|The Morrison Collection|
This is a collection of 67 lantern riddles set to various tunes. It is a short book of 28 pages that is bound with a number of other miscellaneous works into a volume labelled "Pamphlets" (SOAS callmark RM c.500.y.2). See Catalogue of the Morrison Collection of Chinese Books p.149 for details. The title page gives the title as Dengmi Yaji 燈謎雅集.
Lantern riddles (dengmi 燈謎) are riddles that were written on the lanterns that are displayed during the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first lunar month. The riddles may also have been pasted onto walls for public entertainment, or simply written for private amusement.
The first mention of of the custom pasting riddles onto the Lantern Festival lanterns occurs in Zhou Wu's 周密 memoirs of life in the Southern Song capital of Hangzhou, Wulin Jiushi 武林舊事 :
Some people would cut out poems and verses [and paste them] onto silk lanterns; these would satirise or ridicule topical events, with [grotesque or humorous] pictures of people, and hidden meanings and obscure words, as well as jokes current in the old capital, all intended to poke fun at the passers-by.
The phrase hidden meanings and obscure words evidently refers to riddles, but it would seem that the riddles were only one of a variety of amusing words and pictures that would be attached to the festive lanterns. Lantern riddles do not yet seem to have evolved into an independant art form at this time.
It is not until the latter part of the Ming dynasty that a tradition of lantern riddles begins to emerge in certain parts of China. Zhang Dai 張岱 (1597-1676), in his memoirs of late Ming society, Meng Yi 夢憶, describes the display of lanterns in the city of Shaoxing 紹興 (in Zhejian province) during the Lantern Festival thus :
The display of lanterns in Shaoxing is renowned as being second to none in the whole of the country. Bamboo is cheap, lanterns are cheap, and candles are cheap. Because the materials are cheap, everybody makes lanterns; because the materials are cheap, everybody is ashamed if they do not make lanterns. Therefore, from the noblest estates to the lowest hovels in the narrow alleyways, there are lanterns everywhere, and there are special awnings everywhere. The awnings are made from two bamboo poles forming an arch, with a horizontal pole across the middle, from which is suspended a "snow lantern" and six "lantern balls". In the main streets there are hundreds of these awnings,and even in the back alleys there are dozens of them. Looking down an alley from its entrance, the layers upon layers of brightly coloured awnings and lanterns wave in the breeze, which is a really impressive sight! At the crossroads are errected wooden structures from which are suspended a huge lantern, popularly known as a "thick lantern", on which are painted scenes from the Four Books or from the Poems of a Thouand Poets. Sometimes lantern riddles are written on them, and they are surrounded by crowds of people trying to guess the answers.
紹興燈景為海內所誇者無他，竹賤、燈賤、燭賤。賤，故家家可為之；賤，故家家 以不能燈為恥。故自莊逵以至窮檐曲巷，無不燈、無不棚者。棚以二竿竹搭過橋，中橫 一竹，掛雪燈一，燈球六。大街以百計，小巷以十計。從巷口回視巷內，復迭堆垛，鮮 妍飄灑，亦足動人。十字街搭木棚，掛大燈一，俗曰『呆燈』，畫《四書》、《千家詩》 故事，或寫燈謎，環立猜射之。卷六：紹興燈景
Another early Qing author, Liu Tingji 劉廷璣, records in his Zaiyuan Zazhi 在園雜志 that the tradition of lantern riddles originated in the capital, Beijing 北京, and the city of Yangzhou 揚州 (in Jiangsu) :
Lantern riddles were originally a minor form of entertainment, that only developed as form of diversion. In the capital and the city of Huaiyang, during the Festival of the First Full Moon, strips of paper on which were written riddles used to be hung from the lantern awnings. [Guessing the answers to the riddles] was called "hitting the lantern tiger".
Although some compilations of riddles were produced during the Ming dynasty (e.g. Mishe Bianlan 謎社便覧, Qian Wenhu 千文虎, and Feng Menglong's 馮夢龍 Huangshan Mi 黃山謎), there do not seem to have been many works specifically devoted to lantern riddles. One rare example is a late Ming compilation of lantern riddles and humorous cant entitled Xinqi Dengmi Jianghu Qiaoyu 新奇燈謎江湖俏語, that is recorded by Qian Nanyang 錢南揚 (1899-1990) in his Hanshanghuan Wencun 漢上宦文存 (pp.168-174).
Interestingly, lantern riddles are conspicuous by their absense from any Ming dynasty works of vernacular fiction. It is especially noteworthy that the novel Jin Ping Mei 金瓶梅, which describes Lantern Festival festivities in detail in several places, including the composition and singing of "lantern verses" 燈詞 describing the splendour of the lanterns and associated festivities, fails to make a single reference to lantern riddles. The fact that Jin Ping Mei and other Ming novels and short stories make no mention of lantern riddles strongly suggests that the composition of riddles over the Lantern Festival was not a widespread activity during the Ming dynasty.
Lantern riddles only seem to have become universally popular during the Qing dynasty. There are frequent references to lantern riddles by Qing dynasty writers, but it is the inclusion of a number of lantern riddles in the great seventeenth-century novel Honglou Meng 紅樓夢 that perhaps gave the practice of lantern riddling its greatest impetus. The popularity of this novel may have helped in the popularisation of lantern riddles, and the spread of lantern riddles beyond the capital. Many later novels (e.g. Qinglou Meng 青樓夢, Huayue Hen 花月痕, and Ershinian Muduzhi Guaixianzhuang 二十年目睹之怪现状) followed Honglou Meng in describing the composition of lantern riddles, but I do not know of any earlier novel that makes any mention of the practice whatsoever.
The riddles in this collection are all written in verse form. The first fifty riddles are set to named tunes, of which there are seventeen titles. Eight of the tune titles belong to the genre of Song dynasty lyric poetry (ci 詞); four of the tune titles belong to the genre of Yuan dynasty dramatic tunes (qu 曲); four of the tune titles belong to the genre of Ming dynasty popular tunes (明代時曲); and one (疊字詩) is not really a tune title at all.
|Chang Xiangsi 長相思||Song Lyric Poem*||6, 17|
|Daolianzi 搗練子||Song Lyric Poem||35|
|Diezi Shi 疊字詩||Incremental Poem||41|
|Guazhi'er 掛枝兒||Ming Popular Tune||1, 24, 37, 45, 49|
|Huangying'er 黃鶯兒||Yuan Dramatic Tune||2, 9, 14, 20, 22, 23, 32, 40|
|Jinqian Hua 金錢花||Yuan Dramatic Tune||11|
|Langtao Sha 浪淘沙||Song Lyric Poem||31, 39|
|Nanxiangzi 南鄉子 (or 南香子)||Song Lyric Poem||34, 38|
|Pipo Yu 劈破玉||Ming Popular Tune||27, 33, 43, 50|
|Qingjiang Yin 清江引||Yuan Dramatic Tune||12|
|Rumeng Ling 如夢令||Song Lyric Poem*||10, 16, 26|
|Shua Hai'er 耍孩兒||Ming Popular Tune||4, 18|
|Suixin Ling 隨心令||Yuan Dramatic Tune||8|
|Xijiang Yue 西江月||Song Lyric Poem||5, 13, 15, 19, 25, 28, 29, 30, 36, 44, 48|
|Yi Qin'e 憶秦娥||Song Lyric Poem||7|
|Zhegu Tian 鷓鴣天||Song Lyric Poem*||42, 46, 47|
|Zhuyunfei 駐雲飛||Ming Popular Tune||3, 21|
* Tonal pattern varies from the standard form of this tune.
The inclusion of Ming popular tunes such as Guazhi'er 掛枝兒, Pipo Yu 劈破玉, Shua Hai'er 耍孩兒 and Zhuyunfei 駐雲飛 strongly suggests that the collection dates to the latter part of the Ming dynasty.
The answers to the riddles are listed at the front of the volume in random order, with each answer linked to its riddle by a single Chinese character that acts as a key. The key for each riddle is given at the head the text of each riddle, and by checking the key at the front of the volume the answer to the riddle can be ascertained. For example, the key for the nineteenth riddle is the character shu 暑. Looking up this character in the list of keys at the front of the volume gives the answer to the riddle as a "fish-hook" 魚鈎.
The keys at the front of the volume are in random order, but put together in the order that the riddles appear, they compose the following verse :
These are the opening lines of the well-known elementary text, the "Thousand Characters Classic" Qianzi Wen 千字文. However, the keys for the 61st through 64th riddle read 菜薑審正 instead of the expected 菜重芥薑. This is particularly strange as the keys at the front of the volume include the missing characters 重 and 芥, but not the characters 審 and 正 as given for riddles 63 and 64.
There are sixty-seven riddles, and hence sixty-seven keys for these riddles. However, the keys at the front of the volume are arranged into seventeen columns of four characters, making a total sixty-eight characters. The extra key is the character is 淡, which would be the next character in the thousand character verse after the characters 海鹹河. The 'answer' given against this key is "Good Lantern Riddles" 好燈謎, which is presumably not the answer to a missing riddle, but a comment on the riddles fitted into the unused key space.
|河 梳刷||餘 圍裙||來 鞋葉□||宇 一箍香|
|呂 通氣簪||重 簫||宙 鉄馬||收 帽頂|
|芥 花剪||洪 觀音燈||盈 鏡子||藏 眼睛珠|
|日 銀傘頂||珠 烟袋||地 瓦寶塔||奈 錢竹筒|
|珍 筆套||為 鉄馬薰籠||玉 更槌||陽 落花瓣|
|生 彈子||菜 雙陸||致 膏藥||闕 針箍|
|水 柳針||宿 酒帘||劍 抹布||成 頭髮|
|雨 鷄蛋||夜 紙皮||崑 草標||暑 魚鈎|
|冬 蚕繭||荒 手指頭||寒 井中天||騰 風箏、紙毽|
|列 萵苣元||閨 枕頭蓆||昃 虹||巨 骨牌|
|調 茉莉花、燈花||果 噴嚏撚||光 撫燈棒||結 螢火籠、鏡子|
|往 斗||露 傘靶||歲 線香||麗 鏡中影|
|黃 髮包||海 鏡帕||李 盤香||鹹 籬笆|
|月 榧子||玄 等子||金 草紙||張 水中月|
|雲 米簸籃||號 蠟燭||天 高底板||秋 傾銀罐|
|薑 火筩||辰 天平針||穪 傘||崗 船|
|律 蓮蓬老||出 通草花||霜 掌扇||淡 好燈謎|
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