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Wu Regional Drama

Introduction to Wu Regional Drama

A.

Characteristics and History of Traditional Chinese Drama [PDF file] (from Idema & Haft, A Guide to Chinese Literature, Amsterdam University Press, 1996)

B.
C.
D.
Troupe
E.
A Sample of Script

 

A Night At the Opera in Guodong

(Video Clips)

A.
B.
C.

The Show: Encounter of the Monk and the Nun (Note: This is part of the play "Mulian Rescues His Mother")

A young monk, who was sent to the monastery by his parents when he was three years old, is tired of the monastery life. One day, he flees the monastery, and dreams of getting married and establishing a family of his own. On his way, he runs into a young nun, who also just fled from her monastery, dreaming of getting married and establishing her own family. Both of them like each other, but dare not speak out. After some formal greetings, they say good-bye to each other and depart. But both of them continuously turn their heads back to look at each other. Embarrassed by being caught by the monk, the nun lies to him that she is waiting for another young nun. Then they say good-bye to each other and depart again.

On her way, the nun keeps on thinking of the monk, and dreams of getting married with him. Then she gets tired, and takes a nap in an Earth God Temple. On the other hand, the monk keeps on thinking of the nun, too. He decides to turn back and pursue her. Finally, he finds her sleeping in the Earth God Temple. He wakes her up, and tells her that he wants to be together with her.

(Later, Mulian meets the couple in the fourth hall of the Hell. They are punished to be geese in their next life)

D.

 

Selected Plays

(Video Clips)

A.

Eight Civil and Martial Immortals

Part I: the Eight Immortals

Part II: Monkey Sun

Part III: the First Six Immortals and Kui Star

Introduction
B.

The Tang Dynasty (618-907) was one of the greatest dynasties in the Chinese history. It reached its peak in the first half of the eighth century, but suffered its sudden decline from the An Lushan rebellion (755-763), and never really recovered from it until the end of the dynasty. After the rebellion, the weakened Tang was endlessly attacked by the Tibetans and the Uigurs. Guo Ziyi (697-781) was the leading general who quelled the rebellion and defended the Tang against the Tibetans and the Uigurs. Both Emperors Suzong (r. 756-762) and Daizong (r. 763-779) praised Guo as the one who reestablished the Tang. To show his gratitude to Guo, Emperor Daizong married his daughter Princess Shengping to Guo Ziyi's son Guo Ai in 765, when he was 13 years old.

Based upon history, the play tells the story of Guo Ai and the Princess (called Golden Branch in the play). It is Guo Ziyi's seventieth birthday. All his sons go back home to congratulate him with their wives; only Guo Ai goes alone, because Golden Branch refused to go. She thinks that since Guo Ziyi is her father's subordinate, she should not lower her status and bow to Guo Ziyi. Guo Ai is very angry, because he thinks that since Golden Branch married him, she should perform a daughter-in-law's duty and show respect to her parents-in-law. After he goes back, they argued fervently. Golden Branch defends herself by saying that she is the daughter of the emperor, thus she should not bow to her subordinate; furthermore, Guo Ziyi's status is bestowed by the Tang emperor, he should pay more gratitude to the imperial family. Guo Ai argues that the current Tang State is reestablished by Guo Ziyi; it is the imperial family who should pay gratitude to Guo Ziyi. Out of rage, Guo Ai hits Golden Branch. She runs to Emperor Daizong and complains tearfully that Guo Ai bullied her, and asks Emperor Daizong to execute him. On the other side, knowing that Guo Ai hit Golden Branch, Guo Ziyi is outrageous at his rude son. Fearing that this will bring disaster to the whole family, Guo Ziyi ties his son and asks the emperor for punishment.

C. Secondling Wang and Turquoise Liu are husband and wife. During the New Year's Eve, Turquoise Liu asks Secondling Wang to sell the cotton that she has spun and the linen that she has woven in the market, so that they can earn some money to prepare for the New Year. But on his way home, Secondling Wang loses all the money in gambling. When she finds this out, Turquoise gets upset and scolds Secondling. They then borrow some soybeans from their neighbor to make tofu. But Secondling does all kinds of things to loaf in the job, and finally knocks over the soybean grinder by accident. Turquoise is so angry that she decides to leave Secondling and go back to her parents' home. Not knowing what to do, Secondling pretends to hang himself to stop Turquoise from leaving. Saddened by Secondling's death, Turquoise made a simple offering for him, and recalled their past happy times.
D. The story is set in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), but is actually a fictional story. Xue Pinggui is a poor begger who lives in a cave, while Wang Baochuan is the third daughter of Wang Yun, the prime minister of Emperor Yizong (r. 860-873). Wang Baochuan reaches the age of marriage, so her father Wang Yun arranges an event for her to choose a husband by throwing an embroidered ball, and Xue caught the ball. Despising Xue Pinggui as a begger, Wang Yun opposed Wang Baochuan to marry Xue. But Wang Baochuan insists. In the end, Wang Baochuan broke her relationship with her parents and married Xue. Not for long, Xue decides to join the army to try his luck, and Wang Baochuan vows that she will wait for him to come back. In the following years, Xue Pinggui goes to the western border and fights against a barbarian state. Eventually his braveness wins the respect of the enemy, and he even marries the princess of the barbarian state. At the same time, Wang Baochuan waits for him in the cave years after years. One day, she decides to write a letter with her blood, and ties the letter to a wild goose in the hope that Xue Pinggui will receive it. By good fortune, the letter reaches Xue Pinggui's hands. Seeing the letter, Xue Pinggui decides to return home and unite with Wang Baochuan. When he returns to the cave and meets Wang Baochuan, Wang cannot believe he is Xue Pinggui, and ran into the cave to hide. Xue Pinggui shows her the letter to prove that he is Xue Pinggui.

 

Case Study: Mulian Rescues His Mother

A.
Summary of the Story (from Guo Qitao, Ritual Opera and Mercantile Lineage: The Confucian Transformation of Popular Culture in Late Imperial Huizhou, Stanford University Press, 2005)
B.
David Johnson, "Actions Speak Louder Than Words: The Cultural Significance of Chinese Ritual Opera " (from David Johnson ed., Ritual Opera, Operatic Ritual: "Mu-lien Rescues His Mother" in Chinese Popular Culture (Chinese Popular Culture Project, 1989)