Jia Yuanchun 賈元春

Yuanchun sitting in garden
Portrait of Yuanchun from Honglou meng tuyong。Note how her face is turned away from us: we cannot gaze upon her face because she belongs to the emperor.

Jia Yuanchun  賈元春 is the eldest daughter of Jia Zheng 賈政 and Lady Wang 王夫人, and the older sister of Baoyu. She is an imperial consort, which both gives the Jia 賈 family honor and causes them heartache. She is referred to as Princess Jia in the opera.

The early nineteenth-century poet Zhou Qi 周綺 wrote a poem about Yuanchun 元春, which is translated and discussed on the Zhou Qi Poem about Yuanchun page.  Zhou Qi 周綺 laments that serving as an imperial consort has cost Yuanchun 元春 her youth.

One of the most spectacular scenes in the novel is when Yuanchun 元春 is permitted to come home for a brief visit. That visit is discussed on the Cousins in the Garden page.

In the novel, the conditions surrounding her death are a little vague.  We are told that as a result of her becoming the “cherished object of the emperor’s favors” she had become a little plump and she had developed a chronic bronchial condition. The immediate cause of her death is that she caught a chill returning from a banquet and died several days later.  There is no evidence in the extant text to support the supposition that she was killed as a result of palace intrigue, as happens in the opera.  But the death of Yuanchun takes place in the final forty chapters of the novel (in chapter 95).  It is not clear how Cao Xueqin 曹雪芹, the author of the first eighty chapters, would have described her death.

 

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Dream of the Red Chamber by Ann Waltner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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