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Home History and Culture Yuan Zaju (元杂剧)
Yuan Zaju (元杂剧)
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Guan HanqingThe dramas of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) are called Yuan Zaju (yuán zá jù 元杂剧), poetic dramas set to music. As a mature, high-class theatrical form, the Yuan Zaju is full of the characteristics of that period, and displays unique artistic creations. Hence, they are regarded as the most notable achievement of Yuan literature. At the beginning, the Zaju centered on Dadu (dà dū 大都) (present-day Beijing) and spread widely over northern China. After the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) fell to the Yuan Dynasty, the Zaju became a national drama. It quickly flourished, with a number of plays written, and the ranks of performers swelling.

Guan Hanqing (guān hàn qīng 关汉卿), founder of Zaju (zá jù 杂剧), was born in Qizhou, Hebei (hé běi 河北) Province. In his youth he worked as a doctor, but gave up this profession and chose to write plays that exposed the dark side of society. He created 67 Zaju works, 18 of which are still performed.

The Injustice Done to Dou E (dòu é yuān 窦娥冤) is one of Guan Hanqing's representative works. It tells of a girl named Dou E to whom a local tyrant takes a fancy and wishes to marry. On refusing to be his wife, Dou E is falsely charged with murder, and sentenced to death. At her execution, she proclaims her innocence, saying that on being beheaded her blood will spurt high enough to stain a piece of white gauze hanging overhead, that snow will fall in midsummer, and that the region will be hit by drought for three years in succession. All these phenomena occur exactly as she foretells. Three years later, her father comes back as judge and conducts a re-trial of this case, and clears Dou E of the false charge.

Outstanding dramatists of the time included Bai Pu (bái pǔ 白蒲), Wang Shifu (wáng shí fǔ 王实甫), Ma Zhiyuan (mǎ zhì yuǎn 马致远), Zheng Guangzu (zhèng guāng zǔ 郑光祖).

   Dou E
In the social sphere, the Yuan rulers abolished the imperial examination system, lowering the status of intellectuals to a position only a little higher than that of beggars. Such scholars found an outlet for their talents as professional playwrights. They set up an organization called the Scholars Association, which was one of the cradles of play writing, giving rise to the Yuan golden age of Chinese theater in contrast to lyric poetry, which mainly expressed the subjective feelings of the poets, the Yuan Zaju gave wide publicity to social problems. This was because the playwrights themselves lived among the people, and knew all about real life and the tribulations (kǔ nàn 苦难) of the ordinary people.

altIn general, the Yuan Zaju mainly consisted of a prelude and the main story, composed of four acts, which were well coordinated. The prelude was fairly short. Singing was the most important means of expression in the Yuan Zaju, in combination with recitation. Each act featured one mode of ancient Chinese music and several songs, sung by the leading male or female character Influenced by the Canjun play, the recitation in the Zaju was often full of impromptu (jí xìng qǔ 即兴曲) comic gestures and remarks. All in all, the Yuan Zaju showed great maturity in the integration of music with drama.

元杂剧      
      元杂剧又称北杂剧、北曲、元曲。元曲包括元杂剧和元代散曲两个部分,它在金院本的基础上孕育发展而形成的,正当南戏盛行之际,北杂剧走向成熟。13世纪后半期是元杂剧雄踞剧坛最繁盛的时期。四折一楔子的结构形式是其显著的特色之一,“一人主唱”是元杂剧的又一显著特点。元杂剧唱与说白紧密相连,“曲白相生”。

      除此之外,元杂剧还有一些特点,如剧本注重舞台性,角色分工类型化,漠视生活外部形态真实,以类型化、象征化的手法,表现剧作的内在情绪,作家流露的情思与本质性的真实生活相结合等等。完全具备了戏曲的本质特征,它走完了戏曲的综合历程,是严谨、完整、统一的,又是个性鲜明的戏曲艺术。

      元杂剧是在金院本和诸宫调的直接影响之下,融合各种表演艺术形式而成的一种完整的戏剧形式,并在唐宋以来话本、词曲、讲唱文学的基础上创造了成熟的文学剧本。这比之以滑稽取笑为主的参军戏或宋杂剧可说已起了质的变化。作为一种成熟的戏剧,元杂剧在内容上不仅丰富了久已在民间传唱的故事,而且广泛地反映了当时的社会现实,成为广大人民群众最喜爱的文艺形式之一。

      元代前期杂剧界的领袖人物关汉卿,他娴熟地运用元代杂剧的形式,在塑造人物形象、处理戏剧冲突、运用戏曲语言等方面都有杰出的成就。在《窦娥冤》中,自始至终把戏集中在窦娥身上,先写她悲惨的身世,继之展开她和流氓地痞的冲突,再集中写贪官污吏对她的压迫,最后写她的复仇抗争。关汉卿一生创作了60多个杂剧。他的悲剧《窦娥冤》“列入世界大悲剧中亦无愧色”(王国维语)。1958年,关汉卿被提名为“世界文化名人”。

 

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