The Peony Pavilion
The Peony Pavilion (Chinese: 牡丹亭; pinyin: Mǔdān tíng; Wade–Giles: Mu-tan t'ing), also named The Return of Soul at the Peony Pavilion, is a romantic tragicomedy play written by dramatist Tang Xianzu in 1598, and the plot was drawn from the short story Du Liniang Revives For Love. It depicts a love story between Du Liniang and Liu Mengmei that overcomes all difficulties, transcending time and space, life and death; the pair unite at the end. Tang's play diverges from the short story in that it dynamically integrates the legendary and the reality in Ming Dynasty. Scenes of love in dreams, Du Liniang's revival, or any supernatural element seem absurd in play, but it reflects the sprout of humanism, through protagonists' strong desire and unremitting pursuit of free love, and uncovers the degeneracy of the society under feudalism at that time.
The play was originally written for staging as Kunqu opera, one of genres of traditional Chinese theatre arts. It was first performed in 1598 at the Pavilion of Prince Teng. With its sophisticated plot, magnificent dramatic structure and well-depicted characters, The Peony Pavilion has become the most popular play from the Ming dynasty and Du Liniang became one of the most representative women in ancient Chinese drama. Most audience and contemporary critics have a high estimation of the play. It has become one of the most classic in traditional Chinese theatre art, and Kun theatre troupes can not consider their repertoire complete without this play.
Tang Xianzu was one of the greatest dramatists and writers in Ming Dynasty, and The Peony Pavilion can be regarded as his most successful masterpiece in his life. It is also one of drama in Tang's famous collection Linchuan si meng (The Four Dreams in the Jade Tea Hall), the other three plays are Zichai Ji (The Purple Hairpin), Nanke Ji (A Dream Under the Southern Bough) and Handan Ji (The Handan Dream). Both the play and its dramatist get a high reputation on Chinese and international stages, and the study on Tang Xianzu has become a popular subject today.
The play has a total of 55 scenes, which can run for more than 22 hours onstage.
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