Lady Wang 王夫人 is Baoyu’s 寶玉 mother, the daughter-in-law of Grandmother Jia 賈母 and the wife of Jia Zheng 賈政. Her eldest son, Jia Zhu 贾珠, died before the novel began, leaving behind a widow (Li Wan 李纨) and a son, Jia Lan 賈蘭. Lady Wang 王夫人 cannot help but compare the diligent, obedient, and studious Jia Zhu 贾珠 with the charming dilettante Baoyu 寶玉. In the picture at the left, a close up from a Yangliuqing 杨柳青 print of a banquet, she is the figure on the left, wearing a garment with a blue collar. The entire print is available on the Grandmother Jia page.
In the opera, Lady Wang 王夫人 takes a dislike to her niece Daiyu 黛玉 from the time the girl enters the Jia 賈 household. She minces no words about why she does not like her. In the first act of the opera, Lady Wang 王夫人 sings: “She looks like her mother, who looked down on me when I first arrived here to marry her brother. Why has she come? My mother-in-law never liked me, I have never felt welcome in this home, but someday my time will come.” Her resemblance to her mother endears Daiyu 黛玉 to her grandmother in both the novel and the opera.
In both the opera and the novel, Lady Wang 王夫人 warns Daiyu 黛玉 to stay away from Baoyu 寶玉, though in the novel it seems as if she is warning her for her own good, rather than because she has any animosity toward the girl. In neither the novel nor the opera does Lady Wang 王夫人 have much power in the household. But in the novel she does not seem to have ambitions to run the household; the reader is told that Lady Wang 王夫人 has ceded authority in the household to others because of her ill health. She does decide that Baoyu 寶玉 must marry Baochai, but the decision is because Daiyu’s 黛玉 health seems to indicate that the match with Baoyu 寶玉 would be ill-advised.
Lady Wang 王夫人 in the opera has taken on some of the characteristics of a character named Wang Xifeng 王熙鳳 , who is beautiful, talented, ambitious, and evil. Xifeng 熙鳳 is the wife of Jia Lian賈璉, who is Baoyu’s 寶玉 cousin. She runs the household with an iron fist. And her greed and corruption contribute to the downfall of the house of Jia 賈.