Lament at Changmen Palace

This version of Lament at Changmen Palace 長門怨 is from the Mei’an Guqin Manual 梅庵琴譜 of 1931, but the melody is from centuries earlier. The accompanying story, however, dates from the Han Dynasty.

When Liu Che 劉徹 ascended the throne in 141 BC and became Emperor Wu of Han 漢武帝, his cousin wife Chen Jiao 陳嬌 became Empress. Not bearing him a son after many years, she lost affection. Empress Chen Jiao employed a shaman Chu Fu 楚服 and delved into witchcraft in the attempt to restore her status and to cast spells on the other concubines. Once this was discovered, the Emperor ordered the Imperial Counsellor Zhang Tang 張湯 to investigate. The search implicated 300 people, and the shaman Chu Fu was publicly beheaded. In 130 BC, on the 9th day of the 7th month, the Emperor deposed Empress Chen Jiao to the status of commoner and confined her to house arrest at Changmen Palace 長門宮. There, she hired the renown poet Sima Xiangru 司馬相如 to compose a song—The Ode of Changmen 長門賦—to regain the Emperor’s sympathy.

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