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  • The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Drama (Abridged Edition) ed. by Xiaomei Chen
  • Xing Fan
THE COLUMBIA ANTHOLOGY OF MODERN CHINESE DRAMA (ABRIDGED EDITION). Edited, with a critical introduction, by Xiaomei Chen. New York: Columbia University Press. 641 pp. Paperback, $45.00.

The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Drama (Abridged Edition) is an invaluable sourcebook for students (both undergraduates and graduate students), researchers, educators, theatre practitioners, and general readers who are interested in a broad range of multidisciplinary topics related to modern China, including but not limited to literature, drama, theatre, gender studies, cultural studies, and performance studies. The 2014 abridged edition contains the translation of thirteen plays: Hu Shi’s The Main Event in Life (1919), Tian Han’s The Night the Tiger Was Caught (1922–1923), Ouyang Yuqian’s After Returning Home (1922), Ding Xilin’s A Wasp (1923), Bai Wei’s Breaking Out of Ghost Pagoda (1928), Cao Yu’s Thunderstorm (1934), Xia Yan’s Under Shanghai’s Eaves (1937), Lao She’s Teahouse (1958), Tian Han’s Guan Hanqing (1958), Chen Yun’s The Young Generation (1965), Weng Ouhong and A Jia’s The Red Lantern (1970), Gao Xingjian’s The Bus Stop (1983), and Sha Yexin’s Jiang Qing and Her Husbands (1990). The first twelve are from the twenty-two plays published in the 2010 unabridged edition, and the last is newly included. Four of the thirteen plays are reprints: The Main Event in Life and Under Shanghai’s Eaves are from Twentieth-Century Chinese Drama: An Anthology (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983), edited by Edward M. Gunn and currently out of print. The Bus Stop is from Chinese Drama after the Cultural Revolution, 1979–1989 (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997), edited and translated by Shiao-Ling S. Yu. Jiang Qing and Her Husbands is from Reading the Right Text: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Drama (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2003), [End Page 221] edited by Xiaomei Chen herself. Thunderstorm is a revision of two earlier versions (1958 and 1978) published by the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing, with the original prologue and epilogue translated into English for the first time. Guan Hanqing is a retranslation with reference to an earlier version (1961) published by the Foreign Languages Press. The remaining seven plays were newly translated for the 2010 edition. This anthology thus constitutes a significant complement to the existing translations of modern Chinese drama: since the publication of Gunn’s Twentieth-Century Chinese Drama (currently out of print), this anthology, with the 2010 unabridged edition, is the first to include Chinese dramatic texts spanning the entire twentieth century.

The play selection for this edition demonstrates the editor’s vision of a comprehensive and well-balanced anthology of dramatic texts from mainland China. In contrast to the 2010 edition, which includes eleven plays from Republican China, eight from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), one from Taiwan, and two from Hong Kong, the 2014 abridged edition focuses on Republican China and the PRC. The first seven plays date from before 1949, and the other six were written after 1949; the anthology thus offers a balanced picture of the development and changes in the dramatic work of modern China. Chen contextualizes the choices by focusing on three major themes: “Modern Chinese literary and cultural history under local and global circumstances,” “comparative drama and theater,” and “various formalist traditions of both East and West across time” (p. 1). Altogether, the thirteen plays offer the reader a nuanced, rich, and dynamic picture of modern Chinese drama: they include serious plays and comedies, they present not only full-fledged productions but also one-acts, they are by both male and female writers, they embrace both those of enduring popularity and the rarely staged, lesser known, and they comprise a variety of forms—social problem plays, satirical comedies, Beijing-flavored plays, history plays, revolutionary “red classics,” the avant-garde, and so on. Fifteen scholars and practitioners from both China and the West participated in translation. They are all significant educators and researchers in Chinese language and literature, both modern and classical. The translation are highly readable, with much appreciated and successful efforts to...


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