William Dolby

Classical Chinese Translations and Research

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8. Wang Shi-Fu, Author of China's Most Famous Play


Book Details

This is a soft-backed publication created at some point during Bill's career but was finally put together in a published work in 2003. This work represents the 8th of 33 of the Chinese Culture Series.

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In the first great age of Chinese drama, the Yüan dynasty (1280-1368), Wang Shih-fu produced the favourite drama of China through the ages, his West Wing (Hsi-hsiang chi). A long play, with clear-cut, tight and powerful plot, it is China's Romeo and Juliet on a more massive scale and more lyrical, depicting the romance and clandestine love-making of two very young people , the brilliant mooney, swoony and love-stricken student Chang Chün-jui and the delectable, whimsical, hard-to-get and wilful Oriolette. Generals and bandits, monks and villains all have their lively roles, and the feisty maidservant, one of the best loved characters of Chinese culture, adds pert humour and bold earthiness.

Shih-fu wrote other vivid dramas, too, among them Tumble-down Kiln, on Love and poverty, Tea-trading Ship, a romantic triangle and a chase after a courtesan abducted in smuggler's ship, Beautiful Spring Hall, on war and political rivalry, Lotus Pavilion, a courtesan's pursuit of s scholar, Lord Yü's High Gate, about a loving daughter-in-law wrongfully done to death, and Composing a Poem in Seven Paces, about a prince's avoiding execution by his elder brother the king.

Through his poetry and plays, and, above all, his West Wing, Wang Shih-fu exercised an immense influence of later Chinese culture, and this book, the first to do so, takes a deep look at that influence, which continues in present times, and can only grow greater in the future.