Chinese Theories of Theater and Performance from Confucius to the Present

Edited and Translated by Faye Chunfang Fei
Foreword by Richard Schechner
The first English-language anthology that traces the centuries-long evolution of Chinese thought on theater and performance


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.

Faye Chunfang Fei is Assistant Professor of Dramatic Arts, Macalester College.

Praise / Awards

  • "The importance of Fei's contribution to the still-fledgling but ever-growing body of English-language scholarship about Chinese theatre cannot be overstated. She has examined the rich repository of classical and modern writings about theatre and performance from throughout Chinese history and selected a 'greatest hits' collection of 54 excerpts by writers from all walks of life, from antiquity to the present. Her compilation provides a primer for readers who wish to gain an overview of dramatic critical theory in China but lack the language skills to personally examine primary texts. . . . In short, Faye Fei's contribution continues to build a bridge between Eastern and Western readers and theatre traditions. The volume can best be utilized by its inclusion in comprehensive theatre history curricula in the university; the passages from primary texts translated and edited by Fei are invaluable in combination with play translations."
    —Claire Conceison, The Drama Review, Spring 2000
  • "With this extraordinary volume, Fei has made it possible for the non-Chinese speaker to experience directly an important segment of the rich heritage of theatrical thought in China. The study of Chinese theatre in the English-speaking world is genuinely enhanced as a result, and the possibilities for truly substantive comparative studies are greatly increased."
    Theatre Survey
  • ". . . a welcome addition to the growing resources on Asian theatre practices and theories, much of which have previously either been scattered or unavailable other than to native speakers. [T]he range of theories presented is still central to world theory; it is only shocking that this has remained so little visible until now."
    New Theatre Quarterly

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 232pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08923-9

Add to Cart
  • $30.95 U.S.