Scenes for Mandarins: The Elite Theater of the Ming (Translations from the Asian Classics Series)

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Overview

Ming drama represents the classical Chinese theater at its most mature and exquisite. Between 1368 and 1644, more than four hundred playwrights produced over l,500 plays, ranging from one-act skits to massive, operatic works with fifty scenes or more. As a performing art, Ming theater - with its polished singing, enchanting music, fantastic plotting, and intricate choreography - has never been surpassed. In China, well-known Ming plays are common cultural reference points to this day, and favorite scenes still form staples of the classical repertoire. But although a handful of plays have been translated in their entirety, until now there has been no general critical introduction to the subject available to readers in English. Scenes for Mandarins fills this need, surrounding translated highlights from six of the best-loved plays of the Ming period with lively, entertaining commentary on each play. The narrative of pioneer Ming scholar Cyril Birch provides the context necessary to help Western readers grasp the scope of a genre that spanned the great diversity of Chinese society - from the popular to the elite; from the poor, arid northern regions to the lush gentility of the south.
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Editorial Reviews

Asian Thought and Society
Organized as a delightful mixture that is part anthology of plays, part history, part literary criticism, part textual exegesis, part bibliographical clarification [of the Chinese language and poetry in Ming drama]. . . . Of course what shines forth most brilliantly is Birch´s translation. It is a style pitched to the original text targeted to the poetically-minded mandarin.
David D. W. Wang
Historically informative and stylistically compelling, the book represents an outstanding scholar and translator of Chinese literature at his best.
Patrick Hanan
This book will be a godsend . . . an imaginative excursion into the world of the drama together with a generous sampling of translated scenes.
Booknews
Describes the rise and development of Ming theater, the height of classical Chinese theater, developed between 1368 and 1644. Translated highlights from six representational plays of the period are set in historical and cultural context, and fictionalized reenactments show how the plays might have been staged. Includes b&w illustrations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231102629
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1995
  • Series: Translations from the Asian Classics
  • Pages: 262
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.29 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Cyril Birch is professor emeritus in the Department of East Asian Languages at the University of California at Berkeley. Among the many books he has written, translated, and edited are Stories from a Ming Collection (1968), Studies in Chinese Literary Genres, The Peony Pavilionand, with Donald Keene, Anthology of Chinese Literature (1987).

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Table of Contents

Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction: To the Reader as Fellow Mandarin 1
The White Rabbit and the Neglected Wife: The White Rabbit Plays 21
Xi Shi as Innocence: Liang Chenyu's The Girl Washing Silk 63
Xi Shi as Experience: Shan Ben's The Plantain Kerchief 107
The Plight of the Amorous Ghost: Tang Xianzu's The Peony Pavilion 141
A Quiz For Love: Wu Bing's The Green Peony 183
Bigamy Unabashed: Ruan Dacheng's The Swallow Letter 219
Notes 249
Suggested Readings 255
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