A two-week module for Chinese Classical theatre - East

ASDP Infusing Institute 2013
Edward Kahn
Department of Theatre & Dance
Ohio Wesleyan University
 Theatre Studies aims
 To move beyond performance /literature specifics
(“what it is”)
 To explore how performance arises from and contributes
to culture (questioning “why it is”)
Course Background
• Course title: Asian Drama and Theatre
• Class designed to focus primarily (but not entirely) on
classical forms
• Upper-level elective
• Students enrolled are majoring in many disciplines
Would be happy to…
 Capture the major movements of Chinese theatre
 Yuan theatre (“golden age” in number, not necessarily in
 Ming theatre
 Qing theatre (jingju – “Beijing Opera”)
 Modern theatre influences
 While keeping the class engaged in how the theatre
responds to and/or promotes ideas, agendas,
influences, aesthetics, etc.
With the Mulan the class can compare/contrast texts from three of the four
historical areas – utilizing a familiar story
The Female Mulan Joins the Army in Place of Her Father, by Xu Wei, translated
by Shiamin Kwa
16th century (Ming)
zaju, joined song style (writer centered composition)
Mu Lan Joins the Army, anonymous, translated by Wilt L. Idema
1903 (end of the Qing)
jingju, beat [and] tune style (performer centered composition)
The Saga of Mulan (subtitled)
1994 film
longjiang opera - combined with modern “Hollywood” elements
Two major contexts
 1) Who are the “rulers” / authorities
Start with the oldest extant Mulan poem (12th century) which points back
to the northeaster conflicts of the Northern Wei period (4th to 6th
centuries), a non-Han dynasty
Ming (Han)
Qing (Manchu)
Modern (PRC)
 2) Confucianism
Filial piety (xiao)
Loyalty to the rulers (zhong)
“Rulers” /authority discussion points –
the text speaks with whose voices?
 Mulan fights for and against whom?
(e.g. She fights for the “khan” in the 12th century
poem, and against the “khan” in the 1903 version.)
 Class influences connected to ruling class
 Ming – “elite” writer -> joined song style (writer
centered composition)
 Qing – “popular” jingju -> beat tune style (performer
centered composition)
 In performance
 Interpretations of cross-dressing (see Siu Leung Li,
Cross-Dressing in Chinese Opera)
 One can find many assertions that the “original text” is
“rooted in Confucian patriarchy” and contains the
“hierarchal social order of the Confucian maxim.”
 Discussion can question:
 “How true is this for the adaptations?
 What are similarities and differences?”
Confucianism discussion points
What is Mulan’s relation to her father – e.g. her rationale to
What is Mulan’s relation to her military superiors?
What preparations does Mulan undertake?
(e.g what does it mean that she unbinds her feet - and
claims to have a method to reshrink them once she’s done
fighting in the Ming version.)
How does she deal with her hardships?
What does she do at the end of the story?
(e.g. in the Ming version she returns to an arranged
marriage – to a man who has just passed the civil
service exam. In the Modern version she falls in love with a
sergeant, who dies in the final battle.)
Confucianism Readings
 Secondary sources
e.g. Section I of Lan, Feng. "The female individual and the
empire: A historicist approach to Mulan and Kingston's woman
warrior." Comparative Literature 55, no. 3 (2003): 229-245.
 Excerpts from the Analects
e.g. 1.7 Zixia said: “As for persons who care for character much
more than beauty, who in serving their parents are able to exert
themselves utterly, who give their whole person in the service of
their ruler, and who, in interactions with colleagues and friends
make good on their word – even if it were said of such person
that they are unschooled, I would insist that they are well
educated indeed.” trans. Ames and Rosemont
On Women?
 Little in the Analects. 17.25 The Master said, “It is only women
and petty persons who are difficult to proved for. Drawing them
close, they are immodest, and keeping them at a distance, they
complain.” trans. Ames and Rosemont
 Can use later writers: e.g. Liu Xiang, “The Mother of Mencius” …
His mother answered, “A woman’s duties are to cook the five
grains, heat the wine, look after her parents-in-law, make
clothes, and that is all!”
 Lots of secondary sources available for the class
Two week module
Day One:
Day Two:
Readings: Performance and Music in Chinese Opera
Lecture/Discussion: Performance and Music, virtuosity, class considerations
Day Five:
Readings: Qing text & background info, Analects selections
Lecture : Qing drama & jingju
Discussion: compare and contrast Ming and Qing using question points
Day Four:
Readings: Ming text & background info, Confucian basics
Lecture: Ming drama
Discussion: filial piety, loyalty to rulers
Day Three:
Readings: 12th century poem, time-line of dynasties & basic historical information
Lecture: Yuan drama
Discussion: Mulan story, question points
Readings: Women and Confucianism, Cross-Dressing
Viewing: Saga of Mulan (excerpts)
Day Six:
Readings: Modern influences
Final discussion of four Mulan versions, using information of the past two weeks