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The Orphan of Zhaoand Other Yuan Plays

The Orphan of Zhaoand Other Yuan Plays: The Earliest Known Versions

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  • Book Info
    The Orphan of Zhaoand Other Yuan Plays
    Book Description:

    This is the first anthology of Yuan-dynastyzaju(miscellaneous comedies) to introduce the genre to English-speaking readers exclusively through translations of the plays' fourteenth-century editions. Almost all previous translations of Yuan-dynastyzajuare based on late-Ming regularized editions that were heavily adapted for performance at the Ming imperial court and then extensively revised in the seventeenth century for the reading pleasure of Jiangnan literati.

    These early editions are based on scripts for the leading actor and provide the reader with the arias, prose dialogue, and cue lines. They depict a fascinating range of subject matter, from high political intrigue to commoner life and religious conversion. Crackling with raw emotion, violent imagery, and colorful language and wit, thezajuin this volume explore the consequences of loyalty and betrayal, ambition and enlightenment, and piety and drunkenness. The collection features seven of the twenty-six available untranslatedzajupublished in the fourteenth century, with a substantial introduction preceding each play and extensive annotations throughout. The editors also include translations of the Ming versions of four of the included plays and an introductory essay to the book that synthesizes recent Chinese and Japanese scholarship on the subject.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53810-7
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Stephen H. West and Wilt L. Idema
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-44)

    As a mode of performance, drama has a history of at least two millennia in China, but it first emerges as a literary art in the second part of the thirteenth century with the rise of miscellaneous comedy (zaju雜劇) or northern drama (beiqu北曲) as a new genre.¹ This was a form of musical drama that required one actor, playing the lead male or female character, to sing four suites (one per act) of eight to twenty songs. In some cases the metrical complexities of these songs might have been beyond the power of improvisation of the average actor...

  7. Conventions
    (pp. 45-48)

    There are considerable differences in the physical format of the editions that we have used, and we have striven to maintain these distinctions in the translation. A typicalzajudrama, stripped to its skeletal form, will have a title, a wedge (optional demi-act), four acts, and be concluded by a “title” and a “name.” Each act will consist of a suite of songs in a single mode arranged in order, written to the same rhyme, sometimes concluded by a coda (wei, orsha). As we noted in the introduction, the early plays may also be concluded by a “dispersal scene”...

  8. 1 The Orphan of Zhao
    (pp. 49-111)

    The Orphan of Zhao(Zhaoshi gu’er趙氏孤兒) is one of three plays for which the Yuan printing provides only tune titles, lyrics of the songs, and a very few padding words. No stage directions or prose dialogue, however fragmentary, are to be found. The Yuan printing representsThe Orphan of Zhaoas a regularzajuof four suites of songs preceded by a wedge. All songs are assigned to a male lead who plays four different characters: Zhao Shuo 趙朔 (in the wedge), Han Jue 韓厥 (in the first act), Gongsun Chujiu 公孫杵臼 (in the second and third acts), and...

  9. 2 Huo Guang Remonstrates as a Ghost
    (pp. 112-137)

    As is customary in Yuan printings of drama,Huo Guang Remonstrates as a Ghost(Huo Guang gui jian霍光鬼諫) mentions no author. The bibliographical section ofThe Register of Ghostsdoes not contain this title, andA Formulary of Correct Sounds for an Era of Great Peacelists it as an anonymouszaju. It is only Yao Tongshou 姚桐壽 (fl. 1350), in a collection of notes on the area of Haiyan (on the seacoast north of Hangzhou) calledPrivate Notes from a Land of Bliss(Lejiao siyu樂郊私語), who ascribes this and two more titles to Yang Zi 楊梓 (ca....

  10. 3 Xue Rengui Returns Home Clad in Brocade
    (pp. 138-195)

    Once the Sui dynasty (589–617) had reunified the Chinese world at the end of the sixth century, it also tried to extend its power into the Korean Peninsula. But whereas centuries earlier the Han dynasty (206 bc–ad 220) had been able to establish prefectures in what is now northern Korea, the Sui encountered stiff resistance from the Koguryo kingdom, which extended from modern-day northern Korea to the east banks of the Liao River in modern-day Manchuria. The three Korean campaigns of Emperor Yang of the Sui (r. 605–618), an archetypical “bad last ruler,” are characterized by historiographers...

  11. 4 The Bamboo-Leaf Boat
    (pp. 196-271)

    The story of the bamboo-leaf boat stems from an anonymous classical tale of the late Tang dynasty that is found in several recensions.¹ Known alternatively as “Chen Jiqing” (陳季卿), the name of the protagonist, or “The Bamboo-Leaf Boat” (Zhuye Zhou 竹葉舟), it formed the basis of a play by the mid to late Yuan playwright Fan Kang 范康, who was also known as Fan Zi’an 范子安 or Fan Ziying 范子英. Fan’s name occurs in the section of theRegister of Ghoststitled “Those Famous and Talented Men Who Are Already Dead Whom I Knew Personally.” Since this section includes people...

  12. 5 Tippler Zhao Yuan Encounters the Prior Emperor
    (pp. 272-318)

    Biographical information is extremely limited on Gao Wenxiu 高文秀 (second half of the thirteenth century), a prolific playwright from Dongping 東平 (in modern Shandong), a major performing center in the early history ofzaju. TheRegister of Ghostsreveals that he “hailed from Dongping, was a prefectural student, and died young.”¹ A manuscript edition of theRegisteradds that the people of the capital called him a “minor Hanqing” (xiaoHanqing 小漢卿), which would seem to suggest that he was also active, or at least his works were well known, in Dadu, home of Guan Hanqing. In his extended edition...

  13. 6 The Affair of the Eastern Window Exposed
    (pp. 319-353)

    From the moment of its foundation the Song dynasty (960–1278) had a tense and adversarial relation with its northern neighbors. In 960 this was the Liao dynasty of the Khitan, which had its power base in southern Manchuria. The Liao dynasty was one of the most successful states to emerge from the collapse of the Tang. The Khitan leader Abaoji had assumed the imperial title in 907, and for two centuries the Liao would be the strongest military power in the region. Their support would often be the determining factor in power struggles on the Central Plain, and the...

  14. 7 Little Butcher Zhang Immolates His Child to Save His Mother
    (pp. 354-378)

    Filial piety (xiao孝) is one of the central virtues of Chinese traditional morality. As the first of the inborn moral qualities to be manifested in human relations, filial piety holds a unique and fundamental position in the growth of moral character. But, as an inescapable duty imposed on a person by virtue of birth, it held little attraction for early playwrights, unless the demands of filial piety resulted in extraordinary acts of self-sacrifice. Perhaps no act of self-sacrifice can be more extreme than the sacrifice of one’s only child—in the Western tradition one only has to think of...

    (pp. 379-391)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 392-394)