Grave Injustice to Dou E (感天动地窦娥冤), also known as Snowfall in Midsummer (六月雪), is one of the four great tragedy opera dramas created by Guan Hanqing (关汉卿 1219-1301), the best playwright in China’s classic age.

Both Dou E and her mother-in-law were widows and lived in an old but nice family house. Old Zhang and his son Young Zhang were homeless so they tricked the old woman into offering them free accommodation.

It didn’t take long for the aliens to occupy the entire property. When facing Dou E’s resistance, Young Zhang, the more greedy and radical among the two intruders, decided to eliminate the native population in the residence.

However, the plan didn’t go well. Old Zhang drank the toxic soup by mistake and died of poison instead. Young Zhang was outraged.

The man had an aquatint in the court and through him, he was able to bribe the magistrate, thus Dou E’s not-guilty plea was vetoed. Subsequently, the young woman was sentenced to death for murdering Old Zhang.

Kunqu Opera Grave Injustice To Dou E
Dou E by Xu Yunxiu (徐云秀)
Jiangsu Province Kunqu Opera House (江苏昆剧院)

It was a sweaty hot day in the middle of the summer. Before execution, Dou E vowed that her innocence would be proven when her blood does not spill to the ground but on a white cloth only; when heavy snow falls immediately; and when drought strikes the land of corruption under the magistrate’s administration.

A correspondence between Dou E and Heaven was swiftly established and all of her three wishes were granted thus the injustice done to her was bounced back to the perpetrators.

Do not think the natural phenomenon occurs at random,
It’s the result of correspondence between Man and Heaven.
(two lines from the opera)

Beijing Opera Grave Injustice to Dou E
Dou E by Zhang Huoding (张火丁)

Pop Opera Grave Injustice to Dou E
Dou E by Guo Lanying (郭兰英)

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