An Overview of Research on Classical Chinese Drama in North America (1998-2008)
Yingde, Guo, Asian Theatre Journal
With the generous support of a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, in 2008 I spent ten months researching in the field of comparative theater studies at Washington University in St. Louis. After serious consideration, I focused my research on examination and commentary on the studies of classical Chinese drama in North America from 1998 to 2008, comparing them with studies made by Chinese scholars during the same period.
What is called "the classical Chinese drama" includes zaju and yuanben in Song, Jin, and Yuan; nanxi (southern theatre) in Song and Yuan; zaju (variety play) in Yuan, Ming, and Qing; chuanqi (southern theatre) in Ming and Qing; huabu (miscellaneous category) in Ming and Qing; and local theater during the late Qing and Republic of China, such as jingju (Beijing opera), yueju (yue opera), Cantonese opera, ritual theater, marionette theatre, shadow theater and so on. The research on classical Chinese drama before 1998 can be found in Sun Ge, Chen Yangu, and Li Yijin's Guowai Zhongguo gudian xiqu yanjiu (Research on Chinese Classical Opera Performed Overseas) (2000), and Cao Guangtao's Yingyu shijie de Zhongguo chuantong xiju yanjiu (2009).
In order to get the basic information, I compiled a chronologically arranged bibliography of research on classical Chinese drama in North America from 1998 to 2008. The authors in the bibliography are those who lived and worked in North America when they published their works, not including those who neither worked nor lived in North America but published their works in North America. All works are written in English, with most devoted to classical Chinese drama. Comparative research that relates ancient and modern, China and the West, is included, but I have not listed research on modern Chinese drama (since 1919).
The bibliography covers work in three categories: books, dissertations and articles. The books include the translations of classical Chinese plays and academic monographs, while the articles include those published in journals, books, and essays, not including book reviews. The books list is based on the database of WorldCat, and the subject names are (1) theater--China--history, and (2) Chinese drama--history and criticism. The search scope of dissertations is based on the database of ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (PQDT), and the subject categories are (1) Asian literature, (2) theater, (3) art history, and (4) comparative literature. The article list is based on the database of Bibliography of Asian Studies (BAS), using the subject names (1)China--literature-drama, and (2) China--arts--theater. The document language is English. In addition, I supplemented these lists by extensive reference to the English books on Chinese drama and theater, the autobiographies of the scholars, and other articles that carried relevant information.
According to incomplete statistics, there were 175 works on classical Chinese drama published in North America from 1998 to 2008. Among them, there are nineteen books, twenty-three dissertations, and 133 articles. On this basis, I wrote the brief introduction to these books and the dissertation abstracts.
In my evaluations I have focused on three aspects of humanistic research: a detailed and meticulous arrangement of documents and materials, comprehensive and thorough research on history, and innovation and breakthrough in theoretical explanation. Following my comments on these works on classical Chinese drama, I briefly review these aspects, in order to evaluate the general value and trends in China studies in North America in the twenty-first century.
Translations of Plays and Compilations of Resources
Classical Chinese plays translated in English were multitudinous in the twentieth century, including some celebrated plays. Scholarship on classical Chinese drama produced a wealth of play translations from 1998 to 2008.
Nine plays in the zaju form have been translated into English since 1998. Qian Ma (2005) translated five plays: Injustice to Dou E (Dou E yuan), a Yuan zaju by Guan Hanqing; Qiannu's Soul Leaves Her Body (Qiannu li hun), a Yuan zaju by Zheng Guangzu; Mulan (Ci Mulan), a Ming zaju by Xu Wei; Spring Pavilion (Lin chun ge), an early Qing zaju by Wu Weiye; Laughter in a Flour Barrel (Miangang xiao), a late Qing zaju by Tang Ying. George Kao (1998) translated A Sister Courtesan Comes to the Rescue (Jiu Fengcen), and Dale R. Johnson (2003) translated Gold Thread Pond (Jinxianchi), which were Yuan zaju by Guan Hanqing. Elizabeth A. Wichmann-Walczak and Fan Xing (2003) translated Lady Zhaojun Crosses the Frontier (Zhaojun chu sai), a Ming zaju by Chen Yujiao. ShuChu Wei (2005-2006) translated The Image in Disgguise (Qiaoying), a Qing zaju by Wu Zao.
Three plays in nanxi or chuanqi form have been translated into English since 1998. Regina Sofia Llamas (1998) translated Zhang Xie Zhuangyuan (Top Graduate Zhang Xie), a Song nanxi by an anonymous author. Cyril Birch (2001) translated Mistress and Maid (Jiaohong ji), a Ming chuanqi by Meng Chengshun (1594-1684). Qingyun Wu (2008) translated A Dream of Glory (Fanhua meng), a Qing chuanqi by Wang Yun (1749-1819). Moreover, the second edition of Tang Xianzu's Peony Pavilion (Mudan ting) translated by Cyril Birch was published in 2002.
Fan Pen Chen (1999, 2007b) translated four classical Chinese shadow scripts: The Temple of Guanyin (Guanyin si), Three Opening Blessings (San chu tou), The Eighteen Levels of Hell (Shiba ceng diyu), and The Yellow River Magic Formation (Huanghe zhen). Chen also translated seven contemporary Chinese shadow plays (2004). Even though many Chinese plays have been translated into English, complete and/or new translations of classical Chinese plays are still very limited in the English world up to this day, thus the new English translations of Chinese plays mentioned above are very welcome.
Likewise, many scholars in North America paid great attention to the compilation and recommendation of Chinese drama resources during the twentieth century. The case in point is Wilt Idema and Stephen H. West's (1982) pioneering Chinese Theater 1100-1450: A Source Book, which translates historical resources relating to the theatrical performance from the Northern Song to the early Ming and contributes to the study of classical Chinese drama. The fine tradition of creating resource works has been brought to a great height of development since 1998. The following three unprecedented monographs published recently are inventive and valuable.
Dale R. Johnson's Glossary of Words and Phrases in the Oral Per forming and Dramatic Literatures of the Jin, Yuan, and Ming (2000) covers the oral performing and dramatic literatures of China written over the four-hundred-year period from A.d. 1200 to 1600. It contains approximately eight thousand entries based on the reading notes and glosses found in various dictionaries, thesauruses, glossaries, and editions of works during that period. As late as 1981, no comprehensive dictionary or glossary for this literature existed in any language, Asian or Western. With this aid even a relative novice having a reasonable command of Chinese can read, translate, and appreciate this great body of literature with an ease undreamed of even two decades ago.
Faye C. Fei's Chinese Theories of Theater and Performance (1999) arranges chronologically more than sixty selections to provide a historical overview of four major periods: antiquity to the Song dynasty (fourth century b.c.e.-1279 c.e.), the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) and Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), and the rest of the twentieth century. Through the writings of noted Chinese philosophers, scholars, artists, and critics from the time of Confucius to the present, this rich compendium provides a fascinating guided tour of China's evolving conceptions of theater and performance.
Tan Ye's Historical Dictionary of Chinese Theater (2008) provides basic information on classical Chinese theater from the remotest antiquity to the present, but it does not include the modern forms. Since this is the first English-language dictionary dedicated to the Chinese theater, the author's task …
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Publication information: Article title: An Overview of Research on Classical Chinese Drama in North America (1998-2008). Contributors: Yingde, Guo - Author. Journal title: Asian Theatre Journal. Volume: 27. Issue: 1 Publication date: Spring 2010. Page number: 149+. © 2008 University of Hawaii Press. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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