dou E

Dou E in Madrid,

or how to enjoy classical Chinese theatre


The Play

The Spanish theatre group Tragaleguas, which means ‘quick or great walker’ and who are based in Castilla – La Mancha, recently put on an innovative and fascinating version of the play ‘La Injusticia Contra Dou E Que Conmovio el Cielo Y La Tierra’, or in English ‘The Injustice to Dou E’, at the Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid.

This play, also known as ‘Snow in Midsummer’, was written by the Yuan dynasty Chinese playwright Guan Hanqing. Brilliantly performed in Spanish, by Spanish actors, ‘Dou E’ transported the audience back to ancient China and was enthralling from beginning to end. Tragaleguas need to be applauded for this imaginative and ground-breaking production, in the best tradition of early-Shakespearian theatre.

The play cleverly combined comic elements with fight scenes, acrobatics and high drama. Costumes, background and music were minimalist, yet evocative of ancient China, while the scenes of Dou E’s death and resurrection lent the production a distinctively modern flavour.

Best of all, Tragaleguas treatment of the play made the characters and their psychological make-up and motivation, which can be fairly hermetic in a Chinese play or novel, easily accessible to Western audiences.

The Story

Dou E is a motherless girl from an impoverished family, whose father sells her as a future bride into another household, so that he can travel to the capital Beijing and take the imperial exams.

More misfortune befalls Dou E when her husband dies shortly after the wedding and she and her mother-in-law are left all alone. A couple of local hoodlums, father and son, try to force the two women into marrying them. Dou E stubbornly refuses, faithful to the memory of her husband.

Eventually, a sequence of tragic events leads to the death of the elder of the two men. Dou E is falsely accused, tortured and found guilty of murder. At her execution, she staunchly defends her innocence and issues a warning to the people of the town, claiming that Heaven will surely avenge her.

Three years later, her father returns to the region as a judge. On finding it was his daughter who was executed for murder, he re-opens the case and conducts a re-trail which clears Dou E of the false charge.

The Playwright :

Guan Hanqing

Guan Hanqing, the playwright who is known as China’s Shakespeare, wrote during the Yuan Dynasty, 1271-1368, when China was ruled by Mongol emperors. Of the 64 plays credited to him, only 15 complete works remain today. ‘The Injustice to Dou E’ is his most famous work.

Guan Hanqing is credited for having started the Zaju dramatic art form. This form, which concentrated more on the problems and injustice faced by the common people, rather than on the lives of the elites, probably developed as a result of the Chinese literati themselves becoming second-class citizens under the foreign, Mongol emperors.

Guan Hanqing’s plays exposed the contradiction between the long- held assumption that the Emperors were to be regarded as the Sons of Heaven and the reality of the injustice many common people suffered under their reign. The last words Dou E spoke before her death probably sum up Guan Hanqing’s own bitterness towards the Yuan emperors: “Those who are kind are poor and die young, while evil-doers enjoy wealth and longevity. Heaven and earth both bully the weak and fear the strong, not daring to go against the flow. Earth, you make no distinction between right and wrong; and Heaven, you mistake the wise for the foolish.”


If you happen to live in Spain, you should check out ‘Tragaleguas’ programme, to see if you can catch another performance, it’s definitely worth it (

Other readers should look out for any of Guan Hanqing’s plays being performed anywhere near them.


All is not well in Paradise (Wutai Shan)


Wutai Shan, the stunningly beautiful area of Buddhist monasteries in China’s Shanxi Province, is under going radical changes. The local authorities are attempting to evict hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have been living off the tourist trade. While Some of them recent arrivals, others have lived under the mountains for generations and helped the Communists fight the Japanese. The reason for their eviction? So that Wutai Shan can claim UNESCO World Heritage status and thus attract even more tourists.


Government presence in Wutai Shan even in 2001

This information was published in the Guardian but the URL has been lost. A cyber attack maybe?

Keep on trying: Compulsory resettlement in Wutai Shan | World news |

A more peaceful Wutai Shan


The Hakka Earth Buildings (Tulou)

The Hakka Regions and the Earth-buildings


The bus ride from Chaozhou back into Fujian through the Hakka areas is beautiful. You pass through green mountains, rolling hills and rich farming land. What is more, there are several stunning villages along the way, great places for a quick stop and a bit of exploring, if you had your own car. Of course, there is also the occasional ugly industrial town to remind you that you are still in the 21st Century.


There is a marked difference between the Han villages you see on the early part of the journey and the Hakka villages near the Fujianese border. The Han villages are compact, houses are made of stone and white-washed, a number of them are two-storied with traditional eaved roofs, quite similar to the famous Huizhou architecture, near Huangshan. As you approach the Fujian border, the ordered Han villages give way to more spread-out farming settlements, characterised by the traditional Hakka earth buildings. The ones you see along the way are absolutely authentic and family clans still live in……….


For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China


Don’t go to Dali….


Avoid Dali, the once mythical city and haven of back-packers, now not much more than a vulgar theme park. Only 33 kilometres away is the lovely village of Xizhou, with its impressive Bai architecture, which can give you a taste of what Dali once was like. If you wish to explore the beautiful area around Erhai Lake, you could do a lot worse than base yourself in this friendly and laid-back village.

Xizhou has played an important role in the history of this region of Yunnan, as it once served as an important military base and……

For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China


Zigong / Salt and Dinosaour City

Zigong: A Gem.

As you approach Zigong, sculptures and posters of dinosaurs announce that you’re arriving in “Dinosaur City”, as the city is known by the Chinese. Zigong is a pleasant modern city, built along the banks of the Fuxi River that has so far managed to maintain large areas of traditional and interesting architecture, despite its recent development and prosperity.

Besides Dinosaurs, Zigong has an abundance of sites, and is definitely worth spending a couple of days. The city owes its prosperity not so much to dinosaurs, as to salt and, in particular, the important role this product played during Imperial times. The salt mining techniques developed at Zigong were among the most sophisticated in the ancient world. They included building precision drills,…….

For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China


Yuanyang Rice Terraces / 远阳梯田 2006


During the first two or three months of every year, thousands of professional and would- be professional photographers descend upon this remote town in Yunnan province to take photos of one of nature’s most beautiful phenomena, the changing of winter to spring on some of the most spectacular rice terraces in the world. At this time, the paddies are full of water, and their beauty is enhanced by the shifting contrasts of light and rolling mists that provide stunning vistas. At sunrise and sunset the water in the paddies can take on a myriad of colours, ranging from an eerie blue, to pink, yellow and bright red, thus providing the perfect hunting ground for those in search of the ultimate shot.

Unfortunately, our work schedule left us with no choice but to visit Yuanyang in summer, when the terraces have taken on a bright emerald hue, but are devoid of water. They are still an awesome sight, especially at dawn, but they are no match for those glossy photos, adorning the multiple coffee-table books and postcards that you can find all over town. The locals, who seem to be fairly obsessed with rice paddy viewing, constantly remind us that this is the wrong time to visit and insist that we should come again in February, to see the real thing!

The most popular terrace viewing points are:
Longshubao: particularly recommended for Continue reading “Yuanyang Rice Terraces / 远阳梯田 2006”

Dazu 1991 & 2005


Dazu Town – 1991 When we first arrived in Dazu on a damp, cold day in January 1991, after a long but uneventful bus ride from Chongqing, we found ourselves in a small, grubby market town under a grey sky and a light drizzle. A couple of grotty, but overpriced hotels were the only evidence that Dazu might be home to something more than the abundant vegetables found in its markets….

For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China

Dazu Town Revisited – 2005

In September 2005 we returned to Dazu and discovered the town had changed beyond recognition. These days, Dazu is another example of a Chinese boomtown: new white- tile apartment blocks springing up like mushrooms after an autumn shower, a modern, bustling pedestrian shopping street where the old market area had been and plenty of shiny hotels. The local residents had undergone a transformation too: instead of Mao-suited peasants, there were now hip and fashionably dressed youngsters, wielding mobile phones. The newly refurbished Dazu Hotel was ready to cater to the whims of any fussy and…..

For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China


Wine and Cheese in Shangri-la

One of the more pleasant Surprises of last year’s visit to Zhongdian in the South Western province of Yunnan was sitting in a Tibetan run wine bar nipppling delicious cheese and washing it down with a pretty decent red wine. Both products were locally made. The cheese, unlike most Tibetan cheeses, was neither sour or tooth shatteringly rock hard. Actually it would go down well at any French or Spanish table. The cheese was produced in a remote mountanious area by a cooperative with the aid of western expertise. In April HolaChina: Your Gateway to China will bring you a full length article on how this unusual business came about. Stay posted!

Excursion to Litang

The journey to Litang takes about 7 or 8 hours and takes you through some pretty rural scenery. For the first two hours or so, the bus goes through farming land and past some gorgeous two-or three-storey Tibetan farmhouses; these are sturdy stone and wood dwellings with a courtyard and….

For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China