William Dolby

Classical Chinese Translations and Research

header photo

23. West Wing, China's most famous drama


Book Details

 "West Wing", a drama by Wang Shih-fu (13th-14th century) as translated and introduced by William Dolby. Most likely originally translated by Bill in the 1960/70's but finally self-published in this edition in 2008. This work represents the 23rd of 33 of the Chinese Culture Series.

Please contact us on availablity of this work

The Variety Play (tsa-chü) drama West Wing (Hsi-hsiang chi), by Wang Shih-fu of the 13th, and possibly early 14th century AD, is by far the most famous of Chinese dramas through the ages, was printed many more times than any other play, and has been a major seminal work, stimulating the creation of numerous other works of art and literature and being the subject of countless motifs and allusions.

It is five times the length of the usual Variety Play, only one other of the times nearly matching it in size. Extensively and most creatively building on earlier literature and ballads, dating back to the end of the 8th or early years of the 9th century AD, it's essentially a tale of two very young lovers who dare to defy strict convention by pursuing romantic love and engaging in illicit sex. The setting, of all places, is a Buddhist monastery! The many excitements involve a siege by mutinous soldiers - whose leader lusts after the heroine -, a battling monk, a dragon of a matriarch, slanders by a rejected suitor, and a wild dream. Prominent is the pert and resourceful maidservant, a celebrated character of Chinese tradition.