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Appendix F - Plays, Scenes, and Drama Collections

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2023

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Summary

“Blocking the Horse” (“Dangma” 擋馬) is a scene about the heroic Yang family of the early Song. A maiden dresses as a man to reconnoiter enemy territory and passes by a tavern run by an ally. He wants to steal her identifying waist tag, since it would allow him to return home. Only after combat do they discover their real identities and resolve to join forces. Drawing the script from Qing miscellanies, kunqu performers and aficionados developed it for the stage in the 1950s and 1960s, probably to introduce more martial scenes into regular repertoire.

Burning Incense (Fenxiang ji 焚香記) is a late Ming chuanqi play by Wang Yufeng 王玉峰, telling the much older story of the scholar Wang Kui 王魁 and the courtesan Guiying 桂英. When he abandons her, she seeks redress. “Appeal to Heaven” (“Yanggao” 陽告), in which Guiying asks the supernatural spirits who witnessed their love vows to intercede, has remained a popular kunqu scene.

The Butterfly Dream (Hudie meng 蝴蝶夢) is a narrative, popular in several theatre and storytelling genres, based on an irreverent folk tale and featuring the early philosopher Zhuangzi 莊子 and his wife, whose n ame in the kunqu version is Tian-shi 田氏. Zhuangzi tests the fidelity of his wife by faking his death and then reappearing as a handsome young man. An old man, who is actually a transformed butterfly, acts as a go-between between his wife and the handsome young man. The most frequently performed extract is a double scene called “Arranging a Match and Making a Response” (“Shuoqin huihua” 說親回話), in which Tian-shi desperately seeks to secure the match while the drunken butterfly prevaricates. On the new couple's wedding night, Zhuangzi, still as the young man, pretends to be mortally ill and in need of human brains for medicinal purposes. Tian-shi, seeking to oblige him, hews Zhuangzi's coffin open, only for him to rise up out of it, accusing her of faithlessness. The shame drives her to suicide.

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Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2022

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