Plum Blossom under the Lion Rock
Plum blossom under the Lion Rock is an original Cantonese Opera that tells the story of the Blue Lion (青獅), played by Man-wah( 文華), the ride for the Manjushri (文殊菩薩, the bodhisattva of wisdom). The Blue Lion once turned a blind eye to people in mortal danger and was in turn banished to the human world to prevent a catastrophe before he could return to the divine world.
At a fishing village (alluding to Hong Kong, which was once, too, a fishing village), the Blue Lion was disguised as human and saw Lau Hung-mui (柳紅梅, meaning red plum blossom) praying to the Amah Rock for the safe return of her brother, Lau Zung-hou (柳忠豪), who was amongst the fishermen who went missing at sea. The sea was plagued by the malicious Red Dragon (赤龍) who captured, blinded and enslaved people to forge the Red Dragon Sword. The Red Dragon was characterized as the young brother who seeks to avenge his eight brother dragons that were captured by the gods under the Pat Sin Leng mountain range (八仙嶺, literally translates as the Ridge of the Eight Immortals). The Blue Lion saw this as the opportunity to redress his wrongdoing and return to the divine world, and so he vowed to rescue these fishermen and return them to their families.
During his stay with the Lau family at the village, the Blue Lion was touched by the friendliness, warmth and humanity he was welcomed with. However, before the Blue Lion journeyed to the Red Dragon’s den, Zung-hou, which was in fact the Red Dragon in disguise – returned to the village, and duped the villagers into believing that the Blue Lion was the villainous Red Dragon. After a series of confusion, deception and mistaken identities – which reminded me of classic Shakespearean plays such as Much Ado About Nothing – ‘Plum Blossom’ builds up to the climax.
The Blue Lion, unable to prove his own identity nor the Red Dragon’s deception, sets off to the Red Dragon’s den to save the villagers. First to protect Hung-mui and then to restore the captured villagers’ eyesight, the Blue Lion willingly offered his two magical charms that represented his divine soul (元神) and thousand years of learning and practice (千年修行). The sacrifice of his divine soul caused the Blue Lion's petrification as the Lion Rock. In the end, the Blue Lion comforted Hung-mui, who could not bear to part, that he shall look over and continue to protect the fishing village as the Lion Rock Hill, and hope that the mountain would be planted full of Red Plum Blossoms, symbolising the Blue Lion and Hung-mui’s eternal companionship.
Click here to read about my interview with Man-wah - lead actor, playwright, and mastermind behind Plum Blossom.