YellowBridge Chinese Language & Culture
Chinese Language Center

Chinese Literature Classic Chinese Plays and Dramas

  Title Mini Review
牡丹亭
The Peony Pavilion: Mudan Ting

Written by Tang Xianzu, 1550-1616
Translated by Cyril Birch
Indiana University Press, 2002
400 pages
Rating: ★★★★★

The premier example of the Southern-style opera that was popular in the 17th century. The supernatural story centers around a young girl who dies pining for a lover who she's met only once in a dream.  But years later the object of her affection stays in her town, finds her portrait, and revives her. Light humor sprinkled throughout the story makes this play an enjoyable read.
董西廂諸宮調
Master Tung's Western Chamber Romance

Written by Tung Chieh-yuan, 12th century
Translated by Li-Li Ch'en
Columbia University Press, 1994
238 pages
Rating: ★★★★★

An excellent example of Chinese chantefable, i.e. a form of literature containing a mixture of verses to be sung as well as prose meant to be narrated. The basic storyline is an elaboration of "The Story of Ying-ying" written by Yüan Chen (779-831). The story center on a poor scholar named Chang who falls in love with Yingying, the daughter of a prime minister. After Yinying's mother reneges on a promise to let the two get married, Yinying secretly starts a love affair with Chang.

西廂記
The Story of the Western Wing

Written by Wang Shifu (1295-1307)
Translated by Stephen West and Wilt Idema
University of California Press, 1995
328 pages
A further elaboration on "The Story of Ying-ying" and " Master Tung's Western Chamber Romance".
Mistress and Maid (Jiahong ji)
Written by Meng Chengshun, 17th century
Translated by Cyril Birch
Columbia University Press, 2001
288 pages
One of the greatest tragedies of Chinese drama.  In the story a young girl refuses to let go of her love for her betrothed after her father reneges on a promise to let them marry.