This is the first anthology of Yuan-dynasty zaju (miscellaneous comedies) to introduce the genre to English-speaking readers exclusively through translations of the plays' fourteenth-century editions. Almost all previous translations of Yuan-dynasty zaju are based on late-Ming regularized editions that were heavily adapted for performance at the Ming imperial court and then extensively revised in the seventeenth century for the reading pleasure of Jiangnan literati. These early editions are based on scripts for the leading actor and provide the reader with the arias, prose dialogue, and cue lines. They depict a fascinating range of subject matter, from high political intrigue to commoner life and religious conversion. Crackling with raw emotion, violent imagery, and colorful language and wit, the zaju in this volume explore the consequences of loyalty and betrayal, ambition and enlightenment, and piety and drunkenness. The collection features seven of the twenty-six available untranslated zaju published in the fourteenth century, with a substantial introduction preceding each play and extensive annotations throughout.
The editors also include translations of the Ming versions of four of the included plays and an introductory essay to the book that synthesizes recent Chinese and Japanese scholarship on the subject.
Stephen H. West is Foundation Professor of Chinese at Arizona State University and professor emeritus in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Berkeley. With Wilt L. Idema, he recently has edited three collections of Chinese drama: Monks, Bandits, and Lovers: Eleven Early Chinese Plays; Battles, Betrayals, and Brotherhood: Early Chinese Plays on the Three Kingdoms Period; and The Generals of the Yang Family: Four Early Plays. Wilt L. Idema is Research Professor of Chinese literature at Harvard University and has published widely in both English and Dutch, especially on Chinese drama and fiction. Among his publications are A Guide to Chinese Literature; The Red Brush: Writing Women in Imperial China; Meng Jiangnu Brings Down the Great Wall: Ten Versions of a Chinese Legend; and The Resurrected Skeleton: From Zhuangzi to Lu Xun.