Home and Imagined Stage in Ding Yaokang’s Huaren You (Ramblings with Magicians): The Communal Reading of a Seventeenth-Century Play
- CHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 33, Number 1, July 2014
- pp. 1-36
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HOME AND IMAGINED STAGE IN DING YAOKANG’S HUAREN YOU (RAMBLINGS WITH MAGICIANS): THE COMMUNAL READING OF A SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY PLAY XIAOQIAO LING Arizona State University Ding Yaokang’s 丁耀亢 (1599–1669) ten-act southern zaju 雜劇1 Ramblings with Magicians (Huaren you 化人遊)2 presents a most intriguing story. The hero He sheng 何生 (literally ‘‘Mr. Who’’), presumably a contemporary figure, boards a large boat, accompanied by a galaxy of illustrious poets,3 beautiful women,4 1 The original literal meaning of zaju is ‘‘variety show,’’ but that is more appropriate to earlier versions of the form in which a variety of unrelated acts were performed together on a program. In the Yuan (1279–1368) and early Ming (1368–1644) dynasties zaju were integrated plays typically comprised of four acts organized around song-suites using ‘‘northern’’ music and with rather stringent rules of composition and performance. Around the time that this genre declined as a performance art and instead began to be published widely in edited form as reading material, playwrights began to experiment with the genre by loosening the rules and incorporating elements from the main ‘‘southern’’ dramatic genre, chuanqi 傳奇 drama. In Ming and Qing writing on drama, the terms zaju and chuanqi are used loosely and sometimes interchangeably. We will see that the printed edition of Huaren you actually calls it a chuanqi play at the same time that its prefatory matter cautions that it is not a typical chuanqi. 2 The term huaren first appears in the ‘‘King Mu of Zhou’’ (‘‘Zhou Muwang’’ 周穆王) chapter of Liezi 列子: ‘‘In the reign of King Mu of Zhou, a magician came from a kingdom in the far west’’ 周穆王時, 西極之國有化人來. See Yang Bojun 楊伯峻, ed., Liezi jishi 列子集釋 (Collected explications edition of Liezi; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979), juan 3, p. 90. The only English publication to treat the play, Wilt L. Idema, ‘‘‘Crossing the Sea in a Leaking Boat’: Three Plays by Ding Yaokang,’’ in Wilt L. Idema, Wai-yee Li, and Ellen Widmer, eds., Trauma and Transcendence in Early Qing Literature (Cambridge: Harvard University, 2006), pp. 387–426, translates the title as Ramblings with Magicians and I have followed that usage. But it is also possible to take the title as referring to the main character of the play as a huaren (transformed [i. e., enlightened] one), although, as we shall see, the process of his ‘‘enlightenment’’ is not a simple or straightforward one. 3 These include Cao Zhi 曹植 (192–232), Liu Zhen 劉禎 (?–217), Li Bo 李白 (701–762), and Du Fu 杜甫 (712–770). 4 These include the royal/imperial consorts/empresses Xishi 西施 (5th cent. B.C.), Zhao Feiyan 趙飛燕 (45–1 B.C.), and Zhang Lihua 張麗華 (560–589); women that Ding identifies as courtesans: Lu Mochou 盧莫愁 (6th cent. A.D.) and Xue Tao 薛濤 (768–831); one that he identifies as a talented maid of Wang Xianzhi 王獻之 (344–831): Taoye 桃葉; and Lingbo 凌波, who for a variety of reasons the reader does not get much information about in the play, but who might be a water nymph from Cao Zhi’s ‘‘Fu on the Goddess of the Luo River’’ (‘‘Luoshen fu’’ 洛 神賦). CHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature 33.1 (July 2014): 1–36 # The Permanent Conference on Chinese Oral and Performing Literature, Inc. 2014 DOI: 10.1179/0193777414Z.00000000015 Daoist magicians,5 and a knight errant.6 In the midst of his carefree roaming with them, however, He sheng leaves the vessel and boards a skiff to go fishing for huge sea turtles. He ends up being gulped down by a whale. In its belly, he encounters Qu Yuan 屈原 (c. 340–c. 278),7 who treats him to an orange, in which they find two old men playing chess. After He sheng gets out of the whale’s belly, he cannot find the large boat any more. Even worse, the ocean has turned into mulberry fields.8 It is only after He sheng encounters a Tibetan monk at the Temple of Fish Bones that he learns the whereabouts of the large vessel. United with the boat and the party of immortals, He sheng visits the palace of the dragon king, but in the last act He sheng is left alone and boatless just as at the beginning of...