Saturday, December 18, 2010

Feminist reading of The Peony Pavilion

A short blog entry on the website for Bitch Magazine recently detailed a reader's first impressions of Tang Xianzu's Mudan ting (The Peony Pavilion) from a feminist perspective.  Contrary to the very basic explanatory nature of most Chinese opera articles written by or for non-Chinese speakers, it's my hope that we'll continue to see a rise in Chinese opera analysis in English language media that examines social and historical themes in greater detail.  Chally Kacelnik writes:

There is a world of things I could say about this play... It’s really cool to see a play with such respect for a young woman’s sexual desires where chastity was so highly prized. Du is a tenacious character, and the play is worth reading just for her. There’s a kind of desperately sad joy in her that reaches across the ages to me, and frankly I’m amazed to find a work in which the lady lead dies for her man (ugh) yet retains an independent, wonderful spirit.

I'm less than enthused about Kacelnik's assumption that the Du Liniang (the leading protagonist in The Peony Pavilion) is one we've "never heard of", as stated in her opening paragraph.  Probably not intended as such, this strikes me as Western arrogance and ignores the large Chinese community in the United States, the country in which Bitch Magazine is published, that may very well be familiar with an icon like Du Liniang, the heroine of one of China's most recognizable classics (of Shakespearean proportion, if you need a Western reference).  However, she does go on to mention the cult-like status that The Peony Pavilion achieved in the 17th century, remaining a reference in Chinese culture today.  Despite my small qualm, the blog entry is certainly worth a look for its comments on the text of Mudan ting and its performance context, as well as for English translation recommendations:

Read the article HERE.

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