The Lute: Kao Ming's P'i-p'a chi

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9781583482834: The Lute: Kao Ming's P'i-p'a chi

Kao Ming's fourteenth-century play The Lute is among the greatest achievements of Chinese drama. Famed for the beautiful and imaginative poetry of its songs and the humor of its colloquial comic passages, The Lute stands among the first and finest plays in important ch'uan-ch'i genre. Now, with Jean Mulligan's translation of this dramatic masterpiece, the English reader can appreciate the full impact of The Lute. Mulligan has not only rendered the multi-facted style of the playwhose dialogue ranges from the colloquial speech of the time to passages of poetry and ornately stylized prosebut has made the play's moral force and its importance as a literary model apparent as well. The Lute tells the story of a humble scholar, Ts'as Po-chieh, who wins success in the civil service examinations. While he is coerced by the prime minister to remain in the capital and marry his daughter, Ts'ai's parents and original wife, Wu-niang, suffer through a famine which results in the death of both parents. Perhaps the play's most moving scenes portray Wu-niag's valiant struggles to support her dying parents-in-law, provide for their burial, and bring her husband back to their graveside. The title of the work drives from Wu-niang's playing the lute as she begs for alms along the difficult route to the capital, where she will seek her husband. For centuries, The Lute has been esteemed for explemplifying and exploring the traditional value of filial piety. In recent times it has been a topic of debate in the People's Republic of China, where it was analyzed for its social significance as a portrayal of traditional morality. And The Lute has been important in the history of Western appreciation of Chinese literature: in 1841 a French translation made it the first ch'uan'ch'i play accessible in a Western language. One hundred years later the play became the source for the Broadway musical Lute

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About the Author:

Stein Ugelvik Larson is professor of comparative politics at the University of Bergen in Norway.

Language Notes:

Text: English, Chinese (translation)

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