Among extant plays by the Suzhou playwright Li Yu, only one survives in complete versions in both a woodblock imprint dating to the Shunzhi era (1644–1661) and several hand-copied versions: Qingzhong pu (清忠譜, Register of the Pure and Loyal). In the woodblock edition, published in Li Yu’s lifetime, dialogue for the jing, fujing, and chou is rendered in standard stage vernacular, while one readily accessible manuscript of the complete play reflects efforts to capture in writing the effects of Wu dialect in scenes performed by the dialect-speaking roles. This furnishes an opportunity to observe how actors used dialect in a performance. I will examine a case of such translation from one of Qingzhong pu’s most popular scenes and then compare it to a similar scene in another Li Yu play, Wanli yuan (萬里圓, A Ten-thousand Li Reunion), which survives only in hand-copied versions. I will conclude with some observations about the formulaic nature of dialect humor and how texts that attempt to capture that humor shed light on the strategies of the actors who performed them.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 31-58
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.