The Story of Lady Meng Jiang 孟姜女传说

Date: 2006
Category: Folklore Literature
Region: Shandong Province
Project No. I-8
Name of Applicant (region or institution): Zibo City, Shandong Province
According to recordings in the Tso Chuan: China’s Oldest Narrative History (the 23rd year during the reign of Duke Xiang), in autumn, 550 B. C. (the fourth year during the reign of Duke Zhuang, Qi Dynasty, Spring and Autumn Period), Qi Liang, a general of Qi, led an army to attack the State of Jü (now Jü County, Shandong Province) and was unfortunately killed. His wife Lady Meng Jiang came to the outskirts to receive the coffin cart (wher the Great Wall of Qi Zishui met, now the north side of Yuanquan Township, Boshan, Zibo City). The King of Qi was about pay tribute to the dead general but Lady objected to it and asked the sacrifice be done in the palace according to proper rituals and rules. After the burial, Lady Meng Jiang still appeared to be extremely saddened. After 200 years, Zeng Shen was recorded in The Record of Rituals: Tan Gong as saying: “his wife came to receive his coffin on the road and started wailing, so Duke Zhuang asked the tribute be paid to the general right there.” And in The Art of Speaking: Rhetoric by Liu Xiang in the West Han Dynasty, it was recorded as “his wife felt sad for him and burst into cry in the direction of the city wall and somehow the wall collapsed in a corner.” In The History of Women in Ancient China, there was a plot about the wife of Qi Liang who went to Zishui (now the north side of Yuanquan Township) and died. The story of the wife of Qi Liang was the original blueprint of the Story of Lady Meng Jiang. Due to its great popularity among the masses, the story has survived throughout over 2,500 years and circulated nationwide with much variation in content: originally, it was merely a story of the wife of Qi Liang (Lady Meng Jiang) in the State of Qi during the Spring and Autumn period, but over time the sad fate was associated with Emperor Qinshihuang and the Great Wall of Qin. Notwithstanding, the city wall of the State of Qi that had collapsed due to the crying of Qi Liang’s wife and the Zishui wher she drowned herself can be both traced to the area of Zibo of Shandong Province.
The story of Lady Meng Jiang is really widespread. According to the statistics conducted by Gu Jiegang in the 1920’s, the area of circulation could have covered Beijing, Hebei, Liaoning, Shanxi, Henan, Shaanxi, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Anhui, Zhejiang, Hubei, Hunan, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunan, Sichuan and Gansu. And the places wher related relics have been found are many: the Temple of Lady Meng Jiang and Grave of Jiangnv in Shanhai Pass, the Shrine of Jiangnv in Suizhong County, Liaoning Province, the Temple of Lady Meng Jiang in Qi County, Henan Province, the Wailing Spring and Temple of Lady Meng Jiang in Shaanxi Province, the Statue of Wan Xiliang in Shanghai, and the Spring of Jiangnü in Boshan, Shandong Province (four locations).
The image of Lady Meng Jiang reminds people of the kind disposition of women in the old times of China and the misery brought about by war, disclosing the hatred of people for war in ancient past. The story of Lady Meng Jiang has been circulating in the Boshan area generation after generation and the folklore of Lady Meng Jiang Wailing at the Great Wall is still being sung among folks in Boshan. The custom “saddening tunes and weeping voices” related to the Story of Lady Meng Jiang that had formed before West Han Dynasty has been passed down among the settlers in Boshan generation after generation. Up till today, the middle-aged and senior ladies of Boshan are even used to long-hour wailing instead of mere crying, in remembrance of sadness or worries in the traditional tunes of Lady Meng Jiang. The Lady Meng Jiang style of wailing has been widespread in the countryside and formed, so to speak, a culture of wailing.

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