The Story of Washing Gauze, written by Chenyu Liang of the sixteenth century, is the first known play that employed kunqu in stage performance and contributed greatly to the art form’s popularization and development.
The play depicts the conflict between the kingdoms of Wu and Yue. Gojian, king of Yue, resolutely plans his revenge after being defeated by Fuchai, king of Wu. Gojian submits himself to Fuchai as a menial servant to win his trust, offers the famed beauty Xishi to be his concubine, and shakes Fuchai’s faith in his loyal lords. Fuchai falls into Gojian’s trap and kills his outspoken and honorable lord Yuan Wu. The kingdom of Yue is eventually restored as Fuchai is defeated and killed.
Entrusting the Son
Entrusting the Son depicts the episode in which Yuan Wu is sent by Fuchai to the kingdom of Qi to set a date of battle between the kingdoms of Qi and Wu. Knowing the battle will give the kingdom of Yue an opportunity to attack his country, Wu has determined to remonstrate against this plan to Fuchai when he returns. In the hope of preserving his family from total destruction, Wu brings along his youngest son and leaves him with his sworn brother Mu Bao, a lord of Qi. Despite his son’s protests and pleas, Wu returns to Wu alone to face his death.