ASIAN 380 - Topics in Asian Studies
Section: 004 The Perils of Peony Pavilion: Modern Stagings of a Classical Chinese Play
Term: FA 2010
Subject: Asian Studies (ASIAN)
Department: LSA Asian Languages & Cultures
Waitlist Capacity:
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:

A monumental work in 55 scenes, The Peony Pavilion has been a cherished object of consumption both on stage and on the page for over 400 years. In it a young girl, denied a timely marriage by her parents, dreams up a lover for herself, but dies of lovesickness when she cannot repeat the experience. As a ghost, she tracks down her lover and persuades him to resurrect her. Then there is the question of whether this couple can be integrated into society.

Dueling American productions of the play were scheduled to premiere in the U.S. in 1998 for the 400th anniversary of the completion of the play, but the Shanghai Cultural Bureau prevented that, despite attempted intervention by both President Clinton and Henry Kissinger. Recent productions of the play include a 1998 avant-garde version directed by Peter Sellars, an almost 20-hour version that premiered at Lincoln Center in 1999, a three-night version of the same year that the PRC spent a lot of money on, a “Toy Theater” production, and a “Young Lovers” edition produced by the famous novelist Kenneth Pai (Bai Xianyong).

In this course we will read the play in English translation(s), look at the sources for the play, its historical and cultural background, and how it is similar and different from other plays of its time and genre. But, the emphasis will be on the various versions of the play performed in China and abroad. We will also be concerned with the question of why this play has been so important since it was first written by Tang Xianzu over 400 years ago. Besides viewing videotapes, artists connected with the recent productions of the play will be brought to Ann Arbor to meet the class and engage in other activities on campus related to The Peony Pavilion and the type of Chinese drama it represents. If you have questions about this course, please contact the instructor at

ASIAN 380 - Topics in Asian Studies
Schedule Listing
002 (LEC)
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
003 (LEC)
M 1:00PM - 4:00PM
004 (LEC)
MWF 2:00PM - 3:00PM
005 (LEC)
TuTh 4:00PM - 5:30PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 0253215277
The Peony Pavilion : Mudan ting, Author: Tang Xianzu ; translated with a new preface by Cyril Birch ; introduction to the second edition by Catherine Swatek., Publisher: Indiana University Press 2nd ed. 2002
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