Item ID: 8660 Yuan ren bain zhong qu [or] Yuan qu xuan [Selected Yuan Theater Plays]. Maoxun ZANG, ed.

“A Very Reliable Source for the Study of Yuan-Period Operas”

Yuan ren bain zhong qu [or] Yuan qu xuan [Selected Yuan Theater Plays].

Some full-page woodcut illus. of scenes from the plays. 48 vols. Small 8vo, orig. wrappers, orig. title-labels on upper covers, orig. stitching. Shanghai: Shang wu yin shu guan, 1918.

Lithographic reprint of the 1615-16 first edition. “Yuanquxuan is a collection of the greatest part of surviving Yuan-period (1279-1368) theatre plays. It includes 100 plays and is therefore also called Yuanren baizhong qu ‘One Hundred theatre plays by authors of the Yuan period’…

“The collection Yuanquxuan was compiled during the Ming period (1368-1644) by Zang Maoxun (1550-1620)…who hailed from Changxing, Zhejiang. He belonged to the so-called four masters (sizi), famous writers that also came from this region (the others are Wu Jiadeng, Wu Mengyang, and Mao Wei). Although he passed the metropolitan state examination, he renounced an official career and became instead a teacher at Jingzhou, Hubei. Later on he…retired to a private life. He was a founding member of the Jinling Poetry Club. Zang Maoxun established his private study at Mt. Guzhu, where he continued writing and compiling until the end of his austere life…

“Zang Maoxun was very interested in ancient poetry, especially in that of the Yuan period, which was until then largely neglected. In his theoretical deliberations he explained that all three main types of Chinese poetry (shi, ci and qu) came from the same source, but the last type (qu) had an exceptional character as arias in theatre plays (xiqu, or musical comedy or opera). This peculiar use made it necessary that qu poetry served for very different types of language, adapted to the particular roles that were to sing the aria…

“Furthermore, the texts were written in a language with a strong colloquial and regional taste not easy to understand for laypeople. Unlike shi poetry or even ci poetry that were not sung (although the textual pattern of ci poems is based on melodies), qu poetry was not only to be read aloud, but to be sung, and the vocabulary expressing the feelings and sentiments of the singing character therefore had to be adapted to a listening and viewing public…

“Zhang Maoxun divided theatre plays into two types, namely those of ‘famous authors’ (mingjia), mainly characterised by a brilliant language, and those of ‘common authors’ (xingjia), that excelled in the use of melody patterns (qupai). The specific success of the Yuan opera lies in its ability to combine artfully composed airs with naturalistic scenes, so that it can be called ‘an art without making use of artistry’ (bu gong er gong). Zang’s intention was not only to preserve a whole literary genre of a past age, but also to provide a collection of excellent operas that could eventually serve as a model for contemporary composers of the typical southern plays (nanqu)…

“The collection Yuanquxuan is divided into two parts (Qianji, Houji)…Both parts include 50 theatre plays, making a total of 100 plays, the authors of 69 of which are known…

“Zang Maoxun used the copies of his own collection, but also asked other collectors to provide him with the text of Yuan theatre plays in their collection. A third type of source for his collection Yuanquxuan were copies owned by the imperial palace (yuxi jianben). Zang has made a very accurate textual critique, comparing different versions of theatre plays he had at his disposal. The Yuanquxuan is therefore a very reliable source for the study of Yuan-period operas. At the end of each act (zhe), a phonetic commentary is added, helping the reader (and re-enactor) to get along with the Yuan period pronunciation of words. The collection is enriched by several theoretical essays on Yuan-period theatre and on the music of that time.”–ChinaKnowledge.de.

Each volume has several full-page woodcuts of scenes from the plays.

Fine fresh set. The wrappers of the first volume are a little torn; this volume is also slightly dampstained.

Price: $4,250.00

Item ID: 8660

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