Manuscript Edition of Romance of the West Chamber in Manchu and Chinese Languages


This is a manuscript edition of the popular play Xi xiang ji (Romance of the west chamber) by Wang Shifu (circa 1250–1307), a Yuan dynasty playwright about whom little is known. Fourteen plays are attributed to him, of which only three are extant. Perhaps the best known and most popular is this work, which was written in the poetic drama form called za ju that was popular during the Yuan dynasty. Based on a Tang dynasty novel entitled Yingying zhuan (Story of Yingying), the drama narrates a tragic love story of a romance between a scholar named Zhang and a girl named Cui Yingying. The romance is assisted by the girl’s maid, Hongniang. After Zhang goes to the capital, takes the imperial examination and receives a high degree, he abandons Yingying. The play reflected the linguistic tradition of fine poetry of the earlier Tang and Song dynasties, but it also incorporated the folk language of the time. The play had a great influence on literary works of fiction and drama of later periods with love as their subject matter, and on such popular works as The Peony Pavilion and Dream of the Red Chamber. The earliest printed edition of the drama, in both the Manchu and Chinese languages, is dated 1710 and is in the collection of National Library of China. This edition, of four juan in four volumes, was made in the 30th year of the Qianlong period (1765) and is probably a handwritten copy of the printed version.

Last updated: January 27, 2014