The Tale of the Jade Mirror


Yu jing tai ji (The tale of the jade mirror) is a play written by Zhu Ding of the Ming dynasty. Zhu, courtesy name Yonghuai, was a native of Kunshan, Jiangsu. Not much else is known about his life. He was probably active around the tenth year (1582) of the Wanli reign (1573‒1620). Zhu Ding was a friend of fellow townsmen Gu Xiyong and Gu Boyong, known for their lyric plays. Yu jing tai ji was the only play Zhu Ding left behind. The story was subsequently rewritten repeatedly by playwrights in the course of centuries, which resulted in its continuous circulation. Four important revised plays were produced, of which this work is one. The play has 40 scenes. The original story dates back many centuries and tells of Wen Qiao of Jin, who gave a jade mirror as a betrothal gift to his young cousin, Liu Runyu, and of the joys and sorrows of their lives. The first ten scenes were mainly adopted from two literary sketches, Jia jue (The deception) in Shi shuo xin yu (A new account of tales of the world), by Liu Yiqing (403‒444), and a poetic drama called Wen Taizhen yu jing tai (The jade mirror of Wen Taizhen) by Guan Hanqing (1225‒1302). The other 30 scenes tell of Wen’s career, both as a civil and military figure, and of his deeds in defending the homeland. These stories originate from Wen Qiao zhuan (Biography of Wen Qiao) by Tang statesman and writer Fang Xuanlin (579‒648), included in Jin shu (Book of Jin), and also partially from popular folklore. The drama combined the genres of historical and romantic drama. It changed the traditional story of the marriage of Wen Qiao and of the sorrow at parting and joy when meeting again into a historical play about the fate of the nation and Wen Qiao’s heroic action. The title on the title page of the copy presented here reads: Xiu ke yu jing ji ding ben (Exquisitely engraved definitive edition of The Tale of the Jade Mirror), in large characters in double columns. The table of contents and juan 1 are presented here. The format and arrangement of the work are similar to those of another National Central Library title, Ming zhu ji (The story of the bright pearl), which is also on the same kind of paper. The two titles probably were printed at the same time. The National Central Library also has Liu shi zhong qu (Sixty plays) published by Jiguge of Ming in Yushan.

Last updated: October 30, 2017