William Dolby

Classical Chinese Translations and Research

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12. Yüan Dynasty Variety Plays


Book Details

Translation of Chinese dramas of the first Golden Age of Chinese theatre by William Dolby, pulled together and finally self-published in one volume in 2003. This work represents the 12th of 33 of the Chinese Culture Series.

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In the China of 13th century AD, within the bustling, roaring capital city (then known as Ta-tu, the Great Metropolis, Cambaluc or Khanbalik, now as Peking or Beijing) of the Mongol Great Khan, Khublai, who was also the Chinese emporer Shih-tsu, by far the world’s mightiest ruler, there matured China’s first great drama-form, the Yüan dynasty Variety Play (Yüan tsa-chu). It included tightly plotted themes of war, love, guile, honour, treachery, spirituality, immortality, domestic rumpuses, court-room tension and detection, and many others, and was part of a flourishing dramaturgy that eventually came to exercise a powerful influence even on the Western world, inspiring Voltaire and Brecht, and being performed by Oliver.

This book contains translations of a number of Yüan dynasty Variety Plays by various playwrights, some translated for the first time ever in any Western language.