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In this, the first anthology of its kind, editor and translator Faye C. Fei provides a fascinating guided tour of China's evolving conceptions of theater and performance through the writings of noted Chinese philosophers, scholars, artists, and critics. The book's more than sixty selections, the majority of which have been translated for the first time in English, are arranged chronologically to provide a historical overview of four major periods: antiquity to the Song dynasty (fourth century B.C. - 1279 A.D.); the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) and Ming dynasty (1368-1644); the Qing dynasty (1644-1911); and the remainder of the twentieth century.
Such a collection is long overdue, as the rich, abundant body of Chinese drama has previously been paid minimal attention in the West. The writings treat the origins, aesthetic principles, and functions of theater. Some are virtual manuals on playwriting and performance techniques; some describe the practices, conditions, and government policies concerning theatrical performance. Many of the selections forcefully dispute the myth that Chinese theater is valuable only in performance but lacking in literature—the fact is that there is an equal, if not more prominent, emphasis on theme and content. Fei has skillfully translated the selections and has provided an introduction and commentary that help place the works in a larger context.
What emerges from the writings in Chinese Theories of Theater and Performance from Confucius to the Present is a highly evolved and sophisticated aesthetics. The book will be an invaluable resource to those interested in theater and performance, as well as to students and teachers of Asian philosophy, history, and arts.