Through the writings of noted Chinese philosophers, scholars, artists, and critics from the time of Confucius to the present, this rich compendium provides a fascinating guided tour of China's evolving conceptions of theater and performance. The book's more than sixty selections are arranged chronologically to provide a historical overview of four major periods: antiquity to the Song dynasty (fourth century B.C.E.-1279 C.E.); the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) and Ming dynasty (1368-1644); the Qing dynasty (1644-1911); and the rest of the twentieth century.
The writings collected here treat the origins, aesthetic principles, and functions of theater. Some are virtual manuals on playwriting and performance techniques; some describe the practices, conditions, and government policies concerning theatrical performance. Many of the selections forcefully dispute the myth that Chinese theater is valuable in performance but lacking in literature--the fact is that there is an equal, if not more prominent, emphasis on theme and content. What emerges from the writings in Chinese Theories of Theater and Performance from Confucius to the Present is a highly evolved and sophisticated aesthetic.
The texts are enhanced by Faye C. Fei's extensive introductions and annotative notes that provide essential background and contextual information. She has provided accurate and engagingly written translations of the texts, making the majority of them available in English for the first time. The anthology will appeal to teachers and students of theater and performance, artists interested in Chinese theater and arts, and scholars and historians of Asia. Literary critics, aestheticians, philosophers, and social scientists will also find the volume of interest, since Chinese conceptions of the theater and performance are closely connected to China's general outlook on the humanities.
Faye C. Fei is Assistant Professor of Dramatic Arts, Macalester College.