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Yuan Dynasty Literature

Ruled by the Mongols,it is the first alien (non-Chinese/barbaric) dynasty in China.The first alien ruler of the whole of China (for the first time ever in history) is Kublai Khan,grandson of the brutal conquerer,Genghis Khan who managed to infiltrate Mongol power all the way till parts of Europe,including Russia.The potrait below at the end of this page is Kublai Khan.Alienated the Chinese due to harsh rule & racial/cultural differences.Although termed by the Chinese as the 'bleakest era',the greatest literary achievement is in drama.


-- peak of drama reached during this period & is known as 'za ju' ('various plays')written in the Northen style,hence is grouped as 'yuan qu' (Music of the Yuan),thus is also known as Northern drama
--semi-operatic,with exciting plots,elaborate costumes,music,actions,dance that gradually became what is commonly known now as Chinese opera/wayang ('painted faces'),a very important Chinese performing arts form :the classical Chinese theatre
--examples of opera faces are shown in the picture below:

--written in the vernacular language (different from the classical style) so is accessible to all people,including the illiterate
--more than 200 dramatists lived
--famous playwrights: Guan Han-ching,Wang Shipu
--representative works: 'Snow in Midsummer','The Western Chamber','Moon Worship Pavillion' ('Bai Yue Ting') & 'The Tale of the Lute' ('Pipa Ji'),with the last 3 being love stories

'Snow in Midsummer'

--known also commonly as 'Midsummer Snow' ('Liu-Yue Xue'),its original title is literally translated as 'The Grievance of Dou-er' ('Dou-er Yuan')
--1 of the most popular drama pieces,by Guan Han-ching
--Storyline:a girl Dou-er,accused wrongly of a murder crime vowed of revenge as seen in snowfall in june instead of december if she were truly innocent.After her death,the vow came true & her grievances are rightfully addressed by a just judge.
--praises the upright & just & condemms the evil people,commenting on the incapability of the Mongol govt indirectly
--one of the best drama pieces ever written & is widely translated into many European languages including English & continues to be performed on stage till now

'The Western Chamber'

--another popular drama,by Wang Shipu,Chinese title is 'Xi Xiang Ji'
--a love story about a poor scholar & a beautiful lady of high birth & how they overcame obstacles to be united happily
--reflective of the falsity of society & the backwardness of traditional ideas that the poor cannot marry the rich because of incompatibility in status & rich=good character & gender concerns (bravery of females to fight for freedom of love)


--another outstanding achievement of the Yuan era
--important in its influence on future drama & novels & remained widely read till now
--2 of the 4 greatest Chinese novels were written then & are introduced as below:

'The Water Margin' ('Shui-hu Chuan')

--also known as 'All Men are Brothers',written by Shi Nai-an
--tragedy about the 108 characters,united in brotherhood & love,their rise & fall,who rebelled unsuccessfully against the corrupt Northern Sung govt
--very powerful in reflecting the beauty of brotherhood & friendship,heroism,loyalty & the need for reforms & the ills of bad govt

'Romance of the 3 Kingdoms'('San Kuo Yen-I')

--based on true historical facts of the 3 Kingdoms period,of the rise & fall of kingdoms
--achievement is similar to those of 'The Water Margin' as seen in characterisation of thousands of characters,exciting plots,effective language with sections that can stand out individually by themselves.
--in-depth descriptions of warfare with lessons in battle that can be learned from it
--also written in the vernacular just like 'The Water Margin'
--written by Luo Guan Zhong
--tragedy that voices out the transcience of fame & power,the beauty of brotherhood & the need for peace

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