Secret Edition of the Northern Western Wing Corrected by Mr. Zhang Shenzhi


The Yuan dynasty drama, Story of the Western Wing, by Wang Shifu, is the finest dramatic work of traditional China. It ranks with Tang Xianzu’s Peony Pavilion, Kong Shangren’s Peach Blossom Fan, and Hong Sheng’s Palace of Everlasting Life as one of the four great classical dramas of pre-modern China, and has had a far-reaching influence on the literature and theatrical history of China. The plot of the drama is a reworking of the short work, The Story of Yingying (also titled Encounter with an Immortal) by Yuan Zhen of the Tang dynasty. The famous line from the play, “I hope that all under heaven who know love will be able to unite as husband and wife,” subsequently became the ultimate wish for pure love. There have been many editions of Story of the Western Wing over the centuries. The Ming dynasty Secret Edition of the Northern Western Wing, Corrected by Mr. Zhang Shenzhi, published in the Chongzhen reign, is especially celebrated for its woodblock illustrations. The artist was the famous late-Ming painter Hong Shou. The compositions are superb and show extraordinary creativity, making this unique among the many illustrations of the tale. The illustration "Stealing a Look at the Letter" is very faithful to the plot and conveys the spirit of the situation perfectly; it is a masterpiece of ancient woodblock illustration.

Last updated: January 3, 2018