Things That Those Boys Taught Me • Holy Angels Edition 那些男孩教我的事 • 圣天使版
Boy Number Five: The Boy Who Did Peking Opera
By: Kevin Tsai/Tsai Kang Yong/Cai Kang Yong 蔡康永
I met Boy Number Five, strangely enough, on the ancient stage of Peking opera.
During puberty, because of the voice change, boys can’t produce clear sounds when singing. That’s why they switch over to play roles that put more emphasis on fighting. I played a general from the Central Plains, and he played another general from a foreign country. The two of us both had four flags on our backs. While I had tassels draped next to my face, two long strings of pompoms hung on either side of his. I held a silver spear in my hand whereas he wielded a pair of bronze mace.
Because we were amateur performers, and we haven’t been studying martial arts since we were children, our fights on stage were often quite clumsy. Flags getting caught in our headdresses, or ribbons tangling around weapons, that sort of thing.
And then, it came time to perform. Fight scenes in Peking opera usually involve loud gongs and drums. Each beat exploding beside our ears like bombs going off. As our two armies meet on the battlefield, the two of us are also following the rules, shaking the pheasant tail feathers on our helmets, and sorting out our armours, showing off to the other side our battle equipment.
Then the gongs and drums began to beat more intensely. After the two sides both challenged their opponents to a showdown, the fight officially began. However, we were still going at it rather clumsily. I would lunge forward with my silver spear, and he’d block it by crossing his two bronze maces, then the two of us would compete in an over-dramatize show of strength. Next, we must speed up the action sequence, and do so while constantly spinning. This way, everything on our costumes that’s meant to fly up and dance about, can do so. Much like the tentacles of a jellyfish.
However, the faster the fight became, the more panicked I was. I swung my spear at him as we had done during rehearsals, but this time, I used too much force and knocked the bronze mace out of his left hand. He froze for two seconds.
The audience laughed. Although they were understanding, it was still rather awkward.
Once we got backstage, I apologized to him.
“It’s alright. And in any case, the audience wanted to see something fun when they came to see us,” he said.
“Don’t you think it’s dumb to do Peking opera?” I asked him.
“Is it dumb? I think it’s fine.” He picked up the bronze maces and playfully tossed them around, then said to me, “I saw you on stage when I was ten, and I thought at the time, one day, I’d like to perform with you on stage.”
After he had finished, he held the two maces in his hands, crossed his arms, prepared his stance, and smiled at me with a huge grin.
I smiled too, slinging the spear over my shoulder and grinned back at him.
And so, two heavily armed generals, each dressed in a full body of armour, just stood there backstage, smiling at each other.
How did you guys like this story? Wondering what lesson he learned from meeting Boy Number Five? Perhaps it’s about doing something despite not being the greatest at it. Or not giving up in the face of defeat. Or maybe it’s about daring to dream. As children, we dreamt of becoming so many things. We dared to aspire. In this case, the boy wanted to perform alongside Tsai, and he eventually got his wish.
Did any of you succeed in becoming what you aspired to be? (I personally got to be a writer, of sorts. Translation is still writing.)
Was this really what Tsai learned from Boy Number Five?
Who knows, only Kevin Tsai holds the answers. But share your thoughts with me if you’d like!
As always, please like, comment, and follow if you’ve enjoyed reading!~ Ciao! ❤