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  • The Metamorphosis of Tianxian pei

The Metamorphosis of Tianxian pei

Local Opera under the Revolution (1949–1956)

Wilt L. Idema


English , 2014/12 The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press

Tags: Literature, Translation, Drama

229 x 152 mm , 356pp ISBN : 978-962-996-593-8

  • US$52.00


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This volume is the most extensive social and cultural history of twentieth-century Huangmei Opera to date. A regional Chinese theater originating in the Anqing countryside, Huangmei Opera gained popularity with the success of the 1950s play and movie, Tianxian pei 天仙配 (Married to a Heavenly Immortal). Through a case study of this work, the author juxtaposes the complex process of rewriting and revising the play and movie against the rapidly changing cultural and ideological climate of the Communist theater reform movement. As a result, the traditional theme of filial piety becomes a struggle over class and free love. This volume features a full translation of the original play and its revision in the 1950s, as well as selected articles by scriptwriters, directors, performers, and critics. These primary sources allow readers to gain access to inside views of the contemporaries and their political and artistic concerns.

“Wilt Idema is one of the most important scholars in Chinese literary and cultural studies. Few in the academia can emulate him in both the spectrum of specializations and the depth of scholarship. From Yuan drama to Ming fiction, and traditional folk culture to modern performing arts, Idema’s work demonstrates a Sinologist’s dedication, erudition, and originality at its best. Tianxian pei is arguably the most popular play in mid-twentieth century China. In his book, Idema discusses the play’s roots and ramifications, its incarnations in multiple genes and medial forms, and its significance in modern Chinese cultural politics. His critical insight is illuminating and his translational expertise impeccable. The Metamorphosis of Tianxian pei is a major contribution to the studies of Chinese folklore, literature, theatre, and media.”
David Der-wei Wang, Harvard University


“This is a real contribution to the literature on Chinese popular theatre. The particular opera chosen is a famous love story between a mortal and an immortal that has touched and charmed ordinary Chinese people over generations. The author’s translations and his own writing style show a sense of style and expertise that make a perfect combination for such a work as this. The commentary is always penetrating and interesting. This book will appeal to the general reader as much as it will to specialists.”
Colin Mackerras, Griffith University

Wilt L. Idema is Research Professor of Chinese Literature at Harvard University. He is a prolific scholar and translator of Chinese literature. He has published extensively in English, Chinese and Dutch, on subjects as diverse as classical poetry, traditional fiction and drama, late-imperial women’s literature, and popular narrative ballads.

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