2: Storytelling | 3: Yuan drama A: Basics | 4: Yuan drama B: History
5: Yuan drama C: Characteristics | 6a: Yuan drama D: Some of the Playwrights
6b: Wang Shifu and his Story of the West Wing
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Chinese 264:  Lecture Outline, January 29 through February 27 of Spring semester 1998.

Note:  Chinese characters are in Big5 code, which looks like nonsense if your computer cannot display Chinese text.

1. Tang Transformation Texts 唐 朝 變 文

 {Reference: Mair, T'ang Transformation Texts 1989}

2. Storytelling

||||  說 書 shuo shu, 評 話 pinghua ('storytelling')--ex.: Hangzhou pinghua--has types:

|||| Other storytelling forms: |||| Other props used in shuushu: |||| Other features of the storyteller's art:

3.Yuan Drama: 元雜劇   Yuan zaju

(A) Some basics on Chinese Drama in general:

|||| From the earliest times stages and dramatic performance were associated with and featured by temples, which were the traditional center of village and urban life.

|||| But drama always was, and still is, essentially secular in nature.

|||| Drama's early roots are in prosimetric performances and literature shuochang wenxue 說 唱 文 學 --hence it is music drama.

|||| Historically in China, drama is characterized by regional variation

|||| But all variants share a set of similar characteristics:

|||| There are three major traditions:  {Reference: West in Indiana Companion, 13-30}

(B) About the history of Yuan drama.

|||| As noted by Dolby in Mackerras' Chinese Theater, in the Yuan for the first time we "see that combination of acting, costume, stagecraft, and the complex interrelation of characters in a detailed story that makes real drama."

|||| The term zaju originally referred to 'variety shows' which included a mix of short skits and comedy performances by jesters or clowns.

|||| By the Southern Song (1127-1279) variety plays often involved a story in song form presented in a daqu 大 曲 --a long narrative song recitation.

|||| Another popular Song performance genre was the Drum Song 鼓 子 詞 .  Many of these survive in written texts, for example:

|||| The Southern Song was initiated when the Chinese were forced south with the occupation of North China by the Jurchen.

|||| The north saw the development of yuanben short for 行 院 之 本 'script from entertainers' quarters'.

|||| Also the genre called 'All-keys-and-modes' 諸 宮 調 had its origins as early as the 11th century, probably in the north in Shandong.

|||| An example of an innovative southern chantefable form from the Song is taozhen 淘 真 , a rhymed storytelling performed usually by blind women accompanying themselves on the lute.

|||| A descendant of taozhen is tanci 彈 詞 , which appeared at least as early as the Ming.

|||| Yuan drama emerged out of this mix of various forms in the north and south. |||| Both regional type were performed on stages. (C) General characteristics of Yuan plays:

|||| Division into acts.

|||| Music was integral to the performance. |||| Set character types.
Four classes of role type: |||| In southern forms there is also the Sheng 生 ---young serious male lead.

|||| Men or women could perform any role type.

|||| Mo, Dan, and Sheng were the singing roles.

(D) The playwrights and their plays

|||| Not much is known about the authors.

|||| Perhaps the most famous Yuan playwright is Guan Hanqing 關 漢 卿 (1220?-1310) |||| Ma Zhiyuan 馬 致 遠 (ca.1260- ca.1324) |||| Ji Junxiang 紀 君 祥 (dates unclear) (E) Wang Shifu 王 實 甫 (fl. 1250-1300) and the evolution of Xi xiang ji 西 廂 紀 "The Story of the Western Wing"

|||| The original story was written as a classical tale in Tang (618-907).

|||| The story became very popular and went through a long evolution  in continual adaption to other genres. |||| According to the Register of Ghosts, Wang Shifu was from Dadu (now Beijing). |||| The Xi xiang ji follows Dong Jieyuan's version closely, even lifting sections from it. Copyright 1997 Richard VanNess Simmons. All Rights Reserved.