PERFORMATIVE LITERATURE OF THE SUNG AND CHIN DYNASTIES

The most important genre of performative literature of this period with extant texts is the chu-kung-tiao. According to modern taxonomy, this genre belongs to shuo-ch'ang wen-hsüeh (sing and speak [chantefable] literature), if the manner of performance is considered, and to prosimetric literature, if we look at the form of the texts. However, accounts of the twelfth to fourteenth centuries usually discuss the “all keys and modes” in the context of song, stressing its satirical content.online essays And Chung Ssu-ch'eng (c. 1279–c. 1360) in his Lu-kuei pu (Register of Ghosts), the earliest preserved catalog of playwrights and their works, places the most prominent author of the genre, Tung Chieh-yüan (Master Tung; active c. 1190–1208), at the head of his list of san-ch'ü (see chapter 17) and tsa-chü authors. Modern studies often follow the lead of Chung Ssu-ch'eng by discussing the “all keys and modes” as a precursor of northern drama, since it marks an important stage in the development of song, viz., in the change from tz'u to (northern) ch'ü.

The most popular form of song in the eleventh and twelfth centuries was the tz'u (lyric; see chapter 15). Lyric tunes most often consisted of two stanzas, but a few very popular lyric tunes consisted of only one stanza, while a still smaller number of tunes consisted of three stanzas. Longer suites were created by repeating, according to a fixed scheme, the same tune over and over again, repetition of the same tune bringing along variation in melody and tempo. One of the forms created in this manner was the ku-tzu-tz'u (drum lyrics). Many texts in this form were written to accompany ballets. However, the form could also be used for narrative purposes by interspersing the songs with prose. Dating from the final years of the Northern Sung (960–1127) is an adaptation of the T'ang poet Yüan Chen's (779–831) “Ying-ying chuan” (Story of Ying-ying) in this format by Chao Ling-chih (1051–1134). One other later example of narrative drum lyrics has been preserved in an early collection of hua-pen. It has been argued that it may have been composed originally as a prelude to a (lost) hsiwen or ch'uan-ch'i.

The twelfth century witnessed the advent of new forms of suite formation that allowed for the combination of different tunes (in the same key or mode) into one suite. If the suite consisted of an introductory song, one or more other songs, and a coda (wei [tail]), the suite was known as ch'an-ling (intertwined tunes); if, following the introductory songs, two tunes were used alternately several times before the suite was ended by the coda, the suite was known as a ch'an-ta. In all these cases, the text of the coda consisted of three lines of seven syllables each and probably was intended to provide the suite with a witty conclusion and punch line. The Essays and Texts only ch'an-ling that has been preserved as an independent work is a description of the Sung dynasty game of “football.”

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Dreams of Splendor

Telling stories is a human characteristic that may be as old as song and dance. Just as music, song, and dance flourished during the T'ang period, dissertation editing so did storytelling. The T'ang dynasty witnessed both the flowering of the short story in the classical language (ch'uan-ch'i; see chapter 33) and the emergence of longer narrative texts in the vernacular, in prose, in rhyme, or in a mixture of both (the prosimetric tales known as pien-wen; see chapter 48). The short stories in the classical language later became extremely important to the development of dramatic literature because they provided the plots of some of the best-loved plays. The emergence of pien-wen stimulated the written use of the spoken language while also contributing to the development of longer narratives. The importance of both elements for the eventual emergence of a dramatic literature needs no elaboration. However, the manuscripts discovered at Tun-huang (see chapter 48) probably already provide us with the text of at least one proper playlet or miniplay, “Ch'a-chiu lun” (Discourse Between Tea and Wine). This text concerns a dispute between Tea and Wine as to their respective merits and their relative ranking. On both sides praise of one's own qualities soon turns into a revilement of the other's faults. Eventually the fight between the two parties has to be settled by the intercession of Water. In some of the preserved manuscripts of this witty little piece the stage directions are clearly distinguished from the main text by being written in smaller characters.

The amount of available information on the performing arts becomes still more plentiful in the Sung dynasty. Tung-ching meng hua lu (Dreams of Splendor of the Eastern Capital), by Meng Yüan-lao (preface dated 1147), is a nostalgic memoir describing the sights and smells of the Sung capital Kaifeng in the first decades of the twelfth century, before the city was captured by the Chin (Jurchen; 1115–1234). It includes a description of the entertainment quarters, detailing the genres available and listing the most famous performers. For Hangchow, the capital of the Southern Sung dynasty, we have four comparable works, dating from the late twelfth to early fourteenth centuries. These works mention more genres, are more elaborate in their descriptions, and list more performers by name. The surveys cover martial arts and acrobatics, song and dance and instrumental music, various classes of professional storytelling, and five different types of puppet plays. Also included are chu-kung-tiao (all keys and modes; medley) and tsa-chü (farce). The “all keys and modes” (see below) was a genre of prosimetric storytelling that derived its name from the fact that the rhymed sections did not have a fixed line length (as, for example, in pienwen and most of the later forms of prosimetric literature of the Ming and Ch'ingdynasties), but were written to tunes or suites of tunes that each stipulated their own verse form, while every tune or suite of tunes was in a different key or mode from the one before. The “all keys and modes” was an important precursor of Yüan dynasty tsa-chü, because the genre developed the organization of individual tunes into modal suites and so prepared the groundwork for the musical organization of the pre-eminent form of drama during the Mongol period.

Sung dynasty tsa-chü, the direct predecessor of Yüan tsa-chü, was a much simpler affair. It was performed both at court and in the capital commercial theaters. From Southern Sung times, there exists a long list of titles of stage routines, farces, and skits (probably also including some more elaborate items), but it is not quite clear whether this list refers to the court repertoire or to the repertoire of the genre in general. A comparable, even longer list of titles emanates from the domain of the Chin dynasty, where the Research Support same genre went by the name of yüan-pen (texts of the [acting] guild). Available Sung dynasty sources point out that roles in tsa-chü were divided among a limited number of role-types, many of which are re-encountered in later genres of drama. They further point out that a full performance was introduced by an eye-catching prelude (yen-tuan) and that the main action consisted of two scenes, whereupon the show might be concluded with a skit featuring country yokels. In Kaifeng, during the seven days preceding the holiday celebrating Buddhist All Souls, the actors also participated in a theatrical version of the story of Mu-lien's rescue of his mother from hell. In Hangchow, the actors participated in the celebration of the end-of-the-year No ceremony, one of them in the role of Chung K'uei.

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The Prehistory of Chinese Theater

    Although ritual was one source of traditional Chinese theater (and a very important one), it certainly was not the resume writing services only tradition of performance that fed into full-fledged Chinese drama as it emerged into view in the thirteenth century. Song and dance are probably as old as the human race. Documents from the Chou dynasty (c. 1027–256 B.C.E.) inform us not only about the No ceremony but also about many other rituals involving song and dance. Many of these performances had a narrative content, for example, the military dances commemorating the victory of the Chou over the Shang (c. 1600–c. 1027 B.C.E.). From the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.–220 C.E.) we have extensive descriptions (and pictorial evidence) of the pai-hsi (hundred games), displays of martial and acrobatic skills, ranging from wrestling and mock combat to tightrope walking and fire-spitting. Also included under this term were elaborate and spectacular pageants. Some of these performances had a certain narrative content, one of them being the Old Man of Tung-hai (Eastern Sea): the old man had once been a powerful magician whose charms could dominate tigers, but his advanced age and his drinking habits diminished his powers, and he ended up being eaten by a tiger he had tried to charm. Many of the skills involved in the performance of pai-hsi were elaborated and incorporated in later drama (the skit of the Old Man of Tung-hai also survived into later drama). From the centuries following the Han, we have short descriptions of comical skits involving song and dance (one concerning a woman who reviles her husband for his alcoholism) and references to the use of masks in narrative dance.

    Sources from the T'ang dynasty and later become more detailed. At court two forms of theatrical entertainment were most prominent: ko-wu-chü (song and dance plays) and ts'an-chün-hsi (adjutant plays). Song and dance plays could be elaborate affairs in which large numbers of richly costumed dancers danced out one or more stories narrated in choral songs sung to the music accompanying the dances. Emperor Hsüan-tsung (r. 712–756) was a great aficionado of such spectacles and established a conservatory, the Pear Garden, where three hundred singers and dancers were trained. The name Pear Garden (Li-yüan) has been claimed by actors and actresses Letter Writing Guide ever since as a designation of their profession, and in some places Emperor Hsüan-tsung is venerated as the patron god of the acting profession (he shares that honor with some others, including the last emperor of the Later T'ang dynasty [923–936], yet another theater buff). Most of our evidence links the adjutant plays to the court, but some sources prove that they were also performed outside the palace, in thecapital, and throughout the empire, while some of them might involve a large cast and deal with a relatively complicated story. The T'ang dynasty was a cosmopolitan period in Chinese history, and the enriching influences from Central Asia are well documented, at least in the field of music. In many other areas of the performing arts, Central Asian and Indian influences can be seen— a conspicuous example being the lion dance.

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Commercial Theaters and the Acting Profession

    Commercial theaters did eventually develop; actually this happened twice in Chinese history. From the late eleventh to the early fifteenth century, the capitals and other major urban custom writing services centers featured commercial theaters. These offered a varied program of vaudeville and drama that one could watch after having paid an entrance fee—the performers might also make the rounds of the audience collecting donations. These early commercial theaters did not survive beyond the fifteenth century. By the late seventeenth century, large teahouses in the capital and other major cities started to add theater performances to their attractions, and in time these teahouses evolved once again into full-fledged commercial theaters. However, commercial theaters were always restricted to the largest urban centers, and they remained only one of the performance venues for the local actors.

    Very rich households might support their own household troupe for the entertainment of the master of the house and his friends. The last century of the Ming was the heyday of such private troupes, when many wealthy theater aficionados instructed their household companies in the performance of plays of their own composition. If a family was as wealthy as the imperial family, it might even provide its private quarters with permanent stages. During the Ch'ing dynasty (1644–1911), the various imperial palaces in Peking and its environs were fitted out with many stages, including three-tiered stages that allowed for the performance of elaborate pageants composed expressly for this format. However, since performances at the palace were meant primarily as private entertainment for the imperial family, these extravaganzas played only a very limited role in the general development of drama. Traditional China did not know a court culture comparable to that of continental Europe during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, which played such an important role in the development of Western theater.

    At court, eunuchs might be trained to serve as actors, but the Court Entertainment Bureau could also Accidental Scientist command performances by actors and actresses from outside the palace. In society at large acting usually was a family profession, as sons and daughters followed in the footsteps of their parents. Other new members might be recruited into the profession by purchase of young children. Training was a long and arduous process that could take many years. Occasionally gifted amateurs would “dive into the sea” and join the profession on their own initiative. Professional acting companies were all male, all female, or mixed, depending on local custom, a sponsor's taste, or legal rules. Professional actors and actresses had a very low social status. Until the early eighteenth century, their status was legally that of “base people” (i.e., social outcasts). Until well into the twentieth century, the acting profession had a highly unsavory reputation. In many areas of China, however, plays at local festivals were performed by regular members of the local community. In such cases no stigmawas attached to taking part in the performance. On the contrary, playing one's role in such cases was a duty and an honor. In some villages, specific role(s) in these play(s) were handed down in locally established families for tens of generations.

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Theater and Ritual

     It is often difficult not only to demarcate the boundaries between theater and other dissertation writing services forms of entertainment but also to differentiate theatrical performance from ritual performance. The ultimate origins of Chinese theater must be sought in ritual performance. Furthermore, traditional Chinese theater retained many ritual functions even into the twenty-first century. One of the major features of Chinese popular religion, from the palace to the village, from the dawn of Chinese civilization to the present, consists of exorcistic rites, in which a specialist in religious affairs cleanses the local community (a house, a palace, a village, a city) of all evil by ritually turning himself into a god and killing or chasing away all demons—the demons may be represented by effigies or by assistants who act the part, while the religious specialist may be assisted by hosts of ghostly soldiers of his own, not only in his imagination but also in the flesh. The best-known of these rites was the great No (Exorcism) ceremony celebrated at the end of each year, as recorded since the time of Confucius. These rites were conspicuous for their terrifying chants, deafening music, colorful costumes, and spectacular action. The many martial plays in the repertoire of the traditional Chinese theater, in which great heroes of the past (who, often at the same time, are venerated as gods, e.g., Kuan Yü massacre multitudes of enemies and drive off foreign foes, can be seen as a direct continuation of this exorcistic tradition. Stage characters such as Chung K'uei to this day perform primarily as exorcists. Some other types of plays are related to yet other types of rituals. The insistence on a happy ending in full plays can be seen as a reflection of the restoration of cosmic order that concludes many rituals.

    Plays also were (and are) primarily performed on ritual occasions, as part of the ritual. The play can constitute the ritual by itself or can be tied to the occasion in other ways. The overwhelming majority of the population attended theatrical performances only on such occasions. Plays were performed at certain yearly festivals of a community (a family, a lineage, a neighborhood, a village) and whenever such a community felt a special need for divine assistance; plays might also be mounted to thank the gods for favors shown. Most major temples were provided with their own fixed stage, located opposite the main temple hall because the deity was the prime spectator. When such a fixed stage was not available, a temporary stage of fitting proportions was erected for performances, and if this could not be positioned opposite the main hall of the temple, the statue of the god might be moved to a temporary seat of honor. While the play was performed outside by the actors, other ritual specialists performed their ritual inside the temple. When the occasion called for it, a theater troupe might also be invited to perform at the house of the sponsors. This Chinese tradition of communal Thesis and Dissertation Preparation religious drama can in many ways be fruitfully compared to the late medieval European tradition of communal religious drama.

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